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MAR 17 - MAR 24, 2015

Candidate Accardo Says Time For Change Here is Right Now

By Mike Hudson

March 17, 2015

John Accardo, the successful businessman, doesn't need a job. He is running for mayor because he has, he says, a love for this city, regret for what this city could have been, and hope for what this city may yet become.

John Accardo's father, the late Frank J. Accardo, who died last year at the age of 88, was a beloved mainstay of the fabric of the Niagara Falls com - munity. In 1963, Frank started the Accardo Agency, Inc. on Pine Ave. which grew to be a genuine Niagara Falls success story as the company branched into a wide array of insurance opportunities while maintaining their deep and thoughtful connection to the residents of Niagara Falls and their needs, however large or small. The company is currently operated by John Accardo and his brother Paul. In one respect, John Accardo represents a different kind of mayoral candidate. He represents a man who has worked primarily in business, working with his father and brother, and who has helped build a successful business, without government subsidies, a company with steady profitability, pursued now over the course of 50 years and still going strong. Accardo is a real busi- nessman. And what his father, his brother and he created was a successful family business.

Former city Council Chairman John Accardo wants to be the next mayor of Niagara Falls, confidently asserting that the city can be doing a lot better than it has for the past eight years under incumbent mayor Paul Dyster.

Accardo, a former Democrat turned Republican, said that Niagara Falls – which has been in decline since the early 1960s – has fallen fast and far since Dyster took office, something he finds particularly puzzling in light of the fact that the city has received casino cash payments averaging $20 million a year throughout the Dyster reign.

"Come on, what happened to all that money?" Accardo asked in an exclusive interview with the Niagara Falls Reporter. "Those funds were meant to be used for one thing – economic development. Have we seen any economic development in this city over the past eight years?"

Most people, even those who voted for Dyster twice, would have to say no. The city continues to hemorrhage jobs and skilled workers, the percentage of citizens receiving some sort of public assistance continues to grow, more and more homes and businesses are simply being abandoned by their owners, street crime remains a serious problem and Dyster's repeated attempts to raise taxes and drive even more property owners away have been mitigated only by a vigilant and sometimes combative city Council opposition.

Meanwhile, Dyster repaved the parking lot at City Hall at a cost of $450,000, allowed do nothing developer Mark Hamister to purchase a prime piece of downtown city-owned real estate appraised at upwards of a half-million dollars for $100,000, threw $250,000 at an out of state promoter to stage a month-long "Holiday Market" event that made the city a laughingstock and irrationally handed Hard Rock International, a billion dollar multinational corporation owned by the Seminole Indians of Florida, a whopping $700,000 to stage a concert series that actually drove business away from locally owned restaurants, bars and other attractions.

"It's like they say, a half a million here, a half a million there and pretty soon you're talking serious money," Accardo said. "The mayor has not only spent the casino money we've received, he's spent revenue that hasn't even come in yet."

And with indicators showing casino revenue declining in the years to come, that's a dangerous thing, he added.

"They got the money, what they didn't have was a plan," he said.

Accardo said that Dyster's anti-business attitude is as much at fault as his spendthrift policies when it comes to the downward spiral the city's been in under his peculiar brand of leadership.

"The reason you don't see any businesses or entrepreneurs coming in from out of town is because they can see how this administration treats those that are already here," he said. "Almost single handedly, Paul Dyster has created an economy where what passes for the upper middle class, the upper class, are those who work for the city, the school district, the hospital, the county and the state. Businesspeople look at that knowing that the only way you can pull that off is with high taxes."

Accardo said that damage done to the relationship between the business community and City Hall needs to be repaired, and Dyster is simply incapable of doing it. A successful Niagara Falls businessman in his own right, Accardo believes that all of the stakeholders here need to have a place at the table.

"I learned a lot from my father (Frank Accardo, founder of Accardo Insurance and longtime community leader passed away last year), and one of the most valuable lessons is the importance of teamwork," he said. "I'd like to get all of the players, Niagara Falls Redevelopment, Joe Anderson, everyone who has a financial interest in the future of the city, and have a kind of economic summit. Just say, what can City Hall do for you to help make things happen here?"

Dyster's idea of economic development, Accardo said, is giving money to campaign contributors for dubious projects like additional public housing or even offering cash bribes to young people willing to relocate here. Neither initiative, he pointed out, has been successful.

"We've got a shrinking tax base as it is," Accardo said. "Right now in Niagara Falls there are over 700 abandoned buildings. Schemes designed to take even more property off the tax rolls, like low income housing, create a lose / lose situation at best."

The candidate said that the transition from a manufacturing economy to one based on tourism has been and will continue to be difficult, but remains the city's only hope for the future. But again, Accardo said, without a plan, a clear vision of where you want to go, choosing the right path can be all but impossible.

"Why isn't Nik Wallenda in downtown Niagara Falls? Because the administration, for who knows what reason, thought the tourist district would be better served by a small, cookie cutter motel pitched by Mark Hamister, and the half dozen permanent jobs that will go with it," Accardo said. "It's a joke. The mayor is on record as saying the Hamister project would transform downtown Niagara Falls, now here it is a year behind schedule and it appears that Hamister doesn't even have the funding in place to start construction."

Wallenda, meanwhile, took his world renowned high wire act to the Darien Lake amusement park, where he will be thrilling audiences starting on May 9, the park's opening day.

"Had Nik gotten that property instead of Hamister, he would have pumped ten times the $100,000 into the city economy in the first season alone," Accardo said. "But of course Nik doesn't belong to the same Buffalo clubs as Dyster."

At the end of the day, Accardo said, Niagara Falls needs to get back its' sense of humor about itself, something that's been missing in action for most of the current century.

"Look, we want to be known as a place to have fun. We want people to come here and go back saying they had a good time."





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