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MAR 31 - APR 07, 2015

Dyster's Freestyle Spending Overlooks Fact That Our City is Going Broke Fast

By Mike Hudson

March 31, 2015

Where do the penguins play? In Dyster's city hall. The mayor has $150,000 to give for penguins.


The reservoir of cash flowing into the city's coffers from the Seneca Niagara Casino is drying up as the gaming industry experiences its first major decline all across the country. When city Controller Maria Brown breaks the news to Mayor Dyster, he responds by calling for a tax increase on property owners who are arguably already the highest taxed in the land.

It's not like he couldn't see it coming. Revenue from the casino has fallen steadily, from $21.6 million in 2012 to $20.2 million in 2013 and $19 million last year. Projections show that, this year, just $18 million will be realized.

Those are alarming numbers for a city with a shrinking tax base. More than 700 abandoned, derelict structures line the city's streets, far more than enough for a respectable ghost town. Formerly the homes of happy families or the storefronts of thriving mom and pop businesses, most became vacant when their owners just gave up and left town. Thousands of hardworking, taxpaying citizens have left since Dyster was first elected in 2007 to be nearly replaced by welfare recipients, sex offenders and other parolees.

Faced with similar circumstances, any fiscally responsible CEO in the private sector would start looking for ways to tighten the belt. But the mayor -- who does not list a single private sector job on his resume other than his ownership of Niagara Tradition, a Tonawanda retail store open just 46 hours a week that sells supplies to hobbyists interested in making their own beer at home – is anything but a fiscally responsible CEO in the private sector.

In fact, all the money he doesn't have is just burning a hole in Dyster's pocket.

Last night, the City Council approved an appeal by Dyster for a $150,000 grant, to be spent on improving penguin habitat at the Aquarium of Niagara. While the quality of life for human beings continues to decline here, the mayor wants to make sure the penguins are comfortable.

"This is an exciting project which will provide construction jobs. Once completed, the exhibit will greatly enhance the attractiveness of the Aquarium as a tourist attraction," Dyster wrote the Council.

No mention is made about how many construction jobs will be provided, for how long, or even if the workers will be local union men and women. Likewise, there is nothing about the potential public benefit to the citizens of Niagara Falls, the ones stuck footing the bill. Such considerations are mere trivialities to the mayor.

Dyster's largess toward private, semi-private and public agencies here in Niagara Falls is the stuff of legend. For some it seems, his charity knows no bounds.

Take the Hard Rock Café, for example. The billion-dollar, multinational corporation wholly owned by Florida's Seminole Indians, received a total of $707,000 of your money to stage a series of "free" concerts in the vacant lot behind the restaurant, a few hundred feet from the state park entrance.

The concerts were held on weekend evenings in the summertime, when no real enticement is needed to draw tourists into what has been called the "tourist district" for at least a century, and other downtown merchants groused that business actually fell off when the concerts took place. Still, Dyster got the chance to MC the shows, hobnob with has been rock stars and generally make even more of a fool of himself than he usually does.

The mayor's unholy alliance with religious cults manifested itself when he gifted a relief organization called Isaiah 61 a whopping $500,000 of your money to convert an abandoned fire hall on Highland Avenue into a new clubhouse - without bothering to tell the council that the executive director had just skipped town and their programs have ground to a halt.

And again when he gave $54,000 to the Ezekiel Project, the Niagara Falls franchise of the openly socialist Gamaliel Foundation. What the Ezekiels did with your money nobody seems to know.

Dyster gave Community Missions $150,000 to pay off a tax lien, the epic failure known as the Holiday Market got $225,000, the annual Blues Fest here took in $46,000, the ironically named Niagara Arts and Cultural Center raked in $210,000 and "City Planner" Tom DeSantis was given $6,500 to buy new carpeting for his City Hall office.

Every dime of which was your money.

And then there was the ill-fated Underground Railroad Museum, later downgraded to the Underground Railroad Exhibit, which has not yet managed to acquire a single artifact or exhibit, much less open its doors, despite an outlay of $350,000 a year and nearly six years of talk and study.

The former director of the project was fired after it was learned he was using his position with the city to promote a private business he ran selling Underground Railroad tours.

Jaw droppingly, the largest single beneficiary of the mayor's charity has been the State of New York, which receives through its USA Niagara office here a certifiably insane $1.5 million a year out of the city's share of casino revenue. Why the city has to pay to run a state agency, when the state already receives 75 percent of the revenue compared to the city's 25 percent, is something that has never been fully explained.

To be fair, Dyster wasn't mayor when that swindle was perpetrated, he merely led the City Council majority that approved the deal.

In recent weeks, he's proposed spending $3.2 million to build an animal shelter that isn't wanted or needed.

And now it's $150,000 for penguin habitat.

Your money.

Dyster is seeking reelection this November, provided he can eke out a victory against a formidable challenge posed by the dynamic city Councilman Glenn Choolokian in the September primary. Currently, he is regarded as the hands down favorite to win an unprecedented third term here.

But one thing is certain. Dyster thinks of your money as his money, to whimsically toss hither and yon for purposes known only to him. The penguins will thank him, no doubt.


Money, money everywhere, but not a drop for the people. Mayor Paul Dyster spent $707,000 of the people's money on a series of concerts, while telling the people that the city is broke and he must raise taxes






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