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OCT 15 - OCT 22, 2015

Mayor, Council and Tourism Board Prepare Trip Down Patronage Job Path

By Anna Howard

OCT 15, 2015

Just as a river naturally flows to the sea so do Mayor Dyster and the council majority inevitably make their way toward an ever-growing city government with an increased taxpayer burden.

The latest example of this municipal mismanagement is the Mayor/council expressed interest in creating another city hall job: Tourism Director. The city’s Tourism Advisory Board (created nine years ago by then councilman Sam Fruscione) pleaded their alleged need for the position in a presentation at the October 4, council meeting.

An October 6,Gazette story by Philip Gambini, “City council discussing Falls tourism post,” reads, “The position is of importance to Touma, who said he is willing to make budgetary sacrifices to institute it.” The story quoted councilman Charles Walker, saying, “We talk about becoming more of a tourism city, we need to have somebody in-house looking at those issues…Looking at how we connect to the rest of the city, the rest of things going on in the city, to what is happening downtown.”

The story quoted tourism board member Lisa Vitello (sister in law to Dyster campaign manager Craig Touma, who is cousin to council chairman Andrew Touma), “Residents, tourism, businesses, often bring concerns to this board and those concerns need somewhere to go.” The implication seems to be that the city’s tourism needs are unmet by John Percy’s NTCC. Dyster remarked in the story, “Nobody, I think, is arguing about the need for that position.”

While the city has a deficit of  $7.6 million and while millions of dollars in casino funds were abused by Dyster to balance the 2016 budget, the mayor and council are now taking direction from the tourism board as the city hall “friends and family employment machine” gears up to create another job. All the while Dyster blames personnel costs as the root of city fiscal woes. Hypocrisy? It’s truly stunning all the way around…mayor to council to citizen advisory board.

The fact of the matter is that there currently is no “tourism director” in city hall because in 2003 a tourism promotion reorganization plan supported, at the time, by Senator Maziarz, Assemblywomen Del Monte, the city council and the county legislature closed the Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (NFCVB) and the Niagara County Tourism Department. The closing of those two organizations put more than 20 people out of work and left in its wake, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation (NTCC).

Two individuals, John Percy from the NFCVB and the county’s sport fishing coordinator, were absorbed by the NTCC with the county government continuing, to this day, to pay the expenses of the sport fishing program.

The creation of the NTCC was historic in that it remains as the only known example of Maziarz and DelMonte having ever worked cooperatively on anything. It also ushered in the era of the NTCC with that agency being funded annually with approximately $900,000 of bed tax and $1,000,000 from the city’s casino revenue. The NTCC agency, flush with taxpayer funds, has, over the years, set off on any number of junkets across North America to Europe to Asia.

So, while the new, well-funded NTCC has taken the lead role in local tourism promotion, the mayor and council now want to hire their own tourism director. Not content to leave (one would assume) well enough alone the high-flying (with taxpayer cash) city administration is once again dipping into the taxpayer pocket to dish out another serving of political patronage employment.

Dyster, Walker and Touma, to a man, have remarked on the need to fund such a city position. Which raises two questions: 1) why, if the NTCC is performing the miraculous deeds that the mayor has ascribed to them does the city need this job, and 2) why doesn’t the mayor/council simply advise John Percy as to the city’s exact tourism needs rather than turn the situation into a limp excuse to create a job?







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