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SEP 08 - SEP 15, 2015

Democratic Council Primary Worthy of Serious Attention in Falls

By Mike Hudson

SEP 15, 2015

Rick Smith is clearly not in the Dyster camp.


There are two city Council seats up for grabs in Thursday’s election. Councilman Bob Anderson is seeking reelection to the seat he has held for years, and Councilman Glenn Choolokian has decided not to run for another term and challenge incumbent Mayor Paul Dyster in the Democratic primary instead.

Anderson, who received more votes in his 2011 reelection bid than Dyster did for mayor, is reputed to be the city’s most accessible public official and considered a personal friend by a large number of voters here.

Anderson, a decorated veteran, proudly announced his honor at serving to help create the “second largest veteran’s memorial in the USA” at Hyde Park.

Three other candidates, Alicia Laible, Ezra Scott and Rick Smith are vying with Anderson for one of the two seats.

Liable ran for council previously, narrowly losing to Choolokian, and might be considered the frontrunner. Her largest handicap perhaps is that she is perceived as being closely aligned with Dyster, whose political career may not survive the primary, much less the general election.

While she has tried to display independence – including consenting to a free-wheeling and in depth interview with this publication – something Dyster has never agreed to do - Dyster and Laible frequently make appearances together.

Laible said she will offer intelligent business common sense to the council and unlike the present membership of the council, works in the private sector. She is director of business development for Elderwood Health Plan, a private senior health care company.

She holds a master’s degree in social work from SUNY Buffalo, and she and her husband Eric are expecting their first child in November.

If elected, Ezra Scott would be the third schoolteacher to sit on the five-person city Council, joining Andrew Touma and Kristen Grandinetti, who are also employed by the Niagara Falls City School District.

His disadvantage, or advantage, depending on how one views it, is that, should he be elected, teachers would hold the majority on the city council.

Scott, who is endorsed by Dyster and Grandinetti, is the only one of the council candidates who has declined to discuss issues with the Reporter – possibly since, like Grandinetti, he will vote as Dyster tells him, presupposing Dyster wins reelection.

Scott, a Niagara Catholic High School graduate who received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from SUNY Cortland in 2010, has peppered his campaign for City Council with a number of broad-brush statements which could be called pious platitudes such as, “I plan to bring a fresh voice to the city and to bring government to life” without explaining how he would do so.

Finally, there is City Planning Board Chairman, and retiree, Rick D. Smith, who is not aligned with Dyster.

"Glenn (Choolokian) has a good chance at being the next mayor," Smith said, "and now is as good a time as any to join in and help the city move up. I think the taxpayers of this city deserve more than what they are getting."

Smith, 68, has lived in Niagara Falls his entire life except for a three-year stint in the Army, where he attained the rank of sergeant, served overseas in Korea from 1967-1968, and was honorably discharged in 1969.

Smith said he thinks the present mayor has squandered a tremendous opportunity by not creating a spending plan with casino money and then carelessly spending it.

"Dyster spent $183 million in casino cash and what do we have to show for it?" Smith asked. "He thinks the casino money is his own piggy bank."

The two winners in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary will appear on the ballot for the party and will likely face two Republicans: business owner/home inspector/contractor, Willie A. Price, and Kenny M. Tompkins, who is operations manager for H.W. Bryk & Sons, a local plumbing and heating contractor.






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