Like the rest of you who aren't in Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello's inner circle, Citycide didn't have any advance knowledge of what was contained in the tightly guarded secret known as his master plan.
But without seeing the details of the plan he unveiled Monday night only in the least public manner possible, here's what the title should have been:
"Hey! ---- you!"
Of course, that's been the motto for Anello's entire administration to date.
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These are, after all, the folks that gave you three economic development directors where there used to be one.
And performed a similar trick with the Public Works Department.
And gave away an ever-increasing portion of your golf course without bothering to hold the legally required public hearings, or even pretend to stage a bidding process.
And yanked management of the city's health-insurance program away from First Niagara, which saved the city more than $500,000 last year, and gave it to an Albany firm at a cost of $300,000 more per annum, again without a bidding process or even notifying the original administrator that a change was under consideration.
Now you're getting Anello's, um, well, "vision" of what Niagara Falls will look like in the near and distant future.
While no one outside the backroom where it was hatched knew what the plan contained until Monday's City Council meeting, when Anello attempted to ram it down the throats of Council members for an approval vote before anybody else knew what it meant, or that it even existed, Citycide was able to learn a few things about its details through our trusty City Hall sources:
But that doesn't mean that Anello's secretive scheme should be ignored, no matter how much he'd like you to. If one thing has been proven over the past nine months, it's that you've got to watch this administration as closely as a store manager watches a guy who lingers too long in the electronics section. Let your attention lapse, even for a second, and you'll get robbed blind.
Don't feel bad if you didn't know there was a master-plan update in the works. Neither did City Council members, union officials, members of the city's various planning and economic boards, or anyone else not involved in the top-secret meetings.
The only advance notice came when Anello chose to advertise the meeting in one of the most seldom-read Niagara County publications this side of the pennysaver you just threw in your recycling bin -- the Sunday collection of processed wood pulp produced by Greater Niagara Newspapers.
There's no formal process mandated by law for the creation of municipal master plans, so there's nothing illegal about Anello and a few unelected cronies hatching a document meant to make the public believe that the people they elected and pay for are doing something. But given his exceeding generosity when it comes to doling out your money and possessions, keeping everything so hush-hush shouldn't exactly engender confidence in the masses.
At least the administration is being consistent when it comes to deciding what isn't any of your business.
Sources told Citycide the city's department heads were recently ordered to change their cell phone numbers and withhold the new ones from the public. After all, you don't want the people who pay the tab pestering all those hardworking patronage hacks.
City Hall has also grown weary of the most strident advocates for taxpayers -- the city's block clubs. Word is that administration officials will use the fiscal crisis it took them nine months to discover as an excuse to cut support for their clubs, which have been vital in fighting crime, cleaning up neighborhoods and pushing for other quality-of-life measures.
In case you missed it, City Administrator Dan Bristol announced a spending freeze last week, ordering all department heads to lay off non-essential employees immediately.
Don't worry, though. Such vital -- and highly paid -- jobs as Parking Czar, Risk Manager and all the newly created economic-development and public-works posts remain safely filled by friends and family.
Anello's hardly the first elected official to develop such cynical disdain for the people who put him in power, but it doesn't make his sit-down-and-shut-up management style any more appealing, or effective.
If you don't like it, well, refer to the third paragraph above.
Fall is officially less than a week away, but the summer-long concert series on the mall between the Wintergarden and Third Street continues with a two-day Blues Festival on Friday and Saturday.
Bands including the Junkyard Dogs and New York City blues impresarios Matt O'Ray and the Blueshounds are scheduled to perform from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, and all day Saturday, starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday's slate also includes a barbecue, with beer and non-adult beverages available both days.
While also supervising the renovation of the Wintergarden into Smokin' Joe's Family Fun Center -- which is proceeding at an impressive pace -- general manager John Caputo has staged live entertainment on the mall all summer. Crowds have grown steadily despite a series of wet Fridays and the long-standing local tradition of avoiding downtown at all costs.
The concert series has provided a long-overdue burst of life in a cement desert created by Urban Renewal, and been a good first step toward turning the area around the Wintergarden into an attraction for tourists and locals alike. Caputo's enthusiasm -- you can usually find him working the T-shirt table or making sure the concession stands are properly stocked -- has been a vital part of that success.
That was quite a little party the Seneca Gaming Corp. threw on Labor Day.
The throng of thousands who gathered in the parking lot that used to be E. Dent Lackey Plaza didn't care how many, if any, of the actual Beach Boys took the temporary stage. The weather was beautiful, the sound clear, and the concession stands and restrooms plentiful.
It was one of those days that make you blink and wonder two things: "Is this really Niagara Falls?" And, "Why doesn't this happen more often?"
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Sept. 14 2004|