Residents Waiting Patiently to See What’s Up at Niagara Falls City Hall

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By: Tony Farina

There is simply no quick fix to the problems facing Niagara Falls and it will take a monumental collaborative effort involving all of the stakeholders coming together at the table to get the city moving in the right direction.

That’s the view of former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello who believes city residents are being patient to see what the new mayor and new council majority are planning to help the city come to life again and give residents hope for a better future.

“The city has been gutted, and the mayor, council, unions, and taxpayers must work together to dig the city out of the deep hole where it currently sits,” says Anello adding that many residents don’t understand how the city functions and how difficult and sometimes costly those fixes could be.

“For example,” says Anello, “what is the city prepared to offer the unions to get them to go along [with cost-cutting measures], and that means in some cases, buy backs, and that costs money and will take time. There are no quick fixes out there, but until they all come together, nothing will happen.  They should look at a collaborative approach because we’re so far down, it will take action by all sides to right the ship.”

Anello says residents are not prepared to critique the new mayor, Robert Restaino, at this time, understanding that things won’t get done overnight.  But taxpayers are waiting to see what’s coming as the new mayor and his team assess the problems they inherited and roll out their plans to move things in a new direction.

  One of the problems the new administration is facing is the lack of a city engineer, a role now being filled by a consultant.

 

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino who took office on January 1st, 2020.

 

“We need a civil engineer in place who understands streets and infrastructure so we can avoid a recurrence of the kind of problems we had on 72nd Street which cost $800,000 to fix,” said Anello.  “We need an experienced civil engineer on the job, somebody with at least 10 years experience.  That would be a good start.”

Another difficulty the former mayor sees is the leadership turnover as while two councilmembers just began four-year terms, the other three will face voters in two years.  And the mayor just began a four-year term.

The suggestion by Anello is there could be finger pointing by councilman looking to protect their jobs come election time rather than focusing on the job at hand.

That won’t be an issue for new Councilmember John Spanbauer, a former college administrator who is taking his first crack at public office, pledging when he ran to be a one-term lawmaker willing to make the tough decisions if needed to help city out of its financial crisis.

There are signs, according to city hall sources, that Mayor Restaino found a lot of problems when he took office but so far, the mayor isn’t talking.  However sources expect he won’t be silent much longer and could possibly unload on what he found sooner rather then later.  We’ll have to wait and see.

So far, anyway, there seems to be a good line of communication between the new council president, Chris Voccio, and the mayor’s office, a signal that the collaborative approach that Anello favors could already be in the works.  

Voccio said last week he believes the mayor will be a good partner with the council and that could pay dividends down the road for taxpayers looking to see hope for the future.  Again, the new mayor has been in office less than a month and anyone who expects a quick fix to the city’s long simmering problems will be extremely disappointed.  As former Mayor Anello said, there are no quick fixes out there.

Hovering over all of this is the continued uncertainty about if or when the casino revenue-sharing dollars will begin to flow again to the state and the city. The Senecas have remained silent so the short answer is no one really knows.

 

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