Sometimes members of the Niagara Falls City Council majority make criticizing them so easy. Too easy.
Recently the triumvirate – Council Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian and Councilmen Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson Jr. – leveled a ridiculous accusation against Mayor Paul A. Dyster, accusing him of being beholden to Buffalo charities.
Dyster had the nerve to seek help for his beleaguered city from none other than the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. He wanted $4,000 to pay for the city’s membership in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an organization of Great Lakes mayors that meets every year to discuss relevant issues related to the Great Lakes watershed.
The Council had eliminated the item from the 2013 budget, in part because of the city’s fiscal crisis stemming from the loss of Seneca Niagara Casino revenues. The Council had already made that bad situation worse by slapping aside Albany’s $13 million lifeline from the New York Power Authority. That would have been an advance on proceeds from the Niagara Power Project relicensing agreement.
The Council majority members didn’t like that deal and now they definitely don’t appreciate Buffalo charities offering any assistance. Choolokian went so far as to level at Dyster the preposterous charge that the charities were trying to “fund our city and buy favors from your administration.” Then Choolakian added: “I’ve been in the system for 27 years, and I’ve never seen Buffalo get involved like they have since you’ve been mayor.”
Twenty-seven years is a long time. Perhaps the shenanigans the chairman has witnessed over that time caused him to judge harshly that which he doesn’t understand. The mere thought of Buffalo charities in their city has rattled not only Choolokian but his cohorts, Fruscione and Anderson. This may be a matter for the FBI, according to Choolokian.
More evidence of influence peddling, if you ask this group, was the Community Foundation’s assistance in Dyster’s effort to attract the best candidates for top administrative posts back in 2007. It was tough luring candidates, given the city’s low salaries. The foundation established a fund of anonymous donors who pledged to “build a better Niagara.” And the John R. Oishei Foundation offered to help funds arts and culture. Now, in a city that needs all the help it can get, the Council majority is saying it doesn’t need such “outsiders” meddling in city business.
Dyster is left, as they say in social media parlance, SMH (shaking my head). So are the others on the Council, Charles Walker and Kristen M. Grandinetti. Grandinetti couldn’t have said it better when she called the actions “very irresponsible and frankly embarrassing.”