Niagara Gazette

Columns

November 29, 2013

HAMILTON: Onion skins, councils and mayors

Niagara Gazette — Not since the days of Mayor Michael O’Laughlin have I been so surprised by a single package of council votes. The biggest surprise was when council unanimously got it wrong in not accepting the help of that Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments that Mayor Paul Dyster proposed, and that should have passed muster.

Because it did not, you cannot blame the so-called “council majority” for that one. Anderson was absent, and even if council newcomer Andy Touma was on the council, would it have made the difference that many people hoped for. The vote was 4-0. Well, so much for the council working together!

Here’s why it should have passed.

The verbiage described in the letter that the Financial Restructuring Board sent to City Administrator Donna Owens stated that the board’s duties was in undertaking a comprehensive review of the municipality’s finances and operations, and recommending ways to improve its fiscal stability and the delivery of public services.

The letter further states that if their recommendations were taken, then either grants, loans or a combination of both, in the amount of $5 million dollars, may be available to correct the city’s structural deficiencies. That could amount to $5 million in free money; or rather, money that we have already sent to the state as a result of the Seneca casino funds of which they take 75 percent.

Now listen to this. We are eligible for this board, primarily for three reasons.

One is because we are so close to our taxing cap that, to put it into naval terms, we are heading straight for the shallow shoal waters where the rocks will rip us from bow to stern.

Two; we are ‘fixing’ that closeness to the taxing cap, the shoals, by taking money from our already diminishing cash reserves to the tune of $4 million dollars. Remember the $5 million that the state is potentially offering us?

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