By Paul Dyster
Niagara Gazette — As your mayor, I have a responsibility to work with our city council for the good of the city. You know that when it comes to government, politics is part of the game whether we like it or not. But our officials also have a duty to rise above politics and petty personal attacks in order to get things done.
Over the past two months, the city council majority has simply crossed the line. Their goal is to mislead the public, and now they are using the approved city budget as a political tool instead of a spending plan. We need this to stop, and to get back to running our city government.
The city council reduced and eliminated funding for the Niagara Falls Block Club Council, Niagara Falls Beautification Commission, and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center after all of those dollars were approved in the 2013 budget. I have already gone on record about the value or volunteerism, neighborhood crime prevention, and the economic impact of arts and culture on our community.
The city council majority has already gone on record calling these community members, “fun and fluff,” “special interest groups,” “living in a world of entitlement” and explaining that their “run is over.”
Regardless of our feelings on those opinions and personal attacks, the council is clearly disregarding the city charter, and either does not understand or does not respect our city’s form of government. They see the budget as just “numbers on a page,” to quote Councilman Sam Fruscione, that can be manipulated for political motives, when a budget is, in fact, a local law.
It is questionable whether they even have the legal authority to make these changes or if they understand the city charter and the mayor-city council relationship. I have been your mayor for five years and served on the city council for four years before that. They could always have called me to talk about this, but they chose not to.
Most troublingly, after hundreds of people spoke out about these cuts, the council majority decided to take political cover by involving the police department. They told you that this was all part of their plan and not just a reaction.
What they did not tell you is that Chief Bryan DalPorto’s new community policing strategy does not require cuts to block clubs, the NBC or the NACC. They did not tell you that this police plan is one of my administration’s top priorities. The council majority did not say any of this because it would then be made clear that all of these changes are a political sleight of hand. Instead they found a way to claim credit for the work of dedicated police officers.
They want you to think that you cannot have police on the beat and a fully funded beautification commission or NACC at the same time. They want you to think that your city budget is just one giant slush fund and not a legal document that must be followed. Clearly, the council majority would rather write a snappy press release instead of run a good government.
Fellow citizens, think about how all of this makes us look to potential investors and the community at large. As a business owner, would you want to enter into an agreement with a city that is willing to abandon its contractual agreements every time the political winds change? Do you think our young people are going to want to stay in a place where elected leaders care more about political gains than cultural assets and a consistent government? The answer is no.
One of the things I love most about our city is the common sense, no-nonsense attitude of its residents. We know what is right and what is wrong, and the difference between an honest day’s work and politicians looking merely to promote themselves. I think it is time for all of us to tell this council majority to stop the politicking and to get back to work.
Paul Dyster is the mayor of Niagara Falls.Paul Dyster is the mayor of Niagara Falls.