Niagara Gazette

January 5, 2014

EDITORIAL: It's time for Niagara Falls City Council to get it right

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s odd to hear new Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Charles Walker suggest that his colleague, lawmaker Kristen Grandinetti, “butted heads” too often with her fellow council members to warrant ascension to the top leadership role. 

You’d have to be buried under a rock beneath Niagara Falls to not realize just how often the council, and the members of the old council majority in particular, rubbed people of all walks the wrong way.

We didn’t think it was possible, but 2013 may well be remembered as the year the city’s legislative body enhanced its dysfunctional reputation and that’s really saying something considering the quality of leadership that has been the norm in these parts for many decades. 

The Hamister hotel fiasco was obviously the high-water mark of the bad old days of the Glenn Choolokian-Sam Fruscione-Robert Anderson-led council. There were other less-than-flattering episodes as well, including the questionable decision to eat out on city taxpayers’ dimes while espousing the need to keep a close watch on the municipality’s finances. 

These guys didn’t just butt heads, they built walls, digging their heels in often because they could, not because it was necessarily in the city’s best interest. 

You know it’s bad when the governor himself has to intervene to make sure the council leadership doesn’t chase off a developer with a legitimate project. 

We trust, given the outcome of last year’s primary and general elections, the community has had enough of this style of “leadership” and is now looking forward to a council that will be more focused on productivity than obstruction. 

That’s not to say we expect everyone to get along all the time. To the contrary. Sound decision-making isn’t always accomplished without robust discussion and even hearty disagreements. 

We expect our city officials to engage in vigorous debate as warranted. 

We also hope they’ll do so in a respectful manner, not only when it comes to dealing with one another, but when it comes to dealing with department heads, residents and, yes, would-be developers and business people. 

The time has come to begin to achieve the city’s potential, especially when it comes to serving as a tourism mecca for the rest of the world. 

Doing so will require maximization of resources and strengthening of public- and private-sector partnerships. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo thought enough of Walker, Grandinetti and council newcomer Andrew Touma to endorse them just days before the November election. 

He did so because he believed they were the “partners” he needed to move forward with the economic development and tourism initiatives his administration, through the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp., plans to carry out in the months and years ahead. 

We look forward to continued support from the state and the governor’s office in 2014 and remind Walker, Grandinetti, Touma, Anderson and Choolokian to take their roles seriously and conduct themselves accordingly in the year ahead. 

In other words, ladies and gentlemen: Don’t screw it up this time.