Niagara Gazette

January 27, 2014

EDITORIAL: Sign of a troubling system in Niagara County

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — If you don’t believe Lockport auto mechanic Dave Mongielo is getting railroaded, then we’ve got a bridge we’d like to sell you.

You know the one. It’s named after George Washington and it connects New York with New Jersey.

The bridge ties to Bridge-gate, the current controversy surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Christie’s under fire because a pair of higher ups in his administration literally directed the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge last year in an effort to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. for failing to endorse Christie for reelection.

The case illustrates a larger point about the nature of politics and the extent some politicians and their appointees will go to exact retribution on their enemies.

Don’t think for a minute stuff like this doesn’t happen around here.

In recent years, Mongielo has made his share of enemies, particularly in the county Conservative and Republican Party establishments. He dared attempt to gather a group of like-minded citizens to run for committee positions in 2010. He also took two unsuccessful turns at Lockport’s Republican Supervisor Marc Smith while frequently criticizing town and county officials along the way.

Mongielo is now facing a 10-day jail term for, get this, violating a town sign ordinance.

There are felons in this county who have received far less punishment for far more egregious crimes.

Ask yourself: Does it make sense to incarcerate anyone because the sign in front of their business blinks too many times? Wouldn’t community service or maybe a fine have been more in line?

What’s really going on here is a political witch hunt, the kind people like Mongielo face whenever they attempt to run up against the good old boy Niagara County system.

It’s a disgrace.

Attempts to have the case transferred to a less politically charged venue have been denied. And now, amazingly, a local businessman is facing a jail term for breaking the sign rules.

Mongielo and his supporters rocked the boat.

The establishment around here doesn’t like such things, which is why we have four year’s worth of debate and wasted court time for a sign violation that, in reality, has almost zero impact on the quality of life in the community.

In short: Mongielo’s sign isn’t hurting anyone.

Putting him in jail serves only those who have political spite running through their veins.

The pursuit of the offender in this case does speak volumes about the nature of justice in Niagara County.

If it were on a billboard, the message would read something like this: Don’t mess with the guys in charge, or else.