Niagara Gazette — Owens attended one conference as well following the freeze last year. Records show she took a trip to the National Urban Fellows meeting in New York City at a total cost of $655.
Dyster considers attending national conferences as a necessary and important function of city government — when the city can afford to do so, at least. Dyster believes conference attendance can be a good way for the city of Niagara Falls to be recognized by key organizations and figures — those that can help the city acquire funding it needs for important projects.
Dyster said both he and Owens have been more strategic in their attending of conferences in recent years, noting they only traveled to conferences they considered directly tied to potential funding sources for the city or important information that will help the city solve specific issues, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the New York Conference of Mayors. At those events, Dyster said, administration officials have the opportunity to meet face to face with state and federal officials, most of whom they have limited or zero contact with otherwise.
“You attend a conference and you get a chance to talk to them one-on-one,” he said.
As an example of the type of value offered by such trips, Owens noted that her visit to the National Urban Fellows’ meeting helped the city secure the services of national fellow John Louis Bryant, who will perform communications work for the mayor’s office during the upcoming year at no cost to the city.
Dyster said conferences attended over a number of years helped the city secure a $16.5 million federal grant to be used in the construction of the new Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center. That kind of money, he said, has not flowed into Niagara Falls in the past, largely, he believes, because the city was not represented at the table.