Niagara Gazette — Candidates looking to win a seat on the city council faced questions about the defunding of civic and cultural organizations last year, a subject that drew criticism at city council meetings this winter.
The questions came up during a community forum with all seven council candidates at the Rapids Theatre Monday night.
Three city council members — Councilman Sam Fruscione, Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and Councilman Robert Anderson, Jr. — voted to block funds outlined in last year's adopted budget for a handful of civic and cultural groups that had been given funds for a number of years, citing the city's tough financial situation caused in a large part by the dispute that the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State were then working to negotiate.
That dispute was settled in June. The city has received the money that was withheld during the dispute and is scheduled to continue receiving host community revenues as outlined in the 2002 gaming compact.
The council approved a budget that included funding for the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, the Niagara Beautification Commission and the Niagara Falls Block Club Council in December, but the council majority refused to approved the appropriations agreements as they came up for a vote in February.
Fruscione, the one member of the majority who is up for reelection this fall, reiterated that he had to choose between funding the organizations and maintaining services and jobs during the city's strained fiscal situation.
"I believe that over time we've given them a lot of seed money and they've begun to grow, they'll continue to grow," Fruscione said. "If we happen to come across money in the future we could possibly support it, but we could never support it to the same level because we need to save for the future."