Niagara Gazette

November 1, 2013

HAMILTON: Election 2013: Is it Albany or us?

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken Hamilton’s endorsements are his own and do not reflect the views of the Niagara Gazette.

Sen. George Maziarz has long said that Niagarans cannot make good decisions, and this November election may be the ultimate test of determining if we can or if we cannot.

I was a little surprised at how many local citizens were also surprised that Gov. Andrew Cuomo not only came to town to support a five-story, 100-room conception hotel in downtown Niagara Falls, but went on further to endorse two of the incumbents who were willing to endorse the deal of a developer who admitted that he had neither a major hotel chain partner and/or reservation system, nor the money to build the hotel without the city first giving him the land for what could clearly be argued pennies on the dollar.

Personally, while I wanted Hamister’s, the developer, ultimate success in building it, I applauded the so-called “council majority” for finally waking up and scrutinizing deals before they approved them, and possibly establishing a template for fully understanding the long-term ramifications of any policies and contracts that they vote on. Many other citizens, that “Silent Niagara Majority” that has to pay near full value on their property and all of their property taxes, also supported the idea of going into these areas with eyes wide open. I cannot help but to think that the hope that the majority brought to the citizenry was little more than a small hole through which the sun momentarily shone amidst the dark clouds that have so long surrounded us.

The irony in all of it is that most Niagarans have long thought, rightly or wrongly, that Albany has never been the solution. In fact, with agencies surrounding us like the Office of Parks and Historic Preservation, the New York State Power Authority, the Robert Moses Parkway, the Niagara Falls Bridge Authority, the Niagara Falls Water Board and the Seneca Nation’s casino contract — which excluded the input and participation of anyone living in Niagara Falls, most Niagarans believe that Albany is the problem!

I suppose that most Niagarans have become accustomed to such oversight and interference, a situation that has left our city in near-dire straits. But in my memory, not since New York State Comptroller H.Carl McCall made his special trip to Niagara Falls to endorse one of New York state’s nearly 1,000 county legislators has any state-wide elected official ever done so. I cannot even remember it happening prior.

I wish that the governor had exercised his influence in a much better way; such as offering the interest payments that the city lost due to the racino issue that Albany instituted as a part of the city’s compensation for the casino, allowing city input into the extension of the Seneca contract, closing down the parking lots on Goat Island and Prospect Park and allowing the city to collect that revenue, increasing the amount of low-cost power for local residents, removing the tolls from the Grand Island bridges and such. I think that such would have been good government for the city and region.

Instead, I fear that his interference will result in local tax increases without offsetting benefits to the residents who pay them.

On the subject of good government, I feel compelled to actually encourage our voters to stop party and personality voting, and in our strong mayor system of government, to vote for balance between the mayor and the council. If I were that proverbial benevolent dictator of the city, my preferences for city council would be geared towards balance in government, with an eye towards 2016. Therefore, it would in the following order of preference:

For city council: Vince Sandonato, Russ Vesci, Sam Fruscione, Kristin Grandinetti, Andy Touma and lastly Charles Walker — who has had a dismal, lackluster 16 years on the council. Such a council would give us the broadest-thinking possible and the most balanced council.

For the city’s county legislators, which is controlled by Republicans and county Democrats, I would support the continuing service of Democrats Dennis Virtuoso and Jason Zona, and add Green Party and Niagara Youth Party newcomer Saladin Allah to the mix. As of next week, Saladin will become a Democrat.

Saladin’s opponent, Owen Steed, has proven himself as a representative who does not fully understand what is in the good of his own district, as exemplified in his pushing to send an embarrassing resolution to support a bill that the governor has already signed, his lack of support for members of his own party and constituency, his support of those who have kept closed area community centers and the basis of his acceptance by the Republican majority in that he brings nothing to the table and that his vote doesn’t count.

However, the case of incumbent Cheree Copelin (R) and challenger Mark Grozio (D), I’ll have to say that both are very good candidates, both are bright, knowledgeable people and both would serve the city and county well. Grozio’s non-attendance at the legislative forum was my fault and my fault alone, in that he was inadvertently not notified until the day before. Steed was notified many days before.

Does the governor agree with Maziarz, or can we make good decisions on our own? We’ll see.

Contact Ken Hamilton at

Contact Ken Hamilton at