Niagara Gazette

August 15, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Councilman Fruscione lays out accomplishments, talks Hamister project

By Samuel Fruscione
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Primary day will be here soon and I would like to take a moment to note some of the programs and initiatives that I’ve been a part of while serving on the city council. But first I want to briefly comment on the Hamister hotel proposal.

I have to correct the notion that the council “had the contract in their hands since February of 2012.” The fact is that from February 2012 until July 3, 2013, we had nothing in writing in any way, shape or form. Please read that carefully: nothing. There was no proposed document until July 3. On July 3 we received the pages that you can read on the city’s website. You are able to view the document because the city council posted it in the interest of transparency. Visit www.niagarausa.org and see the upper left hand of the homepage.

At the April 15 city council meeting Mayor Paul Dyster said — in response to a question from a council member — that he was nearing completion on the Hamister agreement and that he would have that agreement within a month for the council to review. The mayor’s month became nearly three months with no communication from him in between.

All of that being said the city council would like to move forward for the good of our taxpayers and downtown development. We have concerns with this proposal but the proposal could be realized with guarantees that protect the taxpayers.

The city council is the legislative branch of government and is not empowered to initiate development or guide the city’s day-to-day business. We do have the responsibility of monitoring the city budget and approving contractual obligations. To this end we will continue to seek a development project that will enhance our downtown while serving the best interests of Niagara Falls. Allow me to close out my comments on the development proposal by stating that I trust the mayor and USA Niagara will respond positively to the council’s recommendation to seek common ground.

Last year the council stopped the tax increase that Dyster wanted for homeowners and businesses. We also declined a Power Authority arrangement that would have paid the city pennies on the dollar and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in the end. These were difficult decisions but decisions that had to be made for the good of the city.

The city council majority was a very early supporter of Nik Wallenda as he sought permission to walk across our waterfall. Sen. George Maziarz was instrumental in making Nik’s walk possible and this was an excellent example of bipartisan cooperation for the good of the community. Party politics is part of the political game but party politics should always finish a distant second to the common good.

I’ve been a proud continuing sponsor of the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial project. The memorial, due to the hard work of the veterans’ committee, is a distinct and fitting tribute to those who have selflessly served our nation.

Building demolitions and the related funding challenges continue to be at the top of my to-do list. Everything that is good about a city grows from its neighborhoods outward and so we have to go forward with demolitions while looking for new ways to fund the demolition work.

And because protecting our city’s neighborhoods is critical to maintaining our city’s tax base I’ve worked since 2009 to guarantee that the Cayuga Island neighborhood won’t be devalued through the Jayne Park Greenway Grant. While the mayor’s administration works to manipulate the Cayuga Island residents I continue to value the Cayuga Island community. This neighborhood deserves the respect that comes with footing a large part of the city’s tax bill. Cayuga Island only wants the park maintained, trees trimmed, grounds kept clean and playground equipment updated. It’s truly upsetting how they have become pawns in circumstances involving paid consultants and city hall.

Public safety is critical to the life of a city. If our residents are afraid to walk the streets then we have lost the city. I’m not going to sugar-coat this: we know we have crime in Niagara Falls. I have supported Police Chief Bryan DalPorto as he set new initiatives and started walking patrols and bike patrols across the city. The police chief and his officers have my continued full support.

Being a member of the city council means taking a stand, be it popular or not, on those issues affecting the taxpayers. It means bringing initiatives to the table for debate and consideration. It involves passing ordinances and laws that promote public safety and thoughtful development.

I have had the honor of serving on the Niagara Falls City Council for the past eight years. With the valued support of the voters I will continue to work for our residents to make our city a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

Samuel Fruscione is a member of the Niagara Falls City Council.