Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Gazette published a Mayor Paul Dyster guest view on Feb. 19 that made some serious accusations against the city council. I would like to use this printed space to address several of the mayor’s pointed remarks.
Our mayor wrote that the council has “crossed the line,” “mislead,” “does not understand or respect our city’s form of government,” “the council is clearly disregarding the city charter.”
The mayor also wrote that the council is guilty of “sleight of hand,” that the council thinks the budget is “just one giant slush fund,” that the council “would rather write a snappy press release instead of fund good government” and he wrapped it all up stating, “this council majority should stop the politicking and get back to work.”
And what work would that be, Mr. Mayor? You cut us down with insulting language and accused of us overstepping our boundaries. What work could we possibly have to conduct on behalf of the residents after you’ve questioned our integrity and recommended shutting off our powers, powers given to us as duly elected city officials.
As for ignoring the charter and allegedly assuming too much power I want to point out that the corporation counsel noted that the council does have the power to vote down any funding for items presented on the agenda even after it has been placed in the budget, and the city controller noted that the bed tax funds could be used for police initiatives in our tourism district.
So clearly the council is not in violation of the charter we are merely doing what we believe is best for the residents. For the mayor to accuse the city council of being in violation of the charter is inflammatory political rhetoric and something that, judging from the mayor’s Gazette guest view, he would ordinarily disapprove.
If the mayor truly thought we were guilty of a government takeover he would have consulted the corporation counsel and controller and got to the heart of the matter. Which raises this question: did the mayor want to find the answer or did the mayor simply want to throw political mud hoping it would stick and then city government could go back to business as usual?
The fact is we can no longer do business as usual. Our casino revenue is held up and a major financial disaster is approaching city government as you read this article. The city is facing a bond debt of at least $5 million this year and there is no plan from the administration as to how we can pay that debt. There is no plan, that is, unless you consider crossing your fingers and wishing for the Casino Cash Fairy to show up at city hall with the $60,000,000 we are owed.
Last year the mayor tried to hand us a large tax increase that was to be shared with both homeowner and business owner, but the council worked together (a majority of five, Mr. Mayor) to make tough, necessary cuts to eliminate the tax increase. At this time it looks like we’re heading right back down that road to more cuts and the mayor’s plan to raise taxes.
In the mayor’s guest view he writes that the council’s actions in making cuts and adjusting the budget are making the city look bad “to potential investors and the community at large.” Mr. Mayor, you have to be kidding. You presented an out of control budget 30 days late with a large tax increase, a proposed structured settlement from the New York Power Authority (that would have lost the city millions of dollars) cuts in services and no plan to address the lack of casino cash for 2013.
The city’s credit rating dropped last year and it could drop yet again. That drop resulted from the temporary loss of our casino revenue. If that casino revenue loss goes from temporary to permanent look for our rating to go from the current bad to a future worse. And then Mr. Mayor, what will potential investors, developers and lending institutions think of Niagara Falls? If that happens all of the haggling over funding community groups and accusations of charter violations will be swept aside by the enormity of the city’s fiscal problem.
The fact of the matter is that if credit rating agencies are looking at the actions of the council they are seeing a legislative body that has: 1) admitted there is a cash flow problem, and 2) begun to address the problem.
A lack of action in the face of challenge is not leadership it’s denial.
This council majority is not going to led by denial. Instead, we prefer to lead through honest deliberation toward a consensus built in the best interests of our city.Glenn A. Choolokian is the chairman of the Niagara Falls City Council.