Niagara Gazette

September 27, 2013

HAMILTON: Dyster did not 'railroad' us on brother-in-law hiring

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — I have said it about former mayors and I’ll say it about this one — a broken clock is always right at least twice a day.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I often disagree with the many decisions that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster makes, and sometimes even with some of the decisions that his staff makes, too.

But I have to say that the decision to hire his wife’s brother-in-law at the Hyde Park Golf Course to apply pesticides was not only a step in the right direction but also a step that we should repeat so often that we find ourselves rapidly running toward the finish lines of our successes.

Oh, and it is not because Charlie Calabro is Dyster’s wife’s brother-in-law, which should rightfully raise eyebrows. And it is not because Calabro is a consummate professional in what he does. It is because the man is likely the only New York state licensed pesticide applier who actually, get this, lives in the city.

That’s right — Calabro lives in the city. And as such, he is a hallmark demonstration of something that I have been saying for years: there is a difference between price and costs, and the city should be looking for the lowest cost providers, and not just the artificially lowest price providers.

Here’s the difference.

Remember how the audience applauded in the city council chambers when Councilman Bob Anderson said that he changed his swing vote on the Hamister hotel deal, in part because of Hamister’s and Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt’s pledge to hire city of Niagara Falls residents?

Such an insistence by Anderson to do so is steeped in the understanding that if public money is used to pay local residents, then the local residents will most likely use that money in the local economy, generating more commerce and a greater return to the local government in tax base increases and tax payments themselves.

This allows the local government to better service all of the local citizens, allows communities to improve and it improves the local quality of life. To have paid an outsider may have sometimes seemed like a low-price option, but the cost is in that the money is spent in some other community, and not here.

Calabro lives here, raises his family here, pays his taxes here, and makes his clients lawns here look great here; and he will glowingly aid the golf course here in its continuous effort to be one of the select courses in the area.

And that is a price and cost for our tax dollar that delivers a better dividend for us.

Nonetheless, what former mayoral contender Johnny Destino said about the Niagara Falls Board of Education in the hiring of the daughter of its attorney as human resources director also applies to the city itself. Destino said, “The board of education doesn’t need a human resources director, they need a genealogist!”

In a town as small as ours, people are going to hire relatives, even though in this case, I doubt if Parks Director David Kinney knew of the relationship when he hired Calabro. To my knowledge, the board of education’s human resources manager is also doing her job.

Nonetheless, Destino’s comment still applies; and the public should know that these relationships exist, that they are vetted and substantiated, and that the public is getting the best bang for the buck.

I am confident that Calabro’s hiring was not a railroad job that takes the public for a ride.

Did I say railroad? Amtrak will arrive twice a day there, too; just like it does at the old station, won’t it?

Well, maybe a broken clock isn’t “always” right twice a day.

Contact Ken Hamilton at

Contact Ken Hamilton at