Dyster sure of stunt funds

Paul Dyster

Mayor Paul Dyster says a city lawmaker's decision to oppose a funding request for a recently announced stunt at Niagara Falls State Park has delayed but not changed what he believes will be the outcome of a formal vote by the Niagara Falls City Council. 

In a prepared statement distributed late Friday, Dyster clarified statements he made after a meeting of lawmakers scheduled earlier that day.

"I believe the measure has four supporters, and the vote of the fifth council member will not be needed for the measure to pass at that time. So I do not believe the outcome is now or was ever in doubt; the 'no' vote tonight will result in a delay, not a change in the ultimate outcome."

The city's financial contribution to a planned stunt involving the Wallenda family was put on hold Friday after Councilman Ken Tompkins opposed a motion to bring the mayor's request before he and his colleagues for a vote. 

Despite the support of Councilmen Andrew Touma, Ezra Scott and Chairman Charles Walker, the measure failed to achieve the four-vote super majority required to continue the voting process. Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti was absent from the meeting.

In the statement, Dyster said he was "disappointed" Tompkins "could not see his way clear to bring the item up" to a formal vote, but believed the measure would pass at the next city council meeting on May 30.

Tompkins said he opposed the measure because had been excluded from the discussion process for the $35,000 Dyster requested be put toward the stunt, saying after the meeting "four of the five councilmen were talked to beforehand about this thing here, and again I was left out."

The Niagara County Legislature voted to kick in $35,000 last week when the resolution was added to its agenda the night of its meeting. Dyster alluded to the Seneca Gaming Corporation contributing as well, but no formal announcement has been made by the organization.

Dyster said his administration will submit the request in lawmakers' May 30 agenda, which would eliminate the additional super majority vote required to "walk on" the item.

"I believe the measure has four supporters, and the vote of the fifth council member will not be needed for the measure to pass at that time," he said.

The $35,000 Dyster requested, if approved by the council, would be transferred to the Wallenda family's corporation, "and they would be responsible for all expenses," he said.

The total cost of the stunt, $120,000, includes an undisclosed "talent fee," according to Dyster. The mayor said the sum was determined in conversations with County Manager Richard Updegrove concerning a plan to allow aerialist Erendira Vasquez Wallenda to dangle by her teeth from a tether attached to a helicopter hovering above Niagara Falls on June 15, the five-year anniversary of her husband Nik Wallenda's wire walk.

Dyster has said the media exposure will for the area will be a "worthwhile" expense.

"The administration —and I believe a strong majority on the city council — believe that sponsorship of a fifth anniversary Wallenda event would be very positive for our Niagara Region tourism industry."