In a recent Guest View published by the Niagara Gazette, Mayor Paul Dyster made some serious accusations against the city council in the article.
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,” and that “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,” and that the council “would rather write a snappy press release instead of run a good government.” He wrapped it all up stating that “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 accuse 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 the 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 at the February 19 council meeting, the corporation counsel noted that the council does in fact have the power to vote down 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 council of being in violation of the charter is nothing more than inflammatory political rhetoric and something that, judging from the mayor’s 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 he simply want to throw political mud hoping it would stick so that city government could go back to business as usual?
The fact is we can no longer do business as usual. Our casino revenue is still being held up and a major financial disaster is approaching city government even 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 million we are owed.
Last year the mayor tried to hand us a large tax increase, but the council worked together unanimously to make tough, necessary cuts to eliminate any 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.
The mayor 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, cuts in services and no plan to address the lack of casino cash for the coming year.
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 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.
A lack of action in the face of challenge is not leadership. It’s denial.
This council “majority” is not going to lead by denial. Instead, we prefer to lead through honest deliberation toward a consensus built upon the best interests of our city.