|It happened once before. Charlie Specht covers Niagara Falls for the Buffalo News and recently reported on the Maid of the Mist/Hornblower controversy. Although the Niagara Falls Reporter has been reporting on this dispute for more than a month, Specht's article was the first in a mainstream, daily newspaper to blazon the remarkable news that Hornblower is prepared to offer this cash-starved state of New York at least $100 million more than what will be paid by the Maid of the Mist. Even though Gov. Cuomo cooked up with James Glynn, owner of the Maid of the Mist, $100 million is not an easy figure to ignore. Once it works itself upon the imagination, it will be seen that truth is truth, and the truth is Glynn is paying at least $100 million less than what the public is entitled to.
The Reporter, similarly, reported on the Canadian Maid of the Mist outrage for more than a year before the mainstream Canadian media took note, crediting us with breaking the story and seeking information from our files to inform their reporting. This led ultimately to putting the boat tours up for bidding, netting the Canadians $300 million more than the lease they would have signed with Glynn had it not been for our reporting. Deja Vu? Who knows?
Finally, another media voice is being heard on the bad financial deal that Gov. Andrew Cuomo made when he was credited with “saving” the Maid of the Mist in his pre-Christmas impersonation of Santa Clause on his whirlwind and much-hyped visit to Western New York.
The Buffalo News and reporter Charlie Specht ran a pretty strong story in Sunday’s editions that finally addressed the questions by a competitor about why Cuomo and the state left more than $100 million on the table over the next three decades by not entertaining offers for the boat tour concession on the U. S. side as had been done across the border, netting a $500 million windfall to the Ontario Parks Commission.
Maybe New York State doesn’t need a big windfall, a strange thought given the nearly bankrupt state of Niagara Falls, due mostly to the state’s war with the Seneca Nation over gaming rights with no resolution in sight.
This newspaper has been reporting on the sweetheart deal that Jimmy Glynn and his Maid of the Mist franchise has enjoyed for more than 50 years, and in fact, it was this newspaper that spurred the Ontario Parks Commission to open up the boat tour to bidding which was won last year by San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises.
The contract that Hornblower won on the Canadian side took away Glynn’s argument that he was a sole-source provider because Hornblower took over the Canadian boat storage docks, leaving Glynn up the river, so to speak.
But Glynn had a savior, and his name was Cuomo. The governor simply ordered a remake of Glynn’s 2002, secretly – negotiated 40-year deal with the state, giving Glynn permission to open a boat storage facility on the American side at the base of the Niagara Gorge, keeping him afloat without an open bidding process.
Glynn will pay a little more for the franchise than before but the $105 million in the new MOU, three times what he had been paying, is still less than half of what Hornblower says he would pay New York State if he had the contract.
Hornblower hasn’t completely given up, as we reported last week and as the Buffalo News reported on Sunday, despite the state’s insistence that the deal is done and the matter closed. Hornblower is hinting at legal action against the state for modifying the terms of Glynn’s lease without an open bidding process. We’ll keep you posted.
Gov. Cuomo is riding high in the polls, boasts a more than $22 million campaign war chest, and is going to spend big dollars in the coming weeks touting his 2013 budget. But he needs to be held accountable just like any other politician, and that has been sorely lacking around here, whether with the stadium lease or the Maid of the Mist deal.
There are chinks in the governor’s budget plan, too, like cracking down on routine plea bargaining in local courts in speeding cases that could result in localities losing the parking fine money, and there’s a lot of it, with the higher fines for speeding going directly to Albany. I guess the state does need more money, Glynn notwithstanding.
Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, a strong Cuomo supporter who was prepared to deliver a “disaster” budget raising taxes and cutting services before city lawmakers stepped in, apparently is not worried about the state losing out on the Glynn money, as he told the News he supports the decision to take care of poor Glynn.
Anyway, it’s good to see the Buffalo News at least write a story about the Maid of the Mist giveaway by Cuomo, a public official they rarely criticize. No one should be above accountability to the public, and that includes Gov. Cuomo.