Roger Lance (left) witnesses his wife, Kathryn being sworn in as a Niagara County legislator.
I've spent several decades as a reporter trying to keep track of events and writing about them to help the public stay informed about what's happening in their corner of the word. It has been an exciting career and I still enjoy it although the news gathering cycle has changed quite a bit since I started professionally in Lockport in the mid-1960s as a writer and then sports editor for the Union-Sun & Journal.
The news has gone high tech, and newspapers are struggling to stay relevant given the lighting-fast ability of 24-hour television news and social media to pump out news very quickly, if not always very completely.
I've decided to branch out a little from the standard news story by writing a column from time to time, a sort of roundup of things that might be of interest to our readers that might be new or might be something they missed as they try to keep up with life's hectic pace and the world news cycle.
Let's start this week's roundup with some breaking news, namely that the $70,000-a-year director of administrative services for the Niagara Falls Water Board has pulled the plug, informing board members Monday (Aug. 11) in a letter that he is leaving in two months, a little more than half-way through his three-year appointment.
Roger Lance, who was appointed to the post in November of 2012, is married to Niagara County Legislator Kathryn Lance (R-Wheatfield), a favorite of former GOP political kingmaker George Maziarz who is not seeking re-election to his state senate seat this year after members of his staff were subpoenaed as part of a federal probe of his campaign finances.
Lance, a decorated Afghanistan war vet who had to deal with a charge he assaulted his wife last September in a domestic dispute, gave no signal of his pending resignation before the board received his letter, according to sources. The search will now begin for a new director, although the weakened Maziarz may not be able to call the shot this time for the plum patronage post as his opponents believe he did in Lance's appointment in 2012.
Another Big Cuomo Announcement
In other news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered one of his patented dog-and-pony shows last week, riding into Niagara Falls to announce a public-private partnership between the state and three private developers to revive the long dormant Rainbow Centre Mall to the tune of $150 million, part of the Buffalo Billion package that has infused some life into Western New York after years of neglect by Albany.
Cuomo just took a few questions from reporters, part of his mode of operation, and his state police detachment wouldn't even let a veteran photographer from the Niagara Gazette into the room for the press announcement because he arrived a little late. Whether it is the governor or his political hacks that head his agencies and authorities, which we've written about quite a bit over the last year, transparency is not a hallmark of the administration.
The governor loves to deliver good news in this election year—even though there are a lot of details missing--- and handing out taxpayer money to spur development in long suffering Niagara Falls is certainly good politics, especially after he suffered some bad press with allegations he meddled into the workings of the state panel he created to investigate public corruption before disbanding it.
The Moreland Commission saga is not over yet, but so far Cuomo seems to be weathering the storm although there may be a lot more to come as the federal investigation of state lawmakers has been picked up by the U. S. attorney in Manhattan, and one of the politicians under fire is State Sen. George Maziarz for reportedly racking up $140,000 in un-itemized campaign spending over the last few years. Mostly, the Republican Maziarz enjoyed a good relationship with Democrat Cuomo.
Wallenda Delivers at Fair
But let's leave Cuomo for a minute and focus on aerialist and high-wire performer Nik Wallenda who took the world by storm two years ago when he walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, a crossing that is etched in the memory of all who saw it.
Wallenda, who is a classy, personable performer, hasn't made his way back to Niagara Falls to entertain again as yet, but he thrilled visitors to Darien Lake this summer with his high wire act and last week he wowed Erie County fairgoers with a 1,400-foot skywalk as night was falling, generating great excitement among the thousands who were on hand for his performance.
Hopefully, Niagara Falls politicians and civic leaders can come together and create a permanent spot in the Cataract City for Nik Wallenda and his family of entertainers in what would surely be a terrific draw for tourists from around the world who saw him cross the falls in June of 2012 and forever link him with the world wonder.
A Wallenda permanent site in Niagara Falls should be a no-brainer for anyone interested in promoting tourism to the ailing city and let's hope it happens while the memory of his falls crossing is still fresh.
Perhaps the Rainbow Centre Mall will deliver on its promise and provide a suitable place for the Wallenda family entertainment complex in the city where he made his history-making walk.