The Chairman of the Niagara Falls Planning Board, Richard D. Smith, told the Niagara Falls Reporter he will run for Niagara Falls city council this year.
There are two seats open and with Smith's entrée there is now a field of four who have announced candidacies to date.
Along with Smith, incumbent Democrat Robert A. Anderson Jr., and former City Democratic Committee Chair Alicia M. Laible are running as Democrats.
Willie A. Price, a local home inspections business owner, and member of the city's Tourism Advisory Board, is seeking the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
Council incumbent, Democrat Glenn A. Choolokian, is running in the Democratic primary for mayor against incumbent Mayor Paul A. Dyster.
To at least a small degree, Choolokian influenced Smith's decision to run.
"Glenn (Choolokian) has a chance at being the next mayor," Smith said, "and now is as good a time as any to join in and help the city move up. I think the taxpayers of this city deserve more than what they are getting."
Smith, 68, has lived in Niagara Falls his entire life except for a three-year stint in the Army, where he attained the rank of sergeant, served overseas in Korea from 1967-1968, and was honorably discharged in 1969.
He owns his home on 96th St. since 1994, being the first to purchase a home in Love Canal after the remediation efforts were completed and new built homes were offered to the public.
Smith said he thinks the present mayor has squandered a tremendous opportunity by not creating a spending plan with casino money and then carelessly spending it.
"Dyster spent $183 million in casino cash and what do we have to show for it?," Smith asked. "He thinks the casino money is his own piggy bank."
If Smith is elected, he said he will seek to explore New York State finance law 99 H-3 that rather ambiguously states that casino money is to be spent on "economic development" without defining what economic development is.
"I say let's change the law," Smith said. "Let's go to Albany and change the law. The city had no input in the casino compact. It is time we have some say. In my opinion Albany should not be involved at all.
"This could have been a booming town if we had taken casino money and used it toward reducing taxes. If we helped out existing businesses by lowering taxes across the board and told new business they could come to the city and enjoy low taxes. Is having low taxes any less of economic development than Hard Rock concerts or Holiday Markets or giving to not for profits who politically support the mayor, or paving city hall's parking lot?
"I want to work for the people who put me there, not special interests."
Smith, who has been to every council meeting since 2003, said the council majority, who blindly support Mayor Dyster's free wheeling spending sprees, are not prudent stewards of taxpayers' money.
Smith said, "I don' think they understand why they are there".
Smith has been active in the inner workings of government and, in 2009, he worked on the zoning ordinances and comprehensive plan updates.
Besides his role on the Planning Board, where he served since 2007, and as Chairman since 2009, Smith was involved in starting a new Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce, was a member of Niagara Rises, was vice chair of LaSalle Pride, former President of FreeWheelers Car Club, president of the Black Creek Block Club, where he secured grants to create the Black Creek playground and park, and formed the block club and wrote its by-laws.
Smith worked for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation from 1969-1995, working as a Chief Shift Operator, Watch Electrician B and as a Union steward for seven years.
A veteran, he was the VFW Niagara County Council Commander from 1985-1986 and a lifetime member of Am Vets Post 26 and VFW Post 9011.
Smith went to Niagara Falls High School, graduating with the class of 1965. Playing both the French Horn and drums, he joined and marched with the Cataract Cavaliers marching band.
Smith says he would not have voted for many of Dyster's schemes such as giving $1.5 million annually to the state agency, USA Niagara.
"They have done absolutely nothing for this city," Smith said.
Referring to USA Niagara's ill-conceived plan of narrowing Third Street with enlarged width sidewalks, which eliminated most street parking, and created a driving hazard, Smith said, "If our planning department had been involved in the planning of Third Street, we would have never put in the bump outs."
As for USA Niagara's proposed Hamister hotel, while he initially supported the plan, he feels the people were misled.
"I went to the public hearing when Hamister requested the IDA money and I said at the time - 'what about the promised jobs? Where are the jobs?' He put six full time jobs on the application. But Hamister changed it at the meeting to say it was 35 full time equivalent jobs. Full time equivalent means low paying part time jobs."
As for Nik Wallenda, Smith said, "I thought Dyster treated Wallenda terribly. I think Wallenda should have been helped to find a building to showcase his talents. Dyster gave all that money to the Hard Rock; the Seminole Indians down in Florida, one of the richest tribes in the country, own the Hard Rock."
As for Dyster's trash plan, Smith called it, "the stupidest thing he ever did."
"The garbage, the water situation in the city, the roads are falling apart, I think the voters are fed up with Dyster and if we can get voters to come out in the primary, Glenn has a good chance to win.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist. Even an average Joe could have done better with $183 million than Dyster did."