"The Dean of the County Legislature," Dennis Virtuoso, announced over the weekend he will seek reelection to a 13th term this November.
"I represent the people of Niagara Falls and Niagara County," he told the Niagara Falls Reporter. "I've tried to always keep my eye on what's going on and I've alwaysdone my homework."
Virtuoso, who retired as the city's acting-director of code enforcement in December, said that the lopsided 11-5 majority enjoyed by the Republicans in the Legislaturemakes having a strong and experienced Democratic leader on board all the more important.
"I want to keep things honest," he said. "I see a lot of things going on in the county that are not up to par."
Asked about the single most important thing his 24-year legislative record would reveal, Virtuoso was quick to answer.
"I've never once voted in favor of a property tax increase," he said. "During my entire time on the Legislature I've kept my promise that I wouldn't vote to raisetaxes. I come in with budget cutting resolutions instead."
A youthful 63, the longtime legislator said he'd like to see the county sales tax reduced as well. Currently, Niagara County collects an 8 percent sales tax, of which4 percent goes to the state. Erie County collects 8.75 percent, with the same amount going to the state.
"If we could reduce it to 6 percent, I really think we would attract a lot of new business to Niagara County," Virtuoso said. But he admitted that with the Republicanmajority still in place, there is little chance of a tax cut anytime soon.
Since first taking office in 1992, Virtuoso has witnessed firsthand the sad decline of the county and city he loves. Previously, his job in the city's code enforcementdepartment had him walking a fine line, making it difficult, for example, for him to criticize a sitting Niagara Falls mayor of either party who was also his boss.
Perhaps now, in retirement, the underdog and watchdog whose probing questions have often made him public enemy number one in the eyes of the Republican machine herecan throw the full weight of his convictions into the fray.