Years ago, Niagara Falls had a Water Department. When you had a problem, you called City Hall; they sent someone out, and that person addressed your problem. It was simple, it was common sense. Then came bond ratings, interest rates, and debt ratio. The politicians decided the city would move forward by creating the Water Authority.
At that time, I asked if they had looked at the Buffalo Authority, because it seemed to serve only as a political piggy-bank comprised of top-end, high-paying patronage jobs at the expense of the taxpayers. Politicians said, "We must do this to save the city".
Moving slightly ahead, the second year of Mayor Dyster's first term, some businesses and residents in the Niagara Street area were having problems with their water supply lines. We (Ron Anderluh and I) got a meeting with Mayor Dyster.
At that meeting, Paul admitted one of his regrets was voting in favor of the formation of that Authority. He himself said that he was having problems with the Board, and there was not really anything he could do to help us, since they were no longer a part of the city's government.
Moving forward again, a huge water main break on 56th Street. Residents' houses flooded, people were forced from their homes. Calls to the city were referred to the Water Authority. Calls to the Water Authority were referred back to the City. "Those aging pipes are not our problem."
If not their problem, then whose?
The answer from both the City and the Water Authority was, "Call your insurance company, or sue us and stand in line with the rest of the citizens".
How's that for accountability? One side blaming the other, at the expense of the taxpayer.
Let's move forward again. Second term of the Dyster "reign". The reconstruction of 72nd Street. The contractor comes in, saying that the lines have to be replaced because the elevations and the valves will be above the required depth. The contractor states, "With a disruption in the compaction of the soil from our road excavation, if we have a hard winter, the lines will surely freeze".
Let's think for a minute: There was no City Engineer, nobody wants to pay the extra expense to do the job right, and a city was warned by the chosen contractor about a potential problem. Again, our politicians' answer is to predict climate change. "Niagara Falls will no longer have hard winters". Taxpayers again lose. Lines freeze. Politicians say, "We will study the problem".
Spring thaw. Taxpayers pay political patrons to study the problem. Another hard winter, surprise! Lines freeze again. Mayor states: "We are still studying the problem, and should have an answer soon. It may be a system failure."
More studies. Taxpayers again lose.
Problems now become more widespread around the city.
Politicians' answer? Let's blame aging infrastructure.
"We will apply for state and federal money".
Spring comes again, lines thaw again.
Politicians state: "Quick! Let's find a politically-connected grant writer to study and apply for money from the state and federal government."
Taxpayers lose. Again.
Always money to do the job twice, but never enough to do it right the first time.
Please, listen: regardless of what the politicians tell you, two wrongs will not make a right. And in Niagara Falls, consistently doing it wrong will not make it right for the taxpayers, only for the politicians, their friends, and their family.
Next year, all those taxpayers without water should show up at Mayor Dyster's door, towel in hand, and ask, "Which bathroom is mine?"
But wait! Maybe Mayor Dyster will no longer be there to blame. If we're lucky, maybe he will shuffle off to Buffalo, and let the people with common sense solve the city's problems together.
Now, how's that for accountability.