Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has spent almost eight of the past 16 years sitting in the mayor’s office and another four as a leading member of the city Council. He has compiled a considerable public record.
Now a question must be asked. Is the city better off now than it was when Dyster first took elected office in January 2000?
For the more than 10,000 former residents who have fled the city since then, the answer is obvious. Nearly 20 percent of the city’s population in 2000 simply gave up, turned out the lights and walked away during what may forever be known as “the Dyster Era.”
Well over half of the city’s remaining population is collecting welfare or some other form of public subsidy and, in an effort to attract the sort of educated, hard-working individuals desired by every municipality, Dyster has instituted a program that actually pays people to live here. Thus far, an appallingly few have been desperate enough to take him up on his offer.
Dyster’s leadership has been earmarked by the city being named the “most dangerous” place in New York, the most highly taxed municipality in the state and one of the best locations in the nation for registered sexual predators.
Ironically, the very sort of person Dyster will pay to come and live here is the sort that has been driven away by the results of his policies.
This week, the Niagara Falls Reporter examined a wide range of issues that contribute to the quality of life here, and the mayor’s record in dealing with them. He earns high points in some areas, such as the promotion of sports such as hockey and cricket, his devotion to the myth of Harriet Tubman’s connection to the city and the 19th century concept of passenger rail service.
But in other areas, such as providing the most basic city services like running water, garbage collection, roads that can be driven on safely and streets that don’t become very scary places when the sun goes down, his record is abysmal.
Dyster has raised taxes here as much as the city Council and state law will allow and also had the benefit of nearly $200 million in revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino. Yet the city is now broke and a state appointed board has been formally asked to come in and try to figure out how to clean up the mess.
We searched for a word that might capture Dyster’s performance over 12 of the past 16 years and, the English language being the wonderful thing it is, we found one.
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