What a difference a year makes. On June 10, 2014, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster used his Facebook page to publish a photograph he claimed was of Niagara Falls Music and Art Festival promoter Rick Crogan. The photograph was a police mugshot Dyster said had been taken some years earlier in Florida.
Efforts by the Niagara Falls Reporter to find out what he had been arrested for turned up nothing, and it could not been determined whether Crogan had ever actually been arrested for anything or whether the mayor was just making the whole thing up.
He used the mugshot to express his concern for the festival, which then as now received no city subsidy.
"(The city) also has an interest in trying to make sure this situation doesn't negatively impact the many positive things happening downtown, or the many artists, craftsmen, musicians, volunteers and sponsors who are counting on an event taking place," he wrote on June 10, 2014. "Obviously there is a lot of work to be done in a short period of time, but I will try to keep people posted as the situation develops."
Last year as this, Dyster needn’t have worried. Crogan is an astute businessman and savvy promoter, savvy enough to make sure he’s surrounded himself with capable people regardless of whether or not he is physically at the helm. This is a management style completely alien to Dyster, who generally keeps things secret from his subordinates unless and until he needs one of them to accept responsibility for a lousy decision he has made behind closed doors.
Last year’s festival was a booming success and this year, Crogan upped the ante, doubling up on the number of bands, artists, food vendors and other attractions featured at the three day event. The throngs of people jammed onto Old Falls Street showed just what a determined promoter can achieve here, without any taxpayer subsidy at all.
And, despite nearly derailing the festival last year and vehemently attacking its promoter online, this past weekend, Dyster clearly sought some of the credit for “what’s going on downtown.”
“While you’re at the Niagara Falls Music & Art Festival, check out Old Falls Street’s newest offering, Flip Burger, on the last block before the park,” he wrote. “Hamburgers and cheeseburgers the old fashioned way (OK, they’ve got a veggie burger too). In the same storefront they’ve got a Coffee Bean, Tea & Sweets.”
He even gave the hours the two knockoff franchises are open. The food vendors who actually paid to set up their carts and kiosks on Old Falls Street must’ve been thrilled. But Dyster wasn’t finished.
In a second posting, he touted appearances by the Junkyard Dogs and the Thurman Brothers at the festival, and also a band called Tiger Chung Lee which, he said, featured a horn section and did a great cover version of the Rolling Stones’ minor hit “Bitch.”
Dyster, of course, had been specifically disinvited to the event by Crogan, and when the time came for the presentation of a lifetime achievement in music award to be presented to Niagara Falls percussion legend Joseph Calato, it was U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins who presented the award as Dyster stood watching in the audience.
When it comes to the use of the social media, Dyster isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, he runs neck and neck with his protégé, Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, insofar as the inability to not make a fool of himself is concerned. Amused by Dyster’s ham handed effort to grab credit for an event he tried to destroy, Niagara Falls resident Frank Immordino took the time to comment.
“Great job by Rick Crogan to pull this festival off with no city funding, after being accused by the mayor and others of committing a crime last year,” Immordino wrote. “Bravo Rick, take a seat Paul, you had nothing to do with this. Thank You.”
The always thoughtful former city councilman and onetime director of NFC Development, the city’s banking arm, Ralph Aversa took time to wonder what effect Crogan’s success would have on other festival and concert promoters who, like the Hard Rock Café, come to City Hall hat in hand, begging for taxpayer subsidies and other handouts.
“Amazing!!!!! Just amazing!!!!” Aversa wrote. “This (success) is a direct result of Rick Crogan and his staff. It will be interesting to see what happens when other people solicit the City for money to stage events.”
We’ll see what happens tonight, when Niagara Falls Blues Festival promoter Toby Rotella appears before the city Council looking for a $3,500 beak wetting (See related story).
But you’d think Dyster would have learned his Facebook lesson after the debacle last year, in which he essentially pronounced Crogan guilty without the benefit of a trial. The mayor’s Facebook “friends were outraged.
“Not cool at all Sir,” wrote Facebook maven and Niagara Falls resident Lorijo Pellow.
Alisa J. Pucci was perhaps more to the point.
“Why would a mayor play dirty?” Pucci asked. “Wonder who the mayor's friends are and if they have police records too.”
“What is the reason for the Mayor of Niagara Falls posting something like this?” Eileen M. Soro wrote to Dyster. “Shame on you!
Dyster dug himself a deeper hole trying to explain why he was going after Crogan. Soro wasn’t buying it.
“Shame on you,” she told the mayor. “This is hearsay and defamation of character. You are doing ZERO good for anyone involved, including the City of Niagara Falls in regard to this investigation and should be the first person to stop gossip and posts as destructive and petty as this one. ….You have lost my support, no matter what the outcome of this investigation. I have never seen such bad judgment by a local official posted onto a public forum without any regard for the parties involved.”
Theresa Moraca Brockman compared the mayor to a snake.
“Paul Dyster, you should be ashamed of yourself! You have stooped so low on this issue. It is one thing to have a personal opinion regarding this, however as an elected official - supposedly the moral barometer for this city- you have stooped to the level of a snake!” Brockman wrote. “You have lost all credibility as far as I'm concerned and not for one second do I believe you posted this for the good of this community. This may turn out to be your own undoing and again, SHAME ON YOU!”
The humiliation of a public flogging is enough to get most guys to change their ways. But not Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. In so many areas of his time in office, he has continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt him with the voters.