The third term win of Paul Dyster has people shaking their heads. Blaming the win on a few different things, like poor voter turnout and voters that don’t know what’s good for them and a write-in candidate.
It was pure happenstance that I ran across a friend of a friend, the other day, that told me he was going to “smarten yous up” as to “what’s really going on in falls politics.” He’s known as Willie the Whip to his friends. Legend has it that Willie made his bones in Ohio more than 50 years ago. He has eight decades under his belt now.
“That mayor, he’s getting over on everyone,” said Willie. “Came into office with a shady cash fund paid for by heavy hitters. And he ain’t stopped since, eight years later.”
I asked the Whip to expand his thesis.
“Can you imagine if the president came into office like that? Boom it’d be over before it started. Picture Obama taking, say, ten-mil from wealthy, faceless individuals to support his administration. Never get away with it. Press would crucify him.”
Willie was making sense.
“That courthouse cost 50 mil and should’a cost maybe 30. You kidding me? You know what it means when a crew busts out a place? Those square john taxpayers got that courthouse monkey on their back for 30 years and 20-mil took a walk. That train station cost $350,000 to re-bid when no second bid was needed. You follow?”
I tried to tell Willie that governments naturally have trouble controlling costs.
“Uh-huh. I was born at night, but not last night,” he replied.
So what was Mr. Whip saying?
“I ain’t the brightest guy in class. But I can follow the money. Too bad the voters don’t follow the money. And why the media don’t follow the money is a mystery cause there sure has been a lot of it to follow in the falls.”
He had a point. There was the $50,000,000 courthouse, $44,000,000 train station, $13,000,000 ice pavilion, $100,000,000 in casino revenue, a cool $1,000,000 for legal consultants and a lot more cash that went through the administration’s fingers from 2008 to Election Day 2015.
“And don’t forget about that state audit. The Albany folks, if I read their work product correctly, said up to 1.4-mil vamoosed. You don’t find it strange that no one in city hall is busting a gut to locate that 1.4?”
Willie was on a roll.
“People say the falls is a world wonder but it ain’t so. The real wonder is why the residents take this crap and why the higher ups who’re supposed to look out for the taxpayin’ squares do nothing. Makes a guy like me who comes from a checkered history shake his head.”
Call this octogenarian what you want but the onetime man of the mean streets who, decades ago, reformed and made something of him self, was posing serious questions.
“I’ve run legit businesses for years. I know my way around a balance sheet, my lovely friend. I didn’t go to Harvard I went to the school of hard knocks and that was right up the street from ‘you better not screw me university’.”
Would Willie the Whip possibly entertain the thought of running for office? His straight from the hip talk and common sense attitude caused me to ask.
“Never happen. I got a couple, maybe a few dozen, things in my past that could hobble my candidacy and, uh, hinder, my election. But look, I know stuff, I been there and I done that. I moved the numbers, I did the deals and I made the beans come and go. I was very good at it. I know what I know is all I’m sayin.’”
Casino revenue spent, anonymous fund, costly public works projects, millions for consultants, record breaking salaries, out of control overtime, a failed trash program, shabby roads, hundreds of homes without winter water, a mysterious recurring deficit, $63,000,000 in city debt and a state restructuring board in town…Willie the Whip had me thinking.
And my thinking was “Willie the Whip for Mayor!”
But my hopes quickly sank when I realized the next mayor’s race was a very long four years away.