Bob Anderson is one tough guy. Diagnosed at the age of 73 with Stage IV stomach cancer following the tragic loss of his wife and daughter, Anderson has vowed to stay in The City Council race and win.
“We believe in God and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell what that reason is, but you keep moving forward.”
He laughed when talking about going to an upcoming Democratic Committee fundraiser, since he was not endorsed by the Democratic Committee.”
I’ll be wearing my pink suit and my pink hat and if anybody doesn’t like it they can kiss my you know what,” he chuckled.
Anderson has always been a fighter. He had to be, growing up during the 1950s on the mean streets of Harlem and then later, as a decorated Air Force sergeant during the Vietnam Era.
Following 16 years in the service, Anderson and his wife Marie moved to Niagara Falls, where he went to work for the school district. Hard work and determination led him to become president of the CSEA and superintendent of maintenance.
He first ran for the Council 12 years ago and has won by large majorities in every election since. In the 2011 general election Anderson outpolled Mayor Paul Dyster, his political nemesis.
“When they told me I had terminal cancer, I swear my first though was that this city has terminal cancer,” Anderson said. “And the mayor is like some quack doctor saying everything is beautiful.”
Anderson’s pet peeve has been the squandering of the nearly $200 million the city has received as the local share of revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino.
“There is so much wrong here, the crime rate, the deteriorating infrastructure, the condition of our streets, and we’ve spent $200 million on ‘economic development’ that has failed to create a single new private sector job.”
Anderson’s wife Marie died in 2013 and his daughter Bernadette passed away in 2012. His son, Robert Anderson III, works in Albany.
Every dime of his City Council stipend for the past 12 years has been donated to charity, and he never took the city “opt-out” for uncollected health insurance benefits not taken by current or former school district employees because they prefer the health insurance provided by the district.
His colleagues on the Council, Kristen Grandinetti and Andrew Touma – both school teachers – have shown no compunction about taking the money, which, at $3,527 a year is the highest paid by any governmental agency in the state.
Anderson said he often feels isolated from his Democratic colleagues.
“I’m like the Lone Ranger looking around for Tonto,” he said.
One recent example of his odd man out status was Anderson’s vehement opposition to the Hamister hotel project back in 2013. The proposal to give do-nothing Buffalo developer Mark Hamister a piece of prime downtown real estate valued at $1.5 million for a token payment of $100,000.
A large number of deadlines on the project have come and gone without any indication of the project moving forward, most recently last week, when Hamister failed to close on the property on the contract date.
Anderson says he takes no pleasure in being proven right about such matters.
“For a large part of the time, I feel like I’m being the bad guy for looking after the interests of the Niagara Falls taxpayers,” he said. “That’s certainly been true in the case of the Hamister deal.”