In a bizarre, rambling and at times incoherent letter to unionized city employees, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster owns up to awarding hefty pay increases he didn’t have to, hiring many new employees and improving the city to an unprecedented extent during the eight years he has been in office.
“I am writing to ask for your support for a third term as Mayor of the City of Niagara Falls,” he begins. “You’ve had time to judge whether I’m right for the job. Just give me a fair chance.”
In his desperate attempt to secure votes, Dyster claims full credit for making the Niagara Falls workforce one of the most highly paid in the state, even though it is the taxpayers – who bear the highest tax burden in all of New York – who have paid the price for his generosity.
“I hope you’ll agree that these last eight years have been a good time for members of the USW. No one has been laid off and you have received numerous pay increases, even though – unlike the public safety workers – you are not covered by binding arbitration,” the mayor wrote. “Whatever they got, I gave to you too. I know many of you had the chance to buy homes, get new cars or finance college education for your kids because of the stable employment my administration has provided.”
The reality, of course is that Dyster has proposed layoffs. Opposition by the City Council was what saved the jobs.
Dyster claimed to be “hurt” that a city union member, Glenn Choolokian, ran against him and very nearly defeated him in last month’s Democratic primary.
“Naturally, I’m hurt I had to face a member of your union in the primary,” he wrote. “This only served to weaken our cause against the anti-worker forces in our local political scene. We should be working together.”
This is interesting in two respects. First, the “anti-worker forces” are never identified, and Dyster himself is seeking assistance from both the New York State Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments and the Buffalo-Niagara Enterprise, two of the most virulently anti-union organizations in the state.
For his part, Choolokian has chosen to remain in the race, mounting a write in campaign that obviously has Dyster worried.
“I believe in you,” he claims weakly. “Without spying on you or second guessing your way of getting things done, I’ve tried to show my support.”
“You’ve seen me on the road at 3 a.m. during blizzards, or checking on the paving crew when it’s 90 degrees in the shade.”
While Dyster has indeed done such things, so has every other mayor the city has ever had. It is a part of their job. Dyster’s twist is that, when he does it, he generally brings along a photographer, a reporter from one of the local daily newspapers or a television crew.
The mayor then takes a flight of fancy. Attacks against him are actually attacks against the union, he claims.
“I challenge anyone to find a single instance in eight years – even when I have been under severe attack myself on TV, talk radio or the hateful local tabloid – where I threw you under the bus to save myself. I stuck up for you every time.”
In reality, an extensive review of the Niagara Falls Reporter’s excellent online archive failed to come up with a single example of an attack against the union. As the “hateful local tabloid” in question, we would challenge Dyster to produce anything we’ve published that required him to stick up for anyone but himself.
“We’ve hired a lot of people since I’ve been mayor,” he wrote. That part is true. He’s hired political hacks and given them make-work positions so that they could work on his campaign while collection a fat salary paid for entirely by the taxpayer, for example.
He then squares off against his main opponent in the general election, Pine Avenue businessman and former City Council Chairman John Accardo.
During Accardo’s time in office, Dyster claims, “Niagara Falls lost jobs, investment opportunities and population. Let’s not go back there.”
Actually, we don’t have to go back there. We’re there right now. Private sector job loss, the lack of private investment and population decline have all been hallmarks of Dyster’s eight year reign of error.
“Commitment, involvement, trust and cooperation are the cornerstones of any successful organization” Dyster concludes. “I have worked into the fabric of this administration. There are those in this community who are attempting to destroy what we have built for their own personal gain. They don’t care about you, and are willing to gamble with your future and the future of this community.”
Again, Dyster fails to say who these anonymous boogeymen are, but what does it matter? He has succeeded in many areas, including establishing Niagara Falls as the highest taxed, most dangerous municipality in all of New York. He has squandered nearly $200 million in revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino without creating a single decent private sector job and spent millions on hiring Buffalo based attorneys and engineering consulting firms to do work the city’s law and engineering departments should be doing.
In each and every year since he took office, around 1,000 hardworking, taxpaying residents have fled for greener pastures, and to replace them for purposes of the census count, he has more than quadrupled the number of registered sex offenders living on the dole here.
He threw millions in tax incentives and valuable real estate at his close personal friend – do nothing developer Mark Hamister – to build a cookie cutter downtown hotel in a deal that is now dead in the water.
If you think the city needs more cricket fields, penguin habitat and canoe launches, Dyster is clearly the man for you. If you’re looking for someone willing to put the reins on out of control spending and constant tax increases, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Anyone “attempting to destroy” what Dyster has built over the past eight years would be hard pressed to find anything to destroy.