Our nation rebuilt Germany and Japan following the conflagration of WW II so there’s certainly no reason why the good people of this city can’t put their collective shoulder to the wheel to rebuild a post Urban Renewal, post-Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls.
In this spirit, and in light of the fact that mayoral candidates – no matter how well intended – are often in need of guidance, the Reporter has written this column to point the way toward a brighter day for the city. The bullet points below could go a long way toward pulling the community out of the Dyster-Ditch that the city has been in for the past eight years.
Establish a transparent, written, understanding of what the casino revenue can and cannot be used for.
Establish a yearly, and transparent, casino revenue-spending plan.
Review and solve the mystery of the inexplicable recurring city deficit, a deficit that defiantly repeats in the face of the city’s casino cash windfall.
Fire the engineering consultant, hire a city engineer.
Immediately establish the true cost to operate and maintain the train station.
Issue a moratorium on future NFC loans and grants until all past loans and grants have been reviewed thoroughly.
Roll back top government salaries that were increased by the Dyster administration through initial setting, repeat raises, stipends, and overtime.
End the practice of allowing, “acting department heads” which runs counter to NYS civil service law.
Prohibit city employees from holding outside jobs on city time as they are allowed to “adjust” their city work hours to fit the opposing employer.
Immediately draft a straight forward “ethics law and enforcement policy” specifically geared toward elected officials, department heads and all employees handling city contracts, city funds and city purchasing.
Revisit the trash and recycling contract top to bottom.
Review the Hamister project with a probing eye toward project costs and groundbreaking that’s two years behind schedule.
Review and audit the $13 million Ice Pavilion renovation project that was supposed to cost $6 million.
Claw-back the annual $350,000 casino cash allotment to the shuttered Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, close out its defunct commission, and investigate the city lawsuit with Resatarits.
Address the NYS Comptroller’s 2013 audit of city finances with special attention to mishandled and unaccounted for millions of dollars as revealed in the audit.
Initiate a “crime fighting summit” in cooperation with the NYS Police, Sheriff, and FBI with a goal toward developing a believable, supportable crime fighting strategy.
Shelve the numerous “studies” beginning with the $100,000 “parking plan study” that would privatize the city’s parking for decades to come.
Show all “consultants” the door…ushering in an era of city government where residents and talented locals take the lead in developing the city’s future. Action not plans, results not studies.
Review the use of legal consultants with an eye toward either ending the city’s reliance on such consultants or severely reducing the current city legal staff and relying on legal consultants, the city cannot afford both.
Review and analyze the city’s public safety workforce with regard to overtime costs in relation to staffing levels and efficacy.
Review and remove trendy, costly, feel-good programs such as the “live here and we’ll pay your college loans” or “let’s paint empty building facades” and “let’s put funny faces on fire hydrants” initiatives.
Review and reassign the Isaiah 61 program away from city government, the Community Development Department and any other connection to city government. Thoroughly audit all city, casino, and HUD funds connected to the Isaiah 61 program.
Give the city Finance Review Panel unfettered, unchallenged, access to city finance records including the city’s debt and re-structured debt programs.
Form a citizen panel to address the future of Sal Maglie Stadium.
Post online a transparent, running and timely report as to what streets, potholes, trees, sidewalks and tree stumps are listed for work, removal or repair.
Post online the city casino revenue interest account with all interest account expenditures.
Post online the city debt and its structure and “re-structure” of last year.
Post online the city budget “in real time” as other governments have and as the Reporter has recommended repeatedly.
Post online a five-year paving program.
Post online a “real time” list of abandoned properties, in rem properties, and structures scheduled for demolition.
Declare a moratorium on the expansion and opening of new parks and or green space until the city can afford to regularly maintain existing city parks and green space.
Reach out sincerely to Nik Wallenda and the Niagara Power in an attempt to help them do business in the city.
Initiate a complete review of the handling of the city debt and all city finances in cooperation with and under the guidance of the NYS Comptroller’s office. Let the NYS Comptroller finish the job begun in 2012 and get to the source of the city’s finance problems.