By Tony Farina
It appears that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster may sometimes need to be reminded that municipal government is more than just a chief executive, it also includes five lawmakers who are elected–just like him–by the residents of the city to protect their financial interests and provide safe streets as well as things like garbage pickup and fire protection.
Such a reminder came last week when Councilmember Andy Touma raised concerns that city lawmakers had not been given any information on the 10-year contract extension with the firefighters union that the mayor announced he had negotiated and, by the way, needs City Council approval to got into effect.
It came out of nowhere, said Touma, and frankly, a 10-year commitment in these days when things like finances can change so quickly seems long a very long time.
The mayor announced the agreement in a press release from his office in which he claims the tentative deal will help the city address long-term financial concerns and provide the best health care for the city’s firefighters union at the lowest possible course.
The firefighters union said the negotiated deal is good for the city and the union, and it will reportedly be made public after the council’s approval–should that happen, as expected– at its next meeting April 17th.
But wait. Given the long-term commitment contained in the tentative deal, shouldn’t city lawmakers have been brought into the discussions long before a press release was issued since they have to approve it?
Touma said “it seems like a very long municipal contract, and I could find no other contract of that length anywhere in a quick search of records after we heard about it.”
I think it is important to note that Touma is not suggesting the tentative deal is not good for the city, it is just that lawmakers had no information on it before it was announced, and the mayor should have recognized that while he may be the chief executive, there are others in elective office who have every right to be involved in something as significant as a 10-year contract settlement with a major municipal union like the firefighters.
Some Dyster critics would suggest that Dyster was going for a quck headline, taking the credit for a settlement with the firefighters union before council members had any idea what was going on. It would appear that it was Touma’s intention at last week’s session to remind the mayor that he doesn’t govern alone, and that their are others in city government who are elected to safeguard the public’s interests and they should not be left in the dark.