HE’S OUT: Mayoral Race Now Begins in Earnest Minus Piccirillo

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By: Tony Farina

As Labor Day fast approaches, the political dust is settling in Niagara Falls as outgoing Mayor Paul Dyster’s chosen one has officially withdrawn from campaigning on the Working Families Party line for mayor several weeks after losing a close Democratic primary to Robert Restaino.

“Time to take a step back,” said Seth Piccirillo last week  in a posting on social media, a decision that would appear to give a major boost to Restaino, the former Niagara Falls City Court judge who defeated Piccirillo in the June primary.

Still in the race are Republican Glenn Choolokian, who will have the GOP line but so far not the city committee’s endorsement, and independent candidate Jeff Elder, a political newcomer and longshot at best.

“Piccirillo’s decision not to campaign is a step forward,” said former Mayor Vince Anello who told this newspaper shortly after the primary that Democrats would be best served without Piccirillo’s minor party run which would have set up a potentially dangerous four-way race that could hurt Restaino.  Now, the path has been cleared and Restaino looms the overwhelming favorite in the heavily Democratic cataract city.

 

Three-term Mayor Paul Dyster’s legacy will not be carried out under hand-selected successor Seth Piccirillo who lost to Robert M. Restaino in the democratic primary election in June.

 

Still unsettled is the outcome of the dispute between New York State and the Seneca Nation over revenue sharing with the city’s financial well-being at stake despite emergency dollars from the state to keep things going while the gaming fight drags on in federal court.

 As one source put it, “no matter who wins [mayor’s race], the city is facing tough political decisions,” and that is the case, said the source, even if the Senecas finally pay the state the $255 million an aribtration panel says is due to make up for payments it has withheld since March of 2017 in the gaming war.   

  As we have previously reported, the Dyster Administration kept a lid on property taxes from 2014 through 2017 by using about $9 million a year in casino money and about $2.9 million in reserves, a path that avoided the city making the tough political decisions to raise new revenue and reduce costs, decisions that will now have to be made by the next mayor and council.

The city considered raising about $3 million with a garbage user fee last year that no matter the gaming outcome will most likely come into play again next year as the city must find new revenue to deal with looming budget shortfalls.  

Also on the table, most likely, will be a citywide reassessment that is long overdue and tough political talks with public safety unions to find  ways to reduce costs.  Political observers say that will most likely come only in the form of buybacks from the unions, in other words giving up something to get something.  The unions are currently being courted by all the mayoral candidates and any meaningul discussions would only occur after a new administration takes over in city hall.  Right now the candidates are not  likely to engage the unions in a serious way with so many things still up in the air, including the election.

So no matter who wins in November, the road ahead for the new mayor and city lawmakers will be a difficult one, and could be made even more difficult if there’s no satisfactory resolution to the gaming stalemate.  As of this writing, there is no sign of the Senecas pulling out their checkbook and settling up with the state because they don’t believe they received a fair shake from the arbitration panel and have taken their case to federal court.

 

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