It was unbelievable, really.
In the course of reciting his 4,512-word stem-winder of a State of the City speech earlier this month, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster failed even to mention what is unquestionably the single most important event to occur here since the 1974 passing of Stefano Magaddino -- Nik Wallenda's death-defying high-wire walk across the mighty cataracts, scheduled to take place this coming September.
The Wallenda spectacle will be broadcast live around the world, providing the city with its greatest promotional opportunity in history. While daredevils like the Great Blondin have accomplished what Wallenda has proposed in the past, they did so well before the modern media age, when cable television, the Internet and cellphone technology can combine to make such an event something of worldwide importance.
After all, it's not like Dyster wasn't scratching the bottom of the barrel to think of things to talk about for the hour he stood in front of a bored City Council.
"You'll even see our city's latest upscale martini bar at Buffalo and 87th Street," he announced breathlessly, eliciting a chorus of oohs and ahs from an audience chock-full of mayoral drinking buddies.
And it's not like Dyster hasn't previously taken great interest in things that happen in Niagara Falls State Park. When his financial benefactor James Glynn recently found himself in danger of losing the contract that allowed his Maid of the Mist boat ride franchise to rake in millions of dollars at the expense of taxpayers on both the New York and Ontario sides of the Niagara River, Dyster sprang to his defense.
In repeated television interviews, Dyster came across as the official spokesman for the Glynn family, who were in hiding and unavailable for comment.
"The boats have to be removed seasonally, maintenance has to be done sometimes, and emergency work needs to be done on propellers," Dyster told Channel 7. "The infrastructure to do that the roadway, the big boat ramps are on the Canadian side."
He wrote to urge Ontario officials to keep Glynn on as a tour operator, despite the fact his sweetheart deal was a disaster for the Canadian taxpayer.
"Give strong consideration to retaining the Maid of the Mist as operator in the interest of continuity and stability in our crucial tourism industry," Dyster wrote.
Clearly, the city's latest "upscale" martini bar and whether Glynn or somebody else operates the Maid of the Mist are strictly local issues, of little import compared to Wallenda's daring walk across the mighty cataracts, an event already making news from London to Los Angeles.
Consider Dyster's curiously detached attitude in comparison to his treatment of another "event" that occurred recently -- the 36-day fiasco known as the Niagara Holiday Market.
Dyster was an enthusiastic supporter of the market, even to the point of kicking in $225,000 in hard-earned tax money to subsidize it. Additionally, the city provided police and fire protection, electrical hookups, water supplies and other services paid for by home and business owners in Niagara Falls.
By contrast, Wallenda's wire-walk won't cost the city a dime. And any money generated by the hundreds of thousands who will throng to the region in order to personally witness the great spectacle will go directly into the pockets of hotel and restaurant owners, as well as tour operators, taxi drivers, waitresses, parking lot attendants and anyone else who can figure out a way to make a buck off it.
In all fairness, Dyster didn't mention his disastrous and dopey Holiday Market idea in the State of the City either, but a report expected by the City Council in April should shed great light on just how badly the taxpayers were nicked in a scam he brought to the city himself.
The mayor's feigned ignorance of -- and behind-the-scenes opposition to -- the Wallenda spectacle can only be understood in the context of Dyster, a man for whom government is the be all and end all in any decision-making process.
In Dyster's mind, only hotels built to specifications imposed by the government, his government, are acceptable. Only saloons that open with the benefit of significant taxpayer subsidies are politically correct, and only housing that is built for the benefit of those who have never and will never pay a dime of taxes in their lives has any place in Niagara Falls.
Thus, the only worthwhile attractions are those heavily underwritten by public money -- like the Holiday Market and Dyster's pet Hard Rock Cafe concert series -- which doesn't make any sense at all.
Dyster's lack of support for Wallenda, his complete failure even to acknowledge that the spectacle actually is happening, is rooted in the fear that other men are smarter and better equipped to promote Niagara Falls to the world than he is.
Dyster is small-town and smalltime. His proposed multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded "Underground Railroad Interpretive Center" won't draw as many people in a century as Wallenda's walk will in one hour this coming September.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||March 27 2012|