Niagara – The Legends of Misdirection

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By: Ken Hamilton

The midterm elections are over, and with them the state governorship, comptroller and state attorney general are all downstate Democrats. Both houses of our legislature are now redundantly Democrat as well, as are both of our federal senators. There are, however, a spackling of Republican congressmen here and there, but now largely restricted in what they can get done in the hostile and vindictive atmosphere that is likely to exist in the cloakrooms of Congress. The fact is that what happens or doesn’t happen in Congress has less impact upon Niagarans than what happens in the state, and even less locally.

The reality now is that New York State’s one-party political reality can now do more damage to its citizens than any Congress can imagine, and New Yorkers have made it ripe for the old “3-men in a room situation” to dwindle down to just 1.  That being done, then there is no need for the actual voice of the state’s near-20-million citizens in what happens – it is essentially now one man’s decision. As President Obama often said said, and as President Trump has often proven, an election has consequences. And so it is in Niagara Falls – we are legendary at the misdirections of being governed.

Having worked with quite a few of the committees of local government, there’s one thing that I can proudly say; and that is that the committees well-echo the voices and attitudes of the common citizens of the city.  But I also have to say as well is that the committees and the government does so as well.  While behind closed doors, such committees harshly criticize elected officials, I often find that they behave exactly as those do whom are criticized; and all – the people, the committees and the government itself, veer off track from what it is that they are supposed to be doing. Take, for instance, something as simple as building a basketball park to keep the city’s youth off the streets and giving them a positive environment to exercise, compete and burn off their aggressions. Legends Park in the heart of downtown is such a place, and one has to wonder why it is called Legends Park.  As Rush Limbaugh often says, “Words mean things.”

Contrary to popular belief, former Minnesota Timberwolves basketball player and Niagara Falls resident Jonny Flynn had nothing to do with the inception or creation of legends Park. Nor did city resident and Green Bay running back James “Buck” Starks, or a whole slew of others for whom the park should be named, including former Minnesota Lakers and later Niagara Falls resident Bo Erias (prior to the Lakers moving to Los Angeles – where there are no lakes).  But their names are absent from anything except, in the case of Flynn and Starks, their gracious sponsoring of the city’s Unity Day Festival at Legends Park. And that has to change.

After 8-years of lobbying the city, expressing the need for a park like Legends, and overcoming all of the obstacles that were necessary, I finally convinced the city to do the project and, because the entire project was inspired by the removal of basketball courts around the city and Erias having a hoop on his garage and a water hose strung out to the alley so that the neighborhood kids could play, I thought it prober to name it after him.

But then-City Council Chairman and school teacher Christopher Robbins thought it best that the park be named after all of the sports legends of the city, and I agreed. A committee headed up by Councilman Charles Walker was set up to formulate how to do so – and it went south from the point when Walker assigned leadership of the committee to a friend of his who reluctantly took it at Walker’s insistence, despite the man saying that he didn’t have what it took to lead.

Soon thereafter, when the committee met no longer, due to the lack of leadership, the first name that went up was the recently-deceased Bill Duff, a man whom I knew since I was six. He was a school gym teacher at the nearby Harry F. Abate Elementary School and an associate of then Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti. Grandinetti carried my resolution to rename Bath Avenue to Depot Ave-West to clarify where the new train station would be; but the council honoring Duff prior to people like Flynn and Starks was wrong, wrong , wrong, as Duff, a nice enough guy, was not what Robbins or I had in mind.

If our government can screw up something as simple as legends Park, you can therefore imagine from where the garbage “tax” came from and what necessitated it. The question now is how many people will practice being a part of government by doing something as simple as go on the Legends Park Facebook page to reform the committee, establish a policy, to finish the work and mitigate the impact of one-person rule at the most local of levels.  Perhaps then you can work your way up and have, at least, a continuing voice in a local government that for many years have been legendary at misdirection.

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