Political outsider Kennedy is a question mark until the next votes come in

Baby Shawn is a Niagara Falls resident who’s the longest surviving patient of a rare childhood brain cancer. Here, Bill Kennedy appears with Baby Shawn just before the fundraising walk that took place around Three Sisters Island.

By Joseph Kissel

What is it about incoming councilman Bill Kennedy that makes him such a compelling figure as the city begins looking past three terms of Mayor Paul Dyster?

First off, his election was a surprise and a resounding success, emerging from a crowded Democratic primary field though old-fashioned hard work. The other winning newcomer, Chris Voccio, said he’d regularly see Mr. Kennedy visiting the same neighborhoods, listening to resident concerns and explaining his vision for the city.

Even more important is that “Kennedy is beholden to nobody,” says campaign advisor and county legislator Jason Zona.

After coming in a close second in the primary election, councilman-elect Kennedy informed the Dyster machine to not include his name in robocalls. They did anyway, and he says that’s the reason some people are questioning his independence right now.

Bill Kennedy recently appeared before the city council to tell them his constituents would like to see the mayor attend council meetings so they know he is hearing their concerns.

Running as the ultimate hometown political outsider, Mr. Kennedy assures that he’s “for the people” and against the status quo that sees outsized Albany influence and table scraps for this city on the brink.

But Bill Kennedy admits there’s a learning curve ahead for him. Mr. Voccio said the same thing of himself. And constituents should understand that electing fresh, uncorrupted representatives means they will be less familiar with the terrain.

But how *will* Mr. Kennedy vote?

Republicans and others were sorely disappointed that two opposition party members didn’t make it onto the council. (Although, technically, Mr. Kennedy was registered with the Working Families Party before becoming a Democrat for the primary.)

That makes his vote all that more critical to stop the council’s enabling of the Dyster administration and what may follow.

Incoming councilman Chris Voccio says he’s spoken many times with Bill Kennedy and is confident they will be able to work together on pocketbook issues.

The votes Bill Kennedy makes will be everything. Until then? Let him listen and learn.

Almost important is, how will he influence the council? What moves will he make for the city once he gets up to speed and starts feeling confident about exerting his will and what he believes “the people” want? And how to engage Albany to get Niagara Falls a better deal when it comes to the tourism revenue the state rakes in?

“There is change on the horizon, and it’s coming,” said Mr. Kennedy. “I say this very humbly, but we are going to get our city back or die trying.”

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