By Tony Farina
Three of the five incumbents will have to win re-election this year to continue to serve as members of the Niagara Falls City Council.
The three lawmakers who are up this year are Chairman Charles Walker, Kristen Grandinettti, and former Chairman Andrew Touma.
Walker, who pleaded guilty last January to election law violations, is not expected to seek another term, but Grandinetti will face voters in November and Touma, the dean of students at LaSalle Preparatory School, says he’ll announce his decision shortly as the list of potential council candidates seems to grow by the day.
But while Touma, the highest vote-getter when he first won election in November of 2013, has not committed to seeking a third term, sources close to the highly-regarded lawmaker say he is leaning toward running.
“I’m going to decide very shortly,” said Touma during an interview this week with the Niagara Falls Reporter. “I think it is fair to say I think there is still a lot of work to be done to continue to move this city forward, and I’ll leave it at that for now.”
Touma’s words suggest the former chairman is going to make it official in the coming days that he will seek another term on the council and continue to work to serve the citizens of the city whether it is with cutting spending, holding the line on taxes, or protecting vital services.
Touma deserves credit for his independence and his willingness to act as a leader on the council, whether as chairman or as just one of the five lawmakers elected to serve on the council through some very difficult financial times.
His work as chairman during last year’s budget negotiations helped the council trim $558,000 from Mayor Paul Dyster’s $91 millio proposed spending plan, in the process cutting the tax rate for homeowners by 41 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation and reducing the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property from $1.90 per $1,000 to $1.2 per $1,000.
Touma at the time credited his fellow lawmakers for their hard work and helping to negotiate a budget deal that he described as “a win for the taxpayers all around.”
It is that leadership ability along with his work ethic and commitment to public service that distinguishes Touma and hopefully he will decide to continue to serve the public as a member of the council going forward. The city of Niagara Falls needs public servants of the caliber of Andy Touma who don’t come along every day. Let’s hope he makes it official soon and announces that he will be seeking a third term. It would be good news for the city.