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Councilman Walker a Study in Bland For Those Who Find Boring Interesting

By Mike Hudson

City Councilman Charles Walker never met a mayor he didn’t like, and he’s managed to parlay his slavish subservience into a political career that’s seen him rise from a lowly, third-shift machine operator to a jacket and tie man with a day job that pays a good salary and carries a lot of perks.

Think about it. Walker has served during the administrations of Republican Irene Elia, blue-collar union machine Democrat Vince Anello and head-in-the-clouds Obama acolyte Paul Dyster and managed to agree with each of them nearly 100 percent of the time on issues of substance.

He’s nothing, Charles Walker, if not accommodating.

He’s also African-American and has been elected and re-elected time and again with an overwhelming majority of the black vote, unlike his African-American colleague, Councilman Bob Anderson, who receives as many votes in LaSalle or DeVeaux as he does in the North End or the East Side.

What was once mistaken for being soft spoken is now recognized as a somewhat slow tendency to try to figure out what’s in it for him, since Walker, more than any other council member in memory, has used his elected position to advance his own station in life.

Like Dyster, Walker entered Niagara Falls politics at the dawn of the new century and, like Dyster again, has presided over an unprecedented decline of the city he calls home.

And, like Dyster, he most likely stays because he couldn’t make it anywhere else.

Early in his career, Walker showed some promise. He would occasionally question proposals coming out of the mayoral office of former nun Irene Elia prior to voting for them, often at the urging of fellow Democratic council members Dyster and Fran Iusi.

It was during the reign of Vince Anello - Walker’s former council colleague - that his true colors emerged, however. Never a friend of the Niagara Falls Reporter, he openly lambasted the paper at the height of Anello’s troubles with the U.S. Justice Dept.

“Stories like that can hurt a city,” he said, as though the newspaper stories, rather than the facts they were based on, were the problem.

Walker worked tirelessly with former State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and former State Sen. Antoine Thompson to promote the fiction that Niagara Falls was once a major destination for the Underground Railroad, a clandestine organization set up to help escaped slaves from the south find freedom in Canada.

The concept, thoroughly debunked, was based on a single line from the apocryphal “autobiography” attributed to Harriet Tubman, an historical figure whose legend is not dissimilar to that of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox or that Steel Driving Man John Henry.

Walker and the rest of the Dyster machine regularly condemn anyone taking an interest in real Niagara Falls history and have spent more than a million dollars in taxpayer money to promote the fiction of Tubman and the Underground Railroad connection here.

While Stefano Magaddino actually spent a half-century doing illegal things in Niagara Falls, Harriet Tubman may have passed through once as a railroad passenger while on an illegal mission.

And Charles Walker has managed to parlay a feigned interest in the betterment of this city into a lucrative career that’s not illegal at all.

Despite his seemingly never-ending tenure on the council, a century from now, when some as yet unborn historian attempts to explain how a city that is home to one of the natural wonders of the world could become the ugly, creepy little place that it is, Charles Walker’s name will not likely appear on the list of good guys.

Nor does it really have any place on the list of bad guys.

Walker, a nonentity, most likely will not even rate a footnote.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

AUG 13, 2013