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Copelin Ignores Rats, Pollution Issues, But Has Time to Back Hamister Deal

Last week Niagara County Legislator Cheree Copelin mailed a letter to voters in her district asking them to contact members of the Niagara Falls City Council and urge them to support Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s Hamister hotel proposal.

As she has done in Jayne Park, Copelin is weighing in on a matter where she has no official say or duty.

She is a county legislator. Both Jayne Park and the Hamister hotel are city matters.

The 10-page Dyster/Hamister proposal was placed on the city website - www.niagarausa.org - two weeks ago by the council majority in the interest of transparency. Legislator Copelin did not say in her letter whether she’s read the document.

She does say, “I recently sponsored a resolution in the county legislature calling on the city council to approve the sale of the aforementioned parcel so this project can move forward.”

She does not say that the Dyster proposal as written, calls for the council to do more than approve the “sale” of a parcel of land.

It directs the council to sign off on everything related to the proposal - up to and including the proposal itself and their legal duties as council members to approve all final contracts.

The terms the council objected to in the proposal were laid out respectfully by Councilman Sam Fruscione at a meeting last month that he had requested with Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson. But Copelin gives no credit to the council for their deliberative duties.

She writes that the Hamister hotel project is “transformational.”

Transformational is the new buzzword - straight from the Dyster playbook - a word used to describe the: $50 million courthouse, LaSalle Waterfront Park, the yet to open Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, the $45 million train station, the unfunded Niagara Experience Center, and virtually everything else foisted on the city at great taxpayer expense since 2008.

Copelin's letter also contains an error.

She wrote, “After agreeing to the sale price of the city-owned parcel ... several members of the council decided the price was too low.”

She apparently does not know that the council never agreed to approve the price of the land. A legislative body, as Copelin should know, cannot merely "agree" to anything. They have to vote.

The council never voted on the price of the land.

What really happened is that last February the council authorized Dyster to negotiate a deal and bring it back to them for approval. At the time a discussion did take place about the price of the land but there was no vote. At that time, the council did not know that Hamister would also be getting huge tax breaks, the very reason it was argued that the land should be given to him: So the city could make it back on taxes.

Copelin writes about the council action of tabling the hotel for study, saying: “We cannot afford to send this type of negative message to other potential developers.”

Elected officials doing their due diligence, asking relevant questions, and sincerely trying to represent the best interest of the city is sending a negative message?

Copelin seems anxious to see Dyster and Hamister have their deal, and/or she believes this Hamister proposal is an issue that will attract voters in this an election year for her, even if it she knows little about it, and, like Jayne Park, has no duty or authority.

In fact the proposed Hamister hotel is not even in her district.

It’s interesting to note that Copelin passed her pro-Hamister resolution and letter while the Covanta Niagara expansion and the rat infestation crisis was playing out in LaSalle. While the plant is just outside the border of her 3rd District, the impact of the neighboring plant affects her constituents tremendously.

But Copelin did not show up at the August 14 Niagara Falls public hearing that addressed the Covanta environmental impact and the rat menace. There she might have spoken up and actually said something of genuine importance to the people of her district.

After all, the Covanta expansion comes with a large Niagara County IDA tax break. Copelin could have talked tough about rats and pollution.

She could have demanded emissions reports. She could have insisted on rat extermination. She could have said that in a sister plant in Dusseldorf, Germany, after which the Covanta plant models its incinerator/electrical generator operations, the German plant provides between 10 and 20 percent of the electricity for the whole city.

Copelin might have asked Covanta to offer the people affected by their pollution free electricity, as at least a partial repayment of the fact that the county is granting them tax breaks for years to come, while the residents in her district pay full taxes to provide the city services Covanta uses for its business while breathing in their pollution.

What are voters of the 3rd District to make of their legislator commanding them to support a taxpayer-subsidized hotel development deal for a Buffalo millionaire as LaSalle homes are overrun by pestilent rodents?

How are they to interpret her silence, her refusal to clamp down on Covanta and assist them in their time of need?

No, they aren’t millionaires looking for a sweetheart hotel package or big tax breaks driven by political connections and large campaign contributions. Nor are they interested in blowing off grants for parks that really only need a clean-up. They are simply city residents, homeowners, and taxpayers who seek relief from, of all things, in this day and age: rats!

And rats, Ms. Copelin, are genuinely negative for our city’s image.



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

AUG 20, 2013