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Council Will Join Ranks on Feeling Pain

By Mike Hudson

A hullabaloo was created over the fact that the council ate their dinners twice a month at the famous Como Restaurant on Pine Ave. Although not amounting to a drop in a bucket of government waste, the council majority, wisely, chose to suspend their taxpayer funded meals in the spirit of “leading by example.”

For the past few weeks, the council majority of Chairman Glenn Choolokian, and members Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson, have been under fire from the mayor and those associated with the NACC, block clubs and the Niagara Beautification Commission due to the council’s votes to reduce or eliminate city funding for those organizations.

At the February council meetings, dozens of supporters of those agencies spoke against the council, at times shouting and being more than a little insulting toward the three council members making up the majority.

Nevertheless, the three members stuck to their plan to stop or cut funding to these not-for-profits.

Now the new spending freeze that the council majority is expected to impose will include elimination of all meals, including elimination of the much talked about council dinners that have been a tradition for decades, taken between the 4 p.m. work session and 7 p.m. regular meetings.

During the past few weeks, Mayor Dyster, block club booster Roger Spurback and other critics of the council have made much of these council meals, making the argument that the council is hypocritical in cutting the not-for-profits and not cutting their own free meals.

The planned resolution will take that issue off the table and the council will be like every group in the city that is being asked to sacrifice in the face of the city's serious financial challenges.

What Has Not Been Told

What has been forgotten by many, and largely ignored by the press, is that the city of Niagara Falls does owe millions of dollars this year alone in bond debt. If the casino funds come through in full, then that debt possibly could be paid.

But when will the casino revenue come in and how much will come in?

And what if some or all comes in this year, but never again?

What is the plan if the money is shut off? And if it does materialize, how does Dyster intend to spend it?

The mayor has yet to present his spending scheme. Sen. George Maziarz would like to tie the money down with strings that guarantee the funds go to certain expenditures that he favors. And then there are the many outside agencies with claims on the money -- the NTCC, the Niagara Falls City School District, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the Niagara Falls Airport, the Underground Railroad Heritage Commission and more.

The idea that all of the city’s problems go away when the casino cash arrives is a fantasy encouraged by Dyster, believed by his supporters, and promoted by local media.

“We just can’t keep spending when there’s no money coming in and no plan to address the situation,” said Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian. “Right now we’re fighting over small funding cuts. If steps aren’t taken immediately, the financial picture for this city is going to get worse and the cuts will be traumatic for next year.”

Right now it looks like the only adults in the room are council members Anderson, Choolokian and Fruscione as they move ahead to curtail spending, keep the lid on taxes, and tackle the city’s debt.



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

Feb 26 , 2013