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Paul Dyster as Dorian Gray, WGRZ as Oscar Wilde

By Craig Tretiak

The portrait of Dorian Grey aged (below) , but Dorian (above) stayed young.

"Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

When WGRZ reporter Scott Brown announced he was doing a five-year follow-up to an award-winning piece he had aired at the start of Mayor Paul A. Dyster’s first term in office that focused on all that ailed Niagara Falls, you sort of knew it didn’t bode well for the Cataract City’s favorite son.

When the piece was introduced with, “in our special, we pointed out that decades of mistakes, missteps, and missed opportunities had led Niagara Falls, New York on a long decline that resulted in a distressed city with no major tourist attractions living in the shadow of a spectacular skyline across the border,” you knew that it promised to be downright brutal.

Still, it may have been the camera that was cruelest of all.

Watching the side-by-side images of a young, vigorous Paul Dyster and an older, paunchier Paul Dyster, making the exact same diagnoses was like watching a bizarre modern-day telecast of the Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde’s one novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Without spoiling the novel for those of you who haven’t read it, or tipping my hand that it’s been far too many years since freshman literature class, the synopsis of the novel is that a vain, hedonistic young man named Dorian Gray has a portrait painted of himself and wishes that the portrait might age in his place.

The catch is that, rather than aging merely for the passage of years, the portrait ages and becomes more and more grotesque in appearance as Gray’s soul is rotted by his commission of sin-driving a lover to suicide, hanging out in opium dens, and virtually every fetish and hedonistic pleasure he can imagine-and ends with him turning violently against the painting itself.

Basically, it’s an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” without the Rod Serling voiceovers.

For Mayor Paul Dyster, the same aging was evident as his sins caught up with him on Ch. 2.

As I noted, the young Paul Dyster is slender and bright and cheerful and optimistic and his hair flops around. The older Paul Dyster is heavier, dull and bitter-although his hair still flops around almost violently.

What hasn’t aged in any way are the words that come out of the Picture of Paul Dyster.

In 2008, Dyster offered this insight: “One of the problems we have is once you get out of the state park we don't have enough family oriented attractions here in downtown Niagara Falls.”

Last week, Dyster had this to say: “The consensus in five years that we need more family oriented attractions has not changed. People come here and they expect to find something like that and it's not here.”

Even as his outward shell ages grotesquely, Mayor Dyster’s inner self never really changes. He keeps repeating the same mantra all based on his religion of taxing the working people more so that government can solve all their problems.

Another sin was the Niagara Experience Center which was a proposed $100 million boondoggle that would create a taxpayer subsidized virtual Niagara Falls right next to the God-subsidized real one.

The 2008 Dyster was saying we needed it, that it would draw tourists. The 2013 Dyster was saying we still need it. “I still think that is something that could be very important here,” he told Brown.

Dyster’s consistency might be refreshing if he was talking about principles. But he’s not. He’s actually cataloguing his failures. His belief that taxing the working people more and more, so that he can give taxpayer money to developers, who, with his guidance, will be the solution to all the city's problems, has not worked. It will never work. The Dyster administration is a sort of reverse Robin Hood, where he taxes the poor to give to rich developers.

The city has done poorly. And the more he fails and tries to deflect blame, the more his television self seems to age before our eyes.



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

Jul 23, 2013