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Fruscione Learns From His Students

By Sam Fruscione

Sam Fruscione

I have been fortunate for more than two decades to earn my living as a teacher in the Niagara Falls school system.

Working in a grade school classroom has afforded me the privilege of teaching children, but it has also provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn from our young people. In fact I'd say my students have taught me a great deal over the past two decades.

They've taught me not to take myself too seriously and that it's very important to laugh. They've taught me that we all learn at our own pace and often it's the determined individual who refuses to give up that makes the positive difference in the long run.

I'm a teacher but I'm also an elected city official. Teaching and politics at first glance don't seem to share much in common, but I believe there are learning opportunities that sometimes carry over from the classroom to the caucus room.

Grade school students can't possibly be expected to understand the world of politics or the casino revenue difficulties. But I know they work hard to grasp the importance of responsibility, accountability and truthfulness.

When our city's casino cash was flowing freely everything was rosy. Streets were paved, consultants did big business at city hall and some thought the good times would never end. The reality is that the good times ended three years ago when the casino revenue stopped. But even though those funds were stopped the Dyster administration kept on spending.

This past November Mayor Dyster recommended that the council accept a New York Power Authority arrangement that would give the city pennies on the dollar with a $13.45 million settlement, but cost the city over twice that amount in the end. The council could not in good conscience take the quick fix and cost the city residents millions of dollars owed by the Power Authority. With elected office comes responsibility.

In January of this year the Council majority had to make serious, and even unpopular, decisions by reducing city funding to some local agencies. The Council stopped Mayor Dyster's proposed 2013 large tax increase in late 2012, we imposed a spending freeze this January and we had to take measures to reduce certain funding to agencies. With elected office comes accountability.

Accountability and responsibility…some lessons are timeless and remain true whether we learned the lesson in fifth grade or as an adult working a job to provide for our family.

Councilman Glenn Choolokian recently wrote a newspaper editorial detailing the facts regarding the city's anticipated casino revenue. The truth is if we receive the approximate $65 million owed to us the city will have less than $15 million remaining after all anticipated commitments are met. These are unpleasant numbers to accept, but they're very true. Sometimes the truth hurts. But the truth is the truth and the more you accept it the less it hurts. Accountability, responsibility and truthfulness are three watchwords to guide a person in life, in the workplace or in politics. We'll have to learn to live with these words as we try to solve our city's fiscal crisis.

The good times will never roll again like they did from 2008 to 2012. That's because those years were financed with a casino credit card that expired four years ago. Now, it's time for a reality check, time to pay the bills and time to tighten our collective belt. The running of a good government is serious business. It's not a popularity contest and it's not a race to see who can spend the most the quickest in order to please the largest number of voters the fastest.

Let's hope the casino revenue finally shows up. And if those dollars do appear let's sit down and agree - Council and Mayor - to manage the funds with responsibility and accountability in a spirit of transparency.

Our city residents - and the young people who are the future of this city - deserve nothing less.



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

JUN 11, 2013