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Dyster Earns Low Marks as Mayor

By Mike Hudson

The Reporter wrote in 2002 of then councilman Paul Dyster, "Dyster has shown himself to be little more than an (Elia) administration stooge during his tenure thus far."
During the administration of Mayor Irene Elia, a Dyster-led council approved an increase in taxes of more than 10 percent.
Paul Dyster knows about Council Majorities. He formed one himself with the help of Candra Thomason (above) and Fran Iusi (below) who were on the council with him from 2001- 2004. Thomason went on to run against Dyster in the mayoral in 2007, a loss that many in Niagara Falls still lament.

The relationship between this newspaper and current Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has been a contentious one, dating back many bad moons, and characterized as much by the petty politician’s mendacity, duplicity and outright dishonesty as anything else.

Dyster was elected on a reform ticket headed by former nun Irene Elia following the single term reign of Jimmy Galie, a retired policeman and Trott Vocational School graduate.

You would have thought Irene Elia would make a great mayor. She was the sister of the late Art Elia - a great and dear friend of the paper - and aunt to Mike Elia, the noted philanthropist.

She didn’t make a great mayor though. Living in a dream world created by her own convent-bred mind, she tried to start a newspaper, kept an enemies list, and once even referred to a short-lived downtown miniature golf course as “Disney-esque” in scope.

What she did possess, however, was probably the most subservient, boot-licking city council of modern times, and the head boot-licker was a young fellow of no discernible ability named Paul Dyster.

Like the mayor herself, Dyster came from a fine Niagara Falls family. His father was a respected physician and his mother would go on to have a hospital wing named after her, which is quite an accomplishment even in a small market town like Niagara Falls.

Despite these advantages, Paul Dyster had been only marginally employed prior to being elected councilman. He had been a teaching assistant at American University in Washington, D.C., and then briefly served as a commissary employee with the U. S. Department of State. The latter experience in the State Department he would later embellish for the gullible Niagara Falls electorate as being an "Arms Negotiator" during the Cold War.

Like many overgrown Niagara Falls boys, his first and most passionate love was for beer, and so he invested a part of the family fortune into a beer-making business he located in Tonawanda. Asked once why he didn’t open his store in Niagara Falls, the city he claims to adore above all else, he pretty much said that no one but an imbecile would open a business in Niagara Falls.

Elected to the council in 2001, Dyster rode into City Hall on Irene Elia’s coattails and spent the next four years licking her brown, hobnailed boots and raising taxes on the rest of the beleaguered citizenry.

He led a city council majority that included Candra Thomason and Fran Iusi - a pair who would never again hold political office in the city.

But it was Dyster who played the firebrand when Elia wanted to raise property taxes by a whopping 10 percent, and again during the creation of the city water board – an entity invented for no other purpose than to shift political blame for rapidly rising water and sewer rates away from City Hall, and to operate with less transparency.

Wisely choosing not to run for re-election, as Elia went down to Vince Anello in what was then the biggest Election Day defeat in city history, Dyster returned to his casual beer selling lifestyle, penning the occasional article for the Home Wine & Beer Trade Association's newsletter and sporadically showing up at his store when he felt up to it.

His driving ambition led him to become a nationally certified beer judge, an office that all but required him to drink lots of beer, and he became involved in the Boy Scouts as an assistant scoutmaster.

He appeared at City Hall just once, to ask the council for a one-time grant of $500,000 so he could put a new roof on the dilapidated former high school building. Dyster had helped turn it into a not-for-profit corporation called the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, a big goal of which was to promote the art of brewing beer.

He told council members that the half-million would be the only money the city taxpayers would ever be called upon to gift the institution. Behind the scenes he promised former councilman Lewis “Babe” Rotella that he would not run for mayor if the council ponied up, which it then did.

It was a time of soul searching, beer drinking and scouting, and also of reaching out to the community. For Dyster wasn’t finished with Niagara Falls politics - not by a long shot. He wanted to be mayor after all, and his word to Rotella about not running turned out to be worth as much as his word about anything, which is to say nothing at all.

In 2007, Dyster eked out a narrow victory over Rotella in the primary, running one of the dirtiest political campaigns in memory. The mayor at the time, Vince Anello, was busy battling the FBI on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and a scheme to defraud to seek re-election. As a result, Anello was unable to file the necessary number of valid petitions to be on the ballot.

In the general election, Dyster beat his former city council colleague Republican Candra Thomason, and he took office in January of 2008.

It was only after being elected that Dyster ran into problems.

His poor social skills made him the least accessible mayor of modern times, while his lack of judgment led him to make an inordinate amount of terrible hiring decisions. He hired a city engineer named Ali Marzban who was not licensed to practice engineering anywhere in the United States. Then he hired a fire chief named Roger Melchior whose health problems and unabashed racism led to his dismissal after less than two months on the job. But in the meantime, after hiring a former garbage department bureaucrat for city administrator and a journeyman economic development chief from Toledo at salaries of $100,000, he skewed the pay scale at city hall and created the most expensive city hall in history. Some positions went up in pay by more than 40 percent in his first term alone.

The first major public works project initiated under the Dyster administration was the reconstruction of Lewiston Road in DeVeaux, which turned into a horrific boondoggle that remains incomplete after five years and millions of wasted dollars.
The mayor’s grandiose plan to turn the city’s North End into a tourist Mecca for the masses presumably interested in the dubious connection between Niagara Falls and the Underground Railroad has gone nowhere, despite scads of money being spent on it.

Dyster’s groupie-like devotion to washed up rock bands led him to give the billion-dollar corporation known as the Hard Rock Café more than $650,000 in taxpayer money so he could party it up backstage like a rock star. The nearly half-million dollars he then spent on a disastrous 2011 “Holiday Market” wound up being little more than 20 shacks and an undersized Christmas tree.

Dyster ran for re-election in 2011, beating John Accardo in the primary and going on to a narrow victory over Johnny Destino in the general.

His second term thus far looks pretty much like a carbon copy of the first: plenty of spending, little regard for the taxpayers, and a push to serve Buffalo interests, his campaign contributors, Buffalo based consultants, and, of course, the usual bootlicking of Albany interests.



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

Mar05 , 2013