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ANALYSIS By Frank Parlato Jr.

Mayor Paul Dyster's alleged preference for hiring, or for that matter, preferring someone, anyone, as long as they are not from Niagara Falls is well-known. The saying goes that Dyster prefers a piece of cut glass, if it comes from afar, over a diamond formed locally. And nothing seemingly shows this better than his preference to hire the "brightest and best," as long as they are from out of town -- people like Peter Kay from Ohio, a man who couldn't hold a permanent job in five cities, for Economic Development chief ($100,000 a year); Donna Owens, a mid-level bureaucrat in garbage collection, about to be laid off in Atlanta, for the top job in his administration ($110,000); Ali Marzban from Los Angeles, an unlicensed engineer, for engineer ($90,000); and Roger Melchior of Florida, an unemployed man, for fire chief ($79,000).

Last Memorial Day, Dyster went to meet another great and bright man from afar, preferring his company to a group of lowly Niagara Falls veterans. Our mayor had appeared in the Memorial Day Parade, but when it came time to sit through the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Veterans Memorial, the mayor suddenly had to leave. He missed the playing of the National Anthem, the 21-gun salute and the bandstand speeches of proud veterans. He missed the dedication.

But he had a good reason: Affairs of state were calling. After visiting the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park and meeting officials in Buffalo and Erie County, Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya of Japan decided to take in Niagara Falls. His assistants reached out to our upwardly mobile mayor, who had been expected to stay for the dedication ceremony. But it is not every day you can meet the ambassador of Japan.

Dyster excused himself and hurriedly left to meet Nishimiya. This everyone knows. For a long time it was unknown what the two men found to talk about. What was so important that the mayor had to leave local veterans who had worked on this project for so long and rush to the ambassador's side?

We discovered and are first to report that, according to the official website of the Consulate General's Office in New York City, Dyster spoke at length with Nishimiya about the railroads and trains.

Even as a boy, Dyster was fascinated with trains. A former employee of a drugstore near Dyster's boyhood home told the Reporter that Dyster "used to come in every week with a roll, two rolls of film to be developed. He'd go down by the old train station, the railyards, and take pictures of the locomotives, the men working on them. ... He must have taken a thousand pictures."

It is no surprise the mayor welcomed an interested listener and declaimed on his favorite topic. But there is a more important consideration: This mayor left a gathering of veterans on Memorial Day, who were honoring valiant men who died fighting the wars of this nation -- including those who fought the Japanese in World War II -- to be with the ambassador from Japan.

The surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, resulted in 188 U.S. aircraft destroyed, 2,402 men killed and 1,282 wounded. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it "a date which will live in infamy."

In his state of the city address on Jan. 28, 2010, Dyster said, "One of the most telling signs of a community's character is the way it treats its veterans. I'm proud to say that my administration, in cooperation with the Council, has stepped up to provide major financial support for a new veterans memorial that will occupy six acres at Hyde Park. This reverent and beautiful monument will honor the sacrifices made by hundreds of residents and their families in times of war."

Nice talk. But he did not stay to see the grounds dedicated. One of the most telling signs of a mayor's character is the way he treats veterans. Sure, he helped get the funding, but that cost him nothing. It was public money.

Dyster was away, talking about trains with a man who really could do nothing to help him except patiently listen, while the veterans of this city dedicated their memorial with the mayor absent. Telling, indeed.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Jan. 18, 1011