Chris’s Corner: Niagara Falls’ Not-So-Virtuous Circle

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By: Chris Voccio

Niagara Falls City Councilman

As I wrote in my last few columns, what I call The Racket in Niagara Falls is costly to taxpayers and creates inefficiencies in government.

I still have people ask me to clarify what I mean by The Racket, so let me put it another way. Think of it as a circle. Not a virtuous circle. Quite the contrary.

It’s basically a three legged stool held up by these three legs: Municipal unions, some more than others; Political Action Committees (PACs), some directly connected to the municipal unions, some not; Politicians with the power to approve, or reject, lucrative union contracts, which in turn feed select members of municipal unions, and so it goes.

Municipal unions gather money from their membership, money expressly for political influence. Ironically, some of this money comes from members who may not agree with everything their union does, despite recent Supreme Court decisions.

This money is given to Political Action Committees (PACs), sometimes directly linked to the unions, sometimes indirectly linked, which is then used to influence elections, by either supporting favorable candidates or attacking other candidates.

Then, as you would expect, the chosen few politicians vote for lucrative contracts that force up overtime, inflate pensions and bleed taxpayers.

It’s not an unusual arrangement. It happens all over. The problem is that Niagara Falls is a poor city, with a multi-million dollar structural budget deficit and taxpayers already stretched to the max.

These lucrative contracts, which boost compensation to $150,000, $175,000 and even past $200,000, which then boosts lifelong pension payouts, take resources from taxpayers that could be used to rebuild the city.

You’ll see all of this play out this year, as it’s a local election year. Municipal unions will make their endorsements, they’ll support certain candidates and they’ll attack people like me who speak out on behalf of taxpayers.

Chris Voccio is a Niagara Falls City Councilman and can be reached at Follow his blog at

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