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By: Staff Reporter
One of my regular Facebook hecklers took another poke recently, and in the course of his swipe he asked me, “what is this racket you speak of?”
You see, without mentioning any names, this heckler is the walking epitome of what I refer to as The Racket. Please allow me to explain.
This individual happens to be an employee of the City, an employee in one of the departments that consumes a huge chuck of your tax dollars, one with lots of highly compensated employees. It is an important department, but one that many believe could be operated more efficiently if it weren’t for certain provisions in union contracts.
But being an employee of a department with lots of high-wage employees does not necessarily mean you’re part of The Racket. This individual, however, also happens to be a former chairman of a major political party in Niagara County. That’s where things get interesting.
In that position, as chairman of a powerful political party, he was in a position to influence elections, and influence elected officials, the very same elected officials who vote on union contracts that impact wages and work rules for his department. He was the chair of a powerful political party while at the same time in a very lucrative city job. This is part of what I referred to in another column as a not-so-virtuous circle.
But it gets better.
In 2017, while campaigning for City Council, I met another individual in a similar situation. This individual, at that time, was chair of a major political party in Niagara Falls. Can you guess where that individual works? Yes, he works in that very same City department, the one with lots of highly compensated public employees. It gets even better, but we’ll save what Paul Harvey referred to as “the rest of the story” for another day.
Needless to say, there is a tangled web linking political influence and highly compensated government jobs. That should come as no surprise. It happens everywhere. But in a city like Niagara Falls, where so many are struggling, it’s difficult to justify so many “public servants” making $100,000, $150,000, even beyond $200,000.
Please understand that all of this is perfectly legal, although if some of this happened in the private sector it would likely lead to criminal indictments.
For those of you with friends or family members who directly benefit from this, please know that I understand the primal instinct to defend what is yours. I understand the power of familial loyalty. If you have a son-in-law or a brother-in-law with a very lucrative taxpayer-funded position, I understand the urge to defend the status quo, no matter what the consequences for Niagara Falls. But there simply has to be a balance between support for an efficient government service provider and looking out for the taxpayers. I believe we can find that balance.
When you pay your garbage fee or your property taxes and you ask why we don’t have enough money to do certain things we should be doing, know that the reason is we have to funnel a huge percentage of your payments to fund this merry-go-round I call The Racket.
Chris Voccio is a Niagara Falls City Council member and can be reached at. Subscribe to his blog at