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By Mike Hudson

Today, Oct. 4, marks my 13th anniversary here in Niagara Falls. It was on Oct. 4, 1998, that I first sat down to write at the Niagara Gazette. I can't recall now what I wrote about, of course, but since then I've written roughly 2,500 stories, columns and editorials, as well as two books, about this city we all call home.

The more astute among you, and you know who you are, probably have noticed that for the past couple weeks I haven't written a single word about the city or, more particularly, the criminal circus on Main Street known as City Hall.

The truth is, I've about had it.

Each and every year since the Redhead and I arrived here, Niagara Falls has gotten worse and worse. On Niagara Street I used to enjoy many fine meals and many fine drinks at places like George's, the Arterial and the Press Box. Around the corner on Third Street, dinner at Shadow was often followed by a night of great live jazz at Cafe Etc.

Up on Main Street, La Palermo served great home-cooked Italian, the old Kentucky Fried Chicken held us over on many a night and Mang's Liquor kept us in good spirits. Pine Avenue was home to Macri's and Dante's and Pete's Market House, and even Portage Road had the Captain's Table and the Portage House.

At the time, the population of Niagara Falls was around 65,000.

All of those businesses are gone now, and so are more than 15,000 of the people. And I'm not talking about what it was like here 50, 40 or even 30 years ago, but just 13, a little over a decade. It's bloody depressing.

Where once the great John's Flaming Hearth and Chris Churakos' Alps stood proudly on Military Road, we've now got an Olive Garden. Is that really anyone's idea of progress? They might as well have brought back Pizza Hut.

This past year I had the chance to travel a bit, visiting cities as large as New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, along with smaller towns like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Portland, Ore. Instead of getting worse, I found, those places were getting better. Instead of losing population, they were adding to it, or at least holding their own.

Why do you suppose that is? In my view, it's because of people like Vince Anello, Sam Fruscione, Francine Del Monte, Antoine Thompson and our current mayor, who has spent eight of the past 10 years in public office, first as a city councilman, then as mayor. All of these politicians voted to raise taxes here, making Niagara Falls the highest-taxed municipality in relation to property values in the whole United States.

I know some people say it's because of the Niagara Falls Reporter, but we don't have anywhere near the kind of juice necessary to screw things up this badly, a fact amply demonstrated by the results in this year's primary election.

We long have had a City Hall populated by outright criminals like Anello, who remains in federal prison, those who seem eager to do business with criminals, like the corrupt current administration, and the criminally stupid, about whom you can fill in the blanks for yourselves.

According to the Niagara County Board of Elections, just 2,432 people have all but decided who the next mayor will be in this city of 50,000. The current mayor already has purchased commercial time on the FOX News Network and likely will outspend his opponent in the general election by 20-1 or more.

In any event, it's getting more and more difficult for me even to feign a concern about this stuff anymore. Summoning up the proper amount of indignation needed to act like I care about things and people I actually have no interest in whatsoever is rapidly becoming a chore. And if the few who actually participate in elections here don't care about it, why should I?

They say people get the sort of government they deserve, and I've seen precious little in my 13 years here that would disabuse me of that notion.

Some of you will say, in the interest of decency and kindness, that if I don't like it, I ought to just get the hell out, as so many tens of thousands of other intelligent people have done over the past half-century. And I may just do that.

But for now, I think I'll just try and pay as little attention as possible to the clowns and morons and crooks and creeps who are running City Hall. Given our current mayor's non-relationship with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with his open hostility to state Sen. Mark Grisanti of Niagara Falls and state Rep. John Ceretto of Niagara Falls, that shouldn't be too difficult.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 4, 2011