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By Mike Hudson

The best story to come out of Election Day wasn't that underdog Republican Johnny Destino nearly managed to beat Mayor Paul Dyster, who took the contest by fewer than 700 votes, despite outspending his opponent by better than five to one. Dyster was expected to win, he won, and 4,000 more people will have left the city by the end of his second term.

It wasn't even that incumbent city Councilman Bob Anderson once again was the top vote getter in Niagara Falls, outpacing the wounded mayor 6,984 to 4,756 -- three times the margin by which Dyster squeaked past Destino. The sleazy Dyster machine stooped so low as to run a full-page ad in the Niagara Gazette showing Anderson in apparent support of the mayor and unsuccessful Council candidate Alicia Laible, despite the fact that the local Democratic Committee controlled by the mayor refused to endorse him.

Anderson was dumbfounded by the political dirty trick, and registered his anger with the Gazette and spoke to an attorney about the matter. If he had run for mayor, he'd have won. Not even the fact that the people elected Glenn Choolokian, creating a three-to-two anti-Dyster majority on the city council ranks as the top Election Day story in my book, even though that majority should go a long way toward thwarting the mayor's tax-and-spend policies.

No, for my money, the best Election Day story this year took place near Ninth Street and Walnut Avenue when a 56-year-old man was robbed at knifepoint by two boys he described as barely in their teens while walking home after proudly casting his vote for Dyster.

The boys first asked the man for a "five," but he ignored them. They began following him and confronted him with a box cutter, which they held to his stomach, demanding cash. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a measly $7, which he handed over.

Not satisfied with the haul, one of the boys reached into the man's back pocket, taking his wallet.

Now it was the victim's turn. He followed the boys, telling them there was no money or credit cards in the wallet, so they might just as well give it back to him. They checked, and indeed, they did give it back.

And that's what we have come to in Niagara Falls, a place where an average citizen, walking around with seven bucks and no credit cards in his pockets, gets held up by a couple of feral children who absolutely should have been in school after exercising his sacred right as an American and participating in a meaningless charade that allows him to think he's actually "doing something" about the city's myriad problems.

That's democracy, boys and girls. Beautiful, ain't it?

The ramshackle brick apartment building at the corner of our block finally was condemned by the city, forcing the 12 or 15 drug dealers and dependents living there to find greener pastures elsewhere in the city. Over the summer the building became a popular stop for the local constabulary, who broke up craps games in the driveway, intervened in domestic disputes and made the occasional drug-related arrest.

It was always fun to come home from work on hot summer evenings to the sight of a mob sitting on stolen milk crates and dilapidated lawn furniture there on the corner, toddlers darting unsupervised into the street. Our neighbors were even so considerate as to share their taste in music with the rest of the block, blasting it from the speakers of an automobile sound system that undoubtedly cost more than the jalopy it had been installed in.

But all good things come to an end. About a week after the condemned sign went up, the people moved out en masse, and about a week after that, last week, the utility companies came and cut off the water, gas and electric. The street ran brown with mud from the various excavations.

I guess all that remains is for the city to leave the house abandoned and open long enough to allow the former residents or their friends and associates to come back and steal the copper plumbing. And then the building, which looks like it might have been pretty nice 100 years ago when it was built, can crumble until it becomes even more of a public safety hazard, in a process that has left whole neighborhoods here resembling the sort of spooky post-apocalyptic movie sets one sees in zombie movies.

An eternal optimist, I am hoping that Mayor Paul Dyster manages to turn the city around during his second term in a way he was completely unable to do during his first. I hope that crime drops to the point that there is no longer the need to cook the books and cherry-pick data to make people feel good, and I hope that residents and businesses come flocking back after the significant tax cuts needed to make such a thing happen do indeed happen.

Do I think any of those things will actually happen?

No, but isn't it pretty to think so?

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 15, 2011