While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets it, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster clearly does not.
In his recent State of the State address, Cuomo railed against the tax-and-spend policies that have made New York one of the least attractive places in the country to do business. The governor's speech was delivered just four days after Dyster's 2011 property tax increase -- which averages 3 percent for Niagara Falls businesses and homeowners -- went into effect.
"New York property taxes are out of control and are destroying the state," Cuomo told a crowd of 2,000 in Albany. "High property taxes are hurting our entrepreneurs, farmers and homeowners."
Cuomo said that he would initiate a statewide property tax cap that would have made Dyster's tax hike illegal. Under Cuomo's proposed plan, any property tax increase would be limited to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is less, and even then would require a 60 percent majority vote of the people to go into effect.
Cuomo also targeted absurdities such as the creation of needless bureaucracies like USA Niagara Development when local economic development is already served by the county Industrial Development Agency.
"Economic development efforts are balkanized across 28 separate agencies and hundreds of public entities with economic development missions," he said.
For Dyster, who never met a government program he didn't like, the dissolution of USA Niagara would be a disaster, despite the fact that the agency has failed entirely in its efforts to create permanent private sector jobs in the city over the past decade.
"Obviously, when it comes to USA Niagara, it's advantageous for us to have the agency here and we'd like to see that continue," he said.
And while Dyster takes great pride and all the credit for taking properties like the former Rainbow Centre Mall off the tax rolls, and has engaged in open warfare with some of the biggest developers in the city, Cuomo said that private enterprise is the key to New York's future.
"We have to put up a sign that New York is open for business, we get it, and New York is going to be a business-friendly state," the governor said.
Dyster's big government philosophy is the polar opposite of that espoused by Cuomo in his speech. While Dyster believes government to be the solution to every problem, Cuomo made it clear that he believes government itself to be the problem.
Unlike Dyster, newly elected state Rep. John Ceretto embraced the concept of a downsized government articulated by Cuomo.
"We have to make real cuts and we have to start now," Ceretto said. "Increasing taxes is yesterday's solution, and it's no longer sustainable."
Newly elected state Sen. Mark Grisanti agreed.
"Gov. Cuomo has my support on reducing wasteful spending in New York, creating jobs and putting the people, not special interests groups, first," Grisanti said.
State Sen. George Maziarz, the elder statesman of Niagara County's Albany delegation, praised Cuomo's sense of determination.
"Gov. Cuomo was right on point with his vision of what needs to be done to put New York back on a path to fiscal stability," said Maziarz. "If New York is to regain its status as one of the best states in the country to live, work and raise a family, we must make fundamental changes in the way we do business."
With Maziarz, Grisanti and Ceretto now representing Niagara County in Albany, and Gov. Cuomo seemingly resolved to fight wasteful government spending, pie-in-the-sky projects like Dyster's mutimillion-dollar train station and the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway seem unlikely to get much state support in the foreseeable future.
Dyster's anti-business policies have generated negative publicity for the city around the state and the rest of the country. A recent article in Bloomberg's Business Week charged local government here with making "just about every mistake a city could make" as it detailed Dyster's continuing harassment of companies like Niagara Falls Redevelopment.
While the article provided an honest assessment of the state of the city, any prospective entrepreneur, developer or investor reading it would come away with a grim view of the business potential of Dyster's Niagara Falls. And entrepreneurs, developers and investors are precisely the audience Business Week is aimed at.
Anti-business initiatives such as limiting the height of downtown buildings to a stunted 80 feet and licensing owners of rental properties here do little to dispel the notion that Niagara Falls isn't interested in new money coming in. And raising taxes in what is already one of the most brutally taxed municipalities in the nation is nothing short of a kick in the teeth to those already trying to live or do business here.
No, Paul Dyster seriously doesn't get it. But Gov. Cuomo, Sens. Maziarz and Grisanti and Rep. Ceretto do, and that spells even more trouble for our current one-term mayor.
Somewhere out there, there's a candidate who realizes that private enterprise -- and not City Hall -- will be the key to the ultimate success or failure of Niagara Falls. That candidate need only step forward to be embraced by both the responsible leaders of our region and the voting public.
And come November, Dyster can join his predecessors like Anello, Elia, Galie and Palillo in the fading memory of the beleaguered Niagara Falls populace.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Jan. 11, 2011|