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By Mike Hudson

Down at the local headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan -- I mean, the city Democratic Committee -- there's a move on to ensure that no black candidates will appear on the September ballot.

Grand Kleagle David Houghton (actually he's committee chairman) lodged challenges last week arguing that nominating petitions filed by incumbent City Councilman Bob Anderson, mayoral candidates Carnell Burch and Norton Douglas, and Council hopeful Herbert Lewis -- all of whom are black -- are no good.

When county Legislator Renae Kimble asked what was going on, Houghton responded by telling a Buffalo News reporter that she is a racist. He then piously quoted Rev. Martin Luther King and skulked away, hoping the whole thing might blow over.

Kimble said she wants Houghton and his sleazy tactics investigated by the state Division for Human Rights, and vowed to personally ask top Democrats in Albany and Washington to boycott any fundraising events hosted by the Niagara Falls committee.

She's smart enough to realize Houghton is simply a puppet for the real Grand Wizards, former state assemblywoman Francine Del Monte and Mayor Paul Dyster.

"This party is not minority-friendly, and you've got an administration that is not minority-friendly," Kimble said. "They failed to endorse Bob Anderson, the only African-American elected official in the city."

Problems began with the Democratic Party of Dyster-Del Monte after Malcolm Smith, the first black New York State Senate majority leader, boycotted a fundraiser that was being picketed by a women's rights organization. A strong advocate for civil rights, Smith said he didn't want to be in the same room with county Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera because of his treatment of women.

Dyster and Del Monte had no such qualms and danced merrily into the night. In May, Del Monte and Houghton denied an endorsement for eight-year incumbent Councilman Anderson, further fanning the flames of racial division. Anderson is used to such treatment, having been called a racist and worse by Democratic former mayor and current federal convict Vince Anello.

And last year, Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti sought to have charges filed against Anderson after he jokingly made reference to "a bottle of dago red," at a social dinner held at the Como.

If it weren't so tragic, it would almost be comical that the only two black elected officials in the county would regularly be forced to endure charges of racism leveled at them by white people who are supposed to be members of their own party.

He was against it before he was for it.

Mayor Dyster was so set against performing same-sex wedding ceremonies that he had the power to do so given to Grandinetti, who openly embraces gays. But old Feet Of Clay changed his mind after criticism in this paper and, presumably, from state Democrats in Albany.

He justified his change of heart on his Facebook page by playing a clip of John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech on religion.

"I am not the Catholic candidate for President," Kennedy said. "I am the Democratic Party candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters -- and the church does not speak for me."

Dyster essentially compared himself to Kennedy.

"Something I've been thinking about a lot lately ..." he wrote.

There was a time when the mayor compared himself to Barack Obama, but as the president's poll numbers tumbled, he kind of gave that up. His new incarnation as our martyred leader and one of the most popular presidents in American history led to the flip-flop fiasco and saw him wind up on the front page of The New York Times.

Leaving most people here scratching their heads.

The $50,000 grant given by the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. to Niagara University is to conduct a study of itself with an eye toward creating "working relationships with the owners of local hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses," according to news reports.

Look for the study to determine that the perfect spot for the university to launch its upgraded school of hospitality and tourism is the Comfort Inn at the Pointe, which is owned by Jimmy Glynn -- who's given millions to NU over the years -- and his son Chris, who has worked closely with USA Niagara's Board of Directors.

Sources close to the situation believe that, once the partnership is cemented, a second, much larger grant will be handed out for renovation at the hotel.

With the Glynns facing the loss of their Canadian Maid of the Mist operation, which has been put out to bid for the first time ever by the Ontario government, the hotel end of the family business may become increasingly important.

Dyster is, of course, excited. The Glynns have been generous in their support of him, and his passion for publicly funded "development" is well known. That he hasn't managed to create a single permanent, living-wage job here during his four years in office is something he hopes voters won't notice when election time rolls around.

Time will tell.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 2, 2011