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By Mike Hudson

Niagara Falls City Councilman Bob Anderson is throwing his weight behind the "Empower Niagara" legislative proposal that awaits approval in Albany. The "Empower Niagara" legislation seeks to appoint a Niagara County resident to the New York Power Authority Board of Trustees.

"As a member of the Niagara Falls City Council, I wholeheartedly endorse the 'Empower Niagara' legislation," said Councilman Anderson.

The Niagara Falls City Council is expected to vote on Councilman Anderson's resolution supporting the "Empower Niagara" initiative at the regularly scheduled Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011. While Niagara County is the top generator of power within the NYPA system, there is no local representative sitting on the seven-member NYPA Board of Trustees.

"The Niagara Power Project is a source of low-cost power. That power is an invaluable asset for new business and a required staple for current Niagara County businesses. We have to efficiently, and consistently, market this power for our customers. I have confidence that 'Empower Niagara' will work to address the best interests of Niagara Falls and Niagara County."

It long has been a contention of Niagara Falls and Niagara County elected officials, along with community leaders, that the voice of residents has been silenced due to a lack of representation on the NYPA Board of Trustees.

"Niagara Falls needs a local voice on the NYPA Board of Trustees. This representation will make Albany more accountable to the power and economic development needs of Niagara Falls and Niagara County. With representation and a genuine cooperative effort among our elected officials, I believe we can make the 'Niagara Initiative' a reality," said Anderson.

Funny story in the Gazette last week, about the mad quest to link the city of Niagara Falls to the Underground Railroad, despite the fact that the city did not exist during the period when the Underground Railroad was active.

The article was introduced with this mangled headline: "Consultants reveal details related to Underground Railroad interpretive center," leading readers to believe that something new had been discovered, that a single scrap of new information to link the city to large numbers of former slaves seeking freedom in Canada finally would emerge to justify spending $30 million on the project.

Said readers were sorely disappointed.

Instead we learned that the Underground Railroad Commission appointed by Mayor Paul Dyster hired a consulting group to help them spend $1.3 million in tax money looking for a history that doesn't exist.

We also learned that the commission has greatly expanded the timeframe in which the Underground Railroad previously was thought to have existed -- most historians place it between 1850 and 1860 -- all the way up to 1875, a dozen years after Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation and a decade after the Civil War ended.

Why would there be an organization helping escaped slaves reach freedom in Canada when they were already free in the United States? There wouldn't, and expanding the timeframe is clearly an excuse to take the project -- and the commission and consulting firms that profit from it -- far beyond the stated goals.

"This is not the final act," said Jane Rice, a representative with EDR Associates, one of the companies involved in the project's consulting team. "This is the beginning."

That's just what I was afraid of.

Did you get a copy of Dyster's jokey faux newspaper in the mail last week? I did, so he must be sending them to everyone.

The entire front page is dedicated to his efforts at promoting industrial development here, and he lists a half-dozen places where jobs have been created. Since it took up the entire front page, one must assume that he's proud of his efforts in this area, but when you read the articles and total up the number of jobs he claims to have created, the results are less than stellar.

According to Dyster himself, he's created slightly over 300 jobs in the past four years.

There are currently nearly 5,000 people collecting unemployment in the city, and about 35,000 of the city's 50,000 residents receive some form of government assistance. Dyster's boast of 300 jobs is a drop in the bucket compared to the catastrophic economic disaster that is Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The mayor's biggest worry is that he soon will be joining the ranks of the unemployed here, based on a record so lackluster as to be invisible. His feeble efforts at economic development have resulted in a net loss of jobs here over the past four years, a continuing exodus from the city on the part of the educated, job-holding class, and the further deterioration of our neighborhoods as he frantically tries to keep population artificially high by importing sex offenders, paroled ex-convicts and other undesirables to live side by side with respectable people.

His pretend newspaper provides further evidence of his desperation, a pathetic attempt to convince voters that what they see all around them isn't poverty, anger and despair, but actually a city moving boldly toward a greater tomorrow.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Sept. 6, 2011