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ANALYSIS By Dick Longwood

It's jobs, stupid.

Niagara Falls has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

This proves, obviously, that tax-and-spend Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster does not know how to create jobs.

Indeed, Dyster has come up with a deadly economic cocktail that effectively wards off potential investors with his mixture of high taxes, increased water rates, rising crime rate, unwillingness to cut expenses and extravagance with salaries, with the additional burden of plenty of Medicare and Medicaid expenses -- a surefire recipe that likely will foster unemployment and not business development.

And that's what has happened. And it's not getting better. It's getting worse.

In 1980, presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan asked Americans, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

The straight-talking communicator knew the answer was obvious to the average American. America was in such a bad place one could say it was like Niagara Falls is today.

Leading up to that election, double-digit inflation and an astronomically high unemployment rate left little to wonder at when millions of desperate, out-of-work Americans voted their pocketbooks, choosing Reagan and changing the course of history.

In 2011, Niagara Falls residents may ask themselves the same question: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? And will you vote to change the course of history in Niagara Falls?

But perhaps you don't think it is so bad.

Consider: In 2007, before Dyster took office, the unemployment rate was almost half what it is today. Four years later, Niagara Falls is at the top of the unemployment list, almost double the rate it was four years ago and with double-digit numbers.

As far as employment, Dyster's record is the worst in New York state. Here is an excerpt from a report in Buffalo Business First after three years of Dyster's job-creating efforts:

"Niagara Falls is saddled with the highest unemployment rate of any city or town across New York, according to a new breakdown of statewide data.

"More than 11 percent of the workforce in Niagara Falls was unemployed last month, the worst rate registered by any of the 98 communities analyzed by the New York State Department of Labor.

"The only other cities with jobless rates in double digits are Newburgh (10.1 percent) and Rochester (10 percent). Buffalo has the fourth-worst unemployment rate in the state, 9.7 percent.

"Orchard Park, at 5.9 percent, is the only Western New York community on the list of communities with the 10 best jobless rates in the state.

"The Albany suburb of Guilderland has the state's lowest rate, 5 percent."

Here are the statistics the state Labor Department has published, beginning with the year before Dyster took office:

2007: 6.8 percent

2008: 8.5 percent

2009: 11.4. percent

2010: 11.5 percent

It is expected that the 2011 rate will be 11.8 percent. As of this writing, the state unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, the national average is 9.1 percent, and Niagara Falls is hovering around 12 percent.

Yet Dyster's campaign literature touts his progress in creating jobs.

Dyster's job record is more troubling when you factor in the over $100 million in casino cash he could have used to create sustainable jobs in Niagara Falls. Instead, Dyster carelessly opted to dole out taxpayer money to billion-dollar corporations such as the Hard Rock, owned by the Seminole Nation of Indians, who were smart enough to purchase a jobs-making machine with their own casino cash.

There were some 2,500 voters in a low-turnout Democratic primary that gave Dyster a veneer of inevitability for the upcoming November election. While many of these voters obviously were people connected to Dyster, literally suckling the teat of the current administration, the media seems to have spun this as the voters want Dyster to have a second term to finish his good works.

Somehow, the prevailing wisdom is that giving four more years to Dyster just for the sake of continuity miraculously will turn the city around.

But is it true?

Will the 28,000 electors qualified to vote in the general election let just 2,500 Dyster supporters vote him in so that the chosen few can retain their government jobs, consulting contracts, government grants and legal bills as a payback?

That remains to be seen.

One hopes that maybe voters will choose independent mayoral candidate Johnny Destino, who has his own take on Niagara Falls' jobless rate.

"Despite receiving more than $100 million in casino and Power Authority money, job creation has been nonexistent in our city," Destino said. "Our unemployment rate is 33 percent higher than the national average and over 60 percent higher than the New York state average, with no relief in sight."

He said, "You can't place all the blame on the poor national economy. Cities such as Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton have seen population increases as the exodus in Niagara Falls continues.

"Every dollar spent by my administration for economic development will be devoted to creating long-term, sustainable, living-wage jobs that will put our people to work and bring home thousands more who have been forced to leave for lack of opportunities."

Dyster and his supporters, of course, have put their spin on the Niagara Falls jobless rate by blaming the national economy. If this really were the case, why is the Niagara Falls jobless rate worse than the state average or the national average?

The fact is, most communities in the United States did not receive $100 million in casino cash, nor do they have a natural wonder in their backyard, and not only did Dyster not create any jobs, he actually lost jobs.

The objective of the casino-cash distribution is to create sustainable jobs. The reality is, in four years Dyster has not created any sustainable jobs.

Many Dyster supporters point to Norampac's expansion here as proof that Dyster just needs more time to do his good works.

But Dyster did not bring those jobs. The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, headed by Henry Sloma, was responsible for putting a package together that enabled Norampac to expand here.

On Dyster's Facebook page, he touts the success of the airport, writing, "Working on the Airbuses and 747s, having a lot of connecting flights is one of the draws. We certainly have the runway. Working to create as many local jobs as possible with every new project. Need to get our young people trained and otherwise work-ready, because there are jobs to be created."

It sounds great: Vote for a man who wants to get our "young people trained" and is "working to create as many local jobs as possible with every new project."

But Dyster did not have a single thing to do with the airport. He neither runs it nor has any input in its expansion or development, nor in the hiring of anyone connected to it. It is run by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Dyster had nothing to do with the growth of the airport in recent years. The credit belongs to the IDA, the NFTA and Republican state Sen. George Maziarz. That's who got this done. Dyster was putting money into a train station.

Many politicians grab credit they don't deserve, and Dyster boldly touts these projects among his supporters. Dyster seems to get away with spinning yarns like his claim to have been a nuclear arms negotiator because no one other than the Reporter is willing to call him on his fabulous tales.

Take the Niagara County Community College Culinary School. It may be a good project. That is debatable, since it is a government-funded, tax-free business competing with private, over-taxed businesses in the struggling downtown tourist core.

Dyster grabbed credit for it, although the culinary school was done almost singlehandedly by NCCC president Dr. James Klyczek.

Finally, consider the Holiday Market and the Hard Rock concert series. While they may be nice events, they do not provide sustainable jobs. They are seasonal at best, and at worst one is prompted to ask why Dyster is subsidizing no-name developers and billion-dollar corporations for what amount to frivolous parties on the taxpayer dime.

It boils down to the question Reagan asked Americans: Fellow residents of Niagara Falls, are you better off today than you were four years ago? Do you want more of the same tax-and-spend Dyster administration?

The choice is yours.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 11, 2011