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Dyster Policies, Approach to Governance never really made a lot of sense

Next month, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster will be commencing his 10th year in office. In light of the dismally high rates of crime, poverty and taxation here in the city, and now last week’s announcement by Bankrate that it’s the worst place in the entire country to retire, how much of it can be laid at his doorstep?

Mitigating factors could be that when Dyster took office in January, 2009, the nation was just coming out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. In fact, unemployment was yet to begin coming down from its peak 9.9% until April of 2010, and annual federal budget deficits would not come in under a trillion dollars until fiscal year 2013.

In addition to the tanking economy, Dyster had to deal with not one, or two, but three new governors over the course of his first two years in office. And it’s his relationship with the third one, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that’s turned out to be problematic, but that will be discussed shortly.

Attaining a B.A. in political science in 1976, an M.A., also in political science, in 1979 and a PhD five years later, in 1984, means that the future mayor spent the first 12 years of his adult life going to school.

In fact, he liked the academic life so much, he stuck around DC for another ten years, until 1994, as an assistant professor at Catholic University of America in his chosen field, political science. But alas, assistant professors didn’t make very much – the average pay of an Ivy League assistant professor in those days hovered around $30,000 a year – and even less at a religious-based institution in one of the lower-paid disciplines, political science.

With a burgeoning family on the way, it’s a good thing his wife Becky had top security clearances at the Defense Department to research navigation systems for nuclear-tipped cruise missiles which, after all, was a growth industry at the time, with Ronald Reagan in the process of winning the Cold War thanks, mostly, to his top guy Paul Dyster staring down the Russkies on the other side of the negotiating table.

Being a little fish in the big pond of Washington, DC must have been starting to wear thin on the man who had devoted his life to the study and teaching of political science – so the Dysters packed up their bags and moved to Niagara.

Falls, that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.

Actually more like “pot-holed streets, corrupt politicians.”

Dyster’s journey to king of the hill here in the city of Niagara Falls was not without its setbacks. He lost in his first bid to get elected mayor. One term as a city councilman, from 2000-2003, was apparently sufficient real-world, non-academic experience to take on the big job. Sorta like Obama.

After that loss, Dyster concentrated on joining the boards of various environmental groups, some real (Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper) and some completely made up (Niagara Falls Waterfront Revitalization Task Force), serving as a Greenway Commissioner and building his brewery business.

Looks like it’s starting to sink in with Mayor Dyster – after a decade in office, crime, taxes, poverty are still out of control.

Entering the mayor’s office determined to reach out to entities bigger and better than us, Dyster reached out to Buffalo and Albany interests, and must have done his homework when it came to what made Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had a similar background, heading straight into government out of academia, tick.

And that was, throw big money at the big campaign contributors to build the big projects that, as a rule, come in overbuilt, overbudget, overly government-subsidized and under an acceptable level of quality.

The question to ask is, what’s the impact of the Public Safety building on Main Street, the new Amtrak train station and the new Hamister hotel going to prove to be on crime, poverty and taxes? Can Dyster and Cuomo build their way out of the city’s dire circumstances?

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