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It was a big win for state Sen. Mark Grisanti and Rep. John Ceretto.

And it was a big loss for USA Niagara Development Corp.'s Chris Schoepflin and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.

"It" was the decision handed down by Leecia Eve, a state attorney working for the Empire State Development Corp., last week that said the arbitrary borders set up by USA Niagara 10 years ago could be expanded to include the Aquarium of Niagara or anyplace else in the city where tax breaks, grants and loans might do some good.

"After reviewing the various incorporation materials forming USAN, it appears that the territorial boundaries were imposed administratively by USAN almost a decade ago to concentrate its resources in the downtown area of Niagara Falls," Eve wrote in an Aug. 3 letter. "As such, the geographic boundaries focusing USAN efforts may be expanded by an action of the USAN board of directors."

Grisanti and Ceretto had argued for an expansion of the zone at a meeting of the USA Niagara board of directors on July 19. They were told that it was not legally possible. The goal was to widen the area and offer economic assistance to the aquarium and other Niagara Falls businesses.

Dyster, who has raised property taxes here by 4 percent during his first term in office, was fearful of any decline that might make the $100,000 salaries he hands out to his department heads like candy at Halloween seem a bit extravagant.

And Schoepflin, who also relies entirely on tax dollars to put bread on his table, agreed.

The incestuous relationship between USA Niagara and the Dyster administration has been laid out on the pages of the Niagara Falls Reporter many times over the past four years. Numerous Dyster supporters and campaign contributors to the Dyster machine have been rewarded splendidly with grants, loans and tax breaks by the state agency. At the same time, developers who have not toed the Dyster line have been excluded from the gravy train.

State Sen. George Maziarz has been a vocal critic of both the agency and the Dyster administration.

"To me, every cent of our economic development dollars should be equated to how many permanent, private-sector, living-wage jobs are going to be created," he said. "I don't know if the mayor goes into coffeeshops around this city. I don't think people think it's working, and the statistics bear that out."

Maziarz is correct, as he often is. The stumblebum approach to economic development by the Dyster administration and USA Niagara is ripe for reform, and Grisanti and Ceretto have taken a good first step.
Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 9, 2011