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GUEST VIEW By Jim Hufnagel

"A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns." -- Mario Puzo.

Eight million tourists a year visit Niagara Falls, yet the city of Niagara Falls has one of the highest rates of poverty in New York state.

The obvious difference between the city of Niagara Falls and just about every other city in the country is waterfront access. San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, New York, Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa -- all prosperous, vibrant cities, capitalizing on their waterfronts.

Niagara Falls? Cut off from 80 percent of its waterfront by the Niagara Power Project, which sends the bulk of its hydropower out of state, and Niagara Falls State Park, where tourists park, eat, sightsee, buy souvenirs, and then leave the area on a dedicated parkway without ever setting foot or spending a dollar in the city.

The reason the Puzo quote is appropriate to the following discussion is that the brute force with which Albany separates the city from its waterfront on the Niagara River, blockading the park with hard physical barriers such as parkways, signage and parking booths, pales in comparison to the soft campaign staged by New York State Parks, Delaware North, Maid of the Mist, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. (NTCC) and the Niagara Gazette, joining forces in a coordinated conspiracy of websites, tourist brochures, newspaper articles and pricing strategies designed to deprive the local community of the economic benefit commensurate with hosting a world-class tourist attraction.

The Code of the The Society of Professional Journalists, one of the oldest and most prestigious organizations representing the profession, sets forth the following standards:

"Journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived, remain free of associations that compromise integrity or damage credibility, and shun political involvement if it compromises journalistic integrity."

The New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism is even more specific. Section 68 of the policy, Travel Journalism, states, "No journalist may report for us about any travel service or product offered by a family member or close friend."

Sadly, Don Glynn would never work out at the Times.

For decades, the Niagara Gazette and its reporter Don Glynn have flouted the standards of the profession, flagrantly violating journalistic ethics. As brother to Maid of the Mist owner James Glynn, Don Glynn personifies both the perception and reality of conflict of interest each and every time he writes in the Gazette about the Niagara Falls State Park or the Albany politicians and bureaucrats who control it.

Not once has Glynn or the Gazette ever printed a disclaimer or disclosure, or at the very least bordered his articles and opinion columns with the words "paid advertisement."

It's important to realize that Glynn's writings are not for the edification of his readers. Actually, they target his family's Albany benefactors, serving up strokes to State Parks bureaucrats in anticipation of the occasions when the Glynn family seeks approval of strategic plans to augment their Maid of the Mist tourism empire with a renovated Observation Tower, widened bus lanes, a refurbished Prospect Point, or renewal of a 40-year, no-bid sweetheart contract.

Fellow Gazette reporter Mark Scheer's Jan. 22 article ran the subtitle, "Niagara Falls is a tourist destination known the world over. Shouldn't the American side be in better shape by now?"

At least, that's what he asked in his headline. For some reason, he failed to pose that very question to the leaders he interviews for his article, Carl Paladino, Richard Hastings, Dan Vecchies, Sam Ferraro and Henry Sloma.

Not one of them as much as mentions Albany's domination of the local tourism industry, each offering the standard fare of explanations for our economic malaise like high taxes and excessive regulation, which affect the rest of New York state at least as much as they do us.

Nevertheless, a sure sign of spring in the Niagara region, as reliable as the robin and the crocuses in the front yard, is Don Glynn touting the "Discovery Pass" in his column.

The Discovery Pass, as described in the official "Niagara USA Visitor Guide for Niagara Falls," an NTCC publication, describes the pass as "your ticket to Niagara Falls State Park attractions. Pass holders gain discounted admissions to the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, Niagara Adventure Theater, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Aquarium of Niagara and Niagara Scenic Trolley."

For some inexplicable reason, the NTCC locates the aquarium in the state park.

If you happen to flip past the Discovery Pass ad in the NTCC brochure without noticing it, that's not a problem, because descriptions of these six preferred attractions on the succeeding pages prominently display the symbol of a hand clutching the magical passport to Albanyland.

Here is a list of local attractions that are not allowed to participate in the Discovery Pass offer: Castellani Art Museum, the NACC, The Rapids Theatre, the Niagara Wine Trail, the Lockport Canal Cruises, Little Italy on Pine Avenue, Fort Niagara, Fatima Shrine, Artpark, Ransomville Speedway, the Sanborn Farm Museum, Murphy Orchards, the Van Horn Mansion, Wilson Harbor, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, and others. Albany would really just rather the 8 million visitors not wander off and spend any money outside of their Niagara Falls cash cow.

The Discovery Pass is front and center at NiagaraFallsStatePark.com, the official Niagara Falls State Park website created by Delaware North, the Buffalo multinational fast-food corporation that maintains several food booths and a restaurant in the park in direct violation of the Frederick Law Olmsted plan and to the extreme detriment of local dining establishments.

You can revel in the pictures and descriptions of the despoilage of Olmsted's masterpiece at the website, but don't dare copy a photo or filch any of the words you read there. Delaware North slapped copyright protection on the natural wonder, inspired no doubt by the "majestic beauty and humbling power of Niagara Falls, fostering a sense of awe and wonder."

To the 8 million tourists who will visit Niagara Falls this year: The Albany/Maid/NTCC/Gazette/Delaware North cartel hopes you enjoy your Discovery Pass. Make sure you stick to the six attractions, and don't stray from the confines of the park. The city is dirty and dangerous, and there's nothing to do there anyway.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Feb. 22, 2011