HAMILTON: BOHICA, Does Niagara Falls Now Need A Control Board?

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Niagara Falls City Council


By: Ken Hamilton

Long before “LOL” and LWTF” were in the American lexicon, there was a saying in the Navy that went, “BOHICA!” The meaning was simple; it meant, “Bend Over, Here It Comes Again!” That thing that is coming again is talk about a garbage tax and there’s little stopping it now; the 3rd time will likely be the charm.

Does anyone remember this time last year when then-Spectrum News ran their Nov. 9th, 2018 story that said’ “Garbage user fee out of Niagara Falls 2019 Budget”? Well, we can hardly wait until Spectrum does a story on Nov. 8th 2019 that is likely to be similar – but the opposite.

Spectrum reported in that story that, “By a 4-to-1 margin, the Niagara Falls City Council voted to throw out a proposed garbage user fee increase. [Because Buffalo already had a garbage fee “it’s a tax”], the reporter likely mistakenly inserted the word ‘increase].” But it does go on to say that Mayor Dyster will add a 13% increase in property taxes to his budget.

As much as we want to blame things on the Mayor – and he does have a great deal of “culpability” – largely based upon the “gullibility” of the voters who put both he and his councils into office – the budget is the mayor’s “proposed” budget; the actually budget belongs to the council, and they have to take full responsibility for every nickel spent and every debt incurred.  

Remember, the 3rd time will likely be the charm. As far back as Aug. 9th, 2004, the headline in the Niagara Gazette by reporter Rick Pfeiffer was that ‘Falls may face higher taxes, fees.’ That fee was a garbage user fee.

In the 2004 case, according to Pfeiffer’s article, it was Wayne Drescher of the Drescher & Maleki accounting firm, the firm that audited the city’s 2003 financial operations that recommended the tax, er, fee – and this is even when casino money was coming in.

The biggest problem was that the amount of money that the city was collecting in property taxes didn’t then-cover the cost of even the public safety sector. The Gazette wrote that then-Mayor Vince Anello admitted that it was not a healthy situation.  It was one-time revenues, like the sale of properties, that had floated the city. Drescher is quoted as saying that, “Certain city support services may no longer require as many employees.”

But last week, having been a tad bit detached from the events at city hall due to my recent move out of Niagara Falls, I was surprised when I got to last week’s special public hearing meeting and found so many firemen and police officers there. In Niagara Falls, that group — along with teachers and school administrators – constitutes the wealthiest and most influential lobbying and voting bloc.  It was Pfeiffer that explained to me that the garbage tax would keep the public safety workers at current staffing levels; failure to pass would mean layoffs.

WKBW CH7 recorded  Jason Cafarella, President of Niagara Falls Fire Officers Local 3359, as saying, “The creation of a garbage user fee will cost residents $0.65 a day, in our opinion, is a small price to pay to make sure that the city is safe and we go home to our families at night.”  

The amount of money a person makes can distort reality. The problem is that compared to the salaries of the professional staff of the city there are no other average citizens – everyone else’s ability to pay anymore is far below that average. And while an attorney and fireman like Cafarella and his colleagues can go to actually safe homes to their families at night, that 65-cents might be the breakpoint for others who may have to pray for their families’ safety at night as they are on their way to their 3rd jobs.

In a speech written to be read at the council meeting on the garbage tax, senior citizen Joanne Gialloreto wrote, “If you pass this tax it will be forever memorialized as the Dyster Dump Touma Trash Tax,” warning that such won’t look good on their reelection campaign material.

But Councilman Ezra Scott, as are the others, is right when he said that it’s the garbage fee, tax increases or layoffs; none of which the city can easily tolerate.

If the citizens can tolerate it at all.

 It ain’t easy being a mayor nor a councilman in these times; and honestly, I can’t see why any of them wants to ruin for election at all. 

Therefore, we have to harken back to 2004 and the Anello garbage fee scare.  Again, the Gazette quotes the stalwart former mayor as saying, “A number of items that aren’t very palatable are going to have to be on the radar screen, because we don’t have many choices. Decisions have to be made and there will be a certain amount of pain.  But the alternative is for someone else to make those decisions, and if you want to see how that feels call [then-Buffalo] Mayor Masiello.”

Looking at Buffalo these 15-years later, instead, maybe it’s time for the next mayor to call the people that Masiello called? BOHICA!


**attorney advertising**

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