HAMILTON: Council Trash Talking Fee for Garbage!

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By: Ken Hamilton

Not long before she left the city, former City Administrator Donna Owens stood before an angry crowd of citizens that were gathered inside of the Cadille Post in the City Market to discuss the new convoluted refuse program for which she was largely responsible. Businessman Craig Avery had just finished haranguing her on its shortcomings. 

Personally, I liked Owens; but there was never a doubt in my mind that her job was over her head – a head that Avery had just handed to her. I felt sorry for her as I sat in the audience tapping away at my laptop, recording the proceedings. Owens’ eyes had momentarily dropped to the floor in a feeble attempt to deflect the criticism. When she raised them, she fixed them on me, swallowed, took a deep breath and then said to wit, “It was one of your citizens who wanted the new program.”

I said nothing as she called me out; and yes, I did often pushed for greater recycling than anyone else  – particularly to get the Niagara Falls Housing Authority to get their residents to participate in it – but the program that she had come up with wasn’t the program that I pushed or wanted. Obviously, few other citizens wanted it then, and fewer still wants it now.

An interesting item appeared on the Facebook page “Taxpayer Union NF” that pointed to some really salient points. It started off by saying that it was time for Niagara Falls taxpayers to organize; and then it went on to say that, “… the use of casino revenues has covered up the financial mismanagement of the Dyster administration for the last 12 years. The problem has been compounded by an ever-changing Council majority comprised of the uninformed, the disinterested and the selfish.”

Little argument can be made against that, right?

But then it went on to say that, “We have had councilmembers who have tried to do the right thing. They always seem to be in the minority.” It is with such that I have to take exception; and as a result, I have to quote Margaret Mead’s saying that, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Obviously, that small minority of city council people weren’t committed enough; and by their resignation by giving in, by their omission to fight to the finish, we’d have to say that they were in commission with those who have brought this city of which former Mayor Jake Palillo once told me that produced more garbage per capita than any other city in the state, to the point where it is now.

There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the city is indeed unmanageable by anyone – including all of those who are running to lead it. Most have bragged that they have lived here all of their lives and therefore have all of their lives been a part of the problem.

Cut them some slack – most of the residents who are ow up in arms about the prospects of paying a garbage tax have likely been here all of their lives as well; ergo, a part of the problem. The trouble in which we find ourselves can certainly be placed, not at the feet of a minority of stalwart citizens who have tried and occasionally effected positive changes, but at the ‘featless feets’ of a majority of us all. 

In one of the few moments of Paul Dyster’s seemingly very long tenure as mayor, there’s but a few times that I took some pride in what he said. The greatest moment was when the evidently feckless Councilman Charles Walker harangued him on the discombobulated rollout of the costly tote program – one of the few times that Walker proved that he even had testicles.  Dyster leaned back in his seat at the executive table in the council chambers and loudly snapped back at Walker, shouting, “Well, you voted for it!”

Everyone at the dais that night was democratically voted-in, as was the mayor at the table. So, in a sense, when Walker and his posse voted it in, we, all Niagarans, voted it in.

It was Dan Davis’ Niagara Community Forum page that encouraged the council to ask for help from the New York State Restructuring Board.  Eventually, they did come. But as I did when the former Trinity Baptist Church emeritus pastor Rev. Glenn Raybon said to me in exasperation when criticizing people who hire professionals to pull them through a problem, but then refuses to listen to a word that they said, we both just shook our heads. Within our hearts of hearts, we both knew that we all had often done likewise.

Hopefully, whether the casino money comes or not, the voters of the city will be electing a “team” of representatives to act on their behalf.  Personally, and I reiterate, none of them can get the job done short of a state hard control board.

Whomever is the “Taxpayer Union NF” did get most things right on their Facebook page, especially if was to get the taxpayers to grow a pair, get organized and to get the administration and council to throw up their hands and request that control board from the state.

With the city council now talking trash about a garbage fee, I bet that Owens wished that she had one when she was administrator.


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