Lack of communication problem for city Council, Tompkins says


Freshman City Councilman Kenny Tompkins says his first two months on the job have been something of an education. Coming from a long background in private business, he says the lack of communication between Council members has come as a bit of a surprise.

“I’ve been disappointed in a few things,” he told the Niagara Falls Reporter. “Some of my colleagues are great, and some of them won’t return a phone call.”

Tompkins ran his campaign last year on the proposition that the city is a business, and should be run like one.

“I mean, you’re talking about making decisions that will affect people’s lives, about spending millions of dollars,” Tompkins said. “Am I wrong to think it would be better to talk about it first?”

His family’s history of doing business in the city spans nearly a century. His maternal grandparents opened Fratello Brothers grocery in 1916, while his father operated C&I Roofing until his retirement in the 1990s. Tompkins’ uncle Mel owned Thompson Home Improvement, while his other uncle, Bob, owned Saraceni Drug Store.

Today, his own brother Will carries on that family tradition as a co-owner of Pine Pharmacy in City Market, while other brother, Dan, owns Wheatfield Physical Therapy.

Growing up in such an environment, it was only natural that Tompkins would enter business himself. He works as operations manager at H.W. Bryk & Sons. In his work, he negotiates contracts, make purchases, and ensure that his working team is fully trained.

“I compare what I do to what is missing in our city: common business sense,” he said. “As a purchaser, I see how easy it can be to spend money on things that look good at the moment. As a smart purchaser, I routinely analyze the future impact of each expenditure to ensure long-term feasibility.”

Tompkins’ main campaign promise, and his first piece of legislation as a Council member, was to end health care benefits for city councilmen, who serve part time. The measure passed, only to be struck down by veto from Mayor Paul Dyster.

“I can tell you that absolutely nobody on the Council saw that coming,” he said. “Everyone was as shocked as I was.”

To say it was a rude awakening would be an understatement. Dyster was roundly criticized in the local media, and by the public on numerous Niagara Falls Facebook forums, for killing the cost cutting measure.

Still, Tompkins said, he remains optimistic. He reiterated a theme he used throughout his campaign – that he is not a politician, has no self interest in serving on the Council, and isn’t looking to spend the rest of his life at City Hall.

“When I was running, my only thought was the good of the city,” he said. “It’s still like that. I can tell you in all honesty that I haven’t thought about running for a second term for one second.”

This refreshing attitude is what sets Tompkins apart from the dealmakers and climbers who have personified City Hall in recent years.


Niagara Falls Council Member Kenny Thompkins hopes the city council will be more frugal with taxpayers’ money.

“I’d like to see my kids stay here, but what would they be staying for?” he said. “I would like to see all of our children enjoy a vibrant future here. This city was built on blue-collar individuals choosing to live here; it’s time we return to that mindset.”

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