LETTER TO THE EDITOR BY KEN COSENTINO: I Am Not Piccirillo’s Campaign Surrogate

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By: Ken Cosentino

Recently, the Niagara Reporter has released two articles referring to me as a “purported campaign surrogate” for mayoral candidate Seth Piccirillo. The first article originally referred to me as a “campaign member” and cited the “Get Out the Vote” event for which I was a co-host. The Niagara Reporter was quick to revise the words “campaign member” upon discovering the truth: That I am not at all involved with Seth Piccirillo’s campaign; but the damage was done and some hateful readers believed what they read prior to the corrections.

First of all, I am not anybody’s “surrogate.” I am a concerned citizen/parent/homeowner and business owner with just as much right to speak out as any other Niagarian who pays their taxes. I have lived in Niagara Falls, NY my entire life which to some pessimistic individuals, is a sad thing. Not to me. I have had several opportunities to leave our city and move to California and work in the film industry. Don’t believe me? At 23 years old, I worked for The Asylum (the company behind the “Sharknado” series); I was featured in an article in GQ Magazine for my work with this company. I have worked on scores of feature films and I have actively assisted in bringing films and television shows to Niagara Falls (most recently the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel), all without pay. So why do I do it? Because I love Niagara Falls. I originally decided to stay here because I felt that I could make a bigger difference in my hometown than in Los Angeles. Turns out, I was right. I choose to stay here, I’m not “stuck here.” As an artist, I see politics as another artistic medium. After all, politics is supposed to be defined as the “art of compromise.”

For years I have actively spoken out against any and all injustices and improprieties, without fear of how I would be seen; without fear for the backlash that comes with speaking out. First, I spoke out against New York State and their destruction of the state park. I am still fighting this disfigurement of the Olmsted designed Niagara Reservation, and sometimes I feel alone in this battle. I started the petition which led to the city resolution to ban the proposed Goat Island Lodge, and I spoke out against it at the state of the state city recap.  Then, I was famously told by former councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti that if I “don’t like it here, leave! You’re not a tree!” Yes, that was me. So when my good friend Bill Kennedy told me that he was planning on running for city council, I managed his political campaign for free. Spending countless hours of my life taking hits from people who were claiming he was “Dyster’s boy” was not fun. We were in fact running a grassroots political campaign for the people, by the people. In fact, Kennedy ran on the Working Family Party line, making his underdog win that much more of a victory for the people. To say that I did not have an ax to grind with former councilwoman Grandinetti would be a lie; I was waging a war with THOUSANDS of other locals who felt it was her time to walk off into the sunset. (In fact, I illustrated the below political cartoon which was also somewhat controversial at the time). I donated my time to said movement because, well, somebody had to.



Now let’s get to Seth and the Reporter calling me a “campaign surrogate.” If I was a surrogate, that would mean that I am working for Seth. I am not. “Surrogate” would imply that I take orders from Seth, that Seth tells me what to do, or that I am in anyway associated with his campaign (other than co-hosting the “Get Out the Vote” event). In fact, I came up with the “Get Out the Vote” event as a way for people who are not associated with his campaign to support him, and if you look at all of the other hosts of said event, they are not a part of Mr. Piccirillo’s campaign either! Here’s the thing: Any Niagarian can take it upon themselves to support the candidate whom they believe would make the best mayor. That’s our right, that’s how it works. This does not make them campaign surrogates, it makes them locals who support a candidate. I made some cartoons, that does not make me a surrogate. I sat down, face to face with Seth and asked him what I believe are difficult questions; this does not make me a surrogate. I took it upon myself to do these things in my free time. Why? Because I believe he will be a good mayor, despite his mistakes and despite all of the adversities that come with inheriting the problems from a former mayor.

Now I have been highly critical of mayor Paul Dyster. HIGHLY critical. I will never say otherwise because that is how I (and many others) feel. To be honest, I have been highly critical of Seth in the past as well. I believed in the nonstop propaganda about him being “Dyster 2.0” and I bashed him heavily for years. My change of heart came from the fact that I sat down with Seth, face to face, and I grilled him like a Rockburger. I thought he would crack but he did not. I asked him what his ideas were and he answered honestly. I began seeing his accomplishments as a beacon of hope, and I see that they heavily outweigh his shortcomings. He has brought us Jingle Falls, Pints for Progress and Festival of Slice. He has fixed up more houses than not. He is a local and he doesn’t serve large corporate interests; he wants to fix up our neighborhoods. So yes, I support him. Yes, I am vocal, as I have been about many other issues in the past. Truthfully, even if I wasn’t supporting Seth for mayor, I would be actively opposing mayoral candidate Bob Restaino anyway. I do not believe he would be a proper leader for our people. I do not believe he understands the struggle of our heavily impoverished areas; I do not believe that he can suffer along with those of us who hold 2 or 3 low paying jobs in the city. I have never seen him at a charity or community service event and I have been at more than I can count over the years (I have seen Seth at most of them). That is what guides my vote.

I hope that this clears up what a “campaign surrogate” is, because if we start to point fingers at everyone who is vocal about their beliefs, we start down a slippery slope. We have freedom of speech, not given to us by the Constitution. This is a right we are born with, and our First Amendment right is meant to protect what is ours. I think more people should speak out about what they believe in. The age of being able to disagree with someone without making it into a horrible, ruthless battle are over. I am not saying that I am not guilty of this myself but I probably receive much more of it than the average local due to being a public person. I take time away from my wife and newborn son to stand up for what I believe in (like how I am writing this instead of spending time with them). I do this because of my undying love for Niagara Falls and the people, even those who love to hate me.

Lastly, I would just like to speak on the negativity in our city. Again, not something that I am entirely innocent of myself, but bear with me; I am someone who has made independent movies, showcasing our hometown and our local talent. These movies have always had ultra-micro budgets. Instead of some locals saying “Wow! The movie you made for $5,000 is sitting on a shelf at Walmart, next to Blumhouse’s latest $5,000,000 movie!” we typically hear “You only make backyard movies!” Instead of the same people thinking “Wow! Your $3,000 movie has played in theaters and aired nationally in 101 markets during primetime television!” we typically hear “Maybe someday you will make a real movie.” These things are a matter of perspective and people are entitled their own opinion, however who wants to live like this? A change in perspective is a powerful thing.

It’s clear to me that we cannot move forward unless we work together. I believe Seth will unite people, I believe Bob will further divide us. I have chosen to support Seth because he has new ideas and he has good people surrounding him. He’s smart and well spoken. I would not support him if I believed that he was anything like mayor Dyster. That is my right. It is also my right to speak out against a candidate who I believe is unfit for the position of mayor (just as it is The Niagara Reporter’s right to constantly speak out against Seth as they clearly feel he is unfit to be mayor). Yet, if this article is published without any revisions, it will show that The Niagara Reporter is fair in presenting all sides of these arguments, and hopefully readers will also see a little more into why I support Seth (and why I am not a “campaign surrogate”). Thank you for your time.


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