It May be Early, But Restaino Clearly Eyeing Mayoral Run

Attorney Robert Restaino... looking down the road at possible mayoral run

Attorney Robert Restaino… looking down the road at possible mayoral run

      Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster won a third term in 2015, but barely.
      Dyster, who had been harshly criticized by former Council President Glenn Choolokian on his handling of city finances and the secretive Hamister hotel project among other development broken promises, defeated Choolokian by a mere 64 votes in the Democratic primary and garnered only 49 percent of the vote in the general election, defeating Republican John Accardo who received 39 percent of the vote.  But Dyster may not have won a third term without Choolokian’s help, the primary opponent who had been one of his strongest critics.
        For reasons best known to Choolokian, the primary loser waged a vigorous write-in campaign in the general election, getting 11 percent of the vote and pretty much handing the victory to Dyster. 
         Dyster came out on top. He’s back in the saddle again, and continues to do things his way, pushing through a $43 million state-of-the-art train station that finally has lurched to a start but is not attracting many passengers.
         So what happens next?  Dyster has three years to go, and it is much too early to predict his bid for a fourth term, although he seems to love walking around as the city’s top dog despite some of his development failures, starting with the much-hyped Hamister hotel project he championed with the state more than four years ago to jump-start downtown, that is still just a dream although ground has finally been broken.
         Enter Robert Restaino, a former judge, a former State Assembly candidate, and a man-about-town these days, talking to people about what needs to be done to make Niagara Falls better, to borrow a Trump phrase.
         Restaino, who is also a Democratic committeeman, says it is too early to say he will run for mayor in 2019, against Dyster or whoever, but in this case actions may speak louder than words.
          “I have been thinking about it for a long time,” Restaino told the Niagara Falls Reporter this week.  “I have been going to places where people are–coffee shops, senior centers, and neighborhoods, and in my opinion more people than not have breathed a sigh of relief that I might run.”
           Restaino quickly adds, “I don’t have a crystal ball when it comes to the future, but we need people to come together, to work together,” adding that’s what he thinks is needed to get the city moving again.
            Restaino, 57, says he believes the city has done a pretty good job on the tourism business, but says more is needed to find things for visitors and tourists to do when they come to Niagara Falls, to get them to stay in town for a few days beyond their visit to the mighty world wonder.
            The still-youthful and almost boyish former City Court judge believes there is a lot of development potential these days, mostly thanks to state-driven dollars, and he understands things take time, stopping short of harshly criticizing city development efforts.  But he says there is much more to do to build a strong city, to make Niagara Falls better.
           “I think we need to put ourselves squarely in the job market,” says Restaino, “especially in the industries of the day; we need to be in the hunt.  Also, we need to support families and neighborhoods,” sounding very much like a candidate even three years out.
           Restaino recently worked for the City Council, helping with the effort to codify the city charter, but he has left that behind and is now working as a prosecutor of child-support payers for the Niagara County Social Services Department.
            Restaino’s daughter, Danielle, was elected to the City Court in 2015, following in the footsteps of her father who had worked as a full time judge since 2002 before he was removed from his seat on the recommendation of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after temporarily jailing 46 people in his courtroom when business was interrupted by a ringing cell phone that no one would own up to.
           “I’ve admitted I made a mistake,” he says today, telling the commission at the time of the incident that he had been under stress in his personal life at the time of the incident.
           “I’ve never shied away from it, and I’ve owned up to it,” he says now.  “And I think most people realize that it doesn’t define me.  That’s not who I am.  I readily admitted my mistake.”  In all, he served more than 12 years as a judge in various courts, including Buffalo City Court.
            It is clear he has put the phone incident behind him, and is very much looking forward to focusing on the city he loves, and if a mayoral run is in the offing, he looks like he’s ready.
             “It is really never too early,” he says about a possible run in three years.
               Taking from his biography, Restaino has been involved with numerous human service agencies throughout the area, including the Niagara Charter School, the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club, the Health Association of Niagara County, the Music School of Niagara, Niagara Catholic High School, Community Missions, and the Niagara Falls Public Library.  He’s also a member of the Cristoforo Colombo Society and the Polish Heritage Museum.
              Restaino received his bachelor of arts degree (political science) from Niagara University and is a graduate of the UB Law School.
              As Restaino says, it is never too early to start, and while the next mayoral election is three years down the road, it seems clear that Restaino will continue to make the rounds, talk to people, take their pulse about what the city needs, and build on those efforts in what is clearly his goal:  to be mayor of Niagara Falls.
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