New Council Chairman Looks Ahead in Niagara Falls

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Councilman Chris Voccio


By: Chris Voccio

Niagara Falls City Council Chairman

The recent election brought us a new Mayor and a new Council. While only one new Councilman was elected, the change of that one seat resulted in the first Republican majority City Council in Niagara Falls since the election of 1981, the year Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. 

While the jury is out on what that really means, I was asked to write a column explaining what I thought the people of Niagara Falls would see as a result of this change. Please understand that what I write here is solely my opinion. So now that we have a newly constituted Council, what can we expect?

You may have seen that the Council is seeking candidates for numerous boards and commissions. We want to find citizens who want to make a positive impact on Niagara Falls and have a background suited to serve on these various boards, regardless of their political affiliation. Campaign contributions and political party membership should not determine who is or isn’t considered for a board.

Another aim is to give our Council meetings a little more dignity. We simply can’t allow a small number of misguided souls to pollute the public discourse, unnecessarily prolonging meetings and preventing many of our good citizens from attending our meetings because they are turned off by a few uncouth people. We must raise the bar for what is acceptable behavior at Council meetings.

I plan to use my gavel, should it become necessary, to keep order in the meetings, and a new set of public speaking rules, aimed at keeping some sense of decorum in the Council Chambers, should help in this effort.

You may have heard that we’ve scheduled a few Council in the Community meetings. These quarterly meetings, spread across the city, are nothing new. But we will find new ways to promote them to reach more people and engage a greater number of citizens with their government.

The new Mayor and his administration will have a different relationship with the Council. That’s already evident. I visited Mayor Restaino in his office the day after he was sworn in, and it was the first time in my two years as a Councilman that I entered the mayor’s office.

Beyond improved relationships, I’m certain the new Mayor will not present the Council with some of the things that the previous administration presented us, so measures that passed in the past will likely not even come before the Council. That’s a good thing.

For instance, previous Councils have ratified union agreements that, in my opinion, were bad deals for taxpayers. I believe that the current Council will not be put in that position, so those kinds of agreements will not be approved, because they will not be presented in the first place.

With a Mayor and a Council aiming for greater government transparency, more effective government and a new sense of fiscal responsibility, and with a more welcoming approach to economic development, I believe citizens will see improvements in the city as we move forward.

Niagara Falls didn’t get to where it is overnight. It took decades to decay to this point. But it won’t take decades to see a turnaround. Visible signs of improvement should appear in the near future. Of course, challenges abound, and the naysayers and Facebook warriors will criticize everything. That’s OK.

But my prediction for 2020, and beyond, is a more unified city government, working in bipartisanship to build a stronger and more prosperous Niagara Falls.


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