PLAYING POLITICS: Restaino, Touma & Tompkins Work to Save Fireworks Only to be Rebuffed by Dyster

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By: Nicholas D. D’Angelo

Managing Editor

As many of you heard, the Niagara Falls City Council wisely voted against taxpayers  funding fireworks on July 4th.

For a city with a budget that is $12 million in the red, some things have to give and spending $25,000 of residents hard earned money for a fanciful display – fine and stirring as it may be – just wasn’t in the cards for our outgoing spendthrift mayor,

This was the second year in a row the council declined to fund them. 

And how wise the council was too since on June 28, just two days after the council declined to accommodate the expensive display, Niagara’s Choice Federal Credit Union stepped up to fund the fireworks – at no cost to taxpayers. 

Dyster rather than being shamefaced about trying to stick the taxpayers with the display when private business would pay for it, as usual tried to take credit for his foolishness.

He was quick to issue a press release :“Today, Mayor Paul A. Dyster announced that Niagara’s Choice Federal Credit Union will present the City’s 2019 Independence Fireworks Display at Hyde Park as previously scheduled. Following discussions with Mayor Dyster, the full-service, not-for-profit financial organization generously donated the $25,000 necessary to cover the full cost of the annual holiday display.”

There’s even more to the story.  Not only did we not need taxpayers’ money, as the spendaholic mayor would have had the council believe, but there were also others willing to fund the fireworks as well.

According to Council Chairman Andrew Touma and Councilman Kenny Tompkins, Robert M. Restaino, the current democratic candidate for Mayor, had contacted them even prior to the meeting on June 26th, 2019, and informed the council members that he, along with Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex, had raised the money to pay the entire $25,000 for the fireworks. 

Chairman Touma immediately contacted City Administrator Nick Melson, stating, “We have a group who is willing to donate the $25,000 to the City for the fireworks.” 

Melson asked who the group was. Touma said, “a group including Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex and Robert Restaino.”

When money is donated to the City it requires Mayoral approval.

According to Touma, it didn’t take long before he received a call back from Melson stating that, “Mayor Dyster is not going to approve the donation because he does not want to seem political.” 

He would have rather had taxpayers pay for it.

Of course Restaino went on to defeat Dyster’s hand picked successor, mini Dyster, Seth Piccirillo.

Touma told the Reporter, “It was like a slap in the face” to Chrysler.

Restaino, in the interest of seeing the fireworks go forward, was even willing to have his name not mentioned.

“I wouldn’t think it matters where the money comes from as long as it is clean,” said Tompkins. “While Dyster said he did not want it to seem political, he went out of his  way to make this political.” 

Curiously, and as if by magic, within an hour of Touma’s conversation with Melson, Dyster announced that Niagara’s Choice Federal Credit Union would sponsor the fireworks.

 “Bob called both Andy Touma and I before and after the council meeting on Wednesday,” said Councilman Tompkins. “From beginning to end, it was a bipartisan effort to save the fireworks for this community, yet for the second year in a row, for reasons that seem awfully political, the administration rejected Bob’s efforts to save the taxpayers and donate money.”

Restaino was candid when asked about the series of events after Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“This is the second year in a row that I have been asked by multiple council members to help and try to get the fireworks to go,” said Restaino. “Both times it was Republicans and Democrats on the council working together. I did everything I could to get the community their fireworks.” 

“Don’t forget,” said Tompkins, “that Dyster did not have fireworks in the budget he proposed last year. I guess it isn’t a priority until Bob Restaino offers to bail out the city.”  

Regardless, Niagara Falls residents can enjoy the annual fireworks at Hyde Park this year, despite the ineptitude of the Dyster Administration, thanks to a private donor who provided cover for years of reckless spending that has put Niagara Falls in the $12 million hole it’s in.  

Asked why the fireworks mean so much to him that he was willing to put his own money into it, Restaino responded, “It’s a tradition in our community to have fireworks at Hyde Park. I want my granddaughter to enjoy the same fireworks that I did as a kid.”

 Hopefully with a new administration, under the leadership of a new mayor, Niagara Falls residents can be spared unnecessary, manufactured drama, of whether there will be fireworks on the Fourth of July. It will truly be a new day for Niagara Falls.


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