Restaino Putting Final Touches on New Cabinet

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Mayor-Elect Robert M. Restaino.


By: Tony Farina

There will be a lot of new faces around Niagara Falls City Hall next year as Paul Dyster exits the mayor’s office after 12 years and Robert ReStaino takes over the reins of government.

“Yes, there will be changes,” said the mayor-elect during a brief interview on Monday as he begins a final week of interviews to finalize his cabinet, adding there have been applications from far and wide, not just Niagara Falls.

Restaino, president of the Niagara Falls School Board and a former city judge, said he expects to be able to announce his team before Christmas.

“We should be ready by Friday, Dec. 20, to announce the new team,” said Restaino, saying that’s a target date although leaving open the exact timing of his announcement but emphasizing it would be before Christmas.  

” It is definitely an exciting time,” said Restaino, although cautioning that in his preparation to take over city government he has found much unfinished work connected to the budget to be dealt with and that is cause for concern to a city already struggling with financial issues.

But while the challenges are many, Restaino seems focused on fixing the cracks in the budget plan he has found as best he can as he prepares to lead the city to a better future, knowing full well that changes won’t happen overnight.

Restaino, a tested leader and vote getter, won a narrow Democratic primary over top Dyster aide Seth Piccirillo last June and then scored an overwhelming victory in November over three candidates including Republican Glenn Choolokian.

As we reported in this newspaper several years ago, Restaino had been thinking about the mayor’s office for a long time before he finally committed to making the run, saying he wanted to offer the citizens of Niagara Falls a vision for a better future.  He now has that opportunity but he’s taking over a city with serious financial problems, an unpopular garbage user fee enacted to keep the city from going under, and a still uncertain future when it comes to slot revenue sharing from the Senecas.

“I’m continuing to meet regularly with the Seneca leadership,” said Restaino on Monday, a far different approach than the one taken by the Dyster Administration which took its cues from the governor who has had two major gaming wars with the Senecas.

Native sources suggest in private conversations with this newspaper that a joint marketing strategy between Niagara Falls and the Seneca Nation would be a great place to begin.  The Seneca Nation employs more than 4,000 people at its three Western New York casinos and joining a world wonder city like Niagara Falls with an exciting casino venue in a major economic marketing strategy would seem like a good fit for all.

There are probably many more joint venture opportunities between the Senecas and the new administration and there is hope around town that those opportunities can come to fruition under Restaino’s leadership.

Of course, it would get off to a great start if the Senecas end their battle with New York State over sharing slot revenue as part of the gaming compact of 2002 and pay the $256 million an arbitration panel and a federal judge says it owes the state.  That would be mean an important infusion of revenue-sharing dollars to Niagara Falls and the other two host casino gaming cities (Buffalo, Salamanca) and certainly help Restaino in his efforts to rejuvenate Niagara Falls.

For now, all eyes will be on the team that Restaino is assembling to help him lead the city to that brighter future that he envisions.  It looks like we’ll get the first look at that team before Christmas, and then we’ll see how the new mayor can make it all work and bring Niagara Falls back from the walking dead and give citizens hope for better days to come.


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