How I spent my summer vacation


As a freshman councilman, part of my learning curve in this city is to understand the inner workings of city hall. My job is to be a strong financial watchdog for residents. This requires a sharp understanding of the processes that impact residents and the departments that fill those needs. For this reason, I spent four mornings of my first week of summer vacation shadowing different departments to see what the people in those departments do. It was an eye-open- ing experience to say the least.

For this reason, I spent four mornings of my first week of summer vacation shadowing different departments to see what the people in those departments do. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.


My first morning, I joined the Clean Neighborhoods inspector on her morning routes. For those not familiar with this initiative, Clean Neighborhoods is a function of the Department of Public Works (DPW). When you call the city to complain about trash piling in an alley or a lot that hasn’t been mowed in ages, the Clean Neighborhoods inspector is the one who investigates the situation. The first approach is to notify the property owner through a code violation notice left on the door and engage him or her in remedying the situation. If this fails to work in a reasonable amount of time, then the city performs the cleanup work and adds the service cost to the property owner’s tax bill.

From my observation, this is an overwhelming job for the one person who is tasked with these inspections and subsequent follow-through. We have a significant number of properties and areas in the city to cover, as more people are using alleys and other places for dump refuge. These are issues we need to consider from many angles (garbage collection, etc.) if we want to maintain a healthy, vibrant community.

DPW itself was an impressive group. These are hardworking individuals who do try to do as much as possible with sometimes minimal resources. During my walk through, I saw significantly old equipment that is showing its age. Now, these DPW employees do an amazing job of keeping this equipment going. As someone who restores old vehicles myself, they really know how ensure that what equipment they have is serviceable as soon as possible following break-downs.

However, it’s frustrating for them and residents when a wood chipper or another piece of equipment is out of service and they’re unable to respond to a request. As equipment ages, this is happening more often. For the money this city has contributed to sculptures, statues, or other special projects, I would much rather see funding applied toward purchasing new equipment that keeps DPW running smooth . . . and our residents happier.

Another point I learned with DPW is that they truly desire more training. Currently, its knowledge that’s passed down from senior employees to new hires. Now, institutional knowledge is wonderful. However, there are also new techniques being taught that could benefit this department and residents, such as those related to snow removal. These are issues I would support as a council member.


One of my mornings was spent with the ZOOM Team. This is a multi-department effort to make a difference in targeted neighborhoods. There are representatives from police, fire, code enforcement, DPW, and the SWEET team. On this particular morning, we were also joined by interim City Administrator Nick Melson and a representative from the John Duke Senior Center who passed out coupons to residents.

The ZOOM team selects one neighborhood at a time, and walks through it to un- derstand the needs of the residents, pinpoint problems, and essentially identify areas in which concentration is needed. They interact with the residents, asking questions to understand the area’s needs. The morning I joined them, they were visiting the Highland Avenue neighborhood.

I have to say I was impressed by this collaborative effort. I’m anxious to see what types of resolutions come forth from the conversations they had and the observations they made during the course of the tour.

Code Enforcement

Almost everyone who lives in or visits Niagara Falls outside of the outlying tourism and retail districts sees the dilapidated conditions of many structures in this city. Witnessing the impact of these boarded up buildings and crumbling infrastructure were two motivating factors that led me to run for city council.

As I traveled around the city with the code enforcement officers, the people who are tasked with ensuring that properties are up to snuff and safe for occupancy or condemned, I learned a few key concerns with the department. One, they need more help in addressing this ever growing problem of derelict houses. Second, they need more authority, or “teeth” to enforce these codes. These are matters I intend to look into further as this is an issue that impacts all residents in terms of safety, diminishing property values, and overall quality of life.


While I was not able to spend as much time as I would like with our Information Technology team, I did learn that they’re a small crew attempting to do a lot with very little support. Our city’s future is dependent on technology improvements to ensure greater efficiency and responsiveness at city hall. Hopefully this is an area we might be able to address further with the NYS Financial Restructuring Board.

Overall, this was a worthwhile opportunity for me to immerse myself in a few aspects of what it takes to operate the city. The knowledge I’ve gained will benefit residents as I vote on budget requests and other resolutions put before NF City Council.

More key, I learned that we do have some very dedicated and hard-working individuals working for our city. They are unsung heroes who don’t often get the praise they deserve as they work to the best of their abilities given what resources they have. I look forward to working with other departments to understand their needs as well.

I want to thank the department heads of each department I shadowed as part of my vacation. You and your teams were very gracious and patient, allowing me to ask questions and comprehend what you are tasked with doing. I also want to thank City Administrator Nick Melson, who was very cooperative and lent his support to me during my “field trips.”

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
.wpzoom (color:black;}