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Stage Set for Mayoral Debate Slugfest

Carl Cain is set to become the next mayor of Niagara Falls

By Tony Farina

It looks like the Oct. 25 debate between Mayor Robert Restaino and challenger Carl Cain, a retired deputy police superintendent, has all the makings of a rip-snorting political slugfest between two long-time Niagara Falls figures, one a lawyer and the other a cop.

Carl Cain is a retired Deputy Police Chief and Air Force Vet

But lost in the give and take over Cain’s personnel file that has suddenly become an issue is the overriding concern about the best road ahead for the Cataract City, with Restaino and Cain total opposites on development opportunities that may spell the future for a struggling city facing financial strain. Adding jobs and tax money, as proposed in NFR’s privately-financed digital campus plan, makes more sense on the surface than the mayor’s $150-million events center which has no financial backer.

But no major pow-wow with public input has been held on the issue and NFR’s partner has not been summoned to present the plan in great detail for public consumption. Instead the mayor fights to seize NFR’s property for his own proposed center.

Proposed data center (above) vs. Restaino’s Centennial Park project (below)

Besides the development divide is the question of transparency, and as we reported in a story with Council member Vincent Cauley last week, lawmakers need permission from the administration to talk to city department heads.

Think about that for a minute. If you call your council member about a problem in your neighborhood, maybe a crime issue, maybe a tree or a pothole, the elected city lawmaker has to go through the mayor’s office in order to talk to the city department head who may be tasked to address your problem.

In many ways, the tight hold the mayor exercises in dealing with the public and bypassing lawmakers in many cases, or leaving them out in the cold, is an example of the lack of cooperation that has long been what’s condemned Niagara Falls to second-class status despite the World Wonder attraction. Not working together but going their separate ways has been the history of missed opportunities.

Elected officials should be able to represent their constituents in all matters. That’s why they are there, presumably, because we live in a democracy and votes should count for something. One-man rule is not the way to advance the city’s best interests, whether dealing with development opportunities or addressing neighborhood concerns. And it is not a democratic process.

In the big picture, the mayor wants to call all the shots and keeps city lawmakers on the shelf, so to speak, because they might get in his way and do something he doesn’t like. Voters should demand accountability from the city’s chief executive, and let him know they want a voice in the city’s future and should not be beaten back by one-man rule.

Mayor Restaino is the Democratic candidate against Republican Cain and that gives him a big voter enrollment edge.  But despite that edge, the mayor is taking on Cain on his police personnel file, may be crossing the line of fair play at a minimum, to make sure Cain has no chance come November.

Mayor Robert M. Restaino.

So the stage is set for the debate Oct. 25 at the Niagara Street School, and voters can make their own decision as to who they want at the helm going forward. Obviously on paper, Restaino looks like the heavy favorite. But will his short fuse trigger a mistake that opens the door to Cain? Will Cain’s personnel file disclosures work against him?

We’ll all have to wait and see what happens on that Oct. 25 stage, in what clearly has become the centerpiece of the mayoral race this year.

Stay tuned.       


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