Wishing well for Kristen Grandinetti as she leaves behind council, few accomplishments

This was a familiar site in council chambers. So much so that her colleagues almost passed a resolution to forbid smartphone use during council meetings.

By Joseph Kissel

Kristen Grandinetti never made it easy to like or admire her as a Niagara Falls city councillor.

Although she does ask relevant questions from time to time during discussions and presentations, even more so she manages to alienate nearly everyone with her disrespectful and seemingly incessant smartphone use during the rest of the meeting.

And while the warmth she radiates is clearly quantifiable honoring her neighbors and community members at council meetings, when she famously told filmmaker Ken Cosentino to “Move! You’re not a tree!” for posing thoughtful questions about the city’s future, it became fully apparent Ms. Grandinetti wasn’t delivering on being the “relationship builder” she fancied herself eight years ago.

Despite her well-known negative opinion about The Niagara Falls Reporter, this journalist approached Ms. Grandinetti after a recent council meeting to discuss her achievements on the council and what she hopes to further accomplish in the community.

“Are you going to write about all the lies you printed? How it brought me and my family to tears?”

(OK. This was going about how I expected, having gotten roughly the same response a year and a half ago when I reached out for a comment as a brand-new writer for The Reporter. The pursuit of fairness, however, demands you ask and present the opportunity. Additionally, I would have enjoyed speaking with her about the better times on the council and having more positive material for this piece.)

“I served for eight years. It was an honor. That’s all you’re getting.”

But hopefully that’s not all the Niagara Falls community is getting from Kristen Grandinetti.

Perusing some of her social media, it’s apparent she’s passionate about elevating the arts and the cultural climate of Niagara Falls as well as empowering community groups and creating an inclusive atmosphere. Hey, Kristen, I’m hip to that!

Ms. Grandinetti is a lifelong resident, and she knows and loves this storied city, especially the one from the ’50s through the ’80s with all the great families and mom-and-pop businesses and neighborhoods and a downtown that thrived.

Everyone knows that doesn’t really exist anymore, but something new can be created in this one-of-a-kind city. And it’s going to require the efforts of all the residents here as well as their neighbors from the county of Niagara who know the Falls should be a major economic driver for this region.

Not primarily for those on the other side of the state.

And that’s one of the areas where Ms. Grandinetti ran into trouble. Through her critical vote on the council she consistently enabled Mayor Paul Dyster for eight years and helped bring the city to where it is today.

That’s the worst part. For the rest, just do a web search on Kristen Grandinetti and The Niagara Falls Reporter for her greatest hits and misses.

But when you overhear her saying things on the staircase in city hall such as “I wanted to jab a pencil through my head” in regards to (most likely) a preceding 45-minute presentation, perhaps her temperament isn’t suited to city politics.

While it’s important in local governance to get past personalities and focus on the real issues, at some point a person becomes too toxic amongst constituents to effectively lead — or get re-elected. While the power of incumbency — and city hall and Albany — got her out of the primaries, general election voters spoke decisively by placing her dead last of the six candidates.

I personally lost any hope in her to deliver results — even incredibly modest ones — when I approached her during the Spring about the sweltering conditions in council chambers after I regularly noticed the councilwoman fanning herself during previous summer meetings.

Although Niagara Falls City Hall is air conditioned, inexplicably, the council chambers, where the people meet, is not. Notably, Wheatfield, North Tonawanda and the City of Lockport, for example, do not withhold from their residents and guests this small luxury. Additionally, there aren’t *any* fans to encourage even a little air flow.

The only recourse currently available is opening a couple of slender windows, one of which is right next to the building’s enormously noisy and disruptive air conditioning unit that delivers cool, refreshing air to everywhere else in the building except where the public is gathered to observe and comment on the administration of the city. The message being sent is fairly obvious.

Kristen Grandinetti is passionate — sometimes even hot-tempered — about what she believes in. Here, she’s cool for the summer, though, as she uses a personal solution to the sweltering in council chambers during the summer.

Since we both seem to run hot, I asked Ms. Grandinetti about this and she told me straight away there was nothing she could do about it. Just not happening…

She did say, though, that once the hot season was upon us, she’d bring in her own personal fan. “Is this selfish or smart?” I wondered. Later, most considerately, she shared the gift of breeze with councilman Ezra Scott, Jr. by using the oscillating mode. I essentially agreed with her tactics by adopting my own personal cooling solution of a frozen gelpack to cool my back or put under my laptop while taking notes.

Of course, making council chambers a place you don’t want to flee or avoid entirely is a god-awful small affair compared to the current enormity facing the city.

But moving Niagara Falls forward is going to require hundreds of corrective actions of all sizes, including getting people into council chambers to observe and participate in their city government. Even during the summer, when hopefully critical work on the budget will take place between the administration and council for the first time.

So not every councillor remains on the dais for a third term. No shame in that…

Kristen Grandinetti, through eight years of council participation — and more than a few unflattering appearances in these pages, has still raised her stature and expanded her point of view and world view.

Here’s to everybody going forward, including Kristen Grandinetti, working in their own way to create the Niagara Falls of the 21st century!

The city council recently honored Toby Rotella of the Imperial Garage for his work elevating the entertainment and cultural scene in Niagara Falls.

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