It was a curious primary day in Niagara Falls -- that poorest of cities -- with perhaps the most famous natural wonder in the world.
As a matter of fact, Forbes magazine ranked Niagara Falls as the eighth top destination in America. Yet the city is broke.
This poverty -- in spite of being the eighth top place to visit in America -- is, in fact, a world wonder.
In this year's primary, 4,326 Democrats turned out to vote for their choice to represent the Democratic Party for mayor in the general election on Nov. 8.
In last week's primary, 2,429 Democrats voted for the incumbent mayor, Paul Dyster; 1,281 voted for the main challenger, John Accardo; and 616 for two other men: Norton Douglas got 357 votes and Carnell Burch, 259.
The Dyster vote was 532 more than the combined votes of his opponents.
With the help of local news media, Dyster successfully characterized this as a landslide. Some are saying the mayor is now a shoe-in. The election has been decided. The campaign is over.
All was decided in the primary!
In politics, perception is often reality.
In the last general election for Niagara Falls mayor, in 2007, more than 10,000 voters cast votes. Ten thousand -- of all parties -- also likely will decide this mayoral election, and not, of course, only 4,326 Democrats, of which only 532 more voted for Dyster than against him.
Among the 2,429 Democrats who voted for Dyster, perhaps more than 500 were people connected to Dyster and his administration. This is a mayor who hands out $100,000 jobs and millions in grants. He affects a lot of people's families. These always vote in primaries.
When you consider that a total of 44 percent of prime-voter Democrats in the primary voted against their own incumbent mayor, this was not a landslide.
But landslide it is called.
This perception was enhanced immensely when Accardo, who also has the Conservative Party line in the general election, dropped out of the race, lending credence to the perception that Dyster cleared the field with a single blow.
Some readers, however, might care to listen to the Republican Johnny Destino and his message of strength and self-reliance, of a city that rises with less government and more effort from the people themselves.
Is Destino's view a better one than Dyster's government -- must-do-everything for a weak and helpless people? That's for you to decide in November.
If Dyster was quoted correctly in the Buffalo News, he "asked his wife's permission to run for mayor.
I know it's become fashionable for knock-kneed, politically correct weasel-pansies to tell the world how weak they are with their wives. But, really, did Dyster have to ask his wife's permission to become mayor?
I could have respected "discussed," or "asked her advice," but for a man to tell the world he had to get "permission" from his wife reveals a character I could only describe as a timid, hen-pecked coward.
It may be biblical -- which perhaps is incorrect to mention in these horrifically correct times -- but a man should be the head of his household and a leader should take charge.
A man leads. A boy is led.
A boy asks his mother's permission. A man commands.
If Dyster had a genuine calling to lead the city, he would have asked no one.
No one could have stopped him.
And here is a man who comes to tell us he stared down the Soviets as an arms negotiator. Did he ask his wife's permission then?
But I'm an old-fashioned, Sicilian-Italian-American. I don't bend the knee. I remember that, during my youth, our country was the most virile and manly in the world. Leonine men used to laugh at weak-kneed, hen-pecked, hyena-type guys. We drenched them with ridicule. This helped keep up manliness -- something sorely needed in this Hollywood-pansified land.
As a lad, I well remember an old Sicilian don asking a young Dyster-type -- and not too gently, perhaps to stir him to recover his lost manliness -- if he wore his wife's underwear?
Dyster asked his wife permission to be mayor?
Too bad Mrs. Dyster didn't tell him no.
It has come to my attention that some are calling the Reporter -- a major critic of Dyster -- unheeded and ineffectual.
Before we look into that interesting speculation, may I take a moment to remind readers that it was the Reporter's effective investigative articles that halted the potential incursion on Jayne Park.
It was the Reporter that questioned Dyster's incredible response that he did not know who the anonymous donors to his Building a Better Niagara Fund were -- which led to its cancellation.
It was the Reporter that broke the story that Dyster hired an unlicensed engineer, Ali Marzban, which led to Marzban's ouster.
And it was the Reporter that broke the story that there are potential radiation problems on Lewiston Road, alerting the public to the danger.
The Reporter broke lots of stories no one else would touch, and no one knows how many things might have happened that did not happen because there is such a thing as the Niagara Falls Reporter to watch and to question local government here.
Is the Reporter unheeded?
People get the government they deserve. If they deserve Dyster, they will surely get him.
Still, the Reporter is unlikely to lessen its coverage.
To paraphrase John Steinbeck, we'll be all around in the dark. We'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's corruption or conflict of interest, where the politically savvy pay to get influence to get the edge over the people who work hard and sweat to pay their taxes, we'll be there. We'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. We'll be in the way the people live and laugh and prosper when government does not oppress them and take from them their hard-earned money to squander and when the people are eating the stuff they raise and lighting their homes with power produced locally here, and making their money from local tourism and living in the houses they build, and not paying unfair and killing taxes that drive their children away, then we'll be there too.
Having a newspaper does not mean merely quoting politicians, without ever inquiring whether what they say is true, or whether what they are doing is right.
The Reporter lost, because Dyster won?
The Reporter has nothing to win.
There are flaws in the Dyster administration. We reported it. Even if no one believes it, the Reporter inquired and analyzed and presented it.
The Reporter never hides the opinions of its writers -- as others do -- by pretending it is straight news. The Reporter never secretly supports a man, while trying to fool the public that what it publishes are unbiased news stories.
Fifty-six percent of voters in the Democrats-only primary did not vote as I personally thought they should if they cared for their city. So what?
The voice of the majority is often wrong -- seeing that they govern and make the sad state of the world.
If the Reporter told the truth about Dyster and they re-elect him, then it was the people who lost.
And that is not new in Niagara Falls.
And if Dyster is re-elected -- we'll be there.
Curiously, John Accardo, who lost badly to Dyster in the Democratic primary, reportedly dropped out of the race minutes after he learned the results, even though he had the endorsement of the Conservative Party, which would have kept him on the ballot in November.
Dyster, by the way, is the same man who insulted Accardo's noble father, Frank, virtually calling him a co-conspirator in Love Canal, and called John's hardworking, honest brother Paul, in effect, a crook whom the FBI is going to take down, from some wholly fabricated and politically motivated lie about his company and a missing $750,000.
Interestingly, Accardo could have done one of four things after losing the primary.
He could have:
- Stayed in the race and run hard -- as one might conclude was his duty to the Conservative Party who endorsed him and donated to his campaign, presuming he sought and accepted their endorsement because he honestly intended to represent them in the general election.
- Stayed in and not run hard, but allowed people to vote for him based on his message of conservative government. He did not have to spend money, but could appear at debates and make comments to the press.
- Endorsed Destino and thrown his Conservative line over to him, since Destino represents the change that Accardo called for. Accardo spent five months telling us how Dyster's policies are disastrous for the city.
- Dropped out, walked away, and let Dyster have the playing field. This seems to be what Accardo has done -- the one thing that will help Dyster the most.
Accardo's campaign manager, Paul Colangelo, apparently called the Tom Darro WJJL radio show the day after the election to let the public know that Accardo is loyal to the Democratic Party.
He said Accardo would not presume to split the vote -- as "spoiler" Francine Del Monte did last year to Accardo in the Assembly race, thus splitting the vote and electing Republican John Ceretto.
As a party loyalist, Accardo would sooner drop out (so honorable is the man), so that the Democrat Dyster could beat the Republican.
Party loyalty over family loyalty?
Or, if Dyster is a "liar," who "needs a reality check" -- as Accardo said in advertisements and press releases -- party loyalty over city loyalty?
If it is true, Accardo betrayed his supporters -- many of whom went out on a limb to support him; betrayed the Conservative Party that made the mistake of endorsing him, believing he would fulfill his obligations when he sought their endorsement; and if it is true, now he is helping the guy who belittled and tried to disgrace his family.
Accardo obviously should stay in the race, even without spending another dime. If he does, we can have a fair and honest three-way race for mayor that would permit a free exchange of ideas and give anyone the chance of winning.
On the other hand, if Accardo's apparent surrender stands, then Accardo gives Dyster a huge boost -- and is in effect an endorsement of Dyster.
After all, what kind of man would help someone who calls his father and brother crooks?