Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's fortunes are sinking fast.
If the primary were held today, Dyster would probably be beaten badly by John Accardo, a lifelong resident, businessman and taxpayer in the Falls.
Nevertheless, there must be some who will vote for Dyster.
Dyster showed considerable resourcefulness in using taxpayer money to pay campaign contributor Clinton Brown to get Dyster's own street, Orchard Parkway, designated as part of a state and federal historic district.
There were only two streets in the city that got this designation that comes with tax benefits and a likely boost in property values -- his street and the next one over.
If you like a mayor who thinks charity (from you) begins at (his) home -- vote for Dyster.
Dyster came to office with a plan to pay his top aides more money than anybody ever got at City Hall -- $100,000 and upwards. It was to be partially funded by wealthy men from Buffalo and a few from Niagara Falls, who were to remain anonymous. Dyster said that using rich people's money, the city could afford to hire the best and brightest in the nation -- people much smarter than those who could be found to vote for him in Niagara Falls -- at no additional cost to taxpayers.
"I think having somebody from the outside who has a sense of objectivity about what is or is not an appropriate level of government participation ... can be a substantial advantage," he told constituents, in effect saying the people who voted for him were too corrupt to serve in his administration.
His anonymous fund imploded after the Reporter started asking questions about why anonymous people from Buffalo would care to pay part of the salaries of people working at Niagara Falls City Hall.
Dyster claimed he had no idea who the people were who pledged more than a million dollars to pay portions of his top aides' salaries.
"I have no idea and I'm not trying to find out," Dyster told reporters.
If you think he told the truth, then vote for him.
After the Council voted to end his secret fund, Dyster pushed to keep the higher salaries. Department heads used to make $50,000 to $60,000, which is in line with cities of this population and economics.
Taxpayers now are paying $100,000 salaries at City Hall. Dyster raised taxes by more than 4 percent to help pay for it.
If you don't mind your property taxes being raised so that you (not rich anonymous donors from Buffalo) can pay for a group of City Hall employees hired from out of town at $100,000 a year, then vote for Dyster.
The people Dyster selected -- his brightest and best -- included an engineer from Los Angeles, fired after the Reporterdiscovered he had no engineering license; an economic development director from Ohio, fired for failing to create a single private sector job; a chronically unemployed man from Florida for fire chief, fired for making racial slurs; a lawyer from Buffalo who doesn't practice law, but subs out legal work at treble costs to Buffalo lawyers who donate to Dyster; and a garbage collection bureaucrat from Atlanta for city administrator, a woman uniquely incompetent and invisible. Would you recognize Donna Owens ($160,000 a year with benefits) if you saw her on the street?
If you think these people are the best and brightest, vote for Dyster.
When he campaigned for mayor in 2007, Dyster said he came to change politics as usual. During the campaign, it was known that one of the city court judges was likely to be removed from the bench. The next mayor thus would have, as one of his first appointments, the right to fill a vacancy for city court judge. There were many lawyers who wanted the $100,000-per-year position.
A prominent lawyer named Craig Touma managed Dyster's campaign and contributed money to Dyster's election efforts.
Why would a big-time attorney like Touma volunteer to work practically full-time on a small-town political race? Was it to change politics as usual?
After the election, when the expected judicial vacancy came up, Dyster overlooked all other lawyers and appointed Touma's wife, Diane Vitello.
Some might say, "So what? Politics usually works this way."
But Dyster said he came to change politics as usual.
If you think there is nothing wrong with a politician secretly telling his campaign manager he will make his wife a judge, in return for his help and financial contributions, while telling the public he is above politics, then you should vote for Dyster.
Dyster pushed for 80-foot maximum heights for new buildings downtown, right after one of his largest campaign contributors, James Glynn, bought an 80-foot-tall hotel. If you think that's a coincidence, vote for Dyster.
He pushed a $350,000 buy-out of a lease of a competitor of a commercial plaza without revealing to the public or the Council that a large campaign contributor (Glynn) had quietly purchased the plaza.
If you think the public paying for sweetheart deals that help campaign contributors is changing politics as usual, vote for Dyster.
While Dyster does not want local people for top positions at City Hall because they might have personal ties to people who get grants, loans or work from the city, almost everyone who does business with the city is tied to Dyster.
For instance, a $200,000 grant went to Dyster campaign contributor Craig Avery to open a saloon on Third Street; $131,000 to Clinton Brown to prepare an application to turn South Junior High School into condominiums; and $20,000 in grants to Mike Lewis, Dyster's political ally and campaign strategist, for a wellness spa.
Dan Oliverio, attorney for Hudgson Russ of Buffalo, donated $1,000 to Dyster, and got $149,000 in legal work from the taxpayers of this city.
Contributors Urban Engineers of N.Y. got lucrative work to do studies at the city's Rainbow Ramp, and LiRo Engineering of Buffalo got more than $450,000 after Dyster fired a succession of city engineers. In fact, the city spent more time without an engineer than with one -- happily for LiRo and other Buffalo engineering firms that donate, and then happen to get work from Dyster because the city happens not to have an engineer.
Mark Storch of Buffalo's Foit Albert invested $3,600 in donations to Dyster, and got his company $2 million in various studies.
If you like a pay-to-play mayor -- where you can buy yourself in with a campaign donation -- Dyster is your man.
Dyster suddenly left the Veterans Monument groundbreaking ceremony on Memorial Day, 2010, to meet with the Japanese ambassador. They talked about trains.
If you think veterans should not gripe about the highest elected city official not being present when they dedicated their memorial to those who were slain in combat, or that it is more important to impress the Japanese ambassador -- who, if memory serves, represents a country that was responsible for killing some of the slain -- then vote for Dyster.
Curiously, Dyster has more campaign contributions from Buffalo than Niagara Falls. Why is that?
If you think it's good that Buffalo business people give more money to Dyster than people who live in Niagara Falls -- vote for him.
Dyster tells us repeatedly he is a member of Mensa, a club where you pay money to get a certificate that says you took a test that says you are smarter than 98 percent of the rest of us.
If you like a man who tells you he thinks he is smarter than you and has the certificate to prove it -- vote Dyster.
Dyster claims he was an important arms negotiator and helped stare down the Soviets back in 1989. The Reporteruncovered that he was, as a Principal Bureau Officer -- according to the U.S. State Department manual -- working in the commissary and in charge of vending machines.
If you like a mayor who lies on his resume, vote Dyster.
Dyster tried to sneak a plan through (without telling residents) to pave a portion of all-green Jayne Park and turn it into a regional park. After the Reporter broke the story, local residents got up in arms and temporarily halted the project. He will, if re-elected, push the Jayne Park plan again. If you want to see Jayne Park paved, vote for him.
Dyster claims he is the green mayor but drives a taxpayer-purchased SUV. If you like to say you are green, but are not, here's your man.
Dyster failed to challenge FEMA on flood plain elevations, because he did not have a city engineer. The result was new (and inaccurate) FEMA maps that require many residents who have no risk of flooding to pay $1,000 per year for flood insurance.
If you are an insurance agent who sells flood insurance to people who don't need it, vote Dyster.
He got public money to dozens of his campaign supporters, including a $10,000 grant to James Ventry -- who was convicted of jury tampering after being accused of a home invasion -- to make an amateur movie about violence and sex.
If you are a felon who can get your friends to support Dyster and in return would like to get taxpayer money to make violent amateur movies, vote for Dyster.
Dyster got the billion-dollar Hard Rock Cafe $600,000 in taxpayer money to put on a series of poorly attended concerts by has-been artists. Hard Rock keeps the profits from concessions. The taxpayers pay for the concerts. Dyster gets to pick the acts, and then go on stage and crow about how he brought music downtown.
Funny, most cities actually get paid to have concerts. Dyster has the business model reversed. If you are a stockholder of a billion-dollar food-and-beverage corporation and think working people should pay for concerts, so you can sell more of your products -- a little corporate welfare -- vote for Dyster.
Dyster diverted (de-prioritized) federal money that would have paved one of the main entry points in the city early in his administration -- the pothole and crater-laden Buffalo Avenue -- and instead put the money into a fanciful train station project that, if ever completed, will perhaps seat 20 riders a day.
If you think he has his priorities straight, or if you don't use Buffalo Avenue anyway -- vote for him.
Dyster has spent about $500,000 a year to study developing an Underground Railroad museum based on history that may not be true. If you think the $1.5 million was not spent to pander to black voters, but was a worthwhile investment for this city -- even if the so-called history presented to justify the museum is entirely bogus -- vote for Dyster.
The streets are so bad in this city, you can ruin your car. Two people died already. Who knows how many other accidents occurred because of it? Who knows how many people had to make otherwise needless car repairs because Dyster failed to pave streets properly?
If you think it is not one of the chief jobs of a mayor to keep roads passable, or that spending money on paving is boring compared to glamour projects that get your name in the paper -- things like taxpayer-funded movies, concerts, experience centers and museums -- or if you think the roads are in good condition, or if you do not use roads, vote for Dyster.
He opposed Nik Wallenda's proposed wire walk across the gorge that would draw thousands to the city without costing taxpayers a dime.
He opposed it, perhaps, because the man who sponsored it, John Ceretto, beat Francine Del Monte for state Assembly. If you like the magical team of Dyster and Del Monte (and what they have done for this community), then vote Dyster. He can help her get re-elected.
Dyster fired city engineer Bob Curtis, who promised to vigorously watch construction of the courthouse. Dyster let the developer (a campaign contributor) build for months without supervision.
When he finally hired an outside company to monitor the courthouse construction, it was LiRo Engineers, whose members are campaign contributors. Rocco Trotta, chairman of LiRo from New York City, became the latest LiRo official to give Dyster money. Why does a guy from New York City give the mayor of Niagara Falls $1,000?
Why do you think?
A campaign contributor built the courthouse. Another contributor monitored the construction. Together they approved millions in price increases. You paid for that.
If anybody doesn't think that stinks, then vote for Dyster.
These are only some of the reasons to re-elect Dyster. There are many more just like them.