Poor Mayor Dyster. He always thinks he's the smartest guy in the room and, back when he was attending high school here, he probably was. Most guys manage to learn a few things about themselves between high school and the age of 50, but not Paul. He was born on third base and still believes he hit a triple, as Jim Hightower might say.
The problem with thinking you're the smartest guy in the room is that you think that most people are stupid. So when people discovered that Paul's political godfather -- Maid of the Mist honcho Jimmy Glynn -- was also the prime mover behind the ill-starred "Building a Better Niagara Falls" fund, Paul claimed to know nothing about who might have given as much as $1 million to the city in order to make him look good.
He lied, in other words, and a lot of people bought it.
And when Glynn needed the city to drop a few million to spruce up the West Mall fronting his Comfort Inn hotel, he had but to call little Paulie and, as if by magic, it was done.
More recently, Dyster has tried to convince his subjects, um, the people of Niagara Falls that the fact that he lives on Orchard Parkway has nothing to do with the city's application for Orchard Parkway to be listed in the state and federal Register of Historic Places. The fact that such a designation would provide tax credits of up to $50,000 for home improvement work at his house, Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti's house, City Attorney Richard Zucco's house and Zucco's brother's and Grandinetti's sister's houses was merely a happy coincidence, he said.
But something had happened in the two years since he took office. The image of Dyster as a defender of the people against corrupt interests has faded faster than a watercolor on a sun-drenched wall.
The people here saw the mayor and his henchman, City Planner Tom DeSantis, shot down in state Supreme Court by Justice Richard Kloch when they tried to illegally shut down Frank Parlato's One Niagara development downtown.
The same thing happened when they tried to impose their will on Baltimore developer David Cordish, who called their bluff and sued the city. Instead of running him out of town on a rail, they ended up paying big-time rent for a portion of his Rainbow Centre Mall, prime downtown real estate that will now serve as a home to Niagara County Community College's hospitality school.
A worse use of valuable downtown real estate can hardly be imagined. The mall itself should have been knocked down a decade ago, when it first closed, since it blocks the road between the city's two prime attractions -- the falls themselves and the Seneca Niagara Casino.
Add to that the fact that the not-for-profit restaurant that will occupy most of NTCC's tax-exempt space at the mall will be able to undercut the relatively few for-profit restaurants the city has left, and Dyster's triumph starts to look like another nail in the coffin of private development downtown.
Last week, our mayor walked into a room with Sen. Charles Schumer and met with billionaire Manhattan real estate developer Howard Milstein.
One thing's for certain, he wasn't the smartest guy in the room. Not by a longshot.
Congrats to our old friend Tony Farina, who decided to go straight, leave government and find honest employment as president of Frank Parlato's One Niagara LLC.
Farina started off as a newspaper reporter, working for the Buffalo Courier-Express before moving on to television at WGRZ and WKBW. The well-liked reporter then found work as a speechwriter to former attorney general Dennis Vacco before settling into Buffalo City Hall in 2000. Most recently, he served as a top aide to Buffalo City Controller Andy SanFilippo.
Parlato and Farina have been friends for many years, working together on a number of projects. The move should give Frank more time to pursue other interests, including his occasional column writing and reporting for the Niagara Falls Reporter