Maziarz in the Niagara Falls Reporter

Down They Go, Horseshoe Falls in Winter, Niagara Falls, Canada (DTB_0134)

Photo by Daniel Novak via AV Photo Daily Flickr Group

The founder and Californian former editor of the now-gynophobic Niagara Falls Reporter, has only good things to say about his friend, Senator George Maziarz, who is retiring under a cloud of suspicion.  Maziarz is under federal investigation for allegedly converting campaign funds to personal use

No one doubts that Maziarz is a personable guy or that his office was excellent at constituent service. The question is whether he misappropriated campaign money. Lucky for Maziarz, he’s got $1 million in campaign funds that he can use to hire excellent criminal defense counsel

The Reporter‘s founder is very self-righteous about corrupt politicians, except the ones he likes. For instance, you’ll likely not find a less corrupt politician than Paul Dyster, yet he is savagely attacked on a weekly basis for the crime of trying to do right by a horribly troubled city. While the Reporter almost single-handedly led to former Mayor Aniello’s indictment and conviction on election fraud (accepting a $40,000 sweetheart “loan” from a Niagara County businessman), it has nothing at all negative to say about Maziarz and the allegations against him. Any other pol would be savagely pilloried. 

Either way, Mike Hudson moved 3,000 miles away, and although his byline occasionally appears in the Reporter, he’s divested himself from any Niagara or WNY worry. 

Oh, and there’s also this, from Maziarz’s latest campaign disclosure

You know, when I was writing nice things about Jon Powers, it was because I supported him and his platform. I gave money to him – not the other way around. 

Everybody’s Awful Everywhere (Niagara Edition)

Up in Niagara Falls, a deal with businessman Mark Hamister to build an admittedly boring and dull hotel in the beleaguered city is in danger of being killed by the city’s own council. One of the most vocal critics of a deal that has zero downside for the city is Sam Fruscione. Recently, an ugly mailer accusing Hamister of being a criminal has been hitting mailboxes. Who’s behind it? The usual suspects. What’s Fruscione got to say about it? Nothing; defamation is apparently his thing.

The Buffalo News’ Brink Blog has images of the mailer in question.

Image via the Brink Blog

A $25-ish million development in a city with little of it, and it would bring not just a hotel but retail and residential space, as well – it’s just this side of being aborted altogether. The state would be kicking in $3 million in incentives, and the city gets $100,000 for the derelict property, a new taxpaying entity, and a less horrible area around the state park. The city council, however, is holding out for a $2 million figure for the land parcel – pretty much the opposite of the NFTA selling the state most of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor for $2.00. The city, meanwhile, only owns the land because developer David Cordish gifted it on his way out of town. The development is so important to the the state that Governor Cuomo personally intervened to save it from what appeared yesterday to be imminent death. It should be noted that Hamister’s bid was selected pursuant to a request for proposals that USA Niagara put out.

The mailer above shills for councilman Sam Fruscione and calls a would-be Falls hotelier a “con man” – a criminal.

Pretty mild and simple questions from Mary Alice Demler sent Fruscione into a fit.

As you might have learned over the past week, when it comes to inflammatory and false, libelous mailers, the Mazurek/Pigeon/Kennedy “WNY Progressive Caucus” is likely behind it. A PAC created a week ago and miraculously generated over $100,000 in funding, forced by the media to disclose itself. Its spokesman is a failed candidate for Batavia city council who has been a protege of Steve Pigeon’s since then, where he parlayed a stint as an intern with then-Assemblyman Mark Schroeder into working a patronage job at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

The Fruscione mailer Mazurek’s group produced, seen above, has a glaring typographical error, and as it accuses Hamister of being a criminal, one has to wonder whether they think Fruscione is running against Hamister? What the hell makes Hamister a “con man”? His company’s track record of developing and operating hotels?  The fact that his company will be ponying up $25 million or so for this project, and that it’s probably none of the city’s business how Hamister raises those funds? In what way is it a good idea for a PAC supporting a councilman – a councilman who would not denounce the likely defamatory mailer sent to support his re-election – to accuse a prospective developer of committing fraud in a city well-known for being a corrupt hellhole?

Also, one should make the connection that state Senator Tim Kennedy personally endorses calling Mark Hamister a “con man”, since his campaign account is one of the largest donors to the WNY Progressive Caucus. I wonder what Senator George Maziarz, who represents Niagara Falls, thinks of that.

Long ago, when Steve Pigeon went to war against then-Assemblyman Sam Hoyt during his primary battle against Barbra Kavanaugh, the advertisements against Hoyt were so outrageous and inflammatory that the entire attempt backfired. Instead of being angry at Hoyt’s dalliances with Albany interns, voters took pity on him and his family and he cruised to victory. I called it the “Kavanaugh Flip” – that moment when negative ads actually generate sympathy for their intended victim.

In 2008, Pigeon teamed up with billionaire Tom Golisano to form “Responsible New York”, and ask Kathy Konst, Joe Mesi, and Barbra Kavanaugh how effective it was. You could also ask convicted felon Pedro Espada and convicted girlfriend batterer Hiram Monseratte.

It’s the same as it ever was with Pigeon, though. Consider this exchange Jim Heaney published in 2008:

The attack flyer from Mothers and Fathers [Demanding Answers] uses the same bulk mail permit as … Responsible New York.

Sloppy, sloppy.

Pigeon did a lot of ducking and weaving when I called to inquire.

I asked him what he knows about Mothers and Fathers Demanding Answers.

“I’m not going to comment,” Pigeon said. “I’m sure they will file their independent committee status, if it’s not filed already.”

Gee, Steve, how do you know they’re required to do so?

“I would assume, I don’t know that they do.”

Pigeon then resorted to the mantra he repeated throughout the balance of the interview.

“Everything we’re doing is within the law.”

Followed by:

“We’re not coordinating with the [Barbra] Kavanaugh campaign.”

How does he explain Mothers and Fathers using the same bulk mail permit as Responsible New York?

“Independent committees can work together under the law.”

So, you’re working with them, right?

“I think it will all come out in the reports.”

Is this the dirtiest campaign he’s been involved in?

“I don’t think this one is dirty.”

OK, Steve.

Pigeon went to lengths to vent his outrage over reports that Hoyt had sex with a member of the Assembly staff. This is the same Steve Pigeon who has been an unwavering loyalist to Bill and Hillary Clinton through thick and thin, including the Big Dog’s sexual escapades with intern Monica Lewinski.

I guess you could say Pigeon is practicing situational ethics. Among other things.

There’s con going on in Niagara Falls, alright. But it’s not coming from the guy who is trying to develop a parking lot near a natural wonder.

Dyster Refuses to Appear in Entercom Promotional Skit

This morning, our local morning conservative advocacy radio station “News” radio station ambushed Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster in-studio. Mohawk radio commentator John Kane was also in-studio because he happens to host a native American themed radio show on another Entercom-owned AM radio station, WWKB. (Kane’s is one of the only locally-produced shows on KB). Kane is outspoken in his support of Indian causes, and has been blisteringly critical of various New York State bureaucrats and elected officials. 

Dyster wasn’t told there’d be a debate, wasn’t told he’d be attacked or criticized, and appeared simply to discuss the deal the Senecas reached with the State yesterday, which will release $89 million in withheld Seneca casino payments to the City of Niagara Falls. 

As with all litigation and adversarial proceedings, the parties were not seeing eye-to-eye during the process, and things were done and said that have now been excused, forgiven, compromised, and set aside. With yesterday’s settlement, Cuomo went so far as to acknowledge that the state had done the Senecas wrong, and everyone walked away happy with the outcome. 

Except John Kane, who spent the morning seated next to the Niagara Falls mayor, accusing Dyster of having behaved horribly, and otherwise relitigating the last several years’ worth of conflict that another Indian Nation had been engaged in with the State of New York and City of Niagara Falls. Dyster hadn’t come there to be insulted or falsely accused. 

No longer a News outlet, WBEN has actively made itself and its fellow Entercom employee part of the story. 

My God, the mullet : news ratio is way too high at Entercom. But surely the bright and intelligent folks who listen to conservative talk radio have nothing but reasonable, conservative things to say about it all? 

Chris Clinton and Edwin Rajewski obviously don’t like DEMONcrats like Paul Dyster, but they go so far as to change Dyster’s name to “Dykster”, invoking a word used to express hatred and homophobia to homosexual females. That seems irrelevant, doesn’t it? Given WBEN’s penchant for reading idiotic Facebook posts on the radio, (including, but not limited, to the tragic sadness of having morning straight-news anchor Susan Rose reading “el-oh-el” over the air), why weren’t the “Dykester” comments given that treatment? 

But lo, here comes Erie County resident and anti-Maziarz, anti-Cuomo concern-troll John L. “Rus” Thompson – the first name in compromise and diplomacy

What I know is that you usually show enough deference to an elected official to let him know when he’s walking into an ambush on live radio. What I know is that it is bad form to relitigate all the real and perceived slights you’ve absorbed during an adversarial process in public, on the air, the day after a compromise settlement has been reached; especially if the person doing the relitigating wasn’t part of the dispute in the first place. 

Mayor Dyster could have sat there and taken insult after insult from some radio guy doing promotion on Entercom for his Entercom show, but he was not wrong in getting up and letting the station know that he hadn’t agreed to that.

UPDATE: to underscore that this was little more than an Entercom-generated publicity stunt for a show no one listens to, read Entercom operations director (and Susan Rose’s husband’s) obnoxious admission that Dyster was ambushed, and praising his radio host for turning himself and the station into the story. 

Easy Money

niagara falls

Photo by William Smyers via Flickr AV Photo Daily Group

Dearest Friend,

My name is Mr.Samuel Frank; I am the son of the former minister of finance for the Lord Mayor of the City of Niagara Falls (USA). I am contacting you for a business transfer of a huge sum of money from a deceased account. 

Though know that a transaction of this magnitude will make any one apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that every document that will bring about the success of this transaction will be provided by an attorney here in Niagara Falls, and all will be well at the end of the day.  I decided to contact you due to the urgency of this transaction.

My father, the deceased person who died; died in a lorry accident while he held a cheque for US$89 millions in his personal pocket. I retrieved the cheque. 

Since his death, I have fled to Lome, Togo, but cannot cash the cheque in my possession because of the different modalities of bankings here. Your American NSA is tracking my every move and mobile phone activities.  We cannot release the fund from this cheque unless someone applies for claim as the next-of-kin to the deceased as indicated in our banking guidelines.

Upon this discovery, I now seek your assistance to stand as a next of kin to the deceased, as all documentations will be carefully worked to make you the beneficiary to the funds $89,000,000 USD which will be released in your favor as the next of kin, Because after twenty days the money will be called back to the bank bond treasury as unclaimed bills and the money shared amongst the directors of the bank.

So it is on this note I decided to seek for whom his name shall be used as the next of kin/beneficiary to this funds rather than allow the bank directors to share this money amongst them at the end of the year. It may interest you to know that we have secured from the probate an order of mandamus to locate any of the deceased beneficiaries.

Please acknowledge receipt of this message in acceptance of our mutual business endeavor by furnishing me with the following information if you are interested.

Your Full Name:_____________________
Your Complete Address:________________________
Name of City of Residence:________________________
Date of Birth (Day/Month/Year):__________________
Your occupation:____________________________
Direct Telephone Number: ____________________
Mobile Number: ____________________________
Fax Number:___________________________________

For our personal contact and mutual trust in each other I shall be compensating you with 50% of the above amount on final conclusion of this project for your assistance with bank modalities, and the balance 50% shall be for me, because I intend to retire after the conclusion of this transaction.

If this proposal is acceptable by you, please endeavor to contact me immediately. Do not take undue advantage of the trust I have bestowed in you, I await your urgent mail now to my private email richardson_frank@msn.co.uk

Best Regards,

Mr.Samuel.Frank

Bhopal on the Niagara

I could spend hours trying to decide which third world country or Banana republic Erie County and Buffalo most resemble. We are clearly not of the first world here, and it has mostly to do with visionless excuses for leadership with which we have been saddled over the past post-industrial decades. We even market ourselves as a domestic Bangalore (see Geico, e.g.). 

But up in Niagara Falls, they have a special way of appearing small-minded, petty, outrageous, and stupid. That is, of course, when they’re not engaging in outright illegality and graft.  Niagara Falls is unique in western New York – if not America – in that it is essentially a toxic waste dump with streets and buildings – all cruelly punctuated by a natural world wonder. Bhopal on the Escarpment. It has seen its main industry – the manufacture of toxins – dwindle over the past several decades. It has lost population to the point where it is on the verge of losing its eligibility for federal assistance. It is, for the most part, an empty shell of its former glory, made up of poverty and broken dreams. It is as if every decision the city has ever made has exploded, creating a daily irreparable calamity. 

Immigrants used to say the streets in America are figuratively paved with gold. 

The streets of Niagara Falls, USA are literally paved with slag; depleted uranium. 

Its current mayor, Paul Dyster, is unique in that he is the first mayor in a generation to have won re-election. A technocrat by nature, he is desperately trying to wrap a tourniquet around the city’s bleed. No one’s perfect, but Dyster is also unique because he’s honest and forthright. 

The city of Niagara Falls has reached out to various charitable foundations, some of them based in Buffalo, in an effort to help fund initiatives that may help attract attention, if not money and business, to the Falls. I’m not always a big fan of Buffalo’s big-money foundations because of their cozy elitism. But Niagara Falls needs all the help it can get.  Literally. 

Mayor Dyster applied to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Oshei Foundation for a paltry $4,000 in order to become a member of a “Great Lakes and St Lawrence Cities Initiative,” which Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, WI describes as, 

Mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are a prominent voice in efforts to protect and restore the vitality of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and improve the quality of life for the residents of the region. Through an integrated approach to environmental, social and economic agendas within their communities, U.S. and Canadian mayors of the Cities Initiative are leading a movement that will sustain our freshwater resources long into the future.

Astonishingly, three city council members in Niagara Falls opposed this $4,000 grant to enable Dyster to join a group of Great Lakes mayors to help forge alliances for the region’s future growth. They rejected it. 

“I’m very uncomfortable with this,” Choolokian said. “Is it time to get the FBI in city hall? I don’t understand this.”

Choolokian said he was alarmed with the amount of involvement that Buffalo philanthropic groups have shown in Niagara Falls during Dyster’s administration.

“I’ve been in the system for 27 years and I never seen Buffalo get involved in Niagara Falls like it has since you became mayor,” Choolokian said.

Fruscione said that he did not understand how being part of the a group that is dedicated to saving the Great Lakes would benefit the residents of Niagara Falls.

“They’re picking up $4,000 so you can join a club,” Fruscione said. “What about the taxpayers and residents? It’s not benefitting them at all. First of all we’re on a river, we’re not on the Great Lakes. We’re not a St. Lawrence city”

Choolokian, Fruscione and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. voted against the resolution, turning away the awarded grant money.

Councilman Charles Walker and Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti supported the measure.

Walker said he does not understand how the other council members can justify turning down a grant when the city is in a tough financial situation with the delay in casino funds.

“It’s not wise to turn away funds when you are in a good financial situation,” he said.

Walker said he views the foundation’s interest in helping the city as a sign that Niagara Falls is worthy of an investment.

“I think we should look at that as more of a compliment, that our input is important to this process,” he said.

Dyster sought the grant after funding for the membership dues was cut from his proposed budget during the amendment process.

“I knew that there was a chance that the Community Foundation would pay my dues,” Dyster said.

Dyster said the reason the city seeks the help of Buffalo philanthropic groups is because most of the groups in Western New York are located in Buffalo.

“I think when times are tough we should be seeking help where we can get it,” the mayor said.

Dyster said that he is not sure where the allegations that these groups are trying to buy influence with grants are coming from, but said that there is no truth to the assertions.

“There are no strings attached to the grant other than we were asked to do some reporting, to file a report,” he said.

The only things missing were allegations that this was a plot involving the Bilderbergs, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the New World Order. 

$4,000 doesn’t buy a lot of influence, but it does buy Dyster a membership in a regional club. While Councilman Fruscione is correct that Niagara Falls isn’t “on a lake” but on a “river”, he is forgetting that the river connects two Great Lakes. To ignore or reject that the fate of the lakes’ environment affects the Falls is laughably ignorant. 

Niagara Falls has its hand out for everything and anything – including planting pretty flowers. It is the state’s basket case. But $4k from the evil Buffalo philanthropic institutions?! Perish the thought. 

Niagara Falls’ Last Ditch Effort

Rainbow II

Rainbow II by Flickr User Nykino

Attention recent college graduates: Niagara Falls wants you!

Desperate for its population to stay above 50,000, Niagara Falls is starting a modest pilot program – using Federal urban renewal funds – to attract 20 young recent college graduates to come live there for at least two years in a particular area of the city near the Seneca Niagara Casino.  After a year of residency, each would receive $3,500 for student loan payments. 

Industry has been leaving the city for decades, and economic activity on the American side of the Falls is hamstrung by a chicken/egg scenario: tourists don’t much leave the state park because of the blight, and the blight won’t improve unless people go downtown or leave the casino and spend money. The News article about this program says city leaders want to create an “Elmwood Avenue North” relying on recent grads to attract the sorts of business at which they’d spend money.

Niagara University is considering opening a downtown branch, and the NCCC Culinary Institute is under construction, ready to bring another 500 students to downtown when it opens. 

It’s an innovative subsidy, and perhaps a sign of desperation, but Niagara Falls, NY has been in desperate straits for a very long time indeed – a city known now as the dowdy American comparative to the attractive, bustling, gorgeously maintained Canadian side; an America paved not with gold, but with depleted uranium

Attracting young employed people to, in essence, jump-start a gentrification of Niagara Falls may very well be that city’s last, best hope. 

After all, as much as any place in western New York, this place truly matters

Niagara Falls' Last Ditch Effort

Rainbow II

Rainbow II by Flickr User Nykino

Attention recent college graduates: Niagara Falls wants you!

Desperate for its population to stay above 50,000, Niagara Falls is starting a modest pilot program – using Federal urban renewal funds – to attract 20 young recent college graduates to come live there for at least two years in a particular area of the city near the Seneca Niagara Casino.  After a year of residency, each would receive $3,500 for student loan payments. 

Industry has been leaving the city for decades, and economic activity on the American side of the Falls is hamstrung by a chicken/egg scenario: tourists don’t much leave the state park because of the blight, and the blight won’t improve unless people go downtown or leave the casino and spend money. The News article about this program says city leaders want to create an “Elmwood Avenue North” relying on recent grads to attract the sorts of business at which they’d spend money.

Niagara University is considering opening a downtown branch, and the NCCC Culinary Institute is under construction, ready to bring another 500 students to downtown when it opens. 

It’s an innovative subsidy, and perhaps a sign of desperation, but Niagara Falls, NY has been in desperate straits for a very long time indeed – a city known now as the dowdy American comparative to the attractive, bustling, gorgeously maintained Canadian side; an America paved not with gold, but with depleted uranium

Attracting young employed people to, in essence, jump-start a gentrification of Niagara Falls may very well be that city’s last, best hope. 

After all, as much as any place in western New York, this place truly matters

The Niagara Falls Holiday Market: Great Success?

Remember the Niagara Falls Holiday Market? The one I wrote disappointedly about in late November, and took a lot of flak about it from people who equate “honest criticism” with “negative naysaying”? 

Despite an alleged budget of $900,000 (I challenge anyone to figure out where that money went); $450,000 of which came from the taxpayers of the City of Niagara Falls and the State of New York, the market ended $31,000 in the red.

The Niagara Gazette’s article doesn’t delve deep enough, and merely contains he said/he said quotes from Mayor Dyster and Councilmember Fruscione, who said, “[a]nybody we do business with in the future will pay us to do business, we won’t be paying them.” It states that the organizer was not to profit from organizing the event, but omits a lot of facts that are covered in the weekly Niagara Falls Reporter’s stories (number 1, number 2number 3, an editorial, and number 4). For instance: 

– There was a line-item of $114,000 for “salaries”, and the organizer won’t disclose to the city who received it. 

– It cost $40,000 to stage an Aaron Neville concert that brought in a mere $9,000. 

– The city council wants the market and its organizers to justify and account for its supposed costs of almost $800,000. 

– Tony Walker was a prominently billed vendor, scheduled to take 10 huts. It never showed, but the organizer himself apparently opened and operated up to seven vending booths himself. 

– The organizers used photos of other Christmas markets, ice rinks, and Christmas trees in order to promote the one at the Niagara Falls market – all of them were misleading at best

– Numerous people claim to have been stiffed by the market organizers. (One of the vendors retained my professional services in early 2012, and was ultimately paid – others were not so lucky). 

– The market claims that the ice rink cost $147,000, but the rink operator says the contract was for $99,000

– Only about 370 people actually skated on the $100,000 rink, which saw gross receipts of $6,463. 

– A BPO concert grossed about $7,500, but cost over $17,000 to stage. 

– Elizabeth von Trapp grossed about $2,800, but cost about $3,500 to stage. 

– The Canadian Tenors grossed about $9,300, but cost over $40,000. 

– Organizers promised the city and state that over 80 vendors would participate; only 35 showed up. 

– Promises were made that the event would generate $30,000 in sales tax for the city, but there’s scant evidence that all vendors were diligent about collecting sales tax, or of any bump in revenue. Likewise, there were promises of 300 part-time jobs, over $30,000 in parking revenue, and $3,000 in bed tax revenue – no proof exists that any of those promises were met. 

– With respect to the Idaho developer, Mark Rivers, who organized the market, he reportedly operated 7 booths himself, and questions are being raised whether his staffing or inventory costs were subsidized by taxpayers. 

According to the Reporter, the market took in about $90,000 and spent about $767,000, with a net loss of over $670,000. 

Based on the evidence, it would appear as if the market wasn’t exactly a rousing success. While it did bring people to an otherwise empty part of town during the cold winter months, it was a fiscal disaster and a complete amateur hour. People who went there may have had a good time, but to equate what happened on Falls Street with a traditional European-style Christmas market is foolish. 

None of this would matter, of course, if it was just a budding entrepreneur who took a bath on a good idea that was poorly implemented. However, this particular entrepreneur used $450,000 from taxpayers in a very poor city and a cash-strapped state. That it was so vastly different in execution from what was promised in the inducement smacks of mismanagement at best, fraud at worst. 

There’s no reason, however, why Niagara Falls shouldn’t try again in 2012. After all, it’s got $100,000 in sheds to use. But this is an event that can be put on either by USA Niagara or, better still, by the Niagara Falls business community or a non-profit organization. There’s no reason it should cost $800,000, and it could be made much more festive than what was there last year. 

Walking the Tightrope

 

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com