With the state budget being passed in bits and pieces in Albany, it is difficult to figure out how much real money will be flowing to municipalities like Niagara Falls when all is said and done.
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello (R. C. – Niagara Falls), said Wednesday night that things should become clearer in the next few days when the numbers on economic development aid will be carved out of the bills being passed by weary lawmakers anxious to get out of Albany. The budget deadline was last Saturday.
It appears that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster may sometimes need to be reminded that municipal government is more than just a chief executive, it also includes five lawmakers who are elected–just like him–by the residents of the city to protect their financial interests and provide safe streets as well as things like garbage pickup and fire protection.
Such a reminder came last week when Councilmember Andy Touma raised concerns that city lawmakers had not been given any information on the 10-year contract extension with the firefighters union that the mayor announced he had negotiated and, by the way, needs City Council approval to got into effect.
Retired Niagara Falls special education teacher James Cancemi is seeking his third five-year term as president of the Niagara Falls Board of Education in next month’s election, and despite his long tenure in the unpaid position, there is no sign he is ready to leave.
“We’re doing a lot and I’m excited about continuing our work,” said Cancemi, 75, during an interview this week as he gets ready to face four challengers in the election set for May 16th for the position of board president.
State Sen. Robert Ott (R.- North Tonawanda) is keeping up his offensive against State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this week, claiming felony indictments filed against him last week should be dismissed because he was effectively blocked from addressing the charges against him during his grand jury appearance.
After the failure-to-file indictments were returned against him, Ortt, the former mayor of North Tonawanda, unloaded against Schneiderman, claiming the case brought by the Democratic attorney general (and former state senator) was politically motivated and he looks forward “to telling New Yorkers the truth about Eric Schneiderman and myself.”
The developing crisis between the Seneca Nation and the state in the gaming dispute over revenue sharing payments is taking a back seat these days to the budget negotiations in Albany as lawmakers and the governor try to meet the April 1 budget deadline.
“It is definitely on the back burner right now,” said one lawmaker, “but the word is the governor and the Seneca president hope to get together to discuss the issue after the budget is passed. And it is our understanding that the two have talked and that meeting will happen very soon.”
It was only a few weeks ago that the state plan to build a “world-class lodge” on Goat Island State Park was swirling in controversy as the Niagara Falls Council and the Niagara County Legislature voiced strong opposition to the idea of marring the pristine beauty of the park and hurting downtown business interests with a tourist-magnet lodge.
Feeling the pressure, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s development honchos sought to cool the furor and said other state parks along with Goat Island would be considered for the governor’s lodge and that RFP’s would soon be issued.
I reported last October that the State Attorney General’s office was focusing squarely on the campaign account of former State Sen. George Maziarz and the former senator himself, and we have now learned that subpoenas have been issued in that investigation and evidence could be presented to a grand jury as soon as later this month.
Sources familiar with the probe say that Maziarz, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing in connection with his campaign account that once totaled more than $1 million, is among the targets of the grand jury investigation and there may be others.
What did Sam Hoyt say to Dennis Virtuoso last Tuesday in a phone call to convince the Niagara County legislator from Niagara Falls to pull his resolution opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial plan to build a world class lodge on Goat Island?
Well, true to form, Hoyt, regional vice president of super-secretive Empire State Development, could not be reached to give his side of the conversation, but according to Virtuoso, Hoyt asked him to pull his resolution from consideration at the legislature’s regular session because the lodge plan was as good as dead and there would be three or four site proposals to come and aggressive public input.
A decorated Iraq war veteran and the owner of the Gorge View Hostel has announced his candidacy for the 6th District Niagara County Legislative seat now held by Democrat Dennis Virtuoso.
Jeffery Flach, who has the full support of Niagara Falls City Republican Chairman Bill Carroll, returned to Niagara Falls in 2014 after leaving active military service as an army major.
Flach, 46, said in the announcement of his candidacy that “transparency lets both residents and decision-makers clearly see how resources are being allocated as well as the direct result of those allocations. By prioritizing transparency, we remove the distractions of ignorant debates and replace them with informed discussions on how to realistically solve problems based on available resources.”
Martial Arts Hall of Fame member A. J. Verel will be sworn in for his second term as president of the Judges and Police Conference of Erie County this week (Thursday, Feb. 23) at Doc Sullivans, 474 Abbott Rd., South Buffalo.
Officers and club members will be sworn in by Sheriff Tim Howard, a past president of the organization, during the program that begins at 5 p. m. with a $20 admissin cost.
In addition to Verel, other officers who will be sworn in are Norman Mattar, 1st VP; Thomas Gambino, 2nd VP; Madeline Harvey, secretary; Ernesto Leonetti, treasurer; and Patrick Castiglia, sergeant at arms.
The governor’s Goat Island lodge plan, rolled out during one of his State of the State speeches in Amherst last month, is coming under strong attack from Niagara Falls legislators.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it is time for a “world class lodge” on Goat Island, something to create a year-round tourism destination, but three of the Cataract City’s county legislators will sponsor legislation next week opposing the governor’s plan as the wrong investment in the wrong place, urging Cuomo to focus instead on downtown economic development.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso (6th District, including the state park), Legislator Jason Zona (5th District) and Legislator Owen Steed (4th District) would oppose “further commercialization of the Niagara Reservation State Park,” and would ask the governor to cease any efforts to develop a “lodge hotel” anywhere in the state park.
In addition, the legislation asks that the state redirect staff resources to assist with economic development efforts outside the state park in conjunction with the City of Niagara Falls Comprehensive Plan.
Environmentalists have already spoken out against building a lodge on Goat Island as not being a good fit with the nature preserve setting envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park’s designer.
Virtuoso says he has received many calls from residents opposing the governor’s proposal as well as from hoteliers downtown who are concerned this lodge would be unfair competition, adding “we don’t know if this lodge would be paying property taxes or bed taxes. We’ve worked too hard rebuilding out downtown to go this route.” Being on state land, the lodge would be tax exempt.
“I have many concerns with this proposal,” said Zona in a press release, adding the state and Olmsted opposed commercialization of the park 130 years ago, restricting such efforts.
“We have a comprehensive plan for downtown and this falls nowhere under that,” said Zona. “All of our joint efforts should be to develop the areas outside of the park and grow our local economy.”
Steed said “it is important that all of our local officials, whether city or county, stand in opposition to this proposal.”
The legislators expect a protest at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting against the lodge plan, and both the council and the legislature will discuss the plan at their sessions next Tuesday.
Local historian Paul Gromosiak called Cuomo’s proposal for a Goat Island Lodge an insane idea.
“He [Cuomo] needs to read about Olmsted’s vision when the state park was established in 1885,” said Gromosiak in the Niagara Gazette, “and how Goat Island was to be kept as much as possible in its native state. If they want another hotel, let them build it downtown.”
It was a full house last Thursday at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion for Alan Roscetti’s kickoff fundraiser in his campaign for Niagara Falls City Court judge.
Roscetti, a 37-year-old Niagara County public defender and private practice attorney, is running for the seat currently held by Judge Robert Merino who will be retiring at the end of the year.
“It was a great night, just a terrific turnout,” said Roscetti after greeting more than 200 well wishers and supporters who turned out for the official start of his campaign and promising to work hard to convince voters he would be a fair and honest judge if he wins in November.