Let’s start with the positive things that our Legislature has accomplished…(insert sounds of crickets). Yes, that may seem harsh, but in the first 150 days of office, this group has accomplished absolutely nothing.
Most people may have opted to forget the long campaign season that preceded this current Legislature, but we at the Niagara Post have not! Not only do we remember the infamous mailers of bulldogs and middle fingers, we also remember the campaign promises. Promises that we have seen about as much action on as I saw on prom night. None.
Now this may be hard to believe, but I have a very poor social life. So poor, in fact, that I often spend my nights watching re-runs of our latest Niagara County Legislative meetings. (I pause to allow for sounds of pity from our dedicated readers) But I digress. Nonetheless, I watch this bi-monthly attempt at government. I am riveted to my seat as the Legislature’s Majority Leader Rick Updegrove stands up, every meeting, and pontificates for what is an actual eternity. The words just keep coming but he says nothing of actual substance. Everyone knows that Updegrove is an attorney, and only occasionally, attorneys have the ability to use their orator skills to trick the layman. Updegrove, if nothing else, is a master at this. He has shown an unrivaled ability to talk circles around people until they concede out of exhaustion. Honestly, trying to follow Updegrove’s constant diatribes is a feat most people are not well suited to deal with. For me, thank God for DVR and Ritalin.
Let’s look at the facts. After 150 days in office, Niagara County is still the highest taxed County in the ENTIRE United States! When prefaced with this fact, Updegrove has actually, multiple times, stood on the Legislative floor and argued that this is due to the local and school taxes and not the County taxes. Updegrove never suggests a way that this can be corrected. Instead, Rick says, “Hey, it’s not the Niagara County Legislature’s fault that Niagara County is the highest taxed county in the entire United States.” It is despicable that the Majority Leader of our Legislature prefers deflection and blame rather than spending time finding a solution. What we need is for Rick Updegrove to stand up, be a man, be a leader, and say: “We have a problem! We are the highest taxed! And this is how we plan to fix it…”
But no! Instead, our “fearless leaders” punt the political football: “It’s the school district’s fault”, “It’s the State’s unfunded mandates”, or “It’s the overspending by President Obama.” Never once have I seen one of these woeful politicians step up and face the music or take an iota of blame for our current economic situation.
It is also unfortunate that our Legislative minority, led by Dennis Virtuoso and sidekick Jason Zona, is equally as impotent. Meeting after meeting, I get to hear from the whiney Legislative Minority as they fight the Majority for the same old crumbs. “Cut patronage, cut patronage, cut patronage” is the constant rhetoric that we hear from the Democrats. And while I agree they are right, we need to cut the tens of patronage positions and consultants in the County, it is not nearly enough. When will the Minority actually decide to try and inspire us? They still have the ability to lead despite their dismally small minority. Maybe, one day, they will find themselves, develop a platform for Niagara County, and become relevant.
In the end, I am 150 days older, and so is Niagara County. But in that time, Niagara County lost more jobs, more tax payers moved away to another locality, and our taxes went up! For that reason and for our woeful leadership, the Niagara County Legislature receives for it’s first 150
days the grade of: F
On the bright side, at least there is room for improvement
Robert Restaino, former Niagara Falls City Court Judge, has announced that he will seek election to the New York State Assembly seat currently held by Republican John Ceretto. Restaino, a popular Democrat from the City of Niagara Falls, will focus his campaign on bringing strong paying jobs to an area that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the Country.
Many political experts believe that this race is completely up for grabs. Ceretto, a first term incumbent, has seen his district become more Democratic with the State’s redistricting.
The wildcard question is: who will Senator Maziarz throw his support behind? It is no secret that Ceretto and Maziarz have had a close political relationship since Cerreto served in the Niagara County Legislature. Ceretto, originally a Democrat, was ostracized by the Democratic minority for not voting with their group. Maziarz’s Republican majority welcomed Ceretto with open arms and he changed party affiliation. Their relationship remained close ever since.
However, it is also almost as well known that Restaino has had a working relationship with Maziarz. In fact, Restaino would not have been hired by the Niagara County Legislature as their fraud investigator without the approval of the Niagara County Republican’s most powerful representative. For over three years Restaino held the coveted position earning approximately $90,000.00 per year.
Local political analysts believe that Maziarz, who is politically ruthless and cunning, will throw his support behind both candidates, yet will throw the bulk of his support behind Restaino. Surely if Restaino is elected, Maziarz will have a political ally that sits in the Assembly’s majority, rather than Ceretto who will always sit in the Assembly’s minority. Further, as some have argued, given the primarily Democratic nature of Ceretto’s district, every election the Republicans will have to fight hard and spend a lot of money to keep Cerreto in office. On the other hand, if Restaino is successful, it will almost be impossible to unseat the popular Democrat, thereby giving Restaino a free pass to work with whomever he wants.
Restaino, who is an attorney with a practice in Niagara Falls, has already resigned as the Niagara County Fraud Investigator. According to the Federal Hatch Act, Restaino could no longer serve in this capacity while running for another office. This position will remain vacant until the Republican led Niagara County Legislature will fill the nearly $90,000.00 a year position.
Ever since NiagaraPost.com broke the story that Destino would run against long-time incumbent George Maziarz for Senate, the Niagara political world has turned upside down. Destino, a young attorney and School Board member, opted to take a stand against the status quo and stagnation that Niagara has suffered under the leadership of Senator George Maziarz.
Since the article broke in the NiagaraPost, Destino has received a whirlwind of support throughout the County. In fact, at a recent fundraiser in Niagara County, a line of Republicans and Democrats formed to hug and congratulate Destino on his new endeavor. It has even been rumored that billionaire powerhouses like Paladino, Golisano, Milstein and Trevino will all support Destino.
Not all of the responses, though, have been positive. Maziarz, who will receive his first real political challenge in a long time, cannot afford to face Destino in the primary. Sources close to the situation state that Destino has been told that he has two weeks to gracefully bow out of the race. It is unclear what wrath Maziarz’s political machine will unleash upon Destino if he does not follow this order. But regardless, it is a great sign regarding Destino’s actual potential if Maziarz must resort to threats against his challengers.
Other sources also opine that Destino may be offered a bribe from Maziarz’s Legislative Majority in the County. Specifically, the Fraud Investigator position formally held by Assembly Candidate Robert Restaino is still vacant and is highly coveted. This job, which is slightly better than a no-show patronage position, pays about $90,000.00 per year. Rumor has it that Maziarz will ensure that Destino will receive this $90,000.00 no-show job for bowing out of the race and throwing his support behind the incumbent Maziarz.
Regardless, Maziarz’s tactics are deplorable. Instead of running on his record, Maziarz prefers to usurp the democratic process with threats and bribery. But again, Maziarz’s record is clear, under his leadership, Niagara has become the highest taxed County in the entire country with one of the highest unemployment rates too. Those facts do not bode well for someone seeking reelection.
In a move that some political experts declare as daring and “gutsy”, Niagara Falls School Board Member Johnny Destino has all but announced his candidacy against longtime Senator George Maziarz. Destino, a Republican who last year ran for Mayor against incumbent Paul Dyster, will provide Maziarz with his toughest challenge in recent memory.
Sources say that Destino will wait to formally announce his candidacy until late May. This delay may prove to become a detriment to the newcomer because it will limit his ability to raise campaign contributions. This race, like most, will rely much on fundraising. Destino’s opponent, George Maziarz, currently has a campaign war chest that nears one million dollars.
It is clear, though, that Maziarz has spent more time in the Senate raising money for his own political agenda instead of actually helping his constituency. Under Maziarz’s leadership, Niagara County has become the highest taxed county in the entire country. The County also flaunts one of the highest unemployment rates too. Throughout Niagara’s plight, Maziarz continues to raise money, mostly from large downstate special interests.
This is a financial hurdle that Destino must, and can, overcome. Finances will not be the only deciding factor in this election. Destino, a young attorney in the City of Niagara Falls, has the energy and the fresh outlook that Niagara needs. It is refreshing to see this young professional looking to change the status quo at the expense of challenging a political tyrant.
Destino’s drive and enthusiasm has already resonated with Niagara Falls voters. In 2011, Destino nearly unseated popular Mayoral incumbent Paul Dyster. In the end, Dyster squeaked out a victory over the political newcomer by a few hundred votes.
Local political experts believe that Maziarz will not take a challenge from Destino lightly. Rumor has it, that in an effort to keep Destino at bay, and not challenge Maziarz in the near future, Maziarz promised to “pass the torch” and give Destino his Senate seat upon his retirement. But Destino should be applauded for refusing to accept Maziarz’s deal. Destino, like many residents of Niagara, realize that the status quo is not acceptable and we cannot wait for Maziarz to retire to get real change.
This will leave a feisty and bitter race ahead. Destino has proven, in his race against Mayor Dyster, that he campaigns on the issues and solutions. Destino, unlike Maziarz, will not try to confuse the voters with slanderous propaganda and divert their attention from the real problems that plague us. However it is clear that Maziarz cannot afford to allow the race to be based on the issues. If that were the case, Niagara’s high taxes and skyrocketing unemployment speak for itself.
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