With his swearing in as Mayor of Niagara Falls this Tuesday, Paul Dyster becomes the successor to what has been a slew of one-term mayors. We do have high hopes for Dyster, despite questioning some of his initial appointments. For the most part, he has said the right things, and his willingness to enact a nationwide search for many key positions within his administration does show a willingness to think and act outside the box.
Dyster won with a staggering 80% of the vote in November. Now its time to show what he can do. The question is, what can he do? Can Paul Dyster turn Niagara Falls around? The city has been decimated by political and economic decisions that were made long before Paul Dyster came along. Even before Vince Anello, Jake Palillo, Jim Galie and Irene Elia sat in the mayor's seat.
So what will Paul Dyster be able to do that a long line of predecessors were unable to do? Yes, there are good things happening in Niagara Falls. The opening of the new Conference Center Niagara Falls in 2005; the redevelopment of the United Office Building, the new Theater in the Mist; the redevelopment of the former Holiday Inn Select as a new Crowne Plaza Resort with several restaurants including the city's first Starbucks Coffee; and other attractions such as the Niagara Aerospace Museum and the planned Niagara Experience Center; and of course, the Seneca Niagara Casino.
But what about the socio-economic woes of the city? Is opening a Starbucks going to address the staggering illiteracy rates that plague Niagara Falls? And as we've seen, a casino is hardly a panacea for the neighborhood around the Seneca Niagara Casino. Is revamping the Holiday Inn Select going to stem the tide of the massive amounts of drugs that are trafficking through this city every day?
As I've said before, I love the Falls. Obviously, since it draws 14 million people a year, I'm not alone. But what is it going to take to turn this world-class destination around? Another casino/hotel, this one 52 stories? That's not the answer. Buffalo Ave is a wasteland. From the 190 exit right into the city, the entire strip needs to be demolished. But who's going to do it? Is it the responsibility of our government to make this investment? Will anyone from the private sector ever make that type of commitment, knowing the return on investment is possibly non-existent?
Maybe this is alot to lay on Dyster, considering he hasn't even taken office yet. But we, as did 80% of the voting public in November, have high expectations of Dyster. Of course, we also had high expectations of Anello, Elia, Palillo and Galie. We can only hope that Dyster can differentiate himself from his predecessors, and return Niagara Falls to the glory days of years gone by - if that's possible.