April 15, 2009

DelMonte, Thompson Support Raid Of County Park Funds

The saga of the Paterson-DelMonte NYPA sweep just keeps getting more sordid with every new revelation.

The latest is the report in Tuesday’s Buffalo News that “$24 million from the New York Power Authority that was to include support for two prominent area parks will now be paid into the state’s general fund as part of an agreement made by state leaders during the budget process.”

News reporter Aaron Besecker broke the story that reveals the latest piece of chicanery being used to pay for the sweep of more than $550 million from NYPA’s fund balance: the state quietly inserted a provision in the budget that allows NYPA to opt out of previous promises to provide funds for both Lewiston’s Artpark and the Niagara Falls State Park through 2017.

Unsurprisingly, but still outrageously, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and New York State Senator Antoine Thompson voted in favor of this provision of the budget. That’s right: Francine DelMonte and Antoine Thompson just voted to scale back expenditures on the local tourism industry so that Governor David Paterson could direct that money toward other “priorities.” It was bad enough that Francine DelMonte voted to take money from her constituents in Lewiston, Porter, Wheatfield, Niagara, Cambria, Wilson, Newfane, and Hartland, depriving them of a measly few hundred thousand bucks and stuffing it into potholes in the City of Niagara Falls. But now we find out that she just deprived Niagara Falls itself of millions.

Constantly we’re reminded that Niagara Falls is the “crown jewel” of the county’s tourism industry and other similar claims, often made by the head of the Niagara Falls delegation to the County Legislature. I happen to think Dennis Virtuoso’s words will ring hollow now that it comes out that his political patron and mentor diverted millions of dollars that were supposed to fund the operation of the state park. And, come to think of it, the Niagara Falls State Park and Artpark both are known as hot jobs spots for local high school- and college-aged kids during tourism season. Good luck with those summer jobs this year!

Still, it’s voters in the Falls who keep returning DelMonte to office despite her disregard for her constituents. Maybe they should have heeded John Lennon’s warning: instant karma’s gonna get you.

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