This weekend’s Niagara USA Chamber Honors was the place to be for the business and political sets in the Niagara Frontier. The annual dinner brought in nearly 500 top local and state government leaders, the upper crust of business leadership, top financiers, and top economic development officials for the business community’s networking event of the year.
Actually, the Chamber Honors is one of the year’s top business networking events for all of Western New York.
So, it came as no surprise to us to hear that the local political stars in attendance included the entire upper tier of the County Legislature—Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, and Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, along with several of their colleagues—as well Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and Senator George Maziarz. Various other local leaders, from recently-departed Lewiston Mayor Dick Soluri to Lockport’s workaholic chief executive, Mike Tucker, were present. So was a candidate for governor and a representative of the man who is departing that post.
One name was noticeably absent, however: Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. Heck, it’s not like he had to drive that far to get there.
Why in God’s name would the chief executive of what can best be described as a quasi-Third World economy miss out on the opportunity to network with FIVE HUNDRED business leaders, political brass, and economic development officials?
Well, we’re glad you asked. Sources tell us that Dyster originally planned to go. However, Dyster thought his presence at the event was such a high point for everyone else, that his aides called and demanded Chamber officials make him the keynote speaker. When the Chamber explained they had the only declared candidate for governor to fill that role, Dyster pulled the plug on his own attendance and sent City Administrator Donna Owens. (Incidentally, we’re also told that Owens “kept to herself” and departed shortly after the main program was over. Way to work the room, Donna.)
Had any of the other local elected leaders been invited to the podium to speak, Dyster might have had a point. (Well, not really, but hey, we’re trying to be big about it.) But no one—not even Senator Maziarz, arguably the most powerful figure in the room absent gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio—had a turn at the podium. It was a short, tightly-scripted program. And still, Dyster felt like he deserved, more than anyone, to be the star.
Now think about that. Most of the bright lights in Niagara County are gathered in one room—the men and women who control the direction of local economic development policy and dollars, all breaking bread together in one place. They even came right to Niagara Falls. And Dyster couldn’t be bothered to show up. But hey, it's not like Niagara Falls needs economic development or anything.
You stay classy, Niagara Falls.