In Business First's annual review of the 97 school districts of Western New York's eight counties, Niagara Falls came in at an appalling 91st place. They were also ranked, by far, the worst district in Niagara County, with the next closest district in the county coming in at 54th place. It should come as no surprise, then, to see the extremely fuzzy math of Niagara Falls Democratic Committee Chairman David Houghton, an obvious product of the city's schooling.
In case you missed it, the Niagara Gazette devoted the front page, top-half to this story, which focuses on the demand of Houghton to see Niagara Falls get four full seats in the county legislature at the culmination of the legislature's downsizing/redistricting process.
For those who are not familiar, the legislature, after a referendum on the ballot last year, which passed with 86% of the vote, is going from 19 to 15 members. The legislature empowered a bipartisan committee, reflective of the make-up of the legislature, to seek public input and ultimately make a recommendation to the body for approval.
The commission is to make their recommendation based on the reduction in the number of seats, as well as population shifts within the county as determined by the 2010 census results, which just came in. One would think this is a pretty uncomplicated process. The legislature is going from 19 to 15, and the county's population has been determined to be 216, 469. You divide the population of the county by 15 seats, and you come up with a figure of 14,431 residents per legislative district.
Apparently it's a little too difficult a concept for Houghton. He believes that Niagara Falls "deserves" at least four seats in the post-redistricting era. He doesn't care about a legitimate process, he just wants what he wants. Forget about a solid rationale and forget about sound reasoning - Houghton wants to completely ignore the legitimacy of the process and simply annoint Niagara Falls at least four seats. It simply does not work.
The census figures tell us that the current population of Niagara Falls stands at 50,193. If each legislative district has approximately 14,431 residents, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there will ultimately be slightly under 3.5 county legislators representing the city, down from the current five. It's not a conspiracy theory to screw the Falls, it's mathematics - the universal language.
The redistricting is supposed to be an apolitical process that will not be influenced by party bosses. As much as the Democrats whine about wanting the process to be apolitical, here is their city party chairman entering what has been a quiet, cooperative process. Leave it to Niagara Falls.
Houghton, in his ultimate ignorance, doesn't care about a fair and balanced reapportionment - he only cares about circumventing the work of a group of volunteers who have approached their task with the utmost professionalism. In addition, Houghton's demand epitomizes the self-serving nature of all of Niagara Falls due to the unquestionable fact that simply giving more representatives to the city because they want it will assuredly take representation away from other parts of the county. It is the height of arrogance.
If Houghton and other supposed city leaders were truly concerned with garnering what they perceive to be proper representation, they wouldn't have allowed their city to become the absolute rat-infested, crime ridden shit hole that it's become. Good people don't want to live in that type of environment.
Maybe if the city leaders didn't allow the school district to be run like a family business, the city wouldn't have seen the massive shift in population. I mean, really...when a husband and wife, the core of the family, decide where they want to raise their growing family, what do they look at first and foremost? Schools. Niagara Falls schools are absolutely abysmal. Again, good people will not be subjected to that type of lifestyle.
That point cannot have been made more clear than with the census results. Niagara Falls saw a nearly 10% drop in population, an extremely disturbing number.
In contrast, its neighbor Wheatfield saw an increase in population of 28%, one of the most significant increases in the entire state. While Wheatfield does draw folks from many areas within Western New York, its clear that the town has benefited from the outflow of clean-living, hardworking men and women from Niagara Falls. Who can blame them? Who wants to live in a city that has no future; a city that has become overrun with gangs, drugs and decrepit housing, with not a prayer of turning things around anywhere in sight?
If these trends continue, which we have no reason to believe they won't, Niagara Falls will be left with nothing but criminals and senior citizens locked in their homes because they're afraid to venture out. If Houghton thinks that an extra body in the legislature is going to change that, he's delusional. He'd be better served working on recruiting a Democratic candidate for mayor who has the balls to address the multitude of problems plaguing this once proud city head on because incumbent Paul Dyster is nothing but a sniveling weasel, incapable of handling his responsibilities.
Houghton would also be better served stopping the pandering and rhetoric. Every single person in the county is deserving of equal representation, regardless of their geographical location. Let the commission complete the task they've been charged with without the political influence of self-serving opportunists.