Avery: Resume writing workshop – City Administrator – City of Niagara Falls

So, let’s follow our fantasies.  What if someone actually measured the performance of our City Administrator and caused said Administrator to vacate the office. Then what?  What or who do we need to lead the City? What are the qualifications required for the job?  Who should be involved in the hiring process?  Please don’t say national search, that’s how we got in this mess.  For our own entertainment, I am asking for fun seeking Niagara Hub participants to send in ideas related to running this City efficiently.

City employees: Please chime in on how things should be managed, what you want your boss to do, what you want your boss to stay away from.

City residents: What personality traits should a City Administrator master to communicate effectively to the voters and taxpayers of Niagara Falls?

Businesses: What qualifications should someone controlling the direction of this City embody?  How should this person deal with developers, business owners, and investors?

So just for sh**s and giggles, lets create the perfect resume that should be submitted by a candidate for City Administrator.  We can compare it to the resume of the current City Administrator (By the way has anyone seen that document? I’d like to call a few references, or confirm the experiences paragraph, but I’ve already spent too much time trying to disqualify an obvious stellar professional.)  More importantly, perhaps we could submit it to someone at City Hall for their consideration, should someday, somehow, a replacement be needed to fill the most important job in the City.

Submit your ideas in the comment section below. Be anonymous or wave your own flag, but please participate.

Account manager resume. Blue tint.

Avery: Think Like a Tourist, Act Like a Host

I walked to the brink of the Falls Sunday night at sunset. It’s our backyard, and it truly is beautiful. Most of us locals see potholes, construction cones, litter, and we bitch about it. The tourists have the ability to look past the things that upset us, because they are about to see something magnificent. Most folks are glued to their cameras or phones grabbing selfies by the dozen. Everyone is smiling. Kids are running, skipping, laughing. Dads are in protection mode, and Moms are studying the maps. The words that are spoken amongst families and tour groups are irrelevant. They are barely audible over the roar of the water, and mostly spoken in foreign tongues that we wouldn’t understand if they were speaking directly into our ear buds. But just watch these people when they discover our backyard. If you position yourself in an area where you can see a person’s reaction when he first sets his eyes on this natural wonder, you just might start to look at what we have a bit differently. Let’s learn from our visitors.

One family was trudging along the rapids, kids hanging and sliding their hands on the railing along the bank of the mighty Niagara River, while the mother was trying to tie sneaker laces on a moving target. The Dad was watching the crowd for kidnappers or wild dogs. The first little tyke tourist saw the water going over the edge and let out a scream that caught many off guard. As the family caught up, they were overcome with delight; probably as close to a religious experience they will ever personally witness. I laughed to myself and wanted to offer to autograph their bus schedule cause I lived here.

Married couples holding hands were truly moved as evidenced by the decreasing distance between their bodies as they walked close to the brink. Groups of Asians? Well they’re just a happy lot anyway, so you can imagine how many pictures were being taken back to the bus. Even the dogs looked happy. Then there was the young man dressed in full Boston Red Sox support group clothing.  He shuffled his way past a family from the Ukraine and stood for a moment at the apex of Prospect Point.  He turned and walked away and said to his friends, “Dude, we’ve gotta find some popcorn.” Go Sox.

So why are so many of us down on the whole Niagara Falls experience? City Hall is dysfunctional, Albany is corrupt, 400 people want to get methadone at the tourist center, so what? Suck it up Niagarains. Be a tourist or be a host once in a while and restart your attitude. I did.

So get out and walk the Gorge, Goat Island, Cruise thru the State Parks, and meander through the crowds downtown. Try some of these tricks and have fun in your own backyard:

  1. Make eye contact with tourists and smile. It’ll either drive them nuts or make them feel welcome. It may also result in some interesting dialog where you can introduce some of the rest of these ideas.
  2. Offer to take a picture for someone, better yet, ask someone to take a picture of you. They feel good about helping you, and when was the last time you got a picture on your phone of you at the falls?
  3. Tell them their dog is cute or beautiful, even tho it smells like a salmon and looks like a bat.(don’t try this with their kids, tho, they’ll know you are lying)
  4. Put a dollar in the hat for they guy playing the guitar and tell him thanks for being here.
  5. Engage in conversation if possible. Tell a tourist about some tradition here. Tell them how to get to the Como or Gadawski’s. Tell them we are really a master race, but are very welcoming and humble. Tell them to stick around, and to tell their friends to come in the Winter.
  6. Don’t honk at the family who stops in the middle of the road cause they are lost, pull up and offer to help. Even if you give them the wrong directions, they’ll think you were nice to try.
  7. If the litter really bugs you, pick up one cup and throw it in the trash. (the green tote) Maybe someone will see you and do the same. If someone sees them… before you know it, not much more will have happened, but you thought you knew where I was going with that.
  8. Breathe the air by the falls. That water that is churning has come from around the world to be right here, just like all the people walking in your presence. Use this to put a new value on the rest of your day, and and restart as an insignificant member of our global community. Then forget about bitching and go do something good.

Any other ideas? Send us a comment, picture, or video of a tourist experience. If the response is the same as documenting the City Administrator’s lack of productivity, there won’t be a follow up.

Avery pens letter for City Hall employees, Department Heads

I have said, “this is not my quest.” I have asked for support of my position to remove the Niagara Falls City Administrator from her job. I have asked for those who are close enough to evaluate her performance to either give credence to my observations, or dispute them with tales of success from the powerful City Hall office. We received a handful of “attaboys” in writing. That’s all.

Yet every day, yes, EVERY day since my last writing, I received verbal support to continue my efforts to seek an end to this waste of taxpayer money, and force the Mayor to find someone capable of running this City as a City Administrator should. Many who approached me are City Hall employees and Department Heads, fearing for their jobs if they say anything. Bullsh*t! If we can’t get someone released from a job they can’t do and won’t do, with proven performances of inadequacies, how are you going to get fired for putting your name on something that everyone is in agreement with?

I am going to say this, ONE…MORE….TIME:

The current City Administrator is unable to conduct the duties of her office. Her temperament, professionalism, and people skills have been questioned by City residents and City employees. Administrative updates given at Council meetings have been mostly handled by the Mayor, perhaps an indication he is not comfortable with her presentation and communications skills. Information to be presented to the City Council is many times lacking or non-existent. (Remember the parking meters?)

Department heads are rarely asked for update reports which she insists she uses to gauge departmental progress. She seldom attends meetings that are pertinent to her office, and more than one employee in more than one department has told us she has NEVER stepped foot in their office. She did decorate City Hall for Christmas, so she’s got that going for her.

I am concerned, not for the salary gone to waste, but the opportunity this City has lost in not running as efficiently as it could under proper leadership. I am concerned that there are several good employees in City Hall whose jobs are effected because a portion of their time is spent on tasks she should be handling. I am concerned as to the trickle-down effect of ineffective leadership. I am concerned our City is in dire straits and can’t afford to have people in charge who are not respected, not productive, and not caring.

I know for a fact that several people in positions of authority have shared similar concerns with the Mayor. I know for a fact this is not just my quest. I’m just the only guy writing about it. So here’s what I’m going to do: I am attaching a letter for any City Hall employee who agrees with these thoughts to sign and present to the Mayor and City Council. Collectively, you will not be fired. If you are fired, think of the fame and fortune you will have when media outlets around the world cover your plight. Remember, all you have to do is have someone back you up by saying you do a good job, and that will be better than the one we are trying to get out of your way. Let’s get a good leader in place, so you can do your job without having to cover up all the blunders of a poorly run organization.

If no one signs this letter, please don’t ask me to continue my “Quest.” If you can’t help yourself, you should all pack it in.

* * *


Dear Mayor Dyster and Council Members:

We, the undersigned, respectively request you consider the job performance of the current City Administrator and replace her with someone we could respect in a position of leadership. As each department struggles to provide services that are clearly the City Administrator’s duties, our daily responsibilities are neglected. This City can not function effectively under the leadership of the current City Administrator. We understand you have been made aware of our observations, and this request is made purely in the best interest of the City of Niagara Falls.

Very truly yours;






Avery seeks support for City Administrator



In 2008, a nationwide search was conducted to find the most qualified individuals to manage the City of Niagara Falls under the new leadership of Mayor Paul Dyster.  A major increase in pay rate for several positions was included to attract the best of the best. Comparisons to other local municipalities’ salaries shows the Falls was paying much more, but what the heck, we’ll be getting the best.

An economic development director was hired amidst the fanfare of his experience and charisma.  He failed miserably in his responsibilities, and the council voted to remove his position from the budget, encouraging him to find gainful employment elsewhere.

The fire chief was hired, and soon into his tenure fell to sickness, fell in a parking lot, took vacation, and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with poorly choiced verbal interaction.  He was let go before the fire even started.

A city engineer was put on the books until they found out he didn’t have a license. (Maybe the second page of the resume didn’t print.)

The City Administrator was hired at a $110,000 salary, plus benefits.  To add to her value, it was made known that this represented a cut in pay for her to leave her previous job in Atlanta.

As her experience and talents became evident, she began to receive criticism within City Hall. The city council suggested cutting her salary to match her performance.  A cut was voted on and agreed to, the Mayor vetoed the cut.  Subsequently, the council was able to cut her pay in the budget to $70,000, after needing to override another Dyster veto. As a display of her loyalty, she remained on the job at a little over half the rate she was hired for.

This person is charged with running the City.  Managerial skills, people skills, communication skills, and relationship skills are all required, and assumed, in order to effectively and successfully do this job.

This writer has been openly critical of her performance and suggested she resign after her program of recycling and refuse management met with disaster.  She chastised small business owners who could not understand what she was saying, there was no plan for educating the public on changes to curbside pick up, and she was incapable of communicating her experience to the general populace.  Recently, she could not answer basic questions related to the plan for managing parking meters before the council was to approve spending $350,000 to purchase them.  Questions related to the lease and operation of the new train station still remain unanswered, just a few months from the anticipated grand opening.

I have advertised for support of my observations, as her removal is not my quest.  Although my views are painfully universal in discussions around the city, not many have stepped up to sing with me.  So I must be wrong.

I now am asking for those who are aware of the benefits the current city administrator is providing us, to stand up and tout her accomplishments.  There must be a city department head who can say what a good motivator she is.  Perhaps she holds her employees accountable in a way they know is good for the city.  Her committee work must be documented somewhere, but most who serve on committees with her have told me she doesn’t attend meetings. (I must be talking to the wrong people, ‘cause anyone this bad would have been fired long ago.)  I am appealing to the secretaries of any committees she serves on to share the meeting minutes with us to confirm not only her participation, but her leadership.

I hope I am wrong in my evaluation, but if I’m not, it’s not the waste of money to pay her salary for doing nothing that I worry about.  It’s the lost opportunity that effective leadership brings that we are missing and has cost us the most.  Ineffective leadership in city hall creates misdirection, scattered vision, and general conflict.  Department heads are forced to do more than their job description to make up for an absentee or incapable leader.  The trickle down effect can never be quantified, because things that may happen for the good, never do.

It’s time to resolve the issue: is the city administrator, charged with directing and managing our future, capable, and is she demonstrating her abilities to keep her job and lead this city forward?


Write your thoughts to the Niagara Gazette, or email to:  theniagarhub@gmail.com

Niagara Hub will  post your letters, comments, and offer video interview time as well.  We must address this issue once and for all.       

 Let us know if we should rest at ease or do something to change our course.


Craig E. Avery

Erdco Development, LLC     


Avery asks: “Ok, the goat is in the room, what happened to the elephant?”

Purely referring to the concept of not talking about the elephant in the room, how was Donna Owens’ role as creator of the recycling program demonstrated in the Totes McGoats coming out party the other night?  I was stuck in Charlotte, NC after spending a weekend in the losing Superbowl City’s epic-center, so I missed it, but I heard there were no words spoken by our city’s top paid executive.  I said before I would not make this my quest, but, damn, why hasn’t anyone else even written a letter to the editor about the absolute lack of participation in anything by our City Administrator?

They don’t let her talk (much) at council meetings, the Mayor speaks for her.  At the last meeting I attended, she introduced a website designer to explain his progress on the City website, then sat down.  She introduced Brooke D’Angelo to go over recycling numbers, then they asked the Modern representative to explain further.  She spoke down to all local business owners attending a meeting when she first “rolled out” her program, and that was the last we’ve heard from her.  Most people I have spoken to about this (actually all) shake their heads in disbelief at the amount of money being spent on a salary for a person who has yet to convince anyone I know that she has accomplished anything.  They cut her salary and she stayed. When the Mayor announced he is reviewing managerial positions at City Hall, most thought this was his chance.  Nada.

Can someone back me up, or just tell me I’m imagining this and shut up?  We are paying top dollar for a person who alienates herself from every opportunity set in front of her.  The rest of City hall personnel have to step up and do her job, speak for her, and protect her.  Not only is her salary a waste of City money, but look at the opportunities we are missing with not having the right person in her place.  We need someone who can run a city, not decorate City Hall.  We need someone with relationships, someone developers would be anxious to meet and work with.  We need someone to be proud of.

Please comment  for the good of our City or just to shut me up.

DO copy

Avery offers assistance to Library and Economic Development budget woes

 guy-covering-his-faceI attended one of the budget hearings featuring Tom Desantis (on behalf of the Economic Development and Planning Departments), and Michele Petrazzoulo and Jill Onesi, the fashionable librarians. These representatives were ceremoniously seated in front of three members of the City council to present an appeal to budget cuts proposed for their operations. I’m not sure either interest prepared a defense suitable for the council to reverse the Mayor’s recommendations. I have some thoughts on how these humble department heads can measurably present their effectiveness and maintain funding for the benefit of the City.

As you know, Mr. Desantis has been the City planner for close to thirty years. That’s a blink in the life of a comet, but eternity for a family hoping their city will prosper for generations of togetherness. So who knows better about the future of development and progress in Niagara Falls than Desantis, the person who planned for us to be where we are today?

Mr. Desantis simply stated that his department had too much work to do to survive a 25% cut in funding. Proposed elimination of jobs within both areas was unacceptable, as no one would be able to handle all the activities managed by economic development and planning. He referred to the many phone calls and meetings his staff manages to entice businesses and developers to come to Niagara Falls. However, he stopped there.

Want a slam dunk Tom? Produce the list of the businesses and developers your department contacted during the year of 2014. Then show the council the success ratio of landing these businesses in the falls, or provide the reason for those who may have passed on the opportunity. I’m sure records were kept on initial contacts, followup call schedules, and successful placement of new businesses and developments. When you quantify your statements related to the “many calls and contacts” your department facilitates, no one can argue with your success.

While you are at it, you can sweeten the pie by providing the list of commercial space available for sale or lease within the City. You must have this information, as it would be key to your pitches to potential businesses and developers. Furthermore, no one has ever contacted me regarding commercial space and rates I manage, so I assume you have this information.

Niagara Hub will be glad to assist in spreading the word of the new businesses and developments your department discovered and landed here. We understand you must have been nervous in sitting in front of City officials, and we are happy to help you with the simple process of communicating effectively.

So there you are- quantify your efforts and successes, and the people of this great City will fight tooth and nail for your continuance.

As far as Planning department cuts? Sorry, miracles are managed by something bigger than the Hub.

OK, how ’bout the library? The proposed budget simply cut $75,000 out of the support it offers the library. As the library is not a city department, a line item budget was not presented. The council committee respectfully asked to review what the library does with the $75,000, and the directors agreed to provide that in the same transparent quantification I asked the economic development folks do. I suggest Michele and Jill provide a count of people who use the library daily, programs that assist the community, and other events and classes that may be effected by a $75,000 reduction in support. It was nice to see several members of the Board of the Library in the audience; a statement to the commitment some have to the causes that are close to their hearts.

On a side note, the rumor mill has it that the council may take into consideration Ms. Petrazzoullo’s residency in Lewiston as a reason for sustaining the $75,000 cut in funding. If that were the case, the council would be in violation of prudent decision making, as there is no residency requirements for library employees. Sure, it would be nice to have all people who work with the city in any regard live here, but that just can’t happen. Certainly the members of the city council realize their moral, fiduciary, and professional responsibilities in voting as directed by the desires of the citizenry. When the library presents the benefits that come from the city support, the council must vote on the benefits to the city, and not on who lives where, what they wear, or which church they attend.

And folks, if you want this city to move forward, get involved. Attend public meetings to show our elected officials you care, you are watching, and you vote. This is our city, and we have selected officials to act on our behalf. Let’s make sure we are constructive and active in our assertions. Negative ramblings only entitle those moving in the wrong direction to forge ahead.

Image of the Day Interruption


We interrupt our regularly scheduled Image of the Day to
bring you this “Hot of The Press!” editorial (click link): 

“Mr. Avery” calls for Donna Owens’ resignation –
Adds, “If there’s room on the bus, take Tom DeSantis with you.”

“Mr. Avery” calls for Donna Owens’ resignation – Adds, “If there’s room on the bus, take Tom DeSantis with you.”


Yes, folks, I said it. Now let’s do something about it. This Kumbaya relationship we have with two top decision makers in the City must end. Last week’s presentation by Donna Owens to a group of small business owners was an embarrassment.

Ms. Owens has been attempting to communicate a new program for refuse collection and recycling that will require some major changes in behavior, spending, and household management by city residents and businesses alike. It is not the program we should be concerned with; all proposals meet with discussion, and rise or fall accordingly. It is her presentation and communication skills, or lack thereof, and her professional demeanor that leave us to question her ability to manage the duties of City Administrator. It wasn’t just last week either. Though she rambled on in a condescending manner to her taxpayer “bosses,” she left most questions unanswered and became combative with those who had spoken to her previously on the phone. Looking at it simply, she admitted talking to them on the phone, so why were they at this meeting with the same questions, and at times receiving different answers?

It became obvious she hadn’t a clue as to what she was addressing, and had made several mistakes in planning this program without the input of small businesses, waste management professionals, or elementary school English teachers.

After sitting through several Monday evening council meetings and counting the “Umms” in her presentations, between confusing narratives and incorrect statistics, I finally hit the wall and decided to offer her an out. I couldn’t suggest she quit while she was ahead, because she was far from that. I could only suggest she stop digging herself deeper, adjourn the meeting and consider resigning from her position.

Last year, the council tried to encourage her to vacate with a salary cut. She stayed. Why shouldn’t she? If you can get paid for something you haven’t shown you know how to do, why leave? Let’s look at her profile on the City website:

Donna began her career in public service in 1988, in Baltimore Maryland, as a Mayor’s Representative and then later a Solid Waste Analyst for the Department of Public Works. As Solid Waste Analysts she became first female to ever hold this managerial position in the field of Solid Waste Management in Baltimore City. She later in 1999 became the first women to become Chief, of the Street and Alley Cleaning Division, in Washington, DC. In 2003, Donna became the first Deputy Commissioner, for Public Works in Atlanta, Georgia, thus breaking the glass ceiling in Solid Waste Management and environmental services, blazing a trail for women in non-traditional careers.

She may have blazed a trail in Georgia, but I think she burned some bridges in Niagara Falls. She is touted as the guru of solid waste, but had a hard time explaining tipping fees. She chastised a person in the audience because they didn’t understand the tipping fee structure, but she may have been confused herself with notices on the restaurant menu that it is 18% for parties of 6 or more.

Hey folks, I have other things to do and do not intend to make this some pet project of mine. I put it out there; if anyone cares to comment, write a letter to the mayor or the editor of your favorite newspaper, perhaps we can shed some light on the obvious. If we want to get this City going again, we need leadership that we would be proud to follow.

And while you are at it, take a look at this City. The City planner, Tom DeSantis, has been making decisions and directing development traffic here for somewhere near thirty (30) years. The summation of his efforts is right in front of you. If we think his work has been good, let’s name a holiday after him. If you think we should be better off after 30 years of his planning, then send the same message to the community. We need a change of leadership and decision makers before any progress can begin in Niagara Falls. These two individuals are responsible for discouraging new investments into our community. They are both very nice people and I have enjoyed pleasant conversations with each of them. But let’s face it, a quick evaluation of their records show we could do better.

The Niagara Hub is always available to post your thoughts, or air your concerns. Let’s get our City back on track. Pump it up and let your thoughts be known.

– Craig Avery

Chris “stenz” Stoianoff turns 40 today!


Image of the Day : December 23, 2013

Mother Nature shining bright! Merry Christmas!