Avery seeks support for City Administrator

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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?

PLEASE COMMENT, RESPOND, WRITE LETTERS

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.

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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

DonnaOwens

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.”

DonnaOwens

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!

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Image of the Day : December 23, 2013

Mother Nature shining bright! Merry Christmas!

Great Christmas Gift Idea #1: Discounted Personalized Bottle of Double Cross Vodka

Dear Friends of the Hub,

It’s that time of year again, when we  start to plan our holiday gift giving for family, friends and colleagues. Niagara Hub will begin to highlight unique gifts that are easy to order and fun to give.  As our first idea, it is our pleasure to share a special discounted price on engraved bottles of Double Cross Vodka.

The design-winning bottle of topshelf vodka can now be personalized with a corporate logo, your uncle’s name, or message for that special person on your list.  It can be shipped directly to you so you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to complete your shopping. The page allows you to see exactly how your name or message will look on the bottle. Man, these folks are smart!

The normal price for this is $39.99 but with your Niagarahub discount, you will pay only $36.09. plus shipping and tax.
To receive the discount, use promo code - niagarahub when checking out.

Click here to access the custom engraving  site : http://doublecrossvodka.com/engraving/

Keep an eye out for more great gift ideas from Niagarahub.

Cheers,

Chris and Craig – Niagarahub.com

Be a hero. Buy tix to “The Haunted Armory” for area kids

Niagara Hub is selling tickets to next week’s fright show at the Niagara Falls Armory.  Rivershore, Inc. has taken over over the haunted building to showcase their theatrical and artistic talents.  It promises to be a truly scary experience and great family entertainment.  A children’s section is provided with crafts and activities for those youngsters that may lose sleep if jarred by the sudden appearance of a zombie!  Guided tours will take visitors through an embalming facility during a search for the resident ghosts.  A visit with certified crazies in the psych ward and other surprises await those who dare to prepare!

This all happens October  24,25,26,28,29,30, and 31 from 6-9PM.  Tickets are sold at the door, $7.00 for ages 12 thru adult, and kids under 12 are just $3.00.

YOU CAN STOP BY THE HUB AND SPONSOR A FEW NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS TO SEE THE SHOW.  BUY SOME TICKETS AND WE’LL DELIVER THEM TO FOLKS WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO BE SCARED.  YOU WILL BE PROMINENTLY  RECOGNIZED FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!!  (If we’re not there, drop a note in our mailbox, call, or email, we’ll get back to you.)

Click the “HAUNTED ARMORY” ad on the right column for more info.

New language gets start as a spin off of development contest

More exciting news arrived with New York’s Lieutenant Governor today in Niagara Falls. A contest was announced to sort out the best ideas, designs, and concepts for new developments in downtown Niagara Falls.  Hoping to attract national and perhaps global architects, engineerings, and builders, the contest will offer up to $8 million per year for five years to the “winners.”  The details have been written up in so many media outlets, we won’t bore you with them.  Instead, let’s explore the Who’s, What’s, and Why’s of the idea.

This is a chance for anyone to put his ideas and philosophies to work.  Just think, every person that has strong convictions of what needs to be done in Niagara Falls has a chance to put their words into action. You can team up with a builder, meet with an architect to help you design your vision, or man-up and present the deal yourself.  There is much criticism of those who attempt to make progress in this town usually from those who have never tried. That’s the beauty of this – it’s time to put up or shut up.  If you start your conversations with, “You know what they need around here, you know what they should do?” then here is your chance to do it.

If the thought of designing and building the next Disney World right here scares you, then the stage is open for you to debut on a smaller scale.  Think of the positive vibes that can be generated with the creation of a new Niagara Falls.  That opens the doors to lots of small business startups, employment opportunities with any big national outfits that come here, and a general increase in values as each business and home owner fixes up their property to respond to the momentum. Yeah, I know we’ve heard it all before, but sooner or later something’s gotta give.

Let’s try a new language in town.  I’ll list the old sayings and offer a positive twist to it.

Old Saying:  “Oh, that’s the Governor’s buddy, he gets all the handouts.”

Replace with: “Hey, that guy met the bid specs and came up with the best deal. He’s pretty sharp, no wonder the governor likes him.”

Old Saying:  “Sure, he pulls up in his BMW and gets a grant from the State. Like he really needs it.”

Replace with:  “Man, that guy is living large, he’s either smart, lucky, or both.”

Old saying: “Whoa! They can’t build that there, it blocks my view.”

Replace with: “Damn, I had the chance to buy that lot years ago, well, I hope the new building improves the neighborhood.”

Old Saying:  “Those councilmen are thick as thieves, they just care about themselves.”

Replace with: “I’m gonna start going to those meetings on Monday and tell them my ideas. Maybe I’ll get someone to listen.”

Old Saying:  “There’s too much crime around here.”

Replace with: “I leave the porch lights on now, and check out the window once and a while. If I see anything crazy, I call the police.”

Old Saying: “Those politicians are idiots.”

Replace with: “I’m going to make sure I vote this year.”

Old Saying: “Forty years ago, this town was rockin’.”

Replace with: “Let’s step things up a notch, in ten years it’ll be totally different.”

Offer your own renditions of the new Niagara Falls language in the comments section.  What do we call this language?  Niagrowin?