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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

Niagara on the rocks

Many Niagara area natives recall with pride having witnessed the stark reality of nature when the water cascading over the American and Bridal Veil falls was literally shut off for several months in the summer of 1969.

A 600-foot dam was constructed in the upper Niagara River at Goat Island to divert the water from the American channel onto the Canadian side so the Army Corps of Engineers could study effects of erosion on the American Falls.

Onlookers were amazed.

Not Vince Catanzaro.

The former hotelier and current member of the city's Tourism Advisory Board warned the board last week that he doesn't think a plan to shut the falls off again sometime in the next decade will be all that spectacular.

"It's a pile of rocks," Catanzaro said. "I've seen it."

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Grease monkey

If you're new in politics, you need a mentor. And former Niagara County attorney Edwin J. Shoemaker seems to be filling that role for Charles F. Dahlquist, a candidate for the 17th District in the County Legislature.

Shoemaker and Dahlquist are both Republicans, but Shoemaker said he hooked Dahlquist up with county Democratic Chairman Daniel Rivera because he knew the Democrats needed someone to take on Legislature Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport.

When Dahlquist told Shoemaker he wanted to run for a Lockport Town Board seat, Shoemaker told him, "I don't think you're a good fit there. You're not part of that inside group."

And who is Dahlquist? "He's my mechanic," Shoemaker said. "He works on my MG."

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Shoe bares his soul

Republican Ed Shoemaker is representing the Town of Somerset in a lawsuit to try to overturn huge tax breaks given the AES Corp. power plant by the county Industrial Development Agency, a move that top Republicans at the very least didn't oppose.

"Politics in Niagara County used to be a game," said Shoemaker, former attorney for Niagara County. "It was fun. Now it's down and dirty and ugly and totally uninteresting. If it weren't for AES Somerset, I'd be out of the political game."

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Gotcha!

Speaking of AES Somerset, State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. doesn't think power plants should be assessed for property taxes based on how profitable they are, a method called the cash approach.

But attorneys for local taxing jurisdictions, mindful of the nine-figure annual profits at the power plant in Somerset, like that assessing method just fine.

In a recent courtroom exchange, Kloch fired a pointed volley at attorney Craig A. Leslie of the Buffalo law firm Phillips Lytle, who represents Niagara County in its dispute with AES and the county Industrial Development Agency over the AES tax breaks.

"What kind of year did you have last year at Phillips Lytle?" the judge demanded.

"Could have been better," Leslie answered, getting some yucks from the other attorneys in the room.

Kloch asked, "Does the value of your house go up if you make more money?"

"My house isn't an income-producing asset," Leslie replied.

But Kloch was on a roll. "The assessor can say, 'Leslie's had a great year. We'll increase his assessment $100,000. He's got the bucks. He can pay it. What's the squawk?' You guys wouldn't stand for that."

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Lonely guy

A male cardinal that has been pecking at the glass windows of the house of one of our correspondents sure is beautiful, but, darn it, he comes calling every morning at 6:30 a.m.

We understand his persistent exhibitionism is related to the mating season and he's unwittingly courting his own reflection in the glass.

The mating season started in the spring, so this red bird still hasn't found what he's looking for (with apologies to the band U2).

"Who do we call to solve the problem?" our bleary-eyed correspondent asked.

1-800-BOBCAT.

With contributions from Denise Jewell, Thomas J. Prohaska and Pam Kowalik of the News Niagara Bureau.

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