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Turnaround must reveal itself quickly

If one thing is clear in the 2007 mayoral election, it is that the voters are fed up and ready for dramatic change. Expectations are high that the next mayor will lead the city out of its generation-long economic slump and restore faith and pride in city government.

The citizens of Niagara Falls know things didn't get this way overnight and that the solution will take time. But they expect and deserve to see concrete changes taking place quickly in a new administration. A new administration must convince people that a turnaround has started, or citizens may begin to lose patience, and the cycle of self-destruction may begin yet again. That's why the first hundred days of the next mayor's term are so important.

The gold standard for judging new administrations was established almost three-quarters of a century ago. At a time of crisis, a national leader came into office with very high expectations, but facing a very difficult, long-term economic challenge -- a situation not unlike that we face here today. That leader was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The first hundred days of FDR's presidency have now become the stuff of political legend. During a flurry of legislative productivity from March to June of 1933, FDR laid out the programs that constituted the New Deal.

The first task for Roosevelt was to convince the people that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." In September, Falls Democrats stood up to be counted against a political culture of corruption and incompetence. But the rest of the world needs to hear our message loud and clear.

We have begun that task already. We won the primary without promising patronage jobs in return for political favors, a feat made possible by dozens of ordinary citizens stepping forward and participating. We campaigned -- and won big -- in every neighborhood, refuting those who argued that "some people" weren't ready to support change. And we involved young people to an extent never before seen in a local political campaign.

As a result of these efforts, if our campaign is successful on Nov. 6, we can begin the transition with a clean slate. I have promised and will deliver an administration free from scandal and tomfoolery. What can you expect in the first 100 days of a Dyster administration?

Here are some examples:

*Any headlines we make in the first 100 days will be as a result of accomplishments, or at least honest efforts to solve our problems, not scandals or malfeasance in office. We will put the City Hall circus to an end.

*I will meet face to face with all stakeholders, including our state and federal representatives, to assure them that we have competent leadership in place. This will be a systematic process and will also include meeting with each member of the City Council to ascertain their aspirations and policy goals and try to gain their commitment to help restore sanity to the political process.

*We will undertake a comprehensive review of the city's capital projects to establish priorities, set out rational timelines and identify opportunities to leverage private sector investment and state and federal funding. The governor has committed himself to finding us the funds, but made clear he needs a reliable partner. We won't let him down.

*We will take steps to force resolution of outstanding issues with downtown developers, and land speculators who have taken advantage of the city for too long. For example, I will meet personally with Howard Milstein to resolve the question of Niagara Falls Redevelopment's relationship with the city of Niagara Falls, and notify Cordish Corp. that it is in breach of its lease for the Rainbow Mall.

*We will begin the process of getting a fair share of casino revenues, including payments for public safety expenses that all who profit from the casino should share.

*We will start the process of improving recreation facilities for our city's youth. Specifically, we will identify a replacement for facilities lost in the South End as a result of sale of the 10th and 13th Street parks. Every neighborhood needs a park; the city was forced to sell this neighborhood's parks but has not yet reinvested the revenues in a replacement park. This will be the first step in a systematic overall review of the city's recreation facilities.

*We will sit down with all city unions to identify outstanding issues and plan for solutions. In order to move forward with economic development, our city needs good relations with its workers. We expect an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, but workers shouldn't have to work under expired contracts or tolerate unsafe working conditions.

*The city needs to get a process started to create a public waterfront park at the Century Club site, the last public access to the upper river in LaSalle. We also need a plan to use the Customs House facility for Underground Railroad tourism. Within the first 100 days, I want measurable progress on both.

*We will establish a publicly accessible, interactive city Web site to report and record information on potholes, allowing citizens to report unsafe conditions and track progress in getting them fixed. Similarly, we will post a public list of planned street paving and sidewalk repairs, based on rational priorities and free from political interference. This will jump-start the process of modernizing the way we deal with our crumbling infrastructure.

We have a long way to travel, but even the longest journey starts with a single step. Send a message on Nov. 6 that we're on the road to recovery. Get out and vote.

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