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The numbers look good for mayor-elect Dyster's style and a new City Council member
may be the recipe for success in the Falls

NIAGARA FALLS -- Departing Mayor Vince Anello knows the sting of the City Council.

He often cites a majority voting block on the Council that has frequently opposed his major initiatives when he recounts the fits and starts of his administration.

It's a predicament his successor very well may avoid.

That's because the city is getting more than a new mayor. A new Council member also comes aboard in January, and may provide Mayor-elect Paul A. Dyster just the edge he needs to carry out a sweeping series of reforms he promised during his campaign.

"I think for the next mayor, it's going to be a very good situation," Anello said. "On all crucial things, there's been a voting block [against me]. Certainly the one nice word I can say about it is 'irresponsible.' "

Dyster -- who campaigned hard with talk of cleaning up politics and bringing prosperity back to the city -- galvanized voters Tuesday when he took nearly 80 percent of the vote against Republican candidate Candra C. Thomason.

But the City Council will hold the key to whether Dyster's lofty plans gain traction.

Like Anello, Dyster will be dealing with five fellow Democrats.

Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and Erie County Executive-elect Chris Collins, both forced to deal with lawmakers from other parties, should be so lucky.

Dyster plans to take a different approach than Anello in dealing with the Council, one he hopes will allow him to avoid consistent conflict with city lawmakers.

>The wild card

While only one new member will join the five-member governing board, it could look vastly different to Dyster than it has for Anello.

Before he has taken the oath of office, Dyster already has enjoyed some Council support.

Two councilmen -- Charles Walker and Christopher Robins -- campaigned for him and helped celebrate his win Tuesday.

Councilman Lewis "Babe" Rotella, who has cast the most "no" votes during the last year, will not return in January after giving up his seat to run for mayor.

Although he had the city Democratic Committee's backing, Rotella lost the Democratic primary to Dyster by a wide margin in September.

Dyster wasn't the only one snubbed by the Democratic machine early in the election season. A city businessman pulled ahead in the Council race with no help from the city's Democratic Party and will take office the same day as Dyster.

Steven D. Fournier Jr., 35, could be the Council's new wild card.

He's a lifelong resident with strong family ties in the community who takes pride in having built his business from scratch.

Seven years ago, Fournier bought a building on Third Street, painstakingly preserved its 1930s art deco interior and opened a jazz nightclub two years later that draws a young professional crowd on weekend nights.

"People are screaming for a change, and obviously their voice was heard," said Fournier, who had campaign help from a good friend and his wife. "For one thing, I don't owe anybody anything. I'm a small-business owner, a family man, and a lot people know me around here and know I work hard."

Aside from financial incentives his business has received from the city because of its location on Third Street, Fournier has had little involvement in city government.

The fresh face could put city government in a good position for Dyster.

"He's a young guy with a young family, and what a great perspective that is," Dyster said of Fournier. "This is a guy who is a small-business person and he understands the nitty-gritty of small business."

Like Fournier, Dyster runs a small business.

>New Council chairman

Meanwhile, senior Council members say they, too, are looking forward to mending the gap between the mayor's office and the Council.

"The bottom line is the people of this city supported Dyster," Council Chairman Robert Anderson Jr. said. "The name of the game is we're supposed to work together as a team."

Anderson was a close supporter of Rotella in his run for mayor and spent election night viewing results with the city's Democratic Party leaders -- a group that refused to interview Dyster for an endorsement and did not support Fournier's campaign, even after he won the party's primary.

Anderson takes little stock in a Democratic split. He said he posted a Dyster campaign sign in his yard during the general election and went searching for Dyster the day after his win to offer congratulations.

He does not plan to seek a second year as chairman and wants the position to rotate annually among the Council.

Anderson has voted frequently with three other Council members -- Rotella, Sam Fruscione and former Councilman Glenn Choolokian -- to oppose Anello's initiatives, but he said the conflict had to do with personality and governing style.

"You have to learn how to agree and disagree, and tomorrow you go have coffee and doughnuts and you leave it behind," Anderson said. "Some of them, it's 'my way or the highway,' and that's it. This is not how you run government."

>Lessons learned

Dyster, a former councilman and a volunteer in several community organizations, already has experience forging deals with skeptical Council members.

Early this year, in the months leading up to his decision to run for mayor, Dyster met with Council members to allay concerns about a proposal to give $500,000 of the city's casino revenue to the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center to repair its roof. Three Council members initially defeated the measure but later approved the deal.

Dyster said he draws on his own experience on the Council, when he took office in 2000 with an ambitious agenda only to find himself entangled in other discussions.

"I got diverted into a whole range of issues," Dyster said. "I've learned some lessons now about how to stay on track and not be diverted, and I'm going to try to apply those."

He plans to get right down to business, though so far he has been reluctant to talk about key appointments for his new administration.

In Niagara Weekend last Sunday, Dyster outlined a series of steps he plans to take in his first 100 days in office.

He plans to reach out to state and federal leaders to hear their goals and dreams for the Falls and share his. He plans a thorough review of capital projects, to begin to address long-tanding downtown development problems and to try to reopen casino revenue sharing talks.

He wants to address city recreational facilities, forge better relations with city workers, get started on a public waterfront park at the Century Club site and establish a Web site for residents to report problems on city streets.

As he gets going, he also may have learned a thing or two from Spitzer.

Dyster believes the governor still has a voter mandate and public support to bring about the change he promised, despite high-profile missteps in his first year.

"In a sense, to the extent that we're like-minded, and I can learn from some of the tactical errors that he maybe made in his administration, that's helpful to me," Dyster said. "But then, again, I was a City Councilman, and I know what that's like."


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