NIAGARA FALLS – For weeks this fall, Mayor Paul A. Dyster waged a high-profile battle with the City Council over whether to allow the construction of a new downtown hotel.
The standoff over Buffalo developer Mark E. Hamister’s project even attracted the attention of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who ultimately intervened to help change the mind of one Council member and get a greenlight for the project.
The tone at City Hall shifted in the mayor’s favor Tuesday with the election of a new majority on the five-member City Council.
Two-term Councilman Samuel F. Fruscione is out and newcomer Andrew P. Touma is in, giving Dyster a Council friendly to him for the first time since the current Council majority took shape at the start of 2012, based on unofficial results from the Niagara County Board of Elections.
Touma, a Democrat, was the top vote-getter in the election to fill three seats, followed by Kristen M. Grandinetti and Charles A. Walker, two Democratic incumbents.
Tuesday’s losers were Republican Vincent M. Sandonato, who finished fourth, followed by Republican Russell F. Vesci and Fruscione.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to have rational discussions about public policy,” Dyster said Tuesday night at Democratic headquarters in the Four Points by Sheraton on Buffalo Avenue. “In the last two years, the outcomes were predetermined before the discussion of policy even started.”
Grandinetti and Walker, both incumbents, have been in the minority on the Council, with Fruscione having been part of a three-member majority along with Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian and Councilman Robert A. Anderson Jr. – political adversaries of the Democratic mayor and his administration.
Grandinetti, Walker and Touma each had a spot on the Democratic line and support from Dyster.
Democrats in the Falls have a strong enrollment advantage, as roughly three out of five registered voters in the city are Democrats.
Touma, Walker and Grandinetti were touted in Democratic campaign ads as “independent thinkers,” and have sought to discredit assertions they would be Dyster’s “rubber stamps.”
Fruscione is finishing his second term on the Council. He lost the Democratic line for the general election when he came in fourth in September’s Democratic primary.
Fruscione, a political foe of the mayor, initially indicated after his primary defeat that he would not actively campaign for the general election, but last month said he would actively seek re-election, already having the Conservative and Independence lines.
Touma, dean of students at LaSalle Preparatory School, was making his first run for public office.
Grandinetti, who is finishing her first term on the Council, is a prekindergarten teacher at Abate Elementary School.
Walker, the longest-tenured Council member having joined the body in 1999, publicly disclosed very little about where his campaign donations were coming from before the general election.