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AS NIAGARA FALLS

The upside of downsizing

Reeling from the negative public and media reaction to a plan to use $66,000 of tobacco revenue to buy themselves 19 laptop computers, county legislators were consoled last week by Budget Director Sharon Sacco.

"I will stand by that decision as far as moving this county into the 21st century," Sacco said. "Every time we hold a meeting, we kill a forest," she said, referring to the Legislature's heavy use of paper.

Piped up Legislator Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, "Once we reduce the size of the Legislature, we could buy seven."

Said Legislator Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston, "I vote for one legislator. That would be me. These meetings would be over in five minutes."

PR man needed ASAP

The Financial Management Group, a committee of the county's top financial staffers, recently presented a list of ideas for governmental improvements to the Legislature's Finance Committee.

Asked Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, "What's this last line? A public relations man for (Legislature Chairman) Clyde Burmaster?"

Budget Director Sharon Sacco said, "Everybody on (the management group) said the same thing: 'Maybe we ought to have a PR person.' I know it's a political football, but (bad publicity) gets to the staff. They get demoralized."

After the meeting, Sacco said, "It was not a serious proposal." But that didn't stop the legislators from offering suggestions about the PR man.

Said Legislator Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, "It should be his job to get at least one positive article published somewhere every day, whether it's in Pittsburgh or in The Buffalo News."

Legislator Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, said a committee of three Republicans and three Democrats should be formed to choose one PR man for each party.

Legislator John S. Tylec, D-North Tonawanda, said criticism from other elected officials really hurts.

Tylec said, "If we could get our state senator (George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda) to stop talking about us, that would help. He's the biggest PR problem we have."

The not-so-grim reaper

Who says Niagara Falls City Council members aren't a beleaguered bunch? During a break Monday, several of the lawmakers got into a conversation that led to a discussion of various means of death and which would be worse.

Councilwoman Frances M. Iusi made her preferred means of demise very clear.

"Of very old age in my sleep," she said emphatically.

Unflagging vigilance

Maybe it was because Iusi had been in the direct path of an unruly flagpole just an hour before.

As Michael P. Kirwan of Municipal Insurance Consultants described to the Council what services he would provide to help the city out of the morass of the Niagara County Workers' Compensation pool, he began leaning back against a free-standing, seven-foot flagpole. As Kirwan shifted his weight, the very unstable pole, which has a pointy, spearlike top, swayed behind him.

Iusi, sitting in front of him and in direct line -- along with Councilman Paul A. Dyster and City Clerk Cynthia R. Baxter -- if the flagpole had flown, put out her hand to warn Kirwan. It took several "be carefuls" before Kirwan and others in the room noticed and someone grabbed the pole just as it was about to topple.

All ended well. Kirwan got the job, and the city avoided any compensation claims on that one anyway.

Some sweet nothings

Ed Chu, owner of Chu's Dining Lounge, knows how to play to a crowd. At the annual Main Street Business Association Chinese New Year Luncheon, Chu gave a traditional Chinese New Year wish that brought the house down.

"I wish you prosperity, that everything come true that you are thinking," Chu said before adding, "and make a lot of money."

Lori Caso, who performed the emcee role, explained the Chinese don't wish each other Happy New Year, "they wish you much prosperity." In keeping with the tradition, she explained the small red envelopes at each place held a gold-wrapped chocolate coin. According to the tradition, each guest was to eat it before leaving the luncheon and then utter nothing but sweet words for the rest of the day.

As the luncheon broke up, radio personality Iney Wallens mentioned she'd like an extra coin to send to her granddaughter, whereupon half the table passed her theirs, not wanting to risk bad luck by eating the sweet and breaking tradition later in the day.

Hey, it was only lunchtime.

A Marked man

Lawyer Michael J. Violante got carried away last week with his endorsement of part-time City Judge Robert M. Restaino's run for a full-time seat on the City Court bench. At Restaino's campaign kickoff, Violante ended a rousing campaign speech by urging the overflow crowd there to get the vote out for Restaino for "chief" City Court judge.

Violante quickly offered this correction: "Forgive the slip. My brother (Mark) is chief City Court judge."

Oops.

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