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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

Shades of GEICO

Gov. David A. Paterson turned criticism from State Sen. George D. Maziarz into a punch line late last week during a stop in Niagara Falls.

Paterson came to town to announce funding for some Falls projects that would turn vacant properties into apartments. Maziarz called a news conference to criticize the announcement in light of the governor's earlier decision to eliminate the state's STAR rebate program for homeowners.

Here's how Paterson answered Maziarz, according to the New York Daily News:

"Well, STAR rebate program is about $1.7 billion that helped to balance the budget. So, in other words, if Sen. Maziarz would like to add $1.7 billion to the $2.1 billion of deficit we have, we'd have $3.8 billion."

Paterson continued: "It's so easy to stand up and say what you wouldn't have done. A cave man could do it. And he did."

In response, Maziarz told The Daily News he thought the governor was making light of the state's financial situation. He also said, in part: "The governor's a funny guy; I don't take it personally."

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Two kinds of noise

Last week, As Niagara Falls published an item about a national not-for-profit group giving the City of North Tonawanda its Noisy Dozen award.

Noise Free America tapped North Tonawanda with this monthly designation after receiving a complaint about loud motorcycles from a city resident.

Just prior to a Common Council meeting held Tuesday, Mayor Lawrence V. Soos asked, "Do I get a trophy for that?"

Alderman Dennis M. Pasiak offered a lighthearted suggestion he thought may help the situation.

Perhaps those running for office in November would lower the noise, Pasiak suggested, "by keeping down political rhetoric."

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The hot seat

Alderman-at-large Brett M. Sommer's stepping down from the post of Common Council president resulted in a little game of musical chairs in the Council chambers last week.

Alderwoman-at-Large Catherine G. Schwandt took over as the head of the city's legislative body.

Schwandt had been sitting between Mayor Lawrence V. Soos and Alderwoman Nancy A. Donovan.

The new title meant Schwandt would move to Sommer's old seat in the middle of the table.

Sommer, who wasn't at last week's meeting, had his seat changed to the spot between Soos and Donovan.

Soos quickly acknowledged the change, which involved a person who had been one of his strongest political rivals over recent years.

"That means Brett's going to sit next to me from now on?" the mayor said.

"Hide your enthusiasm," recommended City Clerk-Treasurer Robert G. Ortt.

To which Donovan quipped: "And your wallet."

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Painting appreciated

This is one good news story that just keeps going and going.

More than 100 volunteers working under the direction of the Niagara Beautification Commission and Habitat for Humanity have spent the summer painting a wooden guardrail that lines Whirlpool Street in Niagara Falls.

The guardrail, by one estimate, hasn't been painted in 30 years, and the peeling white paint that goes on for more than a mile has been an eyesore for nearby residents.

So after years of waiting for the city to do the job, a group of citizens got to work. With donations from Sherwin-Williams and Niagara Coatings, the volunteers have made the guardrail a weekly task.

And, boy, has the sight of people hard at work gotten a reaction.

Citizens, tired of looking at the gray-brown fence, have reacted in unusual ways upon seeing the bright white paint.

"We get horns tooting," said Marge E. Gillies of the Niagara Beautification Commission. "People have come out of their houses to give us a hug."

With contributions from News Niagara Reporters Aaron Besecker, Thomas J. Prohaska and Denise Jewell Gee.

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