Assemblyman Morinello’s committee roles position him to fight for local control of tourism

Newly elected NYS Assemblyman Angelo J. ‘Judge’ Morinello (R,C,I,Ref-Niagara Falls) whose district includes Niagara County and Grand Island in Erie County, has been assigned several committees for the 2017-2018 Legislative Session. This session, Morinello will serve as member of the Codes, Higher Education, Housing and Tourism Committees, and will serve as Ranking Minority Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

His Tourism Committee membership may be of particular importance, given that his district encompasses the city of Niagara Falls, one of the poorest, most crime-riddled cities in America, long under Democratic rule, and is also among the greatest tourism destinations in the world. More than 20 million tourists visit both sides of Niagara Falls – Ontario and New York.

Somehow, Niagara Falls, Ontario has thrived while Niagara Falls, New York plunged into an abyss of poverty, crime, high taxes and depopulation.

It is known as a wonder of the world, both for its unrivaled waterfalls and its ability to squander resources like tourism which would make any city in the world prosperous. Instead, Niagara Falls, New York, the city, has the highest property taxes, the highest crime, and record amounts of welfare dependency.

Many believe that the root cause of this poverty is Albany’s usurpation of Niagara Falls tourism and its hydropower, local assets which largely profit New York City.   Under the nine-year administration of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and six years of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the city has fallen to breathtakingly record lows of population, while crime, ratio of sex offenders to residents, housing vacancies, creation of heavily subsidized, wildly inflated but unneeded developer driven affordable housing (there are hundreds of low rent vacancies all over the city), mid-scale subsidized hotels, taken off the tax rolls, built by developer donors to Cuomo, and a kowtowing to Albany interests have all increased.

Without Assemblyman Ceretto or Dyster’s input or any stakeholder discussions, Cuomo renewed the disastrous Seneca Gaming Compact for another decade, which gives the Seneca Nation the right to develop on its 50 acres in downtown Niagara Falls a monopoly casino, as well as tax free businesses such as hotels, retail stores and now a tax- free gas station and convenience store, to compete with the highest taxed businesses and residents in the state.

Both Ceretto and Dsyter are seen as puppets of the micromanaging and controlling Cuomo. Ceretto even switched parties from Republican to Democrat, which was seen as a move encouraged by Cuomo.

Morinello waged a hard fought campaign against Ceretto, a Democrat, in a Democratic voter majority district.

The leaking of emails by one of Ceretto’s ex-staffers during the campaign revealed that Ceretto and his chief aide Rob Nichols played politics with his member item money.  One of the ironies of this was that leaked emails showed that Ceretto’s office resisted offering funding for a planned Nikola Tesla museum in Niagara Falls, because one of the proposed museum volunteers, James Hufnagel, is a writer for the Niagara Falls Reporter, which has criticized Cuomo and Dyster. To add even more irony, the staffer who leaked the information was also a member of the Tesla Museum committee.

Other leaked emails ran the gamut from revealing that Ceretto only made appearances at meetings concerning his district if it directly helped his campaign, to avoiding funding Republican town initiatives, because he was snubbed at a picnic.

Morinello, formerly a Niagara Falls City Court Judge, ran on a platform of integrity and opposition to the sell-out of Niagara Falls’ assets to Albany.

Which brings us full circle: to make a change in what Morinello has observed is the siphoning of tourism by Albany, he may have to make a stand against the Governor and his monopolization of the Niagara Falls State Park by two of Cuomo’s big donors, James Glynn (Maid of the Mist) and Jeremy Jacobs (Delaware North, which has the bulk of the concessions).

“I’m excited to meet my committee colleagues and begin my work in these various areas of concentration,” said Morinello. “I am also grateful to have been appointed the role of Minority Ranker on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. My experience serving in our military and my relationships with fellow veterans will help give me that extra insight into policymaking for these individuals.”

Morinello is a Vietnam combat veteran, having served from 1968-70 in the U.S. Army’s “Big Red 1”, who fought main force Viet Cong and regular North Vietnamese Army forces in the jungles northwest of Saigon.

Last week it was reported in the Niagara Falls Reporter that the defeated and unemployed Ceretto was handed a political job in Cuomo’s New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and is to be stationed in an office in the Niagara Falls State Park as a “project director” a newly created position with no known job description.

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