February 21, 2012
By Frank Parlato Jr.
Former Niagara Falls mayor Vince Anello will be granting what is presumably his first in-depth interview since emerging from federal prison, on the Niagara Broadcast Network (www.nbn7900.com), Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
The show, which will be aired live and repeated continuously for the next two days, is hosted by the hard-hitting and at times marvelously sardonic Sal Paonessa.
Thankfully, the necessity of looking exclusively at Sal (who was formerly a radio personality) is happily offset by his comely co-host Rosemarie Mariglia, who joins in with apt color commentary and lively insights. The show is attracting an increasingly wide audience.
Paonessa told the Reporter that Anello was given the choice to take or not take callers, and Anello opted to take callers, live and not prescreened.
The former mayor, who completed a 13-month federal sentence in January, after pleading guilty to illegally receiving pension benefits, will undoubtedly have plenty to say.
He might, in fact, have a choice comment or two about this publication, which back in 2005, broke several stories that many believe prompted his legal troubles.
For my part, I think Anello probably had the best interest of the city at heart, and through fate or blunders -- or, if the worst is to be believed, inappropriate self-interest -- he found himself in a morass.
Still, Anello was a man who would talk to the average Niagara Falls resident -- rich, poor, wise or ignorant. He was a man who would scoff at the notion that we need to hire out-of-town folk to run our city because we are not the brightest and the best to govern ourselves, as the present mayor alleges.
Anello was a man who would not have sat silent while the tax-free Seneca nation runs roughshod over this town and does not pay its slot machine revenue payments on flimsy and errant excuses.
When Albany merely threatened to hold up Seneca payments to the city in 2005, Anello planned to blockade city roads heading into the casino and shut off their flow of customers, just as Albany (and now Seneca) was shutting off payments to its host city, Niagara Falls.
Anello let Albany plainly know what he was going to do. Funny, Albany coughed up the money just before Anello was set to start his blockade.
It has now been more than two years since Seneca paid its required payments, and the city is owed more than $63 million. Our present mayor has done nothing. He said we need more talk. He is a negotiator, a diplomat. Too wise to talk tough. Dyster wants to send lobbyists to Albany with hat in hand to beg state leaders.
Sixty-three million dollars would go a long way in curing some of the financial ills of the city.
Anello, I suspect, would not have sat still and let the Seneca trifle with us. He would not be sending lobbyists. I think he would have gotten the $63 million, or made it awfully hot for the tax-free Seneca who has made so much off of this city and wants to give nothing in return.
Anello, unlike the present mayor, did not need a cop at City Hall to guard his office. If somebody ever came to City Hall bent on trouble, Anello would have fisted the man himself.
In a way, the people never got to judge how good or bad a mayor Anello would have been, for it was only one year, four months and one week into his first term when his mayoralty was all but paralyzed by the looming specter of his impending legal troubles, first reported by our Editor in Chief Mike Hudson.
It was a bona fide story. It was a huge story -- the biggest story locally of the year. It was an unfortunate story.
Still, during his term, unlike the present mayor, Anello was accessible for the average person. They could call him on the phone, and they called him "Vince," not "Your honor."
It was a different day. Here was a mayor of a small town who was a local man, not beholden to Buffalo interests. He was a Niagara Falls guy.
Dyster is a Buffalo guy. He takes his marching orders or agrees to cooperate, and gets most of his campaign contributions from big-money players from Buffalo.
It is almost unbelievable to think of it now, in these well-shielded-from-the-public days of the aloof mayor, but you could once walk into the Niagara Falls mayor's office without an appointment, and if he was not otherwise engaged, Anello would see you. He thought it was the duty of the mayor to see the people who hired him on their terms.
Now, after an absence of more than a year, you can talk to Anello by phone on the Paonessa show. It will be interesting to hear what he says.
Did he made mistakes? I suppose.
Were his intentions so iniquitous that they got him into trouble? I don't know.
It was this publication and my friend, colleague and business partner Mike Hudson who may have had the single largest hand in securing Anello's fall from grace.
Hudson did what he had to do. Report news.
Anello has done what he had to do. Serve time.
It is over.
If it was the Reporter that brought him down, as some say it was, then it is fair for the Reporter (and in this I have Hudson's heartiest endorsement) to acknowledge that Anello paid his price and served his time.
Everybody deserves a chance at a comeback.
It is no more just for me, or us, to relish in judging his past, and should he return in some capacity to public life (not barred to him by the fact of his felony), it will be our duty to judge him afresh based on the present and the future.