It is the policy of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster to sue every candidate who opposes him, claiming their nominating petitions are fraudulent, insufficient, invalid or anything he can think of.
This year he hoped to knock his three Democratic opponents off the ballot for the Sept. 13 primary. Then we wouldn't need a primary, eliminating one of the steps of democracy whereby the party voters, not the party bosses, get to choose their candidate.
Even when these lawsuits fail, they are distractions and take time, money and momentum away from a candidate.
The other three Democratic candidates did not try to sue each other, or even Dyster. In fact, they said they liked the idea of voters deciding who would be our next mayor.
John Accardo said, "I have a problem when you take an interpretation of the law and use it to your benefit, and your benefit is to eliminate other candidates. I think you really take away the citizens' right to vote when you do that."
Carnell Burch agreed, "(Dyster) wants to decide this year's election in the courtroom, as opposed to where it should be decided -- in the voting booth."
Norton J. Douglas -- who lost a chance to run for mayor against Dyster in 2007, after Douglas' nominating petition was dismissed following a legal challenge -- said he believes all candidates that follow the proper procedures deserve the opportunity to run.
"The way I feel is, everybody has a right to be on that ballot," Douglas said. "That's why I didn't challenge anybody. It's the residents who choose who is going to represent them, and that's the way it should be."
Dyster's toughest challenger, John Accardo, was served papers on the steps of St. Joseph's Church. Accardo, by the way, is the hero who rid this community of the monstrous representation delivered by former state assemblywoman Francine Del Monte -- that hometown gal who after 10 years in Albany became rich and moved out of her humble home in Niagara Falls to a mansion in Lewiston, while her constituents grew visibly poorer.
Del Monte's policy was to vote for whatever her Albany master, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, commanded. This reduced her to a de facto representative of New York City, who from time to time was allowed to distribute a small particle of pork to Niagara.
After 10 years, the voters saw through it. Accardo beat her fair and square in the Democratic Primary. Del Monte stayed in the race on the Working Families line as a spoiler.
Dyster and Del Monte have repeatedly called Accardo the spoiler, yet it was Del Monte who got the fewest votes in that election -- about 20 percent, just enough to split the Democratic vote and elect Republican John Ceretto.
Dyster supported Del Monte in that race, instead of Accardo. He may regret it. Had Del Monte not been the spoiler, Accardo would probably have won an Assembly seat, and Dyster would not be facing the candidate now most likely to beat him.
So Dyster had his process server deliver a subpoena to his opponent on the church steps. What cowardice. He doesn't want to win fairly -- by the voice of the people. He wants to win by a trick, a technicality. Time will tell if that subpoena on the steps of St. Joseph's wasn't really Dyster's mystical white flag of surrender.
As a fine piece of poetic justice, state Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso last Thursday dismissed Dyster's challenges against Accardo and Burch. Douglas, too, will remain on the ballot.
Caruso ruled that Dyster's associate, city Democratic Chairman David Houghton, failed to deliver the affidavits of service to both candidates within the legal timeframe required.
The trickster was beaten by his own tricks. Dyster's lawsuits were dismissed on a technicality.
On a personal note, I would not be inclined to vote for a man who would stoop to have someone tread on church property to get his opponent legally disqualified. I want a man who is not afraid of any challenger. A champion. A guy with guts. That's what this city needs.
What would you think of a fighter who, instead of taking on all comers, and may the best man win, tried to get his opponent disqualified, so he could be declared the winner without risking a blow?
Of course, there are Machiavellian spirits, like Dyster, who might prefer a cowardly mayor, so long as he is smart and tricky. Maybe they think more trickiness is what this city needs. But Dyster was not even smart enough to serve the papers properly. And it's not rocket science.
I do not know what's worse, a coward or a moron, but I know it's worse if you are both. That's why the city looks the way it does now -- the result of electing cowards and morons, people without integrity or honor.
And the city looks far worse now than before Dyster was elected.