City Council sticks to schedule | local news

For more than an hour on Wednesday night, members of the Niagara Falls City Council engaged in a verbal battle over the decision by the Republican majority and a sympathetic conservative to halve the body’s regular 2022 meeting schedule.

The council’s lone Democrat, Donta Myles, launched a vigorous attempt to restore the original session schedule, which the council approved in January.

“The reason we were given (for reducing the number of meetings) was wrong,” Myles said. “We have more than enough (items) to hold (two) meetings a month.”

Myles pointed to the number of items considered by the council at recent special sessions convened by Mayor Robert Restaino as evidence of the amount of business being run by the council. Myles has refused to attend the special sessions.

“I boycotted these meetings because they take away people’s right to speak,” Myles said.

Special sessions, unlike regularly scheduled council meetings, do not require time limits for public speakers.

“I hope to make up for a mistake,” he said.

But Councilor Kenny Tompkins said the mayor has the right to call special sessions and has given no indication that he will change that practice.

“We’ve all spoken to the mayor and asked him to give up the special sessions,” Tompkins said. “He won’t do that. Special meetings have become a part of our lives.”

Myles countered that if the mayor set aside a time for public speaking at special meetings, he would attend.

“If we speak publicly at special events, Donta Lamont Myles will show up,” he said.

Council leader John Spanbauer called the irritated debate among council members “a very important discussion” but said he had no intention of returning to two meetings a month.

“I will not spend time on three resolutions to honor people if nothing else is on the agenda,” the council leader said. “Until the mayor changes course, I’ll stick to one (meeting) a month.”

Myles’ motion failed by a vote of 1-4 against councilors Traci Bax, David Zajac, Tompkins and Spanbauer. The result of the vote was not unexpected as Myles was the sole supporter of the resolution.

In April, the council suddenly changed its longstanding practice of holding two sessions a month.

Over strong objections from Myles, the council voted 4-1 to halve its meeting schedule for 2022, with meetings to be reduced to once a month for the remainder of the year. The Council did not adjust its traditional August break.

At that meeting, Myles accused his fellow councilors of “silencing” the public.

Tomkins has downplayed the role of public participation at council meetings, saying he has never gotten a public speaker to change his vote on an issue in six years on council. Tomkins has already announced that he will not seek re-election to the council.

Spanbauer, who has announced he will resign his seat on the council at the end of 2022, has repeatedly stressed that Mayor Restaino has the right to call special sessions to conduct city business.

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