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Restaino to challenge Ceretto for 145th assembly seat

Niagara Falls Repoerter

May 01, 2012

By Frank Parlato Jr.


Bob Restaino
Robert M. Restaino

Niagara Falls attorney and former City Court Judge Robert M. Restaino announced his candidacy this week for New York State’s 145th Assembly District.
Barring a Democratic primary, Mr. Restaino is expected to face the current 138th District Assemblyman, John Ceretto, a Republican, in November’s general election.
Redistricting altered the 145th District to encompass the majority of the present 138th Assembly District, and added Grand Island and northern portions of North Tonawanda, Niagara Falls, Niagara, Lewiston, Cambria and Wheatfield, now part of the 138th, will be part of the 145th District, which first appears on the ballot
in the fall of this year.

Youngstown, Porter, Wilson, Newfane and Hartland, also now part of the 138th District, will be part of the new 144th District, which will also include Lockport, Royalton, Middleport and Somerset, along with other municipalities outside of Niagara County.

The New York State Assembly is composed of 150 members, with each district having an average population of 128,652. Assembly members serve two-year terms and convene at the State Capitol in Albany. Democrats have been in the majority since 1975, with a present 51-seat plurality.

With Mr. Restaino throwing his hat into the ring, the race for the 145th promises to be a marquee event.

“I enter this campaign knowing full-well that the make-up of our Assembly impacts the effec tiveness of our representation on the Assembly floor,” said Mr. Restaino, referring to the large Democratic plurality in the Assembly. “It has nothing to do with personalities. The simple truth is that the make-up of our State Legislature rele-
gates the party in the minority into less-effective positions of lesser influence.”

Mr. Restaino said he sees a need in the Assembly for a representative with the courage to challenge unfunded state mandates, mandates he believes shift a disproportionate tax burden onto Western New Yorkers.

“I have every intention of asking tough questions,” Mr. Restaino said, “and addressing issues that affect the daily lives of the constituents of the 145th Assembly District.”

Mr. Restaino said he welcomes working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“As the governor struggles to strengthen the fiscal well-being of our state, to ‘right size’its government, to create a more effective final product, he will need effective partners. Once I am elected, I intend to work with the governor and our state delegation to provide more effective policies and programs in Albany.
“But my No. 1 priority will be protecting and enhancing the quality of life for the people of Western New York.”

Mr. Restaino, a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls, is married to the former Diana Capilupi. They have two children, Danielle and Robert.
A graduate of Niagara Catholic High School and Niagara University, Mr. Restaino received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1985 from the University of Buffalo School of Law. He was admitted to practice law in New York state in 1986. From 1986 to the present, Mr. Restaino has maintained his private law practice.
From 1996 until 2008, Mr. Restaino was a Niagara Falls City Court Judge. During his tenure, he was one of the most active judges within the local judicial community. Judge Restaino played a major role in the development and growth of the Niagara Falls Drug Court Program. In addition, he acted as a consultant to the Niagara County Domestic Violence Intervention Program, served as a presiding judge for the Niagara Falls Domestic Violence Court, and assisted in the development of
the Judicial Justice Court.

As the result of a 2005 incident in his courtroom, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2008 recommended the removal of Mr. Restaino from the bench. Reacting to a disruption in courtroom procedures, Mr. Restaino placed numerous defendants, who were there mainly on charges of domestic violence, into custody, after no one in the courtroom would take responsibility for a ringing cell phone that interrupted transactions within the courtroom.
The decision to remove Mr. Restaino created a public furor. Thousands of residents signed petitions asking he be kept on the bench, a stunning testimony to the overwhelming support for Mr. Restaino locally.

After Mr. Restaino’s removal from the bench, he returned to private law practice, and in 2008, became a special assistant, Medicaid Inspector General, Medicaid Provider Fraud, in Niagara County, and in three years time he identified more than $3 million in fraudulent payments that were improperly paid to Medicaid service providers.

Mr. Restaino also won election last year to the Niagara Falls Board of Education.

“Dealing firsthand with the challenges facing today’s schools in the less-affluent areas of this state, such as Niagara Falls, has become an education in itself,” he said. “The need exists now, more than ever, for voices in Albany screaming that underfunding education is creating irreparable damage to the future of New York state.”
Mr. Restaino intends to present similar ideals from the floor of the Assembly.

“With the problems facing New York today, the needs of Western New York continue to slip down the ladder of priorities,” Mr. Restaino said. “And if anybody knows me at all, they know I have the ability and tenacity to speak up, to be heard and to argue for the welfare of our community.” 

Asked what he thinks is the most critical cash-flow challenge facing the area, Mr. Restaino said, “The Seneca Nation owes the city of Niagara Falls the equivalent of nearly 70 percent of the city of Niagara Falls’ entire annual budget. The time to renegotiate the casino compact is rapidly approaching. Clearly, Gov. Cuomo remains steadfast in his commitment to state-run gaming.

And it may happen. At the same time, the Senecas are digging in their heels in regard to their casino exclusivity, seeking to create areas with guaranteed ‘non-compete’ clauses.

“Can you see it coming? State-rungaming gets passed. The renewed compact retaining exclusivity eliminates the chance for such state gaming in Niagara Falls. Who is left out in the cold? Seldom has this community been painted into a tighter corner.

“A representative must have the courage to deliver this message: ‘If state-run gaming passes, fine. If non-Native American casinos are not allowed in Niagara Falls, that may befine. But then we must demand the casino cash revenues from the Seneca Corp. be appropriated entirely and directly to the host communities.’
“This community will need effective leadership, willing to fight what promises to be a conflict of historic proportions.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. Restaino displayed a command of many issues. Encouraged by the 2 percent property tax cap, he remains wary of the potential curtailing of local, essential programs that could become the victim of “unfunded mandates we are force-fed by Albany.”

Mr. Restaino looks to the relationship between legislative leadership and the Executive Branch as a key to a better final product.

Mr. Restaino insisted, “Relationships aside, Assembly members must never forget the people who sent us to Albany in the first place.”

Repeatedly he returned to the topic of unfunded mandates — an expenditure required by the state of a locality but not funded by the state.

“Once in Albany, I will commit to an aggressive campaign for mandate reform. When mandates are under control, then and only then can Western New York develop a business climate capable of moving this area forward.”

Mr. Restaino said he predicts little improvement in the local business climate until “our needs” are presented in Albany from “a point of view of strength, not a position of chance.”

Mr. Restaino’s community involvement has seen him serve as a member of the board of directors for the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club, a volunteer with the March of Dimes of Western New York, American Heart Association, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Local History of Niagara Falls Public Library, Pine Avenue Business Association, Polish Heritage Museum and the Italian Heritage Museum. He is a former member of the board of the Music School of Niagara, Health Association of Niagara County, Niagara Catholic High School, Niagara Falls Public Library, Community Missions, Inc. and De Franco Public Charity.



  Copyright © 2008 Frank Parlato Jr.