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Numbers show Market did not deliver on deal

Niagara Falls Repoerter

June 05, 2012

By Frank Parlato Jr.

Holiday Market Mark Rivers
“The king's cheese is half wasted in parings; but no matter, 'tis made of the people's milk.” Mark Rivers (right) and his Holiday Market (left)


After several FOIL requests, the Niagara Falls Reporter got the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or contract between the city of Niagara Falls, USA Niagara and Idaho developer Mark Rivers who developed the Niagara Holiday market.

The MOU was signed on June 11, 2011. The city agreed to spend $225,000 of city money, the state through USA Niagara agreed to spend another $225,000 of state taxpayer’s money.

(USA Niagara actually wound up spending $256,000 of taxpayer money because of an unpaid and delinquent $31,000 bill to the Buffalo News that Mr. River’s left for taxpayers to absorb.)

For his part, Mr. Rivers promised to match public money with private money, dollar for dollar, to create a “$900,000” market, promising he would “secure private funding and sponsorships of $435,000.”

The final report of Global Spectrum, the company charged in the MOU with monitoring the event, shows Mr. Rivers secured private investments of less than $285,000.

However there is no detail in the Global Spectrum report of what was invested in cash and what in-kind services were provided. Mr. Rivers claimed what private sponsors contributed in in-kind services or cash is confidential and the public should be kept in the dark.

Taking the Global Spectrum report at face value, Mr. Rivers secured $285,000 in investment and sponsorships, $150,000 less than promised.

In the MOU contract, Mr. Rivers also projected a range for total number of vendors and attendees. From these calculations, estimates of sales tax, city parking revenue, hotel stays and part-time employment were calculated to help justify the expenditure of public money. 

In the MOU, Mr. Rivers proposed to develop a Holiday Market that would “feature approximately 80 vendors from various parts of the region and country.”

He delivered 35.

The MOU said that Mr. Rivers would create a market that “will attract approximately 250,000 people.”
The Global Spectrum report estimated total attendance at 75,000, although the report plainly acknowledged there was no metric measurement or daily monitoring of attendance.

The Niagara Falls Reporter assigned a special correspondent, Johnny Helms, of Niagara Falls to make four visits per day during the 37-day market run and estimate the attendance and record it. Based on the report of his 148 visits, the Reporter estimated total attendance of less than 30,000 people.

Let’s check out his scorecard.

Mr. Rivers promised $435,000 in private investment. He delivered $285,000 or 65.51 percent of promised investment.
He promised “approximately 80 vendors.” He delivered 35 or 43.75 percent of vendors promised.

He estimated 250,000 would attend the Market. He delivered no more than 75,000 or at best 30 percent of what he signed his name on a contract would be likely to come.

What would happen in the real world if a developer promised investors in an MOU what Mr. Rivers promised and then delivered what he actually did?

He would be sued, most likely.

The good news is Mr. Rivers did not make false promises to people who invested their own money.

No, the two men who signed the MOU with him, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and USA Niagara President Chris Shoepflin, you will be happy to learn, did not lose a dime.

The $481,000 wasn’t their money and consequently all parties who signed the MOU had no money invested or lost in the Holiday Market.

It was just the public’s money and that comes easily enough.

Easy come, easy go and no accountability.


  Copyright © 2008 Frank Parlato Jr.