A Niagara Falls businessman’s “off-the-cuff” remark about paying people $50 to sit in on Tuesday's council meeting to block opponents of the controversial Thundering Waters development from attending spiraled out of control online, enticing letters to council and an email response from Mayor Jim Diodati.
Kevin Jacobi, executive director at CanadaBW Logistics, Inc., confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon that he made the comment after reading a story in the Niagara Falls Review which he believed was “skewing” who the experts were on the envrionmental aspects of the project — some have claimed the development will have a significant negative impact on provincially significant wetlands.
Jacobi said he was at Max Aggression Gaming on McLeod Rd. on Monday when he told friends, “I wish people would actually come down there and listen to the actual facts. In fact, I’d actually pay people 50 bucks for it.”
He said the owner posted his comment on Facebook, piggy-backing with an offer to give people $50 store credit.
The comments went locally viral.
Diodati emailed council after hearing about the comments, saying he was “very disappointed” with the ”improper” tactic, though he pointed out it’s technically not illegal.
He said he contacted the developer right away, who said they were “shocked, surprised and disappointed” and assured him they had nothing to do with the offer.
He went as far as to say secondary seating and monitors would be set up outside chambers should they run out of spots inside.
“I realize there is lots of passion on both sides of the issue and I have confidence that council will not be distracted from dealing with the planning application on its merits alone, in an objective way,” said Diodati.
“I’m sure there are various tactics being utilized to garner support for points of view both for and against on this issue, which is of high public interest.”
Jacobi clarified that the comment was made in a frustrated state and in the presence of friends and he would not, in fact, be paying people to come to council.
“Yeah, it was stupid, but I was with friends,” he said, adding that he apologizes for the remark but does wish people would come to council and listen to all sides of the discussion.