Something that has been renting space in my head the last few weeks has finally boiled over. First, I'd like to say that I truly don't know my opponent as a person and every time (3-5) that we've been in the same room, it's been nothing but cordial.
However, for those of you who don't know my opponent has, what I believe to be, a conflict of interest should she be elected. Being the sister in law of the fire chief, and wife to a police captain is where I see this conflict. I am in no way disparaging her family members or my opponent but in the eyes of the taxpayer, this could really be an issue. I know myself that if I approved a contract where my wife benefitted (therefore so do I) I would not want to face the taxpayer who is having trouble paying his increasing tax bill and have to answer that part of his tax increase is because my family members got a raise.
Years ago, I was approached to run for school board, and was IMMEDIATELY told that I could not do it as it poses a conflict of interest set out by state regulations. Here's why - Erie 1 BOCES provided a multitude of services to school districts - one of those services is being able to purchase computer hardware, software and other equipment. The benefit to the school district is that not only do they get state aid on all purchases made through BOCES, they also get sufficient training on what they purchase. This ensures that districts don't just buy something and leave it sit in a room, unused. By my sitting on the board of education in Tonawanda, it could have been said that I was steering the district towards increasing service at BOCES. Even if I didn't do that, the relationship that would be built between myself and other board members could be construed as steering the district towards BOCES for many different services. Almost a word for word definition of Conflict of Interest.
The council has taken a beating this last couple of weeks in their handling of the budget and the voting (again) to exceed the 2% tax cap. Maybe it's deserved, I'm not privy to the inner workings nor what happened during the contract negotiations for the unions in the city so maybe I'm speaking a little out of turn here, however one would think that if the contracts were ratified AND one of the people negotiating the contract had family members in both unions, it would lead to the appearance of impropriety. Small city governments such as ours can not afford to have this happen.
The Republican candidate for mayor has stated that he'd like to form a citizens budgetary board (from his facebook - "This is why one of the hallmarks of my administration will be the creation of a Citizen’s Budget Team. I’ll recruit residents with no ties to union presidents or department heads, willing to work with me to obtain fiscal responsibility for our residents."...what an awesome idea...however it would exclude my opponent from being on that board but by using his words, one could extrude that having a relative on the council would prove a major problem for said administration.
Below is my response to his FB post.
So what if my opponent gets elected? The glaring conflict of interest (negotiating fire and police contracts with family members in both departments) should preclude one from voting, negotiating or taking part in any budgetary process relating to these two departments. We have to avoid the the appearance of impropriety on the council and this conflict would surely raise eyebrows. Even if one was to recuse themselves from the vote, I'd ask questions about how much "city business" is being discussed at home. What if a police officer or firefighter personnel issue has to be discussed in executive session? One would hope that a recusal from the discussion would happen as having multiple high ranking family members in power positions in this city would look awfully suspect for a council member to take part in.
Thank's for reading this everyone. The last traffic report I got was that each post is generating between 3 and 600 reads - to imagine that that many people would want to hear what I have to say is humbling. Thank you for your support.
This week Tuesday, I attended the common council meeting which was focused on discussing the housing development that is taking place at the western most end of Fletcher. If you haven't heard about this project, it is going to be a new neighborhood with approximately 90 new houses that look quite similar in structure and build to the Riveredge Condo's down by the police station and Tops. The development will take place in 3 phases, and the developer stated that the project could begin as early as this winter, but the end of the project is a bit more foggy. This is due to the way they will develop the area - in 3 phases.
I have spoken to a few residents (not all- yet!) of the upper end of Fletcher, where this development will take place and, frankly would be raising some of the same concerns as they are if this was to be happening in my back yard! Items such as height of the houses blocking views, increased traffic, displacing wildlife, etc. After listening to the hearing and the presentation the developer put on it does seem as though they have the resident's best interests at heart. These homes are going to sell for between $200 and $250,000 of which the residents will pay approximately a 65% tax. To me, this is a good thing seeing where the city budget may be this upcoming year...
The council then defeated the motion to put in place the foundation a measure that would allow them to exceed the 2% state tax cap. This is such a double edged sword - and the defeat of this vote has me concerned. With skyrocketing health care costs and the cost of the new contracts for city employees that was ratified this year along with standard operating costs taxes will definitely go up, but if we are held to the 2%, we are in for some serious loss of service in this city. Which is why it's a double edged sword...When people ask me what I think about taxes going up - my standard answer is I'm fine with it if it's reasonable and our services stay the same or improve! What if had to cut services? What would you be willing to give up? The best snowplowing in the area? Leaf pick up? Garbage pick up? Street Sweeping? Parks and park maintenance? These are great amenities that we enjoy in our city and to give any of them up is not something that I'm willing to do.
Another piece of food for thought - with almost 90 new houses going up we need to start to think about how our fire and police departments, at their current staffing levels, would be able to handle the added infrastructure and residents. Let's face it the new houses are geared toward an older population of residents (due to the lack of yards, smaller sizes, etc.) Older residents tend to need more emergency medical services, assistance etc. I don't think in we can continue to reduce the number of first responders in our community all the while ADDING infrastructure. Just another point to ponder...we are 15-20 miles from an international border - having first line responders never hurts!
Whew! This is getting to be a long one! As I was sitting at work today having some heated discussion about what the schools of the future are going to be teaching, where they will be located, how students will attend we came about some interesting ideas that I would love to add to my platform. As many of you know I work for Erie 1 BOCES as a technology coordinator/coach for teachers and kids. As part of this, I am in Tonawanda School's 3 days a week assisting the teachers, kids, and principals on how to integrate technology into their curriculum. Back to the point - in many courses that kids take - let's say social studies for example - there is a lot of discussion about communities that takes place. In a classroom. I think it would be great to extend the reach of the schools out to local businesses and government so that the kids could get practical experience in the field. It makes the discussion so much more enriching in the classroom if the kids have background knowledge or are actually working in a field they may have an interest in. It's just a thought that is currently in its infancy, but I would like to work with both school and community to bridge some gaps and get kids extra experiences working or volunteering in the community in a meaningful manner.
-Have a great rest of your day.
Hello everyone - It's good to be back with a new post to update you with happenings from this past week and the week ahead. First and foremost, Tuesday is Primary Day and I do have a challenge to my voting line on the Working Families line. If you are so inclined to get out and vote and are a registered WFP member I surely would appreciate your vote. I will be coming around on Monday Night to speak with you again...I promise not to interrupt the football games.
Have a great week - see you soon.
Check back often to see what's going on as I walk the trail!