Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

August 25, 2013

Walk and talk

Board candidate Paul Black has been out asking residents about dividing town into wards

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Paul Black says all he’s been doing is walking around and talking with people.

Black is a candidate for the Lockport Town Board and one of three vying for the Republican nod in the Sept. 10 primary. He is running against incumbents Mark C. Crocker and Patricia Dufour.

But while collecting signatures for his own candidacy, Black has also been collecting signatures for a pair of referendums he hopes will be on the November ballot as well. He is nearing 400 signatures for each referendum, more than the required 322 needed, or 5 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election in 2010.

The first referendum asks residents if the town should be divided into four wards, like many cities including the city of Lockport. Residents in a particular ward would elect a town board member from among those who live within the ward.

Currently, Lockport’s five-person town board consists of four at-large members and a supervisor.

While collecting those signatures, Black has been speaking with a number of residents. Many have shared the same opinion, he said, that change is needed at Town Hall. He’s spent over 70 days speaking with residents.

“I’m striking a cord with a lot of people,” Black said. “I see a board that has become distant and disconnected from the people. They’ve lost touch with the people.”

The benefit of a board member being required to live in and be elected from a particular ward would in theory make them more representative and if not, more easily replaced, Black said. It would also help residents cultivate a closer relationship with their representative, by giving them a single person to bring questions and concerns to.

A town divided into smaller districts or wards isn’t a new concept in New York, as for example, the town of Greece is divided into four wards. Residents elect a council member from their ward and then an at-large supervisor.

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