Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The incumbents cite their accomplishments while the challengers question how they reached them.
Tuesday’s primary features two challenges on the Lockport Town Board, one for the supervisor post and one for a pair of board seats.
Supervisor Marc R. Smith will face a challenge on the Conservative line from auto shop owner David J. Mongielo. Republican voters will choose two Town Board members from incumbents Mark Crocker and Patricia Dufour and resident Paul Black.
Smith and Mongielo are certainly familiar with each other. Smith defeated Mongielo in a 2009 supervisor election and since then the two have had clashes at previous Town Board meetings. Mongielo is also dealing with legal challenges involving the electronic sign in front of his Robinson Road shop.
The endorsed Conservative candidate, Smith said the numbers speak for themselves. Ten years of balanced budgets, 85 new businesses, the addition of 323 jobs, three parks and all with no general town tax. That’s while dealing with increases in pensions and health insurance.
“I’m the best Conservative candidate,” Smith said.
An audit by the town’s accounting firm, Lumsden & McCormick, released over the summer, shows that as of Dec. 31, the town had more than $8.5 million in its fund balances, or more than two-thirds of the $12.6 million in total expenses the town incurred in 2012. The surplus grew by $1.3 million in 2012, after going up by about $300,000 in 2011.
“The Town Board works very hard,” Smith said. “We focus on keeping fees down... sales tax is a big source of revenue for the town.”
In Smith’s 10 years on the Town Board, the average household has seen $117 savings in town fees.
But, Mongielo has issues with both the surplus and the number of new businesses. Those new businesses include Yahoo, one of the companies that benefited from tax breaks from the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which Mongielo refers to as “corporate welfare.”
“We’re hurt by this,” Mongielo said. “The help should go to everybody. They’ve given away so much money, that they could’ve given tax breaks to homeowners for three years.”
And the surplus should go back to the taxpayers, Mongielo said. He has the endorsements of Taxed Enough Already and Carl Paladino, a Buffalo School Board member and GOP candidate for governor in 2010.
Crocker has spent eight years on the Town Board, while Dufour was appointed to the board in January following the passing of Paul H. Pettit. But, with 35 years of business experience, Dufour said she hopes to bring that financial know-how to Dysinger Road.
“One of the things we hear when we’re out is that people want to see new businesses,” Dufour said. “There’s been growth. Our goal is to continue that growth.”
Black, who repairs industrial machinery for Syracuse Supply, is a frequent speaker at board meetings. Not only is Black a candidate, but he has submitted a pair of referendums for voters to consider in November. One would break the town into four wards and the other would bring changes to how board meetings are held, namely doing away with afternoon work sessions and delaying votes when there is public objection.
Black said he is trying to change the culture of the board and improve communication between officials and the public.
“I see a board that has become distant and disconnected from the people,” Black said. “They’ve lost touch.”
A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Crocker disagrees. Each member of the Town Board has their home number and email address in the town newsletter and on the website. Often members handle resident concerns one-on-one, such as Crocker did with homeowners and the recent changes in the FEMA floodplain map.
And each Town Board members hears from residents, Crocker said.
“We get very positive feedback, most feel we’re doing a good job,” he said.
Smith, Dufour and Crocker are against the referendums. The ward system would reduce residents’ representation, the incumbents say, by giving each resident only two representatives — their ward representative and the supervisor — down from five. Board members are available, the three say.
“You can always find a sympathetic ear on the board,” Smith said. “You limit yourself under a ward system.”
Black said under a ward system, the representative elected would have to live within that ward. It would make that representative accountable to their neighbors. Mongielo agrees with the idea, as he passed around a similar petition a few years ago.
Wards would act as a sort of term limit for elected officials, Mongielo said. People Mongielo have spoken with have issues with the board and with how the minor party endorsement process is handled, he said.
But wards could be divisive, stopping the town from working as a whole, Crocker said.
As for the meeting changes, Smith said all of the meetings are open to the public. And the Town Board has made decisions to not move forward with legislation when there is public objection, such as the wood burning stove ordinance a few years ago, Crocker said.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.