In recent months, Republican mayor candidate David Wohleben has promoted a lengthy set of plans to address issues from neighborhood revitalization to renewable energy. Meanwhile, Mayor Michelle Roman has touted her own accomplishments and plans for a potential second term.
Here is a brief synopsis of their recent proposals:
• Create a neighborhood revitalization program. Wohleben said he would work with local non-profits, hardware retailers and contractors to provide residents with labor, materials and funding to make small repairs to home facades. "When neighbors start to fix their homes up, that spreads throughout neighborhoods," he said. The program would also establish a fund to improve sidewalks, plant trees and invest in public spaces once enough residents partake in the program. "I’m going to make a commitment that if people take an interest in their homes, then the city will take an interest in the property in front of their homes," he said.
• Establish an ad hoc committee on renewable energy. The committee could explore allowing an energy company to develop the city's 26-acre landfill into a solar farm. "These types of farms are normally installed at no cost to the municipality. In fact, there is a potential income of approximately $1,000 per acre per year," Wohleben said, adding the cost of maintaining and inspecting the landfill could be passed on to the solar company.
• Develop a mobile application for reporting city defects. The app would allow iPhone and Android users to report city defects by sending a photo, message and GPS location to the city. Wohleben said the app could also be used to inform users of the status of their complaint.
• "Repurpose" the Human Relations Commission, which Roman revived in August after a 14 years of inactivity, to the Commission on Community Relations. This would include expanding the 12-member commission with three town of Lockport residents, the Lockport Town Supervisor, a state representative and county legislator, and adding sexual orientation as a group of individuals to be recognized. The city charter currently tasks the commission with receiving discrimination complaints, preparing plans to reduce or eliminate discrimination and fostering "mutual respect and understanding among all racial, religious and nationality groups." Wohleben also suggested the commission establish a sub-committee to explore minority hiring in the police and fire departments. "It is imperative that the minority community be represented in both of these departments," Wohleben wrote in his plan.
• Create a form-based zoning code. The city's current zoning code designates specific areas for specific uses: residential commercial, industrial, agricultural, combinations, etc. In short, form-based zoning typically utilizes a master plan that determines where to apply different building form standards. Form-based zoning often aims to create functional public spaces and streets, ensure buildings are placed strategically and face the street, and encourage mixed-use neighborhoods. “You don’t have, 'This is residential, this is business and never the two shall meet.' You base it off of need. It’s a process," Roman said. Roman pointed to the Holly Edwards' plan to bring a children's bookstore to 207 Washburn Ave. Because the building is zoned for multi-unit residences — even though it was previously a meat market — Edwards must first get the council to approve a special use permit, which first requires a public hearing. “I don’t think our current zoning is functioning," Roman said.
• Create a vacant property registry. Roman said other municipalities have utilized the registry as a tool to encourage development of empty homes and businesses. “There are properties that are not being utilized or are underutilized, and are not being fully taken care of," Roman said.
During the 2018 election, Roman often invoked improving transparency and citizen involvement in government. So far in her first term, she has followed through on campaign pledges to revive the Human Relations Commission and establish a Citizens Advisory Committee to gauge public interest in amending the city charter. She created an ad hoc Citizens Advisory Committee in May and appointed 15 members, along with another four members July 3.
Roman also called for town hall meetings with residents, and throughout the year held forums on opioids, paving, emergency planning and several public budget workshops.
But Roman has not made supporting documents for council meetings easily available and accessible to the public, as she pledged to.
In October 2018, Roman criticized the council for adopting an employee handbook and policy for non-union employees without first making the documents available to the public, despite then-City Attorney John Ottaviano saying there was no legal reason to withhold them. She also suggested posting such documents on the city website.
"We should not have to (file a Freedom of Information Law request) for information that is public knowledge," Roman said in October 2018.
But as of Friday, the city has yet to post supporting documentation for council meetings; only agendas and minutes are available, as was the case prior to Roman's administration.
“It’s something I’m still pursuing. I’ve not given up on it," Roman said.
She declined to specify what has prevented her from posting more public documents on the city website.
Issues both are considering
Changing on-street parking rules. Roman said she would like the city to "relook at parking" regulations, particularly for the warm weather months. Wohleben has drafted a plan to allow non-commercial cars to park on parts of some residential streets. He said he would also consider a policy to allow street parking for residents who purchase a hang tag for $60 per year.