Republican mayoral candidate David Wohleben presented his vision for the city on Thursday evening.
Wohleben, the 4th Ward Alderman who served briefly as acting mayor last year, outlined five major initiatives that he would like to undertake if he is elected.
One is to create a neighborhood revitalization program, which would include several elements. He would like to work with stores such Home Depot, Ace Hardware or Valu to provide funding, materials and labor for city residents to make small repairs that would improve the “curb appeal” and safety of their homes, such as repairs to mailboxes, railings, steps or porch landings. He would also like to create a sidewalk fund to repair and replace “crumbling” sidewalks.
Another initiative Wohleben outlined was his desire to form an ad hoc committee for the development of renewable energy in the city, in an effort to meet the reduce carbon emission targets set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The first possibility he observed is to create a solar farm on the city’s 26-acre landfill near the Lockport Bypass.
“Landfills have become a popular place to install solar farms,” Wohleben said.
Wohleben also suggested repurposing the Human Relations Commission as the “Commission on Community Relations” and preserving it from administration to administration. He would seek to open the commission’s membership to the greater Lockport community and include a representative of the state; establish a sub-committee to analyze and make recommendations on the barriers to city hiring of minorities in the police and fire departments; add sexual orientation as a group of individuals to be recognized; and encourage monthly meetings of the commission.
“It is imperative that government understand the true nature of the issues which our minority community face,” he said.
Wohleben’s fourth initiative is bringing the Real Simple Reporting app to the city, which he says will allow for easy reporting of things like a dead tree.
“When a citizen currently wants to report a defect to the city, they have to bring a letter to the clerk advising them of the defect. I would like to see this more efficient reporting system take the place of the current process,” he said.
His final initiative is establishing a committee to explore parking throughout the city.
Multiple times, Wohleben emphasized that the job of mayor is not a part-time position. In an interview after his speech, Wohleben said he was referring to Mayor Michelle Roman’s current position as both the mayor and a teacher in the Holley school district.
“It’s very difficult to be a leader and a manager when you’re not there when your workforce is there. So that’s what I was referring to,” Wohleben said. “You can see the difference between a well run city, like under Anne McCaffrey, and what’s happening now in the city. You can definitely see some of the cracks in the plaster.”
Wohleben declined to say what “cracks in the plaster” he was referring to, asserting he didn’t want to bash Roman and he is running on his vision and record.
Roman did not respond to a request for comment on Wohleben’s statements Thursday night.
Wohleben highlighted his time in city government, citing accomplishments including creation and chairing of the Zombie House Task Force, crafting a parking permit amendment to the city parking law to allow for on-street parking during the summer months, and obtaining $100,000 from the state to help rehabilitate Veterans Park. As acting mayor, he takes credit for hiring a public works director, delivering a budget on time and at the tax cap with the help of the Common Council, starting negotiations with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department to bring county dispatch to Lockport Police Department, and obtaining a $500,000 grant for the Canal Street gateway project.
Wohleben also touted his experience in the Air Force. During his 33-year career, he said, he held the positions of chief enlisted manager of the force support squadron and command chief of the 107th Airlift Wing.
He’s a past member of the DeSales Catholic School board of education who served as board treasurer and president during his six-year tenure; and currently he’s a member of the Historic Palace Theatre board, Lockport Rotary Club and Lockport Exchange Club, for which he’s the treasurer.