Voters in the 1st Ward have a choice between a veteran alderman and a political novice with decades of experience with city police.
Joseph Oates, a Republican seeking a third term on the Common Council, said he is running to continue strengthening city finances and improve city services. Oates, 60, said he would like the city to purchase a new street sweeper and respond more quickly to tree complaints.
“We’re working both with our management and our workers to come up with better ways of doing all the work in the city,” Oates said.
Oates also pointed to the city’s improved finances, including several upgrades to its credit score, during his tenure on the council.
“We’ve greatly improved our financial situation, through prudent budgeting and being responsible for handling money,” he said.
His Democratic opponent, Paul Beakman, Jr., a police officer who’s retired from Lockport Police Department, is calling for more transformative change in the city’s labor relations and policies.
Beakman said he would try to hire more building inspectors to ensure landlords are following building code.
“Right now they only have enough inspectors to check building permits. The slumlords have free reign in the city, and that’s wrong,” Beakman said. “If we let the blight continue, that will discourage business owners from coming in and investing in the city.”
Beakman said he would also push to repeal a permit requirement for overnight street parking. “It’s hurting our homes sales. We have these older homes that may be able to accommodate one or two cars, but they need more,” he said.
Beakman is critical of Oates’ support for appealing an arbitration ruling that requires the city to return Lockport Fire Department’s minimum staffing level to nine per shift. The city reduced LFD’s minimum staffing to six per shift in 2014 and laid off 12 firefighters amid a fiscal crisis. The arbitrator, siding with the firefighters union, found the reduction violated the union’s labor contract.
“Some of our current council people, they go in and violate the contract,” Beakman said. “The unions are forced to file grievances, and the city has to spend millions of dollars in legal fees fighting losing battles. That’s money that could be spent to hire more building inspectors and fix the city’s infrastructure.”
Beakman said city administration must start negotiating “in good faith” and seek agreements that comply with labor contracts and mitigate tax hikes.
Oates also said the city should explore options to lessen the tax impact of raising LFD’s staffing level, including possibly returning the department’s ambulance service.
“We need a true financial analysis of what it would cost the city to run the ambulance service again,” Oates said.
Oates added that city leaders must “continue with our gains in the financial area. ... There’s always room for improvement in every department,” he said. “We’d like to see our departments become more efficient, no matter what department that is.”
Beakman said he is running for office because he sees a city in “dire need of repair.”
“We’ve got to stop this party-line stuff,” he said. “It’s just suffocating the life out of the city.”
Joseph P. Oates
Address: 342 East Union St.
Occupation: Senior claims analyst with Allstate Insurance
Prior elective offices: 1st Ward alderman since 2015
Ballot lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence
Paul Beakman, Jr.
Address: 101 Caledonia St.
Occupation: Sergeant with Barker Police Department; retired Lockport Police Department officer.
Ballot lines: Democratic, Working Families