With less that two weeks remaining before Election Day, the gloves are off as candidates battle for the necessary votes to get elected. On Tuesday, the League of Women Voters sponsored a Meet the Candidates Night at Dunkirk's City Hall for mayoral and common council candidates.
Up first were the three mayoral hopefuls, incumbent Richard Frey, current councilman-at-large A.J. Dolce and newcomer David Barnes. Candidates were allowed three minutes to briefly explain their qualifications and respond to a question they were presented prior to Tuesday. Audience questions were possible with a written card.
"What is the most urgent problem facing the city of Dunkirk today and what would you do to help solve it if elected?" was the question. Frey, on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, was first by luck of the draw.
Mayoral candidates were the opening act in the League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates debate Tuesday at City Hall in Dunkirk. Pictured from left are: First Ward Councilman A.J. Dolce, LWV moderators Judith Reynolds and Marcia Merrins, David Barnes and Mayor Richard Frey.
"I would continue to do exactly what we've been doing and the direction we've been going the last 10 years. We have created jobs, that's a given," Frey began.
"The steel plant is open again. Remtronics has moved here. Carriage House is increasing their production. We've helped Cliffstar produce two additional production lines that has created 180 jobs over there. We've worked on development in the city. We've worked on revitalizing the waterfront and we'll continue to do that," Frey added.
Frey cited the waterfront developments as well, noting there is a "lot to be done yet."
"As we continue to develop the Edgewood Warehouse properties over on the east side of town, additional property down at Bertges' on the lakefront and Stefan's Marina," he continued. "The ownership of the marina has changed hands ... from Don Ryan to Jeff Gambino and cleanup has started there.
"I think that those are our issues, those are our problems, creating jobs. This is what we're very good at and we've accomplished it and we've done a good job at it."
Dolce is on the Democratic, Working Families and Dunkirk First lines and was next to speak.
"During my eight-plus years on council, you've come to know me as someone who's willing to listen and respond to your concerns, answer the difficult questions and make difficult choices, all with an eye for our future and bottom line," he stated. "I feel I'm most qualified to handle the responsibilities of mayor due to my work ethic, approachable nature, and willingness to be open and forthright when spending your tax dollars."
Dolce said his teaching background will help as mayor but that wasn't why he was running for the job.
"Like all of you, I'm frustrated by increased fees and taxes. That's why I feel it is essential for the office of mayor to work closely with his department heads, council, volunteer boards and neighboring communities to find ways to share in mandated costs, such as establishing a north county water district," he explained. "I feel the biggest issue facing Dunkirk is our budget deficit. In order to meet our financial challenges we must focus on cooperation among the administration, department heads and council.
"We must also stick to a budget as opposed to making thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of budget modifications every year, which shows the inability to stick to a simple plan.
"Finally, we must remain committed to being honest with how your tax dollars are being spent. There cannot be another situation where hundreds of thousands are spent secretly and without council approval. As mayor, I will remain committed to spending your tax dollars with the utmost efficiency in mind."
Barnes in on the People's Party line and was last to provide opening remarks.
"We need to change the atmosphere of negativity and the practice of manipulation by the party leaders that put their own interests above the interest of the tax-paying citizens. It's imperative that we address this budget crisis and false promises that turn on who's running the candidates, candidates that are run by other people," Barnes stated. "Mr. Dolce, however, only contradicts his statements with his previous statement that he said yesterday. Mr. Dolce says things and his voting record says other things. He backs the union, then he doesn't back the union with his voting record.
"Now, it's time for a change. Change is not always an easy thing. The process can be painful but it's the responsibility of the mayor's office to make the necessary changes for the city as a whole. The whole city, not just your uncle and your brother."
Barnes said the city's problems were "self-induced," and not the fault of the economy.
"These inefficiencies practiced and the votes, or lack of votes by eight years of Dolce and the last few years of Mayor Frey, set the fiscal shape we are in and they are violations of common sense," Barnes continued. "We will regain self-esteem and our respect with our neighbors and in the office. ... Our leaders will be there for you. They won't change from day to day on a whim.
"Ladies and gentlemen, a household and a city must live within its means. It must be safe and productive, safe for families to live. As long as there are forces in play that jeopardize our future, our children will consider to move to other states. they will raise their kids in other states and we will continue to lose population.
That's eight years of A.J. and the last 10 years of Mayor Frey, and Mayor Frey did do a wonderful job on the waterfront, ... some things he did well.
"However, there's a lot further we have to go, a lot more things we have to do. It's time for a change."
Editor's note: More coverage of the mayoral candidate debate along with coverage of the Common Council candidates debate will follow in future editions of the OBSERVER.
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