It was fire and ice Thursday night, as challenger William P. Rogowski and incumbent Dennis H. Gabryszak met on the campaign trail for the first time in their battle for town supervisor of Cheektowaga.
The fire came from Rogowski, who took repeated shots at Gabryszak, ranging from alleged mismanagement of the town's financial affairs to pirating much of Rogowski's platform.
But Gabryszak played the iceman -- ignoring his foe's attacks, talking instead about tax cuts, new programs for senior citizens and resurgent fiscal vitality at Town Hall.
Rogowski, Gabryszak and six candidates for Town Board seats appeared before almost 100 people at a "candidates night" sponsored by the William Street Taxpayers Association in the Doyle Hose Company No. 1 Fire Hall.
The eight men -- four incumbents and four challengers in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary -- had one minute to answer questions drawn from a can, then two minutes for statements. They took no questions from the mostly over-50 crowd.
"We're not a political organization, we're not somebody's booster club," declared taxpayers association President Joseph Przemielewski. But judging from the noise they made, the crowd seemed pro-Gabryszak.
"You never see Rogowski around here except when he's running," one man remarked.
"The main issue is management, or mismanagement, of town affairs," Rogowski said. He said the town's $10 million surplus is too much, that some should be used to cut taxes. He also said a $430,000 Westinghouse back-taxes settlement should have been used to cut taxes this year, "not saved for an election year (budget)."
"Twenty years, you were on the (Town) Board, too," a heckler shouted.
Rogowski claimed Gabryszak cost the town money by misplacing a grant application, failed to spot almost $10,000 in "overbilling" on a $68,000 bill from a law firm, and that Gabryszak's recently announced "Cheektowaga 2000" plan "looks about the same" as the platform Rogowski said has been on his Internet Web site since May.
But Gabryszak didn't rise to the bait, saying he's determined "to run a positive campaign."
Instead, the supervisor talked about this year's first tax cut in 11 years and another cut to come next year, the town's Western New York-high bond rating, money-saving departmental consolidations and a new garbage-disposal contract that he said will save the town $3.2 million over 10 years.