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Next Council chairman wants teamwork Anderson looks for better communications, less tension with administration in Falls

Robert Anderson Jr. is set to be the new chairman of the City Council this year, and the retired Air Force master sergeant says he views the job as a coaching opportunity.

"We are going to learn how to work as a team with a different coach," Anderson says. "I'm going to be the coach."

All five City Council members say they plan to approve Councilman Lewis Rotella's nomination of Anderson to the top spot during their first meeting of the year Monday. If appointed, Anderson would replace Councilman Charles Walker Sr., who has been chairman for two years.

"I felt it was time to give someone else a chance," Walker said.

His advice to Anderson? "It's important to focus on the issues and not personalities, and to keep the lines of communication open as best we can," Walker said.

Anderson, 64, said he wants to improve communication between Council members, and between the city administration and the City Council, a relationship that has become tense and sometimes confrontational.

Rotella said all the Council members agreed that Anderson has the ability and time -- he is the only retiree on the Council -- for that task.

However, the goal of breaking down the communication barrier comes at a time that could become quite political as the office of mayor and two City Council seats will be up for election this year.

Anderson, Walker and Rotella all say they have not made a decision about whether they will run for mayor in November. Mayor Vince Anello said that "it's too early for me to discuss" whether he has plans to run for re-election.

However, Anello said he welcomes more discourse between the two branches of government. "My door has been open every day for any Council members and certainly that's not going to change in 2007," Anello said Sunday. "I hope a plan can be put together where any issues of communication can be addressed with a plan."

Anello also said he would like to work with Anderson to form committees comprising two Council members each to meet with department heads "to review on a weekly basis the performance of different departments so when it comes to budget time, we don't have this one-sided view of the budget."

The mayor has complained during his term that the Council cuts money from his proposed city budgets without talking with him about the effect of such cuts on operations.

Council members have complained that they feel the mayor does not communicate with them and that they find out about some proposals too late.

Anderson said that when he was first elected, he regularly discussed issues with Anello and City Administrator Daniel S. Bristol and that he plans to take up that tradition again so he can bring back information to his fellow lawmakers.

Anderson, who has lived in the LaSalle section of the city for more than 20 years, also worked for 15 years for the Niagara Falls School District as a supply inventory management supervisor, during which time he was a president of the Niagara County Civil Service Employees Association.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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