The future of economic development in the City of Tonawanda is on the minds of both candidates for Common Council president. But incumbent Carleton Zeisz and challenger Brian Grassia are laying out different platforms in their campaigns to help turn the city around financially.
Zeisz, who is running on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families line in Tuesday's election, has 16 years of Council experience on his side. He said he would like to continue working to make sure current initiatives are resolved.
Zeisz has pushed for several long-term development projects, including the redevelopment of Young Street, building new homes near Veteran's Park for additional tax revenue, selling vacant waterfront property and cleaning up the former Spaulding Fibre site. With many projects in various stages of discussion, Zeisz would like to see them come to fruition but notes he's not willing to spend a lot of public money to lure developers.
"We would definitely want a situation where the city doesn't put money into an infrastructure," Zeisz said.
Grassia, running on the Republican and Conservative lines, would like to see the city focus its resources on marketing existing homes and properties. An Erie County forester for the past eight years, Grassia has 20 years' experience working in local government. Grassia also headed a committee devoted to Erie Canal communities, and after observing other similar municipalities, he feels the city can be doing a lot more to promote its Gateway Harbor image.
"I feel we can be doing better," he said. "We need to have a sense of urgency about competition in economics and quality of life."
Grassia also points out that the city has lost 14 percent of its population over the past 15 years. He hopes to bring people back by promoting the city's low-cost housing. Economic development will also be key in Grassia's plans.
Among his initiatives is investigating whether it's possible to move City Hall to the downtown business corridor. The current location of the building is on waterfront property.
Zeisz said he would also like to continue overseeing the cleanup of contaminated sites in the Gastown area and a Town of Tonawanda landfill, which borders a City of Tonawanda neighborhood. Grassia said he would like to improve the quality of life with cultural events, such as luring the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for a concert in the city.
While the council president race is for a four-year term, the rest of the Common Council will be competing for additional two-year terms. In the First Ward, Republican challenger Gerald Frizzell faces Democratic incumbent Colleen R. Perkins, who has secured the remaining party lines.
Second Ward Alderman Blake R. Boyle, with the Republican and Taxpayers First lines, faces former School Board President Gary C. Waterhouse, who will be on the Democratic, Independent, Conservative and Working Families party lines.
Third Ward Alderman James P. Kossow will face challenger and Republican Amy S. Fleming. Kossow has also received the Independent, Working Families and Conservative party nominations.
Republican challenger David B. McCormick will once again attempt to unseat Democrat Rick D. Davis Jr. in the Fourth Ward. Davis also has the Independent, Conservative and Working Families party lines.
City Treasurer Joseph Hogenkamp and City Attorney Ronald Trabucco are unopposed to retain their four-year seats. City Judge Joseph Cassata is also unopposed for a another 10-year term.