Voters in Amherst got to know their candidates for elective office at a forum Thursday, and with the exception of a few political jabs, the event remained civil, as incumbents touted their records and challengers stated their platforms.
The League of Women Voters hosted the forum at the Amherst Center for Senior Services, where more than 75 people heard a three-minute pitch from candidates for Amherst supervisor, board member, town justice, Erie County sheriff, county comptroller and County Legislature.
“Amherst government has been on an incredible run,” said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.
The Republican talked about his track record of reducing the cost of town government, estimating his administration has saved $20 million during his four years as supervisor.
His Democratic challenger, Council Member Mark A. Manna, also emphasized lowering taxes, but talked about smart growth, as well. He pointed to the two controversial hotel projects on Main Street to make his point.
“Those do not fit my definition of smart growth,” Manna said, “and they don’t deserve millions of dollars in taxpayer abatements.”
The event was not a debate format, but members of the audience submitted written questions. Both candidates were questioned about Amherst becoming a more open government.
“I’m not sure I entirely understand the question,” Weinstein said. “We have a Town Board that follows the open meetings law at all of our meetings.”
They also were asked if they would seek improvements to the Zoning Board of Appeals process. The town’s Zoning Board has been in the spotlight, after granting variances for the controversial Hyatt Place Hotel project on Main.
“One way I can improve it is to put professionals on there and not what I call political hacks,” Manna said.
Voters also heard from Town Board candidates, who are competing for two seats. They include:
• Howard Cadmus, a Republican, real estate attorney and owner of Sweet Jenny’s Ice Cream: “For me,” he said, “the Town Board is just a larger vehicle to be involved and do some good.”
• Patricia S. Dunne, a Democrat and probation officer for Erie County: “Most of us here today care about the quality of life in Amherst,” she said. “That’s why I’m running.”
• Ramona D. Popowich, a Democrat, supervisor of teacher candidates at D’Youville College and past president of the Williamsville School Board: “I feel it’s my proven leadership skills and experience I can take to the Town Board.”
• Steven D. Sanders, a certified public accountant and incumbent board member: “Four years ago, we promised we were all going to decrease taxes in four years,” Sanders said.
“The fact of the matter is every year on the board I voted for a budget that reduced the tax levy. I kept my promise.”
There were a couple of small dust-ups during the morning forum.
Erie County Legislator Thomas A. Loughran had a few heated comments for challenger Robert N. Anderson for what Loughran called “corrupt” campaign literature sent out by the Republican Party.
Town Justice Candidates Barbara S. Nuchereno and Kara A. Buscaglia also had a brief exchange over who received the endorsement from the Women’s TAP Fund, a nonpartisan Political Action Committee.