There will be a do-over in Orchard Park next week, but don’t think the campaign for supervisor is a complete replay of 2009.
The race for supervisor features the same two candidates who battled four years ago, Janis A. Colarusso and Patrick J. Keem.
Colarusso won the last time in a nail-biter: The race wasn’t over until the former town clerk was declared the winner by 99 votes, two weeks after Election Day.
Keem, a retired dentist, is hoping things go his way this time. He is spending a lot more money than he did four years ago, and he has one victory under his belt already: the Conservative Party primary last month, which he won, 107-48, in a write-in campaign.
The campaign may be one of the most expensive races for supervisor that the town has ever had. Keem has raised $58,000 so far, including about $43,000 of his own money that he has lent to the campaign. Colarusso is well behind that in the money department, with $20,000 raised, although she did attract an endorsement from former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. Four years ago, Keem raised just under $20,000, and Colarusso raised $9,200.
Those who follow politics in the wealthy suburb also say this year’s race has gotten dirty, with various charges and countercharges. But you won’t see any lawn signs of local candidates in this tidy town – local party leaders have agreed not to clutter up the town with political signs.
Colarusso, 56, is running on her record of the last four years as supervisor for the town of 27,000 residents. She said she has kept taxes reasonable and revamped the Police Department. She has the Democratic and Working Families lines on the ballot.
Looking forward, she wants to make sure the Police Department sticks to its budget, the town finds a senior citizens center and/or a community center that will not be a burden to taxpayers and moves forward with green energy. She also wants to make the town’s website more user-friendly for residents.
Cost-effective or not?
Keem, 63, founder of Aurora Dental Care, said he wants to put his business skills to work. He will be on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
“I want to use my management, leadership, budget and people skills,” he said.
Keem’s campaign material accuses Colarusso of being a career politician, and hers accuses him of mismanagement of the Erie County Citizens Budget Review Commission – and each has accused the other of not telling the truth.
Keem contends that Colarusso has not run a cost-effective government.
To which Colarusso responds, “Where is the waste in the budget?”
She was town clerk for 16 years before being elected supervisor, but she disputes being characterized as a career politician. The clerk’s job involves serving the members of the public no matter their political affiliation, Colarusso said, and she did not have a policymaking role until she was elected supervisor and started working with the other Town Board members.
“As supervisor for the past four years, I and the Republican Town Board members have the authority to adopt budgets, make legislation, grant requests, adopt new policies, etcetera,” she said.
Colarusso accused Keem of being ineffective as chairman of the Erie County Citizens Budget Review Commission five years ago. West Seneca resident Dan Warren has sued Erie County, contending that the commission did not meet monthly as it was supposed to and didn’t adhere to the state Open Meetings Law.
The commission was set up to study the county’s fiscal operations and make regular reports to the Legislature. Keem, who was elected chairman by other members of the commission, said that the panel met a number of times but that he does not know what happened to the minutes from the meetings. Some members left the commission and were not replaced, he said, and the commission did not get support from the Legislature. The commission was reconstituted with new members and started meeting again this year.
“The biggest recommendation we made to the Legislature was: Don’t raise taxes,” Keem said.
Board seat at stake
There is one contest for the four-year seat on the Town Board between incumbent Eugene L. Majchrzak, 58, a sales engineer for Uponor Infra, and Lynmarie Tighe Phillips, 47, manager of health information services for the McGuire Group. Majchrzak will be on the Republican and Conservative lines, while Phillips is on the Democrat, Working Families and Independence lines.
The race is marked by accusations that Majchrzak did not properly disclose his employment with Contech, a company that does business with the town. Majchrzak said the company was and is the low bidder for items on the state’s purchasing list that municipalities can use for procurement. He said he asked the Ethics Board in 2005 if his position with the company posed a conflict of interest. The board determined that there was a minimal potential for a conflict of interest but that he “must act responsibly and recuse himself whenever necessary during discussions and/or voting on matters that relate to his business.”
He worked for Contech until January and did sign several purchase vouchers from 2006 and 2007, when he was on the town Planning Board.
“The town was buying from Contech before I moved into town, the town is buying from Contech, and I’m not working for them,” Majchrzak said.
Issues facing the town include unfunded mandates, rising costs for infrastructure improvements and public safety, Majchrzak said, and he advocates a strong Police Department and dispatch center.
Phillips said she wants to open lines of communication among town officials and staff, keep taxes steady while maintaining services and find an appropriate location for a senior citizens center.
“Working families, as well as our seniors, are concerned with holding the line on taxes and appropriate recreational facilities,” she said, adding that the Town Board should be attentive, informed and fair on the issues.
Michael J. Sherry, a former assistant police chief and executive director of operations at Christ the King Seminary, is running unopposed for the two-year term on the board. Highway Superintendent Frederick J. Piasecki Jr. also is unopposed.