LOCKPORT – The long-dormant City of Lockport Democratic Party began to show some signs of life Wednesday, as its chairman came to the Common Council meeting to blast the city’s fiscal management and the new borrowing to cover the city’s accumulated deficits.
The Democrats ran no candidates for city office last year except for their lone alderman, Patrick W. Schrader. They gave their line to insurgent Republican Phyllis J. Green for another Council seat, a race Green lost.
“I think we’ll have a lot better chance next year,” said Edward W. Tracy, who served as an alderman in 1988-91. He said there is a chance the Democrats will be able to come up with a candidate for this fall’s special 2nd Ward election, in which appointed Republican incumbent Ronald A. Franco said he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll run.
“In a sense, who wants to run and inherit this mess?” Tracy said after the meeting.
But at the microphone during the public comment period, the Democratic chairman said he couldn’t believe that the Council didn’t know the city had no fund balance last year, a problem an outside accounting consultant blamed on the city’s failure to fill long-term vacancies in the Treasurer’s Office caused by a protracted illness.
“When I was finance chairman, we knew what the fund balance was every week,” Tracy said. He said in his time on the Council, the state once criticized the city for having too much surplus cash.
Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey responded, “Back in the ’90s, I can assure you, you weren’t paying $5 million a year for health insurance. We are. Back in the ’90s, you weren’t paying $4 million in pensions. We are. That’s $9 million. We collect $10 million in property taxes.”
Tracy said afterward, “They agreed to those health care benefits. They agreed to lifetime health insurance.”
He denounced the city’s spending on Friday night concerts, which cost the city $684,414 in overtime and stage rentals for 50 shows over six years, 2008-13.
“You were $1.3 million underwater, and every one of you supported those rock concerts,” Tracy told the Council.
But he reserved his heaviest fire for the $5.35 million, 10-year bond issue the Council approved Tuesday.
If the State Legislature gives the go-ahead today, the city will be allowed to borrow its way out of its accumulated deficit while submitting to a decade of close oversight from the State Comptroller’s Office.
“We’re going to have to pay another half-million dollars a year (in property taxes) for 10 years to pay the principal for that. It’s wildly irresponsible,” Tracy said.
“These are debts the city owes. We have the obligation to pay them. That’s all I can say,” McCaffrey said. “It would be irresponsible not to address them.”
Another former Council member, Democrat Diane M. Tuohey, urged the administration to work “respectfully” with the city employee unions to solve the city’s woes.
“Of course (overtime) costs are going to go up if you lay people off,” Tuohey said. “If you go to war with the unions, legal fees will go up and we’ll all be the losers.”