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DEMOCRATS ARE ABLE TO RUN ON THE ISSUES

With both its population and tax base in decline, the Town of Tonawanda is providing its Democratic candidates with a rarity in the upcoming Nov. 4 election. Issues.

Mounting concern about Tonawanda's future is providing the Democrats with much to talk about this election -- an unusual event for Tonawanda. In the past, the board's reputation for providing good services at affordable rates has left the Democrats with little ammunition.

Lately, though, Democrats say they hear residents express growing concern about what will happen if Tonawanda continues losing people and businesses to outlying areas.

The Democratic challengers accuse the three incumbents facing re-election to the all-Republican Town Board of ignoring the growing threat to Tonawanda's stability from upstart towns like Clarence and Lancaster.

They ask whether quality services are enough to compete with the services and pastoral surroundings of newer suburbs.

The Town Board "prefers not to look at the changes happening in Erie County," said Mary Quinn Wydish, an attorney who is one of three Democrats running for Town Board seats. "That would require them to be pro-active."

"They have no vision," said Michael Meyers, another Democratic challenger. Also running on the Democratic side for a Town Board seat is Andrew Spence.

Not surprisingly, the incumbents bristle at the Democrats' accusations.

"They're ignorant," board member Raymond Sinclair said of his opponents. He and the other board incumbents, Ronald Moline and David Rider, champion their records.

The Republicans say they have the town's problems firmly in hand. Fully developed decades ago, Tonawanda can do little to compete head on with still-growing places like Lancaster, Sinclair said.

Town leaders pitch Tonawanda as a lower-cost alternative that offers well-maintained and well-serviced homes for young families.

Meanwhile, the town has been focusing on rehabilitating older homes. And if the long effort to revitalize the waterfront is successful, the town will have once again have some land for the new homes so sought after these days.

"We could have the kind of homes you see in Clarence," Sinclair said.

Another incumbent, Highway Superintendent John Hedges, also is running for re-election. His Democratic opponent is David T. Barrett.

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