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PUBLIC SAFETY BECOMES MAJOR ISSUE IN RACE FOR COUNCIL SEATS

Public safety has become a major issue in the campaign for the four City Council seats that are at stake in Tuesday's election.

The issue has developed because of tensions between Mayor James C. Galie and the city's two fire unions over staff reductions and manning levels.

Four incumbents, three newcomers and a former councilwoman are vying for the four seats.

The fire unions, which promised after last year's budget cuts to remember their friends and enemies at election time, have endorsed three of the incumbents, John G. Accardo, Vincent R. Morello and Anthony F. Quaranto, all Democrats, and former Councilwoman Barbara A. Geracitano, a Republican.

The fire unions have a membership of 130-135 but they influence several thousand votes, according to union leaders. The two unions have paid for and erected 400-500 lawn signs and three billboards listing their endorsements and they have done mailings and radio advertising.

The other candidates are incumbent Councilman Ralph F. Aversa, a Republican, and challengers Charles Walker III, a Democrat; Fran Iusi, a registered Democrat who was nominated by the Independence and Conservative Parties; and John D. Palillo, a Democrat who was nominated by the Conservatives.

Accardo, who is completing his fifth year on the Council, lists public safety, clean neighborhoods and holding the line on taxes as his main priorities.

Aversa, a two-term Councilman, calls himself the "taxpayers watchdog." He says he has voted to curb spending, consolidate government, privatize city services and cut personnel, "stood tough" on collecting delinquent business loans, opposed lifetime medical benefits for retired Council members and instituted the first viable collection system for Community Development loans.

Morello, running for his second term, bills himself as an independent thinker. He lists as accomplishments restoration of the West Pedestrian Mall downtown and the golf course, the return of the New York State United Teachers' Convention to Niagara Falls in 1998 and last year's petition drive for Love Canal funds. He said the only way to achieve tax relief is to expand the tax base.

Quaranto, a 12-year Council veteran, wants to set priorities to stimulate economic development, investment, protect natural and cultural heritage features and improve the quality of life. He takes credit for helping to save the jobs of 17 out of 27 firefighters that Galie proposed cutting last year.

Mrs. Geracitano also favors an aggressive marketing approach to attract development, and using sewer fund surpluses to balance the budget and provide tax relief. She opposes cuts to public safety. She said the city should find new sources of revenue and consolidate services with other governments instead of laying off workers who provide essential services.

Mrs. Iusi, cash manager for Tops Markets, believes her 25 years of business experience would be a benefit in running the city like a business. She prefers development of many small businesses rather than one large one. She said the city needs to set priorities, correct its credit rating and use one-shot revenues to build surpluses. She proposes a surcharge on every traffic violation to go into a road repair fund.

Palillo, former parks and public works director under his brother, former Mayor Jacob A. Palillo, is making his first run for office. He said the most important issue is the city's "zero bond rating." He favors the creation of low-cost municipal power. He said the high cost of power drove out industry, and low cost power would bring it back without the need to give incentives.

Walker, chairman of the board of deacons of Mount Zion Baptist Church, said the most important issue is the need for unity and harmony in the city. He said the city needs more police and firemen and a marketing plan. He said he would work toward holding the line on unnecessary spending, increasing the tax base, keeping an open mind and opening the lines of communication between the mayor and Council.

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