Fred Hammer, a mild-mannered man with an intellectual air, started his campaign against one of Erie County's more popular town supervisors a few months ago in a manner most unusual in the brawling world of local politics.
He was exceedingly, almost painfully, polite.
Please, he asked Lancaster Supervisor Robert H. Giza, stop spending so much. The economy will never revive until taxes are slashed.
Please, he asked, stand up to developers. If you don't, Lancaster will become the next Amherst.
He wanted Giza, along with other elected officials, to listen.
"They didn't," he said.
Thus emerged a new Fred Hammer last week who for the first time took direct aim at Lancaster Supervisor Robert H. Giza, accusing him of transforming what is left of pastoral Lancaster into strip malls, shoulder-to-shoulder subdivisions and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
"He helped create this mess," said Hammer, 52, an accountant and Republican. "But he's not going to help (clean it up) because he has no vision. I've gone to a thousand homes, and I haven't talked to one person who didn't say this development has got to stop."
The new, tough-talking Hammer was a relief to Citizens Against Retail Sprawl (CARS), Giza's most outspoken critic. The group had worried for some time that Hammer would be too genial to tackle a powerful incumbent like Giza.
Now, they hope Hammer will help transform the Nov. 2 election into a referendum on the high cost of growth and sprawl, saying Lancaster is a prime example of both.
"Giza doesn't get it," said George Ciancio, whose group is leading the fight against controversial plans to pave over 20 acres for a "big box" strip mall on William Street and Transit Road.
Sprawl from inner-ring towns into places like Lancaster is driving up taxes there, he said. Meanwhile, the towns left behind are forced to raise taxes to offset declining population and tax bases.
Giza's "eyes are closed," Ciancio said. "They'll pave over all the green and take out all the trees. Eventually, sprawl will do that."
Giza and Hammer are opposites.
Giza, a Democrat, does not believe sprawl exists in Western New York.
Nor does he feel the town can, or should, interfer with growth in Lancaster.
"You cannot say, "I don't want that project,' " Giza said, "or the developer will take you to court and win."
He supports the William-Transit project, saying it will bring hundreds of construction and other jobs to Lancaster and that residents shouldn't be required to travel to Cheektowaga or Amherst if they want to go to a "big box" discount store like Wal-Mart.
Hammer wants to curb growth and has proposed requiring larger lot sizes, for instance, as a way to reign in residential development.
He opposes the William-Transit project. Lancaster doesn't need another strip mall, he says, and residents need only travel five or ten minutes to reach a discount store.
Giza's support of the project shows he is content to bring in minimum-wage jobs while ignoring the broader task of working regionally to bring middle-class jobs to Western New York, Hammer contends.