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12 CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR SIX LOCKPORT COUNCIL SEATS

Twelve candidates, including five incumbents and two former members, are entered in the Nov. 6 election for six seats on the Lockport Common Council.

There are five ward aldermen and one at-large alderman position to be filled. The Democrats have had a 5-1 edge for the past two years, and all of their incumbents are running, although one is reduced to a minor-party candidacy after losing the Democratic primary. The sole Republican, John Lombardi III of the 5th Ward, is not running for a new term.

The job carries a two-year term and a salary of $6,500 a year, with the Council president, appointed by the mayor, receiving an extra $500.

Here's a look at the lineup:

1st Ward

Alderman Scott R. Elliott, a Democrat, seeks his second term against David P. Licata, the Republican nominee.

Elliott has worked at the Niagara County Sheriff's Department for 16 years, the last three years as a juvenile investigator. He pointed to his success in getting neighborhood parks improved.

"We've gotten William Street Park redone, we've got ice skating in Rogers Avenue Park again, and just last week the Market Street Park was improved -- we got the old playground equipment removed," he said.

Elliott said if re-elected, he will pursue his plan for offering a tax incentive to landlords who convert multiple dwellings back into single-family homes. He also suggested diverting Route 78 out of the city by shifting it along Route 93 from Robinson Road to Ridge Road and then east along Route 104 to Wrights Corners.

Licata, sales manager for Licata Brothers Vending Co. and Elbee Coffee Service, said he's concerned about neighborhood blight.

He said, "As a person who lives on Allen Street, I'm closer to those headaches on Washington and Gooding and Allen (streets), the crime and the people getting their houses egged, and the bullets flying not that long ago."

Licata promised to get an effective neighborhood watch program going.

On economic issues, Licata said, "The business of Lockport is business and where we can get it and how many jobs we can get."

2nd Ward

Alderman Sean M. Smith carries the Democratic banner, seeking his third term against Republican Phyllis J. Green, who's trying for a comeback after serving five previous terms representing the ward.

"I feel Lockport's really close to making a major breakthrough," said Smith, 24, pointing to the move of county offices downtown and the looming possibility of new development on the South Block and Richmond Avenue.

"We have to broaden our tax base the best we can. . . . Actually watching that come to fruition will be very exciting," said Smith, who served as chairman of the Council's Ways and Means Committee this year and helped craft the mayor's proposed budget.

He said he's worked with the Building Inspection Department to clean up neighborhoods, and said two notorious drug houses on Genesee Street will be demolished within two months if a state variance on asbestos removal rules comes through.

Green said, "I'm retired. I think the city has been very good to me. I think they need more experience on the Council. I've got the time and the energy to devote to it."

She said constituents "are concerned about the water and sewer bills, the taxes and their assessments. A lot of people feel they can't afford it."

Green said the Council isn't keeping close enough tabs on spending but needs to spend more money on parks maintenance. She led the volunteer effort that did most of the work on the Altro Park renovation.

Green answered whispers that she's only running to get another city job for her son John, who was fired as a laborer last year after being caught pumping city gasoline into his car. Green said, "My son has a full-time job at Barry Steel. . . . I do not run a negative campaign."

3rd Ward

Alderman Mark J. Dudkowski is trying to become the first candidate to win an election in Lockport without a major-party line. He will run for a third term on the Working Families Party line against Scott A. Cercone, who defeated Dudkowski in the primary to add the Democratic line to the Republican nomination he already had.

Cercone said he plans to campaign actively, but admits to feeling good about his chances to win, with spots on both major-party lines. He is a registered Democrat but will change his affiliation to Republican after the election.

Cercone, a warehouse worker and driver for Golding Trucking, said he wants to "see some things done with parks and ordinance enforcement. The neighborhood's getting a little run-down in the North End."

Dudkowski, owner of Olcott Beach Candy Co. and Key Largo Village in Olcott, said his loss to Cercone in the Democratic primary doesn't mean he'll lose, because only 65 people showed up to vote for Cercone.

"It's just two candidates, him and me," said Dudkowski. "I've been an absolute tax watchdog for the last four years. I've never followed party lines. I've voted for what I think was in the best interest of the homeowner and taxpayer of the 3rd Ward."

He said his record of fighting for front-yard parking enforcement, landlord licensing and other aesthetic issues show that his emphasis is on "cleaning up the city and making it look the best it should be."

4th Ward

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, a Democrat, goes after his second term, facing a challenge from former three-term alderman Michael W. Tucker, the Republican's 1999 mayoral nominee.

Schrader, who's been working for 24 years at Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems' wastewater treatment plant, said his biggest achievement was reducing speeds on South Transit Street.

"In the last three years, through cajoling traffic captains, we've gotten the speed down 5 mph," Schrader said. "I don't hear the sirens as much at the corner of Summit (Street)."

Schrader said he was "a charter member" of the successful downtown cruise nights. "It went way beyond our expectations. We wanted to show Lockport off, and we did," he said.

Said Tucker, who served four years as Council president, "I bring a lot of experience to the table, and I hope people realize that. . . . I'm the type of guy who wants to get in there and make a difference."

He said he has seen little action on issues that were pending when he left office at the end of 1999. He said he's seen "very little movement" on the South Block, although he admits much of the time it was tied up in court.

Tucker, a materials safety data sheet coordinator for the United Auto Workers at Delphi, said the only way to lower taxes "is to encourage some new businesses to come in. Certainly, I'm going to focus a lot of time on taxes. . . . Taxes have been higher the last two years than when I was in there."

5th Ward

City Democratic Chairman David E. Blackley faces off against Republican Stephen F. Niziol Jr. for this open seat.

Blackley, whose five-year term on the Lockport Board of Education ended July 1, said he's running for the Council because "I felt I had more time to devote to another form of public service. I want to assist Lockport in its growth and development."

Blackley has been an attorney for seven years and is a former deputy corporation counsel. He said he will give up the city Democratic Party chairmanship, which he's held for a year, if he wins the election.

"A lot of the main issues are economic," Blackley said, adding that jobs, taxes and housing "are all interconnected. Tourism's a good idea, but I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket."

Niziol, a retired United Parcel Service driver now working part-time as a security guard, said he is "a big proponent of sharing services and equipment. That's the way of the future. I think there's money to be saved."

Niziol suggested allowing the city's ambulance crews to answer rescue calls in the Town of Lockport. "It's almost getting to be too much for the volunteers," he said, but added he would not extend that concept to fighting fires, except for large mutual aid calls.

Niziol said the city needs to enforce its sidewalk snow shoveling requirements.

"I don't want to say I'm going to cut taxes because I don't know that I can, but I'll always be on the lookout for more revenue," he said.

At Large

Council President John T. Pitrello, a Democrat, seeks his second term in the at-large seat and sixth Council term overall against former Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Joseph C. Kibler.

"I think this administration has done very well," said Pitrello, who works for the state Department of Transportation at its Lockport garage.

He said major achievements include the takeover of the South Block and planned development there and along Richmond Avenue, the success of downtown cruise nights and improvements at Altro Park.

"The South Block is huge with me, making the right decision and bringing retail back downtown," Pitrello said. He also appealed for more youth programs and improvements to the Outwater Park rose garden.

Kibler, who was not reappointed to the Zoning Board by Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan last fall after 14 years of service, admitted, "A lot of people say it's sour grapes that I'm running, but it really isn't. I knew I was gone the minute Sullivan got elected."

Said Kibler, a retired HSBC Bank vice president, "I'm not too happy with the way things are going in Lockport. They've got everything on the back burner, but what's actually done?"

Kibler, a baseball umpire for 48 years, chairman of a youth baseball league for 17 years and president of the Lockport Umpires Association for 28 years, said he wants to see more activities in the parks.

Kibler Park, named for his late father, is of special interest. "He was in baseball all his life, and they're going to change that into a soccer field?" he asked incredulously.

He charged the administration "is discouraging business from coming into the city. They put too many restrictions on them." He called for application of the comprehensive plan and for tearing down vacant houses to make neighborhood parking lots.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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