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Five seek Democratic nominations for City Council seats in Falls

NIAGARA FALLS -- Five candidates seeking the Democratic nominations to run for the three open seats on the City Council all want to bring change to the city.

How they plan to go about that differs greatly.

The five Democrats -- Glenn A. Choolokian, Samuel F. Fruscione, Kristen M. Grandinetti, Charles A. Walker and Elliott J. White -- offer Primary Day voters plenty of choices.

Political outsiders, longtime leaders, teachers, a small business owner and a military veteran are among the candidates.

The three top vote-getters in Tuesday's Democratic primary will face Republicans Candra C. Thomason and Kenneth A. Pawlukovich in the general election.

Choolokian, 42, of Garrett Avenue, is a 22-year buildings and grounds employee of the Niagara Falls Water Board. He was previously elected to a one-year special term on the City Council.

A graduate of Niagara Falls High School, Choolokian wants to bring jobs to the city and create more business development. He plans to do that by making sure the city is marketed to businesses and by personally fielding calls from businesses that want to relocate.

Choolokian is married to wife Pamela and is the father of two children.

"If anybody looks at my background, I'm a person that fights for the people," Choolokian said. "I'll do everything I can so that they have a voice in City Hall."

Fruscione, 43, of Delancy Road, is a fifth-grade teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary School. He is seeking a second term on the City Council.

Fruscione, who has a master's degree in elementary education, said his top priority is to "continue to make sure that there's no tax increase in the future" by examining the budget line-by-line.

Fruscione is married to wife Paula and has two daughters.

He also plans to use more casino revenue for roads and infrastructure and to "continue to keep tourism on the forefront and create ordinances to allow businesses to grow."

"My record holds true that I am definitely here for the people, the residents and the business owners," Fruscione said. "Over the last three years, taxes have decreased, they've been stabilized, and the tax rate is being equalized."

Grandinetti, 50, of Orchard Parkway, is a fourth-grade teacher at Harry F. Abate Elementary School who is seeking her first term.

"We are about to turn in the right direction finally after a very long time," Grandinetti said. "What we've undone in the last 40 years can't happen overnight. It's slow and steady that wins the race, and I think I have the qualities that I can bring to the Council as a relationship builder, as a hard worker and a true believer in this community."

Grandinetti said she would like to stop infighting in City Hall. She would also like to develop ways to tell residents about positive developments in the city, such as a newsletter or town hall meetings.

She would also like the city to embrace its diverse population.

Grandinetti has two master's degrees in education and in school administration. She has also worked in the tourism industry and in small business.

Walker, 50, of 16th Street, a community outreach manager at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, is seeking his fourth Council term. A graduate of Niagara Falls High School, Walker is married to wife, Linda, and has two children.

Walker said his top priority is to boost public safety in the city by expanding the Police Department.

"We're trying to build this city, but if it's not a safe city, it's not going to attract too many people," Walker said.

Walker would also like the city to more aggressively work on economic development and offer incentives for businesses with "green jobs" to fill vacant industrial sites. He also wants to continue efforts to build tourism attractions, like a planned Underground Railroad interpretive center.

White, 53, of 17th Street, is a military veteran and former manager who now operates a Web site design and marketing firm in Niagara Falls. He is seeking his first term on the Council.

"I'm in this because I have a passion for change in the City of Niagara Falls," White said. "I think that we really have a great opportunity to be one of the greatest cities in America."

White wants to bring accountability to city government finances. He said he has been reviewing public documents and is "very troubled" by what he sees as "wasted dollars."

He also wants to create new economic opportunities for young people and hopes to create a program that would train citizens in business fundamentals. He would also like to bring the community together to work on issues like poverty.

White, the father of four children, has an associate of applied science degree in business administration.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

For additional primary coverage, see Sunday's Niagara Weekend section.

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