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1 of 5 races attracts both candidates to debate night

Democratic mayoral hopeful Michael J. Pillot didn't attend a candidates' night sponsored by the Niagara USA Chamber on Monday. Mayor Michael W. Tucker skipped one organized by a taxpayer group last week.

Pillot wasn't the only absentee Monday. Both candidates showed up in only one of five contested races in Lockport.

That was the battle for 13th District county legislator, where incumbent W. Keith McNall and his opponent, Alderman Andrew D. Chapman, provided the only semblance of fireworks in the 70-minute gathering at the Dale Association.

Other no-shows Monday were Shirley A. Nicholas, Republican nominee for 1st Ward alderman; Bret E. Pabon, a Democrat running for 5th Ward alderman; and Patrick W. Schrader, a Democrat running for 4th Ward alderman.

The questions were prepared by Kory Schuler, the Chamber's governmental affairs director, with input from Chamber members. Former Common Council President John Lombardi III was moderator.

At the Concerned Niagara County Taxpayers Association debate Thursday in City Hall, the questions were submitted by the audience.

Pillot said the Chamber's format did not suit him. "I think the people you are seeking to represent should have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments," he said.

Nicholas said the format wasn't fair.

Last week, Tucker and McNall skipped the taxpayer group's event because they felt the organizers were actively supporting their opponents.

Schrader had a family funeral out of state Monday. Pabon sent word that she was meeting with constituents.

Chapman said McNall is exaggerating the amount county taxes have been reduced since he took office. "I am a Christian, and I stand behind those moral beliefs," Chapman said. "It is my responsibility to stand up for the truth."

McNall said, "Numbers are numbers. The county property tax rate in 2006 was $8.50. This year's it's $7.49. That's 12 percent less."

Chapman insisted the City of Lockport's county rate has risen 3.41 percent in the past three years. He is using the city's unequalized rate, while McNall is relying on the county's equalized average. "I examine the facts. Ask all the other aldermen," Chapman said.

McNall said, "Mr. Chapman has been my alderman for the last two years, and I believe he has failed as an alderman. He's a spin master."

McNall said his water bill is $850 a year, which he said reflects on Chapman's service as chairman of the Common Council's Water and Sewer Committee.

"The [new city] fire truck, he danced around that for months. The city spent $40,000 more [in a second bid]. He had two years to put in term limits. He failed," McNall said.

McNall said the county work force has decreased during his tenure, citing an 18 percent drop between 2006 and 2008. Chapman cites a slight increase between 2007 and 2011. The big drop came during 2007, when the county closed the Mount View Health Facility, cutting 200 jobs.

Chapman said McNall shouldn't take credit for job reductions resulting from the closure because he voted against it.