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Lockport treasurer to defend seat against 2 challengers

LOCKPORT – City Treasurer Michael E. White will run for re-election, defending himself against efforts to saddle him with the blame for the city’s fiscal crisis, but he has two opponents.

White, a Republican, will start in the GOP primary against 1st Ward alderman John Lombardi III. The winner will face Sue A. Mawhiney, a Democrat who announced her candidacy Tuesday.

White charged that giving many of his duties to Director of Finance Scott A. Schrader, an appointee of Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey, violates the City Charter. A referendum is needed to do so, and the Council may vote to schedule one in November that would reduce the treasurer’s duties to primarily collecting taxes. The Council also is planning a vote in July to cut the treasurer’s pay to $50,000 a year from White’s current salary of almost $82,000.

White said, “With the devastating cutbacks, like other departments in the city have experienced, and the limited staff available to perform the daily business of the treasury, there is simply no room or time to go through a learning curve.”

“Regardless of what Mr. White does, I believe the time has come for a fresh perspective in this critical office,” Lombardi said. “Lockport residents know that I have a history of being very independent and outspoken at times, and these characteristics will continue if I am elected city treasurer.”

Mawhiney, an employee of the YWCA of Niagara, formerly worked at First Niagara Bank. “We need an independent, objective, properly trained individual that will provide the public with the information they not only require but are entitled to,” she said. “I pledge to be a dedicated servant of the people and I will be accountable to the public, not to the politicians with self-serving motives.”

Meanwhile, Edward W. Tracy, the city Democratic chairman, announced he’s running for 1st Ward alderman. Tracy served on the Council from 1990-93.

“When I served as chairman of the Finance Committee, there were no 10.5 percent tax increases and no state supervision. Recently, we have run through millions, but our roads and water systems are in trouble. We have lost the Fire Department ambulance service. No one in Lockport can believe we can continue to sustain this spiral. I believe I have the practical experience in city affairs to help reverse this situation,” Tracy said.

Democrat Richard E. Abbott and Republican Allan W. Jack have announced their candidacies for 5th Ward alderman.

In a 35-year public-sector career, Abbott worked for the city Streets Department, the Niagara County and state Health Departments and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. He has worked for People Inc. for the past six years. He also held office in the Public Employees Federation for 15 years.

Abbott said, “We need to move forward and improve our streets, our parks, our relationships with our employees and the way we do business. We need for everyone to adopt a philosophy of cooperation.”

Jack, a former member of the Lockport School Board and current member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, said the city needs to address why $800,000 in water and sewer bills are unpaid while the water and sewer funds are in the red. He also demanded rebates to residents for recycling, as he contends was promised when Lockport garbage collection was privatized.

Also, Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, a Democrat who, except for a two-year break, has served on the Common Council since 1999, has announced his candidacy for his eighth full term in the 4th Ward.

“With the many financial problems that have come about in the last six years, I believe experience and an understanding of the city will be the only thing that will put our city back on the path to financial stability,” he said.