For the first time in 30 years, the Hamburg supervisor is not a member of the agencies that drive economic development in the town.
The Town Board on Monday night removed Supervisor Steven J. Walters and Councilman Michael P. Quinn Jr. from the boards of the Hamburg Industrial Development Agency and its sister Hamburg Land Development Corp. Another member of those boards, Michael Sender, resigned so that he could retire, according to Councilman Thomas M. Best Jr.
In their place, the board appointed three residents with ties to organized labor. Two were Wenceslao Valentin III and Jeffrey S. Brylski. Best said Brylski is a business agent for the Teamsters, and Valentin is a business agent for the United Auto Workers. The board also appointed Former Erie County Legislator Robert B. Reynolds Jr., a retired Ford Motor Co. employee who was vice president of Local 897, United Auto Workers, to the two boards in the seat that Sender held.
The moves were strongly opposed by Walters, who served as chairman of the IDA.
“You’re making the IDA a political board, something that has never been done in the history of the IDA,” he said. “The IDA has always been immune from the political winds of the town.”
“Throughout the last year, there have been numerous complaints regarding the actions and the methods of the Hamburg IDA, from numerous taxpayers, including most of the trade unions,” Best said.
The IDA is a nine-member board appointed by the Town Board. In addition to two Town Board members, the IDA also includes representatives from the Villages of Blasdell and Hamburg, and from each school district, Hamburg and Frontier. Other members are community and business members.
Best said there will be transparency on the IDA board, with trade union representation. He said that trade unions were among the loudest to complain about the FedEx project and that they called for the abolishment of the IDA. The trades, who demonstrated at the site, felt that there should have been more local workers.
Last August, the Town Board refused to appoint the Frontier School Board member who had been chosen by that board. It was Best, who at that time was running for Town Board and was in a heated primary with then Board Member Cheryl L. Potter-Juda. That was the first time the Town Board did not appoint the choice of the School Board.
Best said the move has nothing to do with Walters’ refusing to appoint him last year.
“No,” he said. “If it was political, we would have taken Walters off and put me on. That’s political.”
While Quinn voted for the moves, including his own removal, Walters, the lone Republican on the three-member Town Board, voted against the new appointments. He said the IDA was praised in a state comptroller’s report.
The shake-up at the IDA is necessary, according to Best, who said, “It’s kind of hard to oversee when you’re on the board.”