|Rick Smith (left) at an event. Seen at right is former Village of Lewiston Mayor Richard Soluri.
|This is a copy of the front of Rick Smith's campaign flier.
The Niagara Falls Reporter phoned first and then sent by email a series of questions about various topics a council member would have to be familiar with and be able to vote intelligently on and sought the views of Ezra Scott and Rick Smith, two men running for council this year in Niagara Falls.
Scott declined to address the issues.
Smith, however, had no difficulty answering them. He wrote back to us in about an hour.
Here is what Council Candidate Rick Smith wrote in response to our questions:
Niagara Falls Reporter: Please say something about the budget.
Rick Smith: First, let me say that these are only my opinions. The budget needs to have all five council people working on it together with the mayor.
As I see it now, I can't make any good, positive statement about the current process.
NFR: The city debt?
Smith: I read the 2009-2013 audit from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Being $12.5 million in debt and not fixing some, or all, of it when we got the $89 million in casino back payments money was not right.
To use one time revenues and general fund money to close the gap didn't work. It only made the deficit $7.2 million. It was bad financial judgment.
NFR: How about the courthouse expenses?
Smith: The courthouse was inflated from the start. It was only supposed to be a courthouse, not the police station too. I don't know if there is a fix outside of refinancing the debt.
NFR: The train station?
Smith: My understanding with the train station was that we, the taxpayers, were only supposed to pay $3 million. The rest was state and federal grant money. But the price went up.
There are too many change orders on all the projects.
RFP's should include everything right from the start. People doing business know they will find other problems and they should be included in the initial contract.
NFR: What will you do to address the escalating cost of public safety?
Smith: Cost of public safety is going up. A lot of it is from contracts and health insurance costs. Slow the process to get costs down.
Determining what exactly we can use casino money for would be a start.
Niagara County got casino money and gave it to the municipalities and they can use it for everything they want. We should be able to do the same.
NFR: What you think about the $100,000 city hall salaries? Will you vote against stipends given to city hall employees?
Smith: I feel we need full time department heads. Temporary upgrades and stipends don't help the city or the departments. Without permanent dept. heads, we spend more on outside contractors. Doesn't make sense.
NFR: How would you have handled the frozen water pipes situation?
Smith: As for the 72nd street frozen water pipes, I would have told the contractor to go ahead and do the work. Fix the problem right and worry about the cost after. The people of the city come first.
NFR: Where will the money come from to fix potholes, sidewalks and trees stumps that people complain about?
Smith: Money is budgeted for sidewalks, streets, and potholes every year. Maybe we should pave less streets and have better quality of work done when we pave streets.
NFR: Other comments
Smith: As the Chairman of the Planning Board, I oversaw a lot of plans which brought investment to our city. However, many of these were developed with IDA loans and PILOTs which meant the city gets no tax revenue for 10 years.
Unfortunately, the Council doesn't see most of the plans that are approved.
The Hamister project and the Rainbow Center went to the IDA because of NY State involvement with grants.
Still, I have high hopes for our community. I got involved about 20 years ago because I thought I could make a difference. I’m still trying.
Working with the council and the mayor, along with department heads, I feel we can turn it around.
It took 50 years to get where we are today. Turn around won't be tomorrow.
But I will always put the people of this fine city above all else.
And I will research everything that comes before me and make the best decisions for the people of Niagara Falls.
For more info on Smith visit http://www.ricksmith4nfcouncil.com