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MAR 10 - MAR 17, 2015

Only in North Tonawanda: Questions for Common Council

By Sweeney Payne

March 10, 2015

Sweeny Payne has some questions for former North Tonawanda Mayor David Burgio

Citizens should be educated by those in power so they can knowledgeably provide input they have the right and responsibility to provide on public projects. Enlightened citizens often have a better idea of what to do about public projects than the elected officials do. This principle of civics has been lost on City officials in NT for some time.

Common Council meetings have been reduced to a political sham where already discussed items are publicly "approved" without citizens being privy to any of the details. Common Council minutes on the City's website indicate a plethora of meetings lasting from six to twenty minutes—including the Pledge to the Flag, the opening prayer, and occasionally some "audience participation" from the few local stalwarts who have been able to get out at the earlier (and sometimes changing) times.

A meeting lasting an hour with everything included is a rarity in NT! It's no wonder NT officials don't wish to have meetings televised. Compared to other communities who do televise theirs, NT's would become the laughingstock of the County. No details on the pros and cons or on any discussions on any issues are ever provided at the Council meetings nor in the minutes on the City's website. Those not able to get out to the inconveniently timed meetings are not ever informed of responses given to those citizens who do speak at them. The City of Lockport Mayor and Council members politely provide responses to all concerns expressed by their citizens at their meetings and have them televised.

A number of citizens have been submitting questions for our appointed Mayor and 2/5 appointed, 3/5 elected Common Council:

? Why have lots on Carrousel Court and the middle part of Northeast Avenue never been developed? Wouldn't these be sources of more property taxes with homes on them? How much did we pay for infrastructure on these lots?

? When will we be seeing a public accounting of how much taxpayer funding was given through various grants and other assistance to the wealthy New Yorker who converted our former Remington-Rand plant into his Remington Lofts? Did our City, County and State officials get this owner to commit to remaining as the owner after the tax concessions he was given with our money end? What arrangements did our City Fathers make on giving him the use of what was City owned (taxpayer owned) land for additional parking? Has he remained current on payments to the City under the existing agreements? What did we pay for the street renovations and other infrastructure work to benefit this wealthy man?

? What ever happened on the investigation of the fire of unidentified origin that partially destroyed the Elks Lodge building and the costs of the almost overnight removal of every sign of the building's existence to provide additional parking area for that Remington Lofts-Remington Tavern?

? When will we see an accounting of the taxpayer funding and other assistance obtained by former Mayor Burgio on the Dick Block Building project? Why is it that only he and his good friend, the New York City owner of the Remington Lofts-Remington Tavern are the only ones to have ever seriously benefited from the Historic Preservation Commission Burgio and the Common Council set up in 2005, in combination with the Lumber City Development Corp. (also set up by Mayor Burgio)? Wasn't it a conflict of interest for Burgio to serve on the Planning Commission through the end of 2014?

? How is Paul Brown benefiting from serving on the Planning Commission through 2018? Is the Historic Preservation Commission that designated Ascension Church a local landmark at one time and made the Diocese of Buffalo furious assisting Brown? When will someone make him address those tacky faded "paintings" of fish on the building in which his family operates the Fish Place? Why does the Building Inspector look the other way on his renting out dumps on Oliver Street without making them safe for the inhabitants? Are those union related votes and contributions the reason?

? What ever happened to the much publicized little pocket park Burgio and his non-profit Project Pride told us in the early 2000s they were creating for us on Webster Street? Funding came from County and other governmental sources and City workers labored on that park. Why did it turn into the deck and patio area for Crazy Jake's restaurant if it was on City land? If it was really on Burgio land, why did taxpayer funds turn it into a short-lived park?





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