Reflections on… My First Year in Council

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By Kenny Tompkins

Niagara Falls City Council

January 1 marked my first official year as a Niagara Falls City Council member. What a year this has been! There was a mix of successes and frustrations that come with government.

The biggest plus of this job has been the opportunity to work with the residents of this city. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people through the Neighbor to Neighbor meetings and city events, as well as those who contacted me directly with regard to their concerns. Some issues have been easier to solve than others, but I value the trust each individual placed in my abilities to make a difference. In addition to facilitating resolutions to issues such as dead tree removals and cracked sidewalks, I am happy to have helped residents with larger problems. Thanks to many concerned voices, we were able to keep the new fire tower from being built in a residential neighborhood and the Northpointe Clinic from expanding to 6th Street. I stood with residents who expressed their anger at the Niagara Falls Water Board’s surplus when rates continue to rise and issues like hydrants and frozen lines are not prioritized.

Reaching out to find ways in which to bring the community together without tapping into the city’s budget has been something I consider a highlight of my first year. When the Memorial Day parade was nearly cancelled, I was proud to rally a committee to keep it going and gather sponsors. This year, we’re partnering with the Kiwanis Club of Niagara Falls to make this event even bigger. When the public was dissatisfied with sections of the proposed ordinance to reduce the community cat population, I was pleased to team with the SPCA of Niagara to launch the Orange Cat campaign here in Niagara Falls and raise funds for a Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, and Release program. I look forward to the program expanding in 2017 while the ordinance is reworked. I also had the honor of co-sponsoring the Highland Avenue Revitalization Committee’s Back to School Fair and being able to support the Junior Thunderwolves as they took the lead to return Sal Maglie Stadium to a glorious venue for America’s favorite pastime, baseball.

Throughout 2016, I attended many grass roots events hosted by residents, organizations, and businesses passionate about reviving the spirit of this city.

On a larger scale, I am excited to offer my support to the study and future plans for a multi-use arena here in Niagara Falls.

Inside city hall, I met countless dedicated individuals who work tirelessly for our city. It is my intent to find to find ways to support their efforts. Like many residents, they are frustrated by government inefficiencies and would like to see processes streamlined. In particular, our code enforcement and DPW teams need more support to be more effective in their roles. I will champion this as much as possible in 2017.

My biggest concern remains the unbridled spending and lack of transparency and accountability from the administration and various department heads. As a council member, I have done my part to insist on clearer plans and justification for monetary requests. I have actively searched for solutions. Some, like participating in the study stage of the county’s health care consortium, could net our city significant savings without sacrificing benefits.

Other efforts sadly fell on deaf ears. In my first budget process, I pushed hard to reduce expenses that do not benefit the city overall. While we were able to reduce the original budget by $430K, I was disappointed that many of the recommendations regarding cuts to exorbitant raises for a select few and non-transparent spending were ultimately ignored come time for the final vote. However, this will not deter me from being the fiscal watchdog I was elected to be and demanding more transparency, accountability, and measurable results from the administration.

I will also continue to push for a formal plan for the expenditure of casino dollars. I will continue to push for opportunities to lower the non-homestead tax which will ultimately encourage business growth. I will continue to be visible and upfront with the residents of the city of Niagara Falls.

This is the reason I ran for council and why I am working tirelessly. I am doing what I can to make a difference in this city and look forward to my second year of serving my party, the city of Niagara Falls.

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