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Walker will Face Hill in 15th Legislative District

"The Republicans dominate the County Legislature and the one- party rule does not serve the inter- ests of working families. We need a change of direction where county government becomes more efficient and innovative in bringing much need economic development and jobs to Niagara County."
Joshua Walker

Joshua Walker, a registered Conservative, is seeking a seat on the Niagara County Legislature with a platform calling for a "reform of the county’s purchasing practices and changes in the policies of the Industrial Development Agency."

Walker will challenge incumbent Michael A. Hill in the 15th District, which includes the Towns of Royalton and Hartland and doglegs into a portion of the Town of Lockport called Rapids.

Although he is a Conservative, Walker is seen as the likely endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party and, oddly, Walker is not seen as likely to secure the endorsement of his own party.

In the past, Conservatives, headed by County Chairman Dan Weiss, have endorsed Hill and are expected to do the same this year.

Curiously, Walker's grandfather, the late Raymond Walker, was the founder and long-time chairman of the Niagara County Conservative Party.  His father Dean was chairman of the party and was replaced by Weiss.

“I'm a Conservative," Walker said.  "But I believe the Democrats offer the best hope for the future of Niagara County.  I do agree with many of my grandfather’s political views, especially his insistence that public service is about helping people and giving the taxpayers’ the best value for their hard-earned dollars.”

Walker is expected to wage a primary fight for the Conservative line against Hill. The Conservative Party appears third on the ballot.

Walker may need the Conservative party line in the 15th District, which is farm country and has a more than 2-to-1 Republican edge.

Nevertheless, right out of the gate, Walker has criticized the local Republicans.

“The deal the County made for leasing record storage space is a joke, waste of taxpayers’ money and a reward for one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party,” Walker says, referring to how the Republican majority in the County Legislature awarding a no-bid deal for warehouse space to Lockport developer David Ulrich late last year. Public records show Ulrich is a major contributor to the Niagara County Republican Party and local Republican office holders.

“Ulrich paid just over $75,000 for the 60-year-old building and the Republicans turn around and give him more than $640,000 for the next five years,” Walker says. “That’s absurd. We are one of the highest taxed counties in the entire nation and the services we receive do not justify the spending the Niagara County Legislature approves routinely. The political dealing in the legislature is rampant and we must change the way the county conducts business.”

If elected, Walker said he would call for a review of the entire county’s space needs and better use of existing county owned buildings.

“We don't need to lease space for basic government functions when owning the properties is more cost-effective,” Walker argues. “Niagara County’s leasing practices have become a way to give sweetheart deals to sugar daddy campaign contributors.”

The Royalton resident is an electrician and member of IBEW Local 237. He and his wife Jessica have two daughters. Walker has done volunteer work for the United Way, The Girls and Boys Clubs and Big Brothers and Sisters.

Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster, who has promised that every one of the incumbent Republicans in the County Legislature will have an opponent this year, praised Walker. “He’s young, energetic, and smart and wants to bring fresh ideas to the legislature. We need people like Josh Walker to turn the county around and restore integrity,” Forster said.

Walker wants the county to require businesses getting tax deals from the Industrial Development Agency to hire a fixed percentage of  local residents for the construction projects as well as permanent employees.  His opponent, Hill, has generally run in the past with either token or no opposition.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 21, 2013