If I were mayor, I would …

Essay contest Dunkirk eighth graders

OBSERVER Photos by Nicole Gugino Top: Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas (right) swears in (from left) eighth-grade essay contest winners Cam’ron DeJesus, Anthony Morales and Justus Bowen as Supertintendent Dr. James Tracy looks on. Above: Dunkirk eighth graders Cam’ron DeJesus (left) and Anthony Morales (center) sit between First Ward Councilman Don Williams, Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala as they served as honorary council members at the recent Common Council meeting. Below: Dunkirk eighth grader Justus Bowen (center) sits between Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas and Attorney Sean Connolly as he served as honorary mayor at the recent Common Council meeting.

During the May 16 Dunkirk Common Council three new members were welcomed to city government. Winners of the “If I Were Mayor, I Would …” essay contest were made honorary dignitaries and sworn in by Mayor Willfred Rosas.

The City of Dunkirk sponsored the NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) Essay contest on a local level.

The first place winner of the “If I Were Mayor, I Would …” contest and honorary mayor for the day was Justus Bowen. Justus shadowed Rosas on Friday. The second place winner was Cam’ron DeJesus. Camron has been named Honorary City Councilman, along with third place winner Anthony Morales.

The other essay contestants were: Miracle Berakah, Marjorie DeJesus Colon, Kyleigh Ortiz, Jeremy Sobilo, Yadi Rodriguez, Amaya Quiles, Kandyce Earing, Dominic Beiger and Kenneth Koch. Each of these students will receive a certificate of recognition signed by the mayor and presented by Russo.

This contest was made available to city of Dunkirk eighth grade students, and thanks to the leadership and support of the mayor, it was welcomed by the Dunkirk City School District Superintendent Dr. James Tracy, Middle School Principal Joanne Russo and Middle School Social Studies teachers Ryan Corbett and Kelly Mahaney-Lutz.

“Last March I met with the students in Mr. Corbett’s Social Studies Class, and I listened to what they had to say. Their concerns were not what I expected,” Rosas said. “These young people are concerned with the economy of our city, drugs in our neighborhoods, programs that will provide them and their fellow students with a place to go and be a part of something more than just hanging out on the street corners. I was humbled by the respect they showed me and the amount of consideration they gave to the office of the mayor in their essays.”

When asked how the winners were decided, Rosas explained, “Deciding on the top three essays was not easy. Each essay written was done so with meaning, passion and a true belief that they could make a difference if given the opportunity. As I read their essays, I felt as if I were reading the words of our future leaders of this community. It is refreshing to know that these students are concerned with what is happening around them and they have suggestions for possible solutions to some of our problems.”

“Some of the common threads in the essays included having more family time through picnics in the park, to paving the streets and making sidewalks available in every neighborhood; these kids care! They wrote about how the city could work with the other agencies and surrounding municipalities to share services, such as a shared police and court system facility. They wrote about taxes, income streams for their parents through more business and industrial development. There were plans of when and how the streets and neighborhoods could be improved, to include a timeline.”

When learning of the essay contest, Dr. Tracy said, “Mayor Rosas is to be commended for providing a real life experience to our students. Writing is an important skill, and to be able to learn first-hand from our mayor as well as participate in the daily operations of our local government is a learning experience that will last a lifetime. I am extremely proud of our young men and women who have been given a glimpse into what one’s civic duty is all about.”

Corbett spoke of the students.

“First, Mrs. Lutz and I would like to thank all those involved at City Hall who helped create this opportunity for the students of Dunkirk Middle School. As social studies teachers in the district, we have always tried to relay to our students the idea that this is their community, and they have a voice in it,” Corbett stated. “One of the chapters that we cover every year is “The Progressive Era.” Within this chapter, I try to get my students to understand that they can be the future progressives in this world. This contest was a great help in showing the students that they do have a voice, that they are part of their community, and they can create changes to make society as a whole a better place in which to live and raise a family.”

Russo has been extremely supportive of the effort put forward by Corbett and Mahaney-Lutz.

“First, I would like to congratulate all of the students who participated in this essay writing contest. When I am given the chance to recognize the fine work of our students, I realize that there are many people to thank for their accomplishments,” she stated. “I would like to thank Mayor Rosas and the city council for partnering with DMS, and for giving our students the opportunity to imagine what it would be like to be in a position of leadership and to influence decision-making for their community. Next, I would like to thank Mr. Corbett and Mrs. Mahaney-Lutz, their social studies teachers. They help our students learn about society and how to use their voices to express thoughts and opinions in ways that will have a positive influence on decision making. I would also like to thank the parents of these fine, young students, as you are the first teachers of your children.”

All the students who participated were congratulated for their efforts

Russo congratulated and thanked Justus, Cam’ron and Anthony, saying, “I am very proud of you and especially proud that you are representing DMS and expressed your opinions in a way that impressed our community leaders.”

Rosas ended by saying, “Every essay that was written was done so with thought and caring for the future of the city, and I am excited about our youth of today and their enthusiasm in pursuing this essay contest.”

Following is Bowen’s winning essay.

“If I Were Mayor, I would ….”

If I were Mayor of Dunkirk, I would offer tax breaks and incentives to new and expanding businesses in hopes of creating more employment opportunities for our residents.

I would also offer low-interest rate loans to City homeowners seeking to improve their properties, and to assist citizens on the path to becoming first-time homeowners. I would also aim to create a safe environment for children by revitalizing a previously unutilized City-owned building, creating a community center where the City’s youth could find a safe and fun place to meet with peers in a youth-run adult chaperoned environment during the winter months.

Tax incentives would be granted to small businesses if they were to employ five (5) residents for up to five years. Larger businesses would receive these same tax incentives based on the number of residents they employed. This would attract more aspiring business persons, as certainly they’d want to achieve those same incentives as other existing businesses within the City.

By partnering with local banks, low-interest rate loans could help homeowners in more impoverished sections of the City improve their property and by extension, their entire neighborhood. These loans would help to create a path that residents could follow leading to becoming homeowners much easier, and in turn we would see a rise in first-time homeowners within the City. Having more homeowners would help offset the tax incentives proposed prior by bringing in more tax revenue.

In order to go about creating a safe and fun recreation center for the City’s youth, I would attempt to seek state, county and federal grants in order to fund revitalizing a City-owned building unutilized prior. This recreational facility would be run by youth and chaperoned by adults. It would provide a place for youth to spend time outside of school with their peers, especially during the winter months. From Monday to Friday, the facility would be open from 3 PM until 8 PM, though on weekends the facility would open at 1 PM and close at 9 PM.

I believe whole-heartedly that these suggestions would do the community of Dunkirk in its entirety a great service. I believe that revitalization of impoverished districts is important, and with low-interest loans, current homeowners can improve their homes and therefore their neighborhoods. First time home buyers will help offset the tax revenue lost in tax incentives granted to businesses to introduce more jobs into the City. The recreation center is absolutely necessary, as it will help youth stay out of trouble by providing a positive outlet to channel themselves into.

Overall, as Mayor, I would work diligently to ensure these new policies and actions would take effect.