Dunkirk goes unmentioned but mayor says city won’t be forgotten

Submitted Photo Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas (right) stands with his son, Jordan, at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in Buffalo, Monday. Rosas sat in the front row and attended with several city staff members.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Buffalo Monday with an uplifting message for his State of the State address: ” I believe the best is yet to be in Buffalo and you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

However, as much as his speech focused around building the Upstate economy and helping the middle class, mention of projects important to Dunkirk — like the Athenex plant construction and the re-powering of NRG — were notably absent.

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas told the OBSERVER last week he hoped to hear about these projects during the governor’s address, but he knows Dunkirk will not be forgotten by the state in the year to come.

Cuomo himself said, “We have invested $4.6 billion in these Regional Economic Development Councils. We have created 210,000 jobs and in Western New York we made a special commitment. Why? Western New York, I believe we had a commitment to make up for years of abandonment and years of inaction.”

Rosas attended Monday’s event at the University of Buffalo’s North Campus, sitting in a place of distinction.

“There were lots of people and Dunkirk was well represented. I sat in the front row with (Jamestown) Mayor (Sam) Teresi and Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls. … I attended with my older son, Jordan Rosas and many department heads including Rebecca Yanus, director of development,” he said after the event.

One message Rosas was happy to hear about was Cuomo’s support of infrastructure, especially water treatment, which the city is currently in the process of upgrading for a consent order.

“The governor is proposing funds for infrastructure and water improvements and maintenance. I was hoping he would since our city will benefit from these funds,” he said.

Other proposals Rosas previously supported include Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship initiative for free tuition to state colleges for middle class families and the voting reforms of “The Democracy Project.”

“Governor Cuomo is offering substantial, modern-day reforms to voting and voter registration here in New York. By overhauling the state’s outdated registration process, along with the availability of early voting, the Governor is making it easier for more New Yorkers to exercise their rights. I see this as an opportunity to increase our voter turnout locally as well. Maintaining the integrity of our voting process is essential, and with the Democracy Project — New York is once again showing the nation the way forward,” he noted.

Rosas also said he agreed with Cuomo’s tax proposals for relief for the middle class. According to Cuomo, property taxes are more than double income taxes on average and as a percentage of home value are highest in Upstate. He quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt to point to waste and duplication of services as ways to make this happen.

In looking at the future, Rosas also set his sights on consolidation, predicting this was what the state would be looking for.

“I’m a strong believer in consolidation. In my background in being a state trooper where I worked in all different areas throughout the state and even throughout the county, it felt sometimes that we have a duplication of services. With municipalities that are a mile or a mile and a half apart and spending the kind of money that we’re spending on things like police and fire and courts, it’s just not logical to continue to do that,” he said in an interview last month.

Cuomo’s biggest announcement was for a Buffalo Billion Squared — a synergy of Buffalo Billion 1 and 2 to build on Western New York’s resurgence.

“…  it’s also important to make sure everyone is sharing in the success. Because the greatest feast has the largest number of people at the table and the greatest success is shared success. So we want to make sure every community is part of this renaissance,” Cuomo said, specifically speaking about Buffalo’s east side.

However, Rosas said he thinks the governor’s proposal will also help the city.

“I believe the ‘Buffalo Billion Squared’ initiative will help the economy in all Western New York. Dunkirk will be receiving much assistance from the state in 2017. As mayor, I am grateful for the support our city is and will continue to receive from the state,” Rosas said.

One of the first ways the state will be assisting the city is through its Financial Restructuring Board, which is expected by March. The board will look at the way the city operates and offer financial incentives to undertake recommended efficiency projects.

Rosas plans to hold his own State of the City address later this month.