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Heenan: Protecting future starts with 7-point plan

I am officially announcing my campaign for mayor of the city of Dunkirk — a mission which aims to Protect the Future of Dunkirk.

As the endorsed candidate of the Republican and Conservative parties, I am an experienced local leader having protected the interests of Dunkirk taxpayers for over a decade as a member of the Chautauqua Legislature and City of Dunkirk Common Council.

As a local business owner and employer in northern Chautauqua County for the past 35 years, I believe I can bring a pragmatic, sensible and fiscally sound leadership to city government.

In addition to improving the general efficiency of city government, I will target seven key areas of emphasis immediately upon taking office that will directly improve the operation of city government and the quality of life for the citizens of the community.

These areas are to develop a five-year budget plan, activate the expertise of the Common Council, systematically evaluate the positions within city government for efficiencies, insist upon transparency of government operations for the citizens of Dunkirk, evaluate the festivals and events program and provide a detailed accounting of expenditures and revenues to the public, streamline the operation of the Department of Development and plan for a future without NRG tax revenue today.

These seven areas when reviewed and improved systematically from an analytical perspective will provide an immediate increase in the level of trust between the public and the government that is supposed to operate for their benefit.

Each of these areas identified for improvement require immediate attention by a mayor experienced in business operations, the community, the unique needs of businesses in our community who places the value and stewardship of our tax dollars above all else.

¯ Five-year budget plan — While it is difficult to project budgets multiple years in the future, historical data can provide realistic projections for most costs in the city budget based on historical data and future contractual obligations. The tax levy, sales tax receipts and most revenues can also be accurately forecast.

A five-year budget gives the opportunity to project future capital projects, such as major equipment purchases and infrastructure needs and can be forecast using multiple revenue options, allowing city officials to see the effects of both rising and falling revenues.

No organization operating with a budget in excess of $20 million can responsibly operate without a long term financial plan, the city of Dunkirk should not be exempt from good fiscal planning either.

¯ Common Council — The council must be activated and become an active part of city government.

The council should be more involved in the decision making process than it is at present including regular meetings with department heads. All salaries, including appointed officials should be approved by council. All positions, changes in job titles, elimination of positions should be approved by council. City policy dictates that most major purchases require a council resolution, not only should the present policies be followed without exception, but all major purchases should take a council resolution.

¯ City positions — A committee will be formed to examine all present positions in city government and identify opportunities for improved efficiency. The Chautauqua County Civil Service Department will be asked to evaluate all job titles in the city to insure that all positions are needed, that all who hold positions meet the qualifications, and that all regulations regarding the appointment of officials are followed for every city hire.

¯ Transparency –This word has been used and abused politically for years and is used hesitantly here.

However it is undoubtedly important that the public and the press have better access to information in order to maintain the public trust in government. Questions that arise from the public or press need to be promptly answered, and they need to be answered by the mayor. Sanitized answers by the city attorney are not in the interests of the public, when mistakes are made they should be acknowledged, and addressed so that they do not constantly repeat themselves.

¯ Festival and events — It is essential the city provide a true accounting of all festivals and events held. This would include all costs, including personnel, equipment, special needs, etc. Any overtime created in any department would be delineated out for the public. The recent boat races are an example of an event that the public has never been given a full accounting of. There was substantial overtime created in the police, fire, public works and Development Departments that is never provided to the public. All events should be judged not only on what can they bring in to the city, but what do they truly take out of the city in government costs.

It is important that we constantly seek to bring outside revenue into the city but it is required that each event be evaluated not only prior to the event based on projections but after the event based on actual attendance, effects on local businesses, actual expenses and media coverage etc. Only after an honest review can it be determined if the event was an actual benefit to the community.

¯ Department of development –The one substantial achievement of the past four years is the Cold Storage facility about to be opened on Roberts Road.

This project is a true development project, one that the present administration tried to place on Main Street Extension, in the backyards of a residential area. Festivals, dog parks and boat races may be nice, but they are not development.

A streamlined Department of Development will be charged to focus on developing a plan for Central Avenue from the Hospital on Sixth Street to the Pier. The possibility of forming a committee separate from city government to run special events, freeing up development personnel to focus on true development projects, will be immediately evaluated.

¯ NRG — The city should have been publicly planning for the loss of NRG related revenue for years, however since it has not it must begin now.

We cannot ignore the situation and hope that state will bail us out in perpetuity, we know this will not happen. Plans need to be made now, and a five year budget plan will be the first of many steps in the process.

Residents seeking to support these initiatives or with other ideas on how I can improve the city of Dunkirk are encouraged to contact shaunheenanformayor@gmail.com.

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