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City at-large candidates seek ‘respect,’ ‘integrity’

Nick Weiser

Dunkirk’s Common Council will be getting a new councilman-at-large after Election Day.

Paul VanDenVouver did not run for re-election to the seat on the council. Republican David Damico, currently president of the Dunkirk Board of Education, will face Democrat Nick Weiser, a SUNY Fredonia professor, for the post.

The OBSERVER asked all Common Council candidates to submit answers to three questions. The responses of Damico and Weiser follow.

Question 1: Why are you running for Common Council?

David Damico: For the past 11 years I’ve been a school board member for the Dunkirk City School District, serving as president the past five years. I’ve negotiated contracts, participated in budget reviews, hired and fired people. I’m comfortable running meetings utilizing Robert’s Rules, I understand the branches of government and the job each is responsible for. I understand that difficult choices sometimes need to be made for the betterment of the community as a whole. While I have enjoyed my years serving as a member of the school board, I feel the skills I’ve developed there would be a benefit to the city at this time. I believe in working together to reach common goals. While disagreements inevitably occur, consensus must be found in order for progress to occur. I feel my experiences and skill set would be beneficial to bringing stability and transparency to city hall politics.

David Damico

Nick Weiser: Over four years ago I was offered a position that required me to relocate to Western New York. I could have bought a home in any number of towns, villages or cities, but I chose Dunkirk. At that time, Dunkirk was a city on the move. I could see progress happening, like the waterfront development. The city seemed full of hope and excitement, and I knew it was where I wanted to live, buy a home and become a part of the progress that I saw happening. However, over these past two years I have seen much of that hope and progress destroyed.

As councilman-at-large, I will work toward bringing back unity between the council and the administration – that’s the way forward and to restore that progress. We may not always agree, but with my dedication, hard-work ethic and personal integrity, we will once again see growth in our city through collaboration and open communication. I know how to work with people from all walks of life, and I believe in listening to the other side with an open mind and a willingness to do the right thing for the city and its residents. I’ve invested my future in the city of Dunkirk; it is my home by choice. I have the energy to bring back an innovative and positive perspective to the council and work with the administration to move Dunkirk forward. As councilman-at-large, I will devote my time and energy to making Dunkirk better for the residents of this city.

Question 2: What is the biggest problem facing the city of Dunkirk?

Weiser: It is difficult to pinpoint just one problem, as there are several. However, communication is the key to success, regardless of the situation. The residents of the city of Dunkirk elect individuals to make the best decisions for their safety, infrastructure needs, housing, jobs, education, and economic development allowing for growth and reduced tax burdens.

After witnessing the lack of constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas between the current council and the administration, it is obvious to me that the council’s current understanding of their duties and responsibilities is lacking; thus, a systemic inability to move the city forward has become a roadblock to the progress we were experiencing just four years ago.

As councilman-at-large and presiding chair of the council, I will focus on the true role of the council: that is to create and pass laws that serve to move the city forward. I will work with all council members, the administration and the residents to ensure renewal and growth in collaboration with the other branches of government. The council’s time will not be wasted on petty issues spawned by individual biases and grievances, but will focus on those issues relative to the needs of the community.

We, as a council, must look toward the here and now as well as the future. We are emerging from a global pandemic: businesses have closed or downsized, families have lost loved ones, and many people and companies are suffering economic setbacks. As a council we must focus on doing what is right and what is best for the city and our residents. We must bring back the important qualities of decency, respect, and integrity to our legislative branch of city government.

As councilman-at-large, I will work for the people of this city; they deserve far better than what they have had over these past two years, and I will give them that.

Damico: While there are many issues facing the city, I believe our aging infrastructure is one of the most important. We only need to think back to August and the major water main break that brought most facets of the city to a halt. Families, businesses and our water district partners all felt the pain. The situation could have been much worse had it not been for the professionalism of city employees who worked around the clock to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible. I believe we need to develop a long term plan to improve our roads, water lines, fleet replacement programs and building maintenance.

Question 3: If elected, what do you want to accomplish?

Damico: I hope to bring our elected officials together in a working relationship based on respect. While we won’t always agree, I feel it’s important to maintain a respectful, positive working relationship to move the city forward. In addition, I’d like to explore the possibility of stabilizing the Department of Planning and Development by making the director position a tested or degreed hiring. I personally feel this position is too important to be a political appointment and that we would attract the best and brightest talent if candidates didn’t have to worry about maintaining their job every four years. Many of the grants and projects overseen by the department take years to come to fruition, making stability in the director’s job imperative.

Weiser: I will restore open lines of communication and collaboration between the Common Council and the administration. This will take work, but I have a vision for this city.

The city of Dunkirk is in an enviable position on Lake Erie. There are businesses that are seeking locations to expand, build and grow, and Dunkirk can offer those opportunities. Jobs are the key to ensuring growth. An increase in jobs reduces poverty and spurs the growth of our local workforce and development of the downtown area. In order to support a growing workforce and population, we must continue to develop our waterfront and improve our infrastructure such as streets, water and drainage systems. I want to be a part of that growth.

We, the residents of Dunkirk, have been recipients of funding, including pandemic relief, from the federal and state governments for assistance with many of our projects. But we cannot expect a continuation of these funds or even make good use of them if the city council and administration are gridlocked. The residents of the city of Dunkirk will pay the price if unity and open communication are not restored; I can restore that unity.

Civility should be expected from your elected leaders, and you deserve a city government that respects its residents and one another. As candidate for councilman-at-large, I promise to live up to your expectations. Help me put us back on the track to restoring progress; I’m asking for your vote.

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