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Council powerless over boat races

Commentary

As a councilman for the city of Dunkirk, I feel it’s important that I set the record straight regarding my position on the recent Grand Prix Offshore boat “race” conducted in Dunkirk. On Sept. 28 a letter was printed in the OBSERVER signed by two council colleagues, Councilmen Martin Bamonto and Michael Civiletto, that completely distorted the conversation and the issues I sought to bring light to for the city residents and my council colleagues.

I’d like to begin by saying that I support events that seek to bring visitors into the city. We should be trying new events to increase visitors and provide entertainment opportunities to our residents. However it’s important these events be reviewed before and after and that legitimate cost benefit analyses be conducted. Specifically it’s important we admit when an event is not producing results commensurate with its expenses. Further, and more importantly, it’s critical that these events be conducted with the utmost transparency especially when state, county and local tax payer monies and services are used to conduct the events.

It’s this point that my colleagues and the mayor do not seem to understand. At no point do the ends justify the means, setting aside the mediocre at best results of the race, all expenditures and in this case contracts executed must be vetted through the Council as required by law. Merely having “discussed” the race with council is not the same as seeking the approval of the council.

Approval requires a resolution, review and consideration of relevant documentation and most importantly a public vote. In the case of the contract that enabled this event, no such vote took place and no such public accountability was provided. Instead, the mayor executed a six figure multi-year contract between the city of Dunkirk and a struggling boat race promoter without council approval or vetting.

As a councilman it took several requests to get the contract. After initially being lead to believe that the contract was between the DLDC (which also requires a public vote to be clear) and the promoter, I received a contract only to learn its cost, duration and the parties to it (city and promoter). If it took this effort from me as an elected official can we really expect that anyone in the general public was adequately informed?

As councilmen Bamonto and Civiletto surely know, a wide range of issues are brought to Council’s attention and discussed. Unfortunately for the mayor, only those that are actually approved by the council are eligible for action.

Either the councilmen do not understand the workings of the council and the oaths they took or their attack letter is purely political.

Shaun P. Heenan is a Dunkirk resident seeking election as mayor.

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