By GIB SNYDER
OBSERVER City Editor
Candidates for Dunkirk's First, Second and Third Ward council seats presented their credentials and ideas at a recent League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates event in City Hall.
Candidates were asked about Dunkirk's biggest problem.
First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski lead off and said it was "housing, the condition of housing, housing blight and absentee landlords."
"I will continue to work on that. ... I will continue to work on the Rising Star program which I started two years ago and currently put about $1,200 back in the community through private sponsorships. That's what I would continue to do."
Greg Sek is Michalski's opponent. He said he is a lifelong resident and the biggest problem was jobs.
"We can't get jobs here unless we take care of our own problems first, the water, the sewer. What's the sense of bringing someone in if you can't service them? he asked. "We have to have good service in order to bring in the business."
Sek called for enforcing the laws on the books.
Second Ward candidate William Tuggle said he had gained knowledge of the city's problems from his work as city clerk.
"Although I wasn't able to help everyone, I always tried to assist each individual as best I could, all the while gaining valuable experience," he said. " ... We have problems that must be addressed and if anyone thinks that the solutions are simple, I'm afraid they are mistaken. It's going to take a complete effort from both our elected officials and our citizens if we're going to continue the growth and progress we've experienced these past few years."
William Rivera is Tuggle's opponent and said the water treatment plant was his biggest concern.
"We need to have communication within elected and city officials, it has to be strong. We can't run the city without all offices communicating with each other," Rivera said. "We've got to be ready for the future, work to keep taxes down and making city streets cleaner and safer. ... To be ready for the future, we need to bring our infrastucture up to par."
In the Third Ward it's Adelino Gonzalez against Michael Braxton.
One of the major issues for Braxton was housing and he said he was reading the City Code to be prepared to move forward in addressing housing problems. He added he wanted to have property owners have a local representative. Braxton said he was the type of person the city is looking to keep and pledged to "work as hard as I can."
Gonzalez served three terms on the school board and cited his involvement in the city "over the years."
His main concern was the lack of good jobs to keep people here after college. He also cited lack of cooperation with other communities as one of the problems, along with maintaining a safe environment for adults and children in the city.
"The city has a lot of things that need to be taken care of. If we collaborate with other communities that will help us pay for the things," he stated.
Lobbying for the full return of county social services to downtown Dunkirk was another topic.
"I think that should be one of our utmost responsibilities. We have many people that worked here that have to work elsewhere due to the problem that happened," Gonzalez said.
Braxton had a different take.
"I don't think the answer is putting social services back there," he stated. "I think something for the community ... maybe a small business incubator. I think that would be fantastic for the city."
A proposal to have ward councilman elected by their ward's residents and not city-wide, as is now the case, brought some different replies, with Braxton pointing out a candidate could win their ward but still lose and called for the change. Gonzalez said council was elected to serve the whole city while Rivera asked "why fix it if it isn't broke?"
Tuggle suggested for all seats to be at-large.
"Have the leading vote getter be in charge of council itself and that would be a solution that would appease a lot of individuals," he explained.
Sek supported each ward picking its council person.
"It's a popularity contest really. I say let the wards elect their representatives," he stated.
Michalski favored leaving it to the voters.
"Put it up to the voters for a resolution on the ballot and see where it comes out," he said.
As for abolishing the two part-time assessors positions as is called for on a ballot proposition this election, Sek and Gonzalez said it was OK, but after their terms expired in 2014. The other candidates all were in favor of the positions being done away with at the end of this year, with new technology cited as providing the impetus for the change.
All candidates agreed intermunicipal cooperation is desirable, but Tuggle pointed out it isn't always easy and cited a police building project that the village of Fredonia failed to follow through on with study funding.
"We can ... try to put forth the effort to consolidate and share services, but if we don't get cooperation from the other side it's just not going to happen," he explained.
Candidates had one minute for closing remarks and used the time to remind voters they will work hard for the betterment of the city.
Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org