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Council backs growth initiatives for Batavia over opposition from Deleo and Briggs

By Howard B. Owens

John Deleo and Kathy Briggs had one word for those who think the City of Batavia should invest in its future: No.

On a pair of resolutions aimed at improving the quality of life and business climate in Batavia, Deleo and Briggs steadfast stalwarts in opposition, decried the expenditure of public money on the projects.

Each resolution passed by votes of 7-2.

The resolutions passed by the council extend the economic development services agreement for two years with Batavia Development Corp. and provide Vibrant Batavia with two years to become self-sustaining.

There was one growth-related measure that garnered yes votes from Deleo and Briggs. Deleo made a motion, seconded by Briggs, to eliminate the assistant city manager position.

The motion failed 2-7.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, outspoken as always, extolled the virtues of economic development and the work of Vibrant Batavia.

"We need all the development we can get," Christian said. "We need all the revenue, we need the sales base, we need everything we can get. We need everything working this year at this time because if we don't go forward, we're going to go backwards. We're going to be in a hole and we're never going to get out."

Prior to the meeting, council members received a memo from City Manager Jason Molino called "Budget Sustainability," which made the case for the city investing in economic development and neighborhoods.

For the past several weeks, budget discussions have been dominated by voices advocating for slashing in the three areas of city spending intended to help the city grow: The assistant city manager position, the BDC and Vibrant Batavia.

Molino's memo argued that without investment in growth, Batavia will be doomed to decline.

"Public revenue needs an employed community, so the right question is not necessarily where should we be trimming the City workforce budget, but rather, the right question is: Are City resources optimally structured to reposition Batavia as a great place to raise a family, start and operate a profitable business, and in general, appeal to families," wrote Molino.

Pierluigi Cipollone, a small businessman, argued in favor of investment over retrenchment. 

"We've got to make an investment," Cipollone said. "Mr. Molino sent out a memo talking to the revenue side of the profit and loss of the balance sheet. We need to invest to get what we want for Batavia. In the old days, we had civic groups that did a lot of what we want, but those civic groups have gone away for the most part. We need to get some of that back. When the pride returns, businesses will return."

Deleo said that he was both being responsive to his constituents and standing by the cost-cutting promises of his campaign by opposing the growth initiatives. 

It's not the job of government, he said, to invest in economic development.

"We're going to be leaner," Deleo said. "We're not going to reach into the pockets of our poor senior residents."

Briggs said she attended last week's annual luncheon for Genesee County Economic Development Center and came away impressed by the economic development efforts of the local agency.

"They're bringing business into the county, and Batavia is part of Genesee County," Briggs said. "I'm like, OK, GCEDC seems to be on track. That's what I gathered from that meeting. We do have somebody who is going to do the job of economic development, GCEDC."

Other council members pointed out that the focus of GCEDC is something that is completely different from the BDC. The BDC is focused on the city, which includes mostly brownfield development demands. GCEDC handles the entire county and most of its developments are greenfields outside of city limits.

Briggs also mentioned that the city is served by the Business Improvement District, but Councilman John Canale pointed out that BID works strictly Downtown, whereas the BDC serves the entire city.

The funding approved for Vibrant Batavia -- $45,000 for one year and a smaller amount in year two -- also comes from a different pot of money than originally proposed. Rather than being drawn from reserve funding, a portion of the city's revenue share from Batavia Downs will be used to back the nascent community booster group.

The group will also be asked to pay for a new $10,000 slide in Austin Park by donating $5,000 back to the city and raising the remaining $5,000.

While the resolutions for the BDC and Vibrant Batavia assume two-year commitments for the city, Molino, upon questioning by council members, said the council will have the option to reduce or eliminate funding next year by passing another resolution.

Mary E DelPlato

Mr. Molino we havent forgotten but I guess you have? When you decided against the majority to get rid of ARC s contract to "save money" and said that it would not cost us personally....that was a downright say one thing but the facts state youre full of it....If i could wave a magic wand Id have you despositioned and get someone in your seat that cares about us....every time you increase taxes an water rates that trickles down to someone...mostly the is outrageous! Every time he does this folks the minimum wage should increase....wont happen tho...i really dont see how any one can make a living where they can enjoy a dinner or a movie...sad how its so unbalanced...not just here...every where....God and I shake our heads...

Mar 10, 2015, 3:07pm Permalink
John Roach

The headline is a bit misleading. Deleo and Briggs did not vote against growth. They voted to cut bigger government.

For years, we did not have a stand alone, separate Assistant city Manager. We had Ms. Kuzon who did that job and ran the DPW. There are memos with her name listed as the Assistant City Manager, until Molino said one day she really wasn't. Deleo and Briggs want to go back to that arrangement and save the taxpayer about $100,000 per year.

They both said Vibrant Batavia should stand on it own now. The have a large committee, let them take over now and stop paying the salary for a non City employee.

As for BDC, it was clear they wanted GCEDC to step up, along with the Business Improvement District (BID), and save the taxpayer a little money. Neither thought bigger government will grow business here. That was tried and failed.

Mar 10, 2015, 3:53pm Permalink
Rich Richmond

On March 9th I went to the City Council Meeting to speak about the City Attorney’s substantial legal fees for the Mall.

They have exceeded one hundred-thousand dollars with no resolution in sight.

I spoke in November about having a free audit by the State Comptroller’s Office regarding the said fees because the Charter Commission caught double billing errors submitted by the City Attorney.

There was discussion followed by a motion and a second. Our City Manager did not think it necessary resulting in the Council President not moving it forward for a vote.

The following meeting the vote was put off so that a Council person who missed the said meeting could be brought up to speed.

At the next meeting the vote was again brought up only to cleverly denied and set aside per parliamentary rules and procedures. The City Attorney-the Official Parliamentarian, conveniently; or perhaps deliberately failed to mention this in November.

I closed by asking for a true impartial audit by an outside firm that reports directly to Council.

It appears Mr. Molino has something to hide about the legal fees and this is very disturbing to me.

I opened my address to Council with “I’m not here to speak about the proposed City Budget which will pass in its entirety. Our City manager snapped his fingers and the majority of you will enforce his mandates against the wishes of your constituents”.

What happen after I spoke during the budget meeting confirmed my suspicions to be true. As I predicted Mr. Molino’s mandates were passed in their entirety.

Our City Manager Jason Molino openly and proudly admitted he secretly made changes to the budget after talking with his unnamed conspirators on Council.

He never informed the public, the news media or others on the Council who would vote against them of the changes made.

Mr. Molino has the votes to enforce his last minute mandates; just as he the votes of his unnamed conspirators to block an up and down vote for an independent audit......simply fail to put it on the agenda and hope it goes away.

I am not going away. I will be running against Councilman Canale in the November elections.

Mar 10, 2015, 4:37pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

John can't agree more when you say......The headline is a bit misleading. Deleo and Briggs did not vote against growth. They voted to cut bigger government...But seems like this is the way some want to spin it...Batavia has a population of a little over 15,000 but has a government the size of a city much larger..Seems like the only job growth is at city hall ..Head line should be DELEO and BRIGGS want to cut the size of city government...We have had the BDC for the last three years and there has been no growth ....

Mar 10, 2015, 7:16pm Permalink
Brian Graz

This Batavia City government is like the blind leading the blind. At least it is somewhat assuring that there are a couple council members who have some ethical responsibility to their constituents and their campaign promises, as well as a backbone to do the right thing accordingly.

Batavia has been declining for how long now? I'd suggest ever since the lame-brained idea of Urban Removal destroyed Main Street and thus downtown. It’s kinda sad, the lack of foresight and good judgement that has plagued this city since then. And it’s still happening.

Just as government can't spend it’s way out of a recession [oh that may work for the short term, but will ultimately make a bad debt ridden situation worse], the attempt at economic development on the backs of the current resident taxpayers, whereby the city is going to create an atmosphere that entices new businesses and immigration of new residents, is not only an irresponsible risk, but a blatantly unfair use of the tax revenues from the current residents, when there is such dire need for infrastructure work, and essential services. And for what purpose really? So the city can continue to justify an overpaid FE and PD and an Asst Manager.

Just ponder the remarks of the “three members in the room” [sound familiar?] Christian said “We need all the revenue, we need the sales base, we need everything we can get.”, Molino said “Public revenue needs an employed community”, and Cipollone said “We need to invest to get what we want for Batavia”. And there it is, the powers that be have declared it, Batavia needs to expand so there will be more tax base, so that city government can get what they want.

And what if it doesn’t work [and I don’t think it’s going to], then what? What about all the taxpayer money that got squandered? Is there a scheme to borrow money to cover for the increased revenues that are never realized, and thus push the city further in debt?

Or what if it works, and then the newcomers realize how bad shape the streets are in, and that the sidewalks don’t get plowed in the winter, and the BPD and BFD cost the taxpayers $8 million/year and that’s planned to increase. Do you really think they are going to stay?

My advice to Briggs and Deleo is... hang in there, you are on the right track.

Mar 11, 2015, 11:02am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

The headline is not misleading. It's factually accurate.

John Deleo says he wants to run the city like a business. He said businesses are "lean and mean" and that's how the city should operate.

John Deleo has clearly never run a business.

Businesses don't just cut, cut, cut. They invest. Well-run businesses work to grow the top line first and foremost. That only happens with investment. If you're not growing in business, you're dying. Every good business executive I have ever worked for talks a lot more about the top line than the bottom line.

The irony is, John Deleo works for Batavia Downs, which is owned by Western OTB.

Western OTB was founded in 1973 by 13 counties and two cities that each took $10,000 of taxpayer money to create the entity.

The organization was able to grow that investment so that in 1978, Western OTB had enough money to buy Batavia Downs and invest in the facility.

Because of that investment, revenue for Batavia Downs has continued to grow, benefiting the local economy and the local governments and the people they serve who made that original investment in 1973.

Batavia Downs has been so successful that it was able to recently complete another $25 million investment in the facility, which created jobs and is growing revenue for Western OTB, and now it will add a hotel, generating more revenue and creating more jobs.

Without that investment of taxpayer money in 1973, Batavia Downs would likely not exist today and John Deleo and his co-workers wouldn't be drawing paychecks.

You can't cut your way to prosperity, either in business nor as a community.

Mar 11, 2015, 2:24pm Permalink
John Roach

Howard, saying Deleo works for the Downs is like saying you get money from businesses that support VB and BDC. So what?

To say GCEDC should do what BDC is doing and save money is not anti growth. Saying we should keep the Assistant Manager job tied with the DPW job to save money is not anti growth.

He has different ideas on how to grow Batavia, that's all.

And Deleo did run a business with his dad for years.

But we'll see in November who is right. There are already candidates to run in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Wards

Mar 11, 2015, 2:59pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Are you denying that Deleo works for Batavia Downs? I've seen him there in uniform.

Saying GCEDC should do what BDC should do is like saying Batavia Downs should do what the Batavia Muckdogs do.

They're completely different fields of speciality. It's a preposterous suggestion.

An election won't solve who's right. It might show who's more popular, perhaps whose ideas are more popular, but popular is is a measure of right and wrong.…

"Saying we should keep the Assistant Manager job tied with the DPW job to save money is not anti growth."

Yes, it is. Making local government less effective at a time when it needs to be more effect is anti-growth.

Any business owner understands that having sufficient resources -- such as the right people in the right positions -- is how you grow. You can't cut your way to prosperity.

Mar 11, 2015, 2:55pm Permalink
John Roach

Deleo does work part time at the Downs, Do you take advertising money from VB and BDC supporters?

We saw this we need to spend more to get more before. That was one of the reasons given to build the oversize City Hall, the Ice Rink and the Dwyer Stadium. None of them brought business in.
We had a full time Economic Development Coordinator and the Neighborhood Improvement Committee. Business did not flock to Batavia. We kept spending more and more trying to make it work. Spending went sky high and we went into debt.
Running a very lean City Government brought us into the black, our credit rating back up and seemed to be bringing some small business activity back. But the trend to increase spending to buy our way into prosperity has not proven to work

Mar 11, 2015, 3:03pm Permalink
Nick Taranko


Your comparison to Deleo's job and Howard taking advertising money is confusing. Howard is pointing out that Deleo's job would not exist without the kind of investment that he is now currently voting against as a member of City Council. I believe that's called irony.

Your comparison about advertising strikes me as a claim of Howard having a conflict of interest coloring the story. Near as I can tell, Howard takes advertising from all businesses in the area. If you weren't implying that, it certainly came across that way.

The story is most certainly not objective in tone. As a small business owner and community member, Howard has some very strong opinions about Batavia, and the tone of this article shouldn't have surprised anyone who's read The Batavian before.

Not sure that's how you meant it, but that's how it came across.

Mar 11, 2015, 3:22pm Permalink
John Roach

My point is that where either one gets their money does not matter. If the Downs was not there, Deleo would not have a that part time job, he'd work some place else.

And Howard was wrong about Deleo not working and running a business

I think comparing a conflict of interest with Howard is as honest as saying Deleo and Briggs are against growth, it is misleading, that was my point.

I think Howard slanted the story because he supported the other side. That's my opinion.To me, clearly, both Deleo and Briggs want growth. They just do not agree with Howard (or the other 7 on Council) on how to get it.

Mar 11, 2015, 3:37pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

John, see Nick's comment about irony.

Yes, I take money from businesses that support VB and the BDC. And I take money from -- I assume -- from businesses that don't (not all business owners think in lock step, but I've yet to talk with one locally who is against VB and/or BDC).

There's no irony in my taking money from business owners who support VB/BDC. There is irony in Deleo opposing these growth initiatives when his paycheck wholly depends on previous taxpayer investment in growth.

Also, I've said from the beginning of The Batavian, there's no such thing as objective journalism. It doesn't exist. Anywhere. Never has. Never will. At least I'm transparent about my point of view.

More important than who I take money from, the most important fact is I'm a small business owner who has invested in this community and whose future is dependent on the success of the community.

I've long said, I may spend the next 30 years of my life doing what I'm doing and never get rich doing it, and I'll be fine with that. I love what I do. I love living here. I'm in no hurry to change anything. But I work hard. I'm trying to grow my business. I would love it if all that work paid off financially some day. I fear that's not going to happen if those who oppose economic growth locally have their way.

Mar 11, 2015, 3:37pm Permalink
Raymond Richardson

"Business did not flock to Batavia."

It sounds as though you would like businesses to be lined up at the city line, waiting patiently to get into the business district. If doesn't work like that in reality. As has been pointed out, business survives and grows by investing in the future. Otherwise business will do one of two things:

1. Remain the same and not grow,

2. Begin to decline until it can't survive.

"Running a very lean City Government seemed to be bringing some small business activity back."

Really? How many small businesses have started up in Batavia in the past 10 years? 15? 20? And of all of those that have, how many are still in business today?

Outside of a major sporting goods chain opening a new location in Batavia, which really isn't a small business by any definition, has it really been a significant amount of small businesses?

"Do you take advertising money from VB and BDC supporters?"

And also New Holland, SUNY Buffalo, Bohns Restaurant, and many other businesses as well, from all the side ads on the Batavian.

I'm not the only one who sees no point being made concerning this. If you're implying an unbiased view of Howard because he does sell advertising space to VB and BDC, I bet you're the type that believes the grassy knoll theory as well.

If Howard were being biased at he would sell, and only sell, ad space to VB and BDC and not other local businesses.

"We had a full time Economic Development Coordinator and the Neighborhood Improvement Committee. Business did not flock to Batavia."

Most counties have an E.D.C, and some communities have an N.I.C., and neither can function effectively, or for the greater good, if they lack the sources for doing their jobs, i.e. investments by municipalities for making needed, and in some cases long overdue, improvements.

Mar 11, 2015, 3:48pm Permalink
John Roach

Howard, I understand what you mean about objectivity and what this site is. That is why we all come on here and read and some of us coment.

I saw a headline that I think is misleading. I think you did it because they did not vote they way you wanted them to. I just wanted to call attention to it.

I also think all seven on council want growth. I do not know anyone who does not want more business and jobs in the City. The difference is how to get them. And that is all the votes on Monday were.

Mar 11, 2015, 3:54pm Permalink
Rich Richmond


Are you aware that John Deleo and his father ran Deleo’s Bar and Grill on 214 Ellicott St. for years?

I have fond memories John family’s tavern. Deleo’s was a warm and friendly working blue collar man’s bar. It was nothing fancy or wasn’t a Sports Bar or theme bar that is so popular today.

Deleo’s was a meeting place and a gathering place where people stopped to talk about local news and current events. It could have been a subject for one of Norman Rockwell’s Paintings; his favorite subject; not the rich and famous; ordinary everyday people.

John made you feel welcome the minute you walked in ... because you were welcome; John is simply that kind of man ... a good man with solid blue collar working man’s values. Now that he’s retired, he works at Batavia Downs to keep busy. Given his work ethic, if not Batavia Downs it would be somewhere else.
John also teaches a Driver’s Defensive Training Course in his spare time when he’s not looking out for “ordinary everyday people” and taxpayers at City Council.

Howard, are you aware that business on Ellicott was booming and John relocated larger place on Main St. called Deleo’s East End Hotel on East Main St next to a Batavia landmark; Batavia’s Finest, Pontillo’s Pizzeria?

Are you aware John Deleo also ran a ceramic shop in the Masse Mall?

And Howard; John Deleo did all of this without reaching into the taxpayer’s pockets to promote his business.

I’m proud to call John my friend. John Deleo is man who stands up for his convictions and doesn’t back down to anybody; he doesn’t change his mind or flip-flop as many on Council have since they were elected.

Mar 12, 2015, 2:12am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Richard, I did not know of that, but that doesn't change the point that you can't say you want to run the city like a business and advocate only cutting.

That's a contradiction in terms.

If you run the city like a business, you invest like a business.

If you don't favor investment, then you can't say you're in favor of economic growth because without investment, there is no growth.

Wanting growth and saying you want more jobs is not the same as doing something to help it happen. Actions speak louder than words.

Mar 11, 2015, 4:16pm Permalink
Rich Richmond

Howard, I agree actions speak louder than words.

We all want growth, although we might not agree what is investment or what must be cut.

That being said, I appreciate and value the Batavian and for you allowing all of us who post here the opportunity for the polite exchange of opinions and ideas.

Mar 11, 2015, 4:40pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I appreciate that you appreciate that while I may have my POV, all POVs are welcome and encouraged.

One reason I decided to speak up in this thread is I wanted to A) defend what I wrote; B) present some thoughts I didn't think were being represented by previous comments. Having spoke to a lot of people in the community the past couple of days, my views are not out of step with a lot of people. They are mostly people who aren't comfortable making public comment (though my views are my own and not necessarily meant to reflect in detail the views of others).

Mar 11, 2015, 4:45pm Permalink
John Roach

The ability to get our POV out is why we are here. Most people do not want to comment, they do not want to get into debates. Sometimes they have no interest in the subject, don't want their name out there and very often just don't have the time.

Mar 11, 2015, 5:09pm Permalink
Brian Graz

I have to ponder at the implication that, if it wasn't for economic development investment such as BDC and VB, John Deleo wouldn't have his job at Batavia Downs??? Is it being suggested that because OTB now owns and operates Batavia Downs, or is it rather the "investment" that OTB made by purchasing the defunct race track in 1998, that they get this credit? OTB was a creation of what could absolutely be called economic development by NYC. The creation of OTB in New York State was ultimately responsible for the demise of the once unique and special venue of live horse racing with it's onsite wagering? Once off track betting was allowed in NYS the need to go to the track to place a [legal] bet was no longer necessary and thus attendance dropped off and continued to falter until it was no longer viable to operate Batavia Downs. Just another sad tale of the decline of the economy of Batavia. For those who weren't around during it’s vibrant years they have no idea of how successful and booming Batavia Downs was... and it was a privately built and owned business. In the 1940 Provenzano’s bought into and ultimately purchased Batavia Downs outright, with loans, not taxpayer subsidies!

Now Deleo [who I’m certain remembers well the once great Batavia Downs], is supposed to be willing to risk taxpayer money to try and create growth in Batavia, because after the NYCED known as OTB destroyed privately owned horse racing/betting at Batavia Downs and replaced it with a Public Corporation called ironically, Batavia Downs, he has the good fortune to have the job he has there. I’ll bet [pun intended] that had the original Batavia Downs not been destroyed by government ED interference John Deleo would still have a job, at the family owned Batavia Downs.

Mar 12, 2015, 1:29am Permalink
Brian Graz

BTW, I found it especially interesting that an internet search of the 'history' and/or 'origin' of OTB brings up almost nothing. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I wonder what they are hiding?

Mar 12, 2015, 12:18pm Permalink
Bea McManis

If Batavia Downs were still in private hands, John Deleo would be working for Burke Security, the private company that supplied security for the facility. The food service people were employees of Sports Service, another private company. There were many private companies that supplied personnel for the day to day operation during the racing season. Batavia Downs hired administration, maintenance, parking lot, and the mutual personnel. The Horsemen's Association had their own offices and personnel.
The patronage jobs, through the New York State Racing Commission, changed depending on which party was in office at the time. Today, most patronage jobs are not connected to the party in office in New York State but to Genesee Co.

Mar 12, 2015, 3:51am Permalink
Kyle Couchman

Bea please read for better comprehension. Brian's entire post was about the fact that the Private endevor called Batavia Downs, was killed off by the NYS Gov't making betting available away from the rack. Basically taking the attendance revenues and other risiduals away from the private owners.

He proposed (by my understanding) that had it not been undermined and taken over by the state, then Mr. Deleo would have a job there. And by this observation have a different opinion on what to risk taxpayer money on for economic growth.

Your supposition that he would be working for this security company or that food service private company is pure speculation and fantasy. There is no way to possibly predict what might or might not have happened if Batavia Downs stayed private.

Mar 12, 2015, 7:37am Permalink
Bea McManis

I fully agree with Brian's contention that OTB put an end to the lucrative business of the standardbred and thoroughbred racing facilities in NYS. My post was in reference to the jobs now available at the current facility as opposed to the jobs provided by the myriad of private companies before OTB. "Your supposition that he would be working for this security company or that food service private company is pure speculation and fantasy. There is no way to possibly predict what might or might not have happened if Batavia Downs stayed private.". It was no fantasy that these companies existed and provided the services I describe. Burke Security hired many retired state troopers and local law enforcement folks. There are hundreds of locals who worked for Sports Service at Batavia Downs. To say that these companies would not still flourish if Batavia Downs existed as it did under private ownership is real speculation.

Mar 12, 2015, 8:58am Permalink
Jim Urtel Jr

Brian is 100% right in everything he stated. OTB destroyed NYS Racing. Back in the 60`s, 70`s the track absolutely flourished. The purses were the same then as they are now without any slots to sweeten the pot. The only reason OTB bought the track in 98 is because they knew that the slots were eventually coming. The only people getting rich off of the gaming is NYS. As far as all of the jobs being created, yea, if you consider minimum wage part time jobs then sure. It is very political to get a good job there. As soon as they can figure out a way to cut the horsemen out of the slot money, they will finally put the last nail in the coffin for the racing industry. They have even cut the horse racing out of the name! Batavia Downs is a very historical track. It was the first track in the country to have night racing under the lights. It`s a shame to see it turned into what it has become. A place that has a license to steal your social security check!

Mar 12, 2015, 11:10am Permalink
Rich Richmond

Bea, thank you for bringing back some fond memories of the old days at the Batavia Down and the fine people I worked with in Security and Sports Service.

I worked part time for Burke Security at Batavia Downs before and after I went into Corrections. There were retired Police and Correction Officers working for Burke then, as there are now working for OTB..

Retired Police Officers and Correction Officers were Burke’s preferred hire then as is OTB’s now.

These mentioned retired Correction Officers and retired Police Officers were required to undergo mandatory yearly training with firearms and other specialties of their professions in order to maintain their Police Officer and Peace Officer Status as spelled out in the New York State Penal Law and Correctional Law.

However in those days, Burke Security also supplemented the Downs with their own full time career Burke Security Guards; it was a contract issue.

The mentioned retired Police and Correction Officers often worked the armed money details with the full time Burke Guards because of their extensive training with firearms.

Mar 12, 2015, 12:13pm Permalink

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