Samuel DiSalvo is a candidate for City Council, Ward 5. His opponent is Kathleen Briggs.
What do you like about the City of Batavia?
When I'm at the local coffee shop the owner and employees know customer's names and have conversations about their lives; when I walk down the sidewalk people say hi; City officials know the names of citizens: Batavia feels like home because of the people who have chosen to live here and strive every day to make Batavia wonderful. Living in a community with good people and having a personalized community where you feel part of the city is why I like Batavia. I was born and raised here and have family roots intertwined with Batavia from relatives who were Fire Chiefs to grandparents who owned a store on Main Street. The community all of this has brought has been wonderful, making Batavia having always felt like home, a feeling I want to help everyone feel while living in Batavia.
What is the number one problem facing the City of Batavia and what is your plan to address it?
The largest challenge I see facing Batavia is the exponential growth of rental properties (now over 55% of homes).
This stems from the following reasons:
1) Closing costs on houses are astronomical. Closing costs on a $100,000 home hover around $13,000. Most single young people cannot afford that. A year of renting is cheaper.
2) With fewer career opportunities here than in large cities, many people require temporary housing, not homeownership. Renting circumvents the hassle/cost of closing and owning a home if they plan to move to one of the cities where they work.
Having so many rental properties has the potential to bring issues:
1) If landlords do not keep their properties maintained for any number of reasons, neighboring property values can decrease. I have met several citizens whose property values have decreased for this reason.
2) Tenants are put at risk of having a landlord that will break leases, keep security deposits for illegitimate reasons, or their landlord doesn't fulfill their landlord obligations. Similarly, landlords are at risk of having bad tenants that may destroy the apartment and cause unnecessary problems for landlords.
3) More people today are transient and may not care about Batavia and may not care to invest in the community, creating a city of people who may not care to keep Batavia beautiful.
To address these problems, I would like to see the City take these steps:
1) Develop a workshop-similar to what Buffalo already does-to educate landlords on how to write a lease, how to follow that contract, how to contact the police for background checks, legal statutes for rent collection, eviction timelines, etc. Tenants and landlords need to be protected and landlords should be fully educated on how to be a landlord. Every job has training.
2) Push for enforcement of codes and for police to follow up with citations (many citizens say that after citations are given, there is no follow-up if the citation is ignored).
3) Explore the possibility with the City Manager of developing something to make Batavia attractive for businesses to come to so there are careers here for people to pursue.
4) With the City Manager, explore the creation of a program to help first-time homebuyers buy and settle in the City (similar to Rochester's).
The number one problem I hear from my neighbors and citizens is the mall. Many people are fed up with it and want it torn down. The problem with the mall is that nothing innovative is being done with the it. Instead money from the $10 million grant Batavia was awarded from the state is going to be used to fix the roof while simultaneously Batavia will spend money to do a "study" on the mall to see what should be done with it. Innovation doesn't exist in regards to the mall and that needs to change if we want anything useful to be done with it. Selling a group of parcels at a lower rate to a private investor who can turn them into a large event center or lowering the price of parcels so business owners can afford the parcels or choose to do a rent-to-buy situation with parcels are three options that could help reinvigorate the crumbling mall.
Describe your vision for Downtown Batavia in 10 years?
Once thriving, Batavia's downtown has been burdened with a mall not innovating for today's Batavia and by privately-owned buildings that have sat empty for decades.
I would like to see the roof of the mall concourse removed to make it an open design with trees planted, benches/picnic tables erected, speakers to play music, lights strung between buildings, etc., and make it easier and cheaper for small business to rent-to-own or outright buy mall parcels from the City, invigorating business and giving citizens a place downtown to have lunch outside during summer, host small concerts similar to Jackson Square, give people a place downtown to relax, etc. I would also like to see more collaboration between downtown businesses, similar to how Brockport's downtown businesses participate in a "Where's Waldo" summer-long activity to increase foot traffic and engage people in walking downtown. In 10 years I hope to see all empty buildings filled and all of our incredible existing businesses going strong. Downtown should also be more handicap friendly, which includes beeping crosswalks.
Do you support building a new police station?
I support creating the most cost-effective and useful station, whether that is building a new police station (not in the Alva Place parking lot) or modifying/updating the current station. The City should be strategic and logical with where they decide to build a new police station, but most of all the City should listen to the input of its citizens. A citizen's group organized by the city chose a parcel on Swan Street as the top location for a new police station with the Alva Place parking lot as a second choice, but the City is looking at Alva Place rather than the citizen's first choice. Too often citizen opinions are ignored by the City. This must change.
What book first published in English since the Enlightenment has influenced your outlook on life the most?
When I was 6 I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and since I have been a Harry Potter fan. The series has shaped my outlook on life and my beliefs and has taught me invaluable lessons: the value of friendship, the power we all have inside of us to help others, and the ability young people - and all of us - have to make an impact.
As an adult, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown has most influenced my outlook on life. Though I'm an avid reader (I recently finished The Lightest Object in the Universe and am currently reading Buffalo Soldiers), Brene's TED Talks titled "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Listening to Shame" reshaped how I approach life, leading me to Daring Greatly. Brene cites Teddy Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" quote that describes how we must live in the arena. His quote goes on to say that even when we fail, as long as we were in the arena, we failed to dare greatly. When I first heard Brene discuss this quote, I began to live by the philosophy that in order to be a full, active participant in life and make a change and be wholehearted, I had to be vulnerable and put myself fully into the arena, daring greatly to make an impact and to help people. This is partly what inspired me to run for local office and be in the arena to help people.