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Jankowski: Four candidates for three open Batavia City Council seats address everything from police funding to taxes

By Joanne Beck

Eugene Jankowski has served two terms as councilman-at-large and president of Batavia City Council. A firm believer in fiscal responsibility, Jankowski wants to serve as a guardian of the taxpayer’s money to ensure the city gets the best bang for its buck. A former officer and K-9 officer with Batavia City Police Department, Jankowski earned the 2013 Kiwanis Club Criminal Justice Award, is an active member of National Tactical Officers Association, New York Tactical Officers Association, FBI National Academy Association, International Defensive Pistol Association, US Practical Shooting Association, 3 Gun Nation (semi-pro), and a NRA Endowment member. He lives with his wife Leanne.

Q: What do you feel is your responsibility as a councilman-at-large?
It is the council at large. I can tell you, what I have done is I've made myself available to assist other ward council members when they need help with a project or are concerned about their neighborhood. I'm available citywide to any person who lives here or has a problem and needs help with something. I'm available, so I'm not limited to one ward where, if they contacted me and I said, I'm sorry, that's not my ward, you have to contact such and such. I can, you know, I jump in and assist wherever I can. And in my role, it’s also as council president. I run the meetings and I take care of the paperwork and some of the other council business so that, you know, I'm available during the day to sign paperwork and get that stuff done and set the agenda. So that's an additional responsibility that's only given to a council member-at-large. Council-at-large is one of three people that can be elected council president by the City Council. That's what I believe my role is, to assist, where necessary, pay attention to the larger picture and, you know, assist any constituent that needs it and also be involved at the meeting and be informed and help to make decisions and help to vote properly so that everyone's represented.

Q: What do you think is going right in Batavia?
What's going right is we have a good city manager in place and projects are starting to move forward. The DRI was delayed … A lot of our small businesses took a hit during COVID and everybody and City government and City Hall have worked really hard to get that back on track, and that seems to be working well.

Our income is improving, our tax income is improving, our revenue sources are improving and the city employees and the government departments are working together to provide the services that people expect, and our police department is actively involved in public safety. Our DPW is keeping the roads repaired within reason within our budget because we have to keep our budget low because of COVID. So we're still cautiously optimistic. And roads are getting repaired and grants are getting approved, and hopefully, the Savarino properties will be constructed soon and the City View apartments, that went off good.

So I would say the investment in our downtown and our community. Our economic development is coming back. Our economy is coming back. Still more work to do to keep small businesses involved and make it easy for them to do business in our community. So I think there's a lot, there's so much going on. I could spend the whole hour just talking about all the good things that are going on in youth services that have been improved. Parks program has been improved, although the time is cut back a little bit due to COVID, we've improved. Using the Y has definitely made an improvement in the services to our youth. The mall is getting cleaned up and we got a roof on it, and we're working on the next phase of that project. So there's a lot of, I think there's a lot of good things going on in the community.

Q: What could use some improvement in Batavia?
Well, whenever you put a lot of focus on one section, then you know, something else might suffer a little bit due to the budget and COVID, and all the requirements that are involved with city employees, the health department, and so on. That's sucked a lot of energy out of our other projects and the other day-to-day activities that we normally need to pay attention to, like code enforcement and things like that. The court system, which wasn't even handling cases for the longest time unless there were very serious cases. And all that had weight, whether we like it or not. So all that, I think, needs to get restarted back up.

I want to see more attention in the neighborhoods. And help the Elliott Street businesses, Main Street has gotten all the attention. I think it's time to start directing some attention towards our streets, and it's not going wrong, I’m just saying it's been delayed because of circumstances beyond our control. And I'd like to get that accelerated.

Q: What's your what's your top priority for 2022 should you get re-elected?
Our biggest priority is to make sure we're going to be doing our first budget like we should have done. So we did a budget and we had a COVID budget that had to get totally mangled, and now we'll be into our normal tight budget. So we don't, nobody has any idea what that's going to look like. They're still trying to put that together. So that's going to be our biggest challenge, is to keep taxes low and spending low and live within our means as a city, and provide the services we can provide within our means and keep the taxes as low as possible. So that's going to be all done during the next budget process. It's going to be very important and it's going to take a lot of effort on all our parts to make sure that we make sure we cover all the bases and make sure we leave no stone unturned to make sure that we're giving the best services to our community for the lowest cost.

Q: Why should you get a resident’s vote?
Because I don't know, that's a good question. I don't know. I'm not really a narcissistic person that would think about why I would need the vote. I just would look at getting supported by the people that I serve. So in my mind, I'd like the opportunity to serve another term. I've done it for 33 years as a police officer, and the city was very good to me, helped me, you know, live in a nice home and feed my family all those years. And now it's time for me to give something back and I'd like to keep serving and to help improve my community wherever I can.

Q: How will you contribute to city operations if you get re-elected?
I would do my due diligence by paying attention to city operations and making sure that the budget is done properly and efficiently, and that any citizen problems or concerns are addressed by city staff. They shouldn't have to go to a council member to file a complaint. They should be able to go right to the city staff, and there's a mechanism in place for them to handle those complaints, just like a police officer answering a complaint if there's a sewer problem or a sidewalk problem, city staff is well trained and well able to resolve those situations. So as a council member, it's my job to pay attention to make sure that is being done and keep their due diligence. Make sure that everyone is on the same page, communicating among themselves and … getting things done for the people that live here.

Q: Do you feel that Batavia needs more housing? 
A: Yes Batavia needs more houses and apartments. There is presently more demand than housing available.

Q: Does Batavia need more downtown businesses? And if so, what types would you like to see?
A: Yes, the downtown revitalization projects are underway and I think it’s important to maintain opportunities for all businesses to be successful.

Q: I know a decision has already been made about a new police station, but how do you feel about it and the location?
A: The police station has been under serious discussion for many years. The site has been chosen and plans are in place to construct a new building, as well as preserve the old building with private investment.

Q: Regarding the police department itself, do you feel that the police could use more, less, or status quo as far as funding for what they need to do?
A: The same. They are fully funded and staffed. And there’s a system in place for the department to ask for more money.

Q: Do you think city taxes are fair for the amenities that city residents receive?
A: Yes. We can always do better, but for the services they provide: the pandemic emergency, police, fire, DPW, city staff, yes they’re fair.

Q: Do you feel that you said what you wanted to say as far as running for council? 
A: I've served the community for two terms now. I think my past behavior would be indicative of what my future behavior would be. And so I ask the tough questions. I make sure that we constantly are paying attention to what's going on so that, you know, nothing gets out of whack and everything stays going forward. Progress moving forward. Getting these projects done. Keeping the city in proper repair. You know, keeping the citizens in the right services that they expect and treating them with respect. So, you know, that's all-important, to stay attentive to what's going on. Stay involved.

I’ve learned, you know, long ago is if you want to get good at public speaking, become the expert in what you're talking about, right? So that way, you never have to worry about being up there at a loss for words. So that's important for me if I'm going to do this job. I take it seriously and I represent the people of the city and I want to do my best and put my best foot forward and do my absolute best job because 15,000 people are counting on it. It's important to them. It's important to me. So oftentimes we really pay attention and try to really make sure I know what's going on so that nothing gets by us. So we don't make a major mistake with a lot of money, that would be catastrophic. So, not on my watch.

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