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October 29, 2013 - 5:20pm
posted by Bonnie Marrocco in city council, Democrat, Diana Kisiel Kastenbaum.

There's a lot of concern from city residents about activities on Jackson and State Street. Do you consider those streets problem areas and if so, what should be done about them?

Every citizen in this community should be able to feel safe and walk down any street, anytime of the day or night. I live across Centennial Park and have noticed police responding to calls on State Street, so I am one of those city residents who feel that it is a problem area. I am thankful that we have a police force just blocks from there that can respond quickly to the calls. If the situation continues to deteriorate on some of our city streets, then I think whatever our status quo in dealing with it has to change. Could it be we do not have enough law enforcement officers on any given shift? Should we hire more? Would that help? Are these drug-related crimes? Does our police force have an open communication with drug enforcement officers and do they share information and get them involved when necessary? Not to put the onus solely on the police, because I believe it takes a community united against crime to fight crime. Would it be helpful to form active Neighborhood Watch groups in the community? A community can be very powerful when its citizens stand up and have a "no tolerance" policy towards drug trafficking. It means that if you see something suspicious, you say something and not look the other way.

I was born and raised in Batavia and my family has lived here for generations. I have also lived in both New York City and Los Angeles. When my husband and I were first married we lived in East Hollywood in LA, which had some very dangerous neighborhoods especially with drugs and gangs. I was part of our Neighborhood Watch. There was one gang that held a reign of terror over a block near mine. Walking in that neighborhood was not safe; however, we did have neighborhood watch patrols and walked the streets in large groups. Our presence was met with actual threats of our death if we continued. Between the police and the neighborhood we could not gain control of the block where one building was housing gang members who were trafficking. Thinking out-of-the-box, the neighborhood decided to enlist the help of a huge law firm in LA to do pro bono work to help them clean up this one building. What the neighbors did was sue in Small Claims Court, the landlord of the building for failing to keep gang members from overrunning the building. An LA Superior Court judge ordered the landlord to pay the neighbors $2,000 each in damages because he refused to ward off gang members who gathered at his apartment building. It was California’s first nuisance and negligence complaint filed against a landlord to rid his property of such problems.

I’m not suggesting we follow suit or that Batavia is anywhere near that level of crime, but if the problems on those streets are becoming the norm and not getting resolved, then we need to take a serious look at what is the cause and maybe a different remedy or approach to how we tackle the issues on those streets. I would also like to reiterate that I don’t believe it is necessarily up to the police, or Council to find a remedy, but as residents in our community we should all be concerned.

What level of code enforcement do you favor to deal with seemingly problem properties?

Clearly, if there are codes on the books regarding problem properties they should be enforced. Maybe the housing code in the city needs a fresh look? Have the zoning codes been enforced? Are there multi-dwelling units in neighborhoods that are zoned for only single family dwellings? Are landlords, particularly those who get HUD subsidies, have a good relationship with their tenants and are responsive to them when problems occur?

I was amazed to learn that over 50% of our residences are rentals. When a city reaches and goes beyond that 50% mark, it does not bode well for a community. I am all for free enterprise and I certainly don’t necessarily believe in obstructing it in any way, but there does come a tipping point. I don’t know when it will be, but we have to ask ourselves some serious questions before it happens: (1) do we want Batavia to become a more transient city?; and (2) as our population ages, more of the beautiful old homes our parents and grandparents have lived in are sold and often times chopped up and made into rentals; so therefore, what can we do to help people stay in their homes and how do we encourage home ownership for others?

At our "Farm to Table" dinner in September, the Democrats hosted New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He talked about Land Banks which would offer funding for "foreclosure relief and housing program" and "community blight remediation". So often people think this type of funding from the State comes from our high taxes. Well not this time. The monies will come from a portion of the funds awarded to New York under the National Mortgage Settlement. The funds come from the $25 billion settlement the banks had to pay out last year to help struggling homeowners as a result of their contribution to the collapse of the housing market. Eight Land Banks will be set up and a community needs to submit an application to be awarded one. There are two rounds of funding that will happen. The first deadline has already passed for communities wishing to establish Land Banks in their community for funding. The next deadline is for the second and final round of funding which will be announced in July 2014. If Batavia has not submitted an application in the first round, I certainly think we should submit one in the second.

How should garbage collection be handled in Batavia?

Unfortunately, City Council has decided to get out of the garbage collection business and turn it over to private enterprise. I’m not sure that was a wise decision as currently there are garbage bags seven days a week at any given time, on any given street, waiting to be collected. That being said, I don’t know how you turn that ship around once it has sailed without some legal ramifications. I think we have to work with the existing situation. There is at least one company I know of, that started a new business to serve the community and have invested their hard work and money into making it happen. I certainly would not want that company, or any other small business, to lose their market because we did a reversal on this issue. Therefore, I believe we must play the hand we were dealt.

Garbage should be collected, like it is in most cities, Monday through Friday. No garbage collection should be on the weekend and no garbage should be allowed out on the weekend. Since Council initiated this, they should get the companies together and devise a plan which streets get their garbage collected on which day. For example, streets in Ward 1 might have their collection day on Monday, Ward 2 could be Tuesday, Wards 3 and 4 on Wednesday, Ward 5 Thursday, Ward 6 Friday. Of course, there will be several companies collecting garbage in the same area on the same day, but it is better than the alternative now which is a street having garbage continuously out depending on when the company decides what day it gets picked up on. At some point, it has to be about our quality of life (and that means aesthetically too). Batavia is a lovely city and our streets should not be looking like one continuous trash receptacle.

What should be the city's role in economic and job development be in Batavia?

I think the city should more aggressively try and utilize the resource we have in our area of the GCEDC (Genesee County Economic and Development Center). Batavia is not only a town, but a city as well. The GCEDC has done a wonderful job of getting businesses to come into the town. However, it is time for some of that energy to flow to the city of Batavia. I find it very exciting to see the city has focused in on a strategic site plan for various corridors of the city that have underutilized and vacant buildings. The plan is that by identifying and building out these areas, new businesses will come into the city. I hope the GCEDC is working closely with the City to see that this plan is realized.

I do think the city should get involved with the one area which was not in those four sites though. It really is the elephant in the room. We have an entire block or two of our Main Street with very little retail businesses existing and yet the physical buildings on the street already exist – no need to rebuild. And yet no one discusses it. Is this not our Main Street? Did we sell it off only to lay vacant and be the empty hole that is preventing our Main Street from being a thriving downtown? Why did we do that? I give kudos to BID for doing what they can to bring feet downtown, but with vacant buildings on a major part of our Main Street it is an uphill battle for them. Yes, I do think the city needs to step in and not only take a role in bringing businesses to downtown, but I believe they have a responsibility as representatives of the people of Batavia to serve the community – especially when it comes to our Main Street!

If the choice came down to either A) raising taxes and maintaining the city's own police department and/or fire department; or, B) consolidating police protection with the city or going to some form of volunteer fire department, which option would you choose?

I am absolutely against a volunteer fire department in the city of Batavia. Maybe there are cities of this size that have volunteer fire departments, but I think our population certainly warrants a paid fire department. If left with the two choices of consolidation or raising taxes to maintain our own police and fire department, then I would have to say I would be against consolidation. I want the police and fire departments to have a visible presence by their location within the city limits and central to the city. While walking Ward 1, I spoke with a resident who told me a few years ago they had a home invasion. The response time by the police was immediate. He told me that it would not have been the case had the police been located outside the city limits. He also said he would gladly pay for that immediacy to make sure his family was protected and secure. I think if the residents of the city were asked, the majority would tell you they do not want any consolidation and they would support a police and fire department within the city.

Are you satisfied with how the city is run? Are there changes you would like to make? If you were going to change one thing about how the city operates, what would it be?

Listen, I know full well that serving in public office can be a thankless task sometimes. There are always detractors and naysayers, but I do believe that it is not fair to sit in judgment of people unless you too have walked in their shoes. Therefore, I will not comment on how satisfied I am with how the city is run because I haven’t been in Council’s position. No matter what Council is in office, there will always be a need to improve - it’s human nature to strive for perfection and yet we know we will never achieve it. But that’s what keeps the journey fresh and interesting – that striving to do what is good and right for the community.

It all comes back to one thing – are we serving the community and its citizens? To know that, we have to ask ourselves "what kind of a community are we?". If I were to change one thing, it would be to get back to asking this question to the community. I see in Vibrant Batavia, Council trying to do that, so we are on some parallel thought here.

But let me be more specific. I would like to have every Ward leader, along with the three Council-at-Large leaders go to each Ward in the form of a Town Hall and ask that question to the community. It’s time for Council to get back into the community instead of asking the community to come to them. It’s time we have a dialogue with our friends and neighbors about who we are and how we want to be perceived, about our goals and aspirations for ourselves and our children we raise in this community. It can’t be all about approving and spending on the next consultant study, or determining what sidewalks to pave, or what snow blower to purchase. It has to be about the tough questions, the deeper questions, the more meaningful questions that we face as citizens and residents of our City of Batavia. I know it sounds like a very esoteric discussion, but it is a necessary one. It has to start somewhere and so many people have so much they want to say, but feel that once they cast their vote their job is done as the contact is rare after that.

Why have you decided to run for City Council and why should people vote for you?

I bought a home here in 2004 with the intention of someday moving back to my hometown. Last year I finally returned and moved my husband, my daughter, and our dog and cat. After being away for so long, it was good to "come home". I vowed that when I returned I would be active in the community and get involved in service. I immediately got on two boards: Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council (GOART!) and the Landmark Society of Genesee County. I also wanted to get involved in local politics and serve in some capacity, hence my running for Council-at-Large.

I know many people don’t know me or are getting reacquainted with me since I lived here many years ago. However, I never really went too far. You see, every vacation my family had, we never went on exotic trips to Europe or visits to the Grand Canyon (never saw it), or other venues. We came home to Batavia. We came home to Creek Road to stay with my parents for several weeks in the summer and holidays during the year. I came home every year for 40 years. So what does that say about Batavia? It must be pretty special.

What is my reason for running for City Council? It is purely selfish – I want to serve.

Why should people vote for me? You should only vote for me if you believe in me and that I have a vision for our community, and together, with your help, we can make it a reality.

October 29, 2013 - 4:52pm
posted by Bonnie Marrocco in city council, Democrat, John Demske.

There's a lot of concern from city residents about activities on Jackson and State Street. Do you consider those streets problem areas and if so, what should be done about them?

From the reports I hear from the media, it appears that that area of the city has growing drug and crime problem. Two things should happen, one is there has to be increase police presence in these areas. Increase patrols and investigations of potential drug trafficking. Second, is that law enforcement needs to develop cooperation among the neighbors in the targeted problem city areas. Without this cooperation, these problems cannot be solved.

What level of code enforcement do you favor to deal with seemingly problem properties?

Since I am not knowledgeable of the building codes that are already on the books, I would say that the current codes need to be strictly enforced. That being said, there needs to be a constant review of building codes to make sure they deal with current business and property demands.  

How should garbage collection be handled in Batavia?

Since the garbage change has already taken place, we need to make sure that all property owners are being responsible about their handling of their trash disposal. Either having an arrangement with a trash contractor or taking their trash to the proper disposal areas.

What should be the city's role in economic and job development be in Batavia?

The city needs to cultivate the right business climate to encourage business projects and expansion. By doing so, this in itself will increase the jobs these businesses create. The city also needs to always improve its infrastructure that encourages business growth and enables its citizens access to these new business sites.

If the choice came down to either  A) raising taxes and maintaining the city's own police department and/or fire department; or, B) consolidating police protection with the city or going to some form of volunteer fire department, which option would you choose?

This question already assumes that taxes need to be raised to maintain our current police and fire departments. Much of the increase costs involving these two departments has to do with circumstances beyond these departments control. When your retirement costs has to be made up because of the 2008 downturn, these costs present a tremendous burden on holding down taxes. My personal opinion is that it is very important to maintain our city police and fire departments to guarantee the proper public safety we need to attract business growth.

Are you satisfied with how the city is run? Are there changes you would like to make? If you were going to change one thing about how the city operates, what would it be?

For the most part I feel the city is doing a satisfactory job. I do think that some decisions were made without a proper investigation(i.e., trash collection) of the possible outcomes. While it is always city councils responsibility to make decisions about existing problems, it needs to make sure that all investigations take place before finalizing council recommendations.

Why have you decided to run for City Council and why should people vote for you?

Since I moved here in 2006 (former Genesee County NH Administrator), my wife and I have really adopted Batavia as our home. We enjoy the walkability and closeness of businesses in this city. Since I retired, I would like to give back to the community with my time and experience dealing with government operations(24 years with 5 county governments). I believe that I have the people skills necessary to bring the cooperation needed to make informed and common sense decisions. I would hope that people can trust me to do the right thing as councilman at large for the city of Batavia.

October 29, 2013 - 4:31pm
posted by Bonnie Marrocco in city council, Democrat, Tom Clark.

There's a lot of concern from city residents about activities on Jackson and State Street. Do you consider those streets problem areas and if so, what should be done about them? 

The Batavia Police Department is working to apprehend those responsible for criminal acts and, I believe, made at least one arrest. Increased patrols would act as a deterrent to some degree. However, to make these neighborhoods safer the citizens in both of those areas need to be proactive for their own protection in reporting potential criminal activity. Encouraging a Neighborhood Watch might help in that respect. In the long term, working to increase family home ownership would help to turn the area around. Homeowners tend to take a strong interest in what happens around them. Finding programs that help increase home ownership citywide should be a priority. I would like to note that those who seem to favor eliminating our Police Department as a cost saving measure may well be working to create a situation where things could get worse rather than better. 

What level of code enforcement do you favor to deal with seemingly problem properties? 

Houses, privately owned or rentals, need to be kept in livable condition. Code enforcement should work to that end. The City should work with individual homeowners to correct problems whenever possible. Landlords who are making a good faith effort should receive appropriate support from the City. There needs to be a process developed to more quickly move abandoned or foreclosed properties back into the housing market. If a house is deemed unlivable and beyond repair it needs to torn down. The process needs to adhere to the law as it applies.

How should garbage collection be handled in Batavia?

The recent change from city controlled collection to the individual property owners selecting a service has created a visual pollution problem, a probable increase in particulate pollution from more trucks driving through all the neighborhoods, and an increase in cost to most homeowners. While some people argued that homeowners should be able to choose who picks up their trash, we went from a system where neighborhoods only had to look at trash at the curb one day a week to one where there is trash out virtually every weekday. Council seemed to accept the either-or fallacy (see below) that was presented to it by management (i.e. accept totes or get out of the garbage business). There were other alternatives that could have been used to prevent trash being on our streets citywide every day. If nothing else, the City needs to review its’ involvement in how trash and recycling is done to cut down on the number of days trash is picked up in individual neighborhoods. 

What should be the city's role in economic and job development be in Batavia? 

The City needs to have a strong and positive role in attracting new businesses and keeping current ones in Batavia. The maintenance of City infrastructure and services is a critical part of that role. Business needs to know that the streets will be swept and plowed, police will be enforcing the law, fire trucks will respond if needed, and City agencies will work to provide necessary permits and support in a timely manner. The City should be proactive in seeking potential businesses and supportive of those who are here.

If the choice came down to either A) raising taxes and maintaining the city's own police department and/or fire department; or, B) consolidating police protection with the city or going to some form of volunteer fire department, which option would you choose? 

As far as I know this idea has not been discussed at the City or County level. There would have to be extensive discussion and public input before such a decision was made. As this question stands it is a "hypothetical choice". As such it is an example of the either-or logical fallacy. It only allows two possible choices (either-or) when, in fact, there may be others. Further, it is based on several assumptions that may or may not be accurate. The first assumption is that raising taxes is in and of itself is a bad thing. Second assumption is that the county would have the wherewithal and desire to increase its’ role in the City. Third assumption is that there would not be a tax increase from the County to cover its’ increased expenses. Fourth assumption is that the service provided by the County would meet the needs of the City. Fifth assumption is that we, the City, would be able to create a volunteer fire department that would meet the needs of our residents without having an adverse affect on the City residents and businesses. If the time were to come when there was such a budget crisis that these kinds of major structural changes are on the table Council would need to explore all possible options before making a decision. Only then could members of the Council, including myself if elected, make the choice that is best for the City.

I believe that a locally based police force is preferable to consolidating police power. The concentration of more police power in larger agencies can have consequences we haven’t considered. Having grown up in a city that has a long tradition of volunteer fire companies, I think it might be difficult to make the transition from our paid firefighters to a volunteer system. Ultimately the supposed savings that a tax cut might seem to give taxpayers could be eaten by additional individual expenses as we have experienced with the trash event. We could create a situation where individual costs rise, life and/or property were endangered. Sometimes simple solutions are not as simple they appear.

Are you satisfied with how the city is run? Are there changes you would like to make? If you were going to change one thing about how the city operates, what would it be?

I feel that the current Council is not providing the leadership that they were elected to provide. The Council needs to use a formal committee system to increase its’ understanding of the issues that confront the city and to increase citizen participation. A committee system would allow a dialogue to be created where Council would have a truer understanding of what citizens are saying. I would like to see at a minimum Finance, Personnel, and Public Services Committees. All major laws and policy proposals would be explored before being passed on to the whole Council. Committees would hold open meetings where citizens could address issues and changes AND Council members could ask questions of citizens to make sure they understand their concerns and ideas. These discussions would take place early in the process to avoid a sense of overwhelming time pressure that seems to be a norm now. 

Why have you decided to run for City Council and why should people vote for you? 

I was asked to run and declined at first. As we went through the trash event it became clear that there needed to be changes in how the Council was connecting with the citizens. The process was skewed and needed to be brought back in balance. I guess it was a case of put my money (in this case time) where my mouth was. After meeting with Diana Kastenbaum I agreed to run. I believe that no one has "all the answers" and we need to find the ones that are best for Batavia. I don’t think of good, inclusive solutions as belonging to any one party. With the Council working together with all parts of the community we can find the solutions that are best for Batavia. We need to keep an open mind when presented with new ideas and proposed solutions and not fall prey to ideology.

November 4, 2009 - 5:18pm
posted by Sara Burk-Balbi in batavia, Elections, Democrat, Sara Burk-Balbi.

Over these last few months, I have had the privilege of being a candidate for Batavia City Council at Large. I was not successful with that campaign but I came away with a deep appreciation for the City of Batavia and for those that want to serve it.   I want to start of by saying Thank You to all of my supporters here in the City of Batavia. I continue to be deeply humbled by your amazing support. I would also like to thank all of the candidates, both Republican and Democrat. You all did a great job and ran a wonderful campaign. My hat is off to each of you. Lastly, I have to thank my family and friend. I truly believe that I have the best family a person can ask for and the greatest friends.

November 4, 2008 - 9:35pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, election, Republican, Democrat.

Election results are startin to come in from Erie County—we will likely have to wait until after 10 o'clock to hear about the results out of Genesee County.

In Erie, Republican Mike Ranzenhofer leads Democrat Joe Mesi in the 61st State Senate District by a very slim margin of 107 votes and two percentage points. Republican Chris Lee leads Democrat Alice Kryzan in the 26th Congressional District by a margin of 135 votes. That's especially unfortunate for Kryzan as Jon Powers pulled exactly that many votes on the Working Families line, though Powers stands no chance to win the race, having lost the Democratic nod to Kryzan in the primary.

Totals in the race for the 61st are from about 10 percent of the districts reporting. Those for the 26th are from about 6 percent.

We will post more results as they come in. In addition to Genesee County, we're also waiting on results for Wyoming, Monroe and Livingston counties.

(Update - 9:47pm): Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle has some more comprehensive numbers up. Nothing from Monroe or Genesee. Yet, they show Lee with a more significant lead over Kryzan right now, 19,490 and 13,992 respectively. The gap in Erie County also seems to be growing.With 24 percent of the precincts reporting there, Kryzan has a total of 8,832 to Lee's 9,377.

November 4, 2008 - 8:35pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, video, election, Alice Kryzan, Democrat.

While we were down at the Democratic headquarters this afternoon, 26th Congressional Candidate Alice Kryzan, who was stopping by on her tour across the district throughout the day. We asked Kryzan how the day had gone and what she saw on the campaign trail.

November 4, 2008 - 7:58pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, politics, genesee county, video, election, Republican, Democrat.

Earlier today, we stopped by the Genesee County Democratic and Republican headquarters in Batavia to see how the campaigns were doing as we come down the stretch. It couldn't have worked out better, as we ran into everybody's favorite Democrat Dan Jones and everybody's favorite Republican Jay Grasso.

Here's what they had to say about how hard they're working and why their side will win tonight. Who sounds more convincing?

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