Declaring it his God-given right and responsibility to speak out against what he perceives as evil, Batavia resident Chris Connelly tonight asked City Council to stand up against New York State’s new abortion law.
“Abortion is murder and it has become America’s holocaust … 60 million children,” said Connelly, a former Marine now confined to a wheelchair due to an ATV accident a few years back.
Connelly, who spoke during the public comment portion of the Conference Meeting at City Hall, said he had no political agenda -- “I’m not here as a Democrat or Republican, but as a man made in the image of God.”
He contended that City Council has the power to shut down Planned Parenthood and to make “Batavia a sanctuary for the unborn.”
“If we choose to neglect our responsibility, I truly fear for our nation,” he said, quoting from Isaiah 1:16-20, a passage from the Bible that warns against evil deeds and implores people to follow a path of righteousness.
Last Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law New York’s Reproductive Health Act, a far-reaching statute that removes abortion from the state’s criminal code and allows medical professionals who aren’t doctors to perform abortions.
Furthermore, the law permits abortions to be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or if the health of the mother is at risk.
Cuomo came under fire from Roman Catholic clergy with some calling for the governor, a former altar boy, to be excommunicated from the faith.
Council member Rose Mary Christian applauded Connelly’s stance and urged the board to do something.
“Is there anything we can do to stop this atrocious thing in our city?” she asked, after bringing up the idea of a sanctuary city. “It’s the same thing (as fighting against illegal immigration) I’d like to have done for the right to life of our babies.”
After a brief discussion, Council President Eugene Jankowski, with consensus from his colleagues, directed City Manager Martin Moore to write a letter stating their opposition to this law and for it to be placed on next month’s agenda. Moore said he would wait for feedback from the public before drafting the letter.
Christian then made her feelings perfectly clear.
“He’s (Cuomo) a murderer period,” she said. “I don’t care how you slice it or dice it. He’s a murderer … period.”
In other developments, Council moved the following items to its Feb. 11 Business Meeting:
-- Scheduling of a pair of public hearings for 7 p.m. Feb. 25 that deal with the city manager’s proposed $27,494,132 budget for 2019-20 and the establishment of water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees.
Moore’s budget calls for $5,251,607 to be raised by taxes, resulting in a tax rate of $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation – the same as last year’s rate. That means that a house assessed for $70,000 would incur a tax bill of $627.20.
Water rates and meter fees are projected to increase by 3.5 percent while capital improvement fees are earmarked for a 10-percent hike.
-- Acceptance of “back pay” from New York State along with an annual increase in payments from the state in connection with an arterial maintenance agreement that will extend through 2049.
This supplemental agreement stems from the discovery that the City was underpaid for work it did to maintain state highways (routes 5, 33, 63 and 98) dating back to June 1994 and is not being reimbursed enough to cover its costs going forward.
As a result, the City will receive a one-time payment from the state for $218,539.88 to take care of the underpayments and now will be paid $183,017.40 annually, an increase of $6,500.
-- Authorization of two bonds to finance installation and construction of sidewalk and traffic signal improvements on State Street, Centennial Park, Washington Avenue, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue (pathways to schools), and to make water system and drainage improvements along South Main Street, Brooklyn Avenue and Union Street.
Costs of the sidewalk project are estimated at $1.1 million with 75 percent being paid through federal funding and the cost of the water system project is set at $913,000, which has been budgeted.
Afterward, during a Special Business Meeting, Council passed a pair of resolutions – one that accepts a $17,981 grant from the Genesee County STOP-DWI program for specialized patrols, training and equipment to combat impaired driving, and the other that executes a Community Development Block Grant of $50,000 for a feasibility study to evaluate the possible addition of a second ice rink at the Falleti Ice Arena on Evans Street.
A $5,000 local match was required for the CDBG, with funds provided by Batavians Paul Viele, Matt Gray, Steve Pies and Stephanie Call. Viele, a City Council member, recused himself during the vote.
City Council recognized Karen Benedict, left, for her nearly 20 years of service as records clerk for the Batavia City Police Department. City Council Member Patti Pacino, right, read a proclamation in Benedict's honor, and Benedict followed by praising the City's police officers for their dedication and professionalism. Photos by Mike Pettinella.