Local Matters

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Tom Clark

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.

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