The Dunkirk Common Council will have a new general councilor after election day.
Paul VanDenVouver did not run for re-election to the board seat. Republican David Damico, currently chairman of the Dunkirk Board of Education, will face Democrat Nick Weiser, professor of SUNY Fredonia, for the post.
THE OBSERVER asked all candidates for the Common Council to answer three questions. Responses from Damico and Weiser follow.
Question 1: Why are you a candidate for the Common Council?
David Damico: For the past 11 years, I have been a member of the Dunkirk City School District School Board, serving as President for the past five years. I negotiated contracts, participated in budget reviews, hired and fired people. I am comfortable leading meetings using Robert’s rules, I understand the branches of government and the work each is responsible for. I understand that sometimes difficult choices must be made for the betterment of the community as a whole. While I enjoyed my years as a school board member, I think the skills I developed there would be of benefit to the city at this time. I believe in working together to achieve common goals. While disagreements inevitably arise, consensus must be found for progress to occur. I think that my experiences and my skills would be beneficial to bring stability and transparency to the policy of the town hall.
Nick Weiser: Over four years ago, I was offered a job that required me to move to western New York. I could have bought a house in several towns, villages or towns, but I chose Dunkirk. At that time, Dunkirk was a city on the move. I could see progress happening, like the development of the waterfront. The city seemed full of hope and excitement, and I knew this was where I wanted to live, buy a house and be part of the progress that I wanted. saw it happen. However, over the past two years, I have seen much of that hope and progress destroyed.
As General Counsel, I will work to restore unity between council and administration – this is the way forward and to restore that progress. We may not always agree, but with my dedication, hard work ethic and personal integrity, we will once again see our city grow through collaboration and open communication. I know how to work with people from all walks of life and believe in listening to one another with an open mind and a willingness to do what’s right for the city and its people. I invested my future in the city of Dunkirk; this is my home by choice. I have the energy to bring an innovative and positive perspective to the board and to work with the administration to move Dunkirk forward. As General Councilor, I will devote my time and energy to making Dunkirk better for the people of this city.
Question 2: What is the biggest problem facing the city of Dunkirk?
Weiser: It’s difficult to identify a single problem, because there are several. However, communication is the key to success, whatever the situation. The inhabitants of the city of Dunkirk elect individuals to make the best decisions for their security, their infrastructure needs, their housing, their jobs, their education and their economic development allowing for growth and a reduction in fiscal charges.
Having witnessed the lack of constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas between the current board and administration, it is obvious to me that the board’s current understanding of their duties and responsibilities is lacking; thus, a systemic inability to move the city forward has become an obstacle to the progress we experienced just four years ago.
As General Councilor and Chairman of Council, I will focus on the true role of Council: to create and pass laws that serve to move the city forward. I will work with all board members, administration and residents to ensure renewal and growth in conjunction with other branches of government. Council time will not be wasted on minor issues caused by individual prejudices and grievances, but will focus on those issues relating to the needs of the community.
We, as a council, must look to the here and now as well as to the future. We are emerging from a global pandemic: businesses have closed or downsized, families have lost loved ones, and many individuals and businesses are suffering economic setbacks. As a council, we need to focus on what’s right and what’s best for the city and our residents. We need to bring the important qualities of decency, respect and integrity back to our legislative branch of municipal government.
As a general councilor, I will work for the inhabitants of this city; they deserve a lot better than what they got in the last two years, and I’m going to give them that.
Damico: Although the city faces many challenges, I think our aging infrastructure is one of the most important. Just think of August and the major water main rupture that crippled most facets of the city. Families, businesses and our partners in the Water District all felt the pain. The situation could have been much worse without the professionalism of the city employees who worked tirelessly to fix the problem as quickly as possible. I believe we need to develop a long term plan to improve our roads, water lines, fleet replacement programs, and building maintenance.
Question 3: If you are elected, what do you want to accomplish?
Damico: I hope to bring together our elected officials in a working relationship based on respect. While we don’t always agree, I think it’s important to maintain a respectful and positive working relationship to move the city forward. In addition, I would like to explore the possibility of stabilizing the Planning and Development Department by making the post of Director a tested or graduated hiring. Personally, I think this position is too important to be a political appointment and that we would attract the best and the brightest talent if candidates didn’t have to worry about keeping their jobs every four years. Many of the grants and projects overseen by the department take years to materialize, making the stability of the director’s position imperative.
Weiser: I will re-establish the open lines of communication and collaboration between the Common Council and the administration. It will take work, but I have a vision for this city.
The city of Dunkirk occupies an enviable position on Lake Erie. There are companies looking for locations to expand, build and develop, and Dunkirk can offer these opportunities. Jobs are the key to growth. An increase in jobs reduces poverty and stimulates the growth of our local workforce and downtown development. In order to support a growing workforce and population, we must continue to develop our waterfront and improve our infrastructure such as streets, water and drainage systems. I want to be part of this growth.
We, the residents of Dunkirk, have received funds, including pandemic relief, from the federal and state governments for help with many of our projects. But we cannot hope for the sustainability of these funds or even make good use of them if the municipal council and the administration are blocked. The inhabitants of the city of Dunkirk will pay the price if unity and open communication are not restored; I can restore this unit.
Civility should be expected of your elected leaders, and you deserve a municipal government that respects its residents and each other. As a candidate for the post of General Counsel, I am committed to meeting your expectations. Help me get back on track to restore progress; I ask for your vote.