Tonawanda News — In a city that is no stranger to allegations of nepotism with political season heating up, a change on the North Tonawanda Historic Preservation Commission has caused a stir among two Democratic players.
North Tonawanda Democratic Commissioner Mark Houghton said he and his Democratic counterpart, Greg Schnitzer, both received letters from Mayor Rob Ortt on Thursday, thanking them for their four years of service and relieving them of their duties.
Schnitzer is running against Rich Andres for the Niagara County Legislature Eighth District and was unanimously elected to lead the Historic Preservation Committee on Monday night. Both he and Houghton believe politics are at play.
Ortt, however, countered that their four-year terms had simply come to an end on July 31, leading him to send out the letters, though he added that “Mr. Houghton’s attendance was sporadic at best.”
Ortt also pointed to the importance of the committee in deciding the fate of many of the city’s historic treasures, including recent additions to the Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange building.
“The board is designed to let the city residents know they have a link to the government of the city,” Ortt said. “And its the mayor’s prerogative to allow that to happen.”
But Houghton believes his obvious links to the Democratic Party, during a time Republicans have dominated city governance, was only part of the story, stating that he had recently launched a push to give the Wurlitzer building historic status.
Without elaborating, he said the move was partly attributed to halting the sale of the building, which he sees as being in danger of taking place due to its proximity to Walmart and the potential to build another big box retail store next door. Ortt dismissed those claims.
“That did not play into any of this,” Ortt said, denying that such developments are in the works.
Schnitzer, meanwhile, said he will explore whether his term had actually ended July 31, a term that he believes should have lasted through the end of the year.
“This is the type of politics that keeps Niagara County in the Dark Ages,” he said. “As long as people keep electing the same old same old we’ll get the same old same old government.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.