By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt will seek a second term as the city’s top executive, though probably not without opposition from city Democrats eager to rebound from a steady stream of defeats since 2009.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Ortt claimed success on a trio of campaign promises through his first term. Specifically, he said progress has been made in reducing the size of government, making repairs to city roadways and what he termed restoring “accountability and pride” to city governance.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have achieved all three of these things,” he said.
He pointed to a list of similar accomplishments, including renegotiated union contracts requiring greater employee health care contributions, and the recent transfer of police dispatch services to Niagara County.
Ortt said the dispatch change, which was not embraced by the department, is saving the city $1.7 million over five years. He also cited a 17 percent decrease in the size of the city’s workforce as a hallmark of his tenure that he said is saving an estimated $2.3 million in salaries.
But North Tonawanda Democratic Committee Chairman Mark Houghton said such initiatives — which did not come easily — are not universally embraced.
“The general consensus is that Ortt has alienated everybody,” Houghton said of his Republican foe.
He said Democrats are currently vetting a candidate to challenge Ortt in 2013, though he declined to identify the person as the party circles its wagons.
”We should have an outstanding candidate and we already know (the Republicans) are apprehensive,” he said, adding his party hopes to also field challengers for four open council seats and city attorney this year.
He also accused Ortt of taking political credit for development projects including the Remington Lofts, the Remington Tavern & Seafood Exchange on Sweeney Street and Walmart, that began before he took office.
“Ortt has accomplished nothing on his own, all he’s done is rest on the laurels of the last two mayors,” Houghton said.
For his part, Ortt went on in the statement to cite economic development projects including renovations now taking place at the long-vacant City Marina, including plans for a new waterfront restaurant.
“I have always looked at this job as a four-year position. I never thought of it in terms of getting re-elected,” Ortt said. “I wanted to tackle the challenges that I felt were facing our city and have a positive impact. During my first term, we have seen an unprecedented period of economic expansion and growth over the past three years. From new business coming in, to existing companies that are expanding operations, our pro-growth, pro-business policies have yielded positive results.”
He said more can be done to build upon several of his previous initiatives aimed at decreasing costs and sharing the cost burden of municipal services with other entities, as well as addressing blight in the city.
“Even after four strong years ... there are still challenges that face our city,” he said. “We will continue to look at ways to decrease the cost of city government by sharing services and better utilizing taxpayer dollars. We must address our declining housing stock, as well as continue to repair our streets and infrastructure.”Contact city editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 4114.