Tonawanda News


October 24, 2013

Ortt, Zehr prepare for mayoral contest


Tonawanda News — Efficiency 

Ortt said he has reduced the city’s workforce by 17 percent in under four years, saving the city $2.3 million in the process, though Zehr said he hasn’t gone far enough in addressing his own department, criticizing him for using both a personal assistant and secretary. 

Zehr said she would eliminate at least one of those positions, instead dipping into a “secretarial pool” and look at reducing the mayor’s role to a part-time position, a charter once installed in the city but changed under Democratic control. Zehr said she would also not accept health care if elected as she is retired and already has benefits. 

“You still have about a million dollars that could be used,” she said, of the potential to use part of the fund balance for tax and utility reductions. 

Ortt, however, countered that at a time when the city is making headway, employees closely linked to the inner-workings of the city allow him to utilize what he described as a hands-on approach that requires him to “go beyond the desk” and become personally involved in “problem-solving and development.” 

“I go all out,” he said. “I’m putting my heart and soul into this job. I love what I do. The proof is in the pudding.”

He added: “I never saw my predecessor take an active lead. He seemed content to lay back.” 

Transparency and control 

Zehr and her Democratic counterparts have accused Ortt and the Republican council of holding short public meetings, organizing backroom deals and relying on the financial and political prowess of state Sen. George Maziarz to gain control of city governance, a claim Ortt dismissed as a ongoing Democratic tactic of portraying “George Maziarz as the boogeyman.” 

“They all work on the same page,” Zehr said of the Republicans controlling city government. “But there’s no debate. I think there needs to be another voice.” 

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