Tonawanda News — Ortt said that Republican control of the council and the mayorship was more a product of “putting up good candidates who go out and work” than an organized power grab.
Zehr, however, said she would stand as conduit of opposition to the Republican Party, which has controlled both the mayorship and the council during the last two election cycles, while she would push for opening up government to lengthier public discussions. She also cited the Republican efforts to control minor party lines, including the traditional Democratic strongholds of the Working Families and Independence parties.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have only one party for any length of time,” she said. “If you do you eventually get corruption.”
Ortt said the work session meetings held biweekly in City Hall open to the public are where the bulk of discussions are held among he and the council, adding that members of the North Tonawanda Democratic Party rarely attended any meetings.
Police and dispatch
Zehr said she would look to add to the number of police officers on the city’s force and attempt to return dispatchers to the city after Ortt’s initiative to consolidate the department with Niagara County was successfully put into place. She also cited consistent crime along Oliver Street, and elsewhere, as reasons to bolster the number of officers and look to use the county’s not-yet-completed emergency backup center planned for a portion of the North Tonawanda Fire Department headquarters, adding that response times have slowed, a point that could not be independently verified.
“They need the tools to do their jobs,” she said.
Ortt said, like any resident, he would like to see more officers on the street but said with rising pension and health care costs and the desire to remain “fiscally responsible” as the focus shifts to infrastructure and business, the city must make due with what it has. He noted that one officer was added to the force last year to bring the department to a total of 47 employees.
“It works,” he said. “We could use the surplus to add officers. But when the surplus is gone, it’s gone.”
He added that the June 2012 move to merge the police dispatch with the county was an attempt to bring down costs at a time when the city would have to acquire an expensive new dispatch system.North Tonawanda debates WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tonight. WHERE: Spruce Elementary School, 195 Spruce Street. WHO: Mayoral, Council candidates.