Tonawanda News

October 23, 2013

Ken-Ton candidates present platforms ahead of election day

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — KENMORE — Candidates hoping to represent residents in the village of Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda presented their platforms Tuesday night to dozens of locals, business owners and supporters.

The contenders for the positions of town board, highway superintendent, Erie County legislature and village board each spoke for five minutes on their accomplishments and vision for their respective districts. 

Three spots are up for grabs on the town board. Democratic incumbents Joseph Emminger, Lisa Chimera and John Bargnesi are running on their eight years of experience and lowering of taxes. 

“We reduced the town board from seven members to five,” Lisa Chimera, a teacher in the Ken-Ton district, said during the meet the candidates night, which was held at the Village Square on Delaware Avenue. “We instituted term limits, a budget plan and keeping taxes low has been our priority.”

Like Chimera, Emminger, a partner in a local appraisal company, spoke to his record over the past eight years. 

“I’m running on the fiscal responsibility, low taxes and public safety,” he said, noting how officers handled the recent incident at the late Joseph Hollywood’s home. 

Their Republican challengers have called for a change in town leadership and pointed out a number of issues, including public safety. Candidate Ann Morelli, an accountant and former Parent Teacher Association president, said she opposes the reduction of four police officer positions over the past eight years. 

“Residents have asked me not to cut services,” she said. “Patrols were not reduced not once, but twice.”

In response, Democrats have argued that crime levels have been reduced, according to a recent report from the police chief, and have argued that they, too, will work to promote public safety. 

But challenger Michael Vishion, who is the president of a local consulting company, called the current Democratic leadership a “monopoly.”

Vishion, a Navy veteran, alluded to what he called problems of integrity on the current board.

“It’s about right versus wrong,” he said. “It’s about serving the whole of the community, and not just the few.”

Republican Gigi Grizanti spoke to her 30 years of experience specializing in human resources and employee benefits, most notably her work at Catholic Health reducing the cost of health care. 

She also noted her experience with the Town of Tonawanda Aquettes. 

“The town is facing problems,” she said. “It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. If health care costs are going up $1 million, but taxes are going down, what is going to happen to our services?”

Highway superintendent candidates also presented their platforms. Democratic incumbent William Swanson spoke to his 30 years of work with the town.

He noted a $540,000 reduction in the highway department’s budget, his effort to share services with the county, Kenmore and Buffalo and the recent purchase of a milling and paving machine that’s led to a dramatic mileage increase in the town’s reconstruction work. 

His Republican challenger, Russell Riggio Jr., is employed Erie County Highway Department and previously worked at a family construction business. 

He spoke to his work as a union grievance chairman, and his work at Russell Construction managing and budgeting. He noted a possible initiative to bring recycling totes to the town. 

Candidates for the third and fourth legislative districts of the Erie County Legislature also took part in the event. Republican incumbent Kevin Hardwick, a professor at Canisius College, spoke to his experience making tough decisions to keep taxes low. Taxes have not been raised during his watch, he said. 

His challenger, William Conrad III, is a teacher and coach in Ken-Ton. He pointed to his upbringing in a family that managed a small business. He said he will concentrate on the county’s service of youth programs and the managing of the budget, as well as infrastructure problems. 

In the third district, Democrat Lynn Marinelli, who has been in the county legislature since 1996, is defending her seat against Republican Jennifer Stergion. 

Marinelli noted the county’s efforts to work with Erie Community College to improvement employment conditions and her hopes to market more to Canadian visitors, as much of the budget relies on sales tax.

Stergion is an attorney in the Black Rock area of Buffalo and noted her experience as the leader and member of many organizations, including the president of the Women Lawyers of Western New York. She noted her experience advocating for veterans, and said she was invited to speak to Congress on the promotion of veterans’ affairs. 

She also teaches other lawyers how to create and manage their own small businesses. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.