On Tuesday, October 25, 2011 a debate was held between incumbent Supervisor Robert Giza and challenger Erie County Legislator Dino Fudoli on who would best serve the Lancaster community if he were voted into the Supervisor’s seat come election day, November 8th.
Who bested the other? That would be a matter of opinion. This series will present what transpired. The debate was held before a packed Lancaster Opera House crowd; a very reserved audience. It was sponsored by the League of Woman’s Voters in conjunction with the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce.
Debate agenda rules
• Each candidate will have three minutes for their opening statement.
• The candidates would be asked to speak on written questions submitted by the public, if those questions were limited to issues that both candidates could respond to. The candidates would be given two minutes to respond.
• One minute would be allowed for a closing statement.
Incumbent Supervisor Giza was selected to go first to make an opening statement.
“I come from a very humble background. I lived in Depew on Penora Street. Growing up I had a lot of people help me; a lot of people in the school, in the Boys Club, and family helping me through the tough times. I started with a lot of people that made an impression in my lifetime.”
“I spent most of my adult life helping other people. I worked at the Boys; Girls Club in Buffalo for awhile. I worked at the Depew/Lancaster Boys & Girls Club and also at Saint Mary’s. I joined every club I could imagine that would help people. I couldn’t help people much on my own so I joined various clubs to help people in all aspects in life. I joined the SONOMA Club, the LIONS CLUB and I belong to the Elk’s, the Eagles, Moose and many others. These all help people get through a tough time in life.”
“I have been a Supervisor for sixteen years and a Councilmember the remaining time in office. I have made every meeting but one. That is 719 meetings. The only meeting I missed was because my wife was in the hospital. Lancaster is always great. I want to make it even greater. I want to make it a place where people can work, live and play and I think we have come around to achieving that. We have a Youth Bureau, a Senior Center, Trail, and a new Band Shelter.”
“Businesses are coming here. Our latest endeavor is to try to get business to come to Lancaster so the taxpayers would grow and to pay a tax. In the last few months, I Chair the Lancaster IDA, and we are going to have $60 million of construction take place that will add 300 jobs.”
Fudoli’s opening statement
“I would like to start out by stating that I am sure all of attending are aware of the Buffalo News article on my use of drugs at one time, or someone has told you about it. I had a problem, it is something I am not proud of, but I overcame my problem. In doing so it made me a better father, a better husband and a better Christian. My political foes have accused me of doing other terrible things in the paper and I give you my word that they are not true. So I have decided to meet this head on and lay everything on the floor so that people know where I stand.”
“That said, Mr. Giza and I have opposing government viewpoints. Mr. Giza believes that government should be everything to everybody. This is why we have runaway spending and spiraling taxes in Lancaster; one of the highest in the area. Mr. Giza says he is responsible for us living in a great community. I agree that we live in a great community but it is not because of our government, it is in spite of our government. The community is in need of leadership. I on the other hand believe government has become too big and too expensive. I have helped reduce the County government from 15 Legislators to 11, ultimately saving taxpayers $9 million.”
“Since 2005, taxes in Lancaster have gone up 50%, seniors can’t afford to live in they’re homes. It is time to look at the budget and make cuts in spending and the tax rate. It is imperative to lead by example. That is why if I am elected I will take a pay cut and give up the use of a town vehicle.”
Written questions from the attendees
1) If you had to compare the quality of the recreational and cultural services between the Town of Lancaster and Erie County, how would you say Lancaster measures up?
Legislator Fudoli: “I would point to the Lancaster Opera House as one of the jewels of our community, an important part of our community. I know I took some heat this past year when I voted no for some funding, but in the last couple of months I worked with the County Executive to secure some funding, $25,000. It is one of the things we need to focus on. I am a donor to the Opera House and come to the production events. I believe we do pretty well here. We need to work with Erie County to continue to get funding for the cultures.”
Supervisor Giza: “The town has a lot to offer. We have different standards here. You go to Como Park and it has not been kept up for a number of years. I have lived here all my life and I remember when growing up as a kid that it was well kept. The County Park is deplorable as far as I am concerned.“
"Westwood Park, Walden Pond and all the parks we have all have the grass cut and are in neat shape; nothing broken and all things are in order. We have the finest Pony Tail and Little League fields in the county. We have the finest bike path around and it did not cost taxpayers one penny. We got a grant for that. Not one penny was paid out by our taxpayers. We take pride in our Band Shelter now, second to none in Erie County. We have a wonderful town band that plays there. We play movies in the summer and 500-600 people attend; all movies suitable for kids as well as adults. We have the Youth Bureau, which I stared with three other people. I also started the Meals on Wheels program. We have fine cultural and activities for everyone.”
2) If you are elected Town Supervisor how will you reach out and work with other municipalities to facilitate intra-municipality collaboration?
Supervisor Giza: “I am presently vice-president of Erie County Governments, was past president of Erie County Governments and I will be president again this year. I am second vice-president of the entire State of New York for all towns and villages. There isn’t a day or two or a month that someone doesn’t call me for advice. I am here to help other people. We cooperate with villages and other government as well as anyone does”
Legislator Fudoli: “I would like to speak to the fact that this town board would not allow the Assessor to share services with other towns. Mr. Giza’s statement is disingenuous. The other town would have shared costs to run that office. We have to stop playing politics in this town and to start sharing services with other towns to save money, whether it is police forces, sheriffs, etc. Someone approached me from the Sheriff’s Department and asked whether I would be interested in sharing services to save taxpayer money. We need to look at ways to share services with other municipalities to save taxpayers money. We should be sharing services and not playing politics.”
3) Do you support giving IDA tax breaks to companies that do not create any jobs in the company as a result?
Legislator Fudoli: “No, a flat out no. For example, the IDA that just went through for the Olive Tree Restaurant. I don’t believe we should use IDA’S to create $7 an hour retail jobs. IDA’S should be used to create higher paying jobs. We need to control how IDA money is being spent. We need to keep an eye on taxpayer money and make sure we are creating higher level jobs; jobs that are worthwhile.”
Supervisor Giza: “I Chair the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency and I have one of the finest individuals working with me, Paul Leone. Paul and I are a great team. If Mr. Fudoli had known that the Olive Tree Restaurant is in an enhancement zone. We put it in a different category than for normal businesses. I know myself that in the winter time the Olive Tree is very busy and you have to stand outside in the cold and wait in order to get a seat. They have construction jobs there right now and after they expand they will be creating 10 new jobs. If the county IDA would do as well as we do in creating job s and businesses, we would all be in better shape.”
“We are in a great big world entity. It is no longer Cheektowaga, Depew and Lancaster. We are dealing with people all over the world. We are competing with a lot of people. We give tax breaks to help bring businesses into the community. To say we are not doing this correctly is just not the case.”
4) Would you move to make changes to the town employees, to get them to contribute to their health care?
Supervisor Giza: “Yes, we have an ongoing dialogue with the unions and we have differences of opinion, but they are friendly. We try to be fair to our workers and try to provide the services they need to get the job done. But we are trying to save money in the budget any way we can. We are self insured and pay the small bills and have catastrophic insurance to pay for the large bills.”
“We have to remember that the union are taxpayers too and they all live in Lancaster and they have concerns also. We want to make sure they are satisfied too. We have a good relationship with the union and I am happy to say that we will try to cut anytime when we can.”
Legislator Fudoli: “I would support going to the unions and asking them to pay part of their (health care) premium. Right now, every person working in the private sector pays approximately 20% of their premium. Now we are proposing a wage freeze. That’s a one shot savings if wage increases were not given this year. Everyone needs to make sacrifices in this environment.“
“When others in the private sector are paying 20% to their health care premium and the town employees are paying nothing, I think it is disingenuous to go back to the taxpayer and ask them for more money. We are asking town employees to do what people are doing in the private sector. Let’s at least start with a 10% contribution. It is a sacrifice I would make myself. I would be willing to pay 20% toward health insurance if I were Town Supervisor.”
“Let me say that at this time everything should be on the table except for a tax increase.”
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