HAMBURG — The League of Women Voters of Buffalo-Niagara held a Meet the Candidates forum in Hamburg on Oct. 24 at the Union Pleasant Elementary School. Candidates took to the podium to answer written questions posed to them by the audience, which numbered approximately 100.
The forum started with the candidates for the Erie County Legislature’s 9th District: Lynne Dixon and Michael Schraft.
Dixon, the incumbent, said that she has supported the downsizing of the Erie County Legislature and the need to control spending, without cutting constituent needs. Schraft maintained that constituents were hurt by the elimination of district offices, making legislators less accessible to constituents.
Both candidates agreed that there is too much political patronage in government.
Two of the three candidates for Erie County sheriff were present and engaged in discussion of the sheriff’s office, jail management, road patrol, the New York Secure Ammunitions and Firearms Act and patronage.
Richard Dobson, a 32-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, said that the major problem facing the sheriff is mandatory overtime for deputies.
He said that it is cheaper to pay overtime to these individuals, but he added that this decision comes at a cost: tired and distracted deputies on the job.
Bert Dunn, who lost to Dobson in the Democratic party primary, is also a sheriff’s department veteran. He said that he sees “inefficiency in the sheriff’s office” as the major issue confronting that locale.
Both candidates agreed that the New York SAFE Act, the gun-control legislation enacted earlier this year, is a law of the state, and as such must be enforced by the sheriff, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the county.
The incumbent sheriff, Timothy Howard, who was not in attendance, has gone on record saying that he is opposed to the SAFE Act and will not enforce portions of it.
Dobson and Dunn both decried Howard’s use of patronage in hiring and job assignments in the sheriff’s department.
Incumbent Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and his opponent, Kevin Gaughan, spoke to the audience on a personal level.
Mychajliw talked about Gaughan’s prior failed candidacies and said that his opponent had not paid his taxes in a timely manner. Gaughan acknowledged his failures and said that he is now current in his tax obligations. He also challenged Mychajliw’s qualification to be comptroller. Neither candidate is a certified public accountant.
The race for Hamburg town supervisor took center stage in a debate that focused on whether or not the town’s board has become dysfunctional.
Incumbent Supervisor Steven Walters defended the board and its accomplishments, during his tenure as supervisor. He pointed to tax cuts during five of the past seven years, adding that the town is now spending $600,000 less than it did in 2007.
Walters pointed to the town’s takeover of Woodlawn Beach, an increase in police presence on the streets, a new senior center, and upgrades parks and playgrounds.
Opponent Walter Rooth III challenged Walters on taxes, road police and police dispatchers. Rooth, a former assistant district attorney, said that fewer patrolmen are on the street than Walters claimed and added that Walters had tried to eliminate police and public safety dispatchers.
Rooth said that Walters failed to maintain a mileage log book for the use of a town car, during the past seven years. Rooth added that the best way to challenge dysfunction and improve the town’s image is to change the town board.
Other participants in the event were Hamburg Town Board candidates Amy Ziegler, Michael Quinn, Cheryl Potter-Juda and Lawrence Speiser and Hamburg highway superintendent candidates Tom Best and Ted Casey.