LOCKPORT – The candidates for 5th Ward alderman in Tuesday’s Republican primary – incumbent Kenneth M. Genewick and challenger Phyllis J. Green – disagreed on a few issues in a forum Thursday night, but the format didn’t allow for any direct exchanges.
The event was sponsored by the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope, a faith-based group that said its members surveyed 5th Ward Republicans in person and by phone last week to find out what questions they wanted asked. There were six prepared questions, plus a few from the audience, in the hourlong forum in City Hall.
The main area of contrast was Genewick’s hearty endorsement of the Impact Zone crackdown on crime and blight in the area centered on Washburn Street, while Green said she’d expand it if it didn’t cost too much or do too much harm to the residents.
Genewick, running for his third term, said this year’s Impact Zone program produced more than 200 arrests and more than 650 traffic stops in the neighborhood, long notorious for drugs and other crimes. Also, building inspectors made 850 visits to dwellings in the zone and hauled more than 200 people into Housing Court for alleged code violations.
“What’s great about this is, the residents wanted it,” Genewick contended. “But my opponent didn’t. She came out publicly and said it would scare the residents.”
Green said, “I would expand the program, but first I would find out how much it costs and how many people were involved.”
Green, who served eight terms as alderwoman from the 2nd Ward, in which she formerly lived, said widely publicized crackdowns “also decrease the tax base of those homes. Sometimes it’s hard to sell those homes because they’re in the Impact Zone.”
Genewick said enforcement measures are a good way to build the quality of Lockport’s housing stock. Green asked, “How about tax incentives for young couples to buy and fix up those houses?”
Green questioned the wisdom of restoring the Flight of Five, the 19th century Erie Canal locks, because it would cost the city an estimated $100,000 a year to operate and maintain them. “Some of these questions should be asked before we build,” she said.
Genewick was gung-ho for the project. He said studies estimate an annual $11 million economic impact from new tourism once the Flight is done. “We need to play to our strengths. We need to play to our history,” he said.
Genewick also said a utility-sharing arrangement with North Tonawanda could reduce water and sewer costs. Green said the city’s aging infrastructure needs more than “a Band-Aid approach” to be repaired.
She said “a comprehensive long-term plan” is needed, but warned, “The problem will not be solved in one term or two terms.”