City Council President Says He’ll Miss The Challenges

Greg Rabb

Next year will bring about a major change on the Jamestown City Council.

Along with the addition of two new At-Large members, Andrew Liuzzo and Vanessa Weinert, the council will have a new president.

In November, Greg Rabb, At-Large councilman and outgoing president, lost his re-election bid, making this his final term of council president. Rabb was first sworn in as a councilman in 2008 and immediately was elected by the group to be their president, a position he has served for the last 10 years.

Rabb told The Post-Journal it was an honor to serve as the council’s president and to serve in that capacity as long as he did.

“Not many people get to be in that position and there are even fewer to be in it as long as I was,” he said. “I had an opportunity to work with eight other amazing people, a mayor and all the staff at city hall who continually impress me by doing the best they can to make this a better place to live despite one challenge after another.”

Rabb said there isn’t one signature moment that stands out to him during his tenure. However, he said the week-to-week grind of going to the council meetings, committee meetings and other meetings associated with the position of president is what he enjoyed the most.

“Regardless of what side of the aisle we were on, we were working together,” he said. “There was no us against them. We might have partisan and personal differences, but one thing we had in common was we cared about the people in this community.”

Rabb told The Post-Journal upon being elected in 2008 he had three goals for the group. One was to focus on regionalism, especially when it comes to the police and fire departments.

Rabb admits in hindsight things have been a little slow when it comes to shared services with the police.

However, he said they made progress by receiving grant money to fund several studies into the possible sharing of services between the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and Jamestown Police Department.

In 2009, the city was awarded a $400,000 grant to study the possibility of a contract between the city and county for police services. For more than a year, no progress has been made between city and county officials on moving forward on the proposal for the county Sheriff’s Office to fill vacancies created within the Jamestown Police Department through attrition.

Rabb’s second goal was to increase the city’s tax base by implementing the city’s Urban Design Plan. In 2006, the architecture firm Goody Clancy created the city’s Urban Design Plan. The plan identified a need to look at how vehicles and pedestrians move throughout the city, in particular the downtown core.

Rabb said the Urban Design Plan grew as he was the chairman for the city Planning Commission even before he was elected to be on the council.

“If you look at what we’ve done downtown and with the (Downtown Revitalization Initiative), we’re making progress downtown, which is consistent with the Urban Design Plan,” Rabb said. “With the ice arena, the train station, the (Hilton) DoubleTree, we’ve advanced (the Urban Design Plan). It wasn’t me alone. We’ve done it with help from the public and private sectors.”

The third goal for Rabb when he started his tenure as president was to develop a neighborhood plan. In 2010, city officials hired czb LLC to develop the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.

“At the time we started (the neighborhood plan), I was part of the Jamestown Downtown Development Corporation. Then we created the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, but we continued to make sure we had a focus on the neighborhoods and we’ve been making progress with the Renaissance Block Challenge program,” he said. “No matter how you look at it, I would say we made significant advances in all three (goals). I’m glad to have been a part of that. I didn’t do it alone, though.”

What will be next for Rabb is still undetermined. The Jamestown Community College professor, who is also a adjunct teacher at State University of New York at Buffalo State, said he will continue his academic work, which includes a trip to Europe with students Jan. 8. Rabb said because he will be out of the country when city officials hold their organizational meeting Jan. 8, he will be saying his farewell during the council’s voting session meeting Monday, Dec. 18.

As far as his work in the community, Rabb said he will continue working with city residents who are trying to raise money to renovate Chadakoin Park. He also said he would continue to represent city residents in any role the council or Mayor Sam Teresi might ask him to fill.

Rabb said he will continue his advocacy for transgender rights. As the first openly gay elected official in Western New York, Rabb has been an advocate for LGBT rights for many years. Rabb has received the Sarah G. Metzger Award, “For Outstanding Contributions to Further Human Rights;” the Embrace WNY/Buffalo Brunch award as, “A strong and courageous advocate for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered WNY citizens;” and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Award for Social Justice for “support and protection of civil liberties of gays, lesbians and their families in our community.”

In recent years, Rabb has been going to Albany to advocate for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, also known as GENDA, which is a bill, if passed, would protect people from discrimination based on their gender identity or expression. The GENDA Act would amend the state Human Rights Law to provide clear and explicit protections from discrimination based on gender identity/expression, including wrongful employment termination, refusal to hire, rental evictions and denial of public housing accommodations, refusal of business and services and threats of and actual physical harm.

“This is my life and I don’t want to stop,” he said. “I enjoy it and I have a lot to offer.”