Area Officials Connect With Community Members
On the front the lawn of Love Elementary School stood community members along with city, county and state representatives engaging in dialogue about various concerns in Jamestown and Chautauqua County.
At the “Ask Us” event organized by Andrew Liuzzo, At-Large city councilmen, a table was set up accepting school supplies and, additionally, voter registration forms were made available. While the event served many duties, Liuzzo said the goal was to connect community members with their elected officials.
“I’m trying to give (local residents) an opportunity to talk informally to everybody that has an influence on our city,” Liuzzo told The Post-Journal. “From the state level right down to the city level. Everybody here is represented.”
State Sen. Cathy Young, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, County Executive George Borrello, County Legislator Chairman P.J. Wendel and Police Chief Harry Snellings were all in attendance along with various members of city council and the county legislature among other city officials. Representing Jamestown Public Schools, who hosted the event, were Superintendent Bret Apthorpe and Love Elementary Principal Renee Hartling.
“They do care about what the people want and what the people are doing,” Liuzzo said of his fellow elected officials. “They do want to hear and listen.”
Liuzzo said the idea of holding the event at a school was to bring officials into the city neighborhood as opposed to the neighborhood coming to city council meetings where he said individuals might be less likely to speak out.
Here, Liuzzo hoped city residents and officials could engage each other in a more comfortable setting.
Borrello shared a similar sentiment about bringing community members and elected officials together in a “relaxed atmosphere.”
“It’s not an official public meeting where there is this limited time frame for you to make a public comment and there is no real engagement,” he said. “This is a real conversation.”
Borrello said when speaking with other elected officials and city residents, a common issue that was raised was the blight in the area. He said numerous times he found himself discussing blighted properties and the ongoing drug issue in the county.
“Those are two consistent themes and something that impacts the entire county and is something that can be worked on through all layers of government and law enforcement,” he said.
One Jamestown resident who attended the public event was Skip Dean. Dean has lived in the Jamestown area for 59 years and expressed concerns with the current state of the city. As for Monday’s event specifically, he praised the efforts being made to engage the community.
“I like it,” Dean said. “Normally, you don’t get a chance to get out and meet these people. They’re always too busy and fortunately some of them had time (Tuesday) to come and see people like me.”
Dean said the number of jobs in Jamestown was a concern he raised with several of his representatives Monday.
He noted that people would be a lot happier if there was an influx of available jobs in the area. He also raised concerns regarding housing and landlord issues and the ongoing drug problem that he put in one category of “bad news.”
“If we can get rid of some of that bad news maybe we can make better news,” he said.
Young told The Post-Journal the “Ask Us” event is in line with how she often engages communities throughout her district – by meeting with them face-to-face.
“Anytime that we can get people together to discuss issues I think it’s a great idea and I commend Andy (Liuzzo) for putting this together. He’s shown a lot of initiative and a lot of people showed up,” Young said. “I love hearing first-hand and listening to what’s important to people and these kinds of events are invaluable because I think it gives people access to government.”
Young said she heard numerous concerns regarding the city, infrastructure, drug related issues and numerous others. She said while some of the concerns wouldn’t be considered a state issue, she would refer the concerned individuals to the right person or correct level of government.
This idea of facilitating the questions to the proper official was a point of emphasis from Liuzzo. He said the public gathering allowed him to directly connect individuals with an elected official who could address their concern.