Candidates Tackle Rental, Business Readiness

AndRew R. Liuzzo

A Republican mayoral primary will be held in the city of Jamestown Tuesday, June 25, between Andrew Liuzzo, At-large councilman, and David Wilfong, District 11 Chautauqua County legislator. The Post-Journal asked both candidates the same three questions. Below are their responses.

Question 1: Since the announcement of the revamped rental registration there has been talk about the responsibility of keeping up the appearance of rental properties. Most of the properties cited for code violations in the city are rental properties. Tenants say landlords are to blame for problems while landlords say tenants are at fault. If elected, what will you do to have tenants and landlords see eye-to-eye so rental properties are maintained and aren’t eyesores?

Liuzzo: Rental registration was introduced more than 10 years ago. It was inclusive of landlords that belong to the landlord association. It has been reintroduced this time without input from the landlords. The appearance of the exterior of the home is reasonably the responsibility of whoever resides there. If it’s a question of debris, discarded refuse or just untidiness, the resident should be responsible. If it’s a question of substandard living conditions, the responsibility initially is with the landlord. If it is damage caused by the tenant then it’s their responsibility. Responsibility and accountability applies to both parties as to causation. There are remedies to deal with substandard conditions or neglect that are the responsibilities of the landlord. One such, which is utilized in the state of Tennessee, is to with hold the rent to the owner until the situation is addressed. Not to say that the tenant doesn’t pay, but the monies are held in escrow by the municipality until the repair is done and then given to the landlord. Damage to a property by a tenant, however, should be paid for by the tenant or else treated as a crime.

Wilfong: In any tenant-landlord relationship, both parties have the same responsibility to build and maintain a successful working relationship. Tenants are customers, so it’s on the landlords to take care of their needs. However, it’s on the tenants to be responsible, patient and clear in their dealings with their landlord. I believe that our local government should be working with local rental property owners and renters to discuss their issues, and provide assistance and guidance with their problems. We need to work together to solve these issues. Now, if code enforce is needed it’s up to our local government to make sure that inspections are conducted and parties are held accountable. But, that means both parties, tenants should be held accountable for their actions as well as landlords. If we need to enact new local laws to hold tenants more accountable, let’s do it. There are already plenty of laws on the books that hold landlords accountable. The city of Jamestown (City Council) Housing Committee is a good place to start these new ideas. We need get the committee more involved in this and provide it with the tools to actually hold both tenants and landlords accountable.

Question 2: Everyone agrees that it’s great that there are new developments in the city like the National Comedy Center to make it an attraction for tourists, but how can city officials attract new businesses and manufactures to create more jobs to benefit those who live in the city?

Liuzzo: Part of this question relates to (question) number one. Cleaning up the neighborhoods, fixing potholes and having pride in our residences will convey the impression that this is a nice, comfortable, welcoming community. As mayor I will encourage helping entrepreneurs and cottage industries to develop their ideas. The first settlers to this community didn’t wait for manufacturing and commerce to enter the city to enhance and provide for them — they created manufacturing and commerce. Their vision to help their fellow citizens with products and services is what built this community. I refuse to believe that all the good ideas were used up generations ago. I do believe that if we instill the value of independent ideas and encourage creativity and imagination, we can once again promote and sustain a viable economy.

Wilfong: Currently, the city only has one “shovel ready” site. The site is small and does not lend itself well for future development. Investors are not willing to wait to tear down buildings, wait for possible ground contamination problems to be remediated and then build a new structure. They want to start the manufacturing process ASAP. So they go where the building is easiest and the infrastructure is already there. Unfortunately for us, it’s usually on private property outside the city or the industrial parks. It’s time for spec building in Jamestown. Let’s try to leverage federal, state and local grant funding to promote our own local “industrial park” located inside the city.

Question 3: The city Salary Review Commission has recommended pay increases for the council members and the mayor. The committee mainly cited that the raises are due because it has been 35 years since council members received a raise and that the pay of the mayor is below what other similar size cities pay their elected leaders. The commission makes good points about why pay increases could be justified, but given the poor financial situation the city is in should city elected positions receive a raise?

Liuzzo: I consider working in public office to be a choice. I would support a base salary for the office of mayor starting at a reasonable rate. I would say that being on council should not be about the wages, but the obligation to give back to your community and help in the management of providing the best we have to offer for all citizens based on what they tell us. That being said, the decision for raises for the mayor and council should rest in the hands of the citizens — by referendum voted on by the people. If the city officials who are employed by the people deserve a merit raise then the citizens can decide. It could be yearly or by end of term. I don’t agree that raises should be voted on and decided by the elected officials.

Wilfong: I believe that a salary increases for the mayor and the City Council should be tied to the consumer price index or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, which would eliminate the political football that seems to accompany this issue. I also believe that the city of Jamestown needs a reasonable pay scale for elected officials that is in line with the job they do, the leadership they provide and the responsibilities they have. The current system is outdated and does not reflect modern day compensation. Our community says nothing about contractual steps in the labor contracts that are agreed upon for city employees and school district employee’s but, see fit to give a “thumbs down” on the salaries of the elected officials who have voluntarily chosen to represent their community. People who run for office usually know what the job pays when they decide to run. But, I don’t believe that their generosity and commitment to our community should stand in the way of reasonable compensation for their time and effort.