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City Council Endorsements

Fresh Ideas Must Bring Fresh Policies

Jamestown will see a change in the mayor’s office on Jan. 1. We hope it sees a change in the City Council as well — both in the names of some office holders and in the attitude with which council members approach their jobs.

Today, we endorse in the three contested races in Wards 1, 4 and 5.

We endorse Tim Smeal, a Democrat, in Ward 1. The political newcomer has long been involved in community boards and organizations and has shown himself over time to be someone who will work across political and geographical boundaries to push new ideas. He understands the needs of downtown attractors, is vested in the city’s neighborhoods and will work with county and state officials for the betterment of the city regardless of political affiliation. Incumbent Republican Brent Sheldon is a good and dedicated public servant who has served nine years during two separate stints on the council in addition to his lengthy time working for the county Health Department, but at this time in the city’s history, Smeal’s new ideas and energy deserve a chance to be aired in the political realm.

In Ward 4, we endorse Brittnay Spry, a Republican newcomer to city politics, in her race against incumbent Marie Carrubba, D-Ward 4 and council president. This is a difficult race in which to make an endorsement. Carrubba has devoted her career to the Southwestern Independent Living Center while being a dependable council person during her tenure who is responsible for one of the few pieces of legislation to come out of the council in her 2017 Local Property Tax Abatement Incentive. Much like Smeal, however, Spry would bring the eyes of a young parent and homeowner to the council while her education and position at Cassadaga Valley Central School bring an eye toward public administration and public budgets. It’s a tough call, but Spry could be a good fit on the council.

Grant Olson deserves an opportunity to represent the citizens of Ward 5 on the council. We give incumbent Democrat Maria Jones credit for attending double committee meetings as a member of the Public Safety Committee and the Housing Committee as someone interested in housing issues. Olson would bring a downtown businessman’s perspective to the council’s discussions as well as the perspective of homeowners with young families — exactly the type of people Jamestown needs to attract to its downtown and its neighborhoods. We are struck by one simple action during Olson’s campaign during which the candidate led an effort to paint a neighbor’s house on a Saturday afternoon, raising money and materials to make the project happen and getting it done in an afternoon. Actions speak louder than words — and Olson’s campaign indicates he will take action if elected.

The Post-Journal’s endorsements for the council’s six wards reflect the need for fresh thinking and renewed activity among the council. For starters, there should never be a committee meeting canceled for lack of agenda items. There is always an issue that can be discussed, a potential partnership that can be explored or even issues that need discussion or about which people need to be educated by a city department head or employee.

Further, council members must begin talking openly during council meetings on big picture items. Do council members have ideas to get Jamestown out of its financial mess? Do they have ideas for programs with which the city can partner with local foundations and non-profits? Do they have ideas to drive more foot traffic downtown? Do they have concerns about what drugs and poverty are doing to the city? What do they think about ambulance service in the city? What do they think about potholes? What should the city’s gateways look like?

Three candidates run unopposed — Republican Anthony Dolce in Ward 2, Democrat Victoria James in Ward 3 and Democrat Thomas Nelson in Ward 6. Of the three, we particularly endorse Dolce, a long-tenured council member who is knowledgeable about finances, has taken on unpleasant tasks when asked and who doesn’t put party concerns ahead of what’s best for the city he represents.

The message to Dolce, James and Nelson is the same as the message to Smeal, Olson and Spry. This council simply must be more active in city affairs. Mayors will have ideas for programs — council members should as well. There is more to the job than simply passing along constituent concerns for streetlights or garbage or unkempt houses to city staff. That can all be done via email or text. Giving quick approvals for bills that have to be paid is similarly a small part of the job. Political party lines should not be readily apparent once the council’s work begins on Jan. 1 — rather, discussion should focus on what is truly best for the city and its residents.

The City Council is a policy making body that has made precious little policy for quite some time. Fresh ideas must bring some fresh policies from the council. If it doesn’t, why bother having a council in the first place?

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