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Stop Doing What We’ve Always Done

Over the past several years, there has been a growing disconnect between the city’s administration and the majority of the population. Over the past several years, the mayor and the various committees that he’s formed have been focused only on what they’ve deemed to be important. Out of the nine members of the city council, five were appointed by the mayor to fill vacancies. These appointments would be one thing if there had actually been a tenable vision.

The reality is that, over the past several years, our administration has been mismanaged, shortsighted and has not listened to the real concerns of Jamestown residents.

We’re supposed to believe that Jamestown is better off now than when the mayor and city council took office. However, the fact is that Jamestown is the highest taxed city in the state of New York. Close to half of the properties in the city are tax-exempt. The unemployment rate is near twice that of the national average. The household income is 81% lower than the national average. My point is not to underline our deficiencies but to emphasize the lack of attention given to these problems and the non-existent proposals given to halting these issues.

As a councilman, I ask questions to ensure clarity and accountability for the benefit of the citizens, not for my own. For 20 years, I had a successful business in Jamestown and employed as many as 40 people per year. I’ve worked in private industry and managed professional, skilled staffs in three states. I understand how bills get paid and understand the importance of garnering revenue. I mention this because, according to recent news, you might think that I can’t make change for a dollar. I ask questions so that citizens can see a record of why and how this current administration does our business.

Why hasn’t the New York State Conference of Mayors challenged the Taylor Law and Tri-Borrough Agreement, which have adversely affected virtually all of upstate New York? Our mayor was president of NYCOM and yet these question still remain.

There are steps we can take as a City to try and change the course of inaction that has been ignored. There are people that care deeply about Jamestown and have ideas, proposals and the business acumen to address these issues. The fact is, if it is not in accord with the ruling “party,” these ideas are dismissed. It is time to forget party and power. It is time to give all viable suggestions consideration. It is time to listen. It is time to hear what remedies are offered. It is time to give our citizens a chance to help.

Jamestown must come together as an all-encompassed community. Citizens from all walks of life who care about the city and can propose ideas of change should feel free to contribute. Academics, financial advisers, manufacturers, small-business owners, skilled and unskilled workers, unemployed individuals and healthcare workers should all feel that their city government values what they say.

The purpose of city government is to serve the people, which we are elected and trusted to do. Getting elected is a privilege, and serving in office is an obligation. It is a duty, once accepted, to serve the constituents by giving back to the community that you care about – not holding onto ideas and seats to the point of stagnation.

Twenty-four, 20 and even 10 years in local office is too long. It’s time to establish term limits. It’s time to have periodic new direction and continuous new ideas. It’s time to listen. It’s time to admit mistakes and take accountability for failure. There is no shame in making a mistake, though there is shame in not correcting it. Whenever the statement is made “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” it is an admission that thinking has stopped. New ideas lead to new growth. We need to move forward with the intention that there are valuable opinions coming from the people who live in our city, not just from those who have had a seat at the table for a decade or more. I don’t believe that Jamestown cannot recover. I believe that if we regain our confidence and spur our own industry, that we will recover.

Jamestown was built on the ingenuity of the people that settled here. They were not waiting for manufacturing and commerce to just show up; they created it. I am convinced that there are very imaginative, creative and resourceful citizens among us. If we continue with “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” then we might as well stop doing.

Andrew Liuzzo is a Jamestown resident, member of the City Council and candidate for mayor of Jamestown.

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