Since the Amsterdam mayoral candidates will not debate, there needs to be a forum outside of reelection campaign websites and Facebook pages where voters can question the candidates on issues that are important to them.
I decided to take the initiative and come up with ten questions of my own to ask each of the three mayoral candidates. I was able to email both William D. Wills and Ann M. Thane with my request for an interview and photo session. I even made it easier for the candidates by sending them the ten questions I wanted answers to. Joe Emanuele III has no internet contact information available, just a PO Box number. I sent my request to him via snail mail.
William D. Wills was the first to respond. He answered my questions and in lieu of a photo session, preferred I post this photo of him.
My two grandchildren both of which mean the world to me and why I want to make Amsterdam a nicer place to live.
I worked with Bill Wills for a year on the Zoning Update Committee and observed his performance as the outspoken member of the Common Council. He is very in tune and dedicated to his constituents. There is no underlying agenda, what you see is what you get. I sent many emails last year to the entire Common Council in an attempt to discuss issues affecting my neighborhood. While I did not get many responses, Alderman Wills was always quick to respond to my emails, despite the fact that I do not live in his Ward. If he could not help directly, he guided me to someone who could.
Bill Wills has a personal Facebook page and an election campaign website wdwills.com. He has already addressed some issues on Tim Becker’s Pars Nova website. Bill was criticized by both Bethany Schumann-McGhee and Mayor Ann Thane about his motives for taking a salary decrease of $25,000. when elected Mayor. They suggest he is taking a pay cut to avoid a decrease in money he is already receiving as a public employee retiree. Thane called it a “parlor trick”. But the truth of the matter is that a public employee retiree elected to a position he did not hold before he retires, has no limitation on the amount of salary he can receive with no decrease in retirement. This is outlined in the guide for public employee retirees; What if I Work After Retirement?
Let’s get to the questions!
10 Questions for Mayoral Candidate William D. Wills
1. As Mayor, there are several appointed positions that have to be filled. Have you decided who will be your Corporation Counsel?
Yes. It will be William Mycek (the son). I am also going to suggest to the Council that William appoint an assistant, as has been done in the past, to address the lack of enforcement of the Codes and Ordinances of the City in Court. Collect fines and not levy fines as part of a lien on a building.
2. What changes will you make to insure the City Budget is kept under Governor Cuomo’s 2% tax cap?
More control over spending and the use of OT in all department budgets. Look at ways to expand the tax base to help us in the future like getting developers to invest money in our City on new housing developments for the Middle Class.
3. The Community and Economic Development Department has not been filled or funded for years, yet remains part of our City Charter. The head of this department is appointed by the Mayor and is the Administrator of the Urban Renewal Department and Industrial Development Agency responsible for coordinating an integrated staff to support both agencies. He/she is also grant writer for the city and overseer of volunteer activities. We have been funding separately for a grant writer and staff for both agencies is not coordinated. Will you seek to reestablish this important position? If not, will you put it on voter referendum to remove from the charter?
Try to convince both AIDA and AURA to again fund the position of Director of Community and Economic Development so that coordination between the two Agencies is there again. As things improve look to expand the department with a grant writer even if it is only part time staying well within the 2% tax cap. The Director initially would be the City’s grant writer but when things improved it would be more beneficial to have a grant writer available to all City Departments on a daily basis.
4. There has been little talk from the candidates about supporting diversity in Amsterdam. With the Latino population at 26%, a growing Chinese population and an often-invisible LGBT community, what will you do as Mayor to support the needs of these groups and celebrate their heritage?
Reopen the lines of communication with the Hispanic population using Centro Civico as a resource. Present publicly their contribution to our Community and form a coalition of sorts to fight the “element” that has creaped into our Community causing disruption and problems. There are “bad apples” in all of our Community and its very diverse cultural backgrounds. However, we must stress the value of our diversity and how our children are better prepared than many others to enter our also very culturally diverse nation. Encourage and support all of our community in its initiative to take back their neighborhoods. Use the police as a resource not only as a defense mechanism.
5. What will you do as Mayor to open these lines of communication and increase transparency in our local government?
Currently I am being given the silent treatment by some public servants in City Hall for comments made on a local radio program that we must answer the public’s calls and if those that don’t can look elsewhere for jobs. As public officials whether it be the person behind the counter or the person sitting in the Mayor’s office, none of us should not be unapproachable and should always be available to the public to answer their questions or resolve their issues . I will try to assure that each call made into City Hall is answered by a “live” person and not voice mail. That their concern(s) are addressed and if needed a tentative schedule given for resolution. Never leave them hanging or without a response.
6. How are you going to get Code Enforcement functioning again in Amsterdam?
I will propose that the Engineer’s office and the Codes department be merged and become one with the City Engineer in charge of both Codes and every public works project out there. I would look to cross training the individuals involved so when the work dictates they can assist each other. This will need to be discussed with the Unions and of course the Council.
7. Do you think marketing the City is the job of the Mayor?
Yes. However, assisted by our Economic and Community Development agencies along with assistance of the Chamber of Commerce.
8. What actions will you take to see that Amsterdam has a viable economic plan for the future?
Keep costs down by negotiating affordable labor contracts with reasonable health care costs. We must standardize the health care offered to our eight unions so that all of our employees are receiving the same benefits, no less or no better than the others.
Redevelopment plans for our vacant lots. Encourage developers to see the value in building middle class homes once again in Amsterdam Expand our tax base.
Explore consolidation with the Town of Amsterdam as I see that as our future if we are to survive.
9. Amsterdam Municipal Golf Couse has been sucking up $50,000. of taxpayer dollars per year for the last few years. There was even a study done to help improve the economic situation, yet few of these recommendations were ever enacted. Do you think the City should continue to fund this golf course that benefits only those who can afford to pay the price to play?
The Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course is an enterprise fund which means it is self -sufficient. Since I have been on the Council we have never loaned any monies from the General Fund to assist the Golf Course. However, for a while the Golf Course was using its fund balance by approximately $50,000 a year to keep fees down. I have proposed that it be operated by a manager who is well versed in the operations of a successful golf course. Right now we have no one in charge, no Department Head per se. I would like to see many of the suggestions made by the Union College Task Force implemented. In addition, more attention to our course should be given by staging events like a regional amateur open.
10. Why do you want to be Mayor of Amsterdam?
I have spent 12 years on the Board of Supervisors followed by now 12 years on the Amsterdam City Council. This will be a natural move by someone like me who is very much in love with his community. This Community is worth the sweat, tears, extra effort, headaches, etc. that anyone in the position of Mayor will expend. If not, than their tenure will not be one of success. I like challenges and this will be probably be my greatest. I have ideas and so do many others to see that we progress not regress. I will be open to others thoughts and ideas and to get as many people involved in our resurgence as are interested. My almost 35 years of service with the State of New York was a learning experience that I will use to our benefit here in Amsterdam. The Governor will know that we exist.
Now you have a little more information than you did before about William D. Wills. I hope the other two candidates follow suit.