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SEP 09- SEP 17, 2014

Lewiston Board Election May See Dems Take Control

By Anna M. Howard

September 09, 2014

“Lewiston is my adopted home,” said Lewiston Town Board candidate David Sanchez. “However my wife’s family has deep roots here and I’ve come to love this community. I want to use my talents to make it a better place for families, individuals and businesses to continue to grow and thrive.”

Even though it is not a regular election year for the Town of Lewiston, there are two seats on their Town Board that will be filled by the November elections.

One opening was caused by the February resignation of former Niagara Falls Police Chief Ernie Palmer and the second by the recent and sudden resignation of Mike Marra. Both men cited personal reasons for leaving office, and there seems to be no reason that either of them felt forced to resign.

Despite Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster calling Marra's resignation "a disgrace, an insult to Lewiston residents in an attempt to circumvent the election process," the truth is that Marra's late July resignation had the opposite effect. Had he waited until late September to resign, the Republican majority could have appointed someone who would have been in office until the end of 2015. Marra certainly didn't do the Lewiston Republican Party any favor by leaving when he did, but instead left his seat open for this year's election as well.

The two openings mean that there could be a shift in the majority on the Lewiston Town Board from Republican to Democratic control.

The current board makeup is one Democrat, Supervisor Dennis Brochey, and three Republicans, Al Bax, Ron Winkley and newly appointed (to fill Palmer's seat) William Conrad. Marra's recently vacated seat is unfilled.

If Democrats pick up both seats this fall, they will hold a three- two edge over Republicans.

So far there are three announced candidates for those two seats.

On the Democratic side, the Lewiston Democratic Committee has endorsed two candidates, David Sanchez and Keith Ahlas.

Sanchez is a member of the Buffalo-based law firm, Amigone, Sanchez and Mattrey, and Ahlas is an analyst with Livingston International Customs Brokers.

Both are newcomers to politics, and while not yet well known figures in the community they both hope to change that soon. Their platforms are similar in that both want to be fiscally conservative, promote transparency, and bring about change.

On the Republican side William Conrad has been filling the seat of Palmer since February. He is a retired Army major and an architect, and he has also advocated tighter fiscal controls and more open government.

To date there is no announced Republican candidate for the second seat.

The Town Clerk did place an advertisement asking for applications from interested parties, but the Town Board has not appointed anyone.

It seems as though this year's hot topic for the election is finance. Much has been said and written about the town's finances. Earlier this year there was quite a bit of disagreement between the board members as to the true state of Lewiston's finances. Some members of town government and the financial staff said there was a "$500,000 budget shortfall" for 2014. Other board members claimed that Lewiston was not facing such a bleak financial outlook.

It all made for good news copy, with both sides claiming the other was wrong.

But almost all of the discord on the subject dissipated after the town's independent auditors, the well-respected Brown and Company, gave their 2013 year-end report. Brown said that like most communities the Town of Lewiston is facing increased costs of operation and declining revenue.

They also said that while there was no "shortfall," the town had indeed taken $500,000 out of its reserve bank account to fund this year's governmental services.

All candidates (and most residents) will probably agree that the town simply cannot continue to take money out of the bank every single year for basic operations.

While Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey recently said that "Lewiston isn't broke," he also cautioned that "you can't spend what you don't have" and is calling for a balanced budget approach.

The curious truth however about the Town of Lewiston is that while residents don't want to see their taxes increase, they apparently don't want any of the services provided to the community to be cut either.

The candidate who finds a fool-proof way to do both of those things at the same time won't just be the next Lewiston town council member; he could probably run for president and win.





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