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JUNE 2 - JUNE 10, 2015

Only in North Tonawanda: Who Are These People?

By Sweeney Payne

JUNE 2, 2015

Robert E. Pecoraro
Daniel R. Quinn
Eric Zadzilka

Pardon my grumbling.

But I’m growing a little tired of hearing about State Sen. Robert Ortt having been a lifelong resident of North Tonawanda and an integral part of the community. Most of us never heard of him until he came literally from out of nowhere only to be plopped fully formed, scrubbed and washed onto the City Clerk-Treasurer seat.

All I knew about him was that he attended school and college elsewhere, worked as a financial planner in Amherst and never could stop talking about his increasingly valorous National Guard service. Next they’ll be telling he was born in a log cabin.

I often got the feeling that he didn’t really care for those who dared to ask him pointed questions when he was mayor. Either he didn’t want to answer or didn’t know the answer. Either way the result was about the same. He was kicked upstairs. Ever since they made the City Clerk-Treasurer an elected position, we’ve had Ortt , then Scott Kiedrowski. Both were GOP political machine’s choices. Now we have another unknown appointee to that same position.

Who is Daniel R. Quinn anyhow? We don’t know any more about him than we do about Robert Pecoraro or Donna Braun. But at least Braun actually ran for election. So how about some new faces? There are many successful business people in North Tonawanda who would, I believe, be effective as Mayor, but perhaps they are smart enough to know they have to mind the store at their businesses to remain successful. Sadly, many of them make their living here but don’t live here!

Why not? Among those in office, Philip “Russ” Rizzo isn’t running again. I will venture that Eric Zadzilka and Donna Braun probably are. Catherine Schwandt moved to North Tonawanda to invest in real estate in the late 1980s.

A political crony of those who have been politically undemocratic and non- transparent in our City in recent years, she might have had continuous terms on the Council. But word on the street is she was “encouraged” to step down while she endeavored clean up certain unpaid property taxes on rental units that would have been quite possibly foreclosed upon if the owner had been anyone but a Council member! But property taxes are of course a matter of public record. And there high enough in North Tonawanda that one can almost forgive anyone but a lawmaker for not being able to pay them. Robert Pecoraro, like Ortt, also came like a bolt from the blue, claims he lived here at some time or another after being born in Buffalo and before spending 30 years in the Air Force.

Accidental fate? He’s back and told some of us he moved to North Tonawanda a couple of years ago because he couldn’t find a house in Buffalo! Pecoraro was appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals for 2015. After putting his hat in the ring for the appointed Mayor position (!), he put it in again and was selected as the appointed Alderman-at-Large to replace the departing Malcolm Needler, who, in spite of his sometimes too fulsome devotion to the party line, at least Needler KNEW the City.

Zadzilka seems to keep his Wurlitzer Park neighbors happy, but so far he’s no Nancy Donovan, who cared about the entire City, not just Wurlitzer Park. Braun has recently become visible when her genial smile adorns photographs of City officials doing their annual clean up of parts of the City that, in most cases, need a repeat clean up the next day. So now for a few recommendations.

The City of North Tonawanda needs a new breed of elected officials who include the people in decisions on appointees to City boards and commissions. We want to be told when boards and commissions meet, when and what their agendas are. Council meetings should be moved back to Wednesdays. School Board meetings to Mondays or Thursdays. County Legislature meetings should remain on Tuesdays. Or keep them all on Tuesdays—but on different weeks so we have an opportunity to attend them all. Televise Council meetings for those who cannot get out to them.

We’re sick and tired of people who don’t know or care about the real residents who become part of North Tonawanda’s “eight men in a room”—Mayor, City Clerk-Treasurer, City Attorney and five Aldermen. No wonder they make decisions behind closed doors and depend upon advice on what they consider “development” from non-NT residents. They made Doug Taylor the 9th man in the room, to call the shots on "development."

Suggestions for genuine locals who should run for City Clerk-Treasurer include: Catherine Gambino, who knows as much about running that office as Ortt, Kiedrowski, and Quinn, and maybe all of them put together! Some people we’d like to see take a plunge as Mayor are Jim McGinnis, Jr. and Daniel Brick; as Aldermen, Jim McGinnis, Jr., Jay Soemann, Flora Carozzolo, Larry Soos, Dan Fire, Natalie Fiala, Dale Voelker, Catherine Gambino, Elizabeth Kaszubski, Paul Swisher, Raedene Frank Zellner, Randy Szukala, Mark Lemke, Gary Franklin, Dave Jakubaszak, and Pete Smolinski.





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