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JUNE 16 - JUNE 24, 2015

Only in NT: No More Ceremonial Officials! Do the Jobs You're Supposed To Do

By Sweeney Payne

JUNE 16, 2015

NT's appointed mayor and council members have so much time to get their photos taken doing everything but City business!

The City website lists them as putting in 7-hour days 20 days a month, time supposed to be spent on actually running and overseeing municipal operations. How do they have so much time to be at every photo opportunity, to pose with every new business, usually having had nothing to do with nor planning to do anything with it except posing for the photo?

When was the last (or only?) time they ever posed with sad owners of a business needing to close because it couldn’t make money in NT and didn’t get any help staying in business from NT as politically connected business owners receive? Why not pose with residents putting their homes up for sale and ask why they are moving?

They’re not supposed to be ceremonial officials! They’re paid to operate City government.

The 2015 City budget allocates $43,500 total from the general fund to pay for council operations, and for the offices of the mayor: $148,728, treasurer: $179,764, clerk: $156,256, attorney: $174,536, $129,081 for "grant management/planning" which should be community development. Those total $831,865.

There is no listing for Lumber City Development Corp. Why not?

These figures do not reflect costs of operating City Hall or Wheatfield Street offices. Fringe benefits and other payroll costs are listed separately in the budget so we can’t know how much of the costs for the State employee retirement system, employer Social Security taxes, Workers Compensation insurance, life insurance premiums, or medical insurance costs go toward those specific operations.

If the costs of utilities, maintenance and insurance for those offices in City Hall and 500 Wheatfield and the items listed as fringe benefits were included in the totals, it no doubt costs the taxpayers a minimum of $2 million to fund our eight men in a room in NT government.

The current charter calls for a four-year full-time mayor to eliminate the former system of ceremonial mayors elected for two-year part-time terms and a council overseeing all City departments. The current charter was to make the mayor responsible for running City government, the Council to draft and approve new legislation and related issues. The City’s economic development people aren’t supposed to lead the mayor and aldermen by the noses.

Mayors now seem to delegate their work to the administrative assistant. The charter needs to be changed to create a city manager position. Hire the current executive assistant for that role. He’s filled it since Ortt became mayor.

Who are we paying to do the non-photo-op work in the mayor’s office? Robert Welch, the “administrative assistant, was a former vice president and division manager with JP Morgan Chase/Washington Mutual bank and was a Buffalo State College graduate. Many believe Welch has really been the brains running the City for Ortt and now Pappas. Welch does appear to have become an NT resident. Suzanne Hempel served as “confidential secretary” to Ortt and is still in that role for Pappas. She worked for 20 years as a classroom assistant (no special training required) at minimum wage. She also was an alderman for one term about a decade ago.

NT's mayors and aldermen aren't to be ceremonial officials, having their photos taken with every group they find willing to allow them to do so. We don't pay them to personally do useless trash clean ups in targeted areas one part of a day a year each to get their photos taken.

Nepotism is alive and thriving in NT’s City Hall, the School District, and County operations. Put an end to that! No more appointing friends and campaign supporters to City boards and commissions, giving them power to make decisions that affect all of us without our having any say in who is appointed or on decisions made.

No more weakly announced “public” sessions, feigning to ask for our input in order to justify doing what outside consultants who don’t live here but are paid for with taxpayer funding tell them should be done instead of actually listening to us.

No more selling banners, regardless of the genuine value of the banners to those whose sons and daughters serve or served in the military. Why not give that role to the VFW, American Legion, Seabees, Marines, or Vietnam Vets to promote, allowing them to raise funds for themselves?

Delivering meals-on-wheels, a wonderfully worthwhile effort, is not a City responsibility. Giving addresses at pre-prom assemblies about safe driving is a good thing, but not a mayor’s job.





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