New beginnings … except in our back yard

Spring is a time for new beginnings. A time for new life to spring forward and the remnants of winter to be raked away and relegated to the mulch pile. It is a time for young lovers to explore their relationships and for school proms, weddings with brides wearing satin and long white veils, and the births of young animals.

Spring even has a happy sound to it that makes it almost impossible to keep from smiling and looking toward the heavens when spoken. This is a time of transition from the cold and dreary doldrums of winter to the blue skies and landscapes bursting with color. It is a time to think New!

New ideas, new beginnings, new friends and newness in the way we do business. These things can all happen with the knowledge that whatever we do, we can blame it on Spring Fever. And as we all know most fevers have an anecdote for our elected officials it is voting them out of office in November. Let’s start keeping track of their symptoms now.

For instance, how about not needing a regional water district? Even after studies and one recommendation after another, we still have a mayor who says we don’t need a regional water district. As a matter of fact, Mayor Anthony J. Dolce stated in a letter to the OBSERVER, “There are significant benefits that can flow from creative and cost-effective operations of municipal government. Many times, looking outside the jurisdictional lines provides economies of scale that provide real long-term benefits to residents, businesses and industries. However, simply labeling a project as being “regional” does not necessarily make the long-term results beneficial.”

The mayor’s comments remind me of the saying, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet and a pile of bull poo would still stink! This is the same old mantra that we hear over and over. “We are a city, they are only a town, or a village, we can’t work or share with them.” It is the same with the school districts. This attitude is old and outdated it needs to go!

What is it that the mayor is really afraid of? Is it another layer of government or an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with other local governmental agencies? Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Jan. 9, “We have too many local governments.” I agree with him. If the mayor is concerned with another layer of government he should listen to what others within his own party have to say.

At the risk of being redundant, take a minute and read what some others have said on this issue (previously reported in the OBSERVER):

Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corp. Executive Director Kathy Tampio – “There are several options, and certainly this could be one of them, but that’s a decision for the water agency members to make …,” she said. “Whatever they decide and meets their goals of the regional water system, it doesn’t mean it specifically has to be a district and it could possibly work with inter-municipal agreements, but the board has to consider that as a collective group.”

Tampio stressed the formation of a water authority does not correlate with additional personnel. “It would probably utilize the existing personnel, and the governing board of the district is made up of unpaid members,” she explained. “This isn’t an authority like Erie County.”

County Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, who sits on the newly formed water agency with Dolce, calls the mayor’s move “disappointing.”

“I firmly believe the answers to our problems do not lie in the past, and the mayor’s proposal is essentially a ‘business as usual’ approach,” he wrote in an email to the OBSERVER. “The proof that this does not work is evident every time we read the paper: Rising taxes, businesses closing, consent orders, etc. We have not truly explored new ways of operating; instead, we retreat to the safety of the status quo and we fight to protect what little piece of ‘turf’ we have left.”

Ahlstrom added a regional water district could remove the burden of water filtration from municipalities.

“Dunkirk and Chautauqua County do not have many more chances to ‘get it right,’ and this decision (by the mayor), to me, is another in a long line of making decisions with our heads in the sand, a decision that will hold us back in the future, a decision that is lacking in supporting documentation and a decision I cannot support,” he said.

We need our elected officials to stop, listen and think about the future. Whether it is the village of Forestville announcing the expected increase of property taxes in excess of 445 percent, or the school districts that are “breathing a sigh of relief due to the State’s announcement of additional funding.”

What is wrong with the people who are paying taxes in Forestville? Shouldn’t they be demanding change? And why aren’t the school districts working toward mergers? If they can merge the sports programs, why not combine the schools as a whole? I just don’t understand.

But, alas, it is spring, and spring is a time of renewal, a time of new beginnings and a time of shedding the old and well worn winter. I can only pray that our local officials, whether they be school, city, village or town, shed the old comfortable flannel of the past and look toward leading us into a happier and more colorful Spring try silk, or Heaven forbid, Cashmere.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to