Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul glanced around the large meeting room in the State University of New York at Fredonia incubator right before her regional State of the State presentation last week. She was surrounded by a number of new names and faces who have emerged in leadership roles in northern Chautauqua County.
Unsurprisingly, most of those newly elected officials from this region come from the party Hochul is not affiliated with — the Republicans. Without skipping a beat, she congratulated the new leaders including Fredonia Mayor Douglas Essek and Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel.
“As you know, (after) Election Day politics ends, then we go on,” she said in the Dunkirk location on Central Avenue. “That’s what we’ve always done in this county and I look forward to being a great partner of yours.”
Hochul, in her brief comments before the presentation, was a role model for bipartisanship. Besides, no matter how negatively you look upon the policies of current state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Western New York has been and continues to be a major beneficiary of this administration.
Those who oppose the governor are quick to point out the projects from the Buffalo Billion that have not worked or are currently struggling. That’s a fair criticism, but before Cuomo took office this region of the state was consistently forgotten, even when our state was led by Republican Gov. George Pataki.
Last year, however, marked a major change in the state timeline for when political parties determine candidates. Despite the November vote taking place less than three months ago, campaigns for this year are already in the early stages. This was part of the transition to early voting, where residents took to the polls about 10 days before the official election day.
While this had a positive impact on participation, it has extended the campaign season, which now begins in late February. The result: We have lost a cooling period.
Locally, gridlock is in full force and it’s already created anxiety in the city.
On Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon in the Clarion Hotel Marina & Conference Center, Mayor Wilfred Rosas was open about the lack of a partnership between his cabinet and the new Common Council, which has three new members. The new dynamic has brought an edge of tension and spite.
“My message to our community and our council members is very simple,” he said. “It’s OK to have disagreements. We will have disagreements along the way but as long as all of us are working toward the betterment of our community, good things will continue to happen, and that is my pledge.”
His speech brought a 30-second standing ovation.
But it did not translate the next evening. Council moved ahead with dismissing two employees while also keeping city attorney Richard Morrisroe in their sights. For the record, by having the majority — including a Democrat in Don Williams Jr. who continues to side with the Republicans — that is their prerogative.
There are also signs of dissension in the village of Fredonia as well under the reign of Essek. At the first meeting, returning Democratic Trustees Kara Christina and James Lynden, for all intents and purposes, boycotted the first gathering on Jan. 6.
Lynden disputed this reality without remorse. “No business could be conducted. It was nothing more than a coffee hour,” he remarked.
Many Americans are not glued to the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Donald Trump but they are following bits and pieces of the historic event, which has added to the division of our country and elected representatives. New York is fractured as well with upstate residents frustrated over a Democratic rule that is spearheaded by downstate’s population dominance.
This butting of heads has spilled into the local political scene, which to be frank, has seen its fair share of ineptitude for nearly 50 years as population has declined and many major industries have left.
Right now, the meaningless power plays and pouting must stop. We need to believe in the recent progress — even if it is considered minor.
Positive energy has come from recent public and private investments as well as an engine that could in making Fredonia a true contender to win $500,000 and be a part of Season 5’s “Small Business Revolution.”
Keep building on that momentum. Remember, this is our home. We are all neighbors.
We do not need to keep tearing each other apart.
John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to [email protected] or call 366-3000, ext. 401.