Because I spent a large part of my adult life living overseas in Asia, I often reflect on the customs and culture of that region. Be careful what you say about “made in China”, my wife became pregnant with my first son while we were living in Beijing. My second son was born in Korea (which I consider my second home). And in Korea, they have a tradition to celebrate a child’s birth at the 100-day mark instead of at birth as we do here in North America.
You see, not so long ago, (before the skyscrapers), childhood diseases were common in Korea and many infants died at birth. Lack of medical services, poor hygiene, and Korea's bitterly cold winters and blistering summers aggravated the problem. But if a child made it to the 100-day mark, parents felt that they had gotten past the most dangerous time for the baby. On the 100th day, families traditionally pray and give thanks. They also put out almost glowing displays of fruit and sweets in celebration. The child is posed before admiring well-wishers as the center of the festivities.
Well, I’m 100 days into my time as Supervisor. I feel that I am gaining confidence by the day, and I’m very proud of the things we have already achieved. Any celebration should certainly not center around me, but we should celebrate how the team is gelling, the great employees that make up Town Hall, and what we have achieved so far. And we should look forward with anticipation to what’s next on our list.
What we have already accomplished
Roundabout. As I explained before, the DOT stands by its position that the engineering design works for that space. But we were able to work out a deal to make some aesthetic changes. These changes will help beautify the roundabout and help tell the story of the Island—more on this soon. In short, I’m confident that the giant bush of weeds will be gone by this summer
The GusMacker: We are ready far earlier than last year and with a fraction of the contention. The security team is in place. An ambulance will be there. And we plan to take part as a town to raise money—I’m working on a three-point contest!
Town Hall Updates and Wi-Fi for the GAC: We heard it did not work, and we got it fixed the next day. I’m proud to say that the Golden Age Center now has some of the fastest Wi-Fi on Grand Island. We also have a new look in our conference room at Town Hall for all Town Board and Advisory Board meetings—come take a look!
RFP for Legal services: I promised to do it, and I did it. The Town put out a request for proposal for legal services. We are about to start the process of interviewing law firms. Whether we stay with the current firm or choose a new firm, I’m confident we will get a better deal for the Island and ultimately us, the tax payers.
Advisory Boards: We value guidance and input from the residents of Grand Island. The Master Plan for our town needs to be updated. Therefore, we revived the long dormant long-range planning committee. And I believe we now have the bi-partisan team in place to help us get it done. We need to control the future growth of the Island and not leave it to the whims of outside developers. We also filled long-standing vacancies on several of our existing Town Advisory Boards (thank you for your response!). And soon we hope to start a new board advising on agricultural issues. You do have a voice in your Town Government!
What we are working on
Scenic Woods. There has been a grant sitting there for the development of trails, etc in Scenic Woods for some time—since 2012. But we could not start the project until we pledged matching funds. I am happy to report that we should have those funds by October, and I am working hard to make sure that we do not lose the existing grant. Because there has been almost no movement on this over the last four years, the Greenway Commission has threatened to give that grant money to another municipality. But I won’t let that happen.
New Town Website: We are working on transforming our town website. By the end of this year we will have a site that represents the beauty of our town. But it won’t only look better; it will offer more information and services, be convenient and interactive. We are moving the Town into the 21st Century, finally!
Dunlop Building Restoration: I have been working hand in hard with the developers who want to turn the Dunlop Building into a Holiday Inn. The asbestos is out and the plans are being finalized. But we can’t celebrate yet. The numbers don’t really pencil, and I need to help the developer find a way to make it work. So, I have been in meetings with the Governor’s representatives and pushing other State politicians to help us find a way forward for Dunlop. I won’t give up. And as I have said many times – if we can’t get it up and running, we will find a way to tear it down.
Our future endeavors (not trying is far worse than failing)
Community Center: You heard me talk about it, and I’m going to fight to get it done. Why shouldn’t Grand Island have amenities that far lesser communities enjoy? We should have a center that focuses on programs for all ages, embraces culture, offers recreational outlets missing on the Island and is a symbol of community.
Better Internet. New York State has some of the fastest internet on the planet running right across our island. The problem is, our Town doesn’t use it. We need to tap into it and string it to our schools and Town facilities.
Tolls: Yes, I’m going to continue to push on the tolls. It’s not about 9 cents. It’s about the tax on our businesses and the strain on our economy. Grand Island should no longer be locked in a prison. Either the tolls are removed, they go electronic, or we start getting some of that toll money to offset the negative impact on our town. And yes, at the very least, keep more of that money here. And give us bridge lights! #tollsR4trolls
Pollution Monitoring: Sadly, Grand Island is surrounded by some of the most notorious polluters in America. It is not an overstatement to say that health of our families and children are at risk. I want to install air pollution monitoring systems and an alert system around the Island. If our health is ever needlessly threatened because of negligent, reckless, or criminal conduct, we will pursue the violators to the furthest extent of the law.
There is much, much more going on
Listen folks, I believe in getting things done. I don’t believe in lip service and face time. And we are working hard, on lots of other issues—including legislation regarding agricultural use (I want a farmer’s market!), term limits, the West River Bike Path and the plans for Beaver Island. Not to mention the day-to-day operations of the town. Many issues have been brought to our attention by residents that truly affect their quality of life. We look into every single issue placed in front of us and if there is a way to fix it, we find a way.
One thing that I have been impressed by is the quality of talent at the Town Hall. It’s easy to blame and bash if we don’t get our way or if we don’t truly understand something. But I see how hard they work on making Grand Island a great place to live and the sacrifices they make. Plus, I have a growing respect for my Town Board colleagues: Ray, Chris, Bev, and Mike. I see how much they care, and how passionately they fight for what they believe is best for Grand Island and its residents. Even if we don’t always see eye to eye, we work things out – we compromise. After all, national political hot topics have little impact on local politics. And we are working across party lines to get things done.
Here’s to the next 100 days and to the rest of the next four years! There will be some ups and downs, but Grand Island be optimistic, be hopeful, be proud of your town. There’s no place like it! Ever upward! Excelsior!
With highest regards,
-as first appeared in the Island Dispatch