Opinion: Ogdensburg mayor blasts opposition, defends cuts
To the Editor:
It is sad to see former Ogdensburg City Council member David Price stoop to the level of sowing anger and hatred in the community by sending threatening texts to city officials over proposed budget cuts.I expect better of someone who is an educator and administrator at Ogdensburg City School District.
Mr. Price is part of a group of former City Council members who were voted out of office last year in overwhelming fashion. This “gang of disgruntled” also includes three current City Council members that remain on the board because they were not up for election a year ago in November.
As I and other city officials continue trying to make budget cuts to stop the municipality from going into bankruptcy, Mr. Price and the others are intent on making it seem that our proposed budget cuts are shortsighted and reckless.
The fact of the matter is, that $1 million dollars in cuts by the current City Council have already been made over the past one year, and additional cuts are pending because Mr. Price and others on the previous board helped mire the city in almost insurmountable debt.
The previous Ogdensburg City Council of Wayne Ashley, David Price, Jennifer Stevenson, Tim Davis, Dan Skamperle, Nichole Kennedy and Mike Powers were hand in hand when they signed 5, 6 and 7 year contracts with municipal departments like the fire department – when they knew the city was headed off a financial cliff. They also ballooned the city’s wastewater treatment project to create more costs than the city can absorb. They did so at a time when they should have been well aware that bankruptcy was looming.
At a recent budget hearing Councilor Powers casually dismissed a recent letter from the New York State Comptroller warning that Ogdensburg was ever closer to reaching its limit on raising taxes. Instead of being alarmed, Mr. Powers simply said the report was “nothing new” because the city receives such warnings “every year.”
His statement and the antics of former board member Price are perfect examples of an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand.
The truth is, it is not typical for small cities to receive such a dire warning from the state. Ogdensburg is just one of 10 New York State cities to receive such a letter from state officials this year.
The cuts to the fire department and department restructurings being advocated by myself and other current City Council members are aimed at digging the city out of a financial hole that others have dug for the years and decades before we took office.
The cuts, along with a noticeable reduction in real property taxes, will help us balance the books and reinvest in our community. The course our council and budget team is charting now will allow us to reinvest in our crumbling buildings and infrastructure and hopefully give taxpayers a leg up so that they too can make their parts of the city better, cleaner, brighter.
Mr. Price and his ilk want people to be angry, to boycott businesses that are the lifeblood of our community and capitalist system, and he wants you to do so while he sits comfortably behind a taxpayer desk at the city school.
I and others on this current City Council did not come into office to tear things down like Mr. Price. We are here to lift things up and to help the city become the proud St. Lawrence County jewel it once was.
The cuts we are proposing now will be difficult, but they are needed. All we are doing is trying to clean up the financial mess that Mr. Price and other former council members left for the taxpayers they were supposed to look out for.
Jeffrey M. Skelly
Mayor of Ogdensburg