By Claudia Marasco
Greetings, if we have not yet met – I am Claudia Marasco and I am running for mayor of the Village of Lewiston. A main purpose in my life is dedication to public service. My political alignment has always been common sense, straight up the middle, moderate, bipartisan, ethical leadership.
Many of us are already acquainted. From my time learning, teaching and supporting our children in local schools, or through my time serving the village as part of the Planning Commission, trustee and a deputy mayor, our paths may have connected.
We may have met while I tended to our International Peace Garden or while I was on one of my daily walks. Many of us have worked together on campaigns to support local law enforcement and honor our veterans, or during Artpark’s Tuesday evening concerts, where we have spent time together collecting food and cash donations for those in need with partnership and teamwork assisting wonderful organizations such as Heart, Love & Soul and Community Missions, since 2009.
It's been my honor to have worked alongside of so many of you to help to make our village the special place that it is. Through the conversations I have had with so many of you over the last several years, two things are abundantly clear:
•We know our community is unique, and worth protecting and preserving.
In 2017, the “Invest in the Vest” fundraiser secured $30,000 for 24 anti-assault weapon vests for our Lewiston Police Department. They are prepared to go into any hostile situation quickly without hesitation. My neighbor, Arlene, and I received VOL “Citizen of the Year Award” for this effort.
•There are some things that really need to change.
That’s why I am asking you to vote for me on June 21.
With your support, as mayor I will continue to care for, share and preserve our time-honored traditions while dedicating myself to making real progress.
I must be clear when I say progress – I don’t mean more big, empty buildings lacking adequate parking, placed with odd and insufficient layouts or oversized neon signage.
Contrary to what our current Mayor Welch may have you believe, construction itself is not progress.
Progress is putting an end to the practice of not including all of our community being valued, respected, or heard. It means making space for everyone and making decisions together – giving taxpaying residents choices and welcoming them to be part of the decision-making process on projects and finances.
Many of you have shared with me your frustration after visiting the Red Brick Municipal Building to conduct business. You’ve paid bills, sought permits, asked for information, attempted to share concerns and attended board meetings. Many of you, as well as staff and elected officials, have experienced or witnessed eyerolling, raised voices, finger pointing, table slamming, swearing and the like. At times, you have been over talked, interrupted, embarrassed, disrespected and dismissed by Mayor Welch and Deputy Mayor Eydt.
You have told me that, on many occasions you felt belittled, bullied, harassed, ignored and angered or hurt by this. This manipulative shaming and guilt-driven behavior needs to stop. Efforts to revise the employee and elected official’s handbook (referring to proper ethics and workplace behavior) is still not updated and incomplete after one year of request for review. As the result, consequences do not exist for poor and unwanted behaviors.
Progress isn’t closed-door favoritism or secrecy. It’s transparency. Should you raise questions and concerns that are not favored, you will receive little action or change, further eroding public trust.
Progress isn’t constructing new buildings or redoing old ones; it’s building a table we can ALL sit at. Not just those from well-established, generations-old families – but ALL of us. Have you personally been involved in or invited to any public projects design, from the waterfront all the way up to Eighth and Center Street?
Whether you have lived in Lewiston 30 minutes or 30 years, as a resident you are equally important to me.
Progress is understanding that you do want amenities, but you don’t want Center Street to look like Transit Road.
It’s hearing you when you say that you want to save the Frontier House and you want to support Historical Association Lewiston and the Lewiston Museum – but you also want to have the choice to pay your water bills online and would like to be able to get updates via social media.
It means welcoming new families, businesses and festivals, but still wanting to be able to find parking when you run to the store to get something you need.
My team has pulled together information as we listened to you on our present “walking candidate’s tour of the village.” It has broadened our outlook and future planning. We are focused on what is important to you and how to make a difference as we offer alternative solutions.
I hear your calls for progress when you say that you want to be welcomed, heard and included. And you want a say in how taxpayer dollars are being spent. Electing me as your mayor means that, together, we can explore and consider the many ideas that you have for things like:
√ Receiving better quality municipal services
√ Creating a more comprehensive recycling program
√ Increasing support and collaboration with others such as the Lewiston Police Department, Chamber of Commerce, Lewiston Town Board, VFW, Lewiston Business Group, Kiwanis, and Artisan Market.
√ Setting affordable tax rates and fees for services
√ Abandoned homes with no water, electric, gas and leaking roofs
√ Updating residential infrastructure – fix broken sidewalks, potholes, and not waiting years to have your street resurfaced, and ignored when asked
√ Finding ways to make the village safer and more walkable for families
√ Solving water, sewer and drainage concerns that are on village-owned property, damaging your private property
√ Using communication methods that work well for all residents
√ Addressing aggressive driving and traffic concerns, especially near the playgrounds
√ Lack of public restrooms; and yet the remodeling of Academy Park (by Tops) restrooms remains unfinished, even though a $50,000 grant was secured by Assemblyman Angelo Morinello three years ago
√ The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce building (owned by the village) exterior porch and ceiling was collapsing due to water and ice damage for a very long time – staining and peeling paint on our welcome center is not a good look for visitors.
√ Senior residents and residents with physical disabilities unable to get out of their shoveled driveways after big snow storms; Center Street walkability – tough going
√ Unfinished projects: Frontier House, Eighth Street plaza (two tenants), waterfront, old “Bloody Bucket” center, 444 Center St. project, playground, and unopened art gallery – response during four years was, “We are working on it,” without specific details
Yes, we are aware we had a year pause because of the pandemic. Think about the BBC and Brickyard massive fire and how owners and volunteers worked through it that same year and got it up and running. Local developers Casale, Hibbard and Fiore worked hard, as well, on Center Street during the pandemic. We thank them all.
Deserving praise goes to our Lewiston Fire Co. No. 1 and other local firefighters that worked to save Center Street from collapse. The VOL was made aware we had inadequate water-sized lines, pipes and flow. We could no longer slow-walk the work needed to be done. Thanks to retired Chief Les Myers for coordinating a plan and team to upgrade our safety and water needs.
You may know my opponent in this election has worked in the village clerk’s office for an impressive amount of time, well over 30 years. Along with her deputy mayor, they have a combined 68 years of working for the Village of Lewiston – and it is appreciated. We thank them for their time and public service. But the time has come for us to turn the page and start a new chapter about the vision of Lewiston’s future.
We can no longer allow the same small few to be a voice for the many. These same two individuals have grown comfortable and complacent and have left little room for new board members to participate. They’ve become gatekeepers and are preventing a full board of five elected officials from working for you. The village shouldn’t be managed by two people without checks and balances. How long you have lived in the village doesn’t determine your seniority in the decision-making. This concept is obsolete.
Recently, a resident described this to me as a “power and control governance,” outdated, elitist and frustrating.
While there are many great, longtime, multigenerational residents and families here, we also have a wealth of young, energized new residents who deserve the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of our village.
Together, we can preserve and protect the charm and whimsy of our village while taking steps to make it a place where modern-day families can thrive. We can ensure that Lewiston honors its charm and history – but still meets the changing needs of modern life today.
If you want your voice to be heard, on Election Day, in policy and decision-making, then please come to the Red Brick Municipal Building at 145 N. Fourth St. gym on June 21, from noon to 9 p.m., and cast your vote for me along with trustee candidates Tina Coppins (construction skill set) and Savana Bevacqua (urban planner). We ask you to take the time to vote and allow us to reinstate the collaborative nature of a Village Board, and allow us to truly serve YOU as a full working board who is ethical, accountable and inclusive.
My tradition of donating my salary I receive to local causes and organizations will continue. This allows me the opportunity to not be “beholden to anyone” that doesn’t have the best interests of the village in mind.
Please mark your calendars as most village elections are won or lost by less than 20 votes. Your willingness to vote will directly determine the future direction of our village. We can do this together. I thank you.