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Q&A with Grand Island supervisor candidate Michael Madigan

Fri, Aug 4th 2023 08:45 am

Island Dispatch Senior Contributing Writer Karen Carr Keefe last week posed the same set of questions to the two candidates for Grand Island town supervisor: Peter Marston, running on the Conservative line; and Michael Madigan, running on the Republican line. Both candidates currently serve as councilmembers on the Town Board.

Here are Madigan’s responses, emailed to the Dispatch this week.

Madigan would manage performance issues

Dispatch: What are your best qualifications for office and why should Grand Islanders vote for you? Please highlight your most significant experience in management both in town government – and in business, also, if you like.

Madigan: In my private sector job: I am a certified project management professional (PMP), having 20-plus years of experience developing and working with high-performance teams establishing clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability for on-time and in-budget completion of projects. I have an excellent reputation for mentoring and coaching individuals, many of which have risen to management positions where I work.

Related to this, if elected I will:

•Introduce formal project management discipline for all major projects, with a goal of improving transparency, accountability and productivity.

•Maintain an active list of both internal projects and development projects with regularly scheduled status updates from department heads, including timelines, budget targets and milestone completion performance tracking.

•I will regularly update the public via status tracking using the Dispatch, Isledegrande and the town website to improve transparency.

I have 30-plus years of experience as a people manager. I have managed as many as 30 direct reports, including engineers, scientists and manufacturing staff. Currently, I observe a weakness, in that the town is not effectively managing performance issues, a gap I can immediately improve.

I have gained significant institutional knowledge as councilman. For example: One of the most important aspects of being supervisor is serving as the chief financial officer. I know where the opportunities to reduce costs exist through attrition/redeployment (not layoffs) and constraining expenses (cost reduction opportunities/projects). This will require a sustained focus throughout the coming years. Failure to be fully engaged in constraining expenses will be costly to the town and our taxpayers.

Dispatch: What is your management style? Do you feel you can bring a collaborative and cooperative approach to Town Board meetings and decisions and minimize any potential counterproductive confrontations among Town Board members?

Madigan: One of the supervisor’s key accountabilities is managing meetings following “Robert’s Rules of Order” (RROO). The past seven years, our supervisors and our board members have both failed in following RROO and maintaining decorum, and we all own that failure. Robert’s Rules allows for a passionate debate to occur between opposing sides and eliminates the destructive personal attacks we see too frequently.

Note: Opposing views should not be discouraged. You do not want your board voting 5-0 on everything. Deliberation and debate of opposing ideas often improves outcomes.

•I will apply these rules of decorum, which would likely transform both our Town Board meetings and improve relationships between our board members.

Examples of these rules include:

√ Council members do not speak until called on by chair (supervisor).

√ Council members shall refrain from attacking a person’s motives; the issue, not the member, is the subject of debate.

√ Council members address each other in more formal ways such as Mr. / Mrs. or councilman, encouraging respect for the position and title.

√ Any member can declare a point of order if Robert’s Rules are not being followed – if decorum rules are breached.

Regarding my management style, I consider myself to be a can-do manager that is optimistic and always seeking ways to leverage the entire team’s ability to hit their goals and objectives, and when challenges arise, seek innovative ways to overcome them. I am a motivational leader.

Dispatch: What do you see as Grand Island's most significant challenges you would face as supervisor in the coming four years?

Madigan: Overdevelopment is a risk and a challenge. If elected, I would appoint a supervisor’s committee that would do a deep dive into our current zoning laws and current zoning with intent to amend them where possible to mitigate risks where feasible.

•Annual budget/spending/taxes: As the chief financial officer of the town, I will be focused on constraining spending and instilling a culture townwide of fiscal responsibility. Staff increases and significant spending will require solid justification – this must be an expectation going forward. The spending spree must stop.

•Law enforcement/safety: I am concerned that lawlessness is a growing concern, primarily in the areas of traffic, car break-ins and home invasions. Additionally, domestic violence is far too high here on Grand Island. As town police commissioner, I would work with town, county and state law enforcement to understand and more closely monitor trends, and seek to focus on reductions through awareness programs and increased community policing.

Dispatch: What are the strengths that our town possesses, and how can these be maximized in upcoming town government decisions?

Madigan: This Island has a strong sense of community, and the residents, when they speak at board meetings, must be heard and their input considered as part of decisions.

We have many excellent volunteer organizations, which can help shape the future of our Island.

•Participation in organizations such as the volunteer fire department has the added benefit of giving individuals a sense of purpose.

We need to leverage town employee skills and ideas that, if fully realized, would greatly benefit our town government productivity, safety, and cost reduction-wise. Example: We outsource several projects each year at a high cost, some of which town employees would love to tackle, a win-win for the town. We need to do better at identifying these opportunities.

Dispatch: What is your opinion on the different proposed developments working their way through the approval process at this point – such as Acquest Development’s Long Road warehouse proposal, Southpointe, the former Radisson property, Rivertown, solar projects – and others.

Madigan: The Long Road warehouse – when reading M1 zoning definition – I see a law that was written before such a giant distribution center existed, and it is my opinion that this warehouse is outside of the original intent. Additionally, M1 states non-noxious and non-polluting, and this warehouse does not seem to be a fit.

•Rivertown: The plans create a town center, which we currently lack, so I support Rivertown. I recognize it is negative for a number of residents, but the location near town center is a fit with the comprehensive plan. We must work with the developer and residents to mitigate impacts to them wherever possible.

•Golfside Development rezoning request (across from Radisson): When I look at the proposed development with the proposed density, I have no interest to rezone that piece of land and would vote “No.” It is not a fit for the surrounding community.

•SouthPointe: The location is one of the greenest properties on the Island, with both wetlands and dry lands that are teaming with a wide variety of wildlife. I am less than thrilled with this project and remain hopeful it is not developed. This project is approved, but there has been little activity in the past year.

•Radisson: I support this project and I am hopeful it is fully realized as envisioned with studio and larger apartments; well-maintained grounds (unlike now); public water access for fishing from shore, walking and picnics. The alternative was likely to have the hotel sit empty.

•Solar projects: I am less than enthused by any solar project that destroys current wildlife habitat while claiming to be done to “save the environment.” There are a few locations where they may make sense. That being said, if it is permitted within the zoning for a plot of land – and provided it follows the recently amended solar law with its improved resident protections related to setbacks and screening – then I would approve such a project. I would have no basis for rejection.

 •Note: Whether solar, a development project or a B&B, if the project is either within permitted use or meets the zoning requirements, legally, the Town Board cannot easily reject a proposal without placing the town at risk for a lawsuit. This must be considered, and the risks weighed with any decision. The Town Board does have the right to reject any rezoning request without legal risk.

Dispatch: Please share any information you are comfortable with as to your family composition – marriage, kids, education, private sector employment history and interests.

Madigan: I am currently an EMT/firefighter for Grand Island Fire Department. I have been an Island resident for 37 years, employed by GIBCO/ThermoFisher (Grand Island) for 37 years. I am married to Leslie (Elias) Madigan, and we have two grown sons who went through the Grand Island schools. I have a great vegetable garden. I sail in the summer and ski in the winter. I am grateful every day I wake up on our great Island in our great country and take none of this for granted.

Dispatch: What do you think are the biggest constituent concerns on Grand Island – what are the most frequent complaints or compliments you hear from residents. If there are certain problems that are on the hit list, how do you propose to solve them?

Madigan: Overdevelopment seems to be prime concern for many residents, the associated loss of greenspace and increased traffic concerns. I will benchmark with other similar communities (especially areas such as Lewiston and the Thousand Islands) to see what they are doing to mitigate the risk of overdevelopment.

Dispatch: What is the best future you can envision for Grand Island as a town, and as a place to live, work and play? How can you contribute, during your term, to achieving that ideal future for Grand Island?

Madigan: I would like to see Grand Island as a desired place to live. I would like to capitalize on the parks and greenspaces we have, promote “green” business venues like what was envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan. I would like to maintain tree-lined streets, where possible, and promote better maintenance of all our areas, especially Grand Island Boulevard. I do not want it to be known as a place filled with deteriorating plazas, massive warehouses and solar parks.

Dispatch: Do you have any other statements you would like to make about your candidacy for supervisor?

Madigan: I am optimistic about our town’s future and our town government’s future. We can accomplish great things.

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