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Ogdensburg council candidates near campaign’s end

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OGDENSBURG - The campaign is nearing an end for the five candidates for three seats on the Ogdensburg City Council and it has been an informed one for incumbents Michael D. Morley and Daniel E. Skamperle and challengers M. Penny Sharrow, James R. Amo and Brian R. Mitchell.

“It has been going well,” said Mr. Amo, a Republican. “I have been going door to door and speaking to many citizens, listening to their concerns and discussing them.”

There is no shortage of issues.

“The first concern is people’s inability to build or rebuild on a vacant lot and/or their house without a huge roadblock put up by the code department,” Mr. Amo said. “I discussed with the citizens my ideas that could potentially turn into a solution. If elected, I would like to update the code and zoning laws to today’s standards. Before urban renewal, Ogdensburg was a booming industrious city and was constantly building and expanding. Presently, we don’t have the industry and businesses to support the standards of yesteryear.”

Want To Know Party candidate Sharrow has been listening, too.

“I have heard a number of concerns, opinions expressed,” she said. “Taxes and what do we actually get for them. The waterfront needs to continue to be a priority, but there needs to be some vision for the rest of the city also to complement the waterfront development.”

“Jobs are always a concern,” said Mr. Morley, seeking his fourth term. “Taxes also and worry over the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center’s future and the impact on the community is the most pressing right now, though. New shopping opportunities are a concern as stores open and stores close.”

Mr. Mitchell, a Republican, has also heard plenty.

“In talking with the taxpayers, I see many similarities in issues we believe need attention,” he said. “I get a lot of the same responses, crime and drugs. I believe we need to offer more support to the police department and to continue to clean up the city of its crime and drug problem. I currently have two of my own children and our family’s goal is to make parks a safe place for our children to play and to be confident that they will be able to walk safely home from school. I agree with the citizens of Ogdensburg that the drug and crime problem is a big issue and that it is time to step up and do something more about it before it gets to be an even bigger problem.”

Mr. Skamperle, a Democrat and a Conservative, is seeking a second term.

“The top issues I’m hearing about facing Ogdensburg are the potential closing of the psychiatric center, job creation, waterfront redevelopment, a high tax rate with a decreasing tax base, increasing crime and an increasingly failing housing stock.” he said.

“I believe they all have deep roots in many policies created by Washington and Albany that have negatively affected not only Ogdensburg but many cities and towns across the state and nation. All are interrelated and the analogy I’ve used in the past is pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.”

Not surprisingly, the candidates’ take on the mood of the electorate is as varied as varied as their issues of concern.

“If there was a word to describe the voters’ mood, it’s one of frustration as to where the city is going in the near future and how do we save our city,” Ms. Sharrow said.

“I don’t see any one mood as the general consensus,” Mr. Morley said. “I know there is worry about the psychiatric center. I think there is hope of new opportunities as the riverfront is cleaned up and developed. People realize that things don’t happen overnight. The Diamond International/Standard Shade Roller property has been a project since knocking the old plant down in 2001. Now, almost 13 years later, we are just beginning to see the fruit of possible development. It takes time to do things right.”

“I think the public is well aware of who is running and the background of each candidate,” Mr, Mitchell said. “Many people have voiced that they believe it is time for action and that we need fresh ideas brought to our city. Citizens are looking for changes as they are tired of the high taxes and the lack of job opportunities.”

Mr. Amo, however, sees Tuesday’s election as a red flag.

“The general mood is that they are sick of the same old ‘yes people’ in council and they want a big change,” he said. “They are looking for people who are going to question things and not just say ‘aye’ to everything brought to the table, and I am the person who will do that. I will not sit idly by without transparently questioning things I feel need to be. I will bring the voter’s concerns to the council and not just take it in without doing anything about it. They feel like they have brought their concerns to certain councilors and those concerns were never brought up or addressed.”

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