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Erie Elections Q&A: Joe Wilson, mayoral candidate


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Name: Joe Wilson

Relevant leadership or community experience:

Choice Hotels International, franchise owners group vice president. Director and past president of Vista Ridge homeowners association. Multi-location business operator and employer.

What are the three top issues for Erie in the coming years? What will be your plan for fixing/solving/dealing with those issues?

1) Budget deficit – Both distinct challenges and terrific opportunities await Erie’s future. For the first time in memory, the town of Erie will outspend its projected income, and do so by a hefty $1.3 million dollars. The published 2010 numbers are: $12.3m in projected revenue and $13.6m in expenses. Average citizens call this a budget deficit, and a net operating loss. So do I.

In his recent state of the town speech, the mayor forecast that we can suffer these Budget losses for up to 6 years before exhausting the $7.6m reserves in our “rainy day fund”. This situation, (taking reserves to cover losses), is being defended by some as a “balanced “Budget. In reality, balanced budgets can be sustained indefinitely, this situation cannot.
I have an optimistic alternative; let’s balance the budget now, (spend less than we take in), since we’ll be forced to eventually, anyway. In so doing, we’ll save what’s left of our cash reserves, allowing them to be used for shaping and investing in a positive future for our town.

We did this in the Community where I live, eliminating $200k in unnecessary and inefficient expenses from a $1 million budget, while maintaining or improving virtually all services. Those of us in the private sector operate like this in our private and business lives every day, government can too.

Here’s a ‘win-win’ proposal that can have our budget running a surplus by the end of the year; the “Erie efficiency incentive” will allow town employees and citizens both to profit while managing our costs down. Participants recommend methods to a) increase efficiency. b) Eliminate waste. c) Invest in future efficiencies that will cut costs in the near and long term. If their Ideas are chosen and employed, the participant will receive 10% of the savings realized for up to 3 budget years. Example; A town employee’s suggestion results in $100,000 savings a year in operations, she receives a check for $10,000 each of the first 3 years the idea is applied, ($30k total), the townsfolk save $270,000 net. Such incentives are very effective in the private sector and could work wonders in government.

2) Economic development
-A) Find and model strategies from similar communities that have proven successful in the past. Concentrate on bringing in employers, businesses and retailers to the already developed and approved sites in town, requiring no further public spending for roads or infrastructure.

B) Establish and secure the remaining prime intersections and parcels on our perimeters before they, too, are absorbed by surrounding cities to become revenue streams for their projects and residents.

C) Develop a long-term advertising and outreach strategy to develop Erie’s reputation as a welcoming partner to the types of employers and businesses we want to attract. Let the business community know about the fantastic quality of life, strategic location, recreational opportunities and great schools that are available in our town.

3) Community unity and involvement.- most other candidates agree; -Community unity and a involvement in affairs of the town can and should be a focus in the future. We must ignore those who seek to pit neighborhoods and citizens against each other, – It’s not productive.

As our forefathers envisioned it, the more public input we have in government, the better it will serve them. Here’s another proposal to help our town government to be more responsive to its citizens needs; the ‘E-trustee’ program would allow citizens who volunteer for the program to receive some of the same information and proposals that the board of trustees get in advance of town meetings, and do so in the comfort of their homes via e-mail. Participants would be asked to respond to an online survey to be used by elected officials to better serve the public in the town boardroom. I suggest a goal of 500-1000 citizens who would agree to participate, giving us 10 – 100 times more citizen input than at present. We have the technology, let’s use it.

What does future successful economic development look like in Erie? What is the board’s role in making that happen?

A sustainable economy, with local employment and tax revenue to lessen the load of citizens is the goal.

The Board will either gear up for the long haul of seeking regional Clean, tech and green jobs players by being more competitive than our neighbors, (see 2-c above), or continue to be reactive and let life be handed them by surrounding cities.

What role should the town take in supporting and attracting business downtown? Do you believe the board should do more to support the business of Old Town area? If so, what?

1. Be a never ending cheerleader and fan of the historic center of Erie.

2. Keep promises made by previous boards

3. Be flexible on building standards in the old town business area so new tenants don’t have excessive rebuild situations that penalize them to move in.

4. Come to decide that old town has a unique charm and markets well to Street fairs,
Artisans, galleries, farmers markets etc, and that it needs to issue fast inexpensive permits
to promote such events specifically.

4. Clean up the Park and define it’s edges.

5. Have regular meetings with the old town business community to promote ideas and
Events.

What actions —if any—should the board take to make the town a stronger regional player?

Seek a position as a clean energy center, parlaying our location in the most productive natural gas county in the world! Let’s go.

Once that’s established let’s seek and offer sensible ‘no negative’ incentives to green jobs industries distributors and manufacturers who seek our quality of life, education standards and higher quality work force.

As far as the airport is concerned, what is your stance on the skirmish and how the board has handled making changes there? What are future steps the board needs to take?

Currently under advisement of the court. It would be inappropriate to speculate as such.
It will clearly be set on it’s path after the case is decided, anyway.

Give me your philosophy on growth in Erie? In your vision, what does future growth look like and how is it managed?

Not too controversial. Erie is already set to grow with neighborhoods at its center and commerce at the periphery, -the ideal situation.
Erie should be aggressive in attracting and securing the kinds of jobs and business partners that we determine are good for our town. Also see 2-B above.

What action—if any—would you like to see the town take on waste collection or recycling?

None. Stay free market and encourage people to make the right choices.

What’s your stance on the Bonanza Drive connection?

It’s a shame the town saw fit to offer an initiative with no costs, engineering or design, while voting to keep public comment out of the process.

Once you are elected, how will you stay in tune with the ideas, issues, concerns and questions of your constituents?

Constantly seek knowledge from the media internet and Yellow Scene especially, to stay out front, learning and on the cutting edge, baby!


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email no info send march17th/09

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