Councilors weigh in on the state of the city
SLATED TO BE REPLACED? — A 1996 Mack snow plow aches with a rotted box. The Department of Public Works truck is a candidate for replacement, according to Mayor Joe Fusco. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)
CARING FOR THE CITY — In his State of the City message, Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr. proposed that local groups organize to care for beautification areas in the city. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)
IN REMEMBRANCE — Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr. proposed renaming the former National Guard Armory on Black River Blvd, soon to be acquired by the city, in honor of former councilor and community leader, Tony Darcangelo. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)
Here’s what members of the Common Council had to say about Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr.’s first State of the City address presented Wednesday:
¿ First Ward Republican John M. Sparace. He called the speech "one of the better state of the city addresses I’ve heard in a while," especially the "upbeat" tone. Sparace pointed to the focuses on consolidation, efficiency and its relation to the budget process and the fiscally conservative plan, especially refinancing existing project costs. He said he wants the city to continue to seek grants for economic development, complimenting the efforts of the Diane Shoemaker and Christian Mercurio in the Department of Community and Economic Development as "a vital part" of the process. "We’re a model city for getting grants," he noted.
¿ Second Ward Republican John B. Mortise declined to comment on the content of the mayor’s speech.
¿ Third Ward Republican Kimberly A. Rogers. "Overall I thought the address was positive with a focus on savings and community involvement. I was encouraged by the Mayor’s commitment to utilizing the Public Nuisance Law as I have one property waiting for a public nuisance hearing to be scheduled and another to come shortly. I look forward to moving these forward as soon as possible so that the neighboring residents can get back to enjoying the quality of life they deserve." Rogers said he was happy to see that the Rome Main Streets Alliance given the Shirley B. Waters Civic Award. "This group of volunteers has done an amazing job in promoting downtown development and revitalization and I think the honor was long overdue." One thing was lacking from the speech though, she said. "As the representative of an area that is in need of City water I did notice the absence of any mention of the efforts to extend water to West Rome. There was a commitment during the campaign to start running water lines in the City and to utilize City staff to reduce the associated costs. I plan to meet with the administration to ensure that we are still moving ahead with those plans."
¿ Fourth Ward Democrat Ramona L. Smith called it "a positive view" focusing on fiscal conservatism. She also praised the recognition of the Main Streets Alliance — "one of the most productive volunteer groups in the city" that is resurrecting James Street and putting properties back on the tax roll. What she said she didn’t hear was "more specific figures on the city’s  budget — what money is going where." Also, a time line a for water line expansion into places like west Rome. "These people feel disenfranchised because they think we’re ignoring them, but we’re not. But I want to be able to tell them specifics." She said Fusco should also have expanded on the efforts of the Department of Community and Economic Development to illustrate to taxpayers how it obtains vast amounts of grant funding to push economic development in ways such as site cleanup and preparation — projects being done without city money.
¿ Fifth Ward Republican Frank R. Anderson. Though "several months overdue," he noted, the speech "was a positive presentation." What he said he most wanted to hear but didn’t was what the mayor’s administration "specifically hopes to accomplish for the future." The address, he said, should be a progress report of what’s been accomplished, an update on projects being worked on and a statement of goals for the future. Many important projects that the city is working on were not touched on, he said. "I would have liked to have seen more explanation about the exciting work that is being done by the Community & Economic Development Department, as well as other city departments assisting such as (Public Works), in terms of projects such as harborfront development." At the same time, he said, as Finance Committee chair, he was pleased the mayor spent so much time on fiscal conservatism. "The Mayor’s challenge to the employee to try and find ways that the City can run more efficiently and achieve cost savings is a step in the right direction." He said he also liked Fusco’s update on the upgrades coming for the water system, upgrades that are "going to be very important for the future." The address, he said, "was a good scorecard, but we need to get more done within our means for the City of Rome."
¿ Sixth Ward Republican John A. Nash: "I was pleased with the upbeat and positive tone of the speech in spite of the difficult times we are in." Nash, a self-described fiscal conservative, said it is important that Fusco "recognizes the budgetary constraints that he must work under and appears to be working toward reducing costs wherever possible." Nash praised the recognition of both city employees and volunteers as empowered participants necessary for the city to move forward. He also said he wants more information on "a long term plan to supply areas in the outside district with city water. This is an issue that I will continue to pursue in the coming months as it is a vitally important part of the quality of life for those residents."
¿ Seventh Ward Democrat Louis J. DiMarco Jr.: "It’s a new administration and a new perspective. The key for us to be a success, we have to work together." He said the true measure of whether Fusco’s administration — now in its first year — is having success is when he proposes his own budget in the fall. Fusco has been working with a $41.2 million spending plan for this year crafted under previous Mayor James F. Brown. DiMarco said he expects Fusco to leave public safety costs alone while consolidating in other areas. The biggest challenge, he said, is enhancing revenue more so than cutting costs. The logical area, he said, is selling water. "We have to," he said when asked if Rome should be selling water to other communities to generate more money. While cuts are "little successes" and "a great start," he said, the city must ask: "how can we jump the city up a notch?"