By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Niagara Falls City Council candidates had an opportunity to promote their platforms at a community forum held Monday night.
Seven candidates for three council seats up for grabs this fall answered questions from a panel of community members in the Rapids Theatre.
Candidates were asked questions on a variety of topics ranging from investment in downtown to attracting new businesses to the funding of cultural programs.
With all three incumbents — Sam Fruscione, Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker — running for reelection as Democrats and challenger Andrew Touma also seeking a Democratic nomination, a primary will be held on Sept. 10 to determine the three candidates to run in the general election on the Democratic line.
They will be joined by challengers Robert Elder, Vincent Sandonato and Russell Vesci in the general election this November with all three securing Republican lines.
Attracting people — middle-class families, businesses, developers, tourists — to the Cataract City was a theme that ran through many of the questions.
Answers revolved around creating things for people to do, controlling taxes and addressing public safety issues.
Fruscione said that council members can help attract businesses and residents by keeping taxes down and making city government efficient.
"We need to hold the line on taxes and make sure that the perception, the cleanliness of the city is visible from all angles throughout the entire city," he said.
Grandinetti said the city needs to keep working with the state to continue development downtown in an effort to attract young, college-educated people seeking an urban lifestyle.
"I think what we need to do is to focus on what we can do to attract young professionals," she said.
Walker said the city should continue to build partnerships with community organizations, colleges and other groups to work toward making the city a more attractive place to live and visit.
"I think it's important that we not think we know it all," he said.
Elder said he would like to see more events for residents and tourists to help bring people together, suggesting that the city should have a multi-cultural festival.
"Me personally, I would like to see more cultural events," he said.
Touma said the council has not done enough to promote cultural institutions in the city which bring people in to visit and to live.
"When it comes to culture and entertainment we don't listen," he said. "People are reaching out and they want culture and they want entertainment, but we dismiss it. Because it's not important to some people it's not important t the whole and that's a mistake."
Sandonato said he would like to see USA Niagara Development Corp., the state's economic development office in the Falls, expand its development area to include the entire city instead of just downtown as it does now, a point he repeated several times throughout the night.
"If we give USA Niagara the opportunity to expand to the entire city of Niagara Falls the job growth and job invention would not only entail tourism, but it would also include long, sustained 12-month industry," he said.
Vesci said the city should be trying to lure technology companies and their high-paying jobs to Niagara Falls.
"I feel that we should be pursuing technology jobs far more aggressively," he said.
Look for more on the candidates forum in Wednesday's Gazette.Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257