Mark Houghton, chairman of the North Tonawanda Democratic Party, has announced that he’s throwing his hat in the ring in the race for the Niagara County Legislature's Seventh District seat.
Houghton, a life-long Western New Yorker and North Tonawanda resident of about 30 years, said he’s running for county office because he has concerns about the way the Republican-led majority in the legislature has been doing business.
He mentioned the ongoing controversy involving the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp., including the legislature majority's decision to reject a resolution to request an audit of the organization. He said he also disagrees with the majority's decision to vote to increase salaries for legislators.
“If elected, I will give (the amount of the pay increase) back to the community in the form of a donation to a local charity,” Houghton said.
Houghton also said he’d like to “be available to all citizens” and not only work within his own party. He said he would resign from his position as chairman for the NT Democratic Committee if his campaign is successful.
In addition to wanting to address issues within the current legislature, Houghton also voiced concerns about the economic conditions of the county. In North Tonawanda, he said more could be done to boost the city’s business district along the Oliver Street corridor and parts of the waterfront, which don't receive the same amount of focus as the city's successful downtown district, he believes.
Houghton said he wants to bring more business into the area, particularly to underutilized sites along the Niagara River and in the Buffalo Bolt industrial park on Oliver Street. However, he feels the county should be more cautious about awarding incentives to incoming businesses to make sure the jobs they generate are worth the investment.
"We're paying way too much for jobs," he said. "There's no rhyme or reason to it. Why should we pay for a job when the company will leave in 10 years (when their tax break ends)? We're just throwing money away. We have to have a much more targeted approach where the jobs are good, good-paying jobs and jobs that are reflective of companies that want to stay."
When it comes to providing financial support to businesses, Houghton suggested limiting Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements to five years, as opposed to the 10- or 15-year agreements that are typical today.
Houghton is a nearly 10-year employee of the New York State Power Authority, where he works as a warehouse journeyman and serves as the union steward for IBEW 2104. He has a bachelor's degree in labor relations with a minor in marketing from the University at Buffalo.
He lives in North Tonawanda's first ward and is the father of seven children - two sons and five daughters. Houghton is a member of the Franklinville Conservation Club, the LaSalle Sportsmen's Club, the Third Warders Club, Dom Polski Club, and he's also a board member at the Ukrainian American Civil Center in Buffalo. He was previously involved in the North Tonawanda City Market, the city's cable commission and its historical preservation committee.
Houghton is running with endorsement from the Democratic and Working Families parties and hopes to win several minor party lines during the coming months.