EDITORIAL: Mayoral priorities out of whack in Lockport

Mar. 15—John Lombardi III's mayoralty is off to a rough start in Lockport. Consider what the city's new chief executive has gotten behind, or been out front on, since he took office Jan. 1.

He backed significant pay raises for all three new city attorneys, all his appointees and one, Corporation Counsel David Blackley, a supporter, friend and past chair of the city Republican committee. Once the raises were secured, Lombardi tried to claim these salary adjustments weren't "raises," they were a case of him making good on his word to Blackley and his hand-picked deputies, who supposedly wouldn't agree to work part-time for the city for less. Nevermind what was clearly spelled out in the Common Council-approved 2024 city budget. Nevermind that it's not a mayor-elect's place to make such promises.

And then there's the spectacle of Lombardi's pick for Common Council president, Republican 1st Ward Alderman Kitty Fogle, openly nursing grudges with the prior Democratic regime.

Her "abstain" notwithstanding, Fogle was on the losing end of the prior council's split vote, in December 2022, to reestablish ambulance transport service by Lockport Fire Department. So sore a loser she was, she sued the city for a re-vote on the question. The answer didn't change.

That bit of history makes Fogle's newly revealed mid-February private meeting with associates including former alderman Kristin Barnard (who quit not long after the ambulance vote that didn't go her way either), to attempt a comparison of the expenses and revenue of LFD's ambulance service versus a 2022 projection by prospective private-sector alternative Mercy EMS, eyebrow-raising at least. If those heads put together were trying to build a case for "told ya so," one has to wonder, to what end?

It's adage that to the victor goes the spoils, so there's nothing surprising about a newly installed mayor tapping "his" people to fill key posts like corporation counsel and Common Council president.

But it is also generally true that elections are mandates, which begs a question: Are petty partisanship and score settling the things city voters wanted more of when a slim majority chose Lombardi to take the reins at city hall? Doubtful.

When he's not doing GOP foot soldier duty by rewarding friends and punishing ... enemies? ... Lombardi, like any new executive, appears to be on the lookout for tenure-defining opportunities. Two suggestions coming from him the past few weeks are: tearing up Main Street for extra parking spaces, and establishing a Neighborhood Watch-plus for the central business district.

We would love to say there are no bad ideas, only ones in need of refinement, but when it comes to the mayor's "watchmen" pitch, that's just not true. Imagine 30 to 40 volunteers, "extra eyes and ears" for Lockport Police Department, armed with city-supplied radios — and their own handguns, if they have valid concealed-carry permits — on a mission to shield good citizens from the bums and other loiterers at downtown shops, and in "problem" areas of residential neighborhoods.

The lack of focus in the new city executive's office is disappointing. While enjoying the spoils, Lombardi seems to be ignoring some important, unfinished city business. The work of two citizen panels summoned by his predecessor, to recommend a revised Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinance, still hasn't been carried to the Common Council for up-or-down votes. There's a staffing problem in the streets and parks division that showed itself during the last significant snowfall, and will show itself again during right-around-the-corner street patching-and-paving season if it's not addressed.

Though it's early in his mayoralty, now is not too soon for Lombardi to recalibrate, reorder his priorities, remember what he was elected to do. He should get his council president on the same page while he's at it.