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Niagara Falls
Monday, March 20, 2023
Mayor supporting council candidates is ‘partisan, divisive,’ opponent says
The collection of signs on incumbent Lord Mayor Betty Disero's lawn is growing. Kevin MacLean

Goettler says he wants to ‘build a team’ and end infighting

By publicly supporting and backing certain candidates for council, the incumbent lord mayor is being “divisive” and bringing a form of “partisan politics” to the race, one of her opponents says.

Vaughn Goettler says the message he takes from Lord Mayor Betty Disero showing whom she supports is that the mayor “is not looking to heal the problems we had in the past council.”

One councillor, Stuart McCormack, quit part way through his first term, three others chose not to run and “infighting” was a problem among members of council over the past four years, Goettler said in an interview.

A story in The Lake Report last week highlighted the fact Disero has erected several signs outside her home for council candidates whom she is supporting.

Two incumbent councillors are among them, but others seeking re-election are not.

Disero did not announce or promote her support for the candidates whose signs she put up. A reporter noticed the signs and asked her about them.

“I just think it’s important for me to show support” for candidates whose platforms and ideas she thinks will benefit the town, Disero said. She did the same during the 2018 campaign.

Goettler, a retired business owner running for mayor for the first time, said it is wrong for Disero to single out certain candidates.

“I think that it furthers the divisiveness that is already existing. Because if the constituents want to elect Candidate A, it’s not for me to say that candidate is somebody who I’m going to support or not support,” he said.

“My job is to work with that candidate and all the candidates equally to build a team.”

“I’m not a consummate politician here,” he added, but municipal politics isn’t like provincial or federal politics, where people align themselves with a candidate and a party.

“I don’t care if a councillor is Liberal, NDP, Conservative or anything else. My goal is to build a council that gets things done” and avoids infighting.

As well, “if I’m one of the people on the out because I wasn’t mentioned, the first thing that says to me is if the current lord mayor is re-elected, we’re not going to work together because number one, she clearly doesn’t support me or my thinking,” he said.

“And so, how do you heal and move forward?”

As the mayor, “I just think there should be a higher standard. I want to work with anybody who is successful in running.”

Disero’s other opponent, regional Coun. Gary Zalepa, said he won’t be endorsing any council candidates.

“I believe the decision to select council members is best left to our residents,” he told The Lake Report.

“Municipal councils work best when various opinions engage with the focus on making the best decision for the community. My entire focus for running is to re-establish the role of the mayor as the team leader for council and you weaken the ability to accomplish that by leaving people off a ‘chosen’ roster.”

Zalepa said the candidates Disero is supporting “are all good people with good ideas. The candidates that have not been identified are also good people with good ideas.”

If elected, Zalepa said he wants “to bring the council together via a strategic plan with clear goals and activities. Creating decisions beforehand is problematic.”

On a different note, Goettler said whether he wins or not, he wants the town to establish a sort of “independent watchdog” who would monitor what the mayor and council said they would do and report back on “how they’re progressing toward that.”

“Because, right now, things fall into black holes and years go by. I think a watchdog is important and would also improve information flow and transparency.”

He emphasized council members need to work together.

“To me, teamwork is extraordinarily important and it will improve cost control and improve time to get things done a lot quicker. And eliminate the discord that exists.”

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