BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Mark Poloncarz and Lynne Dixon debated topics ranging from property taxes to the condition of Erie County’s roads in a debate that became testy at times.
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Poloncarz, the incumbent County Executive and a Democrat, insisted he has held the line on property taxes.
“We’ve worked very hard in my administration to reduce taxes,” said Poloncarz. “Taxes have gone up in this region, especially as it pertains to school taxes, village taxes and town taxes. I’m proud to say we’ve reduced the tax rate, unlike my predecessor, who actually increased the tax rate, never decreased it.”
When pressed, Poloncarz said it was the tax rate that remained steady. Dixon responded by saying property taxes went up 24 percent.
“Your taxes have gone up, my taxes have gone up. You put a spending together, I’m one of 11,” said Dixon, referring to her seat on the county legislature. Dixon identifies as an Independent and caucuses with Republicans there.
The next question was about the Buffalo Bills. Poloncarz figured into prior lease negotiations with the NFL franchise, and of that, Dixon said he used his behind-the-scenes perspective to write a book for personal profit.
Poloncarz said attaining the lease in 2013 was difficult, and critical to keeping the Bills in Buffalo, with a relocation fee that he says scared away other potential bidders but not the Pegula family.
Poloncarz was pressed on using county roads as “bargaining chips”, which his opponents have accused him of. He denied holding back millions designated for roads in the past so he could spend more on them during his election year.
When asked overall why she hasn’t done more from her legislator seat, Dixon took the question as being about roads and focused on that.
Dixon said she is opposed to the fee, saying in New York state you are “taxed and fee’d to death.” Poloncarz said that any such proposed fee was dead, and when the statewide plastic bag ban goes into effect in March 2020, he recommended reusable bags.
Perhaps the most charged topic was the next one.
Mr. Poloncarz, one of your commissioners, Al Dirschberger, was found guilty of rape. An independent report found there was evidence of questionable behavior but was unclear about whether anyone in management knew about it. The question is, what avenues are available to county employees to feel safe on the job and be able to comfortably report harassment and abuse?News 4’s Dave Greber to Mark Poloncarz
“What Mr. Dirschberger did was horrible. He ruined that woman’s life,” Poloncarz said emphatically, saying his administration wants everyone to report sexual harassment.
When asked if an adequate plan was in place, Poloncarz says his administration did have policies in place, including a no fraternization policy, and an independent law firm determined his administration was clear.
When asked if she believes there are enough safeguards in place for employees to feel safe in the workplace, Dixon says she has pushed for stronger policies for incidents of sexual harassment.
“I have two daughters and if something happened to one of them it would so anger and upset me,” Dixon said.
The most animated exchange came toward the end of the debate, as both candidates alleged their opponent’s campaign used Photoshop in commercials to try and get a certain message across.
News 4 Buffalo partnered with the Amherst Regional Chamber of Commerce to host the debate at Burchfield Penney Art Center.
After the show, leaders of rival political parties, now-state Republican Chair Nick Langworthy and Erie County Democratic Party Chair Jeremy Zellner, sparred about taxes and development under Mark Poloncarz.
Election Day is Nov. 5.