By EAST AURORA EDITOR (9/8/2008 7:00:48 AM)
Crook campaigns on open government and building bridges
When East Aurora Mayor Clark Crook was running for office back in March, he didn't make a ton of "campaign promises". However he did have one recurring theme throughout his campaign. That is to try and build bridges within the community through information and compromise.
Off of the couch and into the fire
It didn't take long to test that promise considering the fact that the Main Street debate regarding the removal of the parking lane in front of the Roycroft to accommodate a sidewalk was already heating up. In addition there was the seemingly ongoing debate about the Ice Rink.
The Main Street debate was getting ugly with former mayor John Pagliaaccio fanning the flames and had the support of the Fire Department to try and reverse the past board's decision to remove the parking lane. As Crook predicted, half truths were flying around faster than he could harness them back in. If you were to talk to the Pagliaccio group you would think that there was going to be an "hourglass" effect to the road in front of the Roycroft and if you didn't really when that really wasn't the case.
Compromise opportunities buried beneath the rhetoric
Those against the plan did have some valid concerns if you were able to strip through the rhetoric and get down to the truth. Crook knew this and proceeded through a formal information gathering process to ensure that he, the village board, and the entire community had the entire story if they were willing to listen.
One thing Crook did was to setup a Town Hall meeting to hear all opinions related to the debate. "I felt that those of us who were not on the board should at least be given the opportunity to hear the public speak out on the issue." This was risky considering they usually turn into yelling matches with personal attacks being thrown around along with half truths. However Crook showed that he was in control of the meeting and kept things relatively civil given the circumstances. (If you missed it you can view it here)
What came out of that meeting was an understanding of both sides of the debate. Crook was able to recognize the possible areas of compromise from the information the Fire Department had submitted along with the mountains of documentation from the RTF (Reconstruction Task Force) and effectively communicated that to both sides.
Communication worked, but compromises needed
Communication was not enough. In addition to communicating the possible middle ground, he had to get both sides to understand that sometimes it isn't just "my way or the highway". That was the critical thing that Crook was able to help foster and something that our past two mayors had been unable to do. For example do you may remember Charlie the Butcher, Wal-Mart, Old Tops Site, Tim Horton's, and Quiznos to name a few of the debates that ended with little compromise but were simply squelched with a vote of the majority of village board members?
Some say that the divisions that take place during these debates last a lifetime. Many wonder if that was the plan of past administrations considering how most of these debates end up. "How can each debate go through an entire process with only an 'either/or' option?"
Proof is in the pudding
So for the first time in memory, or at least as long as we have been reporting, we have an issue that was once again dividing the community suddenly end with a compromise where neither side got exactly what they wanted, but both were satisfied that it will work. Namely coming up with more space to allow for cars to move out of the way in case of an emergency while still allowing the sidewalk to be moved.
Crook credits the Fire Department, DOT, and RTF leaders
Crook deflects credit on this issue to the East Aurora Fire Department and members of the RTF and DOT for working through the issues and hearing the other side. "I have been absolutely stunned with the passion and commitment to working through issues together as a community with these folks".
He's right. Chief LaBlanc should get credit for effectively communicating his concerns and also for his willingness to work towards a compromise that met his safety concerns while still understanding the importance of the historical nature of our community. In fact he was the one who proposed to the DOT the idea of giving more room to allow for cars to pull over.
If any administration is able to accomplish the most difficult challenge in East Aurora, that is to not allow issues to tear apart the community, they should be commended.
Receive breaking news from East Aurora in your inbox.
Sign up now