Statement from Mayor Jeff Smith

FROM THE DESK OF MAYOR JEFF SMITH

Date: October 15, 2021

Contact: mayorjeffsmith@gmail.com

In recent days, Watertown City Council Candidate Pat Hickey has sought to make me the target of his campaign, despite the fact that I am not in the race. While I have no issue with criticism, I do have an issue with dishonesty and perpetuating untruths in an effort to pander to voters.

Because Mr. Hickey has decided to bring me into the race, I would like to take this opportunity to correct statements he has made in an effort to provide the public with accurate information:

Meeting with Hospice of Jefferson County: In May of 2021, I was invited to meet with Hospice of Jefferson County along with City Manager Ken Mix and former Mayor Tom Walker. At no time did I visit Hospice with another member of Council, as Mr. Hickey stated during his interview on “The Hotline” today.

Visiting Fort Drum to tour their recycling facility: At no time have I visited Fort Drum to tour their recycling facility, as Mr. Hickey stated during his interview today on “The Hotline.” However, as Mayor, I am frequently invited to meet and talk with Fort Drum’s Commanding General, as well as other community leaders. I consider this to be one of my duties as Mayor of our City. Other members of Council can—and do—visit different places in our City and meet with various people on their own, without me being present. This is part of their jobs as elected officials.

Mr. Hickey has stated that improving “transparency” will be one of his goals as a potential member of Council. However, in recent days, Mr. Hickey has demonstrated that transparency is not a priority in the following ways:

Utilizing “Neighborhood Watch” as a political platform: Earlier this week, I, along with other members of City Staff received emails to our official City email addresses encouraging us to “Vote Hickey for City Council.” This email, a copy of which is attached, was also sent to members of our community who signed up for “Neighborhood Watch” updates. “Neighborhood Watch” was organized to reduce crime in our neighborhoods and as it works toward its mission, utilizes City resources—namely City Police and funds. Using the contact information of those who signed up for “Neighborhood Watch” for political purposes is an abuse of taxpayer resources, and unethical.

Use of American Rescue Funds: Mr. Hickey has publicly stated he would like to utilize federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure. However, in a private message to a local business owner, he suggested allocating $10 million in funds to not-for-profit organizations. Mr. Hickey should be transparent with voters regarding how he would seek to utilize these funds as a member of Council.

Dishonesty regarding campaign finances: Mr. Hickey stated today on “The Hotline” that he has received monetary donations from former Mayor Jeff Graham and “in-kind” donations from real estate developer P.J. Simao, an individual whose business practices most are aware of. However, in reviewing his Candidate Disclosure Report on the New York State Board of Elections website, neither of these names appear. Mr. Hickey should be transparent with voters regarding who is funding and influencing his campaign.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Hickey and other candidates have made me their target in this race, again, despite the fact that I am not up for reelection. Instead of spreading untruths and mudslinging, voters would be better off hearing about the actual, concrete ideas these candidates have for making our City a better place.

As Mayor, that has been my goal. In the past two years, members of Council and I have achieved a number of wins for the City of Watertown, including:

  • Saving taxpayers $3 million on a second city courtroom by working with state representatives to get “home rule” legislation signed into law;

  • Achieving a zero percent tax increase in our most recent budget;

  • No water and sewer rate increases for residents;

  • Renegotiating our leachate contract with the Development Authority of the North Country to help the City earn an additional $275,000 more a year; and

  • Utilizing federal COVID relief funds to move forward with critical infrastructure projects; a move that will help provide relief to taxpayers and set the City up for another zero percent tax increase in our next budget.

These are just a few of the accomplishments we were able to achieve during the past two years. I look forward to working with Council Members—both current and those who win in November—to continue to achieve results for Watertown residents.