At a recent interview at the Walter Elwood Museum, when asked why she decided to run for fourth ward alderwoman this year, candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler replied, “Too many things not getting done.”
Referring to her previous term on the council from 2014 to 2015, she said there are still ideas that she has that she would like to work on.
On the top of the list of things she wants to accomplish if elected is the implementation of a rental certificate law, which she proposed two years ago, which would require all landlords to register with the city, and would establish a timetable over a span of several years for them to not only bring their properties up to code, but to upgrade and modernize the kitchens and bathrooms.
Hatzenbuehler said that many rental properties in her ward and in the rest of the city are in poor condition, even though landlords are charging market rates.
“They’re getting anywhere from 650 to 850 per month. That’s tax payer dollars in a lot of respects because a lot of those people are getting rental assistance, or they’re getting straight social assistance of some sort,” she said. “And there’s no storm windows, no insulation. And if they get heat, who’s paying for heat?”
“It comes down to the fact that if you’re going to get our tax dollars for the rent and for the heat, we need to make it economical to the taxpayers so we can get more bang for the buck. And that’s what I’m looking at,” she added.
Hatzenbuhler said she would like to see an expansion of the city code that would hold landlords and their tenants to a higher standard, requiring upgrades to electricity, plumbing, roofing, exteriors, as well as establishing rules for maintenance of the property.
“We need to hold the landlords responsible for their tenants. I think we can say, ok this is what we expect of you and your tenants – number one, your trashcans go in a certain spot, at the back of your house, no trash on your property.”
“I think landlords should be responsible for putting in some sort of blinds. And the reason for that is it will do away with the comforters, the sheets, the blankets, pillows, and flags you see at windows throughout the city.”
“First impressions make a difference. And when people come into our city and they see these items hanging at front windows, and they see laundry handing on the front porch railings, what’s their impression going to be? It’s a negative impression.”
Hatzenbuhler said that enforcing the program would require at least two new codes officers to be hired. However, she predicted that charging landlords $100 per unit per year for the rental certificate would not only pay for the positions, but generate extra revenue for the city.
“I don’t buy the premise that if you give them trash you get trash back. I buy the premise that if you give them a nice place, they’ll want to keep it up, and they’ll want to see things improved.”
Another reason Hatzenbuhler said she is running is because some residents she’s talked to in the neighborhood say that current Alderman Rodney Wojnar has not been responsive to their calls.
In regards to her past term as alderwoman, she said, “They wanted somebody else in there and that’s fine. I made mistakes. I have to live with those mistakes. But I also think I did a lot of good. I pushed the finances, there were some changes while I was in office. We got some things done.”
“We have a new mayor, and he makes all the difference in the world. He’s accessible, he’s willing to work with you, listen to your ideas,” she said. “It’s very quiet at city hall. I certainly don’t want to disturb the working environment that’s there now.”
Other issues Hatzenbuhler said she will work on if elected include creating a kids park and off-street parking at the site of the former Milton Avenue school, updating the city’s comprehensive plan, making sure that state-funded road work begins on time at the beginning of the summer, and making sure that sidewalks are repaired along with each street that is re-paved.
Hatzenbuhler said she would also like to see the former P&C Market building demolished and environmental testing done to address concerns about contamination.
She said that although she has not been a proponent of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian in the past, she called the new bridge “beautiful” and is pleased with the city events talking place there and at Riverlink Park. She said she would like to see a walkway between Riverlink Park and Guy Park Manor completed and sees the potential for historical tourism to benefit the city.
However, Hatzenbuhler emphasized that if elected, her primary concern will be about residential housing issues.
“I would just like to focus on getting our rental housing cleaned up. And I think that’s important because that affects the quality of life in the neighborhoods,” she said.
Hatzenbuhler is running on the Republican Party line, and faces incumbent candidate Rodney Wojnar who is running on an independent line named “R WOJNAR 4TH WARD.”