OSWEGO — Democrat Maureen Wills, who earlier this year announced she would run for the Second Ward seat on the Oswego Common Council, said she wants better partisan representation in the city’s legislative body.
Wills’ campaign marks the second time she has run to represent Second Ward resident and comes after current councilwoman and former opponent Linda DeMassi, R-2nd Ward, announced earlier this year she would not run for re-election.
“People still want the same things and have the same concerns,” Wills told The Palladium-Times in a Sunday interview in regards to her interactions with Second Ward voters over the years.
The rampant drug trafficking and use, however, have been some of the main concerns residents have raised during Wills campaign across Second Ward neighborhoods.
The Democratic hopeful said there are "way more concerns about drugs" in the neighborhoods, noting she would host a community meeting with law enforcement and drug counseling agencies seeking solutions to what she called a “plague in our neighborhoods.”
"I would ask law enforcement what we as residents can do,” she said. “Should we call drug deals in? Should we mark down license plates? What can civilians due to help get rid of this plague in our neighborhoods?”
Wills also said she would call for rehabilitation facilities to offer more treatment options.
“I would ask what can counseling do to help provide long term inpatient rehab,” she said. “Most people can talk the talk and walk the walk for 30 days, but I really think a lot of these people — especially those struggling with opioids addiction — need longer rehab than 30 days to find the coping mechanisms they need to stay away from it.”
Wills noted there are no long term inpatient rehabilitation facilities “for miles” near Oswego County.
“There has got to be something we can do to help somehow,” Wills said. “We need to get rid of drug trafficking.”
The Second Ward, Wills said, is also facing issues with vacant properties and cost of living.
“People are still concerned about landlords,” Wills noted, adding despite the recent repeated efforts to crack down on city code violations, more could be done. “There is a lot of stuff not inspected or taken care of on the inside of properties.
Rent and affordability are also areas of improvement Wills has noticed in the ward.
“Landlords want to only rent to college kids and only rent places by the room,” Wills said. “People with families can’t find a place to live. It is very difficult for middle class and the working poor, unless they get rental assistance. There is lots of low income housing, but there is nothing for people who are in the middle and rent in general tends to be outrageous and overpriced.”
Will also noted she wants to see more development along the lakeshore, which Second Ward residents currently access through East 10 ½ Street.
“We have one little tiny spot where we can access the lake and it is not developed,” Wills noted. “It would be nice to even have a garbage can there. People want to see that developed with a non-motorized boat launch and picnic tables.”
Though the city is generally improving, one particular project Wills said she would like to see completed is the Midtown Plaza transformation, which is known as East Lake Commons.
“We’ve been waiting for that,” she said. “It’s almost two years later. What’s going on? I have concerns about that.”
Wills said she also has concerns about a building the city owns in the ward that is in “terrible disrepair.” She said the city should be held to the same standards as other property owners.
“There is all this money being spent on the west side, but residents on the east side feel neglected, they feel infrastructure needs work,” Wills said. “In parts of my ward, there are not even sidewalks or streetlights.”
After running for office in 2017 and narrowly losing to incumbent Republican DeMassi, Wills said she has not seen any progress in the area, which prompted her to run again.
“I am concerned for the area I live in and I would like to see more families moving into the poorest ward in the city, rather than just transient tenants,” she said. “I see nothing has changed in two years. I don’t see any difference in the last two years and I want to be an agent of change. We cannot stay the way we are.”
Come Election Day, Wills will challenge Republican opponent Shawn Burridge for the Second Ward seat on the city’s legislative body.
“We have too much of a Republican council and we need more Democrats to make it more representative than just having a one-party representation,” Wills said. “Not that they are doing a bad job, I just think there need to be more representatives of the other side as well. (Burridge and I) have talked and I think we have a lot of the same ideas — we both want a lot of the same things — but at the same time, he is another Republican and we need more Democratic representation on the council.”
Election Day is Nov. 5.