2021 Candidate Surveys

At ASI, advocacy for the arts and cultural sector is an important part of what we do in service of the area’s independent artists, 500+ not for profit cultural organizations, their thousands of employees, and the hundreds of thousands who invest in the cultural sector through their attendance, service, and donations. Each election cycle, Arts Services Inc. poses a series of questions to candidates running for elected office across the region, focusing on the legislative and executive branches. Arts and culture is an important contributor to the area’s economic development, tourism, quality of life, education, and national identity. With severe impacts continuing from COVID-19, support for this essential industry is vital. As such, ASI feels it is important to gauge our candidates’ views on key issues that directly impact the arts and cultural sector.

Survey responses are distributed unedited (except for those answers that exceed the word limit in the optional comment section) in various local Western New York media sources prior to the general election. Those candidates who do not respond are listed in the publications and noted. This year, all candidates’ answers will be made available throughout the election season electronically via Rise Collaborative, ASI, The Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance, The Cultural Alliance of Niagara, and many cultural organizations and our community partners. It is estimated that this survey is seen by well over 75,000 constituents of the arts and cultural community and others.

This year ASI has sent surveys to candidates in the following races:

  • City of Buffalo – Mayoral Candidates
  • Erie County Legislature (all districts)
  • Niagara County Legislature (all districts)
The final responses from the candidate surveys from 2021 are listed below.

City of Buffalo

Mayoral Candidates

 

Name: India Walton Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Erie County Legislature (All districts)

District 1

 

Name: Howard J. Johnson Democrat
Current Occupation: Erie County Legislator District 1

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional comment: I support a steady increase of County funding for the arts and culture.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional comment: I support a annual increase as the arts organization has become an important component of the WNY community.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 2

 

Name: April Baskin Democrat
Current Occupation: Retired teacher

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional Comment:
Erie County’s Arts & Cultural Institutions are the lifeblood of our county. As funding for roads, parks, and libraries grows, so must the funding for arts & cultural organizations.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional Comment:
I believe 5% is a reasonable increase. There are many arts & cultural organizations that do not currently receive County funding. An increase on an annual basis would create space for more organizations to be funded.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 3

 

Name: Lisa Chimera Democrat
Current Occupation: Retired teacher

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

District 4

 

Name: John Bargnesi Democrat
Current Occupation: Self Employed

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional Comment:
As my wife is an art teacher, I have attended many art shows, and cultural events and support continued and increased funding. They are vitaly important for sustained growth in our area, and welcoming to visitors.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional Comment:
I am encouraged by increases in cultural organizations seeking county funding. If elected I will support continued increases in county funding for culturals.

 

Name: Spencer Kowal Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 5

 

Name: Jeanne Vinal Democrat
Current Occupation: Attorney at Vinal & Vinal, P.C.

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional comment: I wholeheartedly support fund the arts and cultures in Erie County. I’ve attended many meetings, including the board meetings for the Jewish Repertory Theater, Alleyway Theater and other arts groups to encourage them to seek county funding. I am currently working with Visit Buffalo Niagara to include more options in their coupon books that support the arts in Erie County.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional comment: Absolutely, as aforementioned, I actively encourage arts organizations to ask for more funding so that we can provide it for them in our annual budget. In the creation of my Christmas Markets Program that I’ve initiated, I am hoping it will employ many performing artists and create avenues for artisans and artists to make sales.

Name: Richard Wilkinson Republican
Current Occupation: General Manager Emerling CDJR

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional comment: The arts are a valued part of our community and its support is mandatory.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional comment: The legislators should also have active engagement with our Arts organizations and be actively involved with their functions.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 6

 

Name: Ronald Schubert, Esq. Democrat
Current Occupation: Phillips, Lytle LLP – Partner Attorney

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional comment: Absolutely!!

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional comment: We must!!

Name: Christopher Greene Republican

No response received 🙁 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 7

 

Name: Timothy Meyers Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Name: Michael Zachowicz Republican

No response received 🙁 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 8

 

Name: Frank Todaro Democrat
Current Occupation: Founder/President Collision Masters; Erie County Legislator

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 9

 

Name: John Gilmour Democrat
Current Occupation: Erie County Legislator, District 9

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.
Optional comment: I support the County’s commitment to arts and cultural organizations and continued funding.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.
Optional comment: Depending on the County’s financial status, I am amenable to annual increases, but cannot commit to an annual increase of 5% every year; it will have to depend on the County’s financial standing.

 

Name: Frank Bogulski Republican

No response received 🙁 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 10

 

Name: Peter Schwan Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Name: Joseph Lorigo Republican
Current Occupation: Attorney in private practice/County Legislator

Cultural agencies currently receive $6.9M total from the County (funding is spread across 102 total organizations). Would you support continued, and steadily increased funding for arts and culture through the County Arts Funding process? 
Yes.

In 2021, there were 10 newly funded arts and cultural organizations (out of 102 in total) in the County Arts Funding process. Every year new organizations in our County become eligible to apply for funding (due to how many years they have been a nonprofit, or other qualifying requirements). Therefore, this increases the need for overall increased County support. Would you maintain the current County art funding levels ($6.9M total) and maintain a historic annual increase of 5% each budget year so that arts organizations in the entire County can provide accessible arts programs for all of its residents?
Yes.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 11

 

Name: John Mills Republican

No response received 🙁 

 

Niagara County Legislature (All districts)

District 1

 

Name: Joseph S. Conti III Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Name: Irene M. Meyers Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 2

 

Name: Jamie L. Symmonds Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Name: Rebecca J. Wydysh Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 3

 

Name: Mark J. Grozio

No response received 🙁 

Name: John L. Sczepczenski
Current Occupation: Retired

Will you support dedicating a portion of the County’s annual budget to annual operating grant funding for Arts & Cultural Organizations beyond individual Legislative Appropriations to ensure continued growth and success of these economic and tourism drivers in Niagara County?
Yes

Will you work to include Arts & Cultural leaders in county efforts such as appointing them to groups and commissions both within and outside of county government?
Yes

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 4

 

Name: Jeffery Elder Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Name: Owen T. Steed Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 5

 

Name: Christopher A. Robins
Current Occupation: Niagara Falls Board of Education

Will you support dedicating a portion of the County’s annual budget to annual operating grant funding for Arts & Cultural Organizations beyond individual Legislative Appropriations to ensure continued growth and success of these economic and tourism drivers in Niagara County?
Yes

Will you work to include Arts & Cultural leaders in county efforts such as appointing them to groups and commissions both within and outside of county government?
Yes

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 6

 

Name: William D. Kennedy II Democrat

No response received 🙁 

Name: Christopher P. Voccio Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 7

 

Name: Jesse P. Gooch
Current Occupation: Self

Will you support dedicating a portion of the County’s annual budget to annual operating grant funding for Arts & Cultural Organizations beyond individual Legislative Appropriations to ensure continued growth and success of these economic and tourism drivers in Niagara County?
Yes

Will you work to include Arts & Cultural leaders in county efforts such as appointing them to groups and commissions both within and outside of county government?
Yes

 

Name: Daryl T. Bodewes

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 8

 

Name: Richard L. Andres Jr.

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 9

 

Name: Randy R. Bradt

No response received 🙁 

Name: Joseph  J. Kissel

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 10

 

Name: David E. Godfrey Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 11

 

Name: Anthony J. Nemi Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 12

 

Name: William J. Collins Sr.

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 13

 

Name: Anita Mullane

No response received 🙁 

Name: Richard E. Abbott
Current Occupation: Alderman City of Lockport, retired

Will you support dedicating a portion of the County’s annual budget to annual operating grant funding for Arts & Cultural Organizations beyond individual Legislative Appropriations to ensure continued growth and success of these economic and tourism drivers in Niagara County?
Yes
Optional Comment:
Extremely important that the remain a part of our community for MANY reasons!!

Will you work to include Arts & Cultural leaders in county efforts such as appointing them to groups and commissions both within and outside of county government?
Yes
Optional Comment:
We have promote through inclusion

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 14

 

Name: Shawn Foti

No response received 🙁 

Name: Sara L. Beilein Capen
Current Occupation: Executive Director / Niagara Falls National Heritage Area

Will you support dedicating a portion of the County’s annual budget to annual operating grant funding for Arts & Cultural Organizations beyond individual Legislative Appropriations to ensure continued growth and success of these economic and tourism drivers in Niagara County?
Yes
Optional Comment:
I would like to research additional ways to generate revenue for Niagara County to support arts and cultural organizations. I am not sure that Niagara County has the existing infrastructure to administer grants.

Will you work to include Arts & Cultural leaders in county efforts such as appointing them to groups and commissions both within and outside of county government?
Yes
Optional Comment: 
Absolutely!

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

District 15

 

Name: Michael A. Hill Republican

No response received 🙁 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

VIEW PAST CANDIDATE SURVEY RESPONSES

2020 Candidate Survey Responses

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2019 Candidate Survey Responses

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2018 Candidate Survey Responses

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2017 Candidate Survey Responses

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2016 Candidate Survey Responses

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2015 Candidate Survey Responses

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2014 Candidate Survey Responses

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2013 Niagara Falls City Council Candidate Survey Responses

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2013 ASI Candidate Survey: The Arts in Our Community (as published in Artvoice)

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