WATERTOWN — Cliff G. Olney III acknowledged that some people have asked him whether he thinks he’s running against Mayor Jeffrey Smith instead of seeking a seat on City Council.
Mr. Olney, who’s vying for a four-year term on council, is a constant critic of the mayor. But he insisted that he’s just bringing up issues that need to be addressed.
“One man is deciding on everything,” he said, referring to the mayor. “He’s not asking what the public wants.”
He’s also singling out his opposition to two council candidates, Michelle Capone and Amy Horton, who he claims would give Mayor Smith enough votes on council to allow the mayor to do whatever he wants.
Over the years and three other tries for public office, Mr. Olney has been a thorn in the city’s side, making it known how he feels about numerous issues along the way.
He was one of the first people to support replacing a defunct pool at Thompson Park, which eventually culminated in the construction of a $3.1 million new pool at the city-owned park. Even critics of the pool’s price tag now see it as an amenity that lures people to the park.
“It was a battle to get the pool,” he said.
He faults the mayor for not getting the Alteri pool at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds open this summer. The council decided to hold off on making about $50,000 in repairs on that pool and it will sit dark this summer.
He sees the Black River as an underutilized asset. Develop the river for tourism; it would increase the city’s tax base, he said.
“We can then decide our own course and not rely on the state,” he said, stressing that city streets and infrastructure needs to be better maintained.
He also doesn’t buy the mayor’s assertion that Watertown doesn’t have any money and that the city faces a financial cliff when a hydroelectric contract with National Grid runs out in eight years and loses millions in revenues a year.
Mr. Olney proposes to get National Grid to agree on a buyout of the contract, so the city can obtain a lump sum from the company and then sell the hydroelectricity to residents.
While he’s been unsuccessful in three other races, Mr. Olney thinks he has a good shot this time. If he can get through the primary, he’ll be able to “flesh out” his campaign platform and then get elected in November, he said.
Cliff G. Olney
Education: 1974 graduate of Indian River High School
Profession: Semi-retired, owner of AmeriCoups direct mail business
Family: Six grown children, four grandchildren