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Olney vows to be independent voice on City Council

WATERTOWN — City Council candidate Cliff Olney III sees himself as an independent thinker who won’t be a rubber stamp.

He told a story about a tractor-trailer that gets stuck under a bridge, with a group of people standing around trying to figure out what to do until a boy suggests letting the air out of the truck’s tires.

“I’m the guy who wants to let the air out of the tires,” he said.

In the June primary, Mr. Olney, who’s had unsuccessful runs for mayor and council in the past, came in a surprise third place out of six candidates.

He wasn’t surprised that he made it on to the November election, saying that he has the answers to make Watertown a better place.

For years, Mr. Olney has been a thorn in the side of City Hall and critical of Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith. He doesn’t like how the mayor runs city government.

Mr. Olney sees himself “as the opposition,” who will be able to think for himself.

“I won’t be a rubber stamp,” he said.

His main campaign issue is the city’s hydroelectric plant and what should happen to it after a lucrative electric contract ends in 2029.

Despite fears of a financial cliff, he believes that the plant will “be a gold mine” if the city moves to municipal power.

“We have to find a different buyer for electricity,” he said.

He blamed the city for not preventing the situation of closing down an apartment building at 661 Factory St., for a number of code violations, leaving many tenants without a place to live. He thinks the situation could have been handled differently, adding the city had “a lack of empathy.” He credited Jefferson County for correcting the situation.

He thinks the city should have allowed marijuana dispensaries under the state’s new pot law.

Mr. Olney opposed taking a Fire Department heavy rescue truck off the road. He supports making repairs to the Flynn and Alteri pools because the city needs all three, he said.

To give more power to council members, he proposes going back to a six-ward system in city government, explaining that each ward be represented by a council member. There also would be two at-large council members and ward committees.

Cliff G. Olney

Age: 65

Education: 1974 graduate of Indian River High School

Profession: Semi-retired, owner of AmeriCoups direct mail business

Family: Six grown children, four grandchildren

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