December 8, 2021

Election Central 2019

  • Welcome to Election Central, our landing page for this year’s election. Click a link below to visit each story, or scroll through for the complete coverage.

Here’s how to vote early

By TODD R. McADAM Managing Editor tmcadam@cortlandstandard.net

Gone are the days when you must pick a time — either before work, or during lunch, or after work — to head to a polling place, wait and line and cast a ballot.

 

You can still do that, of course, or you can vote early, with its first election in New York. Polling will be available from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3 at:

Here’s how to do it:

Go to your polling place. If you have a voter ID card or a mail check card, bring it, said Cortland County Elections Commissioner Robert Howe, but it’s not mandatory. Those cards include a code that identifies you and determines the correct ballot to print. “If you’ve got it, bring it,” Howe said. If you don’t, don’t worry. You’ll be asked a question or two to determine your identity.

Either way, you’ll sign an electronic pad and a ballot will be printed on demand. You’ll take that to a privacy booth, fill it out as you would any other ballot, and have it scanned into a voting machine. Simple as that.

At least in theory. This is the first time doing it, Howe said. “We’ve never, ever done this before. There are going to be glitches; there is going to be confusion.”

Cortland County elections officials will canvass the votes and report the early voting results after 9 p.m. Nov. 5, when the Election Day polls close. A tally of how many people voted will be reported to the state each day.

If you’re out of the county, disabled, ill or the primary caregiver for one or more people who are ill or disabled, or in jail awaiting grand jury action, or incarcerated for anything other than a felony, you can still apply for an absentee ballot.

Applications for an absentee ballot must be postmarked to the Board of Elections by Oct. 29 or hand-delivered by Nov. 4. The ballot itself must be postmarked by Nov. 4 — Nov. 19 for military ballots — or hand-delivered by Nov. 5.

Check back of ballots for propositions

By KEVIN CONLON City Editor kconlon@cortlandstandard.net

While election ballots will be filled with names of candidates for local offices, voters should remember to turn over their ballots and check for propositions that will decide local issues.

There are no statewide propositions on the ballot this year, but these propositions are on the ballots for some municipalities:

Voters in Freetown will decide whether to make the town highway superintendent an appointed position, beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

Voters across Cortland County will consider doubling the length of the terms of county Legislators to four years, beginning Jan. 1.

The change is intended to provide consistency in county leadership. Most county legislators in New York already serve a four-year term, Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe said early this year when the change was proposed.

Village of Homer voters will decide whether to relinquish a vacant 1.45-acre property owned by the village west of Carroway Hill Road and bounded on the west by Interstate 81 to the town of Homer.

Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe said the parcel is land- locked and someone who owns an adjacent parcel in the town wants to combine the property to develop the land for a residence. He said the tax revenue loss to the village is about $20 annually.

In Cayuga County voters will decide whether to reduce the number of years in legislators’ terms from four to two for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2022, to accommodate redistricting based on the 2020 federal Census, and to set a limit of three four-year terms for legislators.

According to the Cayuga County Board of Elections, the proposition, if passed, would eliminate the staggering of elections for the districts and allow the legislature to change the number of districts if the Census calls for a change. The second part of the proposition would limit legislators to three terms.

Staff reporter Travis Dunn contributed to this report.

17 seats, 9 races, 1 county

Legislature’s balance of power at stake Nov. 5

By SHENANDOAH BRIERE Staff Reporter sbriere@cortlandstandard.net

Nine of 17 Cortland County Legislature seats are contested for election this year as voting begins Oct. 26 and continues through Nov. 5.

As the Republicans try to hold a 9-8 majority and Democrats look to flip at least one more seat, candidates are focusing on three key issues they’ll focus on in the coming two-year term: county finances; the need for a county administrator; and reforming criminal justice and the county jail.

Democrats are assured of five seats because of uncontested races; Republicans will get three. Of the nine contested races, the two major parties each have three incumbents. The incumbents hold third-party nominations for two, and one race has no incumbent. Some background on the issues.

Finances

Legislature Chairman Kevin Whitney (R- Cortlandville) has announced a 7% increase in the property tax levy for the 2019 tentative budget, which would require a 60% supermajority to approve. Whitney, who is not seeking re-election also said the county will become insolvent in five years if it doesn’t fix its financial practices. Other legislators say three is more likely.

County administrator

The county has been without a full-time administrator since 2014 following clashes between legislators and the former two administrators. In October 2018, a candidate was brought before the Legislature, but wasn’t hired. In December 2018, legislators created an advisory committee to seek an administrator. The group was down to two candidates, but couldn’t agree. The question remains whether the position will be filled by the end of the year.

Jail and justice reform

The Cortland County Jail has been crowded since 1997. County policy makers have sought ways to reduce the crowding, including consideration of a new jail. New state justice-reform laws taking effect in January may reduce population, but may add costs elsewhere in the process. Legislators will need to consider what to do with the jail and how to proceed with criminal justice reform.

The Candidates (by district)​

District 2 (Cortland)

  • Beau Harbin, the incumbent Democrat, said the biggest issue the county has been facing for many years is a budget crisis that has led to the legislature raising taxes, cutting services and taking from saving accounts. Harbin said the county must grow its economic base “by encouraging development,” hire a county administrator to help “bring focus to our budget,” look at implementing shared services to decrease costs and “undertake a serious, transparent and prolonged look at our budget.”
  •  
  • Thomas A. Larson, the Republican, said the biggest issue is also the county’s financial situation, noting Cortland’s economic health “is near the bottom.” Larson said the county must look at economic development that brings in “higher-skilled, higher-paid businesses that aren’t in the public sector.” He said the Cortland County Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency must meet with people at the state level to help the county succeed in getting more economic development. “There is just no reason that we can’t have skilled labor here,” he said.

District 5 (Cortland)

Laurie J. Comfort, on the Republican Party and Voice of the People Party lines, said the county’s core issue is the “lack of accountability when it comes to the budget.” The solution is getting a county administrator “who would oversee each department and hold them accountable for their spending.” “This position is already in the budget for 2020 so let’s hire this person and let them do the job,” she said.

 

Chad Poli, the incumbent, is running on the Conservative Party line. He did not respond to several attempts to contact him.

 

Susan M. Wilson, the Democrat, said the county’s core issue is its financial instability, caused by a “lack of oversight and planning.” She would look at creating a strategic plan geared toward growth and development. However, she also said a county administrator would be effective in providing “oversight and strong management of facilities, program and services.” “Cortland can be an attractive place for business, and we can bring innovative industries to the county if we have a progressive legislature,” she said.

District 6 (Cortland)

Paul A. Lorenzo, the Republican, said the main issue is making sure the budget is balanced. He said he was an accountant for forty years and “could bring a lot to the table and express to them what they can do to balance the budget.” Another issue is being more environmentally friendly, while also generating revenue through avenues such as solar. His third issue was the jail and said the county should see how new criminal justice reform laws influence the jail before making any decisions. “We better come up with some ideas on how to better utilize the jail we have or on ways to expand our jails at a much less cost,” he said.

Richard Stock, the incumbent Democrat, said the county’s biggest issues are finances and interaction among legislators. To resolve the budget issues, he said any time a department requests a budget change, the department should provide the account balance and requested amount and should also give a monthly ac- count balance “so any problem can be identified immediately.” He also said legislators should learn to work together by “com- promising rather than working against each other.” He said legislators should be appointed to a minimum of three committees but no more than four and no legislator should serve as chair or vice chair of more than one committee.

District 10 (Homer)

Julie C. McChesney, the Democrat, said the biggest obstacles in the county is financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency. This was particularly seen with the county sales tax agreement, she said, which hurt “local economies at the village and town level” and made no difference in the county budget. If elected, she said would push for committee meetings to be held at times in which the public could better attend and listen to the feedback of her constituents.

 

Kelly L. Preston, the incumbent Republican, said the biggest issue for the county is the lack of a county administrator. The county should “appoint a five-member panel, the Legislature chair, the majority leader, the minority leader and two local town officials, to bring forward a candidate.”Once the person is hired, legislators should let that person do the job.”

District 11 (Cortlandville)

Pamela Jenkins, the Democrat, said one issue is being “more careful with our tax dollar” and allowing the public to be more included in decisions regarding spending. She said the county also should develop more programs including job training and affordable housing. It also needs more programs for people with substance use disorders and mental health issues, “instead of placing these people in jail.” She said funds should be expanded for such programs. “The public needs to be valued as a respected partner in decision making,” she said.

 

Christopher B. Newell, the incumbent Republican, said the county’s main issue is with the health and human services departments, which “are saddled with New York state unfunded mandates.” Legislators need to continue reaching out to state representatives “to pressure Albany into rescinding some of these mandates.” He also said the county should partner with adjacent counties to hire lobbyists and continue to look for “additional sources of revenue to help offset these huge expenses that the HHS (Health and Human Services) department has.”

District 12 (Cortlandville)

Michael K. Barylski, the incumbent on the Democratic and Just the Facts party lines, said the biggest issues facing the county is “in the area of fiscal management, specifically planning and budgeting.” Now that positions in the nance department have been filled, getting a county administrator is crucial to fixing the financial problems. “A new search is under way for a county administrator, and I am optimistic that this search will be successful,” he said. With the position filled the county can look at long-term planning.

 

Joseph L. Nauseef, on the Republican and Conservative party lines, said his biggest concern is the “extreme debt we’re facing and the spending that’s happening.” To solve that, legislators must “prioritize their needs over their wants” and look at comparison studies to see how other counties similar to Cortland spend money and generate revenue.

District 13 (Cortlandville)

Adrianne J. Traub, the Democrat, said the core issue is fiscal mismanagement that stems from “ineffectual budgeting that lacks long-term planning and transparency,” which was made worse by the “elimination of key fiscal leadership positions in county governance that are only recently being refilled.” The county must get an administrator who is able to prepare a “fiscally responsible budget that meets our most pressing community needs, while mindful of future needs.”

 

Eugene P. Waldbauer, the Republican, said one of the core issues is the budget and taxes and to solve that the county must hire an administrator or other professional to “manage finances and day-to-day operations.” “It is a necessity the county can’t afford to continue to debate,” he said. He also said the jail was a core issue and he looks forward to seeing what other people’s perspectives are considering the current financial situation, “but given our financial situation I have not found how we can afford $30M+ for a new facility.”

District 16 (Cuyler, Solon, Truxton)

Paul Heider, the incumbent Republican, said the main issue is “getting the appropriate county administrator in there that has dealt with reorganizing business because the county is a business.” He would continue working with legislators to seek the right person for the position. “That’s what I’ve been working on this year,” he said.

 

Richard J. Nauseef Jr., the Democrat, said the biggest issue is the county’s financial situation, including the mismanagement of the finances, reserve accounts, spending and the use of sales tax revenue to “ease the county budget issues.” He would look at ways to get more businesses into the area, fight for fair sales tax revenue distribution, be transparent on problems and “push to hire a qualified, strong county administrator that will work with our nance departments and the Legislature.”

District 17 (Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor, Willet)

Joan I. Coombs, the incumbent, is running on the Conservative Party line. She said the biggest issue is the lack of unity amongst legislators when it comes to figuring out financial issues. “We need to become one united group and focus on what’s best for the county,” she said. That issue could be resolved by having everyone caucus together to discuss topics before they reach the Legislature floor. She also said legislators need to stick to the budget once it’s set.

 

Mitchell Eccleston, the Republican, said finding a county administrator is a main issue and the Legislature should strive to hire one. Once the person is hired, he said, legislators should “tell them what you want them to do and oversee him to make sure he’s being held accountable.” He also said the jail is a big issue. “What do you do?” he said. “I want to see what the tax rate is going to be, if it’s too high, I’m not voting for it.”

 

Heath A. Phillips, the Family Values nominee, said one of his concerns is drugs and crime in the county. He would work with county officials, the sheriff’s office, district attorney and county mental health services, to address the problem. “I would like to see the Angel Project promoted more,” he said. He also said “wasteful spending on continual studies” has been a big topic in his district and he would be available to speak to people via phone and social media.

GOP, Democrats vie for control of C’ville board

By TRAVIS DUNN Staff Reporter tdunn@cortlandstandard.net

For years, Cortland was run by Democrats, and Cortlandville by Republicans. That was just the way it was. But continued Republican control of the Cortlandville town board is no longer a sure thing.

For the first time in recent memory, Democrats have a candidate for every board position, including supervisor. If the GOP wants to keep Cortlandville, this year it’s going to have to fight for it.

“We’re up for it obviously,” said Connie White, chairwoman of the Cortland County Republican Committee. “I’m excited about our candidates. They’re out every night working together.”

Tim Perfetti, chairman of the county Democratic Committee, said he thinks his party has the potential to take control of the town board.

“I do think there’s a strong chance that we’re going to prevail in these elections,” he said.

In particular, Perfetti pointed to a state Comptroller report that faulted Cortlandville for improperly using $22,600 in town funds to build a public boat launch on former town board member Greg Leach’s property. Perfetti said the scandal, as well as two Article 78 cases, which also involved Leach and which the town lost, have helped sour town voters on GOP candidates, even if most of the old board members are now gone.

White, however, said the Democrats are overplaying their hand. The boat launch incident, she said, was not the scandal it’s being portrayed as.

“Nobody’s a thief,” she said. “Nobody walked away with anything.”

Moreover, the current slate of candidates seek economic growth, which she said the Democrats will stymie.

“My candidates are running for the town,” she said. “The Democrats are running against the town. They don’t like the town. They want to change things.”
But Perfetti said that what the town needs is transparency.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I hope that sunlight continues to shine on Election Day,” he said.

The Republicans

Supervisor Richard Tupper, who served on the town board for 15 years, announced his retirement in April. Tupper’s absence leaves Theodore V. Testa as the only incumbent.

But Tupper said that while the other Republicans may be new to the Cortlandville board, they are not novices.

Thomas A. Williams, for instance, served nearly eight years as a county legislator. Williams, a retired state trooper, had also worked as homebuilder and business owner.

Williams acknowledged the playing field has changed in Cortlandville.

“Those seats, historically, have gone pretty much uncontested,” he said.

Jay E. Cobb of McGraw has also held elected office — a term as McGraw mayor, several terms on the village board. He has been a McGraw firefighter for 45 years, including time as chief and assistant chief.

Cobb is the only Cortlandville board candidate from the McGraw area.

“We wanted to try to get somebody from that side of the town,” Tupper said.

Theodore V. Testa, the only Republican incumbent in the race, has served on the board for 28 years.

“I work for the people. I’ve always done what I’ve thought is the best for Cortlandville,” he said. “I just try to do what’s good for the community. I try to be fair with everybody.”

Testa touted his work helping create the town’s two parks, one of which is named after him.

GOP newcomer Jeff Guido, a history teacher of 26 years at Cortland Junior-Senior High School, is seeking a post left vacant by Democrat Randy Ross; that term runs through the end of 2021.

Guido served two terms on the Cortland Common Council from 2001 to 2005. He moved to Cortlandville 11 years ago.

He’s running, he said, “to be given the opportunity to continue to do the very good job that’s been done.”

A priority for Guido is the Gutchess sports complex project; he would like the town to pursue partnerships with local businesses to reduce the taxpayer burden.

 

The Democrats

Two years ago, Doug Withey was the first Democrat in five decades to be elected to the town board. Now he’s running for supervisor, and he’s optimistic he and fellow Democrats Robert R. Martin and Donna M. Johnson, as well as Bekkie Bryan, will prevail. But he also realizes they have an uphill fight.

“We’re running with optimism but as the underdog,” he said.

Withey worked for the Cort-land city water department for 35 years, including 17 as superintendent. After retiring, he set up his own business, W2 Operator Training Group, which trains water and wastewater system operators. Withey cited his leadership, management and business experience. He said his main priority is the Gutchess Sports Complex.

“We’ve got to make that sustainable,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to make that work.”

Martin, director of facilities for Cortland Enlarged City School District, said his desire to run “stems from observing that things need to be done much better in Cortlandville.”

He has management and administrative experience and promised “to bring integrity, fiscal responsibility and community involvement back to Cortlandville Town Hall.”

Donna Johnson, administrative secretary in the Cortland County Office of the Assigned Counsel for 10 years, is also the co-owner of Crown City Travel for more than 25 years. She has served on the Cortland school board as well as treasurer and trustee for the Cortland Elks Lodge.

“Cortlandville needs to follow current laws, which are in place regarding prudent expansion and development,” John-son said.

She would like the town to “pursue solar and environmental opportunities, while not disrupting our residential and farm districts.”

Bekkie Bryan, a physical education associate professor at SUNY Cortland, moved to Cortlandville in 2014.

“I believe our town deserves more transparency in the decisions that are made that affect our community,” she said, adding the town board should “reflect the demographics of the community” and needs female members.

Town Justice

The town of Cortlandville also has a contested race for town justice. Mary Beth Mathey, a Republican and Conservative, faces Robert J. DeMarco, who is running as an Independence candidate. The two are running for the job of retiring justice Francis J. Casullo, a Republican.

Change vs. experience

C’ville Town Board candidates make pitch for votes

By TRAVIS DUNN Staff Reporter tdunn@cortlandstandard.net

Democrat candidates for Cortlandville Town Board said at a forum Saturday they want to reform town government, while Republican candidates emphasized their experience in government.

Candidates shared their views and answered questions moderated Saturday morning by event sponsor the Cortland County League of Women Voters at Homer Town Hall.

For the first time in recent memory, the town board, normally controlled by Republicans, is up for grabs; every seat is being contested.

The Republican candidates, led by supervisor candidate Thomas Williams, touted their government experience — a total of nearly 60 years, Williams said. They also pointed to their pro-business stance.

Democrats portrayed themselves as the party of change for a board fraught with controversy, namely a state comptroller report faulting the town for using public funds to build a boat launch on former board member Greg Leach’s property. Democratic supervisor candidate Doug Withey said past boards failed to be completely open with the public. If his slate is elected, “that’s going to end,” he said.

But candidates of both parties spent a lot of time agreeing and sounding a lot like each other while answering questions on economic growth, protecting the aquifer, government transparency, inter-municipal service consolidation, the future of the Gutchess sports complex, the Groton shopping plaza and very specific and unexpected stumpers about alleged fumes from the local Burger King and concerns about the College Suites student housing complexes.

Here’s how the candidates distinguished themselves.

Supervisor

Williams, a retired state trooper and business owner, served nearly eight years as county legislator. Williams repeatedly emphasized the need for economic growth and said continued support for the Gutchess Lumber sports complex was one way to help achieve that goal.
“It can be the engine that drives this community for a long time,” he said.

 

Withey was elected to the board two years ago — the first Democrat in more than 50 years. Withey worked for the Cortland city water department for 35 years, including 17 as superintendent. He owns W2 Operator Training Group, which trains water and wastewater system operators. He talked about long-term planning for sustainable growth that would protect the aquifer and environment.

Town board

Republican Jay Cobb is the only candidate from the McGraw area. Cobb served one term as mayor of McGraw and several terms as board member. He’s been a firefighter for 45 years. He voiced strong support for business growth.
“Cortlandville is the economic driver of Cortland County,” he said.

 

Democrat Donna Johnson, administrative secretary in the Cortland County Office of the Assigned Counsel for 10 years, was also co-owner of Crown City Travel. She said board meetings need more transparency, and residents need to be involved, even if that meant tabling votes to get more input. She said the town needs a grant writer, possibly shared with the county, to secure the big grants hat would make the Gutchess sports complex sustainable.

 

Democrat Robert Martin, director of facilities for Cortland Enlarged City School District, touted his engineering, accounting and management background. He called for transparency and accountability.
“I tend to stick to something and get it done,” he said.

Theodore Testa, the only Republican incumbent running, did not speak. He has served on the board for 28 years and was instrumental in creating the town’s two parks, one of which is named after him.

 

Town board vacancy

Candidates to fill board post left vacant by Democrat Randy Ross, a term that runs through the end of 2021:

 

Democrat Bekkie Bryan, a physical education associate professor at SUNY Cortland, moved to Cortlandville in 2014. Bryan spoke of the need for transparency, so residents could understand why and how the board makes decisions. She also said the board needed female members, which haven’t been elected in at least 50 years. “You have two very, smart capable women running this year,” she said.

 

Republican Jeff Guido, a history teacher at Cortland Junior-Senior High School, served two terms on the Cortland Common Council from 2001 to 2005. Guido called for economic growth, but also protection of the aquifer, and voiced support for the Gutchess sports complex, suggesting the need for grants, and calling additional spending on it “an investment.”

Ward 7 city’s only contested race

By TRAVIS DUNN Staff Reporter tdunn@cortlandstandard.net

The city of Cortland has one contested race this year — for the alderman of Ward 7, where incumbent Democrat Troy M. Beckwith faces Republican James C. Hawley.

Except he isn’t. While Hawley’s name is on the ballot, he’s not actually running, said Connie White, Cortland County Republican Committee chair- woman.

Hawley, she said, had second thoughts after getting on the ballot and decided not to campaign.

“We tried to get his name off (the ballot) but we couldn’t do it — too late,” White said.

Hawley remains on the ballot, said Bob Howe, Republican commissioner for the Cortland County Board of Elections.

Howe said a candidate on the ballot who isn’t running should put out a statement making this clear, but there is no legal requirement to do so.

Hawley could not be reached.

Beckwith has served one term as Ward 7 alderman after defeating Republican Adam Megivern in 2017. He also had previously served on the city planning commission. He works as building superintendent for Calabro Properties.

Two candidates seek Cayuga DA position

Cayuga County voters will choose from two candidates for district attorney: incumbent Jon Budelman and challenger Thomas F. Turturo.

Budelman, the Republican and Conservative nominee, was first elected in 2007 and again in 2011. Before that, he was the chief assistant district attorney for more than 12 years.

He has been a member of the Cayuga County Child Advocacy Center’s Multi- Disciplinary Team and the Domestic Violence Coalition. He has taught at Cayuga Community College. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1989 and the Washington

University National Law Center in 1992. He grew up in Pompey.

Turturo, the Democrat and Working Families nominee, has a law degree from DePaul University College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 2010. He has a law firm at 7 Court St., Auburn. He grew up in Auburn.

5 seek justice seats

Five candidates seek three state Supreme Court seats in the 6th Judicial District, which oversees Cortland and Tompkins counties. Another three seek two seats in the 7th Judicial District, which oversees Cayuga County. The seats have a 14-year term. The Sixth Judicial District includes the counties of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga and Tompkins. The seventh includes Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.

6th Judicial District
Chris Baker — Baker, 49, a Republican, has been a Chemung County Court judge since 2016 and acting Supreme Court justice since 2018. From 2000 to 2016, he was the confidential attorney and principal law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Judy O’Shea.
Baker was born and raised in Elmira and was an assistant district attorney in Chemung County.

 

Oliver N. Blaise III — Blaise, 47, a Re- publican, is a partner at Coughlin & Gerhart in Binghamton. He joined the rm in 1997 and became a partner in 2004.

Blaise has experience in municipal law and civil litigation. Blaise has also performed trial and appellate-level work in municipal and commercial cases, and has experience with intellectual property, real property, workers’ compensation and personal injury litigation.

 

Pete Charnetsky — Chartnetsky, a Democrat, has been a family court judge for 10 years and an acting Supreme Court justice in Broome County for nine years.

He has practiced law in state Supreme Court for many years, including as a court-appointed attorney for children.

Charnetsky grew up in Johnson City and now lives in Vestal.

 

Mark Masler — Masler, a Republican, has been a principal law clerk since 2008 to Justice Philip Rumsey, who must either retire or assume senior justice status. Masler sits in on cases Rumsey handles and gives him legal advice. Since 2017, he has been Rumsey’s law clerk at the Appellate Division’s Third Department, analyzing issues arising in appeals from Supreme, County, Family and Surrogate courts in 28 counties.

He was born and raised in Broome County, and has lived in Truxton, Cortland and now Cortlandville.

 

Claudette Y. Newman — Newman, a Democrat, is court attorney for Chenango County Judge Frank B. Revoir, overseeing cases in Criminal, Family and Surrogate court. She provides the judge with legal analysis and research. From 1999 through 2018, she was the principal law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dowd. She was elected Butternut town justice in 2011. Newman was born and raised in Chenango County.

7th Judicial District

Kevin Nasca — Nasca, a Republican and Conservative, has been a Monroe County Family Court support magistrate since 2018. From 2015 to 2018, he was a law clerk for Surrogate Court Judge John M. Owens, and Owens’ principal law clerk for the Supreme Court from 2006 to 2015. He has been a deputy county attorney in Monroe County and practiced law in Massachusetts.
He was raised in Charlotte and now lives in Greece.

 

Matthew Rosenbaum — Rosenbaum, a Republican and Conservative, has been the supervising judge for the 7th Judicial District since 2011, and was appointed to the court in 2005, then elected in 2006.

He has been the district’s liaison to the state coordinator on summary jury trials since 2006, and has been a president judge in commercial court and medical malpractice matters.

Rosenbaum is a graduate of Hobart & William Smith Colleges and Boston University School of Law. He lives in Brighton.

 

Meredith Vacca — Vacca, a Democrat and Libertarian, is an assistant district attorney in the special victims trial division in Monroe County. She has also been an associate attorney with Associate Attorney, Hamberger & Weiss.

Vacca has degrees from University at Buffalo Law School and Colgate University. She was born in South Korea and grew up in Greece. She now lives in Rochester.

Candidates debate wide range of issues

Candidates debate wide range of issues

By TRAVIS DUNN Staff Reporter tdunn@cortlandstandard.net

Business growth, the future of the county jail, reducing greenhouse emissions, intergovernmental cooperation, party caucuses, the lack of a county administrator and breaking the tax cap were among the issues discussed by 10 Cortland County Legislature candidates at a Saturday forum. The event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Cortland County was held at Homer Town Hall. This was the second forum featuring Legislature candidates. While the first was for Cortland-area Legislature candidates, Saturday’s event featured candidates for the remaining districts.

District 11 (Cortlandville)

Democrat Pamela Jenkins, who touted her two successful Article 78 actions against Cortlandville, said she was running to increase public accountability, bring the budget under control and getting the public involved. She said she was not in favor of the county breaking the tax cap, since Cortlandville is also planning to do this. “So it would be a double whammy,” she said.

 

Incumbent Republican Christopher Newell, also chairman of the Cortlandville Planning Board, also said he was against raising taxes, but noted major challenges the county was facing, including unknown variables, such as the fate of the county workers compensation fund. He spoke of the need to hire a county administrator; he said there are five candidates, and he was optimistic one would be hired this year.

District 12 (Cortlandville)

Incumbent Michael Barylski, the Democrat and Just the Facts nominee, said the county needs to reduce poverty and increase economic development, seeing the rising hemp industry as a possible way of doing both. He spoke of the county’s budget challenges, which he said were severe. He left open the possibility of overriding the tax cap, but said the decision would require “some soul searching.”

 

Republican and Conservative challenger Joseph Nauseef, volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, works as an electrician. He spoke against wasteful spending and high taxes. He said no administrator has been hired because of partisan bickering, which he said must stop to find a candidate. “We need to make it happen,” he said.

District 13 (Cortlandville)

Adrianne Traub, Democrat, is a business owner, farmer and educator. She cited the Legislature’s “lack of financial responsibility” as the biggest issue facing the county. She repeatedly spoke of the need for professional staffing and financial stewardship, as well as the need for an administrator and “fiscal planning by professionals.”

 

Eugene Waldbauer, Republican, previously served two terms on the legislature. He said the hardest work as a legislator is “getting 17 people to compromise and get things done.” “There are no quick and easy fixes,” he said. He said the county needs an administrator now, even if the choice isn’t perfect.

District 16 (Cuyler, Solon, Truxton)

Democrat Richard Nauseef Jr., a plant utility engineer at SUNY Cortland and past president of his local union, said the county was “on the path to insolvency.” He said the county needs an administrator and must increase transparency. “We need to address these issues and address them quickly,” he said. He questioned why the county recently shot down a solar farm proposal at the county land fill.

 

Paul Heider, the incumbent Republican, is a retired New York City detective who grew up in Solon. He said he regularly meets with town supervisors to make informed decisions. He spoke in favor of transparency and ethical behavior. “That’s how I do business,” he said. In response to whether the county could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he responded with one word: “Yes,” without elaborating, which received a polarized audience reaction of laughs and groans. Heider recently voted against the land fill solar project.

District 17 (Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor, Willet)

Joan Coombs, the incumbent, is running as a Conservative. A dairy farmer, Coombs has worked in banking, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and now serves as the treasurer for McGraw and deputy treasurer for Cincinnatus. She said she was against raising taxes, but recognized that “Cortland county is in bad shape.” She recommended blocking any wage raises.

 

Heath Phillips, the Family Values nominee, is a Navy veteran who regularly speaks on military issues in Washington, D.C. and nationally. He said the county should prioritize growth for agriculture. He suggested turning empty parking lots into green spaces and parks. He spoke in favor of solar projects, but said “we need to get the best bang for our buck.”

 

Mitchel Eccleston, the Republican candidate, was not present

District 10 (Homer)

District 10 did not have any candidate participating in the forum. Incumbent Republican and Conservative Kelly Preston said she was upset at being excluded from the discussion; her Democratic challenger, Julie McChesney did not attend.

Laura Dunbar of the Cortland County chapter of the League of Women Voters, said she followed established rules in excluding Preston. The “no empty chair policy,” Dunbar said, requires each open position to have any least two participants.

Write-in hopefuls run for treasurer

By S.N. BRIERE Staff Reporter sbriere@cortlandstandard.net

There will be no names on the ballot Tuesday for Cortland County treasurer, but four people are campaigning to have their name written in on the ballot.

The treasurer issues certificates of residency, handles tax installment agreements and foreclosure responsibilities. The job pays $40,000 a year.

Here are what the people running believe they can bring to the job:

Gerry Ruggiero — Ruggiero, Cortlandville, has been a certified public account for 30 years, knowledge he said would help him reconcile the county’s bank accounts and keep things in order. He is also a trained fraud auditor and worked as the chief financial officer of a 40-employee credit union.”Not only do I bring the right requirements for the treasurer jobs as a CPA, but I also bring other necessary tools to help the county in other problem areas,” he said.

Donnell Boyden — Boyden, of Homer, a Cortland County legislator 2014, said his experience serving as the county’s acting deputy treasurer gives him first-hand experience, to the operations of the office and makes him “uniquely qualified for the position.” Boyden has been a deputy treasurer since 2016.

John T. Banewicz Sr. — Banewicz, of Cortland, said he was a mainframe computer tech with Verizon, so he is computer literate and will be able to understand the county’s finance software. He also said he handled a multi-million budget for a military project and has a sales background that would help him better communicate with county officials.

“One of the jobs of the treasurer is to communicate with county officials so they can make sound fiscal decisions,” he said

Brian C. Parker — Parker, of Marathon, worked for the county for 35 years in the maintenance department, retiring as maintenance supervisor.

“I have institutional knowledge as to how we got to where were at and common sense,” he said. He said he can’t change what has already been done but he can try his best to help the county.

City voters lack choices

By TRAVIS DUNN Staff Reporter tdunn@cortlandstandard.net

Elections are about choices. It’s the basis of representative democracy. Voters have the power to choose government representatives — it’s something we take for granted.

But what about when there are no choices?

Consider the city of Cortland. In the upcoming election, almost all of the city office races are uncontested. Of eight wards, seven Common Council candidates are unopposed. In the one ward where there is a contested race — Ward 7 — the challenger, Republican James C. Hawley, isn’t actively campaigning; he missed the deadline to drop out, said Connie White, chairwoman of the Cortland County Republican Committee. And no one is challenging Mayor Brian Tobin’s re-election effort.

The point: Most Cortland voters won’t have a choice of city candidates when they go to the polls.

White attributes this to the dominance of Democrats in the city.

“Just like nationally, where do Democrats live? They live in the city,” White said..

It wasn’t always like this though. In 2001, the Republicans had a 5-3 majority on the council.

Today, however, the local GOP has just one ward —Ward 8, which is held down by Thomas Michales, who is running unopposed.

“He’s a local guy, and he’s a very popular fellow,” said White.

Tim Perfetti, chairman of the Cortland County Democratic Committee, said no Democrat is challenging Michales because he is “conscientious and well-liked.”

Ward 8 also has a lot of Republicans — 310 to 352 Democrats — the only ward where the number of Republicans come close to matching the number of Democrats.

“When we looked at the land- scape in that ward — there’s a reason that Tom Michales has been there as long as he’s been there,” Perfetti said.

Perfetti said he doesn’t know why the Republicans aren’t mounting more of a challenge in the city, but in several districts, the reason is obvious. Wards 1, 2 and 3, he said, are so heavily Democratic “that it would be a Herculean task to win,” he said.

This may be an indicator, however, of where city Democrats might expect challenges in the future — in Wards 4 through 7. Also, the mayor’s office.

White said the Republicans would likely have a challenger to Tobin in 2021, but she offered no details.

“We welcome challenges. I genuinely welcome them,” Perfetti said. “You owe it to the voter to get the ideas out there so people know what’s going on. I am for a healthy vibrant democracy. If they’ve got somebody to run, then good.”

Perfetti, however, was not willing to concede that all the races were uncontested. Ward 7, he said, could still present a problem for Democrats, even though Hawley said he was no longer campaigning.

He’s still on the ballot, and that means he could be elected, Perfetti said. If Hawley wins and declines the job, a replacement of the same party — the Republican Party — would have to be appointed.

Yet running the city largely unopposed also has its challenges, Perfetti said.

“One-party rule, although it’s good in the sense that we get to set the agenda,” said Perfetti, is also a problem for Democrats because “you’ve got to take the blame for everything, too.”