December 6, 2021

Farmer, entrepreneur vie in 51st race

An entrepreneur faces a fifth-generation farmer in a race to succeed state Sen. James L. Seward in the 51st state Senate District.

Democrat Jim Barber, a farmer in the Schoharie Valley and Republican Peter Oberacker of Schenevus, owner and creator of Formtech Solutions, a company that formulates and incorporates new products into the food industry to fill the seat left vacant by the 17-term Republican incumbent, who is stepping down.

Here’s what the candidates plan:

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Barber: Growing Cortland County’s economic base begins with investing in education, Barber said, particularly apprenticeship programs and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“We need to provide training opportunities to students for the wide range of jobs that exist today, and value vocational training as much as we value academic degrees,” he said.

He also said Investments must be made in tools like broadband, health-care facilities and quality schools to keep people in the area. He also said to invest in the education system the taxing system must be changed.

“That’s why I have a six-point plan to change the way we fund these services so that there is more for our local communities, and so that every community has a robust education system, regardless of ZIP code,” he said.

Oberacker: Oberacker said the state must do more to get people back to work and the economy back on track and more people and businesses should be consulted.

“Whether it’s a small, medium or big business, we need to ask, ‘What could New York state do to help you? What would make your business work better? How would you create more jobs?’” he said. “We should reward those businesses who stay in New York”

LEVERAGING THE COLLEGES

Barber: Successful models of colleges working within the community have been seen across the district, such as SUNY Cobleskill working to provide training, education and other services to the agricultural cultural community.

“These are the kinds of programs that benefit the institutions, the students, and the community,” he said.

Oberacker: The state needs to stop the outflow of “young talented people.” The Upstate Jobs Party platform has good ideas and he agrees that obstacles to job creation must be removed and regional assets must be used to help create new jobs and grow companies. He also said people should “focus on supporting startups and entrepreneurs in the innovation economy.”

“Let’s put private investors with our own entrepreneurs to help them grow their great ideas, while helping them put down roots in our beautiful communities,” he said. “We must also fight for real access to broadband and technology”

UNFUNDED STATE MANDATES

“We must do more to help those in need,” he said. “I will fight for our fair share of recovery funds, as well as mental health and drug addiction services, that our people need and deserve.”

Barber: The state should pick up the cost of all mandates on counties, Barber said.

“The state must fully cover obligations to our schools, the cost of Medicaid, and so much more,” he said. “If these mandates are necessary, then the state can and must cover the costs. This will free up resources for upstate localities to invest in their own communities, their first responders and law enforcement.”

He has a plan to correct the system, which would close loopholes that enable big companies and Wall Street investors from paying their fair share of taxes.

Oberacker: Oberacker said as an Otsego County legislator and former town supervisor, he saw how state mandates affected municipal budgets.

“Ninety percent of our county property tax dollars collected support state-mandated programs,” he said, leaving little money for road improvement and other necessary services.

“Not only is it unfair, but it’s just not right,” he said. “I will fight Albany to keep more of our tax dollars right here, in our communities, working for the people.”

OVERDOSES AND MENTAL HEALTH

Barber: Drug manufacturers must be held accountable and funds from holding them accountable should go toward addiction and mental health services, Barber said.

He also said incarceration is not the best option for trying to resolve addiction and mental health needs and that communities can’t expect law enforcement to have the appropriate tools or resources to deal with drug and mental health needs.

“We know that incarceration is the most expensive and least effective way to treat addiction and mental health needs,” he said. “Our failure to deal effectively with these issues will continue to burden our communities.”

Oberacker: The coronavirus pandemic has really shown the mental, economic and physical effect on everyone from children to seniors. Many people are looking for relief and many people are also seeking professional help.

“We must do more to help those in need,” he said. “I will fight for our fair share of recovery funds, as well as mental health and drug addiction services, that our people need and deserve.”