Less than eight hours before a Thursday afternoon swearing-in ceremony, and less than two days before the official inauguration, Scott Steve, Cortland’s first Republican mayor in nearly 40 years, already has a packed schedule of “hot potatoes.”
“This is my list of hot potatoes. There are 24 items here of issues that I have facing me,” Steve said, pointing to the list in front of him that includes a plan to buy and renovate the former Parker School for a child-care facility, creating zoning to allow for marijuana sales, following up on a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, reconfiguring code offices and reassessing property values.
Despite this, being Cortland’s first Republican mayor since 1984, he felt “humbled and honored to have the opportunity.
Steve owns Scott Steve Builders, which provides business development, consulting and other services. He also serves as a commissioner on the city Zoning Board of Appeals and served on the Cortland County Legislature from 2002 to 2005, including two years as its chairman.
Alderperson Thomas J. Michales (R-8th Ward) knew Steve 18 years ago when Steve was a county legislator. “He is an experienced individual. You may also like his transparency and joining communication with both parties,” Michales said. “He is the one who always crosses the party line to do what’s right.
Early in his campaign, Steve spoke of the importance of transparency and accountability.
He plans to increase the city government’s transparency by releasing a monthly financial report, and by having fewer closed-door sessions.
“The most important part is for the common council to have fiduciary responsibilities over their accounts and over our funds. So we know exactly what we are trying to spend,” Steve said.
“I think transparency is important, so that people can see exactly where we are, if there are problems or if things are going well,” he said. “So everybody can do part of the solution. If people understand what the problems are in the community, different ideas may come out with solutions.”
He’s sensitive to increasing revenue and reducing spending. “We have to come up with creative ways to make things work without costing more money. We cannot just rely on the grant resources all the time,” he said. “I mean, it’s great to have them, but we need to come up with a system in place that can maintain our infrastructure without increasing taxes without relying on the grants.”
Steve took a city-funded high school resource officer as an example. “Right now we have a full-time officer. We can hire a retired officer to cover that on a part-time basis, and save the city’s taxpayers a third of what the cost is now,” he said.
The same thought applies to a desk officer at the police department, he said. “We don’t need them. Let’s get them out on the streets. Let’s fix the scheduling.”
Outgoing Mayor Brian Tobin’s administration has featured a number of improvements at city parks, but Steve said he wants a bit more — perhaps a dog park.
“I want Cortland more of a home instead of a destination,” he said.