Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Village Elections

-----Local elections in GreeneLand's five Villages will take place this Wednesday (3/18; not on the usual Tuesday, which is St Patrick's Day). At stake are seats on governing boards, some mayoralties (where they are decided by direct election rather than trustees' choice), and judicial offices. Four of those elections are treated in The Daily Mail of 3/14: . CORRECTION. The Catskill Village election does not take place until March 31st (coinciding with the date of the special Congressional election) In HUNTER, one Village Trusteeship is subject to election this year, and one candidate has taken the field. Michael Tancredi, proprietor of High Peak Landscape Company, seeks a fifth three-year term. He is an enrolled Democrat who is identified on the ballot (as in previous elections) as the Independent Mountain Party standard-bearer. A single vote will enable Mr Tancredi to re-join Mayor William Malley and Trustee Alan Higgins on the Village governing board. In TANNERSVILLE, Mayor Lee McGunnigle seeks re-election, and he almost faced a challenge, a vocally strong challenge, from ex-mayor Gina Guarino. Mr McGunnigle defeated Ms Guarino at the last election, when her last name was Legari and she stood as the Republican incumbent. This time she announced that she would run as an Open Government Party candidate, and she contended (to Daily Mail reporter Jim Planck, 1/28) that Tannersville's finances have gone into a "downward spiral" under the present regime. ------The nominating petition that she presented to the county Board of Elections, however, was ruled invalid. The election commissioners found that the dates of signatures of purported witnesses to endorsements of the Guarino candidacy preceded the dates of purported endorsements. Ms Guarino then declared that she would carry on as a write-in candidate. "I'm still interested in being a voice of the people." ------Ms Guarino formerly worked in the Elections office as a Deputy Commissioner. She left in the wake of legal troubles arising from her use of Tannersville Village checks to make official purchases after she had lost the March 2007 election. ------Mr McGunnigle is the endorsed Democratic Party candidate. He is running in tandem on the Democratic line with incumbent Village trustees, Gregory Landers (who in terms of enrollment is independent) and Anthony Lucido (an enrolled Republican). The terms of the other incumbent trustees, Linda Kline and Mary Sue Timpson, run to March 2010. The local Republicans did not hold a caucus and thus are not fielding Village candidates this year. ----The winning candidates, incidentally, could prudently consider up-dating their Village's web site, whose Events link yields news about a Halloween curfew and a Christmas tree lighting, while its board meeting minutes terminate in May 2008, and its Notices & Announcements are dated 2005. In CATSKILL, three candidates are vying for two Village Board seats. They are Jim Chewens and Patrick McCulloch, incumbents, and Eileen Porto Rosenblatt, wife of a former trustee. Mr Chewens, a prison correctional officer and veteran local firefighter, is standing for a third two-year term. He is a registered Republican but has been endorsed by the local Democratic committee as well as by the Republican committee. Mr McCulloch, an enrolled Democrat, will be listed on the ballot as a Liberty Party as well as a Democratic candidate. At the Republican caucus he came close to winning that committee's endorsement. He is well connected with local firefighters and police officers, and was praised warmly by Mayor Vincent Seeley. ------Ms Rosenblatt's name will appear on the Working Women's Party line as well as the Republican line. -----Meanwhile, incumbent Village Justice William Wooton, who came into office by appointment to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of David Leggio, is unopposed in a bid for a regular term on the bench. He has been nominated by the Democratic and the Republican committees. In COXSACKIE, Village voters will decide a contest between two candidates for mayor: John Bull, the incumbent, and Mark Evans, who is currently a Coxsackie Town Council member. In addition, the voters will go through the motions of re-electing Village Trustees Stephen Hanse and Gregory Backus, Republican candidates who are unopposed. ------Mr Evans's name will appear on the ballot on the Taxpayers' Choice Party and the Republican Party lines. Mr Bull, who won the mayor's office in 2007 as the Democratic candidate (out-polling long-serving incumbent Dianne Ringwald), did not seek local Democratic endorsement this time. Just before the deadline for filing, however, he filed petitions that served to put him on the ballot under the Citizens for the Preservation of Coxsackie banner. -----Mr Bull's time in office has been characterized by Linda Fenoff, editor of The Greenville Press, as "rancorous." Two trustees quit. Mr Bull suspended and locked out the police chief. He incurred legal bills which the trustees had not authorized. ------In a letter to constituents, as quoted in The Daily Mail (Billie Dunn, 3/14) Mr Bull sais "I've demanded that the Village and its officials act in a legal, ethical and responsible manner"--insinuating thereby that his demand was sorely needed. He also said that he had "determined it would be irresponsible for me to step away during this critical time in our community." ------A Coxsackie resident, Dolores Gori, accuses Mr Bull of circulating campaign material which improperly maligns Mr Evans and his employer, the locally owned State Telephone Company. His spurious conflict-of-interest warning, says Ms Gori (Daily Mail , 3/6; Greenville Press, 3/12)) diverts attention from real issues such as Village finances, water quality, policing, public works and "the very, very bad press that [Bull] brought to our village not long ago." ------Another local resident, Sandy Mathes, who manages the county's Industrial Development Agency, has voiced the hope that Mr Evans as mayor can "lead us out of this abyss of mismanagement." ATHENS is the scene this year of full-scale electoral competition. Two candidates are running for mayor, and four are vying for two Village Board seats. ------Nomnated by local Republicans for the Village Board seats are Richard Green (making a second run) and Arlene Halsted. The Democratic nominees are Robert June and incumbent R. Thomas Sopris Jr. (The other incumbent whose term was ending, Chris Pfister, chose to not seek re-election). -----Mayor Andrea Smallwood is standing for re-election. This would be a second term, following service as a Trustee. Ms Smallwood carries the Democratic Party endorsement along with support from residents who are loosely allied under the banner Friends of Athens. She was unopposed until a last-minute appearance by Ronald Coons Sr, a Planning Board member who attended the Republican caucus but did not seek endorsement. Subsequently he filed to run on a Concerned Citizens Party line. ------Mr Coons's filing marks the latest phase of a campaign waged against Mayor Smallwood and other local officials by him and by Dolores Hodges, who operates a web site called Concerned Americans for Reponsible Government ( . Its last entry dates from July 2008). They contend that current Village governors, in cahoots with newer residents, are fostering ominous changes in the community's character. -----Mingled with expressions of apprehension about change in permitted uses of properties in Athens are lamentations by Mr Coons about the state of civil society. These are expressed by means of rhetorical questions. In a newspaper missive (Daily Mail, 2/28/09; also in Mr Coons asks "Whatever happened to the things we were taught as youths in our schools?" "Who is better to determine what is best for us than 'We the People'?" "Where have these values that we were taught and cherished gone? Has the world changed so much that the people no longer have a say in what their government does?" ------(Also voiced in that letter is the opinion that "We often think that the problems of government will not hamper with us on the small village level but they do.") ------Those questions, signed by "...candidate for mayor," invite the inference that they are peculiarly relevant to the imminent local election. They prod respondents to accept the belief that traditional core values have indeed been lost. The author does not undertake to address the questions he poses. He does not say what difference would be made by local votes. Yet he insinuates that a vote for Coons would be restorative. ------Disputing that version of what is at stake, in addition to Mayor Smallwood are various Village officials and residents. According to Mr Sopris (in a Daily Mail guest column), Mr Coons persistently delivers claims that are "incredulous" and "outrageous." According to Village Trustee Herman Reinhold (Daily Mail, 12/15/09) Mr Coons and Ms Hodges make a practice of sounding false alarms, depicting open deliberations as secretive plots, confounding their small group with the citizenry at large, and otherwise "misrepresenting the facts." WARNING. Implicit in the foregoing treatments of imminent Village elections is an insidious suggestion. The suggestion is conveyed by way of what information is given and is not given. Any act of description is an act of selection, and hence of emphasis. In these reports, candidates are described persistently, and often solely, by way of party affiliations: Democratic, Republican, other. That verbiage reflects common journalistic practice. It derives legitimacy in some measure from election laws prescribing that candidates be listed on the ballot both vertically, by office sought, and horizontally, by party affiliation. Candidates can only get their names on the ballot by meeting requirements, mostly in the way of petition signatures, which oblige them to l be identified as the nominee of a named party, or of more than one party (even a fictive, no-members party). Thus, in describing candidates mainly by party affiliation, a reporter delivers a solid, factual, objective bit of information. At the same time, however, he makes a suggestion about the information's value. He suggests that for the purpose of choosing candidates for elective office, party brand is a meaningful and even sufficient basis.

No comments: