Things we learned from the debate, and some things we already knew but were confirmed:
Jeff Moran and Liz Simonson are composed, comfortable speakers; not easily rattled, and are secure in the positions they’ve taken. It was good to see them debate, to take a measure of them, as Liz reaches for the top spot and Jeff gets to really run after he got a free pass last time in his first, unopposed run for office.
Liz says that she’s not an obstructionist on the current board, as Jeff claims, and that she’s voted with the board on almost every issue. That’s true, but what’s also true is that “almost” every issue on any board comes down to a unanimous vote…paying bills, hiring and firing, allowing events to happen, hanging banners — the routine business of the town is contained in most of the votes…it’s the ones in the “almost” category that breed contention. Liz says she’ll build consensus. Jeff says change the composition of the board and you’ll have it.
Jeff is the strongest advocate for moving town facilities to the Elna building on Route 212 and there are some good reasons he gives. But he says that the Comeau easement, still not voted in, makes building a new facility there “infeasible,” though the draft easement sets aside a parcel near the street for just such a facility. And details about what happens to the decommissioned facilities are thin, save for a vague notion of selling Town Hall.
Jeff said Liz, along with Chris Collins and Jay Wenk, could have resolved to have a referendum on spending more money on the Town Hall renovation, and that’s true, but it is clear that even though someone has a majority, there is considerable power in the supervisor’s office, the top slot and it is tough to buck.
We saw a definite contrast in approaches to economic sustainability, with Liz favoring a tourist based, arts and real estate approach, utilizing the town’s cultural heritage to revitalize it; Jeff believes in a wider mix of businesses, and that for the old Simulaids complex and, yes, Elna, to be viable for enterprise they must have town infrastructure, such as sewer and water. This raises questions about the viability of the current sewage treatment plant, the cost of such an expansion, and the desire of those who once voted not to be involved in the sewer project to now join in.
Another interesting item we learned in the debate is that the town believes that for RUPCO to hook its proposed Bradley Meadows project up to the Hamlet sewer system, it must have federal approval to cross the wetland, and that the town must seek this approval and that the town board would need three votes to ask for such. RUPCO could still build an on-site system, as it sits, according to Jeff, in the Eastern Wastewater District.
Both Democratic candidates performed well. Neither “won” the debate, and the liveliest section was when they questioned each other. Both appeared to satisfy their bases, and both will have to reach out to the rest of the voters.
And maybe the Republicans will have a candidate, too, by the time we get to October.++