By State and Local Action Team (SLAT)
This article was printed in the Syracuse Peace Council’s Newsletter: Sept/Oct 2019 Issue
Before we focus our attention on 2020 to protect our democracy, we need to first focus on our local government. Local governments make decisions that impact our communities. County government decides how to fund important services and programs ranging from health services, infrastructure priorities, and where district lines are drawn. Over 60% of registered voters are missing the opportunity to vote for their representatives that live where they live. This November you have the opportunity to vote on over 12 representatives from Town Councilors to County Executive.
Local Government Issues
In 2020, the census will occur as it does every 10 years. We need to make sure there is an accurate count because this information will be used to redistrict Onondaga County in 2021. On March 5th of 2019 all 12 Republican County Legislators voted against using a fair, non-partisan process to conduct redistricting.
We need more transparency at every level of government. Meetings need to be live streamed and accessible online for public viewing. Public input needs to be valued and considered while decisions are being made.
After 10 years of study, the NYSDOT has announced the community grid as their preferred option. But local politicians keep fighting for the status quo without consulting their constituents. We need representatives that will move Onondaga County forward. The county, city, towns and villages need to work together to make Onondaga County better for all residents.
The district attorney is the chief prosecutor for Onondaga County. They appoint deputy district attorneys, and this team is responsible for presenting cases against individuals who are suspected of breaking the law. They decide what cases to pursue and recommend sentencing. In Onondaga County, we have had the same District Attorney since 1992.
Onondaga County has a Climate Action Plan but there has been little action taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Towns throughout Onondaga have no plans to work towards 100% renewable energy. There is plenty we can do at a local level to invest in clean energy, which will create jobs and get our communities off fossil fuels. We could install more electric vehicle charging stations and require any new government buildings to reach a net zero energy status, helping us reduce our carbon footprint and saving taxpayers money.
County and Local Races
Even though Onondaga County has a majority of Democrats, the County government has long been dominated by Republicans. Their super-majority in the Legislature has enabled them to block a number of initiatives, including a Sustainability Plan and an impartial redistricting process.
Editor’s Note: (D) – Democrat (W) – Working Families (G) – Green
County Executive: Tony Malavenda (D/W), former sewer business owner, is running against incumbent Ryan McMahon (R) who was appointed last November. Since the position of County Executive was created in 1962, it has never been filled by a Democrat. The County Executive sets priorities in a $1.3 billion dollar budget for the county.
District Attorney: Chuck Keller (D/W), a defense attorney, and Gary Lavine (C), a Republican attorney, are running against incumbent William Fitzpatrick (R), who has been in office since 1992. Fitzpatrick has only faced challengers twice in his 28 years as District Attorney due to abusing the power of his office.
County Clerk: Mark Kolinski (D/W) vs. incumbent Lisa Dell (R).
County Comptroller: Marty Masterpole (D/W) is challenging incumbent Matt Beadnell (R). Beadnell was appointed last January to finish the term of former Comptroller Bob Antonacci, who is now a state senator.
The following districts all present opportunities to move in a more progressive direction. To find your county district go to www.voterlookup.elections.ny.gov
1st District: Justin Neal (D/W), a pharmacist, vs. incumbent Brian May (R), a management consultant.
2nd District: Nodesia Hernandez (D/W), a CEO of Minority Paralegal Association and Director of Community Outreach for Senator Rachel May vs. incumbent James Rowley (R), an Assistant Superintendent of Oneida City School District.
4th District: Kathy Zabinski (D), a Corrections Sergeant and retired union treasurer vs. incumbent Judith Tassone (R).
5th District: Jessica Bumpus (D/W), Communications Director for Senator Rachel May vs. incumbent Debra Cody (R), who was a constituent service director for Senator DeFrancisco.
6th District: Susan Scheuerman (D/W), a former NYS field investigator and current organizer for Honor House vs. incumbent Julie Abbott-Kenan (R), a former television journalist.
7th District: Mary Kuhn (D/W), a former social worker vs. Courtney Hills (R), a municipal and real estate attorney. Mary Kuhn won a huge victory in the Democratic primary, running on a pro-Community Grid platform.
9th District: Gina Iliev (W), a health equity coordinator at Planned Parenthood of CNY, is challenging incumbent Peggy Chase (D), a registered nurse and Kevin Kuehner (R), a personal injury attorney.
10th District: Mark Matt (D/W), a former sales manager of a software company vs. incumbent Kevin Holmquist (R), a branch manager of Key Bank. Mark Matt lost by only 143 votes in the last election.
11th District: Irene Workman (D/W), a Navy Veteran and Licensed Practical Nurse vs. incumbent John McBride (R), District Director for Senator Antonacci.
12th District: Jennifer Blusk (D/W), an educator vs. incumbent David Knapp (R), an Army Veteran and salesperson.
15th District: Misse Ross (W), a community activist vs. Bill Kinne (D), a property manager and past county legislator, and incumbent Miles Bottrill (R).
City of Syracuse
Board of Education has four seats to be filled. There are three incumbents running: Mark Muhammad (D), Dan Romeo (D/W), and Katie Sojewicz (D/W). Twiggy Billue (W), a long-time community activist and president of the local National Action Network, is running on the Working Families line. Tamica Barnett (D/W) has both Democratic and Working Families endorsement. Michael Hunter (R) and Eric Winfree (R) are also running.
Common Council-at-Large: Michael Green (D/W) is an incumbent. Rita Paniagua (D/W) and Frank Cetera (G). Two seats available.
1st District: Jay Subedi (W), a Bhutanese refugee and leader in the immigrant community, lost his Democratic slot due to some invalid petition signatures. He is supported by many Democrats as well as the Working Families party. He is opposing incumbent Joseph Carni (R), a financial adviser.
2nd District: Patrick Hogan (D), worked at the city parks department and is a past city councilor challenged by Bill Bass (G), an environmental scientist.
The town governments in Onondaga County and surrounding counties have long been dominated by Republicans. A large number of races in the towns show candidates of only Republican, Conservative, and Independence parties, with no opponents from the Democratic, Green, or Working Families parties. However, there are some progressives running.
Town of Manlius: John Deer, (D/W), Elaine Denton (D/W), Heather Waters (D/W) and Katelyn Kriesel (D) are running for four seats on the Town Board, against four Republicans.
Town of Fabius: Marguerite Dormer (D/W) is running for Town Supervisor against incumbent Melanie Vilardi (R).
Sharon Goodfellow (D/W) is running for one of two seats on the Town Board.
Town of Clay: LaToya Jones (D) is running for one of three seats on the Town Board.
Every election matters. Because of last year’s election we now have early voting in New York State. You can vote at your regular polling place on Tuesday, November 5, or vote early on the following dates and locations.
To find your polling place go to: voterlookup.elections.ny.gov