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NYS Village Voters Head To The Polls

Villages across New York are conducting elections today.

March 15 and June 21 are the two dates designated for local government races in New York’s villages this year.

Among the races of local interest, the Rensselaer County village of Castleton-on-Hudson and the Columbia County village of Kinderhook are holding mayoral contests.

Robert Schmidt and Joseph Keegan are opposed in Castleton, where the loss of a convenience store has become a critical election issue in the village of 1,600.  Schmidt is running on the "Friends of Castleton Stewart's" party line.   "A year and a half ago our Stewart's Shop closed on Main Street and my wife and I got very actively involved in trying to keep the store open. A small group of people kinda retained a friendship and we also tried to work with the village. The big issue for us is economic development. Our Main Street is in terrible condition. We're only 7 miles south of Albany and we're down to just two or three businesses, there's tons of vacant shops. I guess the wakeup call was when Stewart's left. I said, 'Oh my god, a Stewart's left, we really are in trouble.'" 

Mayor Keegan says he's also concerned about Main Street and economic development.   "I understand what my opponents are complaining about. I'm frustrated too, but sometimes business deals take this amount of time."

Stewart's closed its doors in fall 2014 after 40 years in Castleton. Residents say it was really one of the only businesses in town where they could sit down and meet over cups of coffee.   "You actually right now really can't get a cup of coffee on Main Street. You can't get milk, you can't get bread, and it's frustrating to all of us."

There are other issues including dealing with abandoned and deteriorating buildings, and what Schmidt sees as a missed opportunity to build a pedestrian footbridge over railroad tracks that would have given access to land that could have been made into a park.

Schmidt's wifeGina Giuliano is on the ballot running for a trustee seat.

Nearly 20 miles to the west, Mitch Levinn is the sole candidate for mayor, seeking another term in the Rensselaer County Village of East Nassau.   "Although that doesn't necessarily mean I am unopposed, since in a small village write-in candidates could conceivably prevail if turnout is light. I don't know of anyone else interested in the position at this time, but I would much prefer having a contested election."

Levinn says his priorities include working on projects like infrastructure, preserving historic buildings and programs to benefit senior citizens' quality of life. There's one outstanding issue:   "Specifically we're currently very concerned about the proposed Northeast Direct Pipeline and its planned compressor station just north of our village."

Elsewhere, Rima Bostick is running for mayor of the Columbia County Village of Kinderhook. The 84-year-old retired financial planner feels "there are things that need to be done," such as zero-based budgeting, maximizing the use of shared services and building a base of volunteers...  "...who can provide expert services and advice to the village. We have a fair number of captains or lieutenants of industry living in the village with a lot of expertise who can help us do whatever needs to be done, ranging from posters to advising us on equipment. We have some problems with the sewer system, there are engineers here who could advise the baord on that. We've been doing some marketing because we have some empty stores and we have people who retired from major advertising agencies in New York City who are quite willing to do that kind of thing."

Sitting Mayor Carol Weaver isn't running for another term. Bostick's opponent is former two-term Mayor Jim Dunham, who says he wants to keep the village moving forward by getting empty storefronts filled, to preserve the village's historic attractions and, unlike Bostick, he wants to keep the Department of Public Works under village control.  "...so we can set our own priorities and continue to have the readily available services that they provide.  While we should continue to work with the town of Kinderhook and Village of Valatie where it's cost-effective, and look for other inter-municipal opportunities, we should maintain our own DPW."

Although village elections are typically plagued by low voter turnout, Bostick expects a healthy show of support among the 1,237 residents of the more than 200-year-old village, where election signs have gone up for the first time ever:  "We have a 1,010 registered voters. In the last election 37 people voted, but it was uncontested. So what I'm trying to do is get everybody out to vote. At this level it makes sense to have participatory government."

Other village elections being held today include races in Altamont,  Colonie, Corinth, Galway, Hoosick Falls, Nassau, Ravena, Round Lake, Saranac Lake, Schaghticoke, Skaneateles, Stillwater and Valley Falls.

You can also visit your village's website for information. All polls close at 9 p.m.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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