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Republican mayoral challenger Michael Arbige talks immigration, plans for Amsterdam

Mayor Michael Cinquanti and challenger Pastor Michael Arbige
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Mayor Michael Cinquanti and challenger Pastor Michael Arbige

Early voting is now under way in New York, and in Amsterdam, it’s a choice between a first-term Democrat and a Republican local pastor.

Republican candidate and life-long Amsterdam resident Pastor Michael Arbige spoke with reporters after a debate Oct. 23 that included plenty of discussion about national issues. Arbige says everything is local in the end.

“I don't think I'm trying to do that. I know the Mayor’s accused me of trying to do that, because of like the illegal immigration stuff. I'm just saying, look, as mayor, this shouldn't be this is become a local issue. I know it's a national issue was become a local issue. And that's why I think we were asked about because the local issue.”

Amsterdam residents have been on alert since a Rotterdam motel closed its doors to accommodate a group of migrants sent north from New York City July 18th. Three privately-owned Amsterdam motels refused to house asylum seekers that same month.

Arbige has repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegal,” and stands by his use of the language, saying he won’t give the “politically correct answer” just to appease some voters.

“First of all, I can be very clear; illegal immigrants are not welcomed here. So, if you're going to try to send them all over the state find a different place to send them. So, I've been very clear about that for one thing. And, honestly, if they try to send them in here anyway, I don't understand why we can't meet them at the bus and say, ‘hey, turn this bus around, go somewhere else. You're not coming to Amsterdam.’ Like I just don't understand why, why we need to what's so wrong with defending Amsterdam and saying like, ‘we don't want illegal immigrants?’”

Asked what the most pressing issue is for Amsterdam residents, Arbige says water treatment. The challenger repeatedly leveled allegations of mismanagement at Mayor Michael Cinquanti during the debate.

“We should be increasing our water fund by selling water to more places love to have some sort of water bottling plant, eventually. And we got to make sure we're planning for the future with our water. Like I said, we have three employees there at the waterworks in a gunwale town of Providence, Saratoga County, and they are all nearing retirement. And there is no plan right now no succession plan, and they do everything there. And they know everything there. And you can't just pull someone from like the water tree and plant amps and put them up there. Because they will not be you know, without some good training and apprenticeship type stuff. And so that's, I think, the biggest issue water, it's our biggest blessing. And we got to make sure it stays that way.”

Arbige also criticized Cinquanti’s budget, up by $6.3 million this year, which he deems reckless. During the debate, Arbige challenged Mayor Cinquanti’s $1.3 million expenditure on upgrading the town’s infrastructure, which he clarified was intended to highlight what he deems to be ineffective governing.

“I said there's 5 million more dollars that he's not accounting for. That's 1.3 of the 6.3 increase, and that I'm okay with that that needs to be done. Now, I'm not okay with the fact that it's gone this long without being done. I think if we were again, planned better than we wouldn't have to spend $1.3 million a year just keeping the vegetation the way it should be. But it's been however, long decades, I guess, probably since we've done that in that track. And it's not the entire pipeline, but it's a big portion of it that needs to be cleared. Yeah, so that we need to do on top of the other, there's $5 million other spending that's gone, which is twice the again, 90% increase in the last two years, twice the increase in New York state spending in that time. So that's just kind of crazy to me.”

Arbige continued.

“And, for example, one of the things that we did is for contingency $470,000 that we took out of the water fund for contingency, and what is that? I know what contingency means, but like, it's like what is that? Like a big slush fund just to use for whatever I mean what's the point of it? We, you know, Personnel Services has gone up, I think by 44%, the past couple of years as far as the amount of people there at City Hall. All I know is that the city shrinks in population yet the size of government goes up. That should not be you know, that should not be at all. And so there's absolutely spending I don't think the mayor should have gotten a raise— to the mayor’s position $10,000! You know, and so there's a lot of stuff that we need to do better as far as spending goes.”

Arbige returned to his campaign talking points, regretting that some topics did not come up during the debate.

“I love Amsterdam. What angers me is that I do love Amsterdam. And the answer is going downhill. You know, they get economically crime, things we didn't get into, you know, we can talk too much about like, the drugs and the crime and just the kind of general malaise that you find in people. I just, you know, his father, so But no, I love this city. I really do. And I want my kids to be here. It's getting harder, hard to stay here though.”

Arbige ended by focusing on what he would do differently if elected mayor, and rejected Cinquanti’s claim that he tried to derail the debate.

“If I agreed with everything he did I wouldn’t be running for mayor, you know. So, I don't see what the issue is when he pointed those things out. I just mentioned things, you know, that he's got to be spending less money, I'd be planning better for the future, especially with our water. I'd be making sure police are at public events. You know, there's a lot of things I would do differently. And I'd be listening to people he talks about, I don’t know who he thinks he's talking to, because I go around the city and, literally, almost everyone says you can't get a hold of him. So, I don't know what is but whatever, you know, he can say that was so I'd be listening to you talking to people and being very transparent with people no more backroom deals.”

Election day is November 7th.

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