The annual Champlain Valley Business and Professional Women’s Meet the Candidates Forum was held last night in Plattsburgh. All of the candidates appearing on ballots across the county were invited to introduce themselves and then answer questions. Among those attending were five of the six people running for three Plattsburgh Common Council seats.
Voters will choose representatives in Plattsburgh’s Ward 2, 4 and 5 in November. In two wards incumbents face challengers while the third is an open seat after the sitting councilor decided not to run.
Each candidate had the opportunity to introduce themselves before taking questions. In Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly is seeking his fourth term and has been the council’s budget officer. “We’ve gotten through some pretty rough times. We’ve tried to increase our General Fund balance every year, make our operations more efficient and I’m happy to say after several years of struggle we are now able to offer our taxpayers lower taxes in 2021. And we have to maintain extreme financial discipline.”
Republican Jacob Avery is Kelly’s challenger. “I love this city. This place has always been the city on a shining hill for me. One thing I am absolutely hearing there is an unequivocal disconnect with our city council and our city government. And that’s why I’m running. The open communication, the transparency of why we’re voting, is needed and it’s painfully obvious in watching how our city council has operated and I believe I can bring that forward.”
The Ward 4 seat is being vacated by Steve Brodi, who had been appointed to the seat. Democrat Jennifer Tallon had originally planned to wait to run for office but the pandemic changed her perspective. “COVID-19 changed everything. I lost a friend in March and I realized, you know, who knows if we have another 10 years. Sometimes you have to just seize the day, seize the opportunity and I realized this is my opportunity now. And it seems like all there is is negativity with City Council now. Maybe I could do something about it.”
Tallon’s opponent, Republican Ethel Facteau, did not attend the forum.
Ward 5 Democrat Patrick McFarland has served on the council for about 2 and a half years. He responded to a question about the mayor’s proposed budget. “The mayor’s budget is a proposal and certainly the City Council is sharply divided on this. I personally am not in favor of cutting positions. There’s cuts in there to the Community Development office. I have a lot of worries about that. There’s cuts to the Police Department. There’s cuts to the Fire Department. So what the final results are going to be I’m hoping that they won’t be as drastic as put forth in the mayor’s budget.”
Solidarity Party Ward 5 candidate Jonathan Gordon says the city budget will need federal stimulus funding. “We need that federal money because as a community we can’t just produce our own money like the federal government could. And barring that arriving for us it may arrive at a point where we just have to roll up our sleeves and take care of our community and put that work in regardless of how the system we rely on is or is not functioning. There’s a bottom line that we have to maintain.”
The Meet the Candidates forum also featured the Plattsburgh mayoral candidates, Democratic Congressional candidate Tedra Cobb, Democratic State Senate candidate Kimberly Davis and Democratic state Assemblyman D. Billy Jones. Republican Congressional Rep. Elise Stefanik and Republican state Senate candidate Dan Stec, who is currently in the Assembly, were invited but did not attend.