Three individuals are running in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for mayor of Plattsburgh including the incumbent. They recently debated in a sparsely populated auditorium due to coronavirus restrictions.
Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh taped the Democratic mayoral primary debate at Clinton Community College with the candidates, camera operators, panelists and moderator. No one else was allowed in the auditorium, to comply with social distancing mandates.
Incumbent Mayor Colin Read, who is seeking a second four-year term, faces County Legislator Chris Rosenquest and businessman Tenzin Dorjee in the primary.
In opening statements, Rosenquest immediately pointed to controversies that have arisen during Read’s term. “Our city deserves a leader that has the skills, ability and understanding that balancing a budget is just as important as creating community cohesion. I’m running because we need a leader that has the desire and the relationships to mend the divisions with our town, the school board and many of the other community groups as these divisions are creating more harm than good.”
Dorgee noted that he has worked with NGOs and experienced life as a refugee before coming to the U.S. “What I bring to the table is the genuine aspirations of the people that are affected by the decisions made in the administration. And I’m hoping that I will bring a different perspective to it.”
Mayor Read outlined his accomplishments and hopes to get through the COVID-19 recession. “I’ll always put city residents first. To you I pledge experience and proven leadership.”
A number of questions focused on controversial plans for redevelopment of the Durkee Street area of the downtown. Panelist Joe LoTempio, editor-in-chief of the Plattsburgh Press Republican, asked about that area of the DRI, or Downtown Revitalization Initiative, project. “I’d like to know your thoughts on that project and if it should go forward?”
Chris Rosenquest: “I don’t believe that a 115-unit monolithic building in the heart of our downtown reflects what our community wants.”
Mayor Read: “I think this will be good for the community and it has evolved quite a bit.”
Moderator Thom Hallock: “Mr. Dorjee.”
Tenzin Dorjee: “I’ve been against this project right from the beginning when it was reimagined to what it is right now. Any corporation that comes in is always here to make money. They’re not here to revitalize the downtown.”
The current administrations of the city and town have been so at odds over an old shared Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement from the former Falcon Seaboard power plant that it led to a lawsuit. Read says he is willing to negotiate a settlement. “As an update it’s still ongoing. The judge has asked us and I fully agree and I’ve actually put this out a number of times I think this is something we could probably easily solve in an afternoon if all the parties are willing to do it.”
Hallock: “Mr. Rosenquest.”
Rosenquest: “The city lost a significant amount of revenue with the change of agreement with the Falcon Seaboard project. That happened before Colin’s time. But what happened during your time is the amount of litigation that the city has been faced with. And I think Pat Bradley just the other day asked you how much money the city was spending in this litigation on top of now new litigation that the city’s being faced with for the Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition.”
Retired city police lieutenant Scott Beebie is the sole Republican running for mayor.
The full debate can be viewed at Mountain Lake PBS’ website.