Democrat Chris Rosenquest ran for mayor of Plattsburgh as an Independent in 2013 before losing to Republican James Calnon. Since then he has served two terms as a Clinton County Legislator representing Area 9, the northeast part of the city. This year he won a three-way Democratic primary against a local businessman and Mayor Colin Read. Rosenquest has released a nine-point “Plan for Plattsburgh” outlining his goals for the city and how he will achieve them. He explains to WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley why he initially referred to it as his Potluck Plan for the city.
“It is called the Plan for Plattsburgh. That's what we touted it at the beginning. And what we're saying around the potluck idea so that was a term borrowed from a really good economic or community development friend of mine here in Plattsburgh. And the idea behind that potluck approach is, you know, you go to your friend's house on a potluck, you know, you bring your grandma's best recipe for food. And that's what the whole idea is: you bring the best and brightest ideas to the table, the people to the table. You know these are the things that are going to make our community better. Those are the ideas that are going to help us grow and improve ourselves.”
Bradley: “Why did you feel it was necessary to have a plan like this put out particularly before the election?”
Chris Rosenquest: “Our city voters and our community deserve leadership that's transparent, that's engaging, they know what they're going to get. At the very least they know what kinds of ideas are being put on the table. You know, it's easy to go on the attack. It's more difficult to be creative, put forth a plan, defend the plan, put it out there for criticism and put it out there for acceptance, that is more difficult. You know, I want city voters to have a chance to know who they're going to get rather than who can do better marketing to get their vote out. So that's really what this is about. And the other side of putting out a plan, look, we've been talking to people and people need to understand like that we're listening. We're being responsive.”
Bradley: “Chris Rosenquest, this plan touches on a lot of different issues, things from partnering with schools, not just the colleges, but the high school. It looks at housing. It looks at transportation things like bike lanes and parking issues. You have developing a Plattsburgh Business Owner Consortium. The Destination Master Plan resurfaces in your plan. But one thing I notice is not in the plan is how about the DRI and the controversies surrounding the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative?”
Chris Rosenquest: “Yeah, that, you know, when we look at this plan, especially around the contention that has been developed, there are certain items in here that are specifically addressing, even though it's not one big header, there are certain items in here that are addressed that. For example we need a comprehensive city wide, not just downtown, city wide comprehensive master plan that will in turn help us identify where we can develop, what we should be responsibly developing in those areas, and then how to go about developing those things. Short of that I think it's just a hodgepodge approach, a knee jerk reaction to saying oh we have this plot of land down here and we're going to develop it. But how does that development fit into the larger scale of what's important to us as a community? So that's one thing. The other thing is, same thing I talked about in 2013, was a wholesale revision and replacement of our zoning and planning laws. And I really strongly believe that they are outdated zoning and planning laws. So that we can we can bring ourselves into the future thinking that we need to be doing when it comes to developing, responsibly developing our available land. So in terms of how do we develop on the waterfront? That should be clearly defined in our zoning and planning laws. Where do we develop? That's clearly defined in our zoning and planning and how we develop those things. Clearly define a new zoning planning law. And that's I you know, we strongly feel that identifying, you know, in that master plan and identifying and updated zoning planning laws, we do solve a lot of the issues that we're currently faced with the downtown development.”
Bradley: “Whether or not it's part of that concept or within the plan will the annexation disputes be on or off the table when you take office?”
Chris Rosenquest: “I don't know. Honestly, you know as much as I am, as much as I'm connected, as much as I'm involved politically and as much as I know people who are also connected politically it has been very difficult, very difficult to get information, clear information, and transparent information on the status of the annexation, the reasoning behind the annexation, the justifications for the annexation specifically. And then let's not even talk about, or yeah let's talk about, the Falcon Seaboard litigation and where that lies. Because you know, you and I have both asked those questions: what's going on with this? How much money is being spent? Where are we at with it? And there has just been zero information provided. So just you know, honestly to say like, oh, we're going to drop the annexation or we're going to drop this lawsuit or we're going to avoid this litigation, it'd be irresponsible for me to do because I just don't know. I don't have the information. And so you know making some type of judgment on it’s just not a responsible thing to do right now.”
Bradley: “Well, going back to your nine point plan there's no fiscal analysis associated with this. So are you assessing how you would be budgeting these ideas for the city when we're also in the midst of the COVID crisis and what looks like reduced funding from the state and federal government, reduced revenues and all of this stuff?”
Chris Rosenquest: “Mm hmm. Yeah, you know, and we're also concerned about that, but a lot of these ideas also come with community involvement. You know, when we talk about the revision of the zoning and planning laws there's already monies associated to that. When we talk about building business consortiums there's no price tag from the city's perspective that's associated to that. That is really a community driven plan. Now when you do talk about Clinton County Land Bank sure we are going to have to figure out how do we pay into that land bank in a way that's responsible for our community. But at the same time on the other side of that there's reintroducing zombie properties back onto the tax roll. The same thing with revisiting the Destination Master Plan there's opportunity there to increase tourism to our community. So there are opportunities in here that yes they would cost money, but there are also opportunities in here that yes they're going to generate good money for us too.”
Chris Rosenquest is the Democrat running for mayor of Plattsburgh. He faces Republican Scott Beebie in the November general election.