Less than two weeks before Election Day, the candidates for mayor of Plattsburgh debated Wednesday night.
Vision2Action was formed in 2009 to help plan the region’s future. It has four primary goals: community improvement, attracting 3,000 new individuals and families to the area by 2040, engaging the public on the future of the community and promoting regional pride. The organization plans to attain those goals by supporting initiatives in transportation, recreation, education and the arts.
The apolitical group sponsored the debate between incumbent Independent/Republican-endorsed Mayor James Calnon and Democrat Colin Read. Questions from the moderators were based on Vision2Action’s four priorities.
Moderator Colleen Lemza asked Read what plans he has to improve transportation to support employment. “This raises actually some infrastructure questions and we need to make sure we maintain our roads properly. That means that we’re going to have to accelerate road repair. But there’s other mechanisms too. We have to have good transportation networks. That’s a county concern as well. We should be working more closely with the county and the adjoining communities.”
Moderator: “And Mayor Calnon, same question.”
Calnon: “Eighty-six percent of our roads are at good or excellent. We do have a very, ah, very long term plan to continue to grow our roads but also to incorporate the Smart Streets guidelines. I’m hoping that what will happen is we will depend less and less on the personal automobile and we’ll be able to have more public transportation.”
In the recreation themed questions moderator Julia Overton-Healy asked Read how he would capitalize on marina development, especially when past plans have failed. “I was looking at some old maps of Plattsburgh from a hundred years ago and the walk, about six block walk, from Dock Street to the center city was full of shops. Now it’s relatively abandoned. Let’s revitalize that corridor. Let’s create more centers and have them connected. So let’s think of different spokes rather than one hub.”
Moderator: “Mayor Calnon.”
Calnon: “I’m a big fan of small successes vs. large failures. We have plans for 94 slips that we drew up a few years ago but we only put in 32 because we proved their success. Small successes will get us there. That’s the way that you build without overburdening your tax base.”
During the 90-minute forum the two candidates had 90 seconds to respond to each question with no rebuttals. The incumbent mayor briefly lamented the lack of rejoinder after Read responded to a housing question. The moderators, however, allowed the candidates time at the end of the debate to revisit or rebut any questions. Mayor Calnon said he had numerous notes on the night’s conversation. “When I look at some of the things that my opponent has said tonight they’re a little interesting. He compared us, the city, tax rate to a county tax rate. Well that’s an unfair comparison. Counties don’t have the level of fire and police protection that we do. It’s that kind of stuff, that kind of a muddling the waters here. And I think that’s really kind of what separates our campaigns at this point. I’m just about facts. I’m just about actions. I’m not about words.”
Moderator: “Dr. Read?”
Colin Read: “You know I think I’m also about actions. But words are actually important. We face some significant challenges as a city. We’re not alone in them but we do face those challenges. And I think the way we overcome them is to keep our citizens and our voters incredibly well informed. And one of the things I’m most concerned about is the financial picture for the city right now.”