City of Plattsburgh voters will elect a new mayor in November. Democrat Chris Rosenquest won June’s primary against two challengers, including incumbent Mayor Colin Read, and now faces Republican Scott Beebie in the general election. The two candidates met for a half hour debate on MyNBC5, the region’s NBC affiliate, Monday.
The debate was conducted virtually with NyNBC5 anchor Brian Colleran posing questions in-studio and candidates Rosenquest and Beebie appearing via Zoom. Beebie is a retired police officer and Rosenquest serves on the Clinton County Legislature.
The half-hour forum offered a range of questions on which the two candidates often agreed.
In 2016 the city was awarded $10 million during the first round of New York state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Collaran noted both candidates oppose the current iteration of the plan. “Do you let this plan go through or do you tell the state to keep their money and start again? Scott, let's start with you.”
Beebie: “The DRI in its inception has morphed into this project known as Prime. In the zoning board it’s not approved. When we're successful in November, we will take a look at whatever is left for us to deal with.”
Colleran: “All right, Chris, uh, the same question about the DRI.”
Rosenquest: “Keep in mind six million of that money went into storefront facade improvements that helped our downtown businesses. The question that I have at this point is, can we start to develop a Plan B right now and then also how do we prevent something like this from happening in the future?”
The city has filed lawsuits over a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement with the town. The city is also attempting to annex a 224-acre parcel of land on Rugar Street. The town filed a lawsuit attempting to stop public hearings on the move. Colleran noted that the relationship between the town and city has deteriorated badly and asked Rosenquest what he would do to repair the relationship. “It's not a day one thing. It is a right now thing. Both Mike Cashman (Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor) and I we talk quite often both on city issues, city-town issues as well as county town issues. So there's already a partnership there.”
Colleran: “Scott, how will you repair the relationship between the city and the town?”
Beebie: “My first meeting with Mr. Cashman took place before I even announced my candidacy for mayor. It's sad that instead of shaking hands and communicating with our neighbors we've resulted in litigations. How many thousands of dollars have we wasted in attorney fees, investigations and litigations when we should be working together cooperatively to solve problems?”
Both candidates say the city has not taken advantage of its natural resources as a potential tourism hub. Beebie said Plattsburgh needs someone to promote the city and region more effectively. “We need to understand that we're much more than a bathroom break on the way from New York City to Montreal. We’re in a perfect location to really put ourselves on the map and make us a destination spot.”
Colleran: “Chris Rosenquest.”
Rosenquest: “I certainly wouldn't consider the city of Plattsburgh a bathroom break. I've been working directly in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce as their legislative liaison over the last five years on their strategic tourism planning committee. And there is a strong drive to create ourselves, not only the city of Plattsburgh, but our region as a tourist destination.”
In August, the Plattsburgh Common Council decided not to renew a contract between the city police department and the city school district to provide School Resource Officers. Beebie, a retired city police detective, said it’s essential SRO’s be allowed back in schools. “This is an opportunity for us to support community policing. I advocated for the program back in 2018 and I stood up in front of the school board as a retired officer and suggested the program and supported it. I believe it's a mechanism for students to have a different way of connecting with law enforcement other than during emergencies.”
Rosenquest: “The council's position I thought wasn't fair. I went and I spoke to each individual counselor on their position and unfortunately there was a communication breakdown and I would like to have seen that resolved better.”
Audio is courtesy of MyNBC5.