It's not every year that a local election has at least one issue that might sway voters. With all the attention garnered by the Genesee County Economic Development Center since the last County Legislature election, this November the opinions candidates hold on GCEDC funding and its policies might be an important issue for voters. We thought it a worthwhile public service to get candidates on the record on this issue as soon as they were declared candidates.
In posing the questions to the GOP candidates -- the first group to declare -- we found not all of the candidates agreed with that assessment.
We received objections to answering questions along the lines that it was too soon; wait until the election is closer; "my position is already well known"; and, most surprising, that candidates shouldn't have to answer questions before all of the candidates are declared.
There is apparently some concern that since there's still weeks left for candidates to declare, some candidates thought they shouldn't be asked policy questions until after the filing deadlines. None of the candidates explicitly stated that they fear their answers might prompt another candidate to enter the race. They did express concern that they would be sharing opinions that would be read by potential opponents before those opponents needed to answer the questions.
That's not a line of thinking The Batavian finds terribly persuasive. Any candidate should be willing to speak openly and publicly about their positions without fear of the political repercussions. If an opinion might spur another candidate to enter the race, well, then, that's good for democracy. If a candidate lacks sufficient confidence in a position that it will be easily targeted by opposition, then perhaps he or she should reconsider that position.
The filing deadlines are July 11 for candidates running on an established party line, and Aug. 20 for a candidate running as an independent (creating his or her own party line).
Below are the answers to our three GCEDC-related questions we received from six of the declared Republican candidates, the three declared Democrats and the lone independent to enter the race so far. After the three questions are statements we received from the three candidates who did not answer the questions.
Question 1: Traditionally, there has been an item in the county budget to transfer money to GCEDC to assist funding the operations of the agency. Last year, GCEDC received $215,000 in the county budget. Do you support continuing this fund transfer to GCEDC, or should it be eliminated or modified?
Shelley Stein, incumbent, Dictrict 5: The Genesee County Legislature has supported GCEDC at approximately 20% of the GCEDC 2013 approved budget. Moving forward I would support same level of funding to provide for foundational costs of GCEDC operations. Eighty percent of GCEDC’s budget must be derived from providing services and collecting fees for services from business community, grants and contractual annuity payments, not taxpayer dollars. Additionally, LeRoy Business Council and small businesses located in LeRoy are very supportive of the foundational funding of the GCEDC.
Earl Funderburk, challenger, District 5: I do not support the continuation of county budget funds to GCEDC. They have millions of dollars from fees and no longer require funds from the county.
Esther Leadley, incumbent, District 6: Every year the upcoming County budget gets several months of intense scrutiny – by the whole legislature, not just a committee. GCEDC’s funding request is always included in that scrutiny. Please note that State and Federal mandates continually erode the County legislators’ ability to provide a quality of life that Genesee County residents have come to expect.
We legislators have already begun general discussions about the 2014 budget. As we go forward, I am confident GCEDC’s funding request, when it is received, will be one of the topics of discussion. I will weigh all input and make my decision at that time.
Please also note that companies considering making a significant investment in Genesee County want concrete evidence that the County’s leadership has financial “skin in the game.”
Gregg Torrey, challenger (GOP endorsed), District 6: Every item included in the County budget needs be evaluated and that includes the funding which assists the operations of the GCEDC. With the increasing pressure put on County Government by State and Federal unfunded mandates each department must justify its funding request.
I was encouraged to see that the incentive compensation system at the GCEDC was eliminated last year. I am now more confident that the funding is directed to the intended purpose of supporting the economic development mission for the County.
With that being said, the EDC has shown a tremendous return on investment for the County and makes the County money while its funding is only a very small portion of the overall budget (under 1%). The County funding also shows that we are committed to investing in ourselves and the County’s support of the EDC’s efforts which include leveraging other State and Federal money. This support of the GCEDC does not go unnoticed during the attraction process when potential companies are considering bringing investment into our community.
Marianne Clattenburg, incumbent, District 8: My position on this issue is well documented and on the record. This was my first budget vote as a new legislator and I took the opportunity to voice the concerns that many of my constituents have expressed regarding GCEDC funding. Many opposed the salary and bonus structure of the organization. My position is that public employees who enjoy the benefits of a NYS retirement should not receive bonuses. The second reason I did not support the funding was that I wanted to send a strong message to the GCEDC that redevelopment must also become a priority of the organization. I represent the City of Batavia. We have needs and issues that are different than those of the rural towns around us. If the GCEDC is going to work as the county’s public benefit corporation dedicated to development, then it must strive to improve all areas of the county. I will dedicate my second term to working with the organization to see that this is done. My future support would be contingent upon the organization's willingness to work toward the goals of redevelopment, particularly in the City of Batavia.
William Fava, challenger, District 8: I would support a modification of the amount transferred from Genesee County to the GCEDC Agency. Originally, the agency needed the start up fund support, but now the agency has been successful in meeting yearly goals. The Agency has increased internal manpower to parallel anticipated growth and created sub organizations to minimize potential legal problems for Genesee County. In addition, the Agency continues to look forward (to) bringing in more business growth opportunities to the area…from all points of view, this State/County endeavor appears to be a success for the County. Modifications should be appropriate over the next few budget cycles to bring the annual fund down to a more reasonable amount. In doing this, the Agency can continue to document County support in any advertisement to a potential customer. The appearance of “Lack of County Support” has been mentioned many times during previous discussions concerning a decrease in funding…this is simply a reduction, not an elimination of the fund. A modification would be a win-win solution for the Agency and the County taxpayer.
Ed deJaneiro, incumbent, District 9: It now appears that the GCEDC finances are strong enough to continue without a County contribution.
Bob Bialkowski, challenger, District 9: I am very prudent when it comes to spending tax dollars so I would insist on a complete accounting of this expenditure. The way the state has the EDCs set up is that if you want to participate you have to pay. This means that if the county doesn’t support the GCEDC we won’t be considered for the grants the EDC receives, so yes I would vote to continue this support. Genesee County has done very well for itself considering that in a recent survey New York State placed 49th in economic development out of 50, but here we have seen tremendous growth. Last week Texas announced that it was aggressively marketing for New York businesses to move there. They have no state tax. New York needs to learn to treat all business the same and discontinue making special deals.
Andrew Young, candidate, District 4: Yes, I support the County investing in its goal of creating jobs, promoting business capital investment (which converts to tax base) and keeping our kids in our community.
Frank Ferrando, incumbent, District 7: As you indicated, the $215,000, or an amount similar, has been transferred to the GCEDC for several years. It’s not new. What I believe was disturbing to most local citizens was the bonus pay model used by the GCEDC with the assumption that the subsidy supported the bonuses. I and two colleagues on the Legislature voted against last year’s budget in objection to that practice. Bonuses are no longer a part of the GCEDC’s compensation practice. This year I will vote for the subsidy if the GCEDC Board presents to the Legislature a detailed description of a specific project the subsidy will be used to support. A demonstration of support by the County is important and it represents about .1 percent of our overall budget.
More after the jump. Click on the headline to read more.