AURORA — Candidates running for mayor and two trustee seats in Aurora came together Tuesday night at the Morgan Opera House to share their platforms with the community so residents can cast informed votes at the polls next Tuesday.
Incumbent Bonnie Apgar Bennett is seeking re-election, and two newcomers, Barbara Blom and Marie Dentes, are challenging Bennett for mayor.
Incumbent Trustees Grace Bates and Janet Murphy are also running for re-election, and newcomer Matt Bianconi is vying for one of the trustee positions.
The event organizer, Cody Long, organized the largely question-and-answer-community information night because she, along with other residents, didn't feel prepared to vote in the upcoming village election. The intent was for the event, "to be an opportunity to inform the community of the candidates and their election platforms for the upcoming election," Long said.
For 30 minutes, the public could submit questions to event moderators Ken Zabriskie and John Miller prior to the forum's start.
Trustees gave short introductions prior to the question-and-answer forum that focused largely on the mayoral candidates.
Bates largely focused on Aurora's need for a revised comprehensive plan, saying that it is "the key to shepherding our village into a prosperous position," and can be a large piece to growing the number of full-time residents in the village.
Murphy spoke to her love of giving back to a community she cares about deeply, and summarized who she is as a trustee and as deputy mayor with a simple statement: "I am someone who wants to do the right thing for the village," adding that experience counts and she understands Aurora's comprehensive plan and zoning law.
Newcomer Bianconi was born and raised in Aurora, and has returned in recent years as a full-time resident. "Living and working in the village has kept me close to the issues," he said, and while he initially thought about running for mayor, it became clear to him that "the right people are in charge" during such a sensitive time for the village.
Mayoral candidates also introduced themselves and stated their interest in running for office.
Dentes stated that "the most important issue in this election is an open government in Aurora," and she expressed that she felt at present the board inhibited open dialogue with residents and she believes "the future of the village depends on a spirit of cooperation and openness."
Blom expressed a deep love for Aurora, and as a minister she believes "being a mayor is a lot like being a minister of a small church." Blom expressed a desire to help Aurora's population grow, part of her push to create a new comprehensive plan, and a desire to find a cheaper and more viable water solution for the village.
Bennett said, "as mayor I am working now, and will continue, to build upon (Aurora's) strengths," to strengthen "the identity of the village" by building upon the foundation of engaged residents, and a place of stunning natural and architectural beauty where people will want to choose to live and thrive.
A question for the mayoral candidates was to explain their expertise when it comes to handling the water safety situation as well as dealing with an aging water plant.
Dentes explained that she has worked all her life and feels strongly about bringing all available knowledge to the table, and when it comes to solving the water crisis, she would seek to "utilize every person in the village" by bringing together all those who have water knowledge and knowledge of the village.
Bennett explained how just a year ago Wells College announced it wanted to get out of the water business, which has since allowed the village to get involved. Ever since, she has been in communication with the county, government agencies and engineers to find the best solution for the village and help Aurora qualify for funding. Ultimately, Bennett said, none of the mayoral candidates should be solving the water crisis, but should be depending on and listening to the engineers and agencies involved.
Blom stated that she herself has been in communication with many agencies as well, including engineers, the county health department and other municipalities. Blom voiced that based on conversations she's had and research she's conducted she believes the quickest and safest immediate remedy would be to join into Union Springs water supply.
The elections will be held on Tuesday, March 20.