AUBURN — Meeting in the district which they hope to represent, Cayuga County Legislature candidates Mike Lesch and Elane Daly faced off at a forum held in Cayuga Community College Tuesday.
The two running for the District 11 seat, which represents the northeastern part of the city of Auburn, had different ideas for tackling the opioid epidemic and whether the county Legislature should join a class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies.
Lesch, a certified public accountant, said he would support the county joining the lawsuit. He later made the caveat that he'd want to know more about the staff time required to compile data supporting the litigation.
"I don't think there isn't a family directly affected or affected closely," he said about the drug problem. "We need to do anything we can to help decrease this problem in our county."
Daly, former director of the county's health and human services department, would not say whether she'd support the lawsuit or not. She felt Cayuga County was doing its due diligence in learning about the litigation, and she said she'd want to hear from counties that may have chosen not to join and why they made that decision.
Executive Editor of The Citizen Jeremy Boyer asked the candidates what else they would do to fight the drug crisis in the county. Lesch said he'd work to lobby state and federal representatives to put more limitations on doctors prescribing pain medications. He'd also designate more funds to the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force.
"I don't think we can arrest our way out of this problem," Daly said in return.
Daly highlighted a number of programs already working in the county to help those struggling with addiction and said she'd continue to support those things.
Daly and Lesch discussed another health problem threatening Cayuga County — toxins from harmful algal blooms in Owasco Lake. When asked to evaluate how local officials are doing currently to address the issue, Daly said she thought there were a lot of efforts happening and listed the county's Water Quality Management Agency's manure management guidelines, ditch erosion strategies and the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council's work to take on the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program and update the watershed rules.
Lesch said there's many different groups working on issues in the watershed. It's good, he added, because they're all working to the same basic goal, but with the county working on one plan in the watershed and a lake advocacy organization called Save Owasco Now! advocating for a different one, he'd like to see "everybody getting on the same page and for us to be able to provide a direct message."
Switching gears, candidates discussed the fate of the Cayuga County Office Building. Legislators have debated between building a new one or making repairs to the current one on 160 Genesee St. in the city, despite asbestos concerns.
Daly said she felt a lot more work had to be done before she would make a decision on repairs or a new building. She didn't feel the issue was pressing, either, and didn't understand why it was getting so much discussion.
Lesch, however, said based on some of the estimates the Legislature has been given, he'd advocate for renovating the current building.
"Expenditures such as this one (a new office building) would be hard for me to swallow," he said.
Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Lesch is running on the Conservative and Republican party lines. Daly is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Auburn First party lines.