Outside the city of Auburn, three districts in the Cayuga County Legislature have competitive races this year.
The race for Cayuga County District 4, representing the town of Brutus, will fill the remaining two years of an unexpired term. Grant Kyle, who is not enrolled in a political party but is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence ballot lines, was appointed to the seat following the resignation of Mark Farrell in 2016. Kyle's challenger is Chris Petrus, listed on the Republican and Conservative lines.
Kyle is a strong advocate of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, which we tend to agree is the best tool at our disposal for a streamlined, efficient means of helping to attract jobs to the area — and maintaining the ones we've already got. He has explored water infrastructure issues, and understands the need for the county and city to work cooperatively on the many issues facing Owasco Lake. He has good insights into the workings of the Legislature and the major issues facing the county.
We like that Petrus lists Owasco Lake as a top priority, and he's put some thought into things that might help, like the creation of retention ponds to catch runoff, and exploring consolidation through a water authority that would lower costs for the consumer. He doesn't believe in payment in lieu of taxes deals, believing that lowering taxes is essentially all that's required for job creation. We are concerned about his suggestion that the county should privatize its mental health services. This department is vitally important to people on a local level, and we fear that meddling with it to a great degree will result in negative consequences for the people who rely on it. And Petrus has approached this election from a more partisan perspective than most candidates, harshly critiquing the work that's been done since the Legislature became top-heavy with Democrats in 2016.
We believe a more effective approach is to put party politics aside and work in a spirit of cooperation. We believe that Kyle has been focusing on problem-solving rather than politics during his time on the Legislature, and he should be allowed to continue that work.
The race for District 5, covering Aurelius and Fleming, features incumbent Republican Paul Pinckney and Melissa Jenkin, who will be on the Democratic and Lake party lines. Pinckney is also running on the Conservative line.
Pinckney wants to see Legislature Chairman Keith Batman work with Auburn Mayor Mike Quill to lobby Albany for more funds to tackle the problems addressing Owasco Lake. He understands the value of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency in job retention and pursuing new businesses, with the caveat that the Legislature reserves the right to question whether the county is getting the best bang for its buck in supporting the agency. Contrary to some in politics, Pinckney is not super-partisan, and he works across party lines. He has been an active chair of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, and he is a big proponent of municipal energy projects that can provide cheaper power to consumers and help lure businesses to the area.
Melissa Jenkin is sincere about wanting to get involved in the community in a meaningful way, starting out by joining community activist groups in Cayuga County and the region before deciding that being in a position to set policy at the county level might deliver more tangible results. Jenkin wants to see more information made available to people about citizens can do to improve the quality of local drinking water, and she wants to see a plan put in place to address the county's crumbling roads. But she's a bit short on specific goals and solutions on many of the big issues, including tackling the drug problem and what should be done with regard to the county office building.
With District 9 legislator Terry Baxter deciding to not seek re-election, the seat representing Summerhill, Sempronius, Moravia and Niles will be taken over by Republican Charles Ripley or Democrat Kathleen Gorr, who will also be on the Independence and the independent Fix Our Roads party lines.
Ripley has years of experience in government in the town of Summerhill and has good ideas about bringing more tourism to his district by expanding and promoting the birth site of President Millard Fillmore, and linking nature trails in the area to offer more things for visitors to do. We like that he thinks about consolidation, offering up some concrete proposal related to courts and highways. That said, Ripley made it clear that he's running because he was asked to, and we wonder about his enthusiasm for the job. Ripley was tough to nail down when we tried to contact him about his candidacy, and he failed to accept an invitation to participate in a forum with his opponent, which makes us question how available he would make himself to his constituents, if elected to the Legislature.
We like that Gorr has been participating on the Water Quality Management Agency, because it's a vitally important part of the overall strategy to ensure clean drinking water in Cayuga County. She has good ideas about how to move ahead, such as implementing a better warning system for people who draw their water directly from the lake, and simplifying the process for getting information out to the public. She rightfully views the opiod epidemic as a public health crisis, although we'd like her to be more committed to devoting public resources to working that problem. We do think Gorr's professional experience could be helpful to the Legislature. As a retired attorney, we expect that Gorr won't settle for secret, back-door deals that fly in the face of openness and transparency, but rather set other legislators straight when and if they try to bend the rules.
The Citizen endorses Grant Kyle, Paul Pinckney and Kathleen Gorr for Cayuga County Legislature.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.