Yates County Candidate Profiles for the Nov. 5 General Election
The candidate profiles cover the contested elections that will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 ballots. Uncontested races and write-in candidates are not listed. The information was supplied by the candidates in response to The Observer’s questionnaire that was sent to the candidates in the past three weeks. If a candidate’s comments are not listed, the newspaper did not receive a returned questionnaire. In some instances, responses have been edited due to space considerations.
Yates candidates were asked two questions:
1.) How do you react to budget concerns after a 14.7 percent tax levy increase last year?
2.) What are your top three priorities if elected?
Candidates on the ballot:
Jason L. Cook
Valerie G. Gardner
(Vote for one)
JASON L. COOK
Education: B.S. Ithaca College in personnel/labor relations; J.D. Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle, Pa.
Prior experience: Four years as Yates County district attorney and 12 years as assistant district attorney in Yates, Steuben and Schuyler Counties.
1.) I share the concerns of all taxpayers. With the state tax cap and unfunded state mandates, New York is putting small counties like Yates in an impossible, “no win” situation. From my perspective as district attorney, I am pleased we have done our part to keep cost increases minimal, maintained the same staffing levels set in 2007 and have kept the DA office budget at less than 1 percent of the total county budget.
2.) My top priority will be to maintain the safety of the community, as it is a quality of life issue. People must feel safe in their homes, businesses and on the streets. I will continue to aggressively attack the illegal drug sales and possession cases, as drugs lead to many other crimes—burglary, larceny, forgery, etc. I don’t want the city drug dealers coming here to peddle their poison to our children. I will also forcefully prosecute DWI cases. As we know from recent cases, those drivers are dangerous to everyone on the road and innocent people can be killed.
VALERIE G. GARDNER
Education: Honors Graduate of SUNY Geneseo (Bachelors Degree) and University of Buffalo Law School (Juris Doctorate).
Prior experience: I have spent 18 years prosecuting crimes in the Yates County Attorney’s Office (prosecutor), Yates County District Attorney’s Office (prosecutor) and Wyoming County Attorney’s Office (prosecutor). I also served as a child protective caseworker and was Yates County representative to seventh Judicial District Attorney Grievance Committee (professional disciplinary board reviewing attorney conduct).
1.) Government cannot expect taxpayers to shoulder the burden of increasing expenses forcing us to tighten our budgets without doing the same. The net cost to taxpayers for the DA’s office has drastically increased 52 percent in four years under the current budgeting practices ($348,978 in 2013, up from $229,632 in 2010). I understand the impact of the current fiscal climate on our citizens and will restore the ethic of fiscal responsibility to the DA’s office.
2.) Public safety: Community protection is my top priority and principal focus. I will bring a higher level of staff experience, professionalism, and institute sound case development practices with law enforcement to ensure justice is served and victims’ needs are met. Fiscal responsibility: I will do more with less. I will cut $35,000 from the DA budget and will minimize expenses while improving service. Restoring public confidence: As a prosecutor for nearly 18 years with an exceptional trial success rate and a history of no claims against the county I serve, I will restore confidence through accessibility, transparency and accountability.
LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 1 (ITALY, JERUSALEM AND MIDDLESEX)
Candidates on the ballot:
(Vote for four)
Education: Dunwoody College of Technology, Minneapolis, Minn.
Prior government experience: Several years as a legislator and Middlesex town supervisor.
1.) Any increase above 2 percent is difficult. The question of a reasonable tax increase is dependent on reasonable expenditures. The locally optional services are the only services directly affecting the safety of our streets, quality of lakes, economic support for farmers and other quality of life services. Whatever staff, equipment and supplies our departments require to provide services are necessary expenditures. The property tax necessary to balance the budget is higher because of state policies.
2.) My priorities if elected are to continue to find ways to consolidate services and find efficiencies to reduce spending. A major part of my effort will be to lobby the governor to make changes in the state’s imposition of funding state mandated services through the property tax.
Education: Graduate of Naples Central School.
Prior government experience: Eight years as Italy town supervisor and 17 years of municipal book keeping.
1.) I guess because I am involved with developing the budgets for two different towns, I don’t respond with an attitude the legislators are being frivolous with taxpayer dollars. I look at it as they have a very difficult job providing for all the people, not just a certain demographic. Something one person would be more than happy to see cut, another person could say absolutely not.
2.) I want to take a closer look at the mandates and see if there is some way to convince the state to assume responsibility for their own expenses. 2.) To see if there are some programs the county provides that are nice, but not beneficial to a vast majority. 3.) To become educated as a legislator so I know the total responsibilities entrusted to me.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.
Prior government experience: Completing 26th year as a Yates County legislator. Fire commissioner for Branchport Fire District in the late 1980s.
1.) If property taxes are to be lowered, it will be necessary to increase efficiencies and, perhaps, reduce services. The difficult part for legislators is deciding what services will be reduced while accounting for desires of the public at large. Until New York State itself takes responsibility for funding various programs (e.g.—Medicaid) and removes the burden from county governments, we will be faced with making these tradeoffs for the foreseeable future.
2.) If elected, I would like to see efficiency increases within the county departments. The county should complete the dark fiber ring project and have it become an attractive addition to the resources that attract businesses to the county. My third priority would be tied between making significant progress on development of the former Penn Yan Marine property in conjunction with a developer and the village of Penn Yan, along with completion of the study that will examine potential additional efficiencies to be gained by collaborating with Schuyler County, if a grant is awarded.
Education: BSBA Bucknell University
Prior government experience: Nine years on the Jerusalem town board and 12 years on the Yates County Legislature.
1.) Myself, as a property tax payer and a legislator, has been very concerned about the upcoming budget. The legislature has had the 2014 budget the top concern for all of 2013.
2.) My top priority since running in 2002 is economic growth. Solid economic growth with an increase in sales and use taxes, new homes and businesses will go a long way to solve our current budget problems. 2.) Unfunded mandates from New York State continue to crowd out the available funds for county services affecting our quality of life. The legislature fights to have the state pay for or reduce the local cost of mandates. 3.) I and the legislature are always looking at the most cost effective and efficient ways to provide services to our citizens, whether mandated or not.
Education: Two years of college for mechanical engineering at Major Tri-State College, Angola, Ind.
Prior government experience: None.
1.) The tax levy in Yates County was excessive prior to the 14.7 percent increase of last year. Excessive taxation shifts available resources from the private sector to the public sector and stifles business activity. I attended legislative meetings and read the minutes of various committee meetings. I determined nothing was going to change without a change in the composition of the legislature. I decided to run for the legislature to assist in implementing a solution.
2.) I think the legislature has to learn to say no even though it’s always easier to say yes. The county can not afford to always have the best of everything. My running mate, Gary Montgomery, has advocated a zero-based budgeting methodology which I support. I do not support layoffs, but with more than 250 employees, attrition can be a powerful tool in reducing costs over time. The United States Supreme Court gets by with nine justices. I don’t think Yates County needs 14 legislators.
Education: BS in accounting and economics from Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.
Prior government experience: None.
1.) My reaction began last November when the 2013 tentative budget called for a 22.8 percent tax increase. Since then, I attended most committee meetings and meetings of the total legislature. From meetings, research and analysis, I developed an understanding of challenges legislators face. I believe they are well-intentioned people, but they make too many decisions without consideration of data, facts and sometimes common sense. I have seen no actions reducing costs below budgeted level.
2.) I will bring a fresh perspective using data, facts and common sense to address cost containment or reduction. The current use of fund balances to reduce taxes is a short-term Band-Aid doing nothing to fix the root cause—too much spending. I will implement long-term business models with restructured responsibilities between the county, town and village governments, and neighboring counties to better serve taxpayers. I will implement responsible actions with reasonable measures protecting the water quality of Keuka, Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes. These lakes are critical to property values, tax revenue and our agricultural and tourism industries.