October 26, 2011

First thoughts on tonight's candidates forum

Perhaps the most impressive feature of tonight's candidate forum at the Dryden Fire Station was the turnout. I'm guessing that 200 people were there, far far more than came out to the forum two years ago. Yes, a large group of them seemed to be high school students there for an assignment, but even they seemed mostly interested.

The format made things a little quieter than they'd been in 2007 or even 2009. Running all questions on cards through moderator Jean McPheeters took a lot of the back and forth with the audience out of it.

The fracking section, which came first, clearly had the most fireworks, or at least dog whistles, with the Republicans blaming the Democrats for passing a ban and cheering on New York State regulators, who have been much friendlier to the gas companies than the Town. The Democrats were proud of having passed the ban in response to public request, and Linda Lavine described it as a defense of the billion dollars in Dryden property, especially the three-quarters of that which is houses.

Here are the three hydrofracking questions. Apologies for the lousy second row handheld tiny video camera effect, and no, there weren't actually earthquakes during the forum. I'll point to better video when it becomes available.

Balancing hydrofracking with other uses, priorities.

Candidates' takes on the Anschutz lawsuit.

If extraction becomes safer in a decade, what then?.

The zoning and budget sections were Republicans attacking while Democrats were proud of their work. While I have complaints about the zoning, I think the Republicans, and especially Bruno Schickel, seemed stuck on talking points. On the budget, I spent much of my time wondering why Democrats hadn't gone this crazy on Republicans for spending down the fund balance in 2005 and 2007, and remembering that we hadn't done that because the arguments didn't make much more sense now than they do today.

The Town's gigantic fund balance (now shifted toward more specifically targeted reserves) has been a buffer, but trying to pick out fluctuations in that buffer and blast them as deficit spending is political fiction. Blasting efforts to further stabilize that fund by shifting money to reserve funds just seems crazy to me, and I'm not sure what they wanted the Town to do when New York State delayed its funding of the Purchase of Development Rights for Lew-Lin Farm.

The general section was a lot of pieces about recreation, safety, and more. I was sort of impressed and sort of amused that Republicans seem to have turned against plans to build recreation facilities at the new Town Hall that had been at the heart of their Republican predecessors' enthusiasm for buying that property, and their major enthusiasm for trails. Jim Drew suggested a traffic light at the intersection of 366 and Turkey Hill Road, and while I'd like one there for the fire station traffic, I wonder if the original question about a light by Dryden High School was more important. Even on 366, I suspect that the Freese/Mount Pleasant/366 intersection is more dangerous, though traffic is now going (somewhat) slower there.

Mary Ann Sumner did ask early on how many people didn't know her or Bruno Schickel before this event, and not a lot of hands went up. While it was a good forum, I can't help but wonder - as usual - how many people came whose votes aren't already settled.

Posted by simon at October 26, 2011 11:03 PM in , , , ,
Note on photos


Rachel Dickinson said:

Thanks for posting the video, Simon. I was not able to attend but my kid was one of the econ students in attendance. It was interesting to hear his analysis and then watch the video.