Democratic primaries for offices in the Town of Danby are June 25, and Ric Dietrich and Joel Gagnon are running for town supervisor. Here are where they stand on the issues. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Ric Dietrich, incumbent
Tompkins Weekly: Why are you running again for Danby Town Supervisor?
RD: I think I have done a good job as your supervisor, and I would like your support for another two-year term.
TW: How would you distinguish yourself from your opponent?
RD: Exposure. Danby works with a variety of local, county, and regional leaders to seek support for achieving Danby’s goals. Trails, storm water and culvert replacement, our own insurance company for health care, our own solar farm and electric company to provide power to all municipal buildings, the highway garage and its now new offices, broadband build out - these are relationships that ultimately result in grants to offset town expenses. Budget experience [is an] important bottom line for any municipality. Being able to craft a budget takes some experience, as it reflects short- and long-term goals as well as each year’s working budget. I have sat on all of the town boards over the years and volunteered for the fire department [and] built a sound working relationship with staff, so I feel I am more rounded in my experience. Danby is in sound financial shape. It is a respective player on county boards and a leader in NY state as a desired place to live.
TW: What would you describe as your strengths and weaknesses as a public servant?
RD: There is much happening in Danby that is the result of sound fiscal management, good planning, and collaborative ventures, such as adding a six-mile extension of South Hill Recreation Way into Danby, a new bus stop, shelter and parking, installation of an electric car charging station at Town Hall, completion and adoption of the Town of Danby Natural Resources Inventory, redrawing the FEMA floodplain maps for almost half of Danby, and a new water tank for West Danby.
TW: If elected, what are your top three priorities as supervisor?
RD: Some goals we have yet to meet, such as an update to our Comprehensive Plan and a serious look at updating our current zoning. Rewriting the Comprehensive Plan requires us to write a grant to employ a consultant to accomplish this and hire a new planner to direct these efforts, which can be undertaken in the years ahead.
TW: What would you like potential voters to know about you?
RD: The town is changing quickly and represents a diverse population with divergent viewpoints on a number of issues that still need attention. With your support, I will, in the next two years, work to secure Danby’s financial foundation with Highway and Town and finish up the projects and responsibilities with town and county that I have assumed on your behalf.
TW: Why are you running for Danby town supervisor?
JG: I am running because I believe the town needs to invest in planning for its future. We have a Comprehensive Plan - which is essentially a vision statement of what we would like to see the future look like - that is already 16 years old. Our laws and regulations are supposed to support that vision, but they have yet to be meaningfully revised to do so. The current laws promote a sprawling land use and do nothing to advance the idea that the historical centers of Central Danby and West Danby should be the focal points of housing and commerce. What are we willing to do to define a future that would be seen by most as better than what we have? Can we get past the feeling that all change is bad, especially given that not changing is not an option?
JG: Planning has always been my main interest and focus. I have had a hand in all of the significant efforts to look to the future of the town and act to preserve and protect what we most value while also acting to leverage our assets in ways that can improve the quality of life of our residents. I think the record supports my contention that planning and land use are not a high priority for Ric.
JG: I have a track record of leadership on the issues, having championed the creation of the Conservation Advisory Council and an associated conservation easement program for Danby as well as chairing an open and participatory process looking at options to protect open space that led to a progressive zoning ordinance proposal (which was passed and then rescinded). My belief that government should be open and inclusive has led some to criticize me for being too willing to tolerate public commentary. There is definitely a need for balance, but I believe that, when it comes to public participation, patience is rewarded. What may seem to be the long way around is often the shortest way to a goal.
JG: My top priority would be to initiate a collective process to update our laws so they support the Comprehensive Plan. This might well involve some quick fixes of the current regulations while the range of options is considered. I would like to see the recently completed natural resource inventory used to inform consideration of where and how to both protect what is special about Danby and focus growth where it can best be accommodated and most benefit the town. I would like to explore ways to encourage small businesses in the central hamlet area, and I’d like us to promote more affordable housing by enabling higher densities where appropriate and using common water supply and waste treatment to reduce costs.
JG: I have lived in Danby since 1978 and been engaged in its governance since the 1980s. I got involved in the first place because I did not want Danby to go the way of my home town in Maine, which, in the time I grew up there, was transformed by sprawling subdivisions. I don’t want that for Danby, nor do I want Danby to continue on its current path toward becoming a former place, where anything of note happens somewhere else.
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