The City of Plattsburgh mayoral debate was held at the E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall Wednesday. The challenger, Democratic nominee Colin Read, went up against the incumbent mayor Rep. Jim Calnon in the debate, which was moderated by Assistant Public Relations Professor Colleen Lemza and Career Development Center Director Julia Overton-Healy.
The debate was sponsored by Plattsburgh State and Vision2Action, whose mission is to attract and retain 3,000 new families and individuals to the Clinton County area by 2040.
The debate opened with a two minute opening statement from each candidate. Calnon went first, stating how he is from the north country, went to school in Plattsburgh and has spent his entire career “getting things done”
“I am a man of action,” Calnon said. “My critics say that I don’t promote myself enough—well I think my actions speak for itself. I worked in the city council for two years and I’ve been mayor for 3 years.”
Read began his opening statement discussing how enthralled he is with the potential of the community and city.
“Teaching is what brought me here to Plattsburgh,” Read said. “I’ve taught economics at the college for quite some time, and this is a place I’d like to make my permanent home.”
Read and Calnon took turns answering questions from the moderators and questions submitted by local citizens as well.
One topic broached at the debate was how each candidate would go about helping the city grow economically and socially.
Both candidates mentioned the importance of the development of the downtown and surrounding areas.
Calnon said he doesn’t want Plattsburgh to be a smaller version of Burlington, Vt. and see the potential with partnering with other entities to get funding for proposed projects. Calnon stressed the importance of improving the transportation situation in the downtown area.
“How are we going to get people around downtown and beyond?” Calnon said. “Pedestrian-friendly streets could be an option—maybe no car traffic on certain.”
Read proposed another option in the development of downtown would be leverage it as a destination for the arts so it can compete with places like Lake Placid.
“I’ve helped out with the creation of the Plattsburgh blues and jazz series, the murals downtown with 30City,” Read said. “ I hope one day Plattsburgh can become the small city blues capital of America.”
Other topics discussed were school budget and real estate problems in the city.
Both candidates agreed that there needed to be better communication with the city council and the public. Also they stressed how they did not want to raise taxes so the city has the opportunity to grow.
The real estate problem centered around senior housing, quality of life and “zombie properties,” which are abandoned houses and building usually from the result of fires.
Read said the quality of life is economic development.
“We are a green community we just don’t realize it,” he said. “A green substitutional city is something that appeals to people. Also the fact that the cost of living in the city of Plattsburgh is much higher than the average citizen’s income is concerning.”
For Charles Shatraw of Chateaugay Lake said the issue of senior housing and quality of life stuck out to him.
“I don’t live here in Plattsburgh right now but I still have friends and family that do,” Shatraw said. “I graduated from PSUC in 1975 and I visit the area often so I care about what these candidates can bring to the table.”
Shatraw said that he plans to retire soon and he plans to come back and reside in Plattsburgh.
“I think this city has so much potential—I want to spend the rest of my life here if i’m lucky enough. The city is just going to get bigger and better hopefully.”
Shatraw said he believes whoever the citizen elect to mayor the city is in good hands and has a bright future.
“I think both candidates have a sense of pride for this area and the community,” Shatraw said. “There’s some tough issues they’re going to have to face like the city’s drug problem. But if we can work together collectively this place with time can hopefully enjoy some success in the future.”
Email David Luces at email@example.com