Plattsburgh State’s Honors Program and Center for Public Service teamed up with the League of Women Voters of the North Country to host a candidates forum. The forum, open to the public, featured nominees from Clinton County Board of Legislators Area 4 and Plattsburgh Common Council Wards 1 and 4.
The League of Women Voters of the North Country is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation of citizens in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy, but does not support or oppose any political party or candidate.
The forum consisted of opening remarks from each nominee, an audience-based question and answer segment, a candidate-to-candidate questioning and finally, closing remarks.
“We want the students to be more aware of the political process, for one thing,” League of Women Voters of the North Country CoPresident Suzy Johnson said.
The first candidates to speak were Area 4 nominees Republican Devi Momot and Democrat Simon Conroy. Both are running for a seat on the Clinton County Board of Legislators.
This segment was moderated by PSUC student and Honors Program member William Hodge, who was responsible for relaying audience questions to candidates.
Momot and Conroy discussed topics important to Plattsburgh residence, such as the safety of sidewalks and bike lanes, the opiate epidemic in the North Country and revitalizing the downtown area.
Both candidates stressed the importance of maintaining railroads in the area to prevent any accidents from occurring, such as an oil or hazardous materials spill.
They also discussed how local art and music influences the economy, environmental issues and public transportation issues.
Candidates both agreed local arts and music influence Plattsburgh’s economy, but collaboration between the city and both PSUC and Clinton County Community College would enhance the arts “scene” even more.
The two candidates were then allowed to ask each other one question of interest. Conroy asked Momot what she believed was the most enjoyable aspect of campaigning.
She responded by saying the opportunity allowed her to listen “at a different level of intensity” to the city’s citizens.
She then asked Conroy how he planned to involve people in the community with future endeavors. He said one idea he would like to develop is a singular “community calendar” that would enform the public on large events or meetings.
In his closing remarks, Conroy said running for office has been one of the “most rewarding experiences” in his life, and that they return on such an investment has been great.
Momot used her closing remarks to compliment the Plattsburgh area.
“I love living here,” she said. “It is a wonderful, wonderful place.”
The second segment was moderated by PSUC student Amber Cruz. City Council nominees Rachelle Armstrong (D) and Craig Worley (R) took to the podiums to discuss similar issues to Momot and Conroy, but at a city-and-town-level scale.
“This is our city,” Armstrong said. “And votes will guide its direction.”
The pair also discussed diversity in the community. Armstrong said she was proud of the efforts made by the city’s Community Development Office.
Worley said the city “gets better every year,” in terms of development and what it offers to its residence. He also campaigned for marketing the city’s attractions to outside areas.
Affordable housing was another issue amongst audience members, as they asked how each candidate planned to provide for those in need in the community.
Worley said he would first work on defining “affordable housing,” as the definition and guidelines are “vague.” He also said the recent downtown revitalization grant was a good start to fixing the housing issues, as it provided “a lot of opportunity to grow.”
The two candidates then took turns answering each other’s questions. Armstrong asked Worley how his work on the planning board would help him if elected, to which he responded that the different experiences opened his eyes to more business opportunities.
Worley then asked Armstrong what she felt her biggest accomplishment was, and what she believes will be her biggest accomplishment if elected. She said she has been most proud of her work with the budgeting process, as it took collaboration and communication among several different organizations and other boards. In the future, she said she hopes to develop a better “master plan” for community success.
“Public outreach is my passion,” she said in her closing remarks. “I work to make citizens feel empowered.”
The third and final segment was moderated by PSUC student Nicholas Cooper. The candidates were ward fourth ward city council nominees Peter Ensel (R) and Damian Battinelli (D).
Battinelli had the floor first, which he used to platform his ideas. His goal was to create a more transparent government and to involve the community in the city’s efforts.
Ensel then took the floor for his opening comments.
“I care a great deal for this city,” he said.
The two took turns discussing audience-based questions. Some newer questions were asked about recycling efforts, to which Ensel and Battinelli both agreed should be increased in the community. Ensel said lawn and leaf clippings compiled by homeowners could be used for community gardens or compost piles, while Battinelli said recycling bins should be incorporated into city parks. He said the bins should be an accessible part of how the city operates.
Ensel and Battinelli also discussed youth involvement in the city. Battinelli said while the community has numerous sports-oriented programs, he would like to see programs for the youth who are more involved with technology. Ensel said the city already offers many programs for sports and education. Although there is already room for improvement, he said he is “satisfied” with youth involvement in the community.
The two later discussed the art scene’s impact on local economy, similarly to other candidates earlier in the forum.
Battinelli said the city art effort “builds a better community,” and helps to inspires others who view it.
Ensel said art was an “economic engine that helps drive the city, but not one that can stand alone.”
In the candidates’ question segment, Ensel asked what Bettinelli learned on the campaign trail, to which Bettinelli said he learned more about his community.
“I did not think my pride [of Plattsburgh] could grow anymore,” he said.
Battinelli then asked Ensel how he planned to strengthen ties between the local colleges and the community.
Ensel, who teaches communications courses at PSUC and is the Interim Chair of the hotel, restaurant and tourism program, said he has seen the connection on a smaller scale through his teachings, as students in his communications classes are required to write about issues and stories in the community. He said his students have developed a “deep appreciation for the city.”
“We’re just excited to help get the vote out,” Johnson said. “This is an important election year, so we’re trying to do what we can to promote people getting to the poles.”
Email Marissa Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org