We help untangle the issues. You pull the strings.

The Enterprise does not use its editorial space, page 2 of this newspaper, to tell people how to vote.

Why not?

We believe in educating and empowering our readers.

All year long, we delve into issues of public concern.

At election time, we write issues-based profiles of candidates. We believe our readers are intelligent and, when presented with the facts and with a clear rendering of candidates’ views, they can choose wisely for what best suits their needs.

This year, for the Nov. 2 town elections, we’re trying something new. We’re asking our readers and other town residents what issues are important to them. 

We’re gathering the questions you would like to ask candidates by talking to residents at libraries, transfer stations, and farmers’ markets. You can also call us with your questions at 518-861-4026, ext.103 or email us at ask@AltamontEnterprise.com.

We’ll group the most common concerns into questions for candidates. You can watch the candidates answer in online forums for Guilderland, New Scotland, and Berne and also read the responses in our print editions.

We urge you to use this chance to let elected officials know what matters most to you.

Before Nov. 2, there is another important vote — on Oct. 7 Guilderland school district residents will be voting on a $22 million capital project.

Again, we don’t tell our readers how to vote. Rather, over the past two years, we have covered the development of this capital project.

It had its roots in a $43 million bond defeat in 2018. A last-minute campaign, with fliers sent out anonymously just before the vote, succeeded with 1,317 voting for the project and 1,375 voting against.

The fliers followed a press conference where Michael Conners, then Albany County’s comptroller, a Cohoes resident, stood outside of Guilderland High School to lambast the district for holding the vote on Oct. 16 rather than on Nov. 6, Election Day, calling it a “secret election” and “un-American” and suggesting the district had done this to limit voter participation.

His comments were reported without investigation by a number of news outlets. In fact, the district had asked the Albany County Board of Elections if it would be possible to hold the vote on Election Day, but had been told this was not possible since, among other difficulties, the election-district and school-district boundaries are not the same.

After the defeat, Conners said, “I’m very encouraged by the response of the Guilderland school-district voters.”

Guilderland succeeded in passing a scaled-back $31 million bond the next year, in 2019.

A committee was formed then to assess facility needs by looking at improvements that had been included in the defeated 2018 proposal but not in the 2019 plan that passed. A subcommittee also met to consider installing a turf playing field at the high school.

So many people spoke in support of the $2.5 million synthetic turf field at the board’s July 27 meeting — coaches, athletes, parents, sports boosters — that several board members, also mindful of one-time federal pandemic funds, favored adding to the project.

All eight of the board members present at the Aug. 10 meeting voted in favor of the $21.8 million plan that residents will vote on come Oct. 7.

We have detailed what that money will pay for in our news articles and the district has advertised the specifics on our legals pages.

The infrastructure work eliminated from the defeated 2018 bond issue totals roughly $9.4 million. This includes classroom storage and workspace cabinetry; security cameras; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, including boilers; roofing and paving; and locker replacement.

Newly identified infrastructure needs include a new waterline for Guilderland High School, new windows, slab settlement and tunnel work, and a sewage ejector pump for Altamont Elementary School.

Outdoor spaces would include five playground upgrades, seven outdoor classroom pavilions, and the new track and synthetic turf field.

We reported at length on the advantages the coaches and athletes see in having a synthetic turf field. Currently, booster clubs are raising funds to rent space on turf fields when Guilderland’s real-grass fields cannot be played on, such as in the spring when snow has not melted.

They also said it puts Guilderland teams at a disadvantage since most of the Suburban Council schools have synthetic turf fields.

The district’s athletic director, David Austin, estimated that about 1,450 students in grades 9 through 12 would benefit from the new field during their physical-education classes. He said about 800 student athletes would benefit each year. This includes students who participate in soccer, field hockey, football, baseball, softball, lacrosse, or track and field. Austin also said the community at large would use the field for summer camps, youth sports, and sectional events.

Then, at the last school board meeting, two residents raised health and safety and environmental concerns about the synthetic turf.  One of them, Edna Litten, visited our news office last Monday.

She had been inspired by a course she had taken, taught by Judith Enck, describing the problems with plastics. Her group was planning a letter-writing campaign, with letters to be published in The Enterprise just before the vote, without a chance for response.

Litten graciously agreed to do a podcast with us last week on the issue. Mindful of the 2018 bond defeat, and an earlier defeat of a Guilderland library expansion with a last-minute campaign, we wanted to allow time and space for voters to consider all the facts.

In the story we wrote last week on Litten’s group, we linked to the research she was quoting; we did the same with the many letters we are printing this week. You can read the research for yourself.

Also, the school district has posted a 2008 fact sheet from the state’s health department, looking at studies from a dozen or more years ago on heat stress, injury, and infection as related to synthetic turf fields.

When you read these facts and studies, you may decide you agree with Litten: “Keeping kids healthy and uninjured is more important than how many games the football team wins.” 

Or you may decide that parents, even if the school district does not have a synthetic turf field, will go on paying to rent them for Guilderland athletes. You may agree with parents, like Jennifer Goldman, who told the school board in July it was “very frustrating, disappointing, and quite embarrassing” that parents have to subsidize renting time on turf fields.

When you look at the larger environmental issues, you may think like Litten, who has been ahead of laws requiring solar energy for her home or electric cars for her driving, that “we’ve only got one planet — we’ve got to take care of it.”

You may think that a district with foresight might want to lead the way in putting the environment’s health ahead of human desires, to serve as a model of good stewardship.

Or you may decide that most of us heat with oil and drive cars powered by gasoline — and we’ll change when regulations dictate just as we gave up plastic bags for groceries.

What’s going to make your vote particularly tough is that the $2.5 million synthetic turf proposal is an integral part of the bond issue. If you vote “no,” as one environmentally-conscious letter writer urged last week, you are nixing the other infrastructure projects, and the upgrades and creation of outdoor spaces.

It’s too late now for the school board to reconfigure the vote into two separate projects. 

Do your research, search your conscience — and vote.

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