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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 28, 2009
Nelligan pushes term limits
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Less than a month after Republican Councilman Mark Grimm announced his candidacy for supervisor, he has withdrawn from the race. He feels that a “Grimm-Runion race would fracture the town, no matter who wins,” and said he wants to use the next two years as a town board member to focus on the important issues.
Chairman of Guilderland’s Republican Committee, Ted Danz, said he was surprised and disappointed by Grimm’s decision. “It became evident it would be a bloodbath, and Grimm decided to take the high road and do what is best for the community,” Danz told The Enterprise last week.
Even though Grimm has withdrawn from the race, the Republicans will have a candidate for supervisor, Danz said. Matthew Nelligan, who left a teaching job at Guilderland last amid controversy last fall and, now works for the senate minority, would make a great candidate, but is committed to the race he is already in for town board, said Danz. He said the committee is re-interviewing individuals and will announce a candidate soon.
Despite announcing his candidacy just a few weeks ago, Grimm said, “Withdrawing is something I’ve obviously put a lot of thought into.” He said his concern was that the real issues would be pushed aside in the wake of a campaign fraught with negative attacks.
Current Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion, who has served in his position for almost a decade, said he had no comment on Grimm’s withdrawal, other than to say, “People were concerned about negativity, but I don’t think a political race could fracture the town.”
Grimm, a media consultant, has served on the town board for two years. He and fellow Republican Warren Redlich have often been at odds with Runion and the other two Democrats on the board Paul Pastore and Patricia Slavick both of whom are up for re-election in the fall.
“I had a real chance of winning, I had a lot of support, but someone had to consider what the town would look like after that race,” Grimm said. Runion’s announcement of his candidacy was nothing but a negative attack on the Republicans, and Runion’s campaign would be more of the same, he said.
Instead of participating in a tension-filled race, Grimm said he will continue to “stand up for the right things” as a councilman. He said he wants to see renewed focus on easing the tax burden, improving the assessment process, and, most importantly, creating an environment of open and fair government.
Runion said this week that the issues he wants to highlight are the obvious need to deliver the same or improved services with a more limited budget in the wake of an economy that looks bleak. As far as Grimm’s push for improving the assessment process, Runion said Grimm talked about the same issue two years ago during his run for town board, but has not provided one idea for change. Assessments are state mandated, according to Runion, and not much can be done at the town level.
One new focus is the zoning ordinance, said Runion. He would like to put together a committee to review the zoning law, which has remained the same for the past 20 years; the committee would make suggestions on how to improve and update the ordinance.
An item highlighted by Nelligan is the imposition of term limits on town officials. As it stands, there are no term limits for town employees. Nelligan would like to see an eight-year limit imposed because it would “allow new people with new ideas to come to the forefront on a regular basis,” he wrote in a letter to The Enterprise editor this week. Nelligan also believes a term limit would help to prevent nepotism in the town.
“I don’t hear any concern from the public on term limits, and the general population could impose their own term limits by voting someone else into office,” responded Runion. There is no nepotism in the town, said Runion. There are Civil Service tests for most positions, and many of the town employees have been in place since long before Runion took office, he said.
Runion also said the town board alone would not be able to make the decision to impose limits, and there would need to be state legislation for it. Towns and villages fall under the New York State Election Law, asserted Runion, and, in order for term limits to be imposed on the town, a modification would have to be made to the law by the New York State Legislature.
However, John Conklin, public information officer for the New York State Board of Elections, said the town board would not need state legislation to impose term limits. The town board would need to pass that decision as a resolution, and then put it up to the town residents for a vote on the ballot, Conklin explained.
When presented with Conklin’s explanation on how a town could impose term limits, Runion said, “In my opinion it would require state legislation.” It would not make sense for the town to have the ability to pass a resolution limiting the terms of elected officials, he said.
“When Republicans dominated the town for over 200 years, there was no talk about term limits. Now that the Democrats have controlled the town for a decade, all of a sudden, they want limits imposed,” said Runion. He repeated his idea that town residents could create their own term limits by voting another official into office during election time.