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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 11, 2009

In New Scotland: Robinson in the ring

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Party leaders have conspired with the citizens’ group called New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development to fill this November’s ballot with candidates supportive of that group’s views, claims the latest person to announce a run for the town board, Republican Roz Robinson.

“Leaders of NS4 along with the Republican and Democrat Party elite are limiting the choices for supervisor and town board in the upcoming election,” she writes in a letter to the Enterprise this week, announcing her candidacy.  “Behind closed doors they have worked together to cross endorse and place only candidates who agree with NS4 on the ballot in November,” she writes.

The chairmen of the two major parties both disagreed.

Earlier this year, Robinson said in an interview this week, the Republican Committee, of which she is a member, considered endorsing incumbent Democratic Supervisor Thomas Dolin, or not putting up an opposing candidate, while the Democrats would endorse incumbent Republican Councilman Douglas LaGrange and Republican planning-board member, Chuck Voss, for the two town board seats.

“That was what they intended to do,” she said of political leaders setting up the ballot, and that’s what they’re doing now, without telling the parties’ committees.

“That’s not true,” said Republican Chairman Joseph DeFronzo.  “That leaves me out, because I never met the group,” he said, referring to NS4SED.

“I’ve heard rumors that people were saying that happened,” Democratic Chairman Mike Mackey said.  “It didn’t.”

“I was invited to one meeting of NS4 leadership,” Mackey said, which was about two months ago.  The group named Dolin, LaGrange, and Democrat Daniel Mackay, a founding member of NS4SED, and asked for Mackey’s support, to which he responded that, as the Democratic chairman, he could not support LaGrange, an incumbent Republican.

The three candidates share a similar stance on development in town — a contentious issue since Cazenovia-based Sphere Development made public plans to build a Target-anchored shopping center in the town’s commercial zone, which is currently used for farming.

“As Democratic chairman, about the only thing that’s in my discretion is when and where to hold the caucus,” Mackey said.  “Any Democrat in town is entitled to come to the caucus and vote.”  He explained earlier this week that any Democrat on the floor can nominate a candidate for any open office and, in the case of a contested race, the vote is taken by secret ballot.  This year’s caucus will be held on June 23 at Voorheesville’s high school.

The GOP has since endorsed Karen Moreau for supervisor and LaGrange and Voss for town board — Robinson will force a primary to be held on the second Tuesday of September.  Moreau is president of the PRIDE of New Scotland, a group formed in opposition to a bill supported by NS4SED that had proposed a 50,000-square-foot size cap on individual retail buildings in the commercial zone.  She shares a similar view on development with Robinson.  The pair will be campaigning together.

“She’s going to circulate petitions and she has every right to do so, being a Republican,” DeFronzo said earlier this week.  Robinson hadn’t mentioned her intent to run to the committee or to himself, DeFronzo said.

Her decision came a few weeks ago, Robinson said, when it became clear to her that the ballot may only have candidates who are proponents of NS4SED’s platform.  “It’s a question of choice — first and foremost,” Robinson, a lawyer, said of her motivation to seek office, since she saw that candidates with like-minded views on development may be the only ones to choose from in November, assuming that the Democratic caucus yields a slate supported by NS4SED, made up of Dolin, LaGrange, and Mackay.  Incumbent Councilwoman Peg Neri, a Democrat, is also seeking the Democratic line in her run for re-election.

“I am not a proponent of a big box,” Robinson said, referring to the large chain retail stores at the center of recent discussions.  “But,” she concluded, “we need something in our commercial district.”  Robinson did not support the 50,000-square-foot size cap, arguing that it precluded many types of development that might be beneficial to the town’s tax base.

She stressed that this is not a single-issue election and named a few issues, similar to her opponents, like the need to expand and improve water distribution in town, offer services to senior citizens, and address divisiveness in town hall.

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