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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 23, 2009

In Guilderland
Golden says it’s time for change

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Peter Golden, not enrolled in any political party, has announced this week that he accepted the Guilderland Republican Committee’s nomination for town supervisor.

Golden, a writer and former Guilderland School Board member, told The Enterprise yesterday that, though he will be running with Republican endorsement, he does not plan to enroll in the party.

“I don’t believe being Republican or Democrat is relevant,” said Golden. “You vote for the person, not the party.”

The chairman of the Guilderland Republican Committee, Ted Danz, said he chose Golden, not based on political association, but because he felt he would do a good job. He cited Golden as having impeccable experience, intelligence, being familiar with the town, and, “basically just giving a damn!”

The post carries a two-year term and pays a salary of roughly $100,000.

Incumbent Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion said he thinks a race for the position is a good thing, because it will encourage people to come out and vote.

Runion is running with a full slate of Democratic town board incumbents — council members Patricia Slavick and Paul Pastore.  The Republicans, too, have a full town board slate with Matthew Nelligan and David Fraterrigo challenging the incumbents for two board seats. The board majority — currently Democratic — hangs in the balance.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, Golden highlights the issues he will focus on during his campaign. Easing the tax burden on town residents takes precedence, he said during a phone interview yesterday.

“I think there should be an aggressive campaign to bring new ‘brain businesses’ to town,” he said.

Brain businesses, he explained, are businesses involved in intellectual pursuits. “We are not talking about building a steel mill in people’s yards,” he said.

Golden believes that the town supervisor should be the number-one advocate for finding businesses that would be a good fit for Guilderland. Doing so would widen the tax base, lightening the load for the residents; it wouldn’t require building and construction, because there are vacant office and commercial spaces in town, he said.

“An audit of town finances, to see where the money is going, is also essential,” according to Golden. He questioned Runion’s decision to cut emergency services, while hiring new employees, such as a public relations person.

“The first role of government is safety,” Golden said, and noted that the high taxes in town could scare people out of living here.

Runion told The Enterprise yesterday that over the last decade, the town tax rate has only increased by one penny — from 25 cents per $1,000 to 26 cents per $1,000.

“The town tax rate for Guilderland is the lowest in the Capital District,” said Runion, noting that he thinks residents receive a lot, in the way of services, for their 26 cents. He agreed that bringing in new businesses could help the school district, but might actually cost the town money, because of the extra services rendered.

Golden served one three-year term on the Guilderland School Board but was not re-elected in 2008. During his controversial term, he spearheaded an examination of health insurance benefits that led to cost savings and was often outspoken on other issues.

The assessment process is another area in which Golden would like to see change; “It frightens people,” he said.

Not only should the process change to account for adjustments, which it currently doesn’t, according to Golden, the complaint process should be easier and less daunting.

“Sometimes people really have trouble understanding why their assessment went up, and they should be able to ask a question without being treated like a criminal,” he said.

Golden would like to see professionals get involved to look at adjustments, as well as have houses revalued when the market isn’t at its pinnacle — a factor that contributes to high assessments, he said.

In response, Runion pointed out that the assessment process is mandated by the state, and the town does not have the ability to change it “in any shape, form, or manner.” He said that adjustments are accounted for, and that the assessor looks at the conditions and amenities of houses and properties. People just don’t understand all the variables, said Runion.

Traffic on Western Avenue has been “a disaster” for years, said Golden. There are so many experts available to the town that he doesn’t understand why the issue has not already been addressed, he said.

A traffic study of Western Avenue alone would not be enough. Golden believes it is necessary to examine the major arteries leading to Route 20, in order to determine why the road is so clogged. He thinks the same is required for Carman Road.

According to Runion, the problem is that both Western Avenue and Carman Road are state highways, making it more difficult to get funding for projects, because of the conditions the state imposes on construction. There have been numerous traffic and neighborhood studies done in the area, he said.

Additionally, sidewalks have been talked about for years, said Golden, and only now have some of the promised walks been built. Bike paths, in a town filled with children, should be a priority too, he said.

Two years ago, a sidewalk project was completed on Carman Road, said Runion. The town has recently been granted funds to install sidewalks along Route 146 in Guilderland, and is waiting for the federal money to come through, he said.

“When you are only receiving 26 cents per $1,000, it is hard to generate the million-or-so dollars necessary for a sidewalk project,” Runion said.

While there are other issues facing the town, Golden said he feels it is best to lay out a reasonable agenda.

“I want to be able to look back in two years and say, ‘Here is what I said I would do, and it is done,’” he said. “Then, if the people think I have done a good job, they can vote for me again. If not, they can vote for someone else.”

Golden said while he doesn’t necessarily have strong feelings about term limits, an issue Republican town board candidate Matthew Nelligan is pushing, he does think it is senseless for candidates to run on the same platform over and over again.

“People who are in power for a long time tend to act to preserve their power, and play to their supporters, rather than be responsive to the people’s needs, which is what people want from their town government,” he said.

Specifically, he questioned what Runion hoped to accomplish in the next two years that he hadn’t accomplished in the past ten, 10 said it was interesting to note that in the past several months, problems such as the flooding on Fuller Road and the stormwater in McKownville are being addressed.

“A lot of these projects seem to coincide with election time,” said Golden.

“When you are supervisor, projects always materialize before a campaign, because you are running every two years,” Runion said. Timing is a matter of funding, he said. There are projects that have been in the works for a number of years, and the funding just came through. “Everything moves along in due course,” according to Runion.

Golden’s letter to the Enterprise editor this week states that Runion agreed to debate him on the town’s TV channel. Runion said while he wasn’t sure the debate would be televised, he would gladly participate.

“I love to debate. It’s fun and you get to talk about the issues,” Runion, a lawyer, said.

Golden said he would welcome the chance to debate as an opportunity to talk to the people, and compare and contrast candidacies

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