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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 1, 2009

Contentious race scrambles party lines

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A uniquely contentious election is on the horizon and the candidates are aligned by their stances on development rather than by their political parties.

Since Cazenovia-based Sphere Development first proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A over a year and a half ago, the shape of development in town has dominated discussion.  Sphere has recently shown signs of abandoning the project, but the issues remain.

The Democratic ticket, decided in a caucus of roughly 300 party members, includes incumbent Democratic Supervisor Thomas Dolin; incumbent Councilman Douglas LaGrange, a Republican; and Democrat Daniel Mackay — all of whom are like-minded regarding the future of development in town.

After a heated four-way race earlier this month, the Republican primary yielded a ticket split on the issue of development.  Roselyn Robinson, who challenged LaGrange and his running mate, Charles Voss, in a primary for the GOP’s line for the town board won a place on the ballot as did LaGrange.  Michael Fields is the party’s choice for supervisor — he didn’t face a primary.

Voss and Robinson’s running mate, Timothy Stanton, are without a major party line.

It remains unclear whether either of them will be on the ballot in November since the ballot line created by Robinson, Fields, and Stanton, called New Scotland FIRST is in the midst of a suit claiming that the gathering of some signatures was not done properly.  On Sept. 15, the Supreme Court judge handling the case was changed from Joseph Teresi to Thomas McNamara, but no date has been set for a hearing.

Also, the Conservative line is still undetermined, with four candidates within three votes of each other, according to unofficial numbers from the Albany County Board of Elections.  Robinson came in first, with 36 votes, and Stanton came in last, with 34 votes, leaving LaGrange and Voss tied in the middle — each with 35.

Richard Stack, chairman of the county’s Conservative Party, filed an objection to one of Robinson’s votes, saying that the ballot was inappropriately issued since it was a Republican absentee ballot used to vote in the Conservative Party election.  There were also a lot of markings and scribbles on the paper, Stack said.  There have been no other objections filed, said Matthew Clyne, the Democratic commissioner at the board of elections.

Incumbent Democrat Diane Deschenes is seeking another term as clerk, facing Republican Penny Barone.  And incumbent Democrat Darrell Duncan is seeking another term as high way superintendent.

The three candidates vying for two seats on the town board and the two candidates vying for the supervisor’s post were asked this week about the major issues facing the town.  (Interviews with Voss and Stanton during the Republican primary can be found at www.altamontenterprise.com under archives in New Scotland for Sept. 3, 2009 and, should either get a definitive line on November’s ballot, the Enterprise will run full interviews.)  The questions were:

Wind:  The only towers visible on the Helderberg escarpment are in New Scotland.  Shell Energy backed off a plan to put turbines on the crest of the Helderbergs, but others are interested.  The town currently has a moratorium on wind-energy development while it works out legislation to govern it; candidates were asked how New Scotland should zone for wind turbines.

Reaching consensus: The town board is deeply divided and will likely be after the election.  Candidates were asked how they would move forward to accomplish something.

— Water:  New Scotland has no municipal water source and some areas of town are severely lacking in available water.  Candidates were asked what they would propose doing about it.

— Comprehensive plan:  The town’s last comprehensive land-use plan was completed in 1994.  Candidates were asked if it is outdated and if it should be updated or redone.

— Agriculture:  Candidates were asked if farming should be promoted and in what way.  The area of town designated for commercial development in the 1960s is largely made up of prime farmland and farmland of statewide importance — should that area be used for development or should land closer to already developed areas be designated instead for commercial development?

— Process:  The last year and a half has been marked by controversy, which has brought many citizens to meetings where they have voiced their concerns, sometimes forcefully.  Candidates were asked how they would handle input from citizens and how best to harness residents’ interests.

Roles:  Candidates were asked about the role of town board members — should they act according to the will of the majority or seek out the minority?  How should these two groups be balanced?  They were also asked about the role of the planning board and to whom it is answerable.

— Political parties:  In an election that has candidates divided according to their vision for development rather than along party lines, candidates were asked what role political parties play.

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