With the campaign season fast receding, Woodstock voters are preparing to cast their ballots next Tuesday, November 8 — Election Day — in seven local races, although incumbents are running unopposed in three of the contests and thus guaranteed reelection. Voting will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Center (districts 1, 4, 7, and 8), Lake Hill firehouse (district 2), Wittenberg firehouse (districts 5 and 9), and Zena firehouse (districts 3 and 6).
Two candidates are vying for a two-year term as the next town supervisor: Lorin Rose, the nominee of the Republican and Common Sense parties, and Jeremy Wilber, the nominee of the Democratic and Working Families parties. Wilber, age 61, is a former four-term town supervisor, having served in that position from 2000 to 2007. Rose, 55, is a member of the volunteer Planning Board and a first-time candidate for elective office.
Contending for two Town Board seats are Peter Cross (Republican), Ken Panza (Democratic, Republican), and Jay Wenk (Democratic, Working Families). Board members serve for four years. Wenk, 85, an incumbent whose current term expires at the end of the year, previously served on the council from 1990 to 1993. Cross, 62, is a member of the Planning Board and the town’s wetlands inspector; he is seeking elective office for the first time. Panza, 69, a community activist and volunteer, ran unsuccessfully for a Town Board seat in 2009.
Longtime incumbents Jackie Earley, the town clerk; Mike Reynolds, the highway superintendent; and Frank Engel, one of the town’s two justices, have been endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties and are running without opposition. (Engel is also the nominee of the Working Families Party.) Town justices serve a term of four years. Until now, the town clerk and the highway superintendent have each served a two-year term, but the November 8 ballot will include propositions that would increase the term of each office to four years.
In a race to represent Woodstock and the northern portion of the town of Hurley in District 23 of a reconfigured Ulster County Legislature, Don Gregorius (Democratic, Independence) squares off against James Monserrate (Republican). The legislative post carries a term of two years.
The following sections of the election preview offer a glimpse of where the candidates for town supervisor and Town Board, respectively, stand on some of the issues facing Woodstock at the end of 2011. In the first section, council aspirants Cross, Panza, and Wenk respond to questions posed in a recent interview conducted by e-mail. The second section highlights an October 28 debate between Rose and Wilber, the supervisor candidates.
Town Board: The Candidates Air Their Views
On the eve of the election Woodstock Times asked the three Town Board candidates to answer the following questions.
What is your occupation, and for how many years have you lived in Woodstock?
Apart from the town’s finances and budget (the subject of the next question), what are the three most important problems facing the town, and what would you do to address each of them?
How would you address the town’s financial problems, in the context of its 2012 budget? (On the subject of the budget, do you support or oppose the 2 percent state cap on property tax increases?)
Why should a voter choose you over your competitors for a Town Board seat?
Which candidate for town supervisor, Lorin Rose or Jeremy Wilber, do you support, and why?
Following are the candidates’ responses. [Note: The responses have been edited, mainly for length. In some cases the answers do not precisely follow the order of the questions, but the meaning should be clear.]
I am a third-generation Woodstock native and I hope that my fourth-generation children can be able to afford to remain here. I work for a local civil engineering firm, doing land surveying and infrastructure survey work. I am a certified wetland delineator and presently serve as Woodstock’s wetlands and watercourse inspector. For the last five years I have worked as a volunteer for the Woodstock Planning Board and promoted the mapping of the town’s resources for a Comprehensive Plan.
In my opinion the top three most important problems facing the town are as follows: the sustainable development of local businesses and cottage industries and current special use permitting; support of our artists and the performing arts community; and the deplorable conditions in our municipal offices, including the police, justice court, and dispatch departments.
The Town Board can help achieve an increased support of local businesses, big or small, by reviewing the zoning laws that hinder and/or discourage local businesses from starting up or expanding. (I support) zoning law changes, consistent with a Comprehensive Plan, that create ways to allow mixed uses and eliminate prohibitive setbacks, and building code adjustments that will allow small businesses to grow. Encouraging a diverse citizenry will help support the artists and the performing arts community. More diligent additions to the town’s website about art shows and performances will help area residents and tourists to be aware of all that is happening in those fields.
Considering the current economic times and the town’s financial straitjacket status, we cannot afford to build new offices. We need to properly maintain and improve the buildings on Comeau and Town Hall. We need to seek NYSERDA grants to weatherize, replace windows with energy efficient types, etc. The three-bay garage adjoining Town Hall sits empty. That space should be used to create more safe accommodations for the police and dispatch departments. This would be simply a temporary solution to the current overcrowding, and some codes might have to be waived, but it could be done, and probably done with local contractors. With volunteer help, a nice stage and backdrop for the performing arts and town meetings could be created at the Community Center. A Comprehensive Plan would allow the town to secure grants so that, in the foreseeable future, a new building could be built where the block building behind the pool now stands.
A lack of small, affordable lots for startup homes prevents many from staying in, or moving to, Woodstock. Young, lower-income families, workers, and artists need such beginners’ homes and their property taxes would add to the town’s coffers. Elder residents on fixed incomes should also have the choice of downsizing without having to move out of Woodstock. Changes in the zoning laws to allow some smaller lots and more cluster housing units (could accomplish these goals). We need new parks and recreation areas to be enjoyed by all citizens.
We need to be much more conservative with our taxpayers’ money, with less money spent on extensive planning and studies and lawyer consultations, etc. We need to keep the town’s work force intact. We cannot continue to raise taxes. The current tax burdens are unfair to low- and middle-income citizens. The wealthy need to contribute more if they want services and amenities to be maintained or upgraded. The town needs to build up its reserve funds to cope with unexpected disasters or needs that the state and/or federal government cannot or won’t provide.
I believe my diverse background is the most pertinent for the future of Woodstock. My fields of expertise will help preserve and protect our town’s sensitive environmental areas, our wetlands and watercourses, our open spaces and view sheds, etc. My familiarity with the town’s zoning laws, special use permitting, and building codes should be of great help in many Town Board decisions.
I support Jeremy Wilber for the position of town supervisor. In these trying times Woodstock needs his experience and proven track record. He will be able to step right up, on day one of the New Year, and address each issue with knowledge and expertise and his fiduciary knowledge base. I like and respect Lorin Rose, and I am sure he would be a good supervisor if elected, but today’s drastic economic conditions won’t allow time for learning all the intricacies this position demands, and Jeremy can hit the ground running.