VESTAL, N.Y. (WIVT/WBGH) – The race for Vestal Supervisor this year features three candidates, with the incumbent running on a third-party line.
John Schaffer is seeking a fourth term as a Conservative after losing the Democratic Party primary to Maria Sexton.
Schaffer, Sexton and Republican Ted Wolf have differing views on the state of affairs in the town.
For the two candidates opposing Schaffer, a major motivator is addressing how the town and Supervisor interact with residents. Sexton says that after moving to Vestal almost five years ago to live near family, she started attending town meetings and was appalled by what she saw.
“The Town Supervisor has to listen to people, be respectful of everybody, and really incorporate what people want into what is done. What I saw was the opposite. I saw a Town Supervisor yelling at residents for simply asking questions. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Sexton.
Schaffer counters that he treats constituents with respect, but that he also runs an orderly meeting. He says a vocal minority who oppose the Retreat at Bunn Hill housing development have disrupted town meetings.
“We are an open government, very transparent. 40 meetings a year, for those who come. Anything you want to know; all you need to do is call. We set up a new website. We have expanded our parks. It’s just a perfect place to live,” said Schaffer.
Schaffer alleges that both of his opponents are single issue candidates, backed by opponents of the Bunn Hill project. Wolf lives down the hill from the proposed site, but says the project is not his reason for running. Rather it’s the fact that the town is ignoring the will of the people.
“If there were 100 people who sent letters in and said they didn’t want it, and 10 people sent letters in saying they did want it, it would be a dead topic. It would go no further. We’ve been fighting this for years and years,” said Wolf.
Sexton says opening up government to the people is her primary objective. She wants to post video online of town meetings, increase information available on the town website and conduct resident surveys. Plus, she wants to heed what she says is the US Army Corps of Engineers recommendation and seek grants to raise flood barriers.
“Work with Endicott and Johnson City. And if we do these 3 areas, raising the flood walls will save our people and our businesses. And we won’t have the disaster of 2011,” said Sexton.
Schaffer says raising the berms would be cost-prohibitive, more than half a billion dollars. For his part, Wolf says that no matter what the town chooses to do in the future, it should be guided by a comprehensive plan.
“It bugs me that, how do you have a plan to develop the parkway or a plan to develop the South Hills or a plan to develop anything in the town, how do you have a plan when, in fact, there is no plan?” said Wolf.
Schaffer says past efforts to produce a town plan wasted money and couldn’t reach a consensus. Schaffer says he has the leadership skills and knowledge to move Vestal forward. He denies accusations that assessment changes are driving people out of town. He says people shouldn’t be alarmed by property values going up.
“Your taxes did not. My tax levy this year is .9%. I am under the 2% cap. It did not raise 15%. No scare tactics, I tell you the truth. Right up front, this is what it’s about. I live in Vestal. Why would I raise taxes more than I want to pay,” said Schaffer.
One week from today, Vestal voters have a choice between two options for change, or staying the course.
Election Day is next Tuesday, however early voting has already begun. Go to BroomeVotes.com for locations and times.