Blog

18 Sep
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A discussion of the issues on the “Frankly Speaking” radio show.

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I appeared on the “Frankly Speaking” show, a program hosted by local radio personality Frank Acomb, on September 18th for the third time this year. We had a chance to talk about many of the issues facing our community, along with some of our takeaways from the recent primaries.

Check out our discussion by clicking the arrow below!

 

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06 Sep
3

Sales tax presentation leaves many questions unanswered

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Chemung County Legislator Marty Chalk pleaded with county officials to find ways to improve their relationship with the City of Elmira during Tuesday night’s presentation.  

At a meeting of the Legislature’s Budget Committee on Tuesday night, Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen presented a proposal to change the way sales tax revenue is shared among the county, the City of Elmira and the remaining towns and villages. If approved by the legislature, the proposed changes would remain in effect for six years. A video of the presentation can be viewed here.

Background

In order to discuss the proposal, it is important to have a basic understanding of how sales tax allocation currently works in Chemung County. Most of this information can be found in a report by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) that was released in January, 2018 and can be found here.

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22 Aug
1

*UPDATE: SALES TAX PRESENTATION ON SEPTEMBER 4th*

ELmira

Photo: www.chemungcounty.net

Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy Executive Mike Krusen will present their proposal for a modification to the 2013 Financial Restructuring Plan, also called the “sales tax agreement”, to the Chemung County Budget Committee on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 in the Hazlett Building’s 5th Floor Legislative Chambers located at 203 Lake Street in Elmira beginning at 7:00 pm

The meeting is open to the public. Anyone interested in the proposal is encouraged to attend.

Below is a blog post I published on the issue last week:

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Reallocation of sales tax revenue on the table in Chemung County?

For the past year, the question of whether sales tax revenue is fairly and sensibly distributed among Chemung County, the City of Elmira and the rest of Chemung County’s municipalities has been discussed extensively.

The reason sales tax distribution has been such a hot issue is twofold.

First, the “Financial Restructuring Plan”, enacted by Chemung County’s Legislature in 2013 to allow the county to take a progressively greater share of sales tax revenue from its municipalities, expires at the end of November. This means Chemung County’ s executive and its fifteen legislators have an opportunity make changes to the plan later this year if they feel it is necessary.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, there are an unprecedented number of people running for office in Chemung County in 2018, many of whom have been outspoken about the need to adjust the sales tax plan, as it has resulted in fiscal hardship to many municipalities. This, coupled with numerous municipal officials who have been equally outspoken about the plan’s shortcomings, has resulted in significant attention from the public as we seek to understand how, if at all, the plan can be improved.

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03 Aug
2

Broadband: Access Denied

The following post was written by Christina Sonsire, a candidate for Chemung County Legislature in the 7th District and administrator of the Chemung County Matters blog, and Tony Pucci, a candidate for Chemung County Legislature in the 1st District.

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As we campaign in our respective districts, one of the concerns that residents express is the lack of access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet access, particularly in the rural areas.  It has become clear to us that what many in this country take for granted as an essential utility for enhancing our personal and professional lives remains unavailable for a significant number of residents in Chemung County.

What steps has Chemung County taken to ensure that all of our residents have broadband access? How effective have these steps been? What can be done to address the problem?

In November 2010, almost eight years ago, the Chemung County Legislature passed a resolution authorizing development of a “Regional Open Access Fiber Optic Backbone” in conjunction with Schuyler and Steuben counties.

Each county committed local taxpayer monies, along with a significant investment from Corning, Inc., to build out this foundational backbone that became known as the Southern Tier Network.

According to the STN website, “the network was built to support the needs of public safety, improve broadband access in rural areas, increase competition and the level of telecommunications services throughout the region….”

The network has now been completed; however, broadband access remains woefully inadequate in many areas.

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25 Jul
9

Improving the City of Elmira must be our community’s top priority

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I have spent the past two months knocking on doors across the Seventh Legislative District, comprised primarily of the Town of Elmira, allowing me to learn firsthand what my neighbors think about our community, and also hear their many interesting and exciting suggestions for ways things could improve.

Through these conversations, it has become abundantly clear we have a near consensus about one thing: to finally turn things around in our community, we must squarely address the many serious problems facing the City of Elmira.

Most residents seem to like living in the Seventh District. Having our own police and fire departments provides us with a sense of safety. Our highway department works hard to make sure our needs are not only met now, but future problems are anticipated and addressed. The Town’s ample recreational and social events – including numerous youth sports teams and summer camps, weekly concerts in Pirozzolo Park and a tremendous variety of near-daily happenings at the Community Center – greatly enhance our quality of life. Put all of this together with a supervisor and board that are both responsive and fairly progressive, and you are left with the recipe for a great community. (more…)

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28 Jun
1

Radio interview with Frank Acomb

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, with the campaign petitioning process falling at the same time school and soccer season ended, our big campaign fundraiser took place, and a number of my Ziff Law cases have been hotly litigated!

The end result has been a slowdown in the amount of blogging I have been able to do, but I am about to get back at it as things begin slowing down again. Going door-to-door over the past month has confirmed something I was sensing – people are truly paying attention to what is happening in Chemung County, and we are not only hungry for meaningful change, but we want to be part of the process. I am ready and excited to return to blogging, as open discussion about the issues is one of the best ways we can go about finding solutions to the many problems facing our community.

On that note, today I had a chance to appear on Frankly Speaking, a morning radio show on 1230 and 1450 am featuring local radio personality Frank Acomb. As always, Frank asked great questions that allowed us to engage in an interesting discussion about our community:

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This continues to be a very exciting time for Chemung County!

Christina Sonsire

 

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05 Jun
0

Chemung County’s Legislature can help address contamination issue on Elmira’s Southside

EHS

Image: Star Gazette

Most people connected to Chemung County are aware there is a serious contamination issue on the grounds of Elmira High School and potentially in the school’s surrounding neighborhoods as well. First identified more than 25 years ago, the problem remains largely unmitigated, placing scores of students, teachers, staff, residents and community members at risk for exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Industrial Background

Jim Hare, Elmira’s former mayor and a local historian, recently published an article in the Star Gazette about the industrial background of Elmira High School’s property on South Main Street, an area sits in what is now a largely residential area. (more…)

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04 May
4

“Distortion of Facts” has already become a tired campaign soundbite

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Photo: WVIH.com

 

Once again, a Chemung County official has accused a local candidate of distorting facts for political gain.

In an article published online today by the Star Gazette, Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen criticized Sheriff Chris Moss, one of Krusen’s opponents in the county executive race, for failing to be honest with the community:

You should accept that Chris Moss’s Your Turn piece dated April 18 regarding the proposed creation of a Council of Governments is a self-serving distortion of the facts.

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As this election season heats up, it will be important that we keep on high alert for the crowd who works through distortion, not fact, as a way to win the hearts of voters. We do not need to look far to see the carnage of these types of elections.

I have no involvement whatsoever with Moss’ campaign, and don’t offer this post as support of his candidacy. Instead, the post’s purpose is to point out what seems to be an unfortunate emerging theme.

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29 Apr
1

GUEST BLOG: Tony Pucci responds to miscarriages of fact by Chemung County Treasurer Joe Sartori

Tony Pucci is a resident of the Town of Veteran and a candidate for Chemung County Legislature in the 1st District. He recently retired after teaching English at Notre Dame High School for forty years, and has served on Veteran’s Zoning Board since 1995.

Pucci submitted this post to Elmira’s Star Gazette last week.

I offered similar observations about Joe Sartori’s Your Turn piece in a blog post entitled “Many different takes on the Council of Governments,” found here.

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Another Look at the “Facts”

In his Your Turn piece of April 22nd, Chemung County Treasurer Joseph Sartori began by quoting Mark Twain who wrote, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” He then attempted to deflect all of the legitimate questions and concerns raised by Christina Sonsire in her Your Turn piece of April 15th regarding County Executive Tom Santulli’s proposed Council of Governments.

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19 Apr
3

Many different takes on the “Council of Governments”

Throughout the past two weeks, a number of community leaders along with candidates for local office have weighed in on Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli’s recent proposal to create a Council of Governments (COG.)

Dubbed the “Municipal Fiscal Transparency and Tax Stabilization Plan,” Santulli’s initiative calls for creating a body with representation from local municipalities in order to foster greater financial openness and provide an emergency fund that can be accessed if municipal leaders follow certain rules.

The idea for a COG is not new. Many New York counties have COGs, and Chemung County had one until roughly a decade ago.

What is new about this proposal is that its goal is not merely the promotion of cooperation.

Unlike nearby counties that utilize their COGs for that purpose alone (the mission of Schuyler County’s council is to “provide a forum for discussion and negotiation leading to agreements for increased efficiency, fiscal responsibility, and improved quality of government services”, and the Tompkins County’s council is “organized to provide a forum for discussion and negotiation leading to agreements for more efficient and fiscally responsible delivery of government services), the version proposed by Santulli is centered around the emergency fund and the rules for accessing it.

My perspective

I have been vocal about the need for a COG for many months. I view it as a vehicle for bringing community leaders to the table to talk about issues and, hopefully, find solutions that are beneficial for our community. When leaders sit face to face with each other and are forced to interact, many issues can be avoided. Links to what I have written on this topic can be found here and here.

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