27 Sep

GUEST BLOG: City Councilman Jim Waters explores the idea of a countywide police department


The Chemung County Matters blog exists to help promote discussions about local issues. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect my own, but are rather shared here in order to provide information and hopefully stimulate ideas.

The guest blog post below, submitted today by Elmira City Councilman Jim Waters, a retired Chief of the Elmira Police Department, focuses on the potential creation of a countywide police force, a topic he accurately points out has been missing from much of the campaign dialogue so far.

My view is similar to what Councilman Waters suggests insofar as I agree this topic must at least be part of the discussion. As I have gone door-to-door in the 7th Legislative District, I have heard countless times that residents do not want to lose our police officers in West Elmira. I could not agree more, as having a law enforcement presence does a lot to discourage crime and promote traffic safety. I am a mom raising two young daughters in the Town of Elmira, and therefore fully understand why people feel so strongly about this matter.


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27 Sep

Town of Elmira not immune from fiscal problems

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The question of whether sales tax revenue is allocated appropriately among Chemung County, the City of Elmira, and the county’s towns and villages has been discussed extensively over the past year.

Widespread interest about this issue is primarily driven by three factors: (1) the current sales tax agreement is set to expire in two months; (2) this November’s election features an unprecedented number of candidates for local office, many of whom have analyzed the current plan and offered opinions about ways to improve it; and (3) numerous municipal leaders have been outspoken about the plan’s negative effects on their entity’s fiscal health.

I set forth some of the recent statements by municipal leaders about the impact of the sales tax plan in a post last August, found here, and have restated them below:

*In 2016, Town of Horseheads Supervisor Mike Edwards attributed the town’s new tax levy directly to the sales tax plan, as shown here.

*Southport Town Supervisor David Sheen – named by Sheriff Chris Moss, a candidate for Chemung County Executive, to serve as deputy if Moss is elected – announced the town’s plans for infrastructure projects and buildings are on hold, and Southport taxes will likely go up in coming years as a direct result of the way sales tax revenue is distributed, as shown here.

*The Town of Chemung laid off its entire highway department earlier this year, a move (more…)

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24 Sep

Former City Manager and candidate for 9th District Legislator John Burin weighs in on sales tax issue

Below is a very thorough letter written by John Burin, a former City of Elmira Manager and current candidate for Chemung County Legislator in the 9th District, to every sitting member of the legislature.

According to his website, Burin sent the letter on September 24, 2018, in order to provide his views about a revised sales tax allocation plan recently proposed by Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. Burin encourages voters to read the letter and contact him with comments. A copy of the letter is found here.

I am not a voter in Burin’s district, but as a candidate for legislature – and, more importantly, a resident of Chemung County – I recognize how important it is for our community to have as much information as possible about this critical issue in order to make the best decisions we can going forward.

For me, the most pressing question remains unanswered: Why does the new sales tax plan call for increasing revenue to the towns and villages by 3.4% if, according to numerous presentations by Chemung County officials, almost all of these municipalities are free from fiscal stress and possibly even too flush?

In the event the towns and villages need relief as many municipal officials claim and a review of most of their budgets seems to at least suggest, and Chemung County has additional resources due to an unexpected boost of sales tax monies in 2018, then the legislature should by all means look for ways to help out. But, if they are in fact fiscally sound as County officials continue to strenuously claim, the new plan doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense.

This is an involved issue. Thankfully a lot of people across the community are asking tough questions, as this is the most effective way to discover a solution that works.

Christina Sonsire


Dear Chemung County Legislators,

I am writing you to request that the proposed sales tax allocation plan be tabled until January and a new plan developed and implemented that will enhance economic development and address City issues. I also ask that after reading this letter you take the time to visit my web page and click on my radio interview with Frank Acomb on 9/11/18 and also down load the pdf every_number which can be found at the bottom of my home page. I am confident that after visiting my web site you will have a greater appreciation of why in my opinion the proposed sales tax allocation plan has significant short comings.


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18 Sep

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

Sales tax presentation leaves many questions unanswered


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.


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




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:


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

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.


broadbandaccesssolutionPhoto: Broadcom

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

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

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:


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

Christina Sonsire


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05 Jun

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


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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