06 Nov

Drag Queen Story Time – Why the Issue Matters so Much

Image: Brooke Dawson

At the conclusion of the Chemung County Legislature’s Budget Committee meeting on Monday, Legislator Joe Brennan raised concern over programming at the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira. Specifically, Brennan urged the Legislature to take action against the Chemung County Library District because it periodically hosts “Drag Queen Story Time.”

The video below is from Monday’s meeting, and the image is from the of Legislator Joe Brennan’s official Facebook page:

As evidenced by my expression and comments at the meeting, I was shocked for several reasons.


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16 Oct

Legislature passes important measures to help veterans & municipalities, promote safety and provide additional fiscal oversight.

Image: World Atlas

The Chemung County Legislature passed four important resolutions when it met on October 16, 2019. Notably, all four of these resolutions were initiated by the Legislature, a healthy step toward making this branch a more proactive partner in local government.

Cold War Veterans Exemption

New York State allows veterans of the Cold War to receive certain property tax exemptions if the county in which the veteran lives passes a local law allowing him or her to take advantage of it.

Chemung County adopted a Local Law in 2001 to provide certain property tax exemptions to veterans who served in “wartime” defined as World War I, World War II, the Korean War (1950-1955), the Vietnam War (1961-1975) and the Gulf War (1990-present). However, this law did not provide the exemptions to veterans who served during the Cold War (1945-1991) but whose service fell outside these designated “wartimes”.

The local law unanimously passed by the Legislature last night seeks to rectify this inequity. It allows veterans living in Chemung County who served during the Cold War to receive certain property exemptions regardless of when their military service took place so long as it was entirely outside of a “wartime” described above.

Legislative Vice Chairperson John Burin wrote a memorandum explaining the background of the Cold War Exemption along with a detailed fiscal analysis found here and embedded below:


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01 Oct

Judge dismisses both lawsuits filed by Chemung County Executive Moss against Legislature

Late in the day on Monday, September 30, 2019, Judge Eugene Faughnan, a 6th Judicial District Supreme Court Judge from Binghamton, issued a 19 page decision in which he dismissed both lawsuits filed by County Executive Moss and County Attorney Hyder Hussain against the Chemung County Legislature, the Legislators individually, and Legislative Attorney Bryan Maggs.

A full copy of the decision can be accessed here and is also embedded below:

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Here are four key takeaways from the decisions:

The Court agreed with all of the fundamental arguments about the legislative attorney position.


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11 Sep

Major costs looming to improve the Chemung County Sewer Districts

The Chemung County Legislature has been advised that major infrastructure upgrades – totaling anywhere from $80 to $100 million dollars – are necessary to provide basic maintenance to our Sewer Districts’ facilities and bring them into compliance with pollution reduction targets set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that will take effect in 2025.

The purpose of this post is to present background information and begin a public discussion on what may turn out to be one of the most significant undertakings the Legislature and County Executive will face this term. I will do my best to publish updated information as it becomes available.

Chemung County Sewer Districts

According to the county website, found here, approximately 80% of the 35,000 households and over 90% of all businesses in Chemung County are served by the Chemung County Sewer Districts. Jointly, they process approximately 18 million gallons of wastewater per day in order to meet current state and federal discharge requirements.


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07 Aug

More from the City-County Committee, including its termination by County Executive Moss

On August 6th the City-County Committee presented its report and recommendations to a large crowd at Mandeville Hall.

Fresh off the excitement from last night’s event, I wrote a Facebook post just after waking up this morning:

However, while writing this blog post I learned by letter that County Executive Moss has abruptly terminated the Committee. I will address this issue at the end of the post so that it does not interfere with the important, substantive work the Committee has done over the past six months.


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30 Jul

City-County Committee completes report, announces presentation date

On February 11, 2019, the Chemung County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution allowing Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss to form a temporary committee to identify ways the county and city can work together to assist the city with studying possible cost-saving measures that could improve the city’s financial health and benefit the community.

The committee is comprised of eight individuals: Chemung County Legislature Vice Chairperson John Burin; Elmira Mayor Daniel Mandell; Chemung County Legislators Martin Chalk, Christina Sonsire, Scott Drake and William McCarthy; Elmira City Councilperson Joseph Duffy; and former City of Elmira Chamberlain David Vandermark.  

The committee has spent the past five months examining and analyzing the city’s current fiscal situation and has identified several potential cost-saving measures and ideas. This letter and the accompanying report set forth our findings.


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23 Jul

Update: Legislative Salaries, Prevailing Wage and the City-County Committee

Legislative Salaries

The Chemung County Legislature’s ad hoc Compensation & Benefits Committee held its initial meeting last night. The Committee is comprised of five legislators including John Pastrick, Mike Smith, Rodney Strange, Bill McCarthy and myself. Together we are charged with evaluating the salary and benefit package offered to legislators and recommending what changes, if any, should be made.

Resolution 18-640 was passed last December designating the salary and benefits offered to Chemung County Legislators this year.


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18 Jul

Oral argument in Moss v. Legislature to be heard on July 19th

Judge Eugene Faughnan of Binghamton will hear oral arguments tomorrow in the two lawsuits filed by County Executive Chris Moss and County Attorney Hyder Hussain against the Chemung County Legislature, its lawyer Bryan Maggs and former legislative clerk Linda Palmer.

Arguments will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Hazlett Building’s Third Floor courtroom. Live-streaming is not permitted, but the proceeding is open to the public.


Attorney William Kinnery, hired by the Legislature and Palmer, and Attorney Bryan Maggs, representing himself, filed a motion last week to consolidate the two lawsuits. I expect Judge Faughnan will grant it as the issues involve the same parties and seem to be inextricably intertwined.

At the hearing, Robert Rosborough, the attorney hired by Moss and Hussain to bring the lawsuits, will be permitted to argue first as he represents the Petitioners, i.e. the people who brought the actions. There are no hard rules about how long his argument can last, but judges can – and often do – tell lawyers to stop arguing when they feel their questions have been adequately answered.


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25 Jun

Chemung County update on…a bunch of things

Image: Shutterstock

I have had a crazy few weeks as my daughters’ school and spring sports ended while a number of my cases at the Ziff Law firm started really cranking. As a result I have not been able to put together a update-style post in quite a while.

The list below demonstrates that there is a lot going on in local government right now. As always, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these and any other matters as greater public involvement with government results in better government overall.

Shared Services

Last Thursday Chemung County Executive Moss held a meeting for all municipal mayors and supervisors where he laid out a new plan for shared services in Chemung County. Unfortunately the Legislature was not informed of the meeting, and to date has not received any information from the Executive’s office about what the plan entails.


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13 Jun

First Arena: an update

Image: Trip Advisor

In addition to serving as a Legislator for Chemung County’s 7th District, I am the secretary of the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency. In order to clarify and explain the state of affairs at Elmira’s First Arena, we offered this statement today.

A copy of the lease referenced in the statement and the specific requests for reimbursement are embedded at the end of our statement.


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