07 Jan

Important personnel matters addressed by the Legislature

Two of the Legislature’s powers were in the spotlight tonight during the Personnel Committee’s meeting, including its ability to fix certain salaries and confirm appointments made by the County Executive.

Both powers are laid out explicitly in Chemung County’s Charter, found here.

The power to fix salaries is found in Section 203(h):

The power to confirm executive appointments is found in Section 309:


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05 Jan

Many issues to come before the Legislature Monday night

Members of the Chemung County Legislature were sworn in on January 1, 2018 following a short organizational meeting. The real work starts on Monday. If the Committee Agendas are any indication, it will be a very busy start to the year.


The Legislature usually meets three times per month. Unfortunately the Legislature’s website, found here, has not been updated to show the new schedule, so I embedded it below for anyone who is interested.


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31 Dec

Looking ahead to 2019 in Chemung County

Image: Britannica

Last year on New Year’s Day I published a blog post entitled “Key Fiscal Issues in 2018”, found here. The issues – what to do with the First Arena, Sales Tax distribution, the fiscal health of Chemung County and the City of Elmira, the impact of state and local law on our economy, and the potential for significant change in local leadership – proved to be important matters in 2018, most of which will continue to demand our attention until they are resolved.

The New Year’s post this year is somewhat different. Having been entrusted by the residents of Chemung County’s 7th Legislative District to try to help address the issues listed above along with a host of others, I have shifted the focus of my 2019 New Year’s post away from a simple commentary about the issues into an action plan where possible. Is the list below complete? Not even close, but it presents a few workable, practical ways to begin dealing with some of our community’s very serious problems.


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21 Dec

Chemung County Update: Legislative leadership roles, the 2019 Meeting Schedule and two interesting radio shows

There are many changes afoot in Chemung County government as 2018 winds down. Aside from the announcement by incoming County Executive Chris Moss that several department heads have been let go as described in an article found here, the new Legislature is also making changes as it prepares to begin work soon.

Leadership roles

The Legislature’s leadership appears to be set for the upcoming term, with votes for many of these roles slated to be taken at the organizational meeting on January 1, 2019:

  • Chairperson: Dave Manchester
  • Vice-Chairperson: John Burin
  • Majority Leader: Rodney Strange
  • Minority Leader: Christina Sonsire

The following committee positions have been recommended by (presumptive) Chairperson Manchester:


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18 Dec

Southern Tier awarded funds for economic developmenti

The annual New York State Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) awards were announced today in Albany. Of the $763 million in economic and community development funding allocated to 10 competing regions, the Southern Tier received $65.4 million to help nearly 100 local projects, 11 of which are in Chemung County.    

The purpose of this post is to provide background about REDC and details about the local projects that have received funding. 

What is REDC?

10 Councils were created in 2011 by Governor Cuomo to help develop long-term strategic plans for regional-specific economic growth. The Councils are public-private partnerships wherein elected and non-elected leaders identify ways to help grow their economies while competing for funds that are awarded by New York state each year just before Christmas.

Often criticized as promoting a Hunger Games-sytle or pay-to-play approach to economic growth, the Councils are increasingly tasked with showing a relationship between the money they receive and sustainable job growth in order to justify the huge outlay of tax dollars. Many of these criticisms were addressed in a thorough investigative article by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle published in June, 2017 and found here


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13 Dec

Chemung County Update: Paying for the First Arena

As Chemung County’s new executive administration and legislature prepare to take office on January 1, many unresolved issues are being researched and discussed. One matter near the top of the list is how to pay for debts associated with Elmira’s First Arena. From my time at the doors last year it became clear that although few people want to see First Arena fail, figuring out a way to pay for it absent an outright sale to a private buyer is of great public concern because it involves the use of tax dollars.

The best place to start for a full overview of the history of First Arena from its construction through the spring of 2017 is found here in a thorough investigative article (more…)

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11 Dec

Chemung County Legislature votes in favor of legislative pay raises


Image: WENY

Last night the Chemung County Legislature passed a resolution by a vote of 10-5 to increase legislative salaries by 3%. Legislators Rick Madl, Marty Chalk, Bill Fairchild, Peggy Woodard and Paul Collins all voted against it.

During the meeting’s public comment period Tony Pucci, a retired English teacher who ran for a seat on the legislature in last November’s election, and I each spoke against the pay raises, arguing they are inappropriate at a time when our community is facing significant fiscal stress coupled with a declining population, and the combination of high salaries and benefits are inconsistent with other similarly situated counties in upstate (more…)

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06 Dec

Chemung County Update: The role of STEG, legislative salaries and the new medical school


Image: WETM

Note: Going forward I will provide updates about what is happening in Chemung County government every Thursday and will add other posts throughout the week as pressing issues arise. I am in the process of updating the Chemung County Matters website to include links to all Agendas, Minutes and other noteworthy items from the Chemung County Legislature as well as the Elmira and Big Flats Town Boards, the two municipalities located within the 7th Legislative District. 

Things are certainly abuzz within Chemung County government as Chris Moss, the newly elected County Executive, along with seven newly elected legislators prepare to take office in less than one month. To this point Moss and his transition team (a list of members is found here) has largely operated independently from the new legislature, something that bodes well for the desire of many people for greater separation between the two branches. The overall tenor among the new and returning elected officials seems (more…)

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20 Nov

Chemung County budget update


I took last week off to spend time with my family after the election and am working hard to get back up to speed on many things that have transpired since November 5th. I intend to keep this blog going (with some much-needed cosmetic changes…coming soon!) while I serve as a member of the Chemung County Legislature to help keep people informed of the issues affecting our community. As always, everyone is invited to share information and opinions directly on the blog or on social media in hopes of generating productive discussions about ways we can improve the way Chemung County does business.

Chemung County Budget

The current Legislature has held two workshops and a public hearing to discuss its proposed 2019 budget. A special meeting to vote on the proposed 2019 budget will be held on November 26th at 7:30 pm on the Hazlett Building’s 5th floor following the (more…)

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09 Nov

Chemung County introduces and the Town of Elmira finalizes 2019 budgets


Yesterday Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli invited the media, sitting legislators and the public to a presentation where he unveiled the county’s proposed 2019 budget. The proposed budget can be found here.

In general, the budget and accompanying letter from Santulli paint a mixed picture for Chemung County. The budget calls for the 14th straight year without a tax increase — ostensibly a good thing — but does not seem to include ways to help many of the struggling municipalities, most notably the City of Elmira.

With respect to sales tax allocation, Santulli’s letter sets forth the county’s perspective of (more…)

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