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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05 Nov

IMPORTANT: Money available to Chemung County homeowners impacted by summer flood


Image: WETM

Chemung County residents who suffered damage to their homes due to flooding that occurred from August 13-15 are eligible for grants worth up to $50,000.

According to a US News and World Report article published on Saturday, the grant money comes from federal sources and is being administered by New York state.

The application to apply for a grant is located here. Applications will be accepted from today through February 4, 2019.

Potential applicants should direct all questions to Arbor Housing and Development at (607) 654-7487 x 2049 or by email at

I can always be contacted at if you need additional assistance.

Christina Sonsire

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26 Oct

The race for legislator in the 7th District


The purpose of this blog is to promote a discussion of issues affecting Chemung County. With November 6th fast approaching, and an unprecedented number of people running for local office, the elections themselves are relevant to that discussion right now. Even though there are many contested races, the race in the 7th District is clearly the one I know best.

I am incredibly proud of the positive, hopeful and diverse characteristics of my campaign team. Our team is comprised of members of many different political parties, along with folks who are not affiliated with a party at all, and it includes many people who have never been involved with political activities in their lives. We have men, women, retirees, new parents, children, teachers, business leaders, engineers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, stay-at-home moms and dads, caregivers and many others all working together for one singular purpose: to help improve Chemung County. There is no question people want more for our community, and the actions of these volunteers and hundreds of others out there campaigning for local candidates across the area shows we are willing to hard to bring about the change we need.

Our team has been at it since February 23, 2018, when we assembled for the first time on a cold winter night at Charlie’s Cafe to kick things off.

A month later we formally announced our campaign, and unveiled a video featuring members of the community talking about why they support our efforts. (more…)

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21 Oct

Op-Ed submissions offer contrasting visions of our community’s future

elmira ariel view

Image: Star Gazette

Today’s Star Gazette featured two starkly different visions of Chemung County’s future. Unfortunately, the Star Gazette recently stopped publishing its Opinion page online, meaning that many residents have not had a chance to read them.

One piece, co-authored by me and Tony Pucci, a candidate for legislature in the First District, pushes for transparency and cooperation, particularly when it comes to financial arrangements among Chemung County, the City of Elmira, and the towns and villages. This vision of an open, responsive and cohesive local government has been central to each of our campaigns since we decided to run nearly a year ago. The piece was previously featured in a blog post found here, and is embedded below.


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