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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04 May

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





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.


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

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.


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

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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14 Apr

“Every Number has a Story” provides insights into Elmira’s unique financial situation


Elmira, New York. Image: Souldrifter02

In 2010, John Burin was well into his tenure as Manager for the City of Elmira. Asked to provide Chemung County with fiscal data, Burin created a document entitled “Every Number has a Story“, found here.

Although many things have changed regarding the economic situations in both the City of Elmira and Chemung County since Burin created the document, it nonetheless provides many insights into the obstacles facing Elmira. It is necessary reading for anyone trying to figure out why Elmira is in such a tough fiscal position and, more critically, what can be done to help fix it.


Photo of John Burin from the Star Gazette.

In his cover letter to the document, Burin, who has also served as Elmira’s assessor and is a past member of Southern Tier Economic Growth and the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency, encouraged Chemung County to give him an opportunity to participate directly on a task force created to analyze municipal income and expense: (more…)

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14 Apr

Chemung County Plan misses the mark

Below is an Op-Ed I wrote that will be published in the Star Gazette on April 15, 2018. It can be found online here.

At the Chemung County Legislature’s meeting last Monday, County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen proposed an initiative called the “Municipal Fiscal Transparency and Tax Stabilization Plan.” Based on their presentation, it appears the plan’s purpose is to help municipalities improve their fiscal health.

This is a laudable objective. The City of Elmira’s financial problems have been widely discussed recently.

But, Elmira is not alone. The Town of Horseheads levied a property tax in 2016 for the first time in 30 years, the Village of Van Etten voted last December to dissolve, Town of Southport Supervisor David Sheen recently stated his board will likely have to raise taxes in the near future as it has “controlled expenses while seeing its revenues dry up,” and this past week, the Town of Chemung laid off its entire highway department, citing lack of adequate funds. (more…)

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10 Apr

Chemung County Officials Propose Cooperation, but with a Catch


Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli Speaking to the legislature about re-creation of the Council of Governments on April 9, 2018.

The Chemung County Legislature’s meeting on April 9, 2018, was far from mundane.


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04 Apr


Without question, 2018 is shaping up to be a historical year in Chemung County. With more than thirty people running for seats in the legislature, and four candidates for county executive, our community will have a unique opportunity to fully evaluate how  local government functions, and consider whether there are new and better approaches for us to undertake.

Yet, envisioning what the future might hold requires we first have at least a cursory understanding of how our system developed.

Prior to 1974, Chemung County was governed by a board of supervisors comprised of town supervisors and other municipal leaders. The board members’ votes were weighted on the basis of each municipality’s population in an attempt to allow all county residents to have as fair and equal representation as possible.

According to Tri-Counties Genealogy, the first board of supervisors consisted of Samuel Minier, of Big Flats; Timothy Wheat, of Catlin; Jacob Swartwood of Cayuta; John G. Henry of Catharine; Green Bennitt of Dix; John W. Wisner of Elmira; Albert A. Beckwith, of Southport; Asahel Hulett of Veteran, with John Wisner of Elmira serving as chairman.

board of supervisors 1920

Photograph of the 1920 Board of Supervisors. Image from the Chemung County Historical Society. 


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16 Mar


On Thursday Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli and Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen released a statement through the county’s website, blaming Elmira’s fiscal crisis on a “failure of leadership on the part of the Mayor and City Council.”

This is their statement, which can also be found here:


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08 Mar

Economic Issues Spur Interest in Local Government

The political climate in Chemung County is very interesting right now.

At last count nearly 30 people have either announced their candidacy for Chemung County Legislature or are giving it very serious consideration, and there are at least three – possibly even four – candidates for Chemung County Executive. This injection of people and energy into local politics means our community will have an excellent opportunity to learn about the issues  from a diverse set of perspectives.

Despite each candidate’s individual concerns and ideas, one common theme has already begun to emerge: Chemung County’s struggling economy, and the way our county government goes about addressing it, has to be the top priority.

For too long our area has been dogged by sluggish economic growth, prompting more and more people to seek ways that they can get involved and make a difference.


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