Spitzer vs. Faso

Gubernatorial candidates square off in Ithaca

Spitzer and Faso

Associated_Press/David Duprey
Republican candidate John Faso listens to Democratic candidate Eliot Spitzer during a gubernatorial debate Tuesday at Cornell University in Ithaca.

Staff Reporter

ITHACA — An aggressive and confident Eliot Spitzer, Democratic candidate for governor, controlled the majority of a debate held last night at Cornell University, but Republican candidate John Faso landed a late but significant blow by questioning Spitzer’s loyalty to embattled state Comptroller Allan Hevesi.
In a debate that became testy on both sides over issues such as public education, health care and same-sex marriage, Spitzer said his work as attorney general reflected the values of New York voters and that Faso’s positions are extreme.
Faso said he would “put the state’s budget on a diet” and repeatedly charged that Spitzer would raise taxes.
The debate became most contentious, however, right before its conclusion, when moderator Brian Taft asked Spitzer how a potential Spitzer administration would deal with Hevesi, who has admitted to using $82,000 of state money over the last four years for transportation for his ill wife.
Spitzer said such action would not be tolerated on his staff and that it would reap “serious consequences,” while also defending Hevesi, who has been a close political ally, saying he made a mistake and was doing the right thing by reimbursing the state for the money spent.
Faso countered by calling for the comptroller’s resignation.
“Alan Hevesi stole $82,000 from the people of the state … and Mr. Spitzer says he’s honest,” Faso said. “This is a perfect example, one set of standards for Eliot Spitzer and friends and another set for everyone else.”
Ethics became a central issue in the debate, as Faso repeatedly said Spitzer would raise taxes, and Spitzer responded by saying Faso was distorting the facts.
“He’s not leveling with the people of the state,” Faso said. “His spending proposals are going to result in thousands of dollars in new taxes for the people of New York.”
Spitzer took issue with this assessment, vowing that there would be “no tax increase in a Spitzer administration.”
In one of the punchier exchanges of the evening, Faso charged that Spitzer’s intention to comply with a recent court decision and increase funding to public schools statewide would cost billions and require higher taxes, to which Spitzer responded by quoting former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “everyone has a right to their own opinion, but they don’t have a right to their own facts.”
Faso cheekily chimed in on the tail end of the quote, saying he’d heard it from Spitzer before.
“I know you’ve heard it, but now let’s live by it,” Spitzer said derisively.
While Faso attacked Spitzer on spending, Spitzer went after his opponent’s record, frequently saying that his views were extreme. Spitzer questioned Faso’s votes on three different measures — an anti-stalking law, a law that protected rape victims from having to take a lie-detector test and a law that Spitzer claimed provided equal pay for women — saying they showed a disconnect with his own party. “When the issues are the most important, you march to a very bizarre drummer,” Spitzer said.
Although a majority of the audience at Cornell’s Bailey Hall seemed to support Spitzer, there was also a vocal contingent supporting Faso, who has been significantly behind Spitzer in most polls.
After a listless start, the crowd became involved in the debate when Faso was asked what he would do if he were given legislation that allowed same-sex marriage in New York.
“I would veto it,” Faso said, amid audible disagreement from much of the audience.
The city of Ithaca played a large role in the recent case for same-sex marriage rights that was ultimately denied by the state Court of Appeals.
“I have a long record of supporting non-discrimination,” Faso continued. “I also believe, however, that gay marriage is an issue that is contrary to the belief of many millions of New Yorkers.”
Spitzer responded by saying that he believed in equality and that he would sign the hypothetical bill, and drew the night’s biggest laugh by questioning Faso’s “choice of metaphor” on a comment that Spitzer was interested in “jamming gay marriage down our throats.”
Three Cornell students who also graduated from Cortland High School, Mike Avery, Greg Peppel and Amanda Kurtz, said that, in their opinion, Spitzer won the debate.
“I thought Spitzer performed a lot better tonight, his delivery just seemed more genuine,” said Avery, who said he had been leaning slightly toward Spitzer before the debate. “Overall it was a very dynamic debate, the candidates were really pressed to answer the questions, which is a lot more interesting,”
Peppel and Kurtz said they wanted to hear more from Faso on his own record.
James Valenchis, a Greene County resident, said Spitzer may have won in terms of raw debate, but he was further drawn to Faso afterward.
“To me, Mr. Faso seemed genuine and honest, like a real human being who would be the answer to what this state needs,” Valenchis said. “Mr. Spitzer seemed to me to be more of a professional politician.”



Cute faces 49 charges of cat neglect

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A woman was arraigned this morning on 49 misdemeanor counts for improperly harboring hundreds of cats in her home and a clinic on Wheeler Avenue.
Eugenia Cute, age not available, of Sweeney Road in Homer, pleaded not guilty early this afternoon before Acting City Court Judge Elizabeth Burns to 49 counts of failure to provide food and drink to an impounded animal, an unclassified misdemeanor. Each charge is punishable by one year in jail or $1,000 fine, according to police.
She was released on her own recognizance and is schedule to appear again in City Court on Oct. 4.
Cortland County District attorney David Hartnett is prosecuting the case. Cute was represented by lawyer Eileen Walsh of the Sugarman Law Firm in Syracuse.
The charges come after police, firefighters and the SPCA raided the house and clinic at 7 Wheeler Ave. on Sept. 1. More than 275 cats were found on the property, with about 70 in the home where Cute was living.
The building behind the home was suppose to be run as a spay and neuter clinic, owned by the nonprofit organization Purr Fect World. Lisa Alderman is the president of that organization.
Since the raid, former Vice President Susan Mix said she left the organization in April for philosophical reasons. Mix, a medical technologist at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, said personal problems also kept her from being heavily involved with the organization over the past few years.
The organization was founded in March of 2004, according to records on file in the County Clerk’s Office.



Homer schools look at $15 million renovations

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Board of Education is considering spending $15 million to renovate district buildings, including $6.5 million in state funds on a specific building.
The district already decided it wants to spend a minimum of _$8.5 million. Tonight, at the board’s facilities committee meeting, committee members will come up with a recommendation for the board as to whether the district should spend as much as $15 million on the project.
The project will require a public vote by district residents. Larison said that vote would take place in February or March.
The projects will not require taxes to be raised, Larison said.
The board’s repair fund contains $8.5 million that will be used for repair and maintenance of various buildings in the district.
That work includes replacing the heating system in the intermediate school and junior high and various renovations to all the schools in _the district. The work would take about three years to complete, Larison said.
An additional $6.5 million portion could be spent on renovations to one building or repair work on a number of buildings. If the board decides tonight to undertake that project, it will decide the nature of the project tonight as well. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the high school library.
The school received the $6.5 million from the state’s Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning  funds. Those funds were added to the state budget this year as a response to a court order for more equitable distribution of state education funds.
The projects follow $35 million in district spending on construction and renovations in recent years. Renovations included an overhaul of the kitchen and cafeteria at Harnett Elementary School in Truxton, a new facade at Homer Elementary School, an overhaul of the electrical, plumbing and heating systems at Homer Intermediate School and an addition to Homer High School.
In 2005 the school spent $5 million of that money on upgrades to athletic fields, a new high school auditorium, elementary school roofs, improved water lines, athletic field lighting and air conditioning.



Homer residents show support for coach

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A group of parents and community residents attended Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to show support for the boys varsity basketball coach.
“He’s a nice man and a great coach,” said Joe Armideo, a parent of Homer students. Armideo was one of five people to speak in favor of the coach. “I feel bad for the whole thing,” he said.
Armideo was referring to the Aug. 22 board meeting at which parents criticized Patrick Dugan, the coach, and called for his resignation. Armideo was also referring to rumors he heard that Dugan’s coaching contract would not be renewed.
Doreen Stillman, a parent who lives in Homer, had also heard rumors the board would not rehire Dugan.
“The perception is the board folded to the parents,” she said. “Whether that’s true or not …”
Superintendent of Schools Doug Larison said the board has not yet voted on contracts for winter sports. He said he has not even presented the board with a list of candidates.
Larison said he could not say whether Dugan’s name would be presented, as specific personnel matters can only be addressed in executive sessions. Executive sessions are portions of board meetings closed to the public.
Robert Boss, a former board member who lives in Homer, criticized the board for allowing parents to lengthily discuss a specific personnel matter — Dugan’s worth as a coach — at the Aug. 22 meeting.
“Don’t address personnel issues in public session,” he said. “It doesn’t look good for the school.”
Larison said the issue wasn’t talked about in public.
Parents had read two letters — one about their desire to have the coach fired and the other about something they claimed Dugan did as a coach in the early 1990s — to the board on Aug. 22.
Mary Jane Boss, Robert Boss’ wife, said regardless of whether rumors about Dugan are true, the school should use an objective tool to evaluate personnel, coaches included. It could be based on performance, among other things, she said.
“If you don’t have one, develop something,” she said.
Larison said this morning that the district already has an evaluation process in place. The athletic director evaluates coaches based on such things as how well the coach gets along with students and how well he or she is educating students about sportsmanship and game tactics.