Candidates on common ground with foreign affairs

Polling has found that there is more interest nationwide in the coming national elections than there has been in years.
Because one of the most competitive House of Representative races in the country is fought in Central New York’s 24th District, the Cortland Standard each week up until election day will discuss a particular issue with both candidates.


Staff Reporter

North Korea’s claim Monday that it had successfully tested a nuclear weapon was another stark reminder of the importance foreign policy will have on the security of the United States and the rest of the world.


Friday both candidates for the 24th Congressional District seat — Republican state Sen. Ray Meier (Western) and Oneida County District Attorney Mike Arcuri, a Democrat — spoke with the Cortland Standard about how they felt the United States should deal with North Korea and with other international issues such as the nuclear ambitions of Iran and the United States’ role in international affairs.
Regarding North Korea, the two candidates, each of whom is making his first foray into national politics, both said strong sanctions are a necessity and that the Bush administration’s policy of multi-lateral discussions with North Korea is the way to address the issue.
Arcuri said multi-lateral talks are one of the few issues on which he agrees with Bush, although he also suggested the president had overlooked Korea while worrying about the war in Iraq.
“One thing that I think went wrong with North Korea is we took our eye off of the ball,” Arcuri said. “We should have been focused on the weapons of mass destruction that we knew existed and instead we were worried about weapons in Iraq that didn’t exist.”
Meier, too, took issue with the Bush administration and also with the Clinton administration’s handling of North Korea.
“Clearly neither administration has gotten the job done with regard to North Korea, but if you look at who you’re dealing with, you’re talking about a very erratic and unpredictable figure,” Meier said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
The key to dealing with North Korea, Meier said, is demanding that China wield its considerable influence in the region.
“I think we need to try to draw the straightest line possible to a solution, and when you look at who has that greatest possible influence over North Korea, that’s China,” Meier said, noting that China supports North Korea’s military and sells the country fuel and food. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying to the Chinese, ‘You want commercial relations with us, but you have to shoulder the responsibility and bring your client state back to a reasonable position.’”
Both Meier and Arcuri said emphasizing the United States’ commitment to allies Japan and South Korea is critical, with Arcuri stressing that maintaining such a commitment was a necessity to regional stability.
“The last thing we want is for Japan and South Korea to start trying to arm themselves and to create an arms race in that region, and destabilizing it worse than it already is,” Arcuri said. “We need to reassure our allies that we’ll be there for them.”
One issue connected to North Korea’s apparent nuclear test on which the two candidates appeared to differ was missile defense.
“We have to work on these crisis situations when they come up, but we also need to be able to defend ourselves,” Meier said. “We need to continue to develop an effective missile defense system so we can do that.”
Arcuri, meanwhile, said that missile defense was a good idea, but that pursuing such a system should have limits.
“I would support developing a missile defense program if I was convinced that eventually it was going to be effective, I think most people agree that it would be a great thing to have,” Arcuri said. “But we’re talking about billions of dollars, and if it’s something that’s not going to be effective, I think that money could be better spent to defend our country.”
Regarding Iran, both candidates said they supported multi-lateral negotiations and continued sanctions, and each pointed out differences between dealings with Iran and the situation in North Korea.
Meier drew attention to the fact that Iran has a massive population under the age of 30 and a relatively large middle class, compared to other Middle East countries, and suggested that regime change was an option the United States should seek down the road.
“I think there are opportunities for our government to work with political organizations both inside and outside Iran who want to be a more open society and who don’t want to be at odds with the rest of the world,” Meier said, adding that he also felt that America and its allies should continue to impose sanctions on Iran in order to curb its alleged nuclear ambitions.
“I think regime change may some day be a real possibility, not by military action, but by the Iranian people themselves taking charge of their own government,” he said.
Arcuri, meanwhile, pointed to Iran’s involvement with other nations and with radical groups like Hezbollah compared to the relative isolation of North Korea as the primary difference between the two countries.
“Iran still has close contact with groups like Hezbollah and it has been willing to get involved in the affairs of other states, and the way they talk about Israel, a way that’s very threatening, I think we need to take a real firm strong position with Iran,” Arcuri said.
“Unfortunately,” he added, “we’re so engaged right now in Iraq, there isn’t much we can do other than continue to pursue diplomacy to keep Iran isolated and to keep them from giving aid to groups like Hezbollah.”
For America to remain a superpower and an important player in world events, it must be careful not to stretch itself too thin, Arcuri said.
“America must always be engaged — we can’t turn our backs on the world because we need to stand for freedom, justice, equality,” Arcuri said. “But we need to be able to be strong enough to do that, which is all the more reason to be sure that we’re not overextended.”
Meier agreed, saying that the United States, with its many ties to international commerce, had no choice but to become a world player. He suggested that the country had to do a better job of securing the assistance of its allies, and said that to avoid future conflicts, America needed to reduce its dependency on oil.
“We need to be very aware that this energy problem places us at the will of the people that control energy supplies, and some of those people are hostile to us,” Meier said. “That should give us much more incentive to be more aggressive in decreasing our dependency on foreign oil.”



McGraw to discuss new village plan

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — The Village Board will meet Monday to discuss details of its new draft village plan.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the McGraw Community Center.
“The old plan was developed in 1979,” said Dan Dineen, director of planning for Cortland County. “This is a rework of the 1979 plan.”
A committee comprising representatives from the Board of Trustees, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, school district and citizens in the community, along with the county Planning Department, developed the plan over a two-year period.
Dineen said the eight to 10 people serve on the committee. He said the village had to rework the plan before it could update its zoning code.
“The comprehensive plan is the basis for zoning,” Dineen said.
The new plan calls for growth without having an “adverse effect on those characteristics and amenities which create a pleasant environment.”
Dineen said the committee designated areas where businesses could be built.
McGraw Village Clerk Susan McNeil said the plan leaves room for any kind of growth, whether industry or housing.
McNeil said the plan could be changed. “Some of it is like a dream almost,” McNeil said. “It might never happen. People can move away and never come back.”
The village will hold a public hearing on the draft plan at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Community Center. Copies are available for viewing at the McGraw Village Hall.



Data show mixed local health indicators

Seven Valleys Health Coalition releases its 2006 Community Report Card

Staff Reporter
Cortland County remains ahead of the curve in such areas as teen pregnancy, physical activity and violent crimes, but it also lags behind the upstate New York average in a number of health and social categories, according a recent assessment of the community’s overall health.
The 2006 Community Report Card, which looks at a number of health indicators from various federal, state and local data sources, was released by the Seven Valleys Health Coalition last week.
Health and safety indicators where the county lagged behind included incidents of such diseases as colon cancer, cerebrovascular disease — involving blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen — and lower respiratory disease, and social indicators such as reports of abuse or maltreatment of children and driving while intoxicated arrests.
But the county had fewer instances of violent crimes committed than other upstate communities, a higher percentage of its population did moderate exercise, and a significantly lower teen pregnancy rate of 21.6 per 1,000 teens as opposed to 26.4 per 1,000 upstate and 38.2 per 1,000 statewide.
The report card takes data from such agencies as the state Department of Health, state Labor Department and census data and forms a comprehensive look at areas where the county is either performing well or under-performing in regards to overall health.
“This is something we started in 2001, and in the five years its been going on, the process has really stayed consistent, so we get a good idea of what we’re doing well and what areas we need to focus on,” said Christella Yonta, a representative for the Health Coalition. “It also gives us an idea with how we compare with the rest of the state.”
The survey compares data from Cortland County with, when available, upstate data, meaning all communities north of New York City, statewide data and national data.
Every five years — most recently in 2005 — the Health Coalition will do a comprehensive assessment of data over a number of years.
“Looking year to year, it’s hard to see a big trend or a big change in the data, so nothing really jumps out as a big change or a big surprise for this year,” Yonta said. “Over a number of years we can see what services seem to be working and where we need to improve as a county.”
Jackie Gailor, director of the county Health Department, agreed
“For our department, we certainly look at this information as part of our required community health assessment,” Gailor said. “We look at how to target programs, especially public health programs, and we’re also able to use the statistics to justify applications for grant funds.”
For instance, Gailor noted that, according to the report card, colon cancer was more prominent locally in both men and women than in other upstate counties.
“We definitely have a higher rate of colon cancer in Cortland County, and actually if you look back the last few years the numbers for women are more out of whack than men,” Gailor said.
Although colon cancer may also have genetic causes, Gailor said that healthier diets that include more fiber could be critical to reducing instances in the county.
“That’s the sort of information we want to get out there,” she said.
Meanwhile, the teen pregnancy numbers seem to indicate that the Health Department’s programming is working.
“That’s something we’ve been working hard on since 1991 with our ZAP program, and it does show the effects of our program, but I think we may also find that nationwide the statistics are coming down, too,” Gailor said.




Homer sues county over officer

Staff Reporter

The village of Homer has sued Cortland County and a former village police officer.
After he left the department and went to the Sheriff’s Department, the village sought reimbursement for a portion of the officer’s training costs.
The village claims that after hiring Joshua Parente as an officer and paying for his training at the New York Police Academy at Mohawk Valley Community College, Parente left the department before fulfilling a required employment period.
Parente was employed with Homer from Sept. 12, 2003, until May 20, 2005, leaving 479 days before his legally required three-year stay was up.
In the suit, Homer claims that under state Municipal Law, and in conjunction with the department’s employee handbook, the county is required to pay back some of the cost of training Parente.
The village estimates the total cost of training and employing Parente was $109,279. It then divided that by 1,095, the number of days in the three-year period, and arrived at a cost of $99.80 per day.
The village is asking for a total of $47,804 based on the 479 days multiplied by $99.80.
Additionally, the village is claiming another $9,538 in costs it says it incurred as a result of Parente’s early departure.
The lawsuit was filed in September in state Supreme Court in Cortland County.
The county had offered the village $1,300 in September 2005, which was the amount Homer  spent to send Parente to the police academy.
The village rejected the offer.
In its response to the lawsuit, which the county filed Oct. 5, it denied the claim that it owed the village reimbursement for Parente’s training.
Homer Village Attorney David Perfetti did not return a phone call seeking comment on the suit. Cortland County Attorney Richard C. Van Donsel would not comment on pending litigation.