October 25, 2011
3 running for alderman in 5th Ward
In the race for 5th Ward alderman, voters will get the chance to decide between a political newcomer, a five-term incumbent and a landlord who has become more prominent in city politics as student-housing issues have escalated in recent years.
All three candidates — David Funk, 28, Alderman Dan Quail, 52, and landlord Gerry Ruggiero — say they have the ideas and desire to improve the 5th Ward and help move the city in the right direction.
Quail has served as 5th Ward alderman for 10 years. He is employed at Pall Trinity Micro as a controller.
He led discussions about possibly dissolving the city in 2010. He said he wants to consolidate services with the county and neighboring municipalities.
“Currently, city taxpayers pay more than their share for services,” the Republican said.
Funk, a Democrat, is an architect-intern, working at Schickel Architecture in Ithaca. He grew up in Cortland and sees serving as an alderman as a way to bolster his hometown.
With affordable housing and good schools, Cortland is a great place for families, he said.
“It really is a great family town,” Funk said. “I don’t want the city to lose sight of that. I really love the experience we’ve had in Cortland.”
Ruggiero said he wants to represent people from lower social-economic backgrounds, landlords and students. He says those groups are not represented in city government.
“They don’t have a voice, and I would like to be their voice,” said Ruggiero, who is running under his own party: End Blue Bags, Stop Tax Abuse.
Ruggiero, 45, stressed that his campaign stretches beyond student-housing issues and that he plans to sell all his student housing before election day.
He is among the landlords who sued the city to challenge the rental permit program. They argue that the program infringes on their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizures.
All three say they have ideas to move the city forward in the next two years.
Quail wants to find opportunities to consolidate services with local towns and the county.
He said the two largest city departments, the Police Department and Fire Department, provide services to other municipalities and to SUNY Cortland, Cortland Regional Medical Center and the County Office Building.
He said the city should look at other areas that have countywide police and fire services.
Another objective in the next two years, Quail said, will be to address points raised in an audit by the state comptroller.
The audit, released last December, was critical of the city’s financial condition and its oversight of payroll, receipts, health insurance and compensation for leave time.
The report claimed the council does not have up-to-date, reliable information, that its budgets are not based on historical trends and it recommended sweeping changes to the city’s internal controls, including centralizing the payroll, pairing with the county for financial computer software, and better oversight of employees’ leave and health insurance payments.
“We now need to follow through,” Quail said. “I’m very concerned about the long-term planning.”
The city’s Director of Administration and Finance Mack Cook has scheduled presentations throughout next year to handle points raised in the audit.
Ruggiero said he wants to establish a city volunteer fire station that would handle mutual-aid calls from other municipalities, instead of sending the paid city firefighter staff to handle those calls.
“We send our paid firefighters out on these calls, that’s a tremendous cost to the city of Cortland,” Ruggiero said.
Ruggiero’s other campaign platforms include developing downtown businesses, lowering city taxes and ending the city’s blue bag system for garbage. He said the city would need to cut $300,000 to $400,000 from the city budget to compensate for the loss in blue bag revenue but offered no specifics.
He also said he wants to privatize certain functions of the code office, such as using local plumbers to do plumbing inspections. Funk said he is focused on “building Cortland’s future” and plans to prioritize concerns from the 5th Ward. He said he wants to establish ward meetings to meet with constituents on a regular basis.
He said the city’s South End has crime and drug problems that need to be addressed.
Funk said the city has the opportunity to build neighborhoods in the future. He said Cortland Regional Medical Center and local school districts provide ample opportunities for young professionals to get their start.
“There are a huge amount of opportunities here,” Funk said.
Funk and Quail said they support the city’s rental permit program, while Ruggiero claims the law is unconstitutional. Both Funk and Quail said the city needs to have the ability to search student housing for safety and quality of life concerns. Quail said the city needs to have up-to-date figures on how many students are living in student housing.
“If there ever was a fire, would we be able to account for all the students?” Quail said.
“We need to be sure that students are moving into buildings that are going to be safe and up to code,” Funk said, “I think that’s very important.”
Ruggiero has said he is not against implementing a rental permit program but said the city’s law is unconstitutional for allowing code officers to access buildings without a warrant.
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