Local candidates have started their campaigns for a spot on the Nov. 7 ballot, and voters will recognize the two women running for town council. Republican Mary Beth Hynes was appointed to the town council in February, after elected board member Paul Farnan stepped down. This will be Hynes’ first time running for the position. Patti Southworth, who is endorsed by the Ballston Democratic Committee, will be running for the town council seat against Hynes.
Southworth is running on a platform of honesty, integrity and accountability.
Southworth is concerned with is what the town will look like in the future. She said she is in favor or a size cap because it’s what a majority of the town seems to want.
`I want to represent everyone,` said Southworth. `I truly want to hear from anyone who has something to say or has an idea about what they want for the town of Ballston.`
Hynes agreed that growth was also one of her major concerns.
`We’re not trying to throw the gates up and say, ‘No one else can come live here,’` Hynes said. `We understand that to remain a vibrant community, we want to have some commercial development; we want to have residential development. But I think that it’s important to decide what the nature of that development is going to be.`
One of Southworth’s campaign promises last year was to create a community newsletter for people who couldn’t attend meetings.
`It’s nice to see that has come to fruition even though I wasn’t elected,` she said. Southworth added that she’d like to find a way to fund the newsletter that won’t cost taxpayers.
Hynes created the newsletter. It doesn’t have a political side to it, she said.
`People need to know that there are a lot of good things going on in this town. It’s not all about Wal-Mart,` she said.
Hynes would like to work on improving the town’s Web site as well.
`It’s a basic RoadRunner ac-count that we get for free,` she said. `I’m going to put together a proposal and pitch it to the other town board members and put a cost to it. I don’t think it’s going to be that much money.`
Southworth said the town Web site was something she campaigned on last cycle. She’d like to make the site more interactive, including a place where residents can directly e-mail the board.
Another issue both candidates are concerned about is land preservation in the town.
If elected, Southworth said her salary would be going to `Preserve Our Small Town,` a nonprofit group in Ballston. The group helps landowners to preserve their farmland by applying for grants.
In April 2004, Hynes was asked to chair the land conservation committee. She said she’d like the board to work with nonprofit groups, such as Saratoga PLAN, to determine key parcels of land that would be important to preserve, and then decide how to do that in a way that is cost-effective and meaningful to the town.
`We don’t have enormous resources already in place to go out and purchase open space,` she said. `So we have to be more creative than that.`
The conservation committee sent out a survey to all the property owners in town to get an idea of what they might be willing to pay to preserve open land.
`We received a very favorable result,` said Hynes, who is in support of the committee’s plan to create a term easement program.
The term easement would allow landowners to sign a contract with the town saying they wouldn’t develop their land for 10 years, in exchange for a tax break. The program, Hynes stressed, would be voluntary and there would be no penalty for those who chose not to volunteer. The money those landowners weren’t paying in taxes would be spread out among the rest of the taxpayers in town.
`I’m not anti-development,` said Hynes. `I just think we need to pay as much attention to green infrastructure as we do to gray infrastructure.`
Southworth would work to educate landowners about the term easement program and what it offers.
`They (landowners) want to know they’re protected from liability,` she said.
Hynes said she’d like to see changes in the way the town council interacts with the residents.
`I think the government here needs to become more transparent,` she said. `I think we need to do a better job explaining what we’re doing and why we’re doing it so that there is no suspicion among the members of the public about what we’re doing.`
Southworth is also committed to improving relations between the town board and residents, promising to walk the town once a year to see what residents want to see for Ballston. People can’t always get to meetings, she said, so she will go to them.
Southworth has been going door to door working to get signatures, and marched in the Flag Day parade, making her name known.
`My name has been out there because of my experience and the time that I’ve already put in,` said Hynes, who also said she plans to go door to door. `I want to meet as many people as I can, not just in my own district but other parts of the town.`
Hynes has begun construction on a Web site about her campaign as well.
Southworth currently works as a pharmacist, which she has done since 1983. Now that her children have grown, she said she wants to direct her attention to other things that are important to her and feels the position on the town council would be a great place for that.
`I can bring a fresh outlook to the board with the energy and commitment to serving the people,` said Southworth.
Hynes has lived in Ballston for about eight years and has a private law practice , though she said she has scaled the practice back to focus on her position on the town board. Prior to serving on the town board, Hynes served on the land conservation committee and the planning board.
`I’m making a real effort,` Hynes said. `I’m approaching this position as if it were a full-time job because I believe in it. I believe in my community.“