Candidates for District 4 in the Schenectady County Legislature faced off in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Incumbent Carolina Lazzari and fellow Republican Angelo Santabarbara, along with Democrat Anthony Jasenski, who was appointed in May, and Robert Godlewski, who is also on the Democratic slate, are all vying for the two seats available in District 4, which covers Rotterdam, Princetown and Duanesburg.
During the forum, which was held at the Rotterdam Public Library, the four candidates spoke about the need for smaller, more efficient government, an expanded tax base and the creation of jobs as a means to decrease taxes within the county.
Lazzari has been involved in politics since 1993 and has served on various local boards and committees. She is finishing up her first, four-year term with the Legislature.
She said she was originally planning to not run for reelection, but when the Legislature passed a sex offender law in the face of opposition from town supervisors and without notifying police chiefs, she decided to go for another term. Lazzari voted against the law, which was passed in June and requires that all convicted sex offenders live 2,000 feet away from any place where children congregate.
Lazzari is a registered financial planner who specializes in tax and retirement planning. She said she has made a career out of being responsible with other people’s money.
Santabarbara is a newcomer to elected office. He is a professional engineer with the Chazen Companies and has spent a lot of time working with governments and in the local community.
Solving problems is my nature, he said.
Santabarbara volunteers at Schalmont High School and the middle school teaching students about engineering. He said he wants to serve the community so his two children can be comfortable growing up in the area.
Jasenski, a retired Rotterdam police chief, was appointed to the county Legislature this spring. He has always lived in Rotterdam and served as a volunteer firefighter and a paramedic. He worked his way up through the police department, and retired in 2001.
`I think it is an honorable endeavor to serve the residents of this community,` Jasenski said. `We are at a crossroads here, and the decisions we make today will be paramount in the future.`
Godlewski is finishing up his first year as a Rotterdam Town Board member. He has served on various boards in Rotterdam including the Mohonasen Board of Education and was a member of the planning commission for four years.
His family has lived in the area since 1930, and he grew up on a farm on East Campbell Road.
`Growing up on a farm, I have learned the value of hard work, honesty and how to save money,` he said.
Godlewski retired this year from General Electric where he worked for 37 years.
All four candidates agreed that high taxes are plaguing the region and something needs to be done about reducing the county’s proposed 9.7 percent tax levy increase.
Santabarbara said the county should reduce unnecessary jobs and streamline government. He also said there should be an audit on social services programs.
`Social services are out of control. Everything should be looked at, and only the essential services should be provided,` he said.
Lazzari said the county government needs streamlining. She urged county department heads to not only cut 10 percent out of their budgets, but try for as much as possible.
`If we have to cut to the essential services, we should because we have to do something drastic,` she said.
Jasenski said the way to lower the property tax levy is to partner with other agencies to share services and maximize resources. He also agreed with the audit of social services.
Godlewski said county government should control spending and do more with less.
`I’ve been with the town for 10 months, and I use our budget as a guide whenever I make a decision. My job is not to spend that money,` he said.
All four candidates also agreed that the way to cut taxes in the long run is to grow the tax base by bringing in more businesses and creating more jobs.
Santabarbara said the county could bring in more tax revenue by creating shovel-ready sites for businesses and improve the area’s infrastructure.
Lazzari said she wants to give more money to small businesses and work on bringing more private investment into the county.
Jasenski said the county should continue to work closely with Metroplex to help grow the area. He said, with the help of Metroplex, $119 million has been invested in Rotterdam and 2,000 new jobs have been created.
Godlewski said Metroplex is a good agency, but not the only answer. He said the community has to work together to reinvigorate the economy. He said more manufacturing jobs have to come in along with a means to educate a skilled workforce.“