Geneva Believer sent interview requests to all 18 Republican and Democratic candidates for City Council and Mayor. Six candidates agreed to participate in email interviews. Candidates were asked the same eleven questions, plus one question specific to the candidate, along with one follow-up question (if needed). All responses are being published in full, unedited and without any additional editorial commentary.
12 Questions With Ward 3 Democratic Candidate Jan Regan
1. The City of Geneva Comprehensive Plan took about a year and a half, cost $100,000, and involved the participation of hundreds of residents through bi-lingual forums and surveys. The result was a detailed set of recommendations for the city, none of which include any commercial or residential development in Lakefront Park. The Plan also calls Lakefront Park one of the city’s two most valued public spaces, according to residents.The Plan further recommends re-zoning Lakefront Park, which would prevent all attempts at future development.
Do you support the Comprehensive Plan’s suggestion to permanently protect Lakefront Park from development? If not,why? And if so, what will you do to help make it happen?
Keeping the City’s lakefront open and accessible to the public is one of my primary priorities. I support the limited development that increases public use and enjoyment of this incredible city asset.
2. In 2016, Councilor Ken Camera suggested relocating the Finger Lakes Railway rail yard out of the city limits, and using the property both for new housing and create easy access for Ward 6 residents to the lakefront. Negotiations have begun with Finger Lakes Railway to move the rail yard, but the project could use an additional push from Council.
Do you support Camera’s plan for the railway, and if so, what will you do to help make it happen?
If there is existing consensus among Council, the administration and FLRR, as a new Councior, I would support that on-going process. Unquestionably this would offer prime real estate for private development and remove some of the pressure for lakefront development. In addition, this change would extend the City’s right-of-way along the Pre Emption St. Extension from Border City Road to Routes 5&20, helping to increase lake access from segments of Geneva where getting to the lake is now complicated. Efforts for economic development need to be inclusive of all wards. That being said, I would want to see all development in the context of a comprehensive plan and not take a piecemeal approach.
3. Finger Lakes Railway is one of eight corporate PILOT programs currently in effect in the city. The Railway paid $4,000 in total taxes in 2019, while the fully assessed amount they would have paid without the PILOT is over $55,000. It’s unclear how many jobs or other tax revenue the Railway provides to the city in exchange for a tax discount of over 90%. In total, eight corporations, with total revenues in the millions and billions of dollars, received a total of over $3 million in tax discounts in 2019.
Do you support a closer examination, or even an overhaul, in the way the city gives out PILOTs to million- and billion-dollar corporations while homeowners get no tax discounts?
We need transparency and accountability in all tax-advantaged agreements. PILOTs extended with the promise of job creation need to clearly show those results. I would favor performance-based review of all PILOTs.
4. The relationship between the Police and Community has been an issue in Geneva for generations. The Community Compact, which received $15,000 in taxpayer funding in 2019, has not organized any public events in 2019, and according to their meeting minutes, are having difficulties generating public support and participation. One possible reason for the flagging public support is that the Compact only addresses the relationship between the police and community, and does not the address the community’s calls for accountability for police who engage in misconduct.
Do you support an independent civilian review board, with investigative powers and the authority to discipline officers guilty of misconduct, effectively giving the community oversight of the police?
The Community Compact was a good start, but it seems to have lost momentum. I would support a Civilian Review Board that would serve as advisory to the City Manager. My years on the Geneva Human Rights Commission taught me the value of community-based dialog on matters of equity, particularly where race or socio-economic status is a factor. I would also advocate for having police seen in the community, rather than in cars. When I was on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club, City police officers would visit the Community Center and the Club once a week for informal programming. During this time I also saw more police on foot or on bicycles. The community and police need to see each other as people, with more face-to-face, non-confrontational interaction between them.
5. Both the Geneva City Manager and City Council, by virtue of the City Charter, have the authority to conduct investigations, with subpoena power, into the conduct of all city officers, departments, boards, commissions and agencies.
Do you support an investigation into the Geneva Foundry disaster to determine why the city chose to keep the widespread contamination a secret for more than twenty years, what went wrong and how it could be prevented in the future?
In the interest of transparency, accountability and better government, I would support the appointment of a special commission to look into the Foundry debacle. Understanding how this very troubling situation came to be is important in moving forward and assuring that similar incidents do not occur again. Of primary concern to me now is that all is being done to make this section of the city safe and fair again for residents.
6. Rental costs are sky-high in the City, another result of an extremely high tax rate. In addition, there are numerous unscrupulous and irresponsible landlords in the city, with some low-income residents living in unsafe and illegal conditions. The Geneva Human Rights Commission has been massively defunded in the last decade, making it even harder for tenants who are being treated unfairly to report their problems and find justice. There are also limited resources available for code enforcement. There are slumlords who are longtime Geneva natives, well-known in the community, who seem to avoid any scrutiny for their lack of care and concern for their tenants.
Do you think the city needs to do more to hold all slumlords accountable, and do you have any suggestions of what could be done differently?
Landlords who are not maintaining their properties need to be held accountable. I support active inspection of all rental properties. Code Enforcement Officers must be on top of delinquent properties, including single family units.
7. In recent years, calls for cost-benefit analysis of our Police and Fire Departments have been made, but not heard. Cities across New York State of similar size to Geneva have a smaller number of police and firefighters on the payroll. No such study has been done in recent memory.
Do you support a cost-benefit study of our police and fire budgets to ensure taxpayers aren’t overpaying for public safety?
Completely. Benchmarking the cost and quality of fire and police with other communities with comparable needs and resources would be valuable.
8. Some City Councilors, as well as some 2019 council candidates, have supported the hiring of an Economic Development director for the city.
Do you support creating a new paid city position for an economic development director?
If YES, please explain your reasons, your vision of ‘economic development,’ and what shortcomings you see in the city’s current economic development efforts.
If NO, please explain your reasons, your vision of ‘economic development’ and why you think hiring for a new position is not a good idea.
We have tried various models for city economic development director over the past 25 years. The right job description, paired with an excellent hire, could be a great asset for the city – but it would be essential to carefully plan the position goals and wage a great search to assure that a position like this plays out in an effective way.
9. Many of the above questions address the issue of high taxes. Do you support any other ideas for easing the tax burden on the working class who bear the brunt of our tax problem?
Multiple approaches need to be taken in easing tax burden for residents, among them:
–Zoning is such a critical component at this time, and I would look to Planned Unit Development (PUD) to review land with development potential (such as the American Legion property, and the land across the street from that building). Careful zoning can spur development that increases tax revenue while still maintaining valuable assets.
–We need to explore relationships and partnerships with the Town of Geneva and our non-profits with properties that are off the tax rolls to determine what contributions these entities can make to
–We should constantly look to delinquent properties and other land parcels owned by the City of Geneva and explore their sale and development for housing, etc.
–Continue investigating the move of the railroad to open that land parcel for residential or other development.
–We need to streamline services provided by the City to assure efficiency and avoid over-spending.
10. One issue that is spotlighted by Geneva Believer is conflicts of interest in city government. In a city the size of Geneva, it can be difficult to separate personal or professional relationships from city business.
If elected, how would you deal with your own conflicts of interest? If cutting part of the city budget would impact your friends or your professional relationships, how would you address such an issue?
I would recuse myself from issues where a potential conflict of interest existed.
11. You are running for the Ward 3 seat that has been held by longtime councilor Steve Valentino.
In what ways are you similar to Steve, and in what ways would you bring something different to the Ward 3 seat?
My own business and leadership experience encompasses many community entities and agencies: Boys and Girls Clubs, Human Rights Commission, Geneva Community Projects, Meals on Wheels, Ontario ARC, Big Brother/Big Sister, Musselman Triathlon and the Smith Opera House, among others. We no doubt come at our City Council runs from different places — but share a commitment to serving our constituents and the platform we support. (And, of course, we are not running as opponents. If there is interest in scrutinizing the differences between candidates it might make more sense to look at our Republican counterparts in this race!)
12. Would you like to provide a final statement about any issues specific to your ward and/or your campaign?
In my hundreds of door-to-door conversations, I have found the issues raised to be those of concern to all Geneva. If I am elected, I can pledge to involve myself fully, listen to those I serve, be accessible and thoughtful in all the business that comes before City Council. My priorities include keeping the lakefront open and accessible, making green practices simple and routine, and engaging with county in closing the landfills and controlling order issues. The Democratic platform expands on many of my concerns, and I find, echoes the concerns of many of my neighbors here in the third ward.