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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 27, 2009
Newcomers challenge Dems in small-party primaries
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Several town candidates will battle for lines with the Conservative and Independence parties in the Sept. 15 primary election.
All of the candidates vying for spots in the primary are also endorsed by large parties.
The two Democratic incumbents for town board Patricia Slavick and Paul Pastore are being challenged by David Fraterrigo for the Conservative line. Fraterrigo has the GOP endorsement.
In the race for town justice, incumbent Democrat Denise Randall is being challenged by Christopher Aldrich for both the Conservative and Independence lines.
The majority of the town board currently with three Democrats and two Republicans hangs in the balance with the November election. The other GOP candidate for town board, Matthew Nelligan, is running on a second line, a party he just created himself the Guilderland Taxpayers First Party.
“I’ve been on the town board for two [four-year] terms, and would love to continue to work with the community,” said Slavick. She said her central focuses for this campaign include promoting planning and controlled growth, preserving green space, protecting town services without exhausting the budget, and encouraging citizen participation.
In particular, she would like to see the completion of the sub-studies detailed in Guilderland’s comprehensive plan, including the ongoing study in Guilderland Center.
“Government works best when officials work together with the citizens. I truly believe that,” said Slavick.
Incumbent Paul Pastore, also endorsed by the Conservatives, has served one four-year term on the board, and, before his 2005 election, he served as the planning board’s attorney for six years.
“I have had the honor and privilege of serving the town for 10 years, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve residents,” said Pastore. He said he takes his role seriously, has put in a lot of hard work, and welcomes the consideration from the Conservative Party.
“It is not typical that Democrats would be endorsed and embraced by the Conservatives, but it goes to show how much they appreciate everything our administration has done,” Pastore said.
According to Pastore, a fundamental goal is conservative fiscal policies, in order to keep taxes down while maintaining quality of life for residents, which he said the current administration has achieved.
Pastore said that Guilderland has been blessed with a great deal of environmental resources, and the town must be vigilant about preserving them. Expanding recreational opportunities, like those offered at Tawasentha Park and the Western Turnpike Golf Course, is a good way to bring the community together, he said.
Sound, reasonable, and prudent zoning and planning are all key issues that must be addressed, said Pastore.
“You can’t enhance the tax base without understanding that new businesses will impact neighboring residents and parcels,” Pastore said. It is important to be consistent with the comprehensive plan, he said, adding that Guilderland has a healthy mix of residential, agricultural, and light industrial parcels.
Other issues that will be highlighted by Pastore include the active pursuit of stimulus funds, the continuation of projects that reduce flooding, and, he stressed, the practice of open and transparent government.
Fraterrigo, an enrolled Conservative making his first run for town board, with Republican endorsement, said he had thought the Conservatives would back him without question.
Fraterrigo was born and raised in Guilderland, and moved back to town after he got married. His mother is a long-time school board member.
The recent unrest in Town Hall has spilled over into the community, according to Fraterrigo. What started as the Democratic supervisor disagreeing with Republican town board members has led to members of the community arguing and not getting along, which Fraterrigo said had not been his experience growing up in Guilderland, nor does he want it to be the experience of other residents.
When Fraterrigo was growing up in Guilderland, the town board was dominated by Republicans, as it had been for decades.
Not being aligned with either of the major political parties would work to his advantage, because he has no ax to grind with the supervisor or any of the board members, he said.
Fraterrigo has been going door-to-door in town, presenting specific proposals to residents of the community. Several of the proposals focus on reducing the local tax burden. Based off of a similar program currently in practice in Massachusetts and Maine, he plans to propose something called a Community Share program, to help reduce property taxes.
The program would allow residents, the elderly specifically, to pitch in and help out with various jobs around town, in order to earn a credit toward their property taxes.
“There are some seniors in town who have their mortgages paid off, and their only expense is taxes, but they are still having trouble making their payments,” Fraterrigo said, adding that the program would be targeted at seniors, but not limited to the elderly.
Another issue Fratterigo would like to address is the grievance process. Fraterrigo said he does not think the assessor is intentionally punishing anyone with high assessments, but believes that residents should receive a detailed explanation as to how their assessment was formulated. It is up to individual residents to challenge an assessment if they think it is unfair, and that can be daunting, said Fraterrigo. He would like to simplify the process with a one-page form and a deadline for a response from the assessor’s office.
Growing up in Guilderland gave Fraterrigo a deep appreciation for the parks in town, he said. He spent time playing Little League baseball in the Pine Bush, and Pee Wee football at Tawasentha Park.
“I view parks as a necessity, not just a luxury, and I think we need to preserve the system for future generations,” he said.
In order to help preserve them, Fraterrigo said he would propose a tax-deductible charitable trust fund for Guilderland Parks and Recreation. It would be similar to donations individuals make to hospitals and organizations in their wills, said Fraterrigo, adding that, if the fund were created, he feels certain that people in town who love the park system would contribute.
In addition to his specific proposals, Fraterrigo said he would encourage volunteer work around the town, especially work involving seniors, since some senior programs have been affected by funding cuts.
“It would be nothing political,” he said. “Just people being nice to one another.”
Fraterrigo would also push to eliminate no-bid contracts in town, encourage all town department heads to attend town board meetings and address their specific needs, and improve communication between Town Hall representatives and state and county legislators, he said.
“I’m just a regular guy who lives in town and wants to do something good for Guilderland,” said Fraterrigo. “The Conservatives may not have chosen to endorse me, but let the voters decide. It’s the voters endorsement that counts.”
Race for justice
Christopher Aldrich, running for town judge, is also making his first political foray. He will primary for both Conservative and Independence lines, though he said he is an enrolled Republican with conservative views. He faces Democratic incumbent Denise Randall.
Randall has served one four-year term as a town judge. She works as an attorney; prior to her 2005 appointment as town judge, she had been the prosecutor in Guilderland Town Court for six years. Randall could not be reached for comment.
Aldrich, who has worked in the state court system for over 22 years, said his motivation to run stemmed from the complaints of fellow attorneys who found the Guilderland court to be congested and hard to deal with.
“It is a shame for Guilderland court to have that reputation, and I think I could make a difference,” said Aldrich.
Drawing off of his experience in the state court system and in Albany City court, Aldrich said, in order to reduce crowding of the court, if elected, he would allow for plea-bargaining by mail. The Albany City court, along with town courts in Bethlehem and Colonie, allow plea-bargaining by mail, and the process reduces the number of people attending court by a significant amount, said Aldrich.
Another way to reduce the backlog that occurs would be to stagger court appearance times, Aldrich said. Instead of having everyone scheduled for a hearing arriving at the same time, he would propose that hearings take place at a certain time depending on category, such as traffic hearings or hearings for petty crime.
Aldrich is enthused about youth court, because he said many times youth are charged with petty crimes, which then appear on their permanent records, when all they really need is to learn a lesson. Youth could be assigned to community service or asked to seek counseling, and avoid a mark on their record that could affect future employment, he said.
Aldrich also proposes creating a court in Crossgates Mall. There is a police station in the mall already, he said, and a vast majority of mall violators are from out of the area. In order to keep extra people from driving through town, it would make sense for perpetrators to be arrested and tried in the mall, said Aldrich.
“People want to see change in the court, and, if they vote for me, change is what they will get,” Aldrich said.