Grimm wants to be Super

GUILDERLAND — The town elections are more than six months away, but, this week, Mark Grimm formally announced his intention to run for supervisor on the Republican line.

Grimm served one term as a town board member, from 2008 to 2012, with fellow Republican Warren Redlich; the two were often at odds with the Democrats on the board, including Supervisor Kenneth Runion, who told The Enterprise this week that he hasn’t decided whether he will run for his eighth two-year term in November.

Matthew Nelligan, the chairman of the town’s Republican Party, said he had discussed the race with Grimm, but the party has not endorsed any candidates yet.

“We have a process in the party, and we probably won’t come out with endorsements for another few weeks, but he has every right to announce his candidacy when he feels it is appropriate,” said Nelligan. “I don’t want people to think we have stopped the process because one person has announced, though.”

Nelligan said the party would be conducting candidate interviews over the next several weeks.

‘We want to give everybody a fair chance,” he said. “I think if Mark was the party’s choice, he’d be a strong candidate, but we haven’t endorsed yet.”

In 2009, Grimm announced he would run for supervisor, against Runion, but, less than a month after the announcement, he withdrew from the race, stating that a “Grimm-Runion race would fracture the town, no matter who wins.” He said he wanted to focus on the important issues facing the town board. Runion then ran unopposed.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, declaring his candidacy, Grimm stated that he could “point to two dozen accomplishments, while on the board, that benefited our town.” The theme of his campaign is looking out for the town residents, he said.

Runion, however, said that he feels Grimm didn’t accomplish anything during the four years that he sat on the town board.

“He did not come in with one proposal that would have made Guilderland a better place to live,” said Runion. “All he had were criticisms.”

Grimm said he had helped streamline the permit process for home occupations; prevented a $2,500 tax for buyers of homes in new developments; and approved the West End water project after decades of delay.

“He takes credit for things the town board did, where his only role was voting,” said Runion, of Grimm.

Grimm said that, if it hadn’t been for his own home business, and the citation he received from the town in 2008, for not have a special-use permit, there would still be a lot of “red tape” for residents who want to work from home. He suggested changing the rules, so that people seeking home-occupation permits would not have to appear in front of both the planning and zoning boards, calling the process “inhospitable for business owners.”

A zoning review committee was formed in 2009, and, as a result, home occupations were broken up into three categories, and the local law was changed to allow businesses conducted wholly within the residence to file a simple form to receive a permit.

In 2010, Runion proposed a local law that would have established stormwater management districts for all new major subdivisions in town; the catalyst for the study was new federal regulations for managing stormwater. The developer of a new subdivision would be required to pay a fee up front, directly after the building permit was issued, and prices of homes in subdivisions with the districts would be raised slightly to make up for the developer’s initial payment.

Redlich aggressively voiced his opposition to the local law, saying it would add yet another layer of government, and Grimm agreed with Redlich. Runion ultimately voted against his own proposal, and the bill was defeated.

“I saved everyone who has bought a home in a new subdivision $2,500, and they don’t even know it,” said Grimm this week.

Grimm maintains that, even after he decided not to run for re-election to the town board for 2012, he has continued to stand up for Guilderland residents.

“As a private citizen, I led the grassroots effort to defeat a 30-percent library tax hike,” he wrote in his letter to the editor. “And, this year, I shed light when a single town tax was raised 111 percent.”

In June, a $13 million proposal to expand and upgrade the Guilderland Public Library was defeated, and Grimm said it was clear that he “led the charge” against the bond.

Grimm appeared at a school board meeting in May, and asked how a 26-percent tax hike was allowable under the state-set tax levy cap. Under the state’s tax-cap law, new in 2012, a library is considered to be a local government entity, similar to fire districts. Under the new law, capital projects require a simple majority of votes, unlike the operating budget, which requires a supermajority vote to go over the state-set levy cap.

Grimm paid for robo calls to residents’ homes that stated the expansion would be a “massive tax increase” and claimed a 26-percent increase on total taxes.

Many voters were left with the impression that their entire tax bill would increase 26 percent, but, taxpayers would have seen an increase of approximately 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $56 per year for a house valued at $200,000, for the life of the bond.

Nelligan also organized a campaign against the bond, but said he and Grimm did not coordinate their efforts.

“He has his view of his role, and we may have a different view, but what’s most important is that, at the end of the day, it was defeated,” said Nelligan.

“I made the 26-percent tax hike an issue,” said Grimm. “I got my interpretation across.”

The town tax increase of 111 percent that Grimm referred to was the pension tax.

“Runion created a new tax, called the pension tax, so he could raise taxes 111 percent and get around the state tax cap,” said Grimm. “It’s loophole to the 2-percent cap.”

Runion said the town has no control over the state mandates for pension contributions, and that the contributions were increasing by approximately $500,000 per year.

“In order to be transparent, we broke the pension tax out into its own category, so people could see exactly what was creating the increase,” said Runion.

The total cost increase for each taxpayer was approximately six cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, he said.

“You can throw percentages around and make it sound like a huge increase, but, when you calculate out the actual cost, you’re not looking at a huge number,” Runion said. “We disclosed this and it was on all our budgetary documents; I thought it was the most transparent way to show people what these mandates are doing.”

“I just think people need someone who will look out for them, and I’ve got a record for doing that,” said Grimm. “I don’t know who my opponent is going to be, but I think I have a strong chance no matter who runs.”

Runion said that the news of Grimm’s candidacy did not sway him in either direction on his decision to run for supervisor an eighth time, but that he would make a decision within the next month.

“I’ve been so busy with other things, like getting us through the recent economic downturn, that the last thing I’m thinking about is election cycles,” said Runion this week.

“We’ve had people express interest in every position, and we want to put forward candidates for every position,” said Nelligan. “I’m really encouraged.”

David Bosworth, chairman of the town’s Democratic Party, could not be reached for comment.

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