Joseph Golden, Berne town board candidate
BERNE — Joseph Golden, 71, said he is running for continuity on the board, “to finish up and keep moving things forward,” he said. “It’s kind of an enjoyable job.” Golden spent four years in the United States Marines Corps and is a retired teacher of economics and government at Schoharie Central.
Golden was once on the town’s planning board and has served on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board and its budget committee. The Democrat has been on the town board for the past three terms and is endorsed this election by the Conservative, Democratic, and the Independence parties.
When the state comptroller’s auditors pored over Berne’s records for the first time while he was in office, Golden said, the town was using paper. Now, the town uses MUNicipal Information Systems (Munis), a finance and accounting software used to track and budget its money. A 2009 comptroller’s report criticized the town for having too much in its fund balance.
Golden said the surplus came from not having designated budget lines, defining the allocation of tax dollars. The town makes many large purchases with cash to avoid the expense of borrowing money.
“I just believe in being real careful in how you spend money, and we have been,” Golden said of the budgeting process.
Noting potential financial troubles in state and county government, Golden said the town would be able to operate within the tax cap with caution. “I’m not really confident that we’re not going to go through some really big financial changes in the next couple of years.”
After the erosion study recently requested by the conservation board, Golden said, Berne now has documentation of the condition of its infrastructure and waterways. As noted in the erosion study, Golden said private property could limit future stormwater-management projects, but training for town employees can help as they work in the ditches and on the roads.
“The highway dept has to be aware of what they do when they speed the water up,” said Golden.
Golden said he has no problem with restricting hydraulic fracturing in Berne.
“I have the same concern that everyone has, is how it affects the water,” said Golden, adding that determinations in state government could possibly take the decision away from municipalities.
When the resolution opposing the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act was passed by the town board this year, Golden voted with the majority. He called it a bad law, but, he said, he’s not supposed to impose his personal opinions as a board member.
“I don’t mind advancing my opinion, but I also wanted a resolution to pass, because I think that was important,” said Golden. “Sometimes you have to compromise.”
Many people who spoke during the packed board meetings before and during the vote wanted the board to call for the law’s repeal.
“I was just impressed with how orderly and in peace it was,” Golden said of the public comments.
The zoning ordinance can be updated, Golden said, by amending its home-occupation rules and relaxing its schedule of uses. He suggested empty barns could be used by new businesses.
“I’m just talking about not having to discourage people who have not found a way to make a living but who are not located in a particular district,” said Golden.
Of shared services, Golden said future decisions require study and “careful thinking” before experimentation.