Few Disagreements among Rivals at Malta Candidate Forum
MALTA – The League of Women Voters (LWV) candidate forum for the Town of Malta’s upcoming local races took place at the Malta Community Center on Tuesday, October 8.
The questions from the audience centered on issues that appeared to potentially be fertile ground for candidates to stress their point(s) of difference. Surprisingly, there was near-universal agreement between all, save for some minor nuance. In some cases, this left many questioners and audience members unsatisfied.
Moderator Francine Rodger began by explaining the ground rules, after which those candidates who were unopposed (Highway Superintendent Roger Crandall and Town Clerk Florence Sickels) made short statements.
Two Town Justice candidates, Steve Gottman (R, I) and Ellwood Sloat, Jr. (C) made statements to the audience. Because of judicial decorum, the two candidates did not engage each other or take questions from the audience.
Gottman’s background includes 15 years as an attorney and is the president of the Malta Business and Professional Association. Sloat’s background is in law enforcement, reaching the rank of major for the New York State Police Department before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60.
Complete biographies, links of websites and other information on every candidate can be accessed at the LWV website. Visit www.LWVsaratoga.org.
The three candidates for town council (two of which will be elected) are incumbents John Hartzell and Maggi Ruisi (both R, C, I) and Carol Henry (D). The two candidates for the town/county supervisor seat are incumbent Paul Sausville (R, I) and challenger Cynthia Young (D, WF).
As noted above, Ellwood Sloat, Jr. is a town justice candidate. Yet, it his capacity of long-time town resident (‘Woody’ Sloat) he felt compelled to ask both the town council and supervisor candidates what their position was to stimulate retail occupancy at the Ellsworth Commons complex (an issue that he as town justice would not be ruling on incidentally).
While Ruisi did express optimism about the recent prospects for a yogurt shop and doctor’s office, she and the other candidates, while saying that the town’s role is to be supportive, believed that it was the developer’s obligation to fill vacancies. None of them put forth any concrete ideas.
These responses did not please Sloat at all. “We have a healthy and vibrant town, but unfortunately Ellsworth Commons is an eyesore reminiscent of a ghost town,” he said. “This unsightly condition should not be ignored as it doesn't represent the true vitality of Malta.”
“I feel economic development does fall within the responsibilities of the town supervisor and town council,” Sloat continued. “The questions I posed to these candidates regarding plans to correct this situation were answered without any substance. It left me with a feeling that this situation was not a priority.”
Another issue of concern among questioners was the Round Lake corridor and the possibility that roundabouts would be part of a traffic solution. The candidates for town council acknowledged that the concerns of residents should be taken into account. Hartzell said that he was continuing to ask hard questions about the subject before deciding; Ruisi said she stood behind the original engineering study on traffic safety. She was awaiting the results of a more detailed study and reminded the audience that the roundabouts contemplated were smaller than the double lane ones that are on routes 9 and 67. Henry said she was keeping an open mind and that driver education and traffic safety were important considerations to balance against Round Lake residents’ concerns.
This did not come close to satisfying Murray Eitzmann, who lives on Round Lake Road.
“I’m afraid that the primary concern will be to provide the quickest access to the Northway without delay.” Eitzmann said. “Round Lake is a thriving hamlet. This area and around exit 11 have residences, senior housing, an elementary school and a great mix of thriving businesses. Why would they even think of anything that might compromise this?”
“A petition of almost 300 citizen signatures was submitted to the town board that opposed the roundabouts.” Eitzmann stated. “The candidate that takes a courageous stand against some engineer’s Cadillac solution is whom I’m voting for. I’m not sure I saw that person tonight.”
Indeed, the Malta candidate forum deserves high marks for the civility all candidates showed towards each other. But afterwards many in the audience were heard to express surprise that the candidates, particularly challengers, did not go to any length to lay out bold distinctions between themselves and their opponents. It remains to be seen if these points of difference emerge between now and November 5.