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IN-DEPTH: Previewing every race taking shape in Geneva on Election Day

Editor’s Note: In a few days voters will head to the polls if they haven’t already – and cast ballots in what could be some of the most-important races in all of the region – right in the city of Geneva.

FL1 News Reporter Gabriel Pietrorazio has pulled from his 18 conversations with the candidates, which were recorded and reported-on in coordination with Finger Lakes Public Radio to take a closer look at the biggest trends in the city races.

What issues are sparking the most conversation? What debates are shaking out Geneva as Election Day arrives? These are the questions he worked to answer through an in-depth analysis of the races.

A Guide through the Candidate Snapshot Series

– By Gabriel Pietrorazio

Experience Still Means Something

This election is uniquely situated amid the city’s lineage and stands as one of the most crucial races within recent memory. Ward 4 City Councilor Ken Camera (D) is the sole incumbent candidate seeking re-election across either party’s slate, but Ward 3 City Councilor Steve Valentino (D) also seeks a position among the burgeoning new council, but this time as the city’s mayor. Although we may have two very familiar faces occupying seats on this upcoming term’s city council, at least seven will be new and fresh to public service.

Across both slates, there are ranging levels of political experience among candidates and party leadership will certainly play into voting outcomes. Additionally, the spreading and greater democratization of city’s candidate pool has opened the political field for more candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences to compete in contentious local ward and councilor at-large races.

For Democrats, the slate offers a diverse group of candidates from community activists like Ward 5 candidate Laura Salamendra (D), Ward 6 candidate Juanita Aikens (D), Councilor At-Large candidate Tamarie Cataldo (D) to more seasoned public servants in the likes of Councilor At-Large candidate Anthony Noone (D), Camera and Valentino.

Valentino as the long-time public servant candidate has made the bid to become the next mayor by succeeding current Mayor Ronald L. Alcock (R). With 25-years of public service under his belt, his actions already speak louder than his words with his instrumental role in bringing the Ramada and Guardian Glass alongside Cass while sitting on city council.

Additionally, Valentino’s positionality on the Democrat’s slate as their lead candidate signals to voters that he can be trusted as the city’s best bet to lead them forward during this election cycle where a limited number of candidates possess formal experiences on City Council, especially in contrast to his opposition in Pitifer.

As for Republicans, six out of their nine endorsed candidates are registered Republicans. Ward 6 candidate John Pruett (R) and mayoral candidate Mark Salvatore Pitifer (R) are both registered independents while Ward 4 candidate Evelyn Naragon Buisch (R) is even a registered Democrat.

Pitifer, a political newcomer who lacks institutional knowledge continues to climb in this race against his longtime friend in Valentino. For what Pitifer lacks in formal political experience, he carries an unmatched level of passion and machismo, but the question for many still remains whether it will be simply enough for him to win despite his lacking formal experiences and perspectives on policy in comparison to Valentino.

To many voters, experience still resonates as a prioritized currency for candidates to cash-in, especially during an uncertain election cycle where almost the entire city council does not seek re-election. I believe that informed voters will weigh consciously and consider when electing candidates what “experience” truly means and how that definition is ultimately reflected in their votes.

On their slate, the standout candidates with the most experience lies in Councilor At-Large candidate Frank L. Gaglianese III who has served on the city’s planning board and the former two-term mayor and city councilor, Ward 3 candidate Don Cass (R). Particularly, Cass’ reemergence the political scene by vying for a seat on city council offers stability to a fresher crop of Republican candidates during a crucial election cycle where experience may not be the defining factor, but definitely remains part of the conversation when it comes to casting ballots.

Newer candidates to the political process including Ward 1 candidate Antonio Gomez (R), Ward 2 candidate Bill Pealer Jr. (R), Ward 5 candidate Bryan Housel (R) as well as Councilor At-Large candidate Ben Vasquez (R) stand to benefit from Cass and Gaglianese when looking to party leadership and creating unity along their coalition.

Ultimately, experience still matters in elections; and maybe now more than ever under these unique set of races. Voters want to see what candidates have already accomplished and still have to offer; and these actions tends to indicate the future and what constituents can generally expect from candidates. Consequently, this grouping of candidates has a wide sleuth of skillsets that can serve the city favorably, but I still doubt that experience shall be the sole identifier for success during this upcoming election. Rather, the issues and looming figment of change by imagining a new Geneva shall ultimately define who wins and loses.

Loving the Lakefront and Realities of Railway Removal

Everyone loves the Geneva’s lakefront and no one in this race contests whether it should be developed. If there has ever been a constant in this race, Seneca Lake remains untouched by commercial development and more importantly, the candidates.

Pitifer cited speaking with Camera and agreed that the railway storage area should be removed, which would open space along the lakeside.

“I got engaged under those Willow trees at Seneca Lake. There’s is no way that I’m going to let anything happen to that lakefront on my watch. However, we got to do something and it’s gotta be about the lake,” Pitifer said.

However, Pitifer also mentioned that he would open to the idea of filling the emptied space by constructing high-end condominiums that would not obscure the lakeview for residents but also block an area of land that he considers an “eyesore.”

In contrast, Valentino clashes with Pitifer’s proposal to obscure the communities settled on the opposite side of 5&20 from the lakefront.

“There’s a neighborhood: it’s Middle Street, it’s Wadsworth Street. There’s a whole neighborhood there that I think deserves the opportunity to have better access to the lakefront,” Valentino said.

Valentino acknowledges that although one train track is an emergency-line that must remain due to federal mandates, the rest of the railyard can be removed if buy-in from the community can occur, but even this statement is still complicated.

Despite not being a firm believer to build a catwalk across 5&20, Valentino still seeks to explore alternatives and eventually bring forth a solution to provide greater access to the lakeside for residents within and surrounding Ward 6, if elected.

For Camera, he notes that his greatest goal for Geneva seeks to address accessibility to the lakefront, particularly on behalf of Ward 6.

“If I can push a button, it would be to move the railroad,” Camera said.

Unfortunately moving the railroad is not as simple as pushing a button, but his sentiments remain sincere. The railroad storage area essentially blocks-off the neighborhoods of Ward 6 from safely accessing the lakefront.

“There are residents in the sixth ward who walk across the tracks and I know that the Finger Lakes Railroad doesn’t like it because it’s a liability for them,” Camera stated.

Similarly, Salamendra has been extremely passionate and vocal about protecting Geneva’s lakefront but also developing greater access for residents in Wards 5 and 6 alongside Camera.

“There’s no reason that people who live in Ward 5 and 6 should have to on a hot day, walk with their children all the way out and then down 5&20 when they could just cross the street,” Salamendra stated.

Regan also raises concerns along the lakefront and hopes that “pedestrian friendly development” surrounding the Finger Lakes Welcome Center continues protecting the waterfront for the people from corporate interests.

“I would like to see the lakefront continue to develop in ways that increase public enjoyment and not private enjoyment of that beautiful space that we have that is open now. So, that’s a priority for me,” Regan said.

Regan’s opposition for Ward 3 in Cass agreed with her that lakefront development should not transpire along Seneca Lake but also wishes to remove the railroad storage area. However, Cass is still not sure how it can be achieved and acknowledged the realities in moving the railroad tracks.

Noone even promises that “no commercial or residential development” shall transpire along Seneca Lake and he plans on sticking by that campaign promise, if elected.

Aside from development, Noone also wishes to improve and enhance overall pedestrian accessibility to the lakefront for residents.

“Safety is a major concern. You know, crossing 5&20 to access the lake, you’re kind of keeping your life in your hands and hoping that person stops when they’re supposed to stop,” Noone said.

It is clear that candidates of all stripes care about the lakefront, but Democrats across their slate overwhelmingly prioritized talking about Seneca Lake and offering greater access to the residents in Wards 5 and 6 on the Geneva Candidate Snapshot series.

Pointing-Out Policing Problems

A common trend in this race has been the looming presence of the Geneva Police Department in its many forms: reforming the department, dealing with racist acts of vandalism as well as expanding recruitment efforts. Most recently, the reemergence of white supremacist iconography in the form of swastikas has signaled-out residents from marginalized communities, who already feel distanced from the political process, let alone the city itself.

Aikens as the founder of the Ontario County Justice Coalition has already made strides to spark community conversations in Geneva about policing and addressing vandalism hate crimes.

Aikens advocates that press-releases should blatantly label those acts as hate crimes but also be investigated as such.

“I have a zero tolerance for hate crimes in any capacity and that’s the level that I wish my Chief of Police would have,” Aikens said.

The Ontario County Justice Coalition seeks to establish justice, equality and unity and Aikens hopes to bring forth a police accountability board to Geneva that would allow the public to have input on police actions, if elected.

Her opponent in Pruett for Ward 6 offers his own solutions to address concerns raised about the GPD: first by affirming that anyone who works for the City of Geneva should either live here or relocate.

“If you’re on the city’s payroll, you should live within the city,” he said.

Pruett says that the department is currently overstaffed with 47 officers on the force but also notes that they have difficulty in recruiting and keeping officers in Geneva before switching to departments in Rochester or Syracuse after being trained in the city.

As a result, he seeks to subsidize educational processes to increase access for future recruits from community colleges to join police academy programs.

But most of all, Pruett demands on mandating a 25-percent quota for minority representation among city employees along racial and religious differences.

Like Aikens, Buisch also claims that there is a “disconnect” with the Geneva Police Department and calls for greater transparency on behalf of residents.

“They don’t have that comfort level at communication,” Buisch added.

Republicans in Cass, a former Geneva police lieutenant and Councilor At-Large candidate Ben Vasquez (R), a current Waterloo police officer were less adamant about reforming the department.

Vasquez considers Geneva Chief of Police Michael Passalacqua’s performance as exceptional and believes that he is “doing an excellent job running the department.”

From his perspectives as a police officer, he suggests that increased downtown patrols, walking beats and programs that connect officers with community assist in de-stigmatizing the police and functions as a “monumental role in the community feeling safe with those individuals that wear the uniform, that wear the badge and are out there protecting them day and night.”

Cass also places his full support behind the GPD and acknowledges that everyone makes mistakes, but their department “takes care of their own mistakes.”

“Certainly, what’s going on the is bad, all of this graffiti and race issue but I personally believe that the police department is doing a great job. It’s not easy and it’s harder now than when I was a police officer,” Cass stated.

Gaglianese also mentioned that Geneva Police Chief Michael Passalacqua “handled the situation, I think the best way that they could with what they had” in response to recent racist acts of vandalism.

“I know Mike Passalacqua personally. I know his family and I think he’s a stand-up guy and I know that he wants to do what’s best for the City of Geneva and for that police department,” he said.

Gaglianese also added that Chief Passalacqua wishes to work with others in finding a solution but notes that there still are processes in place.

“Everyone makes mistakes. It’s tough when you’re running an agency like the police department. You want all good cops just like how you want all good employees, but you don’t,” Gaglianese stated.

“I know for a fact that Mike is trying to do his best to clean that police department up to make it prestigious cause his family I believe in Geneva is prestigious,” he added.

Even Ward 2 candidate Valerie Mallard (D) shared that she fully supports Chief Passalacqua and other candidates along either party affiliation have spoken along a similar line argumentation.

For Mallard, creating community trust comes to a head with Geneva Chief of Police Michael Passalacqua; and she trusts him to do what is best for the city and all of its residents.

“I do believe in Chief Passalacqua and I believe that he is capable of moving that forward, so I do support him,” she said.

As a member of Geneva’s chapter of the NAACP for 30-years, Mallard has been personally impacted by witnessing the recent rise of racist sentiments within the city through acts of vandalism and white supremacist graffiti.

If elected, Mallard not only wishes to become a part of the recruiting process for new police officers who join the Geneva Police Department, but also introduce new-hires to all six wards.

“And once we get new officers, I think that they should be introduced to each ward because right now we just happen to see that there’s a new officer and we don’t know any of them. They haven’t been in our neighborhoods; they haven’t spoken to our people,” Mallard added.

Focusing on police officers, school teachers and administrators, Mallard wishes to hire more diverse candidates that can offer support to young people of color within the community.

“One thing if I’m elected, I would advocate for more diversity in our city’s institutions, in particular the policing as well as the school system. I believe that we should have people of color on those, you know the front lines in those organizations,” Mallard said.

“If we want to move Geneva forward, I think that we should definitely try to bridge the gap between the policing and the citizens of Geneva,” she continued.

Ultimately, an underlining thread from my conversations around community policing is that many candidates wholeheartedly place faith in Chief Passalacqua and how he has been perceived as reliable and trustworthy toward his oath to public service. Although policing reform is still a starkly-divided issue in the city, community policing has been identified among Democrats and Republicans as a key issue for this upcoming election, surfacing as a top priority for this cycle. Hopefully, this fervor for policing reform continues and carries over when winning candidates assume offices in city council since this issue affects not only marginalized communities throughout the city, but all of Geneva’s residents as a test of our collective morality when it comes to combatting acts of racism and white supremacy on all fronts.

Tough on Taxation and the Colleges

A consistent theme among the majority of candidates has been the signature campaign promise to cut taxes with a hand-full of exceptions that are too far and wide from between.

Camera admits that cutting taxes is simply not possible and that the city must grow outward to expand its base.

“The general fund hurts because you’re collecting that money from 47-percent from the taxable property and we have a lot of things to do. I think the city is running fairly lean, so I don’t think there’s a lot more cuts we can do. I think we got to grow ourselves out of this problem and there are opportunities to do that,” Camera said.

When it comes to the former American Legion Geneva Winnek Post #360 on Lochland Road, this property is merely one piece to solve the tax-base puzzle in Geneva for Camera.

Placing blame on city management who “hasn’t been as entrepreneurial and aggressive,” Camera believes that the Legion property is not the sole plot of land that can benefit the city.

“I just feel like we didn’t go after this as fast as we should’ve, and so that’s sort of an area of contention between myself and the rest of council,” Camera stated.

As for Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Camera may be the sole candidate that firmly backs the Colleges by not asking them to contribute more to the city, despite their vast control of tax-exemptible land.

“I believe the Colleges are paying their way,” he said.

As a Hobart College Class of 1972 graduate, Camera argues that some form of payment or compensation should be collected from the town to account for costs accrued by the City of Geneva after offering municipal services to residents that reside within the town’s jurisdiction.

“I do believe that the problem can be solved but not by asking the Colleges for more money, it’s by asking people who don’t pay anything to pay something; and one of them is the town of Geneva,” he stated.

Similarly, Noone agrees with Camera by acknowledging the city’s budget is already “working with barebones” and he hopes to levy the anxiety of taxpayers by growing Geneva’s tax-base, not cutting it.

In contrast, Pitifer, a Hobart College Class of 1982 graduate explained that his transition from attending classes at the Colleges to paying taxes in Geneva was a humbling experience that presented alternative perspectives to him.

“Our taxes are sky high and one of the big reasons is high sky is because Hobart and William Smith Colleges owns all this property that cannot be taxed,” he stated.

As mayor, Pitifer hopes that the Colleges continue their generosity towards Geneva and recognizes the tax burden that affects the middle and lower-middle class.

For Vasquez, the property taxes problem poses a “great burden on low-income and middle-class residents.”

Based on his own evaluations, for every $80,000 that is accrued, the city’s overall debt is decreased by one-percent.

“So, essentially, getting more vacant properties back on the tax roll is going to generate more revenue,” Vasquez said.

Aside from expanding the tax-base, Vasquez also looks toward the Colleges to cooperate in imagining “creative solutions, creative avenues” that can leaven costs for more taxpaying residents.

Ward 1 candidate Tom Burrall (D) was quick to share that the key issue in his ward seems to be the presence of Hobart and William Smith college students.

“The key issues in my ward from standing on a lot of porches is what are going to do about those darn college kids,” Burrall stated.

Despite many residents informing Burrall about the nuisances that college students pose to Ward 1 residents, he also mentions that he can as simply walk across the street and find that they are not bothersome for others.

“I think it should be because there are some noisemakers, both residents and on the other side with the students and I think they can be addressed with not a whole lot of effort, but we just have to be involved in the process,” Burrall said.

While campaigning, Burrall has learned that Vice President of Campus Life Robert Flowers has contributed in establishing better neighborhood and community relations.

One of the steps taken to ensure that the Colleges remain friendly, especially with its Ward 1 neighbors has been through mandating a meeting in the fall for all students that live off-campus.

Jim Meaney of the Geneva Believer indicated that the Colleges own 13 properties along Seneca Lake on South Main Street that are collectively evaluated at an estimated $7,309,000; and Burrall was asked whether the Colleges are obligated to financially contribute more to the city through additional taxes or an increase of the PILOT.

“The college is a business. The municipality is also a business. The college knows the income that it needs to generate their services. The municipality also knows the income or taxes that they need to provide the services to run our community. If an exempt institution can help us achieve those goals, then the municipality can also help the exempt institution in achieving their goals,” Burrall responded.

Although Burrall considers the annual PILOT allocation as a starting point, he expresses that it “needs to be continued” but also balances his comments by considering how the Colleges contribute beyond offering payment in lieu of taxes.

“People do not realize that. Oh, the college is getting away with murder. Oh, they don’t pay taxes; and of course, that’s not true because they also pay property tax right now on some properties that they own in addition to what they’re giving the community in the form of the $200,000,” he added.

Burrall’s opposition in Gomez for Ward 1 is keen on cutting unnecessary spending.

Gomez wants to bring attention and accountability to Ontario County about how Geneva hosts refuge for minorities and lower-income classes, which places an additional tax burden on residents.

“Even other cities have taken advantage of that and they have used Geneva as a refuge; and I think yea, you want to use this as a refuge, but its gonna cost you,” Gomez stated.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Cornell AgriTech both are continually targeted for not contributing enough to the city and its dwindling tax base. Growing the tax-base has been a constructive conversation rather than shrinking it; and offers a potential solution in growing the tax base while not hurting the hands of those same institutions that are innately invested and financially contributing to the City of Geneva through direct or indirect means, unlike the town itself.

Hearts for Housing and a Consensus on Code Enforcement

The housing situation in Geneva has raised conversations about who has access to housing opportunities as well as critical examination of the living conditions for those properties. As the city undergoes its code enforcement modifications to replace existing laws that have been on the books since the 1950s, candidates across both slates seem content on changing code enforcement responsibilities to favor residents and tenants versus landlords, but remain  largely less confident in identifying whether housing needs are being met for the entire city’s population.

Pealer realizes the rental and code enforcement problem in the city, which has become an issue of great concern for him, characterizing the situation as “prolific.”

“What I’m finding is that low rent usually means low quality of house: bad porch, bad railings, you know, the houses aren’t kept-up,” he said.

Pealer believes that any rental property should be upkeeped and this responsibility falls upon the landlord.

“If our landlords are not feeling compelled to do this, let’s compel them to do this,” he added.

Mallard, Pealer’s opposition for Ward 2 sees the housing need in the city from her professional perspective at the Geneva Housing Authority.

“We do believe that it’s getting there but it might not be where it needs to be as far as the need, but I believe that we are working towards that goal,” Mallard stated.

She also mentioned that public housing communities are currently undergoing “extensive renovations” throughout the city.

As for code enforcement, Mallard stands beside tenants, believing that landlords should be held accountable for the state of their properties but takes a step further by advocating for the city to hire someone to be placed in-charge of managing this massive process.

“I believe that the city should support a specific position to have someone in-charge of that code enforcement,” she added.

While Buisch holds similar points to Pealer and Mallard, she admits to “still being torn on the issue.”

Despite noting that Elmcrest and Lyceum Heights are independent living options for elderly residents, Buisch claims that alternatives still exist in Geneva, especially with the recent remodeling of downtown buildings that have been modified into residences for tenants.

“It’s just they have the blinders on certain neighborhoods or certain things that they hear instead of being able to go and find-out,” Buisch added.

Buisch also advocates for residents to take advantage of the city’s resource center in the hopes to find and secure better housing options.

As for code enforcement, Buisch notes that “it has to be uniform across the board” and acknowledges that some landlords cannot simply afford to maintain upkeep on their properties.

While most candidates have come to a consensus on code enforcement, Cataldo simultaneously sees a “serious housing shortage” alongside empty homes and wishes to fill them with the city’s residents through a bolder approach compared to her peers.

“There’s a lot of empty homes. I think there’s a lot of families that would like to be in those empty homes,” Cataldo stated.

If elected, Cataldo wishes to develop a “first-time home-buyers program in Geneva for Genevans” that would fill vacant households scattered throughout the city.

While candidates vary in clarifying if they visibly see a housing access issue in the city, a vast divide still exists on whether new housing options need to be offered. Meanwhile, an overwhelming consensus has arisen in ensuring that code enforcement changes shall promote a greater quality of life as well as enhanced safety for occupants.

Accessing Wards 5 and 6

At the heart of the access issues surrounding food deserts, public transportation and the lakefront, Wards 5 and 6 are situated at the center of this dilemma for the city. Candidates in both wards addressed food insecurities for their respective wards but differ in approaches.

Salamendra sees how many residents are subsisting in “unlivable conditions,” which take many shapes: difficulties in accessing food, public transportation, healthcare, childcare and safe-affordable housing.

Salamendra believes that Wards 5 and 6 reside within a food desert, one that warrants a swift resolution.

“At the very least this is an emergency and it doesn’t mean that we need more programs that bring people food. People want dignity and the freedom to access a grocery store,” Salamendra said.

The solution for Salamendra is to call for a commitment to introduce a grocery store in Ward 6 that residents in Ward 5 may shop at for convenience, but she also wishes to fund more community gardening beds, in spite of recent city budget cutbacks among partner agencies for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Housel, Salamendra’s opposition in Ward 5 is also heavily interested in fixing the food access and security issue that he recognizes throughout the city.

“It’s not just school age children that are facing this. It’s not just kids; we have our elderly. We have people of all ages suffering from this,” he stated.

If elected, Housel intends to review federal and state subsidies that may be directed to open a food kitchen or invest funding allocations towards a Meals on Wheels program for the city.

Housel has even considered retrieving funds from the city budget, all in an effort to do “whatever we can do to make sure that people are getting access to food.”

Prioritizing the needs of Ward 6, Pruett mentions that while downtown Geneva has grown, it has come at the expense of his own ward.

Pruett is even interested in starting his own commercial improvement district specifically for Ward 6, much like the Business Improvement District that issues $45,000 annually to downtown businesses; and a way to mitigate taxes for Ward 6 for Pruett seems possible by placing a moratorium on taxes in his ward to account for any tax hikes.

“But I’d like to see the sixth ward have at least a moratorium on those since we’re disadvantaged already in both taxes and terms of economic development,” Pruett said.

In addition to expanding public transportation services in the city, Cataldo waits for some store to set-up shop in either Ward 5 or 6, which are both situated at the epicenter of the food desert in Geneva.

“We keep giving away all these PILOT programs to industries around here, but why don’t we give a PILOT program to a store to come in that down there and make sure that the people down there have nutritious food and produce,” Cataldo said.

Cataldo also mentioned that the community garden program that was on this year’s chopping-block for the city budget was originally created as a form of reparations for the residents of the foundry zone.

“And I actually helped build those community gardens with the raised beds,” Cataldo stated.

Weighing-in on the community gardening program funding situation, Cataldo admits that she cannot make any sense of the decision.

“You know, $3,500 is peanuts to a lot of people but it can mean a lot for a service like that,” she added.

Fortunately for residents in Wards 5 and 6, conversations surrounding food accessibility, public transportation and the lakefront have not been solely constricted to the candidates who are seeking election within these wards. Rather, sentiments have been commonly shared and seem more widely popular than ever before by appearing among Valentino, Cataldo and other candidates during this cycle. Consequently, it is refreshing and promising to see that candidates beyond the two wards advocating on behalf of the lesser developed and often left-behind communities in Geneva in Wards 5 and 6.

Little Substance on Landfills

While Geneva and its residents are filled to brim with commentaries about the landfills in the region and their noncompliance on certain New York State standards, few candidates brought forth the landfill disputes to the public forefront during this election on the Geneva Candidate Snapshot series, but one of those candidates was Gaglianese.

“What scares me is being on the low-end of two landfills, but when elected I will work with supervisors in Ontario County as well as in Seneca County to make sure that each of them landfills are complaint with all of the safety standards and regulations that are put upon them,” he stated.

If elected, Gaglianese has goals that he wishes to meet and exceed by insisting on taking tours of Seneca Meadows and the Ontario County Landfill.

“I wanna take tours up to the landfills and see what’s going on up there and understand it a lot better because its potentially a threat to us; and I wanna know everything that I can,” Gaglianese added.

Gaglianese has got 1,000 questions to ask and he wants to hear answers for them directly by those who manage the landfills.

Gaglianese’s comments also compliment with Cataldo who spoke about protecting and preserving the environment, particularly Seneca Lake with contaminants.

The landfill debate was not as prevalent or prominently featured during any of our conversations aside from speaking with Gaglianese, but I hope that the new city council can focus on this issue once they are elected because this topic has been simply left-behind by candidates who ultimately missed the mark on an opportunity to talk about Casella Waste Management and the Seneca Meadows Landfill on behalf of Geneva.

City Council Anew

Whether you consider it a rebirth, renaissance, or simply fresh blood, whatever you call it, city council will be anew and that is a consistent feeling among candidates and residents alike. This election cycle feels like a breath of fresh air or windy breeze while walking along South Main Street; it can be a change felt that shakes the very core of our beloved city.

As many candidates candidly put it, the possibilities are seemingly endless with any configuration of city council; and I do not disagree with them. The City of Geneva has been presented a unique opportunity to its residents: a choice, a decision with their own voice. They can decide on what they want for their community, become a part of that political process, cast their ballot, make a bold statement or simply not participate at all. But when the dust settles by November 5th and if dissatisfaction still rings throughout the city by those who were not a part of this election, there is simply no one else to blame but those who did not turn-out or care to vote on behalf of the city that I and others all cherish.

Although FL1 News has brought our readership the most comprehensive election coverage for this race through the Geneva Candidate Snapshot series, this should serve as only a start and merely one part of the conversation that must continue until November 5th. These conversations about who is most fit to serve the City of Geneva should never cease but continually be negotiated by the voices, perspectives and political affiliations of all voters as a constant struggle for civic engagement and political mobilization, which stand as pillars for our democratic society. As we near the date when we cast our ballots, we cannot become complacent but consider all possibilities, especially the candidates who seek to most favorably represent you and the city.

What’s at stake in this election is simple: an opportunity to start over, a fresh beginning. If we consider the City of Geneva as an open book, its newest chapter shall be written by the next city council who are elected among us. Despite unmatched fervor in the air for change, this is still a scary time for local politics because uncertainty lingers as to how this election cycle shall shakeout, which will ultimately define the future of our city. If we are informed, intellectually curious and remain ever-vigilant about the candidates and our choices, only then can we move the City of Geneva forward for all.

The entire FL1 Candidate Snapshot Series

Click on the name of each candidate to read the profile; and listen to the conversation in the audio player below to hear them in their own words.


Steve Valentino (D)

Mark Salvatore Pitifer (R)

Councilor At-Large

Anthony Noone (D)

Tamarie Cataldo (D)

Ben Vasquez (R)

Frank L. Gaglianese III (R)

Ward 1

Antonio Gomez (R)

Tom Burrall (D)

Ward 2

Bill Pealer Jr. (R)

Valerie Mallard (D)

Ward 3

Jan Regan (D)

Don Cass (R)

Ward 4

Ken Camera (D)

Evelyn Buisch (R)

Ward 5

Laura Salamendra (D)

Bryan Housel (R)

Ward 6

John Pruett (R)

Juanita Aikens (D)

– By Gabriel Pietrorazio

An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently a reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at [email protected].