CANDIDATE Q&A: Thomas Lyon, candidate for Canandaigua City Council

This year we’re giving candidates seeking office in the Finger Lakes the opportunity to let their voices be heard in a special Q&A feature. If you’re a candidate and would like to participate by completing a short Q&A session – click here. Your answers (which can be as long as necessary) will be published directly on FingerLakes1.com.


Thomas Lyon is running for an at-large seat on Canandaigua City Council. His answers appear below, unedited from submission.

What prompted you to consider a run for office?

“I have been involved in local government both professionally and as a volunteer since choosing to return to my hometown. I served as the Economic Development Specialist for the City of Canandaigua for 4 years before moving on to being a County Planner and Fair & Equitable Housing Officer for Wayne County. I served on the City Planning Commission and the Ontario County Planning Board. I was Vice Chair of the City Charter Review Committee, then the Chair of the Comprehensive Plan update, and currently serve as the Chair of the Climate Smart Canandaigua taskforce. I want to continue to use my knowledge and experience to serve the residents of Canandaigua.”

What are the three most important issues in your race?

“The primary issues facing Canandaigua are affordability of quality housing, environmental sustainability, and helping our local businesses thrive.”

What roadblocks stand in the way of addressing them? How will you be able to create change?

“As a Community Planner, I believe Canandaigua needs to focus on affordable housing. Over 65% of housing units were constructed more than 40 years ago. Just 4% have been built in the last decade–and much of that was aimed at high income residents. This means our housing stock is aging; we need to invest in housing development and redevelopment, to support a wide range of incomes. This not only makes for a better quality of life for our residents, but it strengthens our community and makes Canandaigua an attractive place to call home. While I am proud that Canandaigua is a leader in sustainability, having recently been recognized as a Bronze Climate Smart Community, the long-term effect of climate change does not stop at the City line. Canandaigua needs to continue to lead and develop a climate adaptation strategy in partnership with our neighbors to meet the needs of our current and future residents.”

Holding local office is often a balancing act between keeping taxes low and maintaining services: How do you plan to achieve both?

“Canandaigua is a full-service community, with municipal trash pickup, police, paid firefighters, more than a dozen parks, and tree-lined streets. Remarkably, the City also maintains the lowest taxes for any City in our region. The City’s capital reserves allow us to address unexpected expenses or loss of revenue, like during shutdowns at the start of the pandemic. This is a testament to our dedicated staff, as well as our Democrat-led Council, which has benefited from thoughtful public servants that carefully manage the City budget. I pledge to continue this tradition; I studied public finance as part of graduate school and Dan Unrath, our candidate for Mayor, has a degree in economics.”

If you were elected tomorrow and given the ability to permanently change one thing about your community: What would it be?

“If given the ability, I would narrow or eliminate traffic lanes where possible, particularly at the intersection of 5&20 and 332. A recent transportation study proposes narrowing these lanes. A smaller intersection would not increase traffic build up and would help weave together the Main St. business and the lakefront, creating an inviting corridor. I am ready to work with state officials to advocate for sound transportation policy to help reconnect the City cut off by multi-lane highways.”

As a follow-up: What is one thing your community does right that you’d like to reinforce if elected?

“I am very proud of the City of Canandaigua serving as a leader in sustainability, not just in earning Climate Smart Communities Bronze level, but by banning pesticides on public land and taking measures for flood mitigation to limit contamination of the lake, and balancing costs with environmental impact in all capital investments.”

Looking at your community over the next 10-20 years: What do you see? Are the actions being taken now good for the long-term sustainability of it?

“Over the next 10 years, if not sooner, major projects like Pinnacle North, Labelon, the former Tom’s Mobil, and several other developments will help alleviate the City’s housing shortage and be a boon to the City economically. I believe we should actively work with our community housing partners to develop more affordable housing options, and prioritize assistance for middle income home maintenance and historic preservation. Canandaigua City Council should work with the Ontario County IDA to advocate for development in a way that benefits our community without unnecessarily limiting the tax base. The City will continue to develop bike lanes and pedestrian amenities to weave neighborhoods together and connect Lakeshore to Downtown, Uptown in the Town of Canandaigua, and an active Recreational District, anchored by the Canandaigua Civic Center and newly proposed YMCA facility. Our retail districts will flourish with locally sourced products, services, and experiences, enjoyed by a wide market of residents and visitors.”

Rural communities in the Finger Lakes and Upstate New York are getting older. This poses challenges on a number of fronts (whether it be related to services or attracting a younger population for that long-term sustainability). What would you like to see happen to make your community better for aging population, as well as a place for people in their 20s and 30s to call home?

“We should encourage a mix of housing options for all life stages and income levels. Canandaigua is fortunate to have both Thompson Hospital and the VA Medical Center in the City, along with multiple urgent care, medical specialists, and ancillary health services. Continuing to support medical services across the lifespan will help ensure excellent care for all residents. Walkability and accessibility is essential to a healthy community. It benefits young people, older people who don’t drive, and makes Canandaigua an inviting and friendly place to live and work.”

People want to see change. So, give us the elevator pitch: Why should voters choose you this November? What differentiates you from any other candidate for local office?

“What makes me an asset to Canandaigua City Council is that I am a professional community and economic development planner with an educational, work, and volunteer background that makes me uniquely qualified to address the needs and opportunities that the City will face over the next 4 years.”

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