Feb 05, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
In March, two trustee seats will open up in the village of Camillus, and Mike Montero wants one.
Montero, who opened two businesses in the village and became a resident within the last year and half, is one of a handful of familiar faces at village board meetings, and it’s no secret he wants to do more than sit in the audience: he’s been going door-to-door in the village for two weeks, meeting residents and bringing their concerns to the board for them, clipboard in hand.
When the board accepted Mayor Tom Grant’s resignation letter last week, Montero said he contacted Deputy Mayor Kurt Brunger to express his interest in any seat that may open temporarily before the elections, knowing he would have to run again for the seat even if he was temporarily appointed.
The Staten Island native last week discussed his first run for public office and what he plans to do for the village, if elected.
What is your motivation to run?
It’s something I wanted to do after going to a couple of meetings. They were the inspiration to help out on the board and help things happen in the village.
What are some things you plan to tackle as a member of the board?
I’m very interested in updating the look of this village and making it people accessible … people-friendly. Put streetscape plans on a more realistic level to start; things that could get started tomorrow if we really wanted to, not long-term things. I guess also more of saying and doing instead of saying, ‘this is a great idea.’ If you talk about it, finish the business, then move on to the next topic.
I’d like to help bring about more community-sponsored events. I think if you want to revitalize the village and to attract other people to come in to the village and do business here, you first have to have residents on board and if they don’t care about what’s going on, what makes us think outside people are going to care what’s going on? Feb Fest is a great idea… I don’t know why we don’t have a pumpkin fest.
With consolidation on everyone’s mind, is a replacement mayor necessary?
My personal opinion is, and if you talk to a lot of the ‘old timers,’ I think you’ll find a lot of them are saying, if there wasn’t a village government any more, they would’t be upset. I’ve run into that a lot here, and I’ve asked that of people – do you think we need this? – and a lot of them say, it’s nice to have the personal services of the DPW. I know that the town probably does just as good a job, but let’s just take this sidewalk here for instance … I don’t know that the town would have someone down here at 6 a.m. plowing this out (like village DPW workers do, before they even punch in for the day).
So my personal opinion is that I think the village should be it’s own ward, and you can have a ward council, someone who is responsible for this ward only reporting to [Camillus Town Supervisor] Mary Ann [Coogan], and I guess you could probably still have a board of trustees to assist, and still emply the three DPW workers that we have that would be rsponsbile for this ward.
A lot of the residents say the only thing they really get out of the village is excellent trash pick-up… if we were part of the town I know that taxes would probably slightly go down … I think ultimately if it could be done with keeping in mind the three workers we have here that really do take care of this area and know it inside out, why would you touch that?
When did you start campaigning? How is it going?
I started that last week, going around knocking door-to-door, telling people who I was. Anything from shoveling the sidewalks was a concern, one lady said, ‘Don’t touch our DPW, I love them.’ One person had asked about the flags – why does downtown still look the way it always has? I think though what they’ve been talking about in terms of code enforcement and enforcing the laws, John [Williams] has done an exceptional job in getting things up to where they’re supposed to be… Normally as soon as he gets a complaint, he’s right on it.
What plan do you favor for the Camillus Cutlery building?
I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing apartments, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing retail. Someone was mentioning high specialty retail – why? Why not just open it up to people that want to open up a business? Every time you open up the paper, so and so is laying off jobs… I’d like to see more Mom and Pop stores go into something like that, and things that are practical, like a cleaner. We don’t need a jewelry store – go to the mall! We have a salon here, why not have a cleaner, have a grocery store, have a barber shop for the guys…
Do you think with this economy it is a good idea to be taking on a project like that?
Yes, I do because people are now wanting to spend their money locally, people wanting to keep their money in the area instead of sending it off to support another country. I think people are looking to keep their business local and they want to spend local, and I think they’re looking forward to a resurgence of Mom and Pop stores. I know I am, I try to go to stores that I know are based locally at least.
How should the history of the cutlery and the identity of the village be taken into account when the building is renovated?
I don’t think it’s a bad idea if we ever re-did our signs to say “home of the original Camillus Cutlery,” but I don’t think anybody would be heartbroken if the building went away. There’s people complaining right now, ‘what are we doing?’ … The only thing I do know is that, because of how much oil is soaked into those floors, you’ve got a big clean up job there, I’m sure there’s EPA and DEC regulations that have to be abided by in order to properly clean up that area and rebuild – and that’s not an inexpensive task.
Someone told me at one point there were four inquiries to Pyramid for that building, and nothing’s gone through yet. I think a part of the reason could be that they don’t see anything happening here – why would you want to put a business in a place that doesn’t look like it’s doing anything?
What is something about the current board that you intend to change?
I get along with everyone on the board but no one’s ever come in here (the cafe) and said, ‘listen, what do you think about doing this or that’ – they’re there twice a month, sit at that table, and the only people who know about it are the very few residents who go to the meetings, it’s not like there’s a monthly flyer that goes out to residents to say, ‘we’re thinking about doing this, please respond with your ideas,’ a survey to drop off at village hall – then have someone go through and see what the ideas are, then you have a consensus of what the people that elected you want done. Now you’re really acting in the interest of the people who elected you.
Is it up to the board to get people to the meetings?
Absolutely. I was writing down some things I want to do, and one of the things I intend to do is as soon as I have an answer to a topic that someone has a question about, I’m either going to call them or go to their house and say, listen, ‘I brought this up, this is what happened.’ I’m going to try to get at least 55 signatures and once I get that, then I’m actually going to type up a little letter about myself and hand-deliver to every residents, or put them in mailboxes – a lot of them aren’t answering their door.
You’re not a native, but you and Jennifer are newlyweds and homeowners in the village. Do you plan to stay in Camillus for a long time?
I’ve moved my violin shop three times – I’m done moving it.