Sep 07, 2011 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
The Onondaga County Legislator seat for the 13th district, representing the towns of Van Buren and Elbridge, as well as the northeast corner of the town of Camillus, is open for election this year. Two candidates, incumbent Robert Warner and opponent Derek Shepard, are competing for the Republican nomination in the Sept. 13 primary.
The Baldwinsville Messenger recently interviewed both men to get a better understanding of each candidate’s qualifications and viewpoints. The following are responses from Warner:
Address: 1478Gunbarrel Road
Family: Wife, Ann; sons, Bob and Scott; six grandchildren
Education: 1966 graduate of the New York State Police Academy, Albany
Work Experience: United State Army, two years; Co-owner of Warner Logging Co., 50 years; retired in 1991 as senior investigator with the NYS Bureau of Criminal Investigation
Political Experience: 20 years as Republican/Conservative Onondaga County Legislator representing the 13th District (re-elected in 10 consecutive general elections).
Community Involvement: I have been a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Baldwinsville for 50 years, a member of McHarries Legacy and The Baldwinsville Masonic Lodge.
What do you think are the major issues facing the county? How do you plan to address those issues?
Providing jobs. I am presently working on the sale of Van Duyn (the county owned nursing home) to Upstate University Hospital. The public owned nursing home will cost county taxpayers approximately $4 million a year beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The sale to Upstate University Hospital would insure quality care to patients, create jobs and possibly a geriatrics learning school, ultimately reducing the cost to taxpayers.
What will you do to prevent an in-county landfill from being built in Van Buren?
When I was appointed to the Onondaga County Legislature in 1991, the 500-acre landfill site in Van Buren (Site 31) was in the process of being New York State DEC permitted. With the assistance of the (then in place) Van Buren Town Board and trips to the NYS DEC headquarters in Albany, I was able to slow the permitting process for several years. By the time the site was permitted, I had worked with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency to find the Seneca Meadows location to dump our garbage and incinerator ash. This present arrangement is approximately $3 million less expensive per year to county residents than construction and operation of Site 31.
Site 31 will not become operational as long as it is less costly to take the garbage to another regional landfill, which is my long range plan and strategy. I have sponsored legislation through the years to protect property values directly surrounding the landfill site and to compensate the town of Van Buren for lost property taxes when the county took over the 500-acre site. Under present guidelines, the site is not to be sold to anyone. I will keep a watchful eye to make certain it remains that way.
How will you work to reduce the tax burden on county residents?
Last year, the county sales tax formula was revised for sharing sales tax revenue with the towns, villages and schools causing a property tax increase in some towns. The legislature took $45 million out of the county executive’s budget to offset that increase. The county executive vetoed the revision and the veto was sustained, causing a 50 percent county property tax increase in the town of Van Buren.
The Van Buren Town Board took more than $800,000 of county sales tax money in cash rather than using it to offset property taxes as most towns do. This was responsible for the other 50 percent county property tax increase in Van Buren.
Last year, I sponsored legislation to stop the practice of advance step hires. The county executive had the authority to hire from Step A to Step G without legislative approval. That practice was to be used only in emergency circumstances and was costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Presently, all advance step hires must come before the county legislature for approval. There have been very few approvals since the implementation of that law.
During my 20 years as your legislator, I have sponsored several anti-tobacco resolutions including advertising, placement of the tobacco products in stores, raising the age to purchase, and the most prominent law was the Second Hand Smoke Law, which prohibits smoking in some public buildings and restaurants. The intent of these laws is to promote better health, to discourage our youth from using tobacco products, and to reduce the tremendous burden from Medicaid costs associated with the use of these products. Medicare costs exceed $600 million a year in Onondaga County alone, with $100 million coming out of property taxes. The long range effects of these laws will reduce the number of smokers, promote better health and decrease Medicaid costs to taxpayers by millions of dollars. Six months after passing our Second Hand Smoke Law, the NYS Legislature passed a similar law and several other states have followed.
How will you increase availability to constituents?
I have previously discussed several issues at length individually with my constituents and have made the information available to the public through the news media via newspaper articles, radio and television. The county legislature is currently implementing a live video of our full sessions, which will be available on the Internet. During the past 20 years, I have missed very few requests for my presence at various functions.
Why should voters elect you?
In addition to the issues previously discussed, I will add the following:
The legislature controls the budget in Onondaga County and, at this point, we have a Triple A Credit Bond rating. Very few counties have that high a rating, which indicates the rating agencies feel we are good managers of the taxpayers dollars and means we can borrow at a lower interest rate.
Over the past 20 years, I have worked on and passed budgets, which lowered the county property taxes in several of those years.
I have served on most of the legislative committees and presently serve as chairman of the Health and Social Services Committee. I also serve on the Ways and Means Committee.
A few years ago, I worked on a program that computerized drug prescriptions in the Medicaid program. During the first month of its existence, the program revealed an individual who had several prescriptions filled at various drug stores for the same drug, which he proceeded to sell on the street. The individual was arrested and prosecuted for Medicaid fraud.
Most recently I sponsored legislation, which kept Air One from being grounded and sold. The program provides for fundraising efforts and getting the proper licenses to charge for services performed outside Onondaga County. The helicopter has been valuable to public safety and the fire departments. The helicopter will be reviewed at budget time. It will be important to keep this program in place.
Fifty percent of the county legislature will not seek re-election in November. My re-election would provide stability and retention of institutional knowledge. The legislature is the governing body of Onondaga County, separate from the judicial and executive branches. My re-election will help keep it that way.