A lifelong Central New Yorker, Al Stirpe was born and raised in Clyde, where his family owned and operated Albert’s Restaurant for more than 25 years. Stirpe graduated from high school and attended The University of Notre Dame, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. After college, Stirpe worked as a financial analyst for General Electric in Syracuse and eventually spun-off GE’s Electronic Camera Operation to form CID Technologies. He was the company’s CFO and fostered innovation in the company’s information systems and customer support. In 1994, CIDTEC was sold to Thermo Electron, a Fortune 500 company. From there, Stirpe formed Qube Software Inc.
From 2006 to 2010, Stirpe served as the assemblyman for the 121st Assembly District. While in the assembly, he was a strong advocate for economic development in Central New York, early intervention programs for children with developmental issues, universal pre-k, higher education and environmental issues, in particular, farmland preservation. He also headed up the annual LifeSavers Blood Drive in conjunction with the Red Cross. It has come to be one of the biggest one day drives in Central New York, regularly netting over 125 units of blood during the middle of summer, the most difficult time of the year for blood donations. Stirpe continued that venture even after leaving the assembly.
During 2011 Stirpe served as the Executive Director of Synapse Sustainability Trust, an environmental not-for-profit. During this period Synapse deployed 68 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations throughout Central New York. Through its Restoration Tree Trust, Synapse provided over 4,000 native trees for reforestation projects at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and Trees for Tributaries (from NYC to Troy along tributaries to the Hudson River). In addition, Synapse provided 420 special RPM technology trees for SUNY ESF’s Memorial Grove at Heiberg Forest. In October of 2011, Stirpe received the first ever SUNY Empire State College Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award.
Stirpe has resided in the 127th Assembly District for more than 31 years. He lives in North Syracuse with his wife, Chele and their daughter, Alexandra. Al’s step-son Chris – after serving four years on active duty in the Navy – has just completed his Masters in Economics from The University of Buffalo and begun work at KS&R. His step-daughter Jesseca lives in an ARC of Onondaga group home for the disabled in Syracuse.
In addition to helping to care for Jesseca, Al has served on the Board of Directors of Familycapped (now Advocates Inc.), a non-profit organization comprised of parents of children with disabilities; the organization was formed to expand programs for handicapped children in Central New York. Al and Chele were directly involved in helping to raise over $1,000,000 to build Casey’s Place, a respite home for families caring for disabled children. He also serves on the Boards of Friends of North Syracuse Early Education, Onondaga Citizens League, NY State Fair Advisory Board and formerly served on the board at CNY Bounty (the Farmer’s Market to Your Door).
What are the major issues facing the 127th district?
Jobs. It is all about making sure we have the jobs we need to keep our community and economy going strong. I’ve built my career on creating jobs in the private sector right here in Central New York and when I was in the assembly, I was able to use that experience to help businesses start up and grow. In addition, I believe we have to make sure as the economy improves and revenues increase, we direct more funding toward education, pre-K through 12, but especially early education for special ed. Investments in early education pay huge dividends in subsequent years. Early education for special ed saves tens of millions of dollars by correcting issues early and keeping kids out of special education tracts and finally, fixing a broken workers’ compensation system that works for neither employers nor workers.
You already served two terms in the assembly, and you were voted out. What makes you think you deserve another shot?
In 2010, over 22,000 fewer voters cast their ballot in the 121st Assembly District than in 2008. The individual I beat in 2008 by 13,000 votes received more votes than Don Miller in 2010. I do not view 2010 vote as referendum on the job I did. I think that many of those who did not come out in 2010 will come out in 2012 and the results will be different. During the most difficult period of our state’s history I was still able to provide much needed resources to help businesses, schools, seniors and local nonprofits achieve their goals and maintain their quality service. Central New York deserves someone who will work with Governor Cuomo to keep our area going in the right direction. My opponent has only stood in the way of much of what the governor is doing. I think to create jobs and cut middle-class taxes, we need someone who will work with the Governor and that’s what I plan to do.
The biggest problem municipalities and schools seem to face is unfunded mandates. How can we stem that tide?
One big way we can help is for the state to take over a bigger percentage of all Medicaid costs, not just the growth in Medicaid. New York is one of only a handful of states that requires local taxpayers to pick up the state’s share of costs. That’s wrong. I believe the implementation of the Health Care Reform Act will help New York move in this direction. New York already has in place many of the requirements in the HCRA and the extra money from the federal government we receive towards the implementation can be used by the state to pick up a bigger share of Medicaid. And we need more shared services between local governments; for example, consolidating back office resources between school district and municipalities. I think another way to reduce costs would be to have regional health care plans for school districts. It would create bigger groups with more bargaining power and lower costs. That would be a start. I look forward to working with the governor to get the job done. Going forward it is important that we are mindful not to impose any new mandates without adequate funding.
New York is notorious for its high taxes pushing businesses out of the state. How will you lower taxes?
My goal is to reduce regulatory red tape that pushes businesses out of this state and connect small business with incentive programs to encourage them to grow. I think the biggest problem facing businesses in New York is the complexity of regulations. Most businesses would welcome simplification as well as assistance in complying with these regulations (as opposed to the prosecutorial approached used by state agencies). The most burdensome taxes are property taxes — even on businesses. I believe that is what we need to focus on when we talk about reducing taxes. If we do achieve real mandate relief for both local governments and school districts that should lower property taxes on our businesses. I would also work with the governor and my colleagues in government to reduce New York’s high business cost drivers by completing the reforms to workers’ compensation and streamlining the process to achieve savings in workers’ compensation expenses and allowing us to reform the Scaffold Laws.
You have extensive support from numerous unions throughout the district. How can your other constituents be sure that you aren’t beholden to those interests?
I’m proud to have the support of working people across Central New York. I’m not beholden to anyone but the residents of the 127th Assembly District. I want to go to office to help the hard working people of Central New York, whether they are in a union or not. I plan on going to the assembly to support the middle-class because for too long, we’ve had a system that benefits only the rich or politically connected. I also, have support from many businesses — something that is often overlooked. My approach has always been to maintain a balance when it comes to issues between labor and businesses.
Your opponent has criticized you for getting rid of the STAR program. Can you explain that?
I didn’t vote against the STAR Program and no one got rid of STAR! This is an instance of my opponent twisting the facts to try and distort my record. In 2009, the state was facing an $18 billion budget deficit (the largest in history) and spending had to be cut in order to balance the budget. After years of being criticized by the media and good government groups for using the STAR rebate check as an election year give away (because the checks were sent out the second half of October) we eliminated the rebate checks. The STAR Program remained intact. Further, we figured that the $650 refund checks that the President was sending to each head of household, plus the $250 that seniors got in addition, would make up for the elimination of the small rebate checks. The fact is with STAR too many downstate millionaires were getting a huge tax cut. I want tax cuts for seniors on fixed incomes and the middle class, not downstate millionaires.
You’ve said that you think the best way to move forward in Albany is to work together. Do you really think that’s possible? Can you explain how you would do that and how you did it during your first terms?
Working together is the key to getting anything done in Albany. We’ve already seen how Governor Cuomo is getting the job done by working with both Democrats and Republicans. Sadly, my opponent is not one of the people who is willing to work with the governor. During my time in office I had to do that many times in order to get things done for Central New York — I had to work with Republican Senator John DeFrancisco in order to bring back vital resources and important legislation to our district. Also, I was one of the few members of the legislature who would allow any member of any party to sign onto my bills. I have voted with the minority many times (especially in committee votes), and occasionally on hostile amendments (my first vote in the assembly was one). Anyone can have a good idea. You need to pay attention, especially in committee meetings, to hear ideas that merit action.
As a Democrat in the Democratic Assembly, how can your constituents be sure that you’ll vote with them and not just vote the party line?
I have the best interest of Central New York in mind. Like I said, my main priority is creating jobs and opportunities for our families — and that is what I plan on doing. I will work with the governor and I will support common sense measures that will bring jobs to our community and protect the ones we have. The reality is the majority has enough votes to pass anything. They don’t need my vote.
What makes you the best candidate for this position?
I feel like this election gives voters a clear choice. I want to work with the governor because he’s made a lot of positive reforms; my opponent is opposed to the Cuomo plan. I support increasing the minimum wage; my opponent is against raising the minimum wage. I support economic development projects to grow jobs here; my opponent is against economic development funding. I support real campaign finance reform; my opponent wants contribution limits set by the amount of income tax you pay. Also, I have a much better relationships with both parties in both houses which will enable me to accomplish more for Central New York. Further I am more active in our community — I participate in several different community organization and activities and it is through this participation that I get a better understanding of our community, what we need and what makes it work.
I humbly ask for the voter’s support. And if anyone has any questions, please feel free to call me at 458-0095 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.