Oct 27, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Three Fenner residents from three different political affiliations have joined together and created a third-party ticket to challenge the major party candidates and multi-term incumbents in this year’s Fenner town elections — and they feel the atmosphere is ripe for an election upset.
Carl Snow, Cindy Gavula and Phil Rose are running as the Fenner Neighbor Party for town supervisor and two town board seats on a platform focused on banning hydrofracking in Fenner and improving citizen representation and elected official responsiveness on the town board. The three candidates collected more than 60 signatures — or more than twice the required number — necessary for them to register with the county board of elections to run as Independents in the upcoming election.
“We want to really protect our town from turning into an industrial gas site,” said Rose, who is running for a seat on the town board.
“But that’s not our only concern,” said Gavula, also running for town board. “Our other concern is representation: I don’t feel like our [current] board is as responsive as I would like. I think they mean well but they have been undemonstrative.”
“People want a choice,” said Snow, who is running for town supervisor. “I think it’s doable [that we can win].”
Snow, Gavula and Rose are all political newcomers who have never before run for political office. Snow is an independent who worked as an inspector for the Chrysler Corporation for more than 30 years and also served 12 years in the Navy; Gavula is a Republican who served as a pediatrician in the Navy for three years, retired to raise a family and now works part-time and volunteers at numerous community organizations; Rose is a Democrat who works in the Onondaga County Prevention Network where he specializes in the prevention of underage drinking. They have lived in Fenner for 26, 22 and 10 years, respectively.
The three of them found themselves brought together nearly one year ago in their efforts to ban the controversial practice of drilling for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing in Fenner.
Fenner currently has no legislation on the books specifically addressing natural gas drilling. The town board has taken the position that the current statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, as well as existing town zoning laws, are sufficient to regulate the issue while also allowing the municipality room to address the issue in the future as necessary.
Snow, Gavula and Rose, along with numerous other town residents have been pushing the board for the past nine months to officially approve a moratorium on gas drilling in Fenner and ultimately pass a local law banning the practice outright. At the June 12 Fenner Town Board meeting, about 50 people presented a petition containing approximately 650 signatures of Fenner residents calling for the board to amend the town zoning laws to prevent and prohibit gas exploration or extraction in the town. They have also requested that town attorney Jim Stokes provide them, in writing, an explanation of the town’s policy concerning gas drilling and how current zoning laws will prevent such drilling as the town board maintains. As of the board’s August meeting, that request had not been fulfilled.
“This is a critical issue of home rule,” said Rose. “Now the courts support that towns can ban drilling. We’ve been appealing to the town board for a year to ban it. They say we’re fine; we say we need a stronger policy in place that will protect us.”
Rose admits that the issue of gas drilling is not only about the town’s environmental health and beauty, but that it is also a personal one for him — his home on Mutton Hill Road is across the street from 600 acres of land already leased to gas drilling companies. “This is what I will have to see and smell every day” if drilling comes to Fenner, he said.
The Fenner Neighbors group also maintains that property values will decrease significantly in the wake of gas drilling in the town, the lower values and presence of drill sites will make it impossible for anyone who wants to sell their homes and get out of the drilling area, methane will infiltrate the town’s groundwater and the rural, beautiful landscape of Fenner will be forever destroyed.
“I don’t think most of us live out here … to live in an industrial zone,” Gavula said.
Snow said that if he, Gavula and Rose get elected to the town board in November — whether individually or all together — the first action they will take is to seek a gas drilling moratorium in the town and then move forward from there to institute a ban. “It seems like the most effective solution in the end,” he said.
Rose said the Fenner has already proven itself a leader in alternative energy with the creation of the Fenner Wind Farm, and to allow gas drilling would undermine that tradition. “If anything we should probe other methods of alternative energy,” he said.
In addition to their fight against hydrofracking, the three candidates said they will fight to increase resident participation in town government and seek to give the people more of a voice on local issues, such as by holding regular town forums to discuss key issues.
“There’s no dialogue on key issues in this town right now,” he said. “Now the town board just decides. We definitely want to put democracy in action here.”
The candidates also agree that if elected they will actively promote local businesses and “Buy Local” campaigns to help Fenner be a “viable and vibrant” community.
So far, Fenner Republicans have chosen their candidates for town board but the town Democrats have not.
On the Republican side, current town Councilor David Jones is running for supervisor, incumbent Councilor Hannah Strack is seeking reelection to the board and William Cody is running for Jones’ seat. Current Town Supervisor Russ Carey, a Republican, has chosen to retire at the end of his current term.
Democrats have until Sept. 17 to hold a party caucus and select candidates for the November ballot. Current Councilor Henry Stoker, a Democrat, has not publicly indicated whether he will run for reelection.
In an upcoming issue, the Cazenovia Republican will print candidate profiles and comments from the Republican and Democrat candidates for Fenner town board and supervisor.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.