Please share a little of your background: where are you from, how long have you lived in the area, if not from here originally, what brought you here to live?
I was born and raised mostly overseas; my father was in the CIA and we lived all over the world. I’m an SU graduate, and met my wife Deb there. We were married in Skaneateles in 1987, and just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary. We have three grown children; Erin is an ER nurse, Molly is in tech sales, and Cal just graduated from Syracuse where he played lacrosse.
Deb grew up here, and we moved back to the area about five years ago, looking for peace and quiet and a better quality of life. I work for myself, and we can live anywhere in the country. We chose to live here.
2. What inspired you to run or seek reelection?
Deep frustration and maybe even some anger. We have everything we need to have a successful, thriving community here: industrious, hard working people; a central location and low cost of living; great colleges and universities, inexpensive commercial electricity and lots of water; plenty of buildings and land for business expansion. Yet our kids are leaving because they can’t find good-paying jobs. We’re falling further and further behind Rochester, Buffalo, Downstate and Albany because our Legislature and County Executive are failing us.
As a successful small businessman, I was shocked by the County Legislature’s laziness. Meetings are often cancelled for no apparent reason. When they do take place, they are often very brief and don’t accomplish anything. Legislators do a lot less work than they did even a decade ago – and get paid a lot more. My opponent’s attendance record is even more appalling. Since joining the County Legislature six years ago, Mike Plochocki has missed or been late to more than half of the meetings of the Economic Development Committee. Mr Plochocki also missed two meetings of the Environmental Committee this summer, just before the toxic algal bloom in Skaneateles Lake – and he’s the Committee Chair.
This is completely unacceptable.
What is your professional background and do you think that experience is beneficial to your service to the county and the communities in the district?
I’ve worked in healthcare for 33 years, most of that as an independent consultant. I’ve helped build companies, design new products, enter new markets, devise new business processes, create new jobs. I’ve worked to help turn around struggling businesses that lost their way, had poor leadership, no discipline or focus. Given where Onondaga County is economically, my experience and expertise is particularly relevant. And, with Medicaid consuming $108 million in County property taxes, my industry knowledge and specific experience serving on the Board of a major Medicaid healthplan will be invaluable as we seek to improve the quality of care for our most vulnerable neighbors.
With a lot of hard work and a bit of good fortune I’ve built a successful small business. As a result, I’ve decided to donate my entire Legislator’s salary to non-profits in our district. Every pay check will be donated to Volunteer Fire Departments, Student and educational groups including marching bands, acting clubs, and athletic teams, Lake Associations, Conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Park Associations, Food banks, and the like.
4. What is your background in terms of elected office? Have you served in other capacities, have you held any elected positions? How long have you or did you serve and how has that experience helped you?
Decades ago I served for 8 years on the Board of Tax Assessment Appeals in Madison CT. I took this on as our family believes strongly in public service. I’m not sure there’s a more difficult position; dealing with people frustrated by property taxes, an arcane taxation system, and a complex appeals process can be trying indeed. We adopted changes in our process, developed educational outreach programs to help educate taxpayers on basics of property tax assessment, and developed a strong working relationship with the Assessor and Town Clerk to speed up hearings and shorten response times. I also served as Chairman of the Shellfish Commission. This entailed ensuring the shellfish beds were safe for harvesting by monitoring water quality, conducting testing, and managing public education and outreach about water quality issues. We worked closely with the Health Department to identify sources of pollution and shut those sources down.
From your perspective, what do you see as a few of the most important issues currently facing the communities in the district?
Most critically, protecting our Lakes. There is no long-term plan to protect Otisco and Skaneateles Lakes. Our Lakes are affected by residential construction, agriculture, road construction and maintenance, recreational use and water use. They are critical assets, used by thousands every year, and yet there is no comprehensive plan, and certainly no oversight by the County Legislature.
Economic development in Onondaga County is completely misguided. Over the last fifteen years the governmental aid and subsidies have totaled $742 million dollars, most of that huge sum going to retail businesses. Yet nationally we have the lowest economic opportunity among the top 100 metro areas, median family income has fallen, and unemployment is higher than most other places in New York State.
Reliable internet is unavailable and/or far too expensive for far too many residents of Skaneateles, Otisco, Spafford, and Marcellus. Many farmers try to get by with dial-up connections and satellite hookups. Others rely on cell phone hotspots to run their businesses, market their products and services, do their remote jobs, and for their kids to do their homework.
6. What are some things you would do to address these issues?
Lake protection – Call for development of a long-term, comprehensive plan to protect our Lakes that addresses waterway assessment and improvement where warranted, road construction and traffic, water quality testing, an alert system for Lake users, more thorough protection from invasive species, financial assistance for farmers instituting measures to protect waterways, and residential construction.
Economic growth – Push to combine the Syracuse and Onondaga County Industrial Development Authorities, and give preferential treatment to local businesses using local workers paying good wages. Ensure much stronger oversight of the IDA by the County Legislature. Require subsidy-receiving businesses maintain jobs at those wages for defined time periods. Pass legislation to fund, staff and train a business licensing assistance office, tasked with walking businesspeople thru the permitting and licensing process. Require the office to identify and help streamline the permitting process. Begin developing strong relationships with Syracuse University, Lemoyne University, and ESF focusing on identifying potential commercialization of research and development. Personally, I’d work and attempt to get the IDA to seek tenants for empty spaces, including computer server companies looking for cheap electricity, low cost of living, cold temperature, and low risk of natural disasters.
Internet – We must work with New York State and local governments to solve the broadband problem in western Onondaga County. This is holding back our kids, restricting growth, and beginning to harm agriculture. It is long past time to make sure everyone of us has access to reliable internet. There are many options, available funds, and far too little attention from the County Legislature on this critical area. I’d push for County action to leverage it’s buying power to spread reliable internet into underserved areas in western Onondaga County.
7. Where would you like to see things go in the next few years for the communities you would represent? Just for example, growth, more businesses, more homes being built, etc.?
Most importantly, preserve what we have, specifically the Lakes, farms, parks and woodlands. We live in a beautiful and rich area, and can no longer take it for granted. It’s long past time to make sure our kids and grandkids continue to see what we get to see and swim in waters as pure as we do.
Our Legislature must return to past days when it was a strong, independent body leading the effort to make life better for everyone in Onondaga County. Instead of taking orders from the County Executive, the Legislature should assume a leadership role
We do not need more home construction, we need more business growth to help spread the tax base wider and deeper. This will lower families’ taxes and shield us from declining sales tax revenues. We need to see more small businesses start and succeed, and more growth from our existing businesses. Several commercial enterprises should come from our universities, driven by the intellectual capital resident in our students and teachers.
8. What are somethings you would do to encourage the goals you would like to see come to pass in the next few years?
Work hard every day for the citizens of western Onondaga County. As Legislator, I will show up to meetings on time and prepared. As an independent Legislator, I owe nothing to any political party or to the County Executive. This independence is key to fixing our problems, we need Legislators who will bluntly speak truth to power.
I will work with anyone and everyone, regardless of political party or affiliation, to protect our Lakes and build our economy. No one – including me – has all the answers, so listening and talking things thru is key to accomplishing our goals.
9. From your perspective, how do you see the relationship between the communities in the district and the county and vice versa? What would you to work to strengthen the relationship between these entities? What is/will be your approach as a liaison between the district and the county?
The first and most important thing is to actually show up to meetings, talk with people, and return your calls. I will.
I will be a visible and outspoken advocate for our Towns in the County Legislature, ensuring you are well and truly represented. And, I will attend meetings in your town or village, listening hard to make sure I understand what’s important, what problems you face, and what help you need. We may not always agree, but I will always be open to hearing your views and discussing any differences.
10. What else should voters know about you and consider when voting?
It’s time western Onondaga County had a Legislator shows up to work every day, returns your calls and attends your meetings.