NISKAYUNA — Speeding cars, town-offered programs and competition for the town’s cable provider were among topics discussed Oct. 15 when five candidates for Niskayuna Town Board met the public during a forum sponsored by the Schenectady County League of Women Voters.
The town residents are competing for two seats on the board.
The candidates are Democrat incumbent Bill McPartlon; Jerome Chao, Republican; Thomas Hodgkins, Green Party; Rosemarie Perez Jaquith, Democrat; and Anthony Simone, Republican.
Jaquith is a member of the Niskayuna Central School District Board of Education.
Simone unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Town Board in 2017.
McPartlon is hoping to retain his seat. The other seat open is the one vacated by Councilwoman Lisa Weber, as she challenges incumbent Yasmine Syed for the position of town supervisor.
Both Town Board terms are four years.
Candidates were asked four questions in a segment that lasted 38 minutes. The first: Will cable provider Spectrum have competition in Niskayuna? Town officials discussed cable providers at a separate meeting.
Answers provided are listed in the order they were presented by candidates.
“In business, competition is good, competition helps decrease prices,” said Chao, a plastic surgeon and political newcomer. “But if it’s going to directly affect Niskayuna’s bottom line, it’s something I’m going to have to think about and also talk to residents of Niskayuna about.”
Hodgkins, an economist, teacher and carpenter, said competition is essential for efficient markets. “We need to have as many competitors in the marketplace for consumer services as possible,” he said.
Jaquith, an attorney, said she has spoken to many town residents, and the provider of cable services is an important issue to them.
“They do want a choice,” she said. “The town currently has a contract with Spectrum that’s expiring and they want Fios to come in. There’s an opportunity for not just Verizon but anything to come in an offer services.”
McPartlon said people want choices for their internet devices, televisions, phones.
“This board supports that choices are important,” he said. “Anything we can do to further that as a board, we have tried to do.”
McPartlon also said Verizon has so far chosen not to come to Niskayuna.
Added Simone, a longtime employee of the Golub Corp., “Competition is definitely needed to keep the price down. I think many residents, including myself, are very upset with pricing going up on Spectrum.”
Asked what new services could be offered to town residents, candidates offered a variety of answers.
Hodgkins wants to see more town residents involved in government.
“Let the people decide what programs they want,” he said.
Jaquith said seniors value programs already in place. McPartlon followed up on a discussion made during the supervisors’ segment, and said a new recreation center is needed for young people and seniors.
Simone would like to see more transportation for housebound seniors. Chao also liked the idea.
Another question was about ideas. What new things would the candidates bring to the Town Board?
McPartlon repeated his support for a new recreation center.
“Will that happen in my tenure here? I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s something that has to be started now.”
Simone said he likes to think outside the box, and would like to reach out to town residents who have enjoyed financial success — millionaires.
“I think we bring them back and try to get them to sponsor some of our areas, like a park, like a school field, like a gymnasium and see if we can bring some money into the town,” he said.
Chao likes the fact that Town Board and Zoning Board meetings are live-streamed on the town’s YouTube channel. He would like to see committee meetings receive the same treatment — sessions discussing finance and community programs often are held in other parts of Town Hall — and would be willing to pay for the equipment.
“You’ll ask me, ‘Where’s that money going to come from?’ ” Chao said. “Use my [Town Board member] salary. If you vote for me, my salary every year will go to charity or back to this town.”
Hodgkins wants to involve people in the governing process and use their ideas. Jaquith wants to get tougher on speeders.
“I’ve heard it on Dean Street. I’ve heard it on Rosendale,” she said, of complaints received about fast motor vehicles.
Candidates also answered how they would keep taxes down for town residents living on fixed incomes.
“My priorities are your priorities,” Jaquith said. “Those priorities include keeping our taxes as low as possible and not increasing taxes.” Jaquith also favors more affordable housing for seniors.
McPartlon said he has been on a board that has cut taxes in the past.
“We do have a need for housing stock for empty nesters, people who may want to downsize,” he said. “That’s something we have talked about at the planning level.”
Simone is concerned about helping seniors properly maintain their homes.
Chao favors a larger commercial tax base to decrease taxes. He mentioned Shop Rite Square. “Why isn’t it filled?” he asked. “Why aren’t we encouraging more businesses to come here?”
Hodgkins would hope town residents would get the chance to vote on the budget.
During closing statements, Simone said, “Niskayuna needs to have a balance on the Town Board, to build a stronger community. I want to represent the town to keep Niskyuna going forward. I want to work on efficiencies.”
Chao said if residents are happy with the way things are going, they do not have to vote for him. “But if you would like to see some change, if you would like to see something different, if you’d like to see more transparency and you would like to know what’s going on,” he said. “In the last year, I heard more in this room about the confidential secretary’s proposed salary versus the wastewater plan project. … If you want some change, consider voting for me and the other members of the team.”
Hodgkins drew some laughter when he said he did not want to participate in longstanding political traditions such as kissing babies, petting dogs or visiting birthday parties.
“But I do want to get you involved with the government,” he said. “I want to create structures that get you involved, that give you power, that give you voice.”
Jaquith said for her, any meaningful life includes public service.
“I respect the free speech rights for all,” she said, “but I’m not interested in the attack politics that seem to be so prevalent nationally and sometimes even here. It’s not about disruption or self-importance. … It’s about who will listen and be your voice. I will be that voice for you.”
McPartlon said he has cut taxes, invested in town infrastructure and improved parks during his time on the board. “All things I think residents of this town want,” he said. “Protecting and keeping Niskayuna a great place to live and raise a family is very important to me, and that’s why I’m running for re-election. … I ask for your support in your vote for myself and the candidates on the Democratic line.”
Correction 1 p.m. 10/29/19: An earlier online version of this story and the print version inadvertently omitted the word “not” from Rosemarie Perez Jaquith’s quote in the second-to-last paragraph. The word is now included.