COPAKE–Money is a major 2009 campaign issue in the Land of Rural Charm.
The political battle started early this year with revelations about the town’s anticipated budget shortfall and the subsequent Town Board vote to borrow $100,000, which split along party lines–Republicans in favor, Democrats opposed.
The town’s fiscal nightmare has resulted in finger-pointing and number-spinning during the past few weeks of politically charged wrangling over the 2010 tentative budget.
Voters weigh in November 3.
Four candidates are in the running for two seats on the Town Board. Linda Gabaccia and Bob Sacks are incumbent Democratic council members seeking re-election; Deputy Town Supervisor Joseph LaPorta is a Democrat running on the Republican line along with Harvey Weber, a Republican and chairman of the town’s Environment Committee.
One town justice seat and an assessor seat are also the subject of contested races.
Following are profiles of the candidates in alphabetical order based on information each supplied in a questionnaire.
Linda Gabaccia, 51, of Copake Falls wants to serve another four-year term on the Town Board.
She is an enrolled Democrat endorsed by her own party and Conservatives.
Born in Great Barrington, Mass., Ms. Gabaccia earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Mt. Holyoke College. She owns and operates the Depot Deli in Copake Falls and is a member of the Copake Fire Auxiliary and the women’s auxiliary of VFW Post 7935.
In a statement of issues, Ms. Gabaccia said Copake is at a “crossroads. The previous two years under the ‘leadership’ and divisiveness of Reggie Crowley have been disastrous for the town. We need a return not only to financial stability, but also toward a renewed commitment to everyone working together instead of tearing each other apart.
“Our challenges are many but they are easily solved when we build bridges and work together. After all, the focus should always be on doing the best for the citizens of Copake. We need to regain that focus, put aside our differences and acknowledge our commonalities. Therein lies our strength and our ability to succeed.”
Joseph LaPorta, 64, of Center Hill Road is no stranger to the workings of the Town Board, having served as a Democratic councilman for 8 years from 1992 to 2000. He was deputy supervisor for two of those years and is currently the deputy supervisor.
After a 10-year hiatus, he seeks another four-year term, with the endorsements of Republicans and the Independence Party.
Born in Bronxville, Mr. LaPorta graduated from Roeliff Jansen High School and attended the College of Aeronautics. He is a self-employed electrician.
His partner is Charlene Grant.
He has two grown sons–Douglass, 36, and Nicholas, 25.
Mr. LaPorta is a 25-year and life member of the Copake Fire Department; a 27-year member of the Community Rescue Squad, serving 8 years as captain; a charter member and past commander of Copake VFW Post 7955; a member and vice-commander of the Cadby-Shutts VFW Post 7522 and was president of the Columbia County Ambulance Association for 2 years.
In the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1967, Mr. LaPorta served in Vietnam.
In his statement, Mr. LaPorta said, “The town supplies services to its residents such as, fire, highway, etc. The cost of these services increases each year due to salary, fuel, insurance and other increases to the town. The only form of income the town has is taxes, which are for the most part residential. Thus, the taxes will continually rise until only the wealthy will be able to live here.
“We need to look into other areas of revenue for the town, such as light manufacturing and wind power.
“I will not make promises to the people of Copake that I know will not happen. If elected, I will work for the betterment of all the people.”
After four years on the Town Board, Bob Sacks, 58, is running for another four-year term. He is an enrolled Democrat who has the endorsement of his party and the Working Families Party.
Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Sacks was educated at Long Island University’s C.W. Post College campus.
He is the president and publisher of Precision Media Group.
Mr. Sacks and his wife, Carol, live at Taconic Shores. He has two grown children–Jon, 40, and Jen, 37, and four grandchildren.
Mr. Sacks has been a member of the Copake Economic Advisory Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. He was elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2009 as second vice chairman of the Columbia County Democratic Committee.
He is a member of the Copake Fire Company and the Taconic Shores Board of Directors. He publishes the online Copake Chronicle.
A veteran of the printing/publishing industry since 1970, Mr. Sacks started a weekly newspaper in the metro New York area and has been a publisher, editor, freelance writer, director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager, chief of operations, pressman, lecturer and developer of web site companies.
He has been a director at McCall’s, Time Inc, New York Times Magazine Group, International Paper, Ziff-Davis, CMP, and Bill Communications (VNU).
He has served as an advisory board member for the M.S. in Publishing, Dyson College Arts and Sciences of Pace University, Print/Media Magazine and on the board of directors for Publishers Production Forum.
In his statement of issues, Mr. Sacks said he has been “deeply involved” with the town for many years and has participated on or been an active member of almost every committee in town.
“In my first two years in office working in collaboration with both major political parties, I helped establish an ethics committee, a town policy manual and an environmental committee, where none existed before. I am committed to open government, which energizes the public and brings in many new volunteers. I am proud to be a member in good standing with the Copake Volunteer Fire Department.
“I am a proven fighter for fiscal responsibility helping to save Copake $100,000 this year. I have always been able to stand up and make the tough decisions that face our town in these difficult times.”
Harvey J. Weber, 73, is an enrolled Republican vying for his first four-year term on the Town Board with the endorsement of the GOP, Independence and Conservative parties.
He currently serves on the Taconic Hills Board of Education.
Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Weber graduated from Erasmus Hall High School. He earned his BA and MA degrees from Brooklyn College and took courses at Columbia University and NYU through the National Defense in Education Act, accumulating 60 credits.
Now retired, Mr. Weber was a teacher of social studies, dean of boys and coordinator of student activities.
He wrote the civil service curricula and a federal grant for maritime history Port of NY.
A teacher from 1958 to 1999, Mr. Weber received the Teacher of the Year award at St. Francis College and at Staten Island, Brooklyn and New York City schools. He received the United Federation of Teachers 50 years of service award in 2008, and the New York State United Teachers Award for community service in December 2008. He was an adjunct professor at St. John’s University and taught a general education diploma (GED) course at night from 1966 to 1999.
Mr. Weber and his wife, Stefanie, live at Taconic Shores and have been married 50 years. They have three grown sons–Stuart, 47, William, 45, and Richard, 42, and grandchildren.
Mr. Weber serves as vice chair of the Columbia County Environmental Management Committee.
As chair of the Copake Environment Committee, he wrote a grant for the study of Copake’s groundwater. He is a member of the Copake Grange and the Hudson American Legion.
He served in the U.S. Army Infantry, the National Guard U.S Army Reserve from 1958 to 1963 and was honorably discharged.
In his statement of issues, Mr. Weber listed the need for: revitalization of Copake; housing for seniors and working families, done wisely and well; a reader-friendly zoning ordinance; and a business-friendly town, “using tax abatements and a faster process for those who wish to build or renovate a possible business building.
“We need transportation, we once had a train and bus that brought people to Copake, surely that is a wise way to promote business and jobs in Copake. We must have yearly audits of the town’s finances and build a reserve to meet future needs. We will need an aquifer study to determine our future use of water for new housing. We must search out new forms of power which could be wind or solar
panels to supplement our future needs. We need to work together to rebuild and revitalize this town for our children and the children that will come after them.”
Brian J. Herman, 51, has been a town justice for four years and is in a race for another four-year term. He is an enrolled Democrat and is endorsed by Democrats and the Independence, Conservative and Working Families parties.
Born in Queens into a working class family, Mr. Herman was the first member of his family to attend college. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science, communications and computer science at Queens College and his law degree at Brooklyn Law School.
He established his own law firm in 1984 and is the principal broker at Hudson Town & Country Realty, Ltd.
Mr. Herman met his wife, Barbra, in college. They have been together for 30 years. She is a registered nurse currently working at Camphill Village. Their 12-year-old daughter, Shannon, attends school at Taconic Hills.
Justice Herman has been appointed acting judge in the Hudson City and Troy City courts on numerous occasions.
He is first vice president and a member of the Columbia County Magistrate Association, a member of the New York State Magistrate Association, New York State Bar Association, Columbia County Bar Association, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, the Copake Grange, the Hudson Interfaith Council and the Columbia County Board of Realtors.
He volunteers as legal counsel for the Copake Community Chest, the Copake Grange, the Copake Local Development Corporation and the Hudson Interfaith Counsel.
In his statement, Justice Herman said he modernized the town court and “obtained grants totaling many tens of thousands of dollars, which benefited the court, as well as the town as a whole.”
The grants he obtained paid for a new court computer system; new court security equipment, including a magnetometer; a custom-built jury box; new carpeting for the main room in the town hall; a digital recording system; and credit card acceptance equipment.
During his term, Justice Herman said credit cards were first accepted for payment of fines, fees and bail; digital recording of court proceedings, bar code scanning for court records and new efficient procedures were implemented; and fine collection procedures were improved.
“When Judge Crowley resigned from office in July 2007, I stepped up and assumed the entire caseload of our town court, and refused to accept any additional pay for doing twice the work. Throughout my term of office, I have officiated dozens of weddings for the people of Copake,” he said.
William Kane, 68, is running against incumbent Justice Herman for a four-year term on the bench.
Mr. Kane, an enrolled Republican running on the Republican line, served as town justice from 1984 to 1990. He is currently serving a four-year term as a town assessor. He was elected to that post in 2007 and is in the second year of that term. He was head assessor in 2008.
Born in Yonkers, Mr. Kane is a 1960 graduate of Roeliff Jansen High School and earned an associate’s degree in business from Columbia-Greene Community College in 1982 after taking night courses for four years.
He worked for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation as an electrical supervisor for 31 years and for Herrington Lumber for eight years.
He lives with his wife, Kathy.
Mr. Kane has four grown children–Michael, Maureen, Lynn and Mark and a stepson Jacob Piser.
He has been a member of the state Magistrate Association for 25 years, is a life member of the Hudson Elks Club 787, has been a member of the Copake Republican Club for 42 years, served on the Taconic Hills Board of Education from 1996 to 2000, is a member of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church and served on the Copake Board of Assessment Review, which he chaired for five years.
Mr. Kane served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1963.
He received the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Award, the highest sports award, for the class of 1960.
In his statement, Mr. Kane said, “If elected, I would bring the same fairness and honesty to the bench that was present during my term as judge from 1984-1990. Thank you.”
Loredana Delventhal, 29, seeks her first four-year term as assessor.
She is enrolled in the Independence Party and is running on both the Democratic and Independence lines.
She was born in Satu Mare, Romania, Europe. She is currently a college student halfway through the associate’s degree program majoring in liberal arts/math-science.
She and her husband, Thomas, live in Copake Falls.
In her statement, Mrs. Delventhal said, “I would love to become the future assessor in my community, and be able to do fair assessments and help all the people living in Copake and Copake Falls. I am an ambitious and hard worker. I love to study and to work with people. I look forward to being elected so I can start taking the assessor classes required for the position.
“I believe in teamwork and I know that all the people can make any change possible for a better environment and fair assessments. I am happy to live in my community and I am ready to get to know all the people in it. Looking forward to doing great things together. Thank you! Hope to see you all on November 3, 2009!”
David Gordineer, 41, is the incumbent assessor seeking his first full four-year term. Mr. Gordineer was elected last November to fill the one year remaining in the term of former assessor Stephen Balducci, who resigned.
Mr. Gordineer is an enrolled Independence Party member who is running on the Republican and Conservative party lines. He declined to fill out a candidate questionnaire.
To contact Diane Valden email