Angry voters turn to ballot

 

New party emerges in Chatham village election

CHATHAM – There’s a political uprising underway in the Village of Chatham, with a new party running two candidates in the March elections. And last weekend the same candidates secured the Democratic line on the village ballot with no opposition.

Tom Curran will run for mayor on the Democratic line and presumably on an independent Chatham United party line, unless the petitions for that line are successfully challenged. He will be joined by Joanne DelRossi, who will run for one of the two open seats on the Village Board.

The incumbent mayor, Paul Boehme, said this week that he would seek another term, setting up the first contest for the leadership of the village in several years.

Mr. Curran and Ms. DelRossi received the unanimous backing of village Democrats at a party caucus Sunday, January 23. Ernest Reis, who chaired the caucus, said that about 50 Democrats attended, but that only about half of them were required to vote because no one challenged the nominees.

Mayor Boehme, who has been questioned and criticized at board meetings since the village budget preparation last spring, said he was aware of the caucus but chose not to attend.

Chatham United supporters must collect 50 signatures each for the two candidates by early February for Mr. Curran and Ms. DelRossi to be on the March 15 village election ballot. The mayor and the seats of two trustees, Patrick Wemitt and Lael Locke, are up for election. Ms. Locke is collecting signatures to seek another term. Mr. Wemitt has not made a public announcement of whether he intends to run again.

Mr. Curran and Ms. DelRossi sat down with the Columbia Paper January 13 along with David O’Connor, who is serving as communications officer for Chatham United. Mr. O’Connor said the group formed slowly after the budget process last spring left many village residents frustrated about the board’s attempt to pass at double-digit tax increase. “This community deserves better,” he said. He spoke about what he described as the lack of transparency in the government and the negative reaction from village officials toward community members who asked questions about the budget.

Ms. DelRossi said that along with transparency and fiscal responsibility, part of the group’s platform is supporting the “beautification of the village to attract businesses and keep our citizens happy.”

Mr. Curran added that attracting new businesses to the village is important. “It’s jobs that are going to keep us afloat,” he said.

Mr. Curran has lived in the village for 15 years. He says he moved here because he fell in love with his house and office on the corner of River and Center Streets. He spearheaded two village government education forums at the Tracy Memorial that brought out around 50 residents and homeowners to hear experts talked about comprehensive plans and village governance. He has two children who have graduated from Chatham High School and third currently attending. Mr. Curran is self-employed.

Ms. DelRossi has moved to Chatham twice: once in 1987 and again in 1999. She lived in Spencertown in the early ’90s and now owns a house near the town line on Kinderhook Street. Her two sons are graduates of Chatham High School. She is the Executive Secretary for COARC and part of the Executive Team, which puts together meeting agendas and budgets for the agency. Ms. DelRossi chaired the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and was part of the committee that created the village’s comprehensive plan along with Mr. Curran. She was also on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Columbia County.

Ms. DelRossi said that she and Mr. Curran have been to almost every Village Board meeting since last spring. “We felt powerless,” she said after the budget process last year. Ms. DelRossi said she was shocked that the board proposed a village budget for 2010-11 that had no major cuts in departments. At the time, she asked the mayor why he didn’t meet with the heads of the departments to see where they could save money. The board did end up reducing the tax increase in the final budget.

Ms. DelRossi also talked about sharing services with the two towns that the village is part of: Chatham and Ghent. She and Mr. Curran were part of letter written to the board about the village assessor being a duplication of services. “I pay school taxes based on my town assessments. Why can’t I pay my village taxes based on it?” she said.

At village meetings the mayor and some trustees have defended the practice of employing a village assessor, saying it produced better results for village taxpayers.

Mr. Curran and Ms. DelRossi stressed having more community input in village governance is an important part of their platform. They talked about having one regular village meeting a month and conducting a workshop meeting as well. They also talked about updating the website. Mr. Curran said that currently the only way to get information about village meetings is to ask at the clerk’s office. He said that when he has asked about the budget, Mayor Paul Boehme has been defensive. “It’s my money I’m asking about,” said Mr. Curran.

After the interview Mr. Curran and Ms. DelRossi moved on to the regular board meeting to hear the current board discuss finding the funding for a $2 million upgrade to the sewer system, the hours put in by Department of Public Works employees to remove snow and the mayor’s progress in looking into how other villages around the state obtain their assessments.

There will be a registration day for those residents wishing to vote in the March 15 village elections at the Tracy Memorial March 5. Prospective voters may also find registration information at the Columbia County Board of Elections website, www.columbiacountyny.com.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

 

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