I finally had the opportunity to watch the candidate's forum held last week at the Taylor Theatre. In case you missed it, candidates from the County Legislature and the City of Lockport Mayor's race squared off for a one hour and fifteen minute question and answer period.
Candidates included Gerry Farnham and Roger Chenez from the 7th Legislative District, Harry Apolito and Tony Nemi from the 15th District, Keith McNall and Beverly McDonough from the 16th, Rick Updegrove from the 17th District, and Mike Tucker and Mile Pillot for the Lockport seat.
Before we analyze the performance of the candidates, I'd like to encourage the organizers of the forum to make a change for next year. It seemed that the hosts were so intent on keeping answers from candidates to exactly one minute that this detracted from the forum. Some of the questions lasted more than 60 seconds. Most of the questions cannot be answered in a minute. Next year, allocate 90 or 120 seconds for the answer, if a candidate answers in a shorter period, fine. But what was supposed to be a two hour forum only lasted 75 minutes due to this obsession with keeping answers to 60 seconds.
In the 7th District, Chenez seemed to hold his own against Farnham. Although Chenez did not have the in-depth knowledge of county operations that Farnham has, Chenez didn't do anything to hurt himself. Farnham did give what I believe to be one of the two worst answers of the evening. When asked if the Leg should be reduced from the current 19, he said no. Now, I give him credit for his honesty and justification, but it doesn't fly. At a time when every candidate is touting smaller government, and the county itself is downsizing (Mt. View), it is imperative that the county not take a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do attitude. Unfortunately for Farnham, that is exactly how it came across.
In the 15th, Tony Nemi had a much more extensive knowledge of county issues than I'd have expected. He obviously has been doing his homework. Apolito, on the other hand, did not seem to have the knowledge of county issues one would expect from a veteran legislator. In his opening statement, he rambled on about his son who is a dentist. Honestly, who cares? You've been in there, what, six years and that's what you have to talk about? How about some accomplishments, or a plan for the future? A poor showing by Mr. Apolito.
In the 16th, McNall handled himself well with the thoughtful, deliberate speaking style that has become his trademark. McDonough gave what I (as alluded to earlier) thought was the other worst answer of the night. When asked how she would address the issue of Niagara County being the second highest taxed county in the country, McDonough responded that maybe the county wouldn't have been ranked so poorly if the IDA hadn't given AES the PILOT that they received. Unfortunately for McDonough, my fifth grader knows that the implications of the PILOT won't take effect until the 2008 budget year. So how the PILOT determines our tax rankings is beyond me, and a monstrous reach for McDonough. It simply reinforced the fact that she did not have a solution.
In the 17th, candidate Charles Dahlquist chose not to particpate. He also chose not to participate in the Union Sun & Journal's candidate's profile. I understand that he also did not respond to the League of Women Voters candidate questionnaire. Apparently, he has no platform, no answers and no solutions. Updegrove gave well-informed, concise answers.
The portion of the forum with the mayoral candidates was amazingly one-sided. Tucker was knowledgable and insightful. Pillot was simply way out of his league.