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Voters' guide 2002 

Welcome to City's 2002 voters' guide. In this issue, we meet most of the candidates for seats representing Rochester and its surrounding suburbs in the New York State Senate and Assembly. Next week, we'll see what Congressional candidates vying to represent parts of Monroe County have to say for themselves, and make more fun of the candidates for governor.

            We've asked all the state candidates the same questions. In most cases, their answers have been condensed down to their essence (you know how these people tend to prattle on and on). Particularly illuminating quotes are also included, where available. For an example, see Assembly District 134 candidate (and long-time Monroe County Legislator) Fred Amato's take on the issue of gay rights.

            We hope you'll find this guide useful as you prepare to go to the polls November 5. And as you consider the candidates' positions and ideas, keep in mind one other attribute their inclusion in this guide represents: a willingness to share their thoughts with the public.

            Several candidates blew off the opportunity to present their views to you in this guide. Joe Errigo, the incumbent Republican representing Henrietta, Mendon, and Pittsford in the Assembly, did not return calls requesting an interview. Ditto Dean Fero and Solomon Harris, Republican Assembly candidates vying to represent the 132nd and 133rd districts, respectively.

            It's possible that these two long-shot challengers to veteran Democratic lawmakers (Joe Morelle and David Gantt, respectively) are not serious candidates, but are merely holding the party line in this election. When we tried, unsuccessfully, to track down Conservative Party Gantt-challenger Mark McCabe, a source suggested his candidacy was more symbolic than substantive.

            We assume Gantt himself actually intends to serve another term, but we also assumed he'd show up for the interview his secretary scheduled for him. You know what happens when you assume things...

            And speaking of pack animals, Bill Reilich --- a prominent Republican county legislator challenging his associate, Amato, for the District 134 Assembly seat --- also failed to return phone calls requesting an interview for this guide.

            Why politicians like Errigo, Gantt, and Reilich think taking a half hour to share their views with the people who pay them is not worth their time is a good question. Why we should vote for them, given their apparent indifference to us, is another.



State Senate District 56 (Greece, Brighton, Parma, Charlotte, Rochester)

Harry Bronson (Democrat)

Personal info: 43; lives in Rochester, grew up in Windsor, N.Y.; bachelor's in public justice (SUNY Oswego), law degree (SUNY Buffalo); first-time candidate; executive director, Cephas Attica (non-profit dealing with criminal justice issues)

Abortion: pro-choice, advocates public funding of women's reproductive services

Gay rights/marriage: supports both

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes; unlike Pataki, favors early release for felons arrested under the laws

How can urban school districts get more state aid: provide "equitable funding based on need" to reduce class size, hire more certified teachers, buy supplies, maintain buildings

What pending capital projects do you support: undecided on a performing arts center, a juvenile justice center, and a soccer stadium pending a comprehensive, strategic plan for all such projects

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: require those who transport guns to keep a detailed manifest; require licenses for all sellers at gun shows

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: the state should fund state legislation or analyze counties' ability to pay for or prioritize mandated services

How would you improve Rochester's economy: more government-business partnerships, more accountability for state-funded development initiatives, market the area outside the state

What should the minimum wage be: "a livable wage;" no exact dollar amount, but more than the current minimum

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "We may have to," would first look at ways to reduce spending and spending priorities

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: public radio news, classical music




Joe Robach (Republican, Conservative, Independent)

Personal info: 44; lives in Greece; grew up in Charlotte; master's in public administration (SUNY Brockport), bachelor's in political science (SUNY Brockport); state assemblyman since 1991; adjunct public policy professor at RIT

Abortion: only in cases of rape, incest, or the physical well-being of the mother

Gay rights/marriage: supports anti-bias measures, is "reluctant to support measures that have government condoning or condemning one's private sexual practices"

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes; more treatment, drug courts, "separate drug dealers and habitual criminals from first-time offenders"

How can urban school districts get more state aid: simplify the state funding formula based on need

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center, a juvenile justice center, a soccer stadium downtown

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: increase penalties for gun-related crime, crack down on illegal guns, community awareness

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: "We have to be more sensitive to how we push those things down."

How would you improve Rochester's economy: rehab abandoned industrial buildings with tax breaks, attract more residential development downtown

What should the minimum wage be: has supported increases, not sure of dollar amount

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "It's going to be a challenging year," depends on size of deficit

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: "It can range from a Weezer tape to books on tape --- Tolkien, it could be almost anything."


State Assembly District 130 (Henrietta, Mendon, Pittsford)

Christine Saltzberg (Democrat)

Personal info: 52; lives in Pittsford; grew up in Texas; bachelor's in nursing (Alfred University), master's in nursing (UR), PhD in education (Cornell); first-time candidate; consultant on education and public policy, staff nurse at a terminal care home

Abortion: "I support men's and women's access to the full range of reproductive services."

Gay rights/marriage: supports anti-discrimination measures; regarding gay marriage, "I don't know that that's something that's going to pass in New York State any time soon."

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: they need to be "revisited" and changed where appropriate; no specifics at this point

How can urban school districts get more state aid: supports more aid, universal pre-K education

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center, a juvenile justice center, a soccer stadium

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: keep kids in school, focus on preventative services for addicts and the mentally ill

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: yes; have the state cover the county's portion of Medicaid costs by renegotiating with the federal government for more federal aid

How would you improve Rochester's economy: bring more job-creating businesses into the region, go forward with pending capital projects, retrain workers, make Rochester a biotech center

What should the minimum wage be: "I believe we should raise the minimum wage and I believe we should do it right away;" would support the Assembly's $6.75 proposal

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "I think we're going to have a lot of tough decisions to make about how to address the budget deficit [and] how to meet the state's responsibilities."

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: Tracy Chapman, The Eagles, Harry Chapin, The Beatles, Mozart




Charles Eames (Independent)

Personal info: 49; lives in Henrietta; grew up in Penn Yan; holds technical certificates, no college degree; first-time candidate; RTS bus driver

Abortion: believes the issue should be decided by a statewide, citizen-initiated ballot referendum

Gay rights/marriage: "Keep the government out of everything."

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes; repeal them in cases involving marijuana offenses, consider regulating other illegal drugs

How can urban school districts get more state aid: "I don't think more money is the answer."

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center, a juvenile justice center, a soccer stadium

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: better enforcement of current laws, increase sentences for gun-related offenses

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: yes; don't pass them, "If you don't ante up, you can't set the rules."

How would you improve Rochester's economy: cut taxes, reduce regulations on businesses, make the entire state an Empire Zone, no sales tax on products made in New York

What should the minimum wage be: "Leave it to the market [to determine]."

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "That's the last thing you should do."

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: classic rock, blues


Assembly District 131 (Chili, Riga, Rochester, Rush, Wheatland)

Susan John (Democrat)

Personal info: 44; lives in Rochester; grew up in Chicago; bachelor's in public affairs (George Washington University), law degree (Syracuse); member of Assembly since 1990

Abortion: pro-choice

Gay rights/marriage: supports, including gay marriage

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes, and more money for treatment

How can urban school districts get more state aid: eliminate the cap on aid increases

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center, a juvenile justice center (based on neighborhood input), a soccer stadium

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: look into increasing penalities for marijuana trafficking involving guns, and making "multiple violations of [possession of] small amounts of marijuana a more serious offense"

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: yes; would like to revisit past efforts calling for the state to cover more Medicaid costs, wants New York's "fair share" of Medicaid funding from the federal government

How would you improve Rochester's economy: attract more funding from the National Institutes of Health; more proactive efforts to keep twenty-somethings in town

What should the minimum wage be: "A living wage, but that will probably never happen;" supported a raise to $6.75

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "I don't think New York will be raising taxes next year."

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: books on tape, NPR, talk radio




Michael Slattery (Republican, Independent, Conservative)

Personal info: 37; lives in Chili; grew up in Rochester; studied civil engineering in college, no degree; Chili Town Councilman since 2000; works in the Monroe County Department of Transportation

Abortion: pro-life

Gay rights/marriage: opposes discrimination, does not support gay marriage

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes; more discretion for judges, lower sentences for some crimes

How can urban school districts get more state aid: would rather examine how the city and surrounding districts are spending their money now, with an eye for efficiencies

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center, a juvenile justice center, a truly multi-purpose soccer stadium

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: crack down on illegal guns, more resources and tools for law enforcement

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: yes, in part through better communication between state and local officials

How would you improve Rochester's economy: lower taxes, more tax incentives and breaks for businesses

What should the minimum wage be: supports a gradual rise in the minimum wage; expressed concern over the impact on small businesses

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: suspects the deficit will be much larger than the $4 billion projection; "I think you have to look at all [options]."

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: CDs, the radio, "all kinds of music"


State Assembly District 132 (Irondequoit, Brighton)

Joe Morelle (Democrat)

Personal info: 45; raised and currently lives in Irondequoit; bachelor's in political science (SUNY Geneseo); Monroe County legislator for seven years, state assemblyman since 1991; president and CEO of MMI Technologies (software development company), president of Home Star Management (home improvement/maintenance company)

Abortion: pro-choice

Gay rights/marriage: supports anti-discrimination and domestic-partner benefit measures, undecided on gay marriage

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes; give judges more discretion in sentencing, more money for treatment; remain harsh on career drug dealers and dealers selling to children

How can urban school districts get more state aid: change funding formula to one based on computer profiles of districts' individual student needs and the costs of meeting them

What pending capital projects do you support: prefers a broader approach to fostering the arts than a downtown performing arts center (interested in the potential of the Auditorium Theatre building), supports a juvenile justice center, a downtown soccer stadium if the Rhinos take on the bonding risk

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: increase penalties for crimes involving guns, address urban poverty, provide more employment and educational opportunities

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: yes; will look into a short-term cap on Medicaid costs to counties, increasing the state's share of Medicaid costs

How would you improve Rochester's economy: foster new technological development at universities, encourage technology transfer from universities to the market (create better access to capital), more job-skills training in new technologies

What should the minimum wage be: "Higher than it is now;" would be "comfortable" with $5.80-$6 per hour, plus an annual cost-of-living adjustment

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: there will "probably not" be an increase in broad-based taxes (corporate, personal income, sales tax rates), some fees may be adjusted

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: cell phone conversations by day, old Elton John CDs or instructional tapes at night


State Assembly District 134 (Greece, Ogden, Sweden)

Fred Amato (Democrat, Working Families, Right to Life)

Personal info: 60; lives in Greece; grew up in Rochester; associate degree in applied science (RIT); Monroe County legislator since 1985, assistant Democratic leader; planner in Kodak's fire and security systems group

Abortion: pro-life

Gay rights/marriage: "They should have the same rights .... I don't agree with their lifestyles and I don't support any special legislation for them. But I think they should treated like human beings, like everybody else is, the same way we treat blacks and Asians and anybody else that may be around."

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: Concentrate on "the pushers," consider stiffer penalties for distributors; "People caught with small amounts of marijuana, we still need to be tough on [them], because if we just allow them to get off the hook, they're going to be trying to use it more and more."

How can urban school districts get more state aid: believes there should be more accountability in school districts' spending and more parental involvement

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center, a juvenile justice center, and a soccer stadium (downtown or in Greece)

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: restore Christian, family values through church-school-parent partnerships; state involvement when parents aren't raising their kids responsibly; increased law enforcement visibility

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: yes, by providing most, if not all, of the funding for most mandates

How would you improve Rochester's economy: increase the number of free trade zones; expand government-supported, low-cost energy initiatives for businesses; reduce regulatory red tape

What should the minimum wage be: supports $6.75, but acknowledges it's not enough for some people

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "We have to do all we can not to raise taxes."

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: "easy-type music," cell phone conversations, Rush Limbaugh and Bob Lonsberry on occasion


State Assembly District 135 (Webster, Penfield, Perinton, Victor)

Clyde Benoy (Republican, Conservative)

Personal info: 76; lives in East Rochester; grew up in Columbus, OH; attended Ohio State University, no degree; East Rochester School Board (1978-1981); retired, director of the Monroe County Water Authority

Abortion: "I wish that every abortion was an adoption;" favors parental notification

Gay rights/marriage: "I think they benefit from all our laws right now. I don't see a need for any special laws;" opposes gay marriage

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: "They need to be revised. Some of them are too strict. The punishment doesn't fit the crime in some cases."

How can urban school districts get more state aid: the state aid funding formula is "fine the way it is," though there could be some revisions (no specifics)

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center and a juvenile justice center; "I think private industry --- soccer is a business --- should build their own stadiums."

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: "Certain people have to clean up their own neighborhoods;" more police won't solve the problem

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: "All mandates should be funded. If you're not going to fund it, don't start it."

How would you improve Rochester's economy: "We've got enough [economic development] programs going right now."

What should the minimum wage be: not in favor of an increase because "it's unfair to the small entrepreneur."

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "They might have to, but in my opinion, the size of the state government could be reduced appreciably," such as the Education Department

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: "I like old tunes, being an old guy myself," such as Glen Miller, news radio




David Koon (Democrat, Independent, Working Families)

Personal info: 55; lives in Perinton; grew up in West Virginia; bachelor's in engineering (Vermont State); state assemblyman since 1996

Abortion: pro-choice

Gay rights/marriage: favors equal rights, undecided on gay marriage

Should the Rockefeller Drug Laws be reformed: yes, more judicial discretion

How can urban school districts get more state aid: "I'm in favor of changing [the school aid funding formula] so I can understand it;" make formula more fair

What pending capital projects do you support: a downtown performing arts center and juvenile justice center (pending specifics), a soccer stadium

How would you address gun violence in Rochester: bullet fingerprinting of suspicious guns collected by police; get illegal guns off the streets; continued collaboration between city, county, and state police

Would you reduce unfunded state mandates for counties: not sure the state can afford to pay a larger share of Medicaid expenses

How would you improve Rochester's economy: keep current efforts going, look at tax credits for expanding businesses, expand Empire Zones

What should the minimum wage be: $6.75 over three years, as previously proposed in the Assembly

Given the state's predicted deficit, will we have to raise taxes: "If [the deficit] is $12 billion, we're probably going to have to raise taxes. If it's $2 billion, I think there are other ways of solving it."

What do you listen to between Rochester and Albany: CDs by train, talk radio in the car

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