In contrast to the hotly contested presidential and congressional contests, state level races in central New York are, for the most part, not races at all. There are few challengers. One race where there is a challenger is the 127th State Assembly District, which pits incumbent Democrat Al Stirpe against Republican Vincent Giordano. This week on the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher moderates a debate between them, as they discuss education, government consolidation, economic development, and other issues.
Grant Reeher (GR): Well let me start with the basics and we'll start with the challenger. Mr. Giordano, how would you distinguish yourself from the incumbent Assemblyman Stirpe? What are some of the most significant differences between the two of you regarding how you'd represent this district?
Vincent Giordano (VG): I think I'm more of a conservative, a business owner concerned about the businesses in central New York. I spent 38 years at Carrier, so I know the large manufacturing sites and what goes on there and we're missing those. And we've got to bring them back and I don't think there's a big effort in Albany to help us out in central New York. We need some help and we've got to make some changes.
(GR): And Assemblyman Stirpe, I'll put the same question to you. What do you think are the most significant differences between you and your challenger regarding how you'd represent the district.
Al Stirpe (AS): Like he said he's probably more conservative than I am. You know we are trying to help facilitate bringing jobs to Central New York. I think our focus is more on medium sized and smaller companies. The problems we had when we had large corporations here is when they left, you know, there was desolation because you'd lose thousands of jobs at a time. I think if we have a better mix of companies, big, small, medium, in various industries, you can withstand a ups and downs in the economy a lot better. So, that's one area I think. The other thing, and I don't know he hasn't mentioned it, but my three things are economic development, education, and the environment. Those are the things I'm focused on. And as we go through this maybe we can explain a little more.
(GR): I do want to come back and ask both of you a question about the business development aspect of what state government does. But Mr. Giordano, let me put this back to you because you focused on one thing. What I'm not hearing from either of you then you've both talked about business development and jobs. I'm not hearing any other kinds of issues, social issues, some of the things that often separate candidates at the state level. So are there other things that are important to you that you'd want to add here at the beginning.
(VG): Yeah, we need to take a look at our schools and what we're going on with education right now. The city of Syracuse is not in 127th. But you look at the situation there and the Consensus plan that's been coming around that where the whole county is going to be one. It scares a lot of the people in the townships because they know what kind of an education system they have in the towns and compared to what's going on in the city they're worried about what's going to happen. We have to kind of take a look at it because we've got to improve the education in Syracuse. Somehow we've got to get there. And you know going back when I worked at Carrier, I did many management positions, supervisors, a lot of our employees came out of the city of Syracuse. A good portion of the ones that were out in the factory were in the city of Syracuse. You didn't have the poverty that we have today. And you know Carrier is not the only company that left you know.
(GR): And I want to I want to come back to that question of exactly what kinds of jobs you think the state could do a better job of reclaiming or recreating when we get to that. And certainly too, I want to return to the schools on the Consensus issue as well. So we'll put those things on our agenda going forward. Let me for now though stick with these basic starters here and I want to get some quick barometers of some limited aspects of your political views. So, Assemblyman Stirpe, we'll start with you on this for the presidential race. Who are you supporting?
(AS):I'm supporting Hillary Clinton. Someone I've met a few times, seems like a very bright person. Lots of great experience and you know I'm 100 percent behind her.
(GR): And did you support her in the primary?
(AS): I did.
(GR): Ok. And Mr. Giordano who are you supporting in the presidential race?
(VG): I think I'm going to go with my friend Trump.
(GR): OK. And did you support him in the primaries as well?
(VG): Yes I did. I supported him in the primaries. He's paying his own way. He's not going to be owning to anybody else when he gets elected. Where the other candidates we've had in the past they've taken money from different groups and they've got to pay back during their time in office. Right now, Trump hasn't got any of that to worry about. He's coming in with a clean slate. He's a businessman. Multi-billionaire that he's done a lot of businesses so he understands what we need to do for people to have jobs and what we've got to do around here. You know that's pretty much it.
(GR): And just to continue again with these basic markers and I'm going to stick with you Mr. Giordano and you can thank Gary Johnson for the question that's about to come here. But I wanted to get a sense of is if you could tell me of somebody that's currently serving in the assembly whom you respect and you would say 'you know I'd like to be this kind of legislator this is the model for me if I'm if I'm elected'.
(VG): The one that I'm more familiar with is Will Barclay. He's one that's been conservative in looked after the constituents in the area. He's been pretty good about that. His voting record is favorable to central New York, which is nice. We've got a lot of assembly people that like to support New York City and you know when most of the assembly comes from New York City it makes it hard. It's difficult to work with that.
(GR): And Assemblyman Stirpe, you obviously had a lot of exposure to your colleagues. Is there one in particular that you would hold up and say you know 'this is my mentor this is the person that I'm trying to model myself after' there in the assembly.
(AS): Well if I had to pick somebody, probably Joe Morelle from Rochester. I know Joe very well, he's someone that I think is well liked on both sides of the aisle. He's a hard worker. And he does a lot in his district. I've got to say I think I do a heck of a lot in my district and I think you can talk to a lot of people out there and they'll they'll agree with me on that.
(GR): I'm Grant Reeher and I'm speaking with the two candidates for the 127th New York Assembly seat, Assemblyman Al Stirpe and Manlius town councilor Vincent Giordano. So, now I want to get to some of these questions about jobs and the economy and Assemblyman Stirpe, I'll start with you on this. A lot of your messaging in this campaign, and in past campaigns, has concerned the state government's creation of jobs in the region through its business development programs and you talked about at the outset some of the strategies that you thought were most successful there. But at the same time, I think it's fair to say that the ultimate success of these programs so far has been called into question along with, more recently, the basic integrity of the process. So, could you talk a little bit more specifically about how you see these programs having actually created jobs in this region, and also your involvement in bringing these programs here. And then as well, could you speak to the integrity of the process given again these recent criminal indictments that have been related to them.
(AS): Well, my approach to economic development is a little different than some other people. Other people are always looking outside trying to bring new companies in. I've always felt that I'd like to help the companies that are here already, the ones that have been around for a while, the ones that are good companies and ones you can depend on. So you know companies like Stickley which we helped with grants for a new big piece of equipment they needed, Ultra Dairy out in DeWitt. They needed a private substation to handle their expansion. They're building a 100000 square foot expansion. I mean, I look for companies that have been around a while, that have paid their dues, that deserve attention. Not just you know people from out of state trying to bring them here. Now as far as the integrity of the programs, up until a few years ago I thought it was pretty good. It seemed that everything has been consolidated in one spot though. You know, in the executive branch. And that has been a problem, it's not only been a problem in what projects get selected some time, but it's a problem in getting the money out the door to the companies. I mean, I've given grants to different people and it takes forever sometimes to get the money out there. So, I am all for bringing you know the Comptroller and the Attorney General back into the process and having economic development you know spread out a little bit more from just the executive branch to the legislature because we're in our districts every day. We know what companies are good, what companies you can depend on when they say they're going to do something. So I think we should have some say in who gets what.
(GR): Now are you also suggesting there something like a member item type of thing or more involvement in the process?
(AS): More involvement in the process. I mean I think we should also be able to recommend things, I mean then the oversight people have to come in and take a look at it and make the final decision. But you know I think we have some pretty good ideas of what would make a difference in our communities.
(GR): Now Mr. Giordano, when you talked about jobs at the beginning you mentioned some big companies that have left over the years. So, is your approach the one that you would choose one of recapturing these kinds of enterprises or what would you do differently than what Assemblyman Stirpe has laid out?
(VG): We've got to recapture some of them. They probably won't be the same size anymore. You take a company like Carrier. We had three, four divisions in there and they've gone off. One is down in North Carolina, another one was out in the Midwest, part of it is down in Georgia. Another part of it's over in Singapore. The customer base was over there for that portion. It wasn't anything we sold here in the States where we export it at all the time. We don't have to bring back the whole thing, but you need to bring back the small sections of them and bring jobs back in that you can work on and build up from. You know we've put money into places that we haven't got any return on it. You know we built a movie studio three years ago. We put a lot of money into it. We got one person sitting in this empty building. We got the building next to it now for solar panels and right now we're working on issues with solar panels in the town of Manlius. That's going down. Cost of fuel is a lot cheaper now. People don't have to go in that direction. You know we can get that but we put money over there. We don't even know if that company is going to survive.
(GR): So what about, the Assemblyman articulated this strategy of taking things that already exist here and building on them, sort of corporations and enterprises with proven track records and some time here in the community. Is that is that something that did you see differently?
(VG): No. We've we've got small businesses throughout the area, machine shops and whatnot, that we need to get people to understand that they're there, start buying from these people, try to work with them. There are some great small shops that used to supply all of these big businesses while the large ones that were around. I mean we didn't we didn't make everything at Carrier. You know we had to buy from small machine shops here and there to help supplement what we were doing. You know and we can do that. We can build businesses up.
(GR): Mr. Giordano, if elected you will be a freshmen and a minority party in the Assembly. What are your strategies to be effective given those limitations and what do you say to voters in that district who might be concerned about losing state government support, pork if we want to call it that, if they choose you?
(VG): I don't think we're going to lose the pork, as you put it. If you look at central New York, we do not get the money that other areas of New York state gets. It's been a tough one and you know even Mr. Stirpe can attest to that, there are issues we don't get the money we need. We put it in the wrong place. You know we put $50 million into the State Fairgrounds to have that nice entrance, tore down a track that probably brought in five or six million dollars when we had the Dirt Week in Syracuse that's gone. It's up in Oswego. You're not going to get all of that money you're going to get some of it but you're not going to get all of it. We pushed it away.
(GR): And how are you going to work with the challenge of being in the minority party trying to be effective?
(VG): What we have to do is we've got to take it away from the executive side that are mandating all these things that are going out that both the Senate and the Assembly don't have a lot of control over anymore. There are things that are getting pushed down and we have to follow through with them. We've got to get away from that. We've got to let the houses do the thing they've got to do and look at their needs and fill them in. We can't be told how we're going to run the government. We put in a minimum wage. It's going to hurt the small businesses, just the way it's going through and what's going to happen because they've got to raise their prices. It doesn't make it any better for anybody. You've attacked the fast food places. Why we attacked them the way we did. I don't know because they're hiring teenagers too that work part time. They don't work their full time. And you've caused some issues there. We look at the Family Leave Act. I was told maybe a dollar a week out of each employee and it's never going to have enough money. Well no I read the act that as it's written now, I've got to put a policy in place to pay them and hopefully I'm going to get my money back some time, but it's not there.
(GR): Assemblyman Stirpe, do you have any brief responses to any of that.
(AS): Well first of all, the Paid Family Leave Act piggybacks off the disability program you don't have to do anything or pay anything into it. The employee is going to pay into it. I don't know if you want me to respond to what he's going to do in the minority. I think that his assertion that we don't get much up here doesn't sort of match what's really been happening. If you look at our schools, our hospitals, our colleges and universities, have all gotten funding over the time that I've been in here. OCC almost completely rebuilt their physical facility from 2008 through 2013. SUNY ESF has got new buildings, Upstate's got new buildings. I mean if it wasn't for some of those capital expenditures that came in during the recession, central New York would have been a much more dire place to be living. So, I think we do all right as far as getting money. Now, whether the State Fair should have gotten $50 million dollars. It broke all records. The amphitheater was all sold out and all their concerts. I mean there were a lot of people that went there and a lot of money was generated throughout central New York during the time of the fair, and all the comments from people who came were all positive. They liked it a lot better. There's a lot more room. So I don't think any of that is really a fact. We don't always end up with a winner just like in the private sector and you try things, some things work some things don't. But we're out there every day and we're just going to keep trying. We're going to make things better here in central New York.
(GR): If you're just joining us you're listening to the Campbell Conversations on WRVO Public Media and my guests are Assemblyman Al Stirpe and Manlius Town Councilor Vincent Giordano. The two are running for the 127th Assembly seat in the New York State Legislature. Mr. Giordano, you mentioned schools before I did want to ask a question about that. They're a perennial issue for state politics and you've got political experience at the town level. How do you view the proper relationship between the state government and the local school districts when it comes to both structuring and overseeing the delivery of education but also the financing of the system.
(VG): I don't know. I look at what we have in the Manlius area, you know between the schools that are in that take care of the town of Manlius. You've got East Syracuse-Minoa, you've got Fayetteville-Manlius schools. They are two very good schools. They've gotten what support they can get. They've done very well, they have good programs for everybody and if you look at it, F-M is rated in the top 10 in the nation now. East Syracuse Minoa is in there too. It's not down at the bottom. A lot of people say 'well that's East Syracuse they can't have anything, but they have a good education system. Part of those people live in the town of Manlius, they go to that school system. Jamesville-DeWitt's the same way. Part of them go over to that system that live in the town of Manlius, there's people that go there. We have good school systems here. I think the ones that are that are hurting are the city, and a lot of that is they don't have all the funding they need they can't seem to get all the funding they need. Can't put it together. You've got a lot of single parent families. So that's an issue that you run into trying to get children to be educated. It's hard as a single parent to try to control everything you're doing plus support the family at the same time. Those are difficult situations.
(GR): Assemblyman Stirpe, would you disagree with anything you heard Mr. Giordano say?
(AS): Well, you know poverty is obviously the driving factor in the Syracuse school district. That's where all the problems emanate from and no one's been able to solve the problem of poverty yet. I think you know there are some good programs. The problem we have in schools is people want a new program and they want results right away. And it just doesn't work like that. It takes you know maybe 10 years or a generation sometimes to really make those positive changes people want to see. You know, the schools in my district in the 127th district, they're all good schools. I don't think anybody can complain, as far as what's being taught there, what's available, everybody has AP courses, they have athletics, they really now are doing well. They had some tough years back in 2011 and 2012. But since '13 there have been pretty much record increases in funding, we're getting all the school districts back on their feet. And I think going forward I think it'll continue that way. Now we're having a discussion on the foundation formula again. The commissioner's reviewing that. I think there will be an attempt to push more money to the high needs school districts and hopefully they'll utilize that funding the correct way. And we'll continue to see results maybe better ones going forward.
(GR): So we just have about a minute or so left and I'm going to ask the one, maybe the thorniest question in the time remaining. Assemblyman Stirpe I'll stick with you. The Consensus report came up or at the beginning of the conversation, the report in the community dialogues that it's generated have put this notion of government consolidation back on the political agenda. If you could in just a few seconds what are your views on that idea for this region?
(AS): Well I think there are many things in the Consensus report that could be done and not is much to save money, but just to be more efficient in government. No one has to join Consensus if the town doesn't want or the village doesn't want, they can opt out so there's nobody forcing anybody to do anything. I think that the community, the central New York community has to realize that the towns, you know they say you're going to stick us with the bill to the city, but they've been utilizing the assets of the city for a long time and not really paying for it. I mean all the government buildings, the not-for-profits and all the things that you have to utilize are in the cities, the hospitals and universities and stuff like that. So you know I think that merging the county and the city is probably, in the long run, a smart thing to do. There still is a lot of work to be done to ferret out you know what exactly you have to do. But I think as an overall principle it's a pretty good idea.
(GR): Mr. Giordano you have the last word here and if you could briefly tell me what your view is on the government consolidation.
(VG): I disagree with a lot of that. You're talking about the city. We're going to have to take care of the city. You've got the city right now has only 40 percent of the properties pay tax. The rest of it there's no tax on it. That's all the money they're getting. And they expect that to come from the county. We gave up our sales tax dollars a few years back. We used to get a credit on our property taxes. We no longer get that. The county keeps our sales tax that's collected in the town of Manlius. They keep that, they do what they want to do with it. When you look at Consensus you know they said 'oh we're all be going to we're going to put everything together'. I worked on Consensus for the town of Manlius a few years back, and how we were going to do to maybe eliminate jobs, take them over, coordinate multiple uses of them. You still got the same roads in the town no matter where you go. You're going to have to take care of. You've got to have the people to take care of them. If you put it into one. And they said 'well the county highway department will take care of that stuff'. It can't. It doesn't have the manpower. We do county roads as it is right now. We're doing those. There's a number of roads in the town of Manlous. There is in every single town. We're doing county roads, and we've got that money. You've got to look at that how do you get rid of it. Yeah. There are some things you can put together and we've done that in the town of Manlius. You know we did put some things, the fire department's now when they're purchasing equipment they do it as one team. They don't duplicate equipment between all the fire stations. They try to put what they need where they need it and don't duplicate it. So we're doing those kinds of things. We're doing things with parks and rec. We're trying to put them together.
(GR): We'll have to leave it there I'm afraid. But I appreciate both of you taking the time to talk with me. That was Vincent Giordano and Assemblyman Al Stirpe. Election day is November 8th. Again thanks to all of you for taking the time to speak with me.