The Right Leader at the Right Time

Party affiliation cannot be the determining factor when voting in Lakewood this November, since party affiliation is much less defined through circumstance. “What is in a name” is more aptly replaced with “What is in the candidate.”

Raise your hand if you want a tidy and walkable Chautauqua Avenue with prospering businesses, a strong tax base that contributes to our village’s needs, along with a strong board that works together to create a balance between preservation and smart growth. We need leaders who will roll up their sleeves and get to work for us—ones who bring their experience and their skills to the fore rather than a reluctance to change at all. 

What matters here is vision and a proven knowhow to bring that vision to fruition. A more graceful business district, for example, takes public funding and grants, and preserving our historic ambiance and open spaces takes crucial planning skills and an understanding of zoning.

In fact, in a changing world, the skills needed today to run a village far exceed those needed of our past leaders: computer knowledge, fiscal planning, grant writing, marketing skills, legal knowhow, and real management and political skills are important tools for the job. 

The New York State Senate believes that among the most important powers and duties granted by the legislature to a village government is the authority and responsibility to create a village comprehensive plan that regulates land use to help protect the public health, safety and general welfare of its citizens.

That is indeed a fancy way of saying, “we’ve got a solid plan,” and our interim mayor Ted McCague not only observed that Lakewood was absent an updated plan, but he set out to create one—a plan that identifies the goals and objectives for Lakewood’s protection and development. And it was such a good plan he won an award for it.

As acting mayor, he has shown fiscal responsibility by lowering taxes while fully funding essential services and he’s bringing to fruition a new plan for Chautauqua Avenue. He’s also helping to create a new stormwater plan for the village, and has actively worked on volunteer boards and other committees now and in the past all aimed at enhancing the health of our community. 

As an international airline pilot for many decades, and with an advanced degree in law, Ted has shown great leadership throughout his life, but it’s really his commitment to our village that impresses people along with his ability to make a difference by listening and taking action. Take a walk down Chautauqua Avenue if you want to see his commitment in action.

We’ve all seen candidates throughout our voting history that are long on charm and short on vision; long on political networking and short on action; long on words but short on truth.

We just need someone to roll up their sleeves with us in Lakewood—someone who has the skills, and the foresight and the intelligence to get things done. No party politics, no political wrangling, just sit down with us and help us fix the things that need fixing and help us forge a healthy future.

It really is that simple.

Lakewood Mayor – A Comparison

There are two choices for Mayor of Lakewood. Ted McCague, who has been serving as Deputy Mayor for the past three years including fulfilling all responsibilities of the Mayor for the past year, and a fellow board member, Randy Holcomb, who is currently a trustee who is finishing his first term.

Both candidates are registered republicans. McCague is a relative newcomer to politics, having won his first full term and seat on the board two years ago, while Holcomb won his seat four years ago, and is a political veteran, who has maintained leadership roles in the local Busti Republican Committee for many years. Given these two facts, it should come as no surprise that the well oiled political wheels of the local republican caucus endorsed Holcomb, and shut out the newcomer (McCague), reportedly even closing the doors to the republican caucus while party members were still arriving to vote. Undeterred, Acting Mayor, McCague, sought the endorsement of the only other major party in New York State, despite his republican party membership.  The Democratic caucus participants voted to endorse McCague, due to his extensive experience and proven track record in leadership positions in Lakewood for many years, according to caucusing members. Therefore, on the ballot, voters will find McCague at the top, and Holcomb on the 2nd line.

The comparison of both candidates’ palm cards shows voters have two very different candidates to choose from.

The first lines on their cards are: “Deputy Mayor,” for McCague; compared to, “Life long resident of Lakewood,” for Holcomb. This implies that voters may decide their vote based on actual experience the candidate has doing the job he is seeking, or how long the candidate has lived in the village.  Aside from the top priority on the palm card, there are also many other differences between these two candidates.

Deputy Mayor McCague lists numerous community positions, beliefs, and accomplishments, and barely mentions his 30-year career as major airline pilot, while Trustee Holcomb relies on his professional background as a retired property assessor and political positions, rather than specific accomplishments for Lakewood.

For example, McCague highlights positions such as: Vice Chair, Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance; Vice President, Lakewood Community Development Corporation; Chairperson, Lakewood Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee; Chairperson, Lakewood Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee; Chair, Lakewood Planning Board; also chairman on numerous Mayoral Committees since becoming a trustee.

McCague also states exactly what he has accomplished since becoming a Lakewood Trustee and Acting Mayor. These highlights include: lowered taxes while fully funding essential services; delivering a new Comprehensive Plan (40 years after the last one); delivering a first ever Mixed Use Analysis and Chautauqua Avenue Plan; using his law degree, drafting new main street design standards and zoning code as well as numerous zoning code updates (saving tax dollars in attorney fees); contributing to the committee to create the Lakewood-Busti Stormwater Engineering & Management Plan; and he’s been awarded the American Planning Associations highest recognition for Lakewood’s brand new Comprehensive Plan. Prior to all these accomplishments, he was also awarded the Lakewood Volunteer of the Year Award for all the volunteering he did prior to his appointment to becoming a Trustee.

Holcomb’s palm card presents his qualifications as his 38 year employment in the Town of Busti (as assessor), Vice chairman and past treasurer of the Busti Republican Committee, past President of the New York State Assessors’ Association, and lifelong member of the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. His card also affirms goals and accomplishments “of Lakewood Candidates.” Curiously, his palm card does not list any specific accomplishments directly attributed to him.

Holcomb pledges Lakewood candidates promise: continued support of Lakewood Fire Department and Lakewood Busti Police Department; maintain quality of life in our local community; continue commercial development with appropriate oversight of Chautauqua and Fairmount Avenues; enhancement to Lakewood Parks, including Hartley Park, public dock, dog park and Community Park, LaGrega Park, and pickle ball courts; and support our fiscally conservative ideals. Interesting to note that Holcomb pledges to enhance Lakewood parks, however, he is on record voting against enhancements to Hartley Park.

McCague also clarifies his beliefs for voters on his card stating he believes in: fiscal responsibility; strong essential services; government efficiency; a strong business climate; and a healthy lake. In reviewing press releases, both candidates have different approaches to the position of Mayor. Holcomb speaks in broad terms expressing interest in continuing to bring new businesses and future construction to Lakewood and working with residents on key issues facing the community. McCague, offers more specific goals for continuing the progress in the village, with an eye to boosting the tax base. McCague says the village is doing well in planning, but there’s more to do. He hopes to target aging infrastructure and expand utilities to help with future development, and at the same time preserve historic properties to maintain the quaint quality of the village, maintain property values throughout the village, and therefore increase the desirability of Lakewood as a great place to live.

Lakewood Trustee Candidates – A Comparison

This election day, Lakewood voters will have a choice of candidates from all walks of life. A side-by-side comparison of all the palm cards candidates are leaving at residents’ front doors reveals several professionals, and several retired candidates. The cards tend to state how long the candidate has lived in the community. Suffice to say, there is no competition here, they all have lived in the community many years. Two have raised families in Lakewood. Others have never married, and have no children. Voters’ greatest decision come election day will be which candidates will lead the community in the best possible manner over the next four years. There are two Trustee seats contested, and a race for Mayor as well.

The choices are not along party lines because there is only one democratic candidate running and the rest are all registered republicans.  So forget voting depending on your own chosen party for this important election. These are all real people who may or may not align with your national political thinking, but who would make excellent local public servants. All names are placed on the ballot on both the top line, as well as the second line. Therefore, the choice for citizens is more about who is more qualified, and who will lead all of the people of the village, rather than which party will remain in control. No matter who is elected, republicans will remain the majority of the Lakewood board going forward.

At first glance, voters ought to seek out the public service experience each candidate brings to the table. One slate of candidates (Barnes, Holcomb, Fischer) has two incumbents seeking re-election, one for Trustee, the other for Mayor, as well as a newcomer. The other slate (McCague, Shedd, Yaggie) brings the Deputy Mayor, seeking election to the position he has fulfilled for nearly 15 months, as well as a Planning Board member, and a newcomer. Therefore voters have three current Trustee candidates with lots of experience working for Lakewood, one candidate working on the Planning Board, and two who have not held a position within Lakewood’s government.

Among the candidates for Trustee, those who are already in service for the village are: First term Trustee, part time dispatcher for the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department, and retired Part Time Lakewood Busti Police Officer, Ellen Barnes; and John Shedd, who is currently a member of the Lakewood Planning Board–a volunteer position, who is a licensed architect and planner, and is currently the Vice President of Campus Planning and Operations at the Chautauqua Institution.  Shedd’s professional responsibilities include all Chautauqua Institution development projects, oversight of building construction, roads, grounds and overall campus maintenance, community docks and waterfront environments, as well as the Chautauqua Police Department.  Shedd also has a list of numerous professional accomplishments and Lakewood and Chautauqua County volunteer leadership roles.

According to his palm card, John Shedd volunteers on numerous committees including: the Chautauqua Lake Protection & Rehabilitation District Committee; he was appointed to the Governor’s steering committee for Chautauqua Lake Harmful Algal Blooms Action Plan; he is a contributor to the Chautauqua County Design Principles Guidebook; he was past Chairman, Lakewood Community Development Corporation, a local non-profit; he was Chairman of the community organization, “Citizens in Betterment of Lakewood” which led the revitalization of Chautauqua Avenue; he is the Business Division Leader for the United Way of Chautauqua County; he is a member of the Board of Directors for the Jamestown Audubon Society; he has also volunteered as coach for Youth T-ball, soccer, and basketball and is also a leader in the local Cub scouts. Shedd and his wife have two children attending Southwestern schools.

According to her palm card, Ellen Barnes spent many years as a DARE program teacher at SWCS as part of her duties at the Lakewood Busti PD, she calls Lakewood her “adopted home town,” and she is a member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  No volunteer community service is noted on her palm card.

Those candidates who would be new to public service are: Rich Fischer, and Jay Yaggie. Fischer is a retired Jamestown Alltel/Windstream employee, who worked at the Robert H. Jackson Center, and is currently working as an information Specialist for the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau. Fischer is married and has two grown children. No volunteer community service was noted on his palm card.  Jay Yaggie, is a licensed engineer, and Cornell University graduate who is currently working in his professional field as Chief Technologist for Perspecta, a management and IT consulting firm supporting Local, State, and Federal Agencies.

According to his palm card, Jay Yaggie brings 30 years of professional experience working with government at all levels and sizes to assess goals and build strategic plans.  Yaggie has worked for several Fortune 100 companies as a management consultant and process engineer.  He served his community volunteering as: Treasurer and Board Member at the Southwestern Schools Education Foundation, the organization which was instrumental to fundraising for the capital improvements at Southwestern Schools; he has served as Vice Chairperson of the Chautauqua Striders Board of Directors and continues to volunteer as an active mentor to students; he also served as President of Southwestern Area Sports Youth Baseball, as well as coach. Yaggie lives with his wife, has a son in college, and is a member at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Protect Taxpayers or Protect Fund Balance? A Question for Town of Busti Voters

Property taxes in the Town of Busti from 2012 to 2019 have shot up over 70%, more than 6% per year on average. A major reason for the large Town property tax increases over the past seven years has been the management of the Town’s Unappropriated Fund Balance often referred to as “rainy day funds.” It appears the Supervisor and most Town Board members feel protecting the Fund Balance is more important than protecting Town of Busti taxpayers from high property taxes.

Property taxes in the Town of Busti* from 2012 to 2019 have shot up over 70%, from $695,673 to $1,193,318, more than 6% per year on average. Meanwhile, Appropriations in the same period climbed 22%, from $2,499,683 to $3,052,541, or 3% per year on average. The large tax increases were far over the 2% tax cap most years and fell on all Town taxpayers, but the heaviest burden landed on those outside the Village.

Only in 2017 did Town taxpayers not face higher Town property taxes when Councilman Mueller’s budget amendments in late 2016 passed the Town Board and delivered no overall Town tax increase. Since that time Councilman Mueller opposed the 2018 and 2019 budgets because they raised property taxes, directly or indirectly**, over the tax cap. Continue reading “Protect Taxpayers or Protect Fund Balance? A Question for Town of Busti Voters”

Tax Rate Decreases in Lakewood’s Proposed Budget

Lakewood, NY’s tax rate decreases 8 cents per thousand in the proposed 2019-2020 tentative budget.

Village of Lakewood Deputy Mayor, Ted McCague, acting as Chief Budget
Officer, has filed the 2019-2020 tentative budget with the Village Clerk. The proposal recommends a tax rate of $7.91094 per thousand as compared to the present tax rate of $7.992758 per thousand which is a decrease of 8 cents per thousand. Continue reading “Tax Rate Decreases in Lakewood’s Proposed Budget”