FBA Sponsors Town of New Scotland Debates

By David A. Cleinman

The Fourth Branch of America (FBA) made its debut when it sponsored the election debate for the Town of New Scotland on October 30 at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center. The event gave local residents a one time opportunity to see all the candidates together on one stage, and learn their positions on several important issues before the November elections.

Political game playing between the major parties had threatened to end any possibility of a debate when Ray Feliciano, the founder of the FBA, intervened to bring both parties to the conclusion that a debate was in the best interests of the people.

FBA sponsored debate for the Town of New Scotland - 34.99 K

Attending the debate were Supervisor candidates Ed Clark and Wayne LaChappelle, and Councilman Post Candidates: Liz Gentner, Doug LaGrange, and Rich Reilly. Debbie Baron had wanted to attend, but was unable to do so because she was scheduled to work.

All of the candidates agreed that communicating with our government is essential to the fundamental process of how our democracy was designed to work. Doug LaGrange, running for the post of Councilman in New Scotland, recently said, “It is critically important to get the conversation going again. Having these debates allows people to know who they’re voting for.” Wayne LaChappelle, stated that “Any new representation by the people, actually soliciting debates and new ideas is a good thing. It can help keep politics clean and honest…”

The debates featured a three person panel: Mr. Ray Feliciano, President of the FBA, Mrs. Kimberly Feliciano, FBA Director of Operations, and Mr. David Cleinman, staff writer and consultant. The first hour was given to the candidates running for Town Board Positions: Liz Gentner, Doug LaGrange, and Rich Reilly. Questions ranged in scope to include infrastructure projects such as schools, roads, water and sewer issues, as well as their related costs, and ways of offsetting taxes by bringing in business. This raised the issue of possible sprawl as a side-affect of growth. The candidates urged caution, but felt that clean and economically friendly business would be a boon, and that sprawl could be limited by zoning.

Some issues were brought to the fore more often than others. Among these, taxes were a key issue. Debaters labeled them a burden for the township, especially for some of the elderly residents who were forced to sell or in some cases lose their homes because they could not afford to pay property taxes. Several proposals were raised regarding bringing in valid and environmentally friendly businesses to offset residential tax with business taxes. Increasing business presence was also raised as a method of retaining population with the related influx of new employment opportunities.

All candidates expressed genuine love for their community and people. When asked about party affiliations at the local level, Liz Gentner said “I don’t think they are that important.” She also explained that New Scotland was, “One of the most community minded places around.” As a friend of hers related after relocating to the township, “I’ve found Mayberry.”

Doug LaGrange spoke of his desire to represent everyone. In answer to being asked how important party affiliation is, he said, “I consider myself to be running for the town, not the party.” His take on party affiliations was further when he said, “I’d even run on the democrat line.” This was one of several quips that got him a laugh from the audience.

Rich Reilly related his years growing up in the area, and how he has enjoyed living here all his life. “It’s a fantastic place to live,” he said. “I want to represent everyone, not just those who showed up at town hall.” He said that his work with the parks program is some of his favorite work, and that he was proud of the achievements with it.

The first segment took about forty-five minutes, after which a short break was taken. The second part of the debate featured a passionate conversation between Wayne LaChappelle and Ed Clark, running for the single Town Supervisor position. One of the first things said, Mr. LaChappelle urged the townsfolk to consider the importance of neighborhood watch programs. He also was very vocal on the need for a hands-on, proactive method for solving problems. He suggested having monthly meetings where issues were discussed, and positive steps could be taken to resolve them.

Mr. Clark expressed concern over the need for infrastructure so that business could move in and have such resources available. When asked about the recent addition of a paid EMT for ambulance calls, paid for by a modest tax increase, he said, “It’s incredibly cheap insurance.” When questioned by Mr. LaChappelle on why it took so long for this measure to be adopted, Mr. Clark said, “I’m just one person on the board, and it’s not what you want, it’s what the town wants. The whole constituency.”

Mr. LaChappelle spoke of an idea to form an Industrial Development Agency to pursue feasible methods for finding and inviting business to the area.

Mr. Clark said that while we the economic crunch is affecting the town, that spending needs to follow a strict budget. “Costs keep going up,” he said, “but revenue remains flat.”

Water was a major issue for all candidates, but it appears to be a long-term issue with no easy solution. No candidate had a comprehensive remedy to the problem, and they admitted that there was no quick or easy way to solve such a problem.

That concluded the official debates, and candidates were given a round of applause from the attendants.

In related news, confusion over a web site called The Fourth Branch of Government threatened to derail the debates for a second time, this past Monday, until Mr. Feliciano stepped in and explained to the concerned parties that the FBA has no affiliation with, or prior knowledge of said web site. For clarification, the official web site of the Fourth Branch of America is: http://www.fourthbranchofamerica.com. Visitors are welcome, although the site is still under construction.

The discussion between the candidates, and the audience was lively and informational. Many attendants mingled and introduced themselves to others. As the crowd exited, many comments of thank-you and well-done were expressed to the three member panel. Other comments related to the panel indicated disappointment with the lack of a conventional format, and that it was not a debate but rather an interview. However, a heated discussion that arose between Mr. Clark and Mr. Chappelle would seem to indicate that, in fact, a debate did occur to some extent.

This reporter is grateful to the candidates for the posts in New Scotland for the opportunity to meet them, and for the honor of being able to interview them.