Dake has been partners with Doug Boles in D Squared, Inc., a contracting company, for the past 16 years. He says he brings business savvy, a calm demeanor, and common sense to the table. His campaign this year for Town Councilman is his first bid for public office. He stoped by the Lansing Star to talk about why he is running, and what he will do if he is elected.
Lansing Star: After the debate that stemmed from the latest and failed sewer project I think the question has to be asked: does the Town Board have an overarching vision for the Town? I understand that we are all waiting for the Comprehensive Plan Committee to come up with its revision, but I also think that people will vote for representatives who have an overall leadership plan. What is your own overall vision for Lansing's future in the next four years?
Doug Dake: I don't necessarily disagree with having a sewer in Lansing. As it was presented I didn't agree with it. It wasn't fair, plain and simple. I think if it were presented slightly differently, with service to a different service area, made sense, had help from developers to bear the brunt of the initial cost -- pipe in the ground is probably the biggest cost -- that's something that really has to be addressed by people that know about it. I think that could be done in an economical fashion.
My vision -- (laughs) I personally like the golf course they had designed for across the street! But that was years ago and befel the same fate as the sewer did. I do remember the sewer coming up in 1990. I thought at that time it was probably a good plan. We had a lot more funding, federal or state grant money.
Those things are all great, but whether it's state aid or federal aid it's coming from my left pocket and going to my right pocket. That should be researched and see if it's something we could attain.
To me the sewer isn't an end in itself, but a tool to accomplish something.
Absolutely. It would have to be.
I don't necessarily want to reinvent Lansing. The people I hang with, the people I talk to, like it the way it is. I don't think we need a town center. We have a town center in the Village of Lansing. if that's something that evolves over time and we can facilitate that, why, absolutely that is a plan we should try to follow.
The comprehensive plan, as I understand it is a village and town joint venture.
It's two separate ones, but they went in together on the survey.
I saw the results of that this morning. I thought it was kind of a hard read.
(laughs) Yes, it is!
As you look across statistically there was this, then this, then this, then this... numbers and percentages. But I'd like to know what the Comprehensive Plan COmmittee has come up with. Number 1, where is it? 2, is zoning in place for it? Number 3, we have to look at the infrastructure and see how to handle it.
If we gan get a developer in there with a small package plant to start, that may be the way to handle it. But once again, if we own the town, the town owns that land to be developed, why don't we think about possibly selling it to developers?
We certainly have zoning and ordinances in place, or will have them in place to facilitate that use, whether it be light industrial, mixed use housing -- I know that's been brought up several times. For the density factor that would be something that I would encourage. But in my eyes that's at least a ten to fifty year process.
The town center?
Yes. this plan's got to go far beyond next week and it's got to go far into fifty, sixty years down the road. We're never going to recreate Trumansburg, Groton, Moravia, Dryden, downtown Ithaca. It's just not going to happen. Those places evolved on their own. At the time there wasn't a lot of planning going on. I drive through Groton every day, and there are houses literally 20 feet off the curb of the road. Tree, lawn, sidewalk... that's quaint. That's nice. I don't see that happening on Route 34, on Auburn Road across from the Town Hall.
We would have to say we can do this but we're going to need more help. And what's your vision as a potential developer? What would be your view on this? I would be interested to see what the comprehensive plan has to offer and what those people are thinking.
The one thing we don't do well as a community is people get involved when they get mad. I think we saw that with the old sewer process.
We saw it with the new one, too.
All three of them. That tells me that these people don't want to pay more in taxes. I think the data the sewer committee used that they got via the schools... Tom Jones, I believe, came up with a lot of the new numbers. I'm not going to question those numbers. I didn't necessarily disagree with how they worked out. It wasn't a matter of the crunching of the numbers. I think it was 'blindered', so to speak. Oh our taxes are only going to go up this much or our cost is going to be X amount.
People don't think that way. I don't think that way. When I look at my tax bill I look at the bottom line. Then I might back up and say 'oh, it's this, this, this and this. I pay federal taxes. I pay state taxes. I pay sales tax.' That's how (people) look at it. So it's not a matter of this little bit going up, it's a matter of they all go up.
That's the first thing that popped into my head when I attended the sewer information meeting the same night of the library vote. I thought people don't think that way. It's a big picture. It's not this picture.
That's my take on the sewer. And the fact that we were spreading it all over the town. In some regards people are saying it would help the whole town. I don't know. That's speculative. You don't know what people think. You can tell them that and try to sell it that way. But people are smart. They're not going to think that way.
Getting back to my other point, people don't involve themselves until they get upset with something. To get back to the comprehensive plan, who has really involved themselves from the Town? I know I haven't. But who has involved themselves with the comprehensive plan? Where has the input been? Has there been enough email correspondence?
Presumably there has been. That's why they did the telephone survey. And they have citizens on the committee.
I never received a call. I don't know anyone who did receive a call, except Dewey Ray.
What single town issue to you see as the most important and challenging for the Town Board as a whole now, and what will you do about it if elected?
The Cayuga Operating Plant. I see that as a situation that could be not devastating to the Town, but devastating to the school district. The Town's pretty healthy financially. It's not great but it's solid. There's a lot of money in the A fund. Probably more than there needs to be, but that money's there. Over the past six or seven years the Board has done financially pretty well, so kudos to the boards of the last six or seven years.
But, the school... it would be devastating, because, face it: I have a boat and I go on the lake, and the one day three or four summers ago I looked up and didn't see a plume of smoke coming out of that thing, It hit me. I thought, 'wow, that's weird.'
So what would you do as a councilman?
First of all I am for repowering it. It's sensible. Natural gas burns better than coal. It's environmentally more sound. Carbon emissions have gong down since, what, 1980 or whatever. It's a sensible thing to do.
What I would do as a councilman... like I say we're in pretty healthy shape. So we're talking about what it's going to be valued at. if it closes it's going to be mothballed, so it will be sitting there and rotting.
If that land sells there's got to be a residual value there, so there's something coming back from it, but who knows what? As a town councilman, we would make do with having that as a loss. The loss of the jobs there is a problem. There are 70 to 100 jobs there, probably. And they're well paying jobs for people that don't necessarily need a college degree. That's the manufacturing middle class. People would stay here because they've got a great job.
I know a half dozen people out of high school, and Ive been out of high school for 34 years. So they're almost ready to retire. So, they have a good paying job. They've done well for themselves. They have a great pension... so as a councilman I would first urge the PSC to repower it. It's at the state level. I think the PSC --- someone's going to make a ruling.
They say by the end of this year.
That's true. So as a town councilman I'd say we could probably absorb that on the town level. At the school level we're going to have to figure out a way to keep the funding. The biggest problem I've found through coaching and talking to people over the years is the state mandates that come down. They're mandated every year, several different times over things. So that's obviously a point of contention.
Are you saying you would lobby the state to remove mandates?
If I thought it would help I would. This is ridiculous. Let's face it, our school classes are getting smaller. So how many teachers do we need? I'm not dogging teachers. Don't get me wrong. But I'm saying we are getting smaller. In the '70s that school was a quarter smaller.
What town issue is closest to your own heart, and what do you intend to do about that?
What really got me going was the badgering of Craig Christopher and the sign ordinance. That bothered me a lot. I don't really have a pet project or a thing I would concentrate on. I think I'm a good leader. Not to say I want to lead it, but I'm a good leader. I'm very good at negotiating, working with people. I do that every day. Every day. Work through an issue. Work with people. Smooth out the situation. Make people feel good. Talk to them and try to get out and be part of the solution.
I happened to be at the board meeting because the Town Board graciously recognized Kyle (a proclamation was issued last May declaring Kyle Dake month in the Town of Lansing for his outstanding wrestling achievements), and I stayed for the rest of the meeting. The first thing that popped into my mind was why not just adopt the old sign ordinance? Boom! Done! Adopt the old sign ordinance. Make a motion to adopt the old sign ordinance, and if you want to change it, amend it. It's very simple.
The second thing that popped into my mind was the Village of Lansing has a sign ordinance. It's a little more restrictive. But you've got a perfect model there, and you can always amend it. It shouldn't have had to go to a moratorium. it shouldn't have had to go to discussion. It shouldn't have to be huge parts of a working meeting.
Is there going to be a town center? You've answered that in part. Without any preconceptions from what has happened so far, what would you like to see happen to the town center land? In addition to a golf course (laughs)?
(laughs) I like the golf course! In winter you can cross country ski... no snowmobiling!
No, I have never really thought of that except as a place to possibly develop with some sort of housing. I don't have any real concept for that.
Would you support a town center committee reforming? There was one. I thought they did really good work. They got a lot of people involved. They got everyone's input and included it in a concept plan. It wasn't an actual plan, but it was a concept plan.
That's where you've got to start.
It was nice. Then they stopped meeting and that was it. Now they're kind of talking about the Economic Development Committee having a town center subcommittee.
Too many committees.
But since the Town paid the money for the town center land, would you support that committee coming back together?
I think so. Initially. Yes, I would. I'm not sure why we as a town have to go into that and say 'this is the town center.' Andy Sciarabba had some great plans for the old Pit Stop, which is sitting there rotting away. They were excellent plans.
We still have open spots. Eagan's IGA -- I don't know what's happening there. There was originally a thought of putting a rental shop there, but the Town didn't like it at the time.
The last I heard it was a roller derby practice rink, but I don't know if it still is.
I don't see a lot of activity there. I don't go that way a lot any more, but...
Slow, steady growth. I don't think we've got to jump in with our taxpayer dollars to try to develop an area. Groton did it. The park I'm working on right now, after Smith Corona closed in the early '80, it's 30-some years later and they're now just starting to get it to come to fruition. That's a thirty year (span) right there. Let's say 20, 25, whatever. That's a long ways away.
Once again, they were devastated, similar to what would happen if Milliken Station closes.
Yeah, we've got to plan for it. I'd love to see the concept. I wasn't apolitical as far as what I believe in, but I was apolitical in that I never attended meetings. I was never asked to be on a committee or things of that nature. I think I would do well at that.
In the final sewer meeting there was some discussion of a 'split Lansing' with relatively affluent neighborhoods in the south of the town that see themselves more a part of Ithaca than Lansing and more traditional families in the north that grew up here and want to maintain the character of the town they remember. Do you agree that there are 'two Lansings' and, if yes – or no, how does that impact your vision of how the Town should led by the Board? Also, if 'yes' is there a political divide in Lansing and how is that driving the campaign?
Let's go back to the first part.
Do you agree with that statement about the 'two Lansing'?
I don't think there are two Lansings. Enough of the people from old families out this way still drive through that way to go to work. I don't think so. I think the people who live there are not from Lansing proper, so to speak, by and large. There still are families there. There still are people that live there. I don't think it has to be dealt with that way.
What they want to see, that's fine. The Town Board would, I would think, be flexible enough to deal with that situation.
With the different visions?
Exactly. No, no. Because I live that way, too... I don't live in an affluent neighborhood, but I live that way. I'm still a part of Lansing. I consider myself with great pride to be from Lansing.
The second part was the political divide. I think you see it on the Board. With all due respect to everyone on the Board, it seems contentious. I've been to four meetings, a couple of which have been very heated. I don't know that they were handled great at the board level. There are three minutes to talk. Don't keep talking. That I had a problem with. I had a very big problem with that. This is a straightforward forum. Three minutes, you're done. Sorry, got to stop you. Thank you. That's the end of the conversation.
You're talking about the Privilege of the Floor section of Town Board meetings?
Yes. That's been violated and not upheld.
You're saying they should stick to the three minute rule and be consistent about it?
Oh absolutely. That's something that someone needs to take charge of.
So yes, I do think there is a political divide. There are people who want this, this and this, and others say no,no,no,no,no and you know where I'm going with that.
I bring a balance to it. Once again, I listen to people every day. I work with this a lot and I work with a lot of different people whether they are of a mind with me politically or not. I have friends that are conservative. I've got friends that are liberal. We may chat about things, but we still get along. I still respect them.
Some people say that town taxes are too high I think most people agree that school and county taxes are the real culprits that are burdening property taxpayers.
One of the most oft-sited justifications of the sewer and town center projects was to increase the tax base to mitigate the school tax rate for current property owners. Is it the town's job to do something about school taxes (if no, whose is it)? And what should the responsible entities do about it?
No. I think its the School Board's job to do something about school taxes.
What should they be doing?
They should find a way to be more efficient. Same with the Town. We're efficient now. Our tax rate dropped from $171 per thousand down to $1.37. Now I hear it's going up to $1.40 or whatever. Nonetheless that's become efficient by holding people accountable.
Now for some lightning round questions: where do you stand on hydro-fracking?
I've done a little bit of research. I'm by no means an expert on this. Obviously it's an environmental issue. I think most of the problem with the actual drilling is there's not a threat to the water table in that regard. I think the industry has taken that into account. The problem is the fracking fluid when it is brought back up and dealt with. I think that is the biggest issue. I've talked to several people about it, environmental engineers.
The fact that it might bring some economic relief to the area is certainly something. I think Governor Cuomo is thinking that and obviously President Obama is thinking that, too, that it would be somewhat of a reindustrialization.
The one issue I don't know about is, when you drill down 5,000 feet what parts per trillion of whatever may come up. we don't know. So there is an issue with that. As I understand it we're under a fracking moratorium right now. I don't know for how much longer. What, five months?
They just renewed it for another year. It was just a month or two ago, wasn't it?
As I understand it New York State is under a fracking moratorium. There will be a ruling at the State Court of Appeals on home rule. And Governor Cuomo is supposed to come out in 2014 with his thoughts on it. Whether that's January first or December 31st I don't know.
At this point I'm on the fence. I'm not one, and I don't think the Town Board is an entity that should say to so-and-so, 'you can't do that with your land.' That bothers me. We shouldn't be in that business. We can control what they do as far as ordinances and regulations and responsibility and things of that nature.
And the other thing is, we're not the honey hole for fracking, as I understanding. That's south of here, basically Ithaca College south, that hill is the continental divide. And it goes all the way to Ohio. They're fracking like mad in Ohio and also in Pennsylvania. All over PA.
There's a lot of concerns I'd have. If you could assure me that it's 99% safe I'd say why wouldn't we try it? If the companies will make sure the roads are fine, if they're not speeding up and down, if we've got good enough controls on the fracking fluid... that gas would be pretty neat if we had gas here and were self-sustaining.
But it would really have to come down to me being convinced that it really is 99% safe. That's the bottom line. I'm an outdoorsman. I love this stuff. I love walking through the woods and hunting and things like that. I don't want to see that ruined. So I would have to be convinced.
Is the level of services too much, too little or just right in Lansing today? If not just right, what do you plan to do to adjust it?
I'll tell you our highway department is probably second to none. On many occasions I've driven to the north border of Tompkins County, heading into the Southern Cayuga Area. The roads change in a snowy situation. Our town does a fantastic job on the highways. All the guys are versatile. they can build something with their hands, they can operate equipment, they're on the spot -- they're there is you call. They're responsive. They were overwhelmed with the flood we had in August, but that's a lot to handle.
Our Parks and Recreation Department is second to none. Unbelievable. I volunteered a lot to coach peewee football and soccer and peewee wrestling and baseball... I did that for years. The support, the ideas, and the park part is unreal. That park is just a jewel. I don't know if people appreciate it the way it should be appreciated. I think they do, and I take it for granted, too. Every year we go somewhere else in the summer for a vacation, and people ask 'where are you from?' 'Oh I'm from Lansing, around the lake from Ithaca' and they go 'Why did you come here? It's beautiful there.' It is beautiful here.
Arguably all four parks are remarkable: Myers, Salt Point, Ludlowville Park and the ball fields.
Seriously, it doesn't get much better. It's well maintained and people care and it's a great source of pride.
It seems that the town courts are busier these days. Should Lansing be looking at expanding its law enforcement, like hiring a full time or more part time constables or considering a modest police force?
No. The Sheriff does a fine job, and I think the County has realized the asset they have in our Sheriff's Department. And I think Ken Lansing's doing a great job running it. And the State Police are always around. I see a pretty good law enforcement presence in the Town so I don't think we need to have any extra. I haven't really talked to anybody who said anything else. I think we're adequately covered with that.
What do you bring to the Town Board that the other three candidates don't offer?
It goes back to my sense, my dealing with people. I am a good negotiator. I can handle stressful situations. I do it a lot. My demeanor, my calmness, my common sense. And my fiscal responsibility. Yeah I spend money on things I shouldn't spend money on, but that's my money, not the Town's money. That's just something I won't do. if I'm elected that would be my number one goal.
Like you said before, the county and the school taxes are high, but if we can alleviate some of what wee need why wouldn't we do it? It would make good sense.
Would you like to add anything we haven't talked about?
I'll leave that for another time.