- By Dan Veaner
When he stopped by the Lansing Star Monday, LaVigne stressed reduced spending and attracting business to Lansing to increase the overall assessed taxable value to make up for the potential loss of more power plant revenue. He talked about accessibility to residents, and his favorite topic, volunteerism.
Lansing Star: You won the election. You obviously have some ideas about what you want to do, and what you want to do that's different. Let's talk about that.
Ed LaVigne: First of all I want to compliment my opponent, Kathy Miller. She tried her best in the best interests of the Town. It's just that the Town has chosen to go in a different direction. As I've said before, elections are like job interviews. But once that's over, and if you get 'hired' you're no longer interviewing. It's time to move forward.
That's the thing about elections. You've won, but it's not like you've won and that's the end of it. This is the first phase of a multi-phase process. Now you need to move forward and accomplish what you've set out to accomplish.
In general, what is that? What is the new direction?
My vision, or the vision I hope the Town has, is basically this: Once again, our biggest taxpayer in the County may not be around. That's a huge, huge concern. So what do you do in the future? You try to keep your expenses tight. You try to increase your assessed value through attracting new businesses, through growth.
You have to be fiscally disciplined. You also have to stay focused. This is going to be a process. It's going to be a grind. This means you look at every penny. If you can save a few dollars here, a few dollars there, it goes in the pot. The main thing you have to do is what's in the best interest of the people of Lansing, all the people of Lansing, because the election is over. it is not about politics. it is about serving.
One of the differences in your approach from Kathy's, I would say, had to do with how planning for the future is done. Saving money is a piece of that picture, but sometimes you have to spend money.
How do you see that piece of it fitting in?
Are you talking about highway equipment or everything in general?
Not just highway equipment, but I'd say Town equipment. The Rec Department has some equipment and even the Court has some equipment. How will you insure that the Town will have what it needs do what it's supposed to do?
What you do is you address it. You say this is an expense and you put it in the budget. You say this is where we're going to go with this. We are now in the process of buying Rec Department equipment and doing a two or three year roll-over. That's gong to take a few more years to do.
You look at when they have a surplus from their concerts or other things they do. It's one of the few departments that actually generates revenue. Rather than dump that back in the fund balance you put that in the Rec equipment reserve for next year. That tends to take some of the hit off it next year if you have to come up with another $30,000. In a few years time you should be to a point where you're only spending two or three thousand dollars a year, if that, to make sure you equipment is in fine working condition, always under warranty, always functional. That's for the Rec Department.
On a larger scale you look at the Highway Department. Once again, I am the only person who went through every piece of equipment. I will go through that again with Cricket (Highway Superintendent-elect Charlie Purcell). Where are the expiration dates on this? How do we get there? How much money do we need? Do we need $200,000 every year? Maybe that's something, as our assessed value goes up, without putting the burden on the taxpayers, we can allow more of that. That's what our goal is. We should eb able to put in a line item where you have highway equipment (money) go into that fund every year.
So you do want to create reserves, but you don't want to tax extra to fill them?
Exactly right. you want to ease into it. Because I think right now we have to look at purchasing equipment. If some money goes in reserves, that's fine as long as you have a surplus. We're not at a surplus budget right now. That's where you want to go in the future.
That's why it's so critical to start moving some dirt, getting things built. One of the things I've already told developers is that Lansing is in business. How can we make you more prosperous? We believe in prosperity. And if you're prosperous we all will benefit. I don't care how much money they make. I hope they make more money than they ever dreamed of, because if they put their money in Lansing, Lansing wins.
The land across the street from the Town Hall and ball fields that was considered for a town center... what do you think should happen to that land?
I don't think the Town of Lansing is in the land business. If they want something to be developed over there, let that person or persons buy it. Let them take the risk. If they get the reward, good for them. But that is up to them as long as they fall within the same rules and regulations as that zone allows, then they should. As with any piece of land, whether you buy it from us or you buy it from Kingdom farm... it doesn't really matter.
Why are we sitting on that land? We put $400,000 into that and nothing has come of it. That's $400,000 of taxpayers' money. Something needs to be done besides us just sitting on it, and evidently nothing is going to happen to it in the future. So I would entertain all offers. I would present those or have somebody else present those to the Town Board, as we come up with a consensus about what we want to do with that land.
Are you happy about how the parks are? All of the parks. Myers Park, Salt Point, Ludlowville Park and the ball fields.
First of all these parks were basically due to the sweat of Lansing residents, and you should respect them. Salt Point was called something different when I grew up. As far as I'm concerned, I think we have achieved what we wanted to do there for the most part. And we should leave it.
There is an active group of volunteers working on it.
Volunteerism is something I would stress. As John F. Kennedy would say, 'What can you for, in this case, Lansing?' What can people do for Lansing? How can you be a volunteer? I just got done working on that new pavilion in Ludlowville Park.
It's beautiful. I just went down there to see it.
It's beautiful. God bless the Lions, which I am now a member of. They seem to do pavilions, and they do them quite well. There are other things in the works that have been proposed by other people who have reached out to me. One of the things I'd like to see done next year is to have the area paved down at the park. Do we do it in three different phases?
Down at Myers Park? Which area?
The area near the marina that has been fully renovated, closest to the water. You have gravel there. I think that should be paved. I think we have some very talented people in the Highway Department. You've seen what they've done with Myers Road this year. You've seen what they've done with other roads this year. They are very good at that.
You're the first supervisor in recent memory that has a day job with set hours. Scott Pinney had a day job, but he had control over his hours. Obviously there's going to be a difference there in terms of when you're available. have you thought about the mechanics of that? I know what you say about working 97 hours a day...
I'm available. When I was campaigning, the things I would tell people when I handed them my pamphlet were, here's my Web site. here's my email address. Her''s my cell phone number. Contact me.
I still tell people that, because as the Town Supervisor you represent everyone, regardless of party. If you have a concern like they did at Autumn Ridge -- that's behind us now. People reached out to me, and me alone on that Town Board, to help them with (flooding issues) at Autumn Ridge.
What happened with that? i think we're in pretty good shape. Once again, we have very talented highway people. Cricket was gracious enough to meet with these people, because (Highway Superintendent Jack French) was out of town. Otherwise I'd have reached out to Jack on this.
By the way, we should commend Jack for his 38 years of service. Thank you very much. Because he also has left it better than he found it.
Having said that, you are accessible. I plan to be at the Town hall at least one Saturday per month for people to see me. If you want to make an appointment, fine. I'll come to your house and we'll talk in your living room where you're comfortable. You don't have to come in front of a camera. You don't have to come in front of a microphone at Town Board meetings where we have Privilege of the Floor. I will meet with you in your house. Have coffee with you. Whatever it takes, I want to know what your concerns are.
Are you going to be able to have office hours during the week?
Oh God, yes. I have two and a half weekdays off. I work a 12 1/2 hour schedule. I get my fifth wind at 8 o'clock, not my second wind. I am accessible to people. If you email me I will get back to you. People have reached out to me already. You address concerns, because one of the worst things anyone can feel when they talk to elected officials is abandoned.
One thing that nobody can deny is that you worked really hard to get elected. You put out 200 yard signs. You knocked on how many doors?
800. I handed out 1,400 pamphlets. I don't know if I worked hard... I just worked. That's what I do. 'Worked hard' means you're being compared to somebody else. I don't do that. Everybody has their own way of doing things. That's how I do it. That's how I put myself through pharmacy school after I got my two-year degree in accounting. That's what you do. You grind. And as the day gets longer, I get stronger.
That's how it works. So when people said, after the primary, 'Aren't you tired yet?' I said, 'I haven't got warmed up yet. I just got out of first gear.'
And, by the way, my compliments to Chris Williams. I thought he ran a very good campaign. Very energetic. He put a lot of work into it and he should be commended for that. As far as I'm concerned there is a place for him, if he wants to help Lansing get better, I've already reached out to him.
The other thing is, as the campaign went on, I would keep going. I can still bang on doors. if they want to talk to me about concerns they can put my cell phone number right in there. Call me. I want to hear what you have to say. It's not about Ed LaVigne. Lansing's been awfully good to Ed LaVigne and Ed LaVigne's family. This is me reaching out to them, saying how can we help you. I'm a firm believer in empowering people. I'm a firm believer in people being self-reliant, but if you need help, if you need something that the Town can do, reach out to me, please.
There is some disagreement between the Town government and the Village government about what the taxes in the Village should be and what the services are, or should be. It seems like they're getting cranky down there about this. what's your take on this?
It's how you address concerns. The first thing you do it reach out to them. I'm going to their meetings.
I'll see you there.
See you there. I want to introduce myself to them. I've known (Mayor Don Hartill) for a long time. He's a very gracious man. He has the best interests of the Village at heart. I respect him for that. I'm going to their meetings. I want to get to know these people. If we find where the circles cross we'll work it out. That's what we do. That's what compromise is about. Let's see what the issues are. How can we help in these areas? What's your concerns. Let's put it all on the table and see what happens.
In that vein, not so much with the Fire Department, because the Town and Fire Department are almost integral in a way... but the School District... the Town and the Schools have certain interests in common. For instance, right now there are school representatives on the Town Emergency Preparedness Committee.
But the big elephant in the Town right now is the power plant. Whatever happens to it is going to impact school taxpayers more than town taxpayers, even though most of them are the same people. Do you think that the Town is where it should be right now in terms of trying to keep the taxes down?
I've always had a great relationship with the schools. I've had a great relationship with Glenn Swanson. I've had a great relationship with Julie Boles. I've had a great relationship with Aziza Benson. Those are people I feel can reach out to me any time they want. I have a lot of respect for Christine Iacobucci. I am looking forward to meeting with her one on one and seeing how we can have more of a symbiotic relationship.
The ironic thing is that they say the Town (tax rate) is only $1.43, soon to be $1.49 per thousand, and the school is over $20, so the Town doesn't have much impact on taxes. I totally disagree with that, because we do. We can build more things. If we can increase our assessments we can make a tremendous contribution.
What if, in the next two or three years, we come up with $60 million of assessed value? You have just taken that concern about the power plant off the books. Then what if they keep it open? All of a sudden, now, we're ahead. And that's considering the fact that it has depreciated in the last few years. I was told by the Supervisor, by $15 million in one year and $12 million in the others. I was also told by the Supervisor that the Shops at Ithaca Mall have decreased in assessed value by $10 million.
So in the last few years we have lost some assessment. But what if we could get some of that back? Wouldn't that take a lot of the pressure off of your schools so they could still provide an excellent education? Let's face it. One of the things people come to this area for is our schools. That is a tremendous industry, and I think we produce a wonderful product.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming four years?
We are in for the rides of our life. This will be a great time, because you have Lansing here. You have tremendous volunteers. You have tremendous energy. They want to make it better. The people I reach out to, you start talking to them and they get almost giddy about this.
These next four years -- this is gong to be a time when you look back and say, 'Wow, we did a great thing here.'''
I have only imitated what people have done before me. You look at the ball fields -- how great was that? You look at Myers Park -- how great was that? You look at what Ludlowville did -- how great was that? You look at all these things volunteers have done, and the list goes on and on and on, and all I am doing is imitating what I was taught by example.
Keep in mind that Lansing has a lot of great people. Our town board may not have agreed on everything. But, in all fairness, I think we agreed on most things. And that was what we can do best for the residents of Lansing. We're going to tap into that energy, to that volunteerism, to those unique talents and we're going to push forward on this.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a parade again in Lansing? Wouldn't it be nice to have some sort of celebration where we incorporate the Lions and the fireworks together, or you do something where it's a celebration weekend?
Wouldn't it be nice to incorporate all those different things in -- what are we coming up to, our 150th anniversary? If I'm not mistaken? Wouldn't it be nice to tap into all that energy? You get the right person to do this at the right time. Wnhen we think that we're in a crisis I would not want to be in a better position than I am in right now. The person who takes the last shot in the game -- it' a privilege to be in that situation. There are some peoplke who avoid it. I draw toward it. That is what I want. Because Lansing comes first.