Mayoral candidates discuss campaign initiatives

Mar. 9—PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh mayoral race is taking shape and candidates are wasting no time getting to work.

Democratic candidate and current Clinton County legislator from Area 8, Wendell Hughes, who announced his campaign for mayor in early February, issued his four-point plan for his candidacy Thursday.

"As a candidate for Mayor of Plattsburgh, NY, I am proud to present a comprehensive vision for our city, anchored in four key points but not limited to them," Hughes said.

"With 30 years of government work, extensive volunteering, and several years as an elected official with a proven track record, I am uniquely positioned to lead Plattsburgh into a bright future."

PLAN

The first point of Hughes's four-point plan for the city is "team building."

"My long-standing relationships with local and state leaders have been instrumental in fostering collaboration and building a strong team dedicated to the city's progress," Hughes said.

"With experience as a former Corrections Administrator and union member, I understand the importance of supporting both management and union workers in labor relations.

"Endorsements from the Plattsburgh City Democratic Committee and my role as Vice Chair of the Clinton County Democratic Committee underscore my commitment to effective teamwork and leadership."

The second point is "prevention."

"I am committed to addressing homelessness, mental health, and substance disorders by working with professionals and engaging with various community organizations to promote a vibrant, healthy community," Hughes said.

"My involvement in law enforcement and public safety, including membership in various safety and human services committees, demonstrates my dedication to ensuring a safe and secure environment for all residents.

"As the chairperson of the Clinton County Health Committee and a member of several health and planning boards, I am deeply invested in the well-being of our community and will continue to volunteer and support initiatives that enhance public health and safety."

The third point is "infrastructure."

"Upgrading the city's infrastructure is a top priority, and I will develop a prioritized list of projects while seeking funding opportunities to bring them to fruition," Hughes said.

"I will conduct a thorough review of land usage and development studies to identify key needs and assets, ensuring that community input shapes our future growth.

"My collaboration with agencies, developers, and nonprofits aims to secure affordable housing and stimulate economic development through tax incentives and zoning variances."

The fourth point is "fiscal responsibility."

"I am committed to exploring grants and other funding sources while promoting shared services to reduce the tax burden on our residents," Hughes said.

"By fostering public-private partnerships, I aim to deliver affordable services and create opportunities for economic growth.

"My focus on maintaining affordable utilities and my role in the Clinton County Finance Committee highlight my dedication to responsible financial management."

CHALLENGERS

Hughes believes this plan will resonate with city voters.

"With my extensive experience in government, a deep understanding of legislative processes, and a commitment to community service, I am poised to lead Plattsburgh toward a prosperous and inclusive future," he said.

"Together, we can build a city that thrives on collaboration, innovation, and fiscal prudence while remaining open to new ideas and opportunities."

Hughes is currently facing two challengers in the race: fellow Democratic candidate Daniel Lennon and Republican candidate Don Kasprzak.

If both Democratic candidates get the required number of signatures to get on the ballot, it will set up a primary election June 25.

KASPRZAK RESPONSE

Asked about Hughes's plan, Kasprzak, 68, who served as the city mayor from 2006 to 2014, does not think the mayoral priorities could be reduced to just a four-point plan.

"I appreciate my opponents' proposals and priorities. My experience as mayor, however, is that the number of priorities totaled a minimum of 10 to 15 per day and they were everchanging. That is why the City of Plattsburgh needs and should require experienced leaders," Kasprzak said.

"I will be sharing a list of my priorities next Friday at our press conference."

Kasprzak is the only Republican to enter the race so far.

He made steps toward reclaiming his old job Thursday when he accepted the City Republican Party nomination for the mayoral election this November.

"The City of Plattsburgh Republican Committee is honored to endorse former three-term Mayor, Donald Kasprzak, to be the Republican Nominee, for Mayor of the City of Plattsburgh. Over the course of the last several months, we have heard directly from the people on how they would like to see the City operate," Chair of the Republican Committee, David J. Souliere IV, said in a statement.

"The message has been loud, and clear. The People want an experienced, responsible city government, which works collaboratively, in order to meet the needs, and desires of the people. The mayor has to be forward thinking, always looking at how the city will operate 50-100 years from now, while also understanding the world we live in today.

"Donald Kasprzak has the experience, insight, and fortitude to deliver real results to the City of Plattsburgh, and that is why we are very honored to unanimously endorse him to be the next Mayor of the Lake City."

LENNON RESPONSE

In response to Hughes's plan, Lennon, 29, said it would be better referred to as "ideas" rather than a four-point plan.

"There's a lot of talk but voters want action. I meet them day to day, and one driving concern that voters have had is a lack of execution. The question you (voters) need to ask yourself is this: in his few years on the county legislature, what has Wendell Hughes done for you?" he said.

"Voters struggle to answer that question when I ask them, and that's concerning. But, that's why I'm running, because I'm all about action."

ANIMAL ABUSE REGISTRY LAW

This action is evidenced by his recently proposed Animal Abuse Registry law, Lennon said, which he submitted to the city Common Council, corporation counsel and Mayor Chris Rosenquest for review Thursday.

"Put the ball in their court essentially, because it's baffling to me that we don't have something like this in our area," Lennon said.

"Other municipalities have it, other counties in the state have it, and the fact that we don't have it is just a blind side on our part."

Under the law, as Lennon, a former Clinton County assistant district attorney, has proposed, the registry would require individuals convicted of animal abuse to register with the city, similar to how sex offenders are required to register with the state, making it easier for authorities to track and monitor those who pose a potential threat to animals.

Additionally, a first animal abuse conviction would require registering with the city for 10 years; a second conviction would put an individual on the registry for life, Lennon said. It would cost $125 to register, essentially paying for itself.

He said animal shelters in the area would then be given access to the registry so they know not to transfer ownership to a convicted animal abuser.

"That's action," Lennon said.

"I'm taking proactive steps to make our community safer. That's what the community's yearning for."

In Lennon's previous experience of working in the special victim's unit in Schenectady County, he said he was solely designated as the animal abuse prosecutor as well.

Before he left that position, he said he orchestrated a multidisciplinary team within the county to form a uniform approach to handling animal abuse cases and was working toward establishing an animal abuse registry law, similar to this one, there.

"Animal abuse is intolerable in the Lake City and a registry will help ensure animal safety and prevent future abuse, such as what recently occurred in the Town of Beekmantown," Lennon said.

"As we've seen in the news, animal abuse is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in our community, holding abusers accountable for their actions to prevent future instances of cruelty towards animals in our city."

Lennon said he will be at the next Common Council meeting to discuss the law further and hopes members of the public will be there to join him and advocate for it.

"I would highly suggest that members of the community, if you are in support of such a law, or an animal abuse registry in the City of Plattsburgh, crowd effort helps; a voice from the people may help this thing get forward," he said.

"But it's ultimately up to council at this point."

HUGHES RESPONSE

Hughes supports the law and said he has been working on a similar one at the county level since 2021.

"I am really happy for any law that protects our pets," he said in response.

"I have been working on this for the past 3 years to get it approved on the county level. I actually had a discussion with him (Lennon) about two months ago about it."

Email: cnewton@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: CarlySNewton