Election 2017: Who’s Running for Third Ward?

Originally written for YourPortJervisIsShowing.com.

PORT JERVIS — Polls open in little more than two weeks in Port Jervis, and around the state. Find your polling location before Tuesday, November 7, on the Port Jervis city website.

Not sure which Ward in Port Jervis you live in? Find yourself on the Ward Map.

This is a sister article to this one regarding the Fourth Ward. As there are more than two candidates for the Ward’s two seats, no candidate runs unopposed. Therefore , the Third Ward needs the public’s help in selecting the Ward’s next pair of representatives.

“No policy that does not rest upon some philosophical public opinion can be permanently maintained.” — Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

“There is a power in public opinion in this country – and I thank God for it. For it is the most honest and best of all powers –  which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens.” — Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States

The Third Ward in Port Jervis, which spans from Reservoir Number One to the Port Jervis High School, and covers that corner of the city, has three candidates running for the two seats open to the ward, as there are again for each ward this election.

Residents of the Third Ward, as citizens with the inalienable right to vote, now have a selection to gather information on and form an opinion of, as they are undeniably free to do, before choosing one, if any, that best represents them. Engaged residents in this respect came up with a list of questions for the Ward’s candidates regarding it’s hot-button issues.

All three of the Ward’s candidates answered in each interview in their own words and are unaltered, exclusively here. Commonly used abbreviations found herein are listed at the end of the article for reference:

Gina Fitzpatrick

“Hi, I’m Gina Fitzpatrick and as a resident & council member who just paid over $13,000 in school taxes on my properties, I do not want to see taxes go up any further. Working 3 jobs myself and being a mom to four children, I know how expensive it is to live. Our seniors and low income/fixed income residents really suffer when taxes are raised. The school taxes are what’s really gone way too high here. City taxes in Port are not too bad compared to surrounding towns. We have an excellent DPW and Police Dept that goes above and beyond to make this town clean & safe and making cuts to those departments will be detrimental.

As a resident of my ward for 38 years, I know almost all who live here. Most homes in my ward are well kept and maintained and I have not run into many problems with unkept properties. If there’s a problem, my fellow 3rd ward councilwoman Kristin and I address it. We work well together.

As when a councilman/councilwoman passes away or quits, I do agree that the seat should go to public vote in a special election. There are laws to follow in that regard as well.

I myself use a hashtag for my DJ business (#DJG) and sometimes for health and fitness etc. I have used #Portpride several times too. I only use it in a positive way. Other than that I am not bothered by seeing them and think it’s ok if done tastefully and doesn’t cause hate. I’m all about peace and getting along with others. When it comes to politics, it can sometimes be very dirty and hateful. I will remain calm and not be drawn into any drama that others have or create. I will do my best to represent my fellow neighbors and help anyway I can. As a volunteer & resident in my community, I see what Port has to offer. They are endless. Gina Fitzpatrick”

Niki Jones

Question 1.
“The tax increases we have seen over the last couple of years are a result of three components; first no cost of living tax increases for many years, second borrowing from the fund balance to run the City, and third no or little economic development in the City of Port Jervis.
Each budget cycle the mayor presents a budget to the Council through the finance chair. The finance chair then holds meetings with each department head. Once the budget process is completed the budget is presented to the council. Last year the finance chair voted against the very budget she proposed. Last year we had approximately a 9% tax increase, with 2018’s rumored to be the same.

Many line items make up the budget; payroll and benefits being two of the largest. But how do you run a City without the people; Police, DPW? So when asked if I would support a tax increase to support moving the City forward, protecting the people, and providing a better community, I would! The tax percentage can be negotiated but not based on not cutting City resources.

To even out our tax base, we need to increase economic development, get buildings sold, both single family homes and commercial buildings. We need to create a healthy economic environment where people want to come to the City, and invest their money.”

Question 2.
“The quality of life issues occurring in the third ward surround; drug houses, bank owned houses, waste water runoff/flooding and landlords that rent to tenants that are just not good neighbors. Smaller day to day quality of life issues can be solved with council representatives that are actively engaged in their community, and are willing to work seamlessly with the City departments to proactively seek change for their constituents. Recently work began on the drainage channel after it was compromised by hurricane Irene, and water flooded many yards. It took time, but the City was able to secure funding to repair the drainage channel. I will actively seek solutions and work tirelessly to resolve any problems that occur in the third ward.”

Question 3.
“If possible the council should wait until the nearest election; however political reality being what it is, the lack of a member or members could lead to tied votes and gridlock. Councilmembers would then be inclined to appoint someone, but always the electoral process should be followed. Special elections might be possible but it is an expensive process.”

Question 4.
“Given my business background I realize the value all kinds of social media and their success at arriving at consensus on various issues. Council members can express opposition on social media but they should not disparage the process.”

Kristin Trovei

1. Where do you stand on the property tax increases we have seen in the past few years and will you support them in the future if elected?

“I do not support the recent property tax increases, as evident in my no vote to the budget last year. This is not simply because I think taxes are bad. I understand that as a city resident we expect, and have become used to, certain services provided to us. Those services cost money and costs of services rise each year. We have an amazing group of hardworking and dedicated employees that help keep our city safe, clean and operating and we appreciate them immensely.  However, I don’t think enough has been done to thoroughly look through the city expenses and revenues, as well as implement changes that could have put the City on a better path, which is why I voted no.  I do not want to point fingers, but there have been decisions that have been made in the past by previous councils, for whatever their reasons may have been, that have contributed to the difficult financial issues that we face today. This current council has to follow through on decisions that have been previously made, such as contracts until they are up for renegotiation – a sure to be difficult process. However, we cannot keep kicking the can down the road. I cannot change or dwell on those past decisions. This is where we are at, so let’s move on from here.

I believe that the city needs to develop a reasonable financial plan. It can be difficult to enact and follow through on as the administrations change and emotions can get in the way of reason, but the basic concepts should be followed to ensure that the City can sustain. It is possible to maintain the level of employees, pay those employees well, provide good benefits to those employees, maintain services, and reduce costs. While every situation is different, tactics to achieve those goals have been utilized in other communities and I believe that if people are willing to work together, we can come up with plans and contracts that will reduce the ever-increasing burden on the tax payers while maintaining, if not enhancing, the services the City provides to its current residents and businesses as well as attract new ones. In addition, the City needs to develop a plan to properly market and promote the City to draw more residents in and increase the tax base that has been relatively stagnant for far too long as well as draw in new economic opportunities.

I see positive changes in Port Jervis that has happened over the past 2 years. Many of the old buildings in the down town area have been purchased and renovated and we are trying to utilize our natural resources and history as tourist attractions. New businesses will come in, bringing new jobs, new visitors and maybe new residents, and we need to support that as much as we can. However, we also need to make sure we support the businesses and residents that are already here so that they can remain and thrive here.

Ultimately, we all need to work together to do what’s best for the hardworking tax payers of this city. That’s the responsible thing to do.”

2. What are your thoughts and plans for improving the living conditions in our ward?
“Quality of life issues affect every ward. I think in order to combat them we need to be proactive as well as develop better communication with the police department, the code enforcement office, neighborhood watch groups and residents. If people do not communicate the problems, they cannot be fixed. Communication and the sharing of information is something I push for, which is one of the reasons why for the past year I have posted weekly ‘cliff notes’ of meetings that I have attended on my Facebook page so people who cannot attend meetings can have a glimpse of what was discussed.

The PJPD and Code Enforcement officers work very hard and spend much of their time in areas with a record of higher reported problems, which unfortunately leaves the rest of the city being monitored less often. However, if we were to hire additional resources, the budget would increase, which is often not an enjoyable prospect.

I believe we need to provide as many resources as we can reasonably afford to our city departments as well as continue to look at regulations and procedures to see what can be changed to allow the City to more easily and effectively stop some of the problems. We recently hired two part-time seasonal code enforcement officers to assist with the demand placed on our Code Enforcement office, with the expectation that their salaries would essentially be paid with the fines that will be accrued. But we also need the residents to assist. There are things that the citizens can do to help that the City cannot do while the city council and officials deal with the legalities and obstacles that stand in our way. I cannot attend neighborhood watch meetings in the 3rd ward due to the fact that I have a CDA meeting on the same day and time as those meeting are supposed to occur, but I have requested that meeting notes be forwarded to myself and Ms. Fitzpatrick so we can be apprised of issues raised and we can follow up with proper departments. Other wards have active neighborhood watch groups and I hope that these meetings occur more regularly, more residents attend and help be a part of the solution. Pride and respect of your property and community cannot be legislated, but we can lead by example and work with each other to help solve some of the issues that we face.”

3. What is your position on installing council members without a public vote in the circumstance a member quits or dies?

“Losing a member of the council is never easy and the prospect of replacement is never taken lightly. The process to fill that vacated seat is outlined by the Board of Elections and enacted by the remaining council members. I believe in the continuity of government and that part of the responsibility of the council is to make decisions to ensure that residents are being fully represented. Leaving a seat vacant for an extended period of time would not allow for full representation. I can understand the concerns of this process, but I believe in the ability for the remaining council members to agree on an appointment of a person they believe to be qualified and dedicated to the task until an election can occur and the residents of that ward can vote on the next council member.”

4. Where do you stand on sitting council members denigrating the use of hashtags, the public search engine tool for building community and organized information?

“I do not use hashtags. I have ‘hashtagged’ appx 2 times in my entire life and don’t necessarily plan on utilizing hashtags in the future. It is just not something that I participate in.  I typically do not use them, share them, follow them, search with them, or comment on them.  I can see that if utilized properly, they can be a useful tool. I can also see how they can be over used and lose their effectiveness. However, recently a hashtag has been circulating in a negative manner toward a friend of mine and fellow candidate. I disagreed with the sentiment, however, since I respect people’s rights (even councilmember’s) to have opinions, I did not say anything about the hashtag nor did I say anything about specific person(s) or publications that may or may not have started it or been associated with it. Unfortunately, the hashtag was used in a manner which I believe to be improper. Hashtags belong on social media, not anonymously placed in a person’s personal belongings, which is something that recently occurred. Whether meant to be a joke or harassment/intimidation for the candidate, I believe it to be inappropriate. I believe that one can agree with the sentiment of the intended use of the hashtag while not agreeing with the actions that transpired.

Thank you for including me in your Election 2017 coverage. If anyone has any questions, comments, concerns, suggestions or need clarification on anything, please reach out to me and I will provide you with as much factual and honest information as I can provide.”

Abbreviations above:

  • appx – approximately
  • CDA – Community Development Agency
  • DPW – Port Jervis Department of Public Works
  • PJPD – Port Jervis Police Department
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