GLOVERSVILLE – As they prepare to meet in the Sept. 10 primary election, the three Republicans running for mayor have differing perspectives about the state of the city how it should be led.
Incumbent Mayor Dayton King, 34, officially announced in April he is running for re-election and would seek independent, Conservative and Republican lines on the ballot.
Michael A. Ponticello, 60, declared his candidacy for mayor in March.
The Gloversville Republican Committee and the city’s Conservative Party have endorsed of Ponticello, a resident of North Kingsboro Avenue.
Former Gloversville Councilman-at-Large James Handy, 74, announced in April he is running for city mayor. Handy, a registered Republican and resident of 23 Alexander St., said he will run on Republican and independent lines.
King graduated from Fulton-Montgomery Community College in 1998 and then graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He has held other jobs since taking office, but he presently is working full-time as mayor.
Ponticello is a lifelong Gloversville resident and first began working for the Gloversville Enlarged School District as a football and baseball coach in 1984. In 1986, he was hired as a physical education teacher and later coached baseball and football.
In 1998, Ponticello was appointed assistant principal at Gloversville Middle School and later served as the McNab-Meco Elementary School Principal from 2001 until his retirement in 2010.
He currently represents Gloversville’s 5th Ward on the Fulton County Board of Supervisors.
Handy served as the city’s 5th Ward councilman from 2004 to 2005 and as councilman-at-large from 2006 to 2009.
He graduated with an associate degree in electrical technology from Hudson Valley Community College and worked on computer programs for Fulton County, Beech-Nut Foods, IBM and Unisys System. He also is an active member of the city Lions Club and one of the founders of Railfest with former Mayor Frank LaPorta.
Handy, a 55-year city resident, is a member of the city Planning Board.
Among the first issues Handy said he would focus on as mayor are blight problems. He say if the city doesn’t look appealing, new residents and businesses will be hesitant to relocate here.
“We have got to be attractive to both sides of this by making the city we live in more beautiful,” Handy said.
He said if the city government and community worked together on beatification, the blight problem would diminish over time.
King said blight is difficult to address because a lot of state laws prevent immediate action, but he will continue to lobby to the state government.
“Blight is one of those issues that you can talk about it and talk about it, but I don’t know that anybody can come in as mayor and do things differently or do a better job,” King said. “One of the big things is tearing down houses. I know the county does that, but we just had a gentleman on Oakland Ave. that bought a house at auction and instead of the county doing it, he did it himself at a cheaper price.”
He said blight is an issue that won’t be addressed by city government alone, but the whole community must get involved.
Ponticello said he knows the Fire Department is trying to address blight through code enforcement, but at some point, when the city is financially stable enough, it needs to hire an individual “blight officer.”
“It definitely needs to be addressed, and it would be better if one person was responsible for that issue,” Ponticello said.
City property owners pay the highest tax rate found in any city in the state, according to a report by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.
Residents of the city and Gloversville Enlarged School District pay a combined city, school and Fulton County tax rate of $52.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, the study showed.
The city is 43 cents ahead of the second-highest-taxed city, which is Binghamton, the study says.
The median home value in Gloversville is $70,600, and the annual tax on that property would be $3,699, the study shows.
King said it took him a few years to understand aspects of the job of mayor, such as interpreting union contracts, but he said he is happy the city has been able to keep taxes flat the last two years, and he will be proposing a budget in the coming months that would reduce taxes by 2 percent.
King said this will be possible because the city has been careful to not spend foolishly and has built a healthy reserve of $3.4 million.
King said Ponticello has twice voted to override the state tax cap on Fulton County budgets.
However, Ponticello said, that was a precaution all supervisors voted on early in the budget process in case the cap had to be over the 2 percent limit, and the county didn’t actually surpass the limit during the final budget approval.
“It’s a different animal,” Ponticello said about the differences between county and city governments. “But I think taking money out of the contingency to lower taxes would be irresponsible. You need to be fiscally responsible and the way to do that is lower taxes by increasing revenue.”
He said the taxes in the city could be reduced if the city were to partner with entities in the private sector for development and partner with other communities to share services.
Handy said the new Walmart Supercenter and other development expected around it will improve the city’s tax situation by increasing revenue, and city officials must continue to be careful about how they spend money.
He said lowering taxes will entice more businesses and residents to move into the city.
“We have to take care of the taxpayers of this city and lower their rate to make it more attractive for others to move here. Everything comes together,” Handy said. “If we make it beautiful and lower the taxes, I think that will bring more development and jobs and lower the taxes even more.”
Ponticello stressed the importance of an economic development plan for the city that will attract industry and jobs.
“The city needs to grow, and we can’t grow any longer through cuts and reduced spending,” Ponticello said. “We need to find other areas of revenue.”
He said if elected mayor, he would aggressively try to entice private businesses to move in, and he’d promote partnerships with organizations and businesses to expand the city’s financial growth.
Ponticello said to promote more business in the downtown area, more people need to live on and around Main Street who would frequent the businesses there daily.
“If you provide housing, businesses and more people will come,” Ponticello said.
Handy said he would like to create jobs by bringing some type of industry back to Gloversville.
He said he would court businesses, such as those in the growing electronics and chipmaking industry, to get them to move into the Glove Cities Industrial Park, but he said he doesn’t know what else can be done from the position of mayor until he is in that role.
“We need to create jobs for all skill levels in this community,” Handy said.
Handy said he wants to increase advocacy for the city because it doesn’t have a state representative it can consistently go to for help with issues that affect it.
King said patronizes local businesses and refers residents to them through his Facebook page and will continue to do so.
He said it is important to address downtown development, and after the election, he believes the relationship between City Hall and downtown merchants will improve.
King said the key to marketing the city is to reach out to people outside Gloversville.
“It’s good to market the downtown to the people in the area but they know where downtown is already,” King said. “We need to start marketing to the Capital Region and work closer with the chamber of commerce.”
He said he’s excited for what the future holds in the area around Walmart, and believes within the next five years several other businesses will jump on the trend to build along Route 30A.
Ponticello said he envisions more cooperation between Gloversville and Johnstown, including the sharing of services to lower the taxes in both communities.
He said his experience at the county level has given him knowledge of what each of the municipalities is facing.
“Hopefully we can sit down and work together to develop a plan that benefits us,” he said.
King said he played an important role in building cooperation between different municipalities to have the Walmart Supercenter project move forward, and he will continue to cooperate with surrounding municipalities as long as it is beneficial to all parties.
“We have to share expenses as well as revenue to make things work,” King said.
He said there will be a lot more cooperation once Route 30A starts to develop more.
King said he hopes in his next term there can be some progress in consolidating the city’s Common Council and ward supervisor positions to allow city officials to have input on the county level as well.
Handy said he is familiar with developing a strong partnership with the surrounding municipalities from when he served on the council and would look to continue those relationships as mayor.
“Unfortunately, the relationship with the town kind of soured, and they are trying now to bring it back, but we are all such a small community we really have to reach out and work together on revenue, equipment and even personnel sharing to lower the cost for all of us,” Handy said.
Many residents of the city feel it doesn’t offer much to do, so they go elsewhere for dining and entertainment. The mayoral candidates hope that can change.
Handy said he has always tried to advocate for community events in the city primarily with the start of Rail Fest, and he would like to continue that effort as mayor.
“We need to have more attractions and more activities for our residents,” Handy said.
He said as the city gains more revenue, it could potentially fund more events for the community to enjoy.
Handy also said he would like to work with the school system to allow kids to be more active in government and in the community with various cleanup projects.
The incumbent mayor said he was happy to obtain a $10,000 donation for a skating rink that is open during the winter months to residents and to support the summer basketball tournament that was organized at Darling Field by resident Harley Fuller.
King said being available through Facebook and openly providing the number to his cellphone has allowed him to interact with residents of the city and be aware of the issues that concern them.
“I really pride myself on being visible and accessible to anybody,” King said.
Ponticello said he, too, believes the community needs to have more events to provide residents with things to do.
He said the city Recreation Commission is a valuable resource, but he thinks funding is a problem and the committee needs to have a steady revenue source that will allow it to plan and promote more community events.
“Until we can do that, it is very difficult to put together a recreation program, but finding funding to do that would be a challenge,” Ponticello said.
According to state Board of Elections website, Ponticello leads the field of candidates in campaign fundraising, with a total of $7,407 in available funds through Committee to Elect Mike Ponticello Mayor . Of that money, $4,790 has been spent on various campaign materials.
King is second in available funding, The Re-elect Mayor Dayton King committee has raised $5,962, of which $3,527 has already been spent, according to the website.
King said he will be purchasing more radio ads as the elections near and he has already put up more than 300 lawn signs throughout the community.
He said he chose lawn signs over billboards because it was more cost efficient, and it means more to residents if they see neighbors and friends support a candidate.
Handy said most of his campaign money has came out of his own pocket, and he doesn’t have any type of campaign committee, but according to the state website, his total available funding was $2,382, and he has already spent $2,068.
“I’m not going to be spending a heck of a lot more because this is all out of pocket for me, because I’m not funded by anybody besides a few contributions,” Handy said.
King said the key to being re-elected this year will be consistency.
If King is re-elected in November, he would be the first mayor in the city to serve a second term in more than 40 years. According to the city website, the last mayor to be re-elected was Richard H. Hood, who served from 1962 to 1969.
The position of city mayor has a four-year term and pays a yearly salary of $39,839.
All of the candidates encouraged fellow Republicans to vote in the Sept. 10 primary and all voters to participate in the general election Nov. 5.
Levi Pascher can be reached at [email protected].