Geneva Believer sent interview requests to all 18 Republican and Democratic candidates for City Council and Mayor. Six candidates agreed to participate in email interviews. Candidates were asked the same eleven questions, plus one question specific to the candidate, along with one follow-up question (if needed). All responses are being published in full, unedited and without any additional editorial commentary.
12 Questions With Democratic At-Large Candidate Tamarie Cataldo
1. The City of Geneva Comprehensive Plan took about a year and a half, cost $100,000, and involved the participation of hundreds of residents through bi-lingual forums and surveys. The result was a detailed set of recommendations for the city, none of which include any commercial or residential development in Lakefront Park. The Plan also calls Lakefront Park one of the city’s two most valued public spaces, according to residents.The Plan further recommends re-zoning Lakefront Park, which would prevent all attempts at future development.
Do you support the Comprehensive Plan’s suggestion to permanently protect Lakefront Park from development? If not,why? And if so, what will you do to help make it happen?
Absolutely, I do! I feel we should even explore taking it to the next level of, perhaps, classifying it as a “Conservation Land”, which is “land protected from development through permanent conservation easements, restrictions, or outright ownership by an organization or agency whose primary mission includes protecting the land in perpetuity”, which means the state of lasting forever. This can include that a portion of the land is designated for limited recreation as a secondary purpose, but the primary purpose would be for wildlife habitat and land conservation.
I believe that once development happens, there is no going back…you can’t “un‐do” it, so in order to prevent future councils from deciding that they want to overturn the protection restrictions, a permanent environmental protection should be locked in immediately. I would support the City’s Comprehensive Plan (as the aggregated will of the people), as well as researching and any efforts to implement this pathway as an extra step to ensure that Lakefront Park can never be developed for commercial or residential use.
2. In 2016, Councilor Ken Camera suggested relocating the Finger Lakes Railway rail yard out of the city limits, and using the property both for new housing and create easy access for Ward 6 residents to the lakefront. Negotiations have begun with Finger Lakes Railway to move the rail yard, but the project could use an additional push from Council.
Do you support Camera’s plan for the railway, and if so, what will you do to help make it happen?
Yes, I am in full support of making this a reality. It would serve many
purposes, such as;
- Connection to the lake for residents of Ward 6: Lakefront Park should be accessible to enjoy by ALL. On a side note, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Moms and Dads walking across those tracks with their children in tow…it’s dangerous!
- Adequate housing in Geneva is in short supply, adding more occupancy options for singles, seniors and families. These properties would also become part of the city tax roll and thus, increase tax revenue.
- The rail cars lined up in that lot are ghastly! We are doing so much work to beautify this city and we have this eyesore that is anything but aesthetically pleasing and is a turn‐off to guests of the city.
How would I help? I would support the negotiations already in motion, assist Councilor Camera in creating plausible solutions and treat it as a high‐level priority.
3. Finger Lakes Railway is one of eight corporate PILOT programs currently in effect in the city. The Railway paid $4,000 in total taxes in 2019, while the fully assessed amount they would have paid without the PILOT is over $55,000. It’s unclear how many jobs or other tax revenue the Railway provides to the city in exchange for a tax discount of over 90%. In total, eight corporations, with total revenues in the millions and billions of dollars, received a total of over $3 million in tax discounts in 2019.
Do you support a closer examination, or even an overhaul, in the way the city gives out PILOTs to million- and billion-dollar corporations while homeowners get no tax discounts?
A closer examination, which, in turn, may lead to a complete overhaul, I feel is essential to Geneva’s progress. Perhaps it could be based on a simple formula based on the benefits to Geneva residents in terms of employment, for instance. For example, if said company employed 30% of its staff from Geneva residents, then they could receive a 30% tax break or create some type of scale for reciprocity, so it is mutually beneficial. Or, another example, let’s say a corporation that will build and operate something that is crucial to directly fulfill a need for the residents of Geneva, like a grocery store on the north end of the city, where it is classified as a “food desert”. This would be a proper candidate for a PILOT tax break, because it would provide a service that would increase livability for our residents.
4. The relationship between the Police and Community has been an issue in Geneva for generations. The Community Compact, which received $15,000 in taxpayer funding in 2019, has not organized any public events in 2019, and according to their meeting minutes, are having difficulties generating public support and participation. One possible reason for the flagging public support is that the Compact only addresses the relationship between the police and community, and does not the address the community’s calls for accountability for police who engage in misconduct.
Do you support an independent civilian review board, with investigative powers and the authority to discipline officers guilty of misconduct, effectively giving the community oversight of the police?
Yes, although, I’ll be honest, I struggle with it. Do I support an independent civilian review board because I believe that all officers of the law are power hungry, abusive in nature and/or racist? No. My sister, brother‐in‐law & uncle all had long‐term careers in law enforcement, and I have many friends who work in the field, as well. But, just like in all aspects of life, there are people that are in it for the right reasons and there are people who ruin it for everybody else & turning a blind eye to the “few bad apples” doesn’t make people feel safe. There have been 2 stories of officers on the GPD that have hit social & mainstream media in recent years that have illustrated that there is cause for concern here, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Law 50‐A, which seals files of disciplinary actions of law enforcement officers, can cause uncertainty & mistrust in citizens. The potential for a scenario that is ripe for abuse of power is possible. If I am elected, I intend to revisit, rethink & perhaps even revise initiatives that might appear to have run out of steam to breathe new life into them. The work that the Community Compact does is not fun work, I assume, due to the heavy nature of it. I can’t imagine that it is a “feel good” subject to digest for a lot of folks to have the stamina for regular participation. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but I’d like to see us build on the work that has already been done & take it to the next level.
5. Both the Geneva City Manager and City Council, by virtue of the City Charter, have the authority to conduct investigations, with subpoena power, into the conduct of all city officers, departments, boards, commissions and agencies.
Do you support an investigation into the Geneva Foundry disaster to determine why the city chose to keep the widespread contamination a secret for more than twenty years, what went wrong and how it could be prevented in the future?
When I started out knocking on people’s doors to alert my neighbors that their yards were saturated with astronomical levels of lead & arsenic & these folks shared their stories with me is when I made a personal pledge to do any & all things in my power to help alleviate their situation & put pressure on the city to make reparations. Imagine, if you will, learning that someone, who wasn’t properly notified of the dangers right outside their back door, had been growing tomatillos & tomatoes in their garden for their family’s consumption & you KNOW from your studies in botany that in the top phytoextractors of Lead, the tomato family is one of the most efficient plants that actually PULL Lead from soil. The Lead transfers throughout the roots, through the stem & into the fruit…. which her family was eating in their regular meals. I heard stories of how multiple family members had passed at young ages from cancers that are suspected to be caused by high levels of arsenic poisoning. My dear friend’s children, whom attended the Children’s Hours School, were alerted of above normal levels of Lead in their blood during a routine physical. I lived, at the time, 2 houses out of the “zone” & received information in the mail from the DEC.
When the story of what happened unfolded on how information was withheld from my neighbors, I felt helpless, then I became furious and then I went into action. When we founded the Foundry Action Committee, it was with the intention for 2 things to happen…to give the affected residents space to talk about their experiences & frustrations, share knowledge on the remediation timeline, share knowledge of health implications to look out for & to share the stories they felt comfortable sharing with their neighbors AND to relieve the feelings of helplessness by taking action, creating a list of ways the city could make it right & building community power.
They had a LOT of questions, coupled with a LOT of anger toward the [IR]responsible party/parties…the biggest question was WHY HAD THEY NOT BEEN INFORMED for decades that they were living in poison?? They have the right to expect these answers! How can we fix this? How can we regain their trust again? Now that time has passed, some may want to move forward & put this ugly chapter behind them & some may not. I believe that each & everyone affected, that can still be contacted for input,should be asked how they want to proceed regarding a possible full‐scale investigation, put the ball in THEIR court, give that power back to them & then proceed accordingly.
To prevent this happening in the future, I believe we must keep a close eye on the industry that is currently in operation in Geneva concerning their output into our lake, how they handle their waste as a major preventative measure & set up protocol to ALERT people when we discover a problem.
6. Rental costs are sky-high in the City, another result of an extremely high tax rate. In addition, there are numerous unscrupulous and irresponsible landlords in the city, with some low-income residents living in unsafe and illegal conditions. The Geneva Human Rights Commission has been massively defunded in the last decade, making it even harder for tenants who are being treated unfairly to report their problems and find justice. There are also limited resources available for code enforcement. There are slumlords who are longtime Geneva natives, well-known in the community, who seem to avoid any scrutiny for their lack of care and concern for their tenants.
Do you think the city needs to do more to hold all slumlords accountable, and do you have any suggestions of what could be done differently?
Yes. Annual building inspections by unbiased code enforcers, a more
diligent system for recording tenant complaints with a more regimented plan of action for the landlords who routinely do not comply with codes and/ or have multiple complaints. Perhaps an online registry for repeated offenders so that the public is aware of information before they sign their leases with the fear of them being publicly “outed” as a deterrent? I’m sure that being a landlord for multiple units has its challenges, but they should be cautious about exceeding a manageable load if that is the case.
7. In recent years, calls for cost-benefit analysis of our Police and Fire Departments have been made, but not heard. Cities across New York State of similar size to Geneva have a smaller number of police and firefighters on the payroll. No such study has been done in recent memory.
Do you support a cost-benefit study of our police and fire budgets to ensure taxpayers aren’t overpaying for public safety?
Should we make inquiries and carry out research if it seems like an
unusually exorbitant amount? Yes. Taxpayers deserve to understand &
accept what they are paying for.
Do we need to hire a company to do a study that will cost us more money?
Why? WE. NEED. TO. STOP. WASTING. MONEY. ON. STUDIES.
How? I’d like to say I have all the answers, but we could start with
something like this scenario (I’m not saying is flawless), that’s worth a
Task out the (paid) elected councilors that promised to work for you. And put them to work.
Task out a taskforce of qualified community members, preferably in a
volunteer pay rate ($0), that is multi‐partisan (or at bare minimum,
bipartisan), of a significant level or specialty area of expertise that is
relevant. These taskforces (or thinktanks) should rotate members for each topic for increased citizen participation.
Give them each a research project on subjects related to things like… pay scale, statistical data of demographics from other similar‐sized cities, economical solution strategies, etc. & have each participant find all the info they can on this subject & break it down into Geneva‐specific realistic possibilities, including an answer to the 2 most important questions: Who does it HELP? And, who does it HINDER? Hand it in. Compile a full report from each member’s input (WITH CITATIONS & REFERENCES), so that the public has access to the source.
Come up with 2 solid, viable options, & put it to vote in the next (or a
special election) to give that choice to the people of the city of Geneva.
It’s crude, we can build from there, but it’s a starting point…
Do I think we can get back to some good, old‐fashioned banding together, being resourceful & passionate for the greater good or our city? Absolutely.
8. Some City Councilors, as well as some 2019 council candidates, have supported the hiring of an Economic Development director for the city.
Do you support creating a new paid city position for an economic development director?
If YES, please explain your reasons, your vision of ‘economic development,’ and what shortcomings you see in the city’s current economic development efforts.
If NO, please explain your reasons, your vision of ‘economic development’ and why you think hiring for a new position is not a good idea.
My vision of economic development:
Economic development is not solely pertaining to economic growth. It is
based on the quality of life factor when we discuss productivity. Quality of life encompasses social well-being, derived of an accessible & reliable health care system, basic communication, regular, dependable transportation infrastructure, nutrition, financial wellbeing & education and then economic growth can be attained.
Example: There is a prominent need for better bus routing within the city & between our sister cities to promote increased employment options, economic development would mean to address this & find a solution to enhance the job market by expanding it. This example also leads to nutrition. When people (because they live in a food desert) must walk miles or rely on a lackluster bus routing system to provide nutritious food for themselves & their families, economic development would acknowledge the need for a 2‐part solution that would address BOTH these needs.
Does the City of Geneva need to hire a new position for economic
No. WE. NEED. TO. STOP. WASTING. MONEY. ON. NEW. POSITIONS.
We can achieve this if we have the right people working for us, who are
creative & resourceful & who truly aspire for increased quality of life for ALL Genevans!
How? Councilor‐based and/or community thinktank taskforces that also serves to increase citizen participation in city government.
9. Many of the above questions address the issue of high taxes. Do you support any other ideas for easing the tax burden on the working class who bear the brunt of our tax problem?
I AM a “working class Genevan” & I want this city to work for people like me. We are a working‐class city. It should work in our favor.
I don’t think I am able to speculate the full range of what is possible to ease the tax burden on the working class until I get a broader scope of the actualities/ possibilities. My guidelines for problem‐solving is asking these questions to address any problem;
What is the problem?
What is the solution, or what are the optional pathways to achieve that goal?
And, the two most important questions being…
Who does it HELP?
Who does it HINDER?
10. One issue that is spotlighted by Geneva Believer is conflicts of interest in city government. In a city the size of Geneva, it can be difficult to separate personal or professional relationships from city business.
If elected, how would you deal with your own conflicts of interest? If cutting part of the city budget would impact your friends or your professional relationships, how would you address such an issue?
This is a great question. I’m sure it does create rifts in city officials’ personal relationships and that is unfortunate. As far as dealing with my own conflicts of interest, I will have to continually remind myself to stay vigilant to being fair & impartial, by sticking to the virtue of trying to create policy that works for ALL and to not be influenced by favoritism or nepotism as a matter of personal policy.
11. In 2017, you ran for County Supervisor in Wards 5 and 6 and lost by one vote.
What did you learn about yourself and the election process during that
campaign, and how are you using that knowledge in this campaign?
I was approached to run for the County Supervisor position 4 days before the deadline for the petitions to be signed to get my name on the ballot. I said yes. The next day, we picked up the petitions. We had a DAY & a half to get at least 50 signatures…we got 70. It was so down to the wire, that my opponent (an incumbent) had no idea that he had a challenger for the seat and thought he was running unopposed. I was definitely a dark horse in this race, since I was relatively unknown in the Geneva political realm. I, thankfully, had many people that believed in me enough to help canvas & lit drop on my behalf (I worked evenings, so it was hard to catch folks after work hours).
Nobody, including MYSELF, had any clue how close I would come. I
remember the night before Election Day & how nervous I was about being publicly humiliated if I did poorly in the race. I had to change that thinking & spin it into a positive outlook. I said to myself, “Ok, if I get TEN votes, then I will be happy that 10 people believed in me!” Well, turns out 184 people believed in me enough to make it a tie vote on Election Day! It came down to absentee ballots, of which I came 1 vote shy of having a DOUBLE tie! And two votes to win. What a whirlwind!
Many people suggested that I challenge the results & have the Board of Elections do a recount. Some people shared stories of how they were turned away at the polls due to lack of residency updating and how they were not offered an affidavit ballot. I heard that a machine was broke down at the Ward 6 polling place & people were worried if their votes were counted. I worked as an election inspector a few years back. That was the last year that they used the old, clunky machines with the curtains that drew closed when you entered, before computerizing. I wish they didn’t get rid of those machines as I recognized that they were actually harder to compromise…in a time when computer hacking is way too easy…it felt safer. So, I asked if there was a way to challenge or recount, but the answer was no.
Whether I get elected to City Council or not, in the future, I am interested in working on some election reform, revision & outreach, so more people are aware of their rights as voters & election inspectors are provided with the proper informational tools when an uncommon situation arises. I also noticed how few people exercise their right to vote. Out of over 1,900 registered voters in Wards 5 & 6, only 368 of them showed up to the polls that day and 11 absentee ballots were counted. Maybe it was because they were at work, out of town, too busy, didn’t care and/ or have lost faith in the system? I don’t know, but it is disheartening & rather frightening to say the least.
I wasn’t sad about not getting the supervisor position because it showed me what was possible. In retrospect, I wasn’t necessarily ready for it, either. I still had a lot to learn.
These past 2 years, I have been able to attend more city events, network & most importantly…. LEARN. I have learned to LISTEN closely & critically, and to observe & absorb as much as possible. I have learned to ASK QUESTIONS. Not in an uncomfortable, probing manner, but with compassionate ears, to hear more stories & opinions. I have learned to grab the newspaper & read it ALL.
This time around is much more pleasant & less stressful because I familiar with the rules & have developed a good ground game. I have had much personal growth in the meantime, too. I feel more confident, wiser, virtuous, focused & self‐reliant. I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin & speak with my own voice.
12. Would you like to provide a final statement about any issues specific to your ward and/or your campaign?
I would like to take this space to say THANK YOU to Jim Meaney for providing this space & giving the
candidates an opportunity to wrap our heads around tough questions & really think about extremely
important issues that we Genevans, in the present, are concerned about. I appreciate the platform to
have folks get to know my stance, and since we know that EVERYBODY in Geneva reads the Geneva
Believer, whether they love it or not, I believe it will be seen by the masses. #facts. Better than a tri‐fold
lit pamphlet any day!
I must admit, very candidly, that these questions made me work for it! A 4‐part miniseries of 4 evenings worth of me sitting at my computer plugging away, thinking about stuff, searching for the right words,
shaking my fist at the sky while screaming, “You’re killing me, Meaney!” (joke),trying my best to not give “canned” responses, keeping vigilant of my grammar, spelling & punctuation, short breaks to keep my brain from imploding, researching, trying not to offend anybody, all while staying true to my constitution & character. Tough order, but I made it through!
I chose my campaign slogan, #actuallyWEcan, to indicate that I’m ready to work, I’m full of positivity for Geneva’s future & to relay that I am a collective thinker, in that I want to help us ALL achieve better. I believe in a prosperous Geneva, one that doesn’t leave anybody behind. I’ll be present at all meetings & council sessions, exhibit grace under pressure and I’ll go at the city budget like a mom, who doesn’t have an abundance of resources, but loves all her children equally.