In 2011 and 2015, the Geneva Republican Party distributed flyers on the final Sunday before Election Day, slamming Democrats and misleading voters on hot-button topics.
Because of the Finger Lakes Times’ editorial policy prohibiting the publication of any election-related letters or columns after the final Sunday before Election Day, it is nearly impossible for the targets of the flyers to refute the claims made in the last-minute “Sunday Surprise” flyers.
Will we see another “Sunday Surprise” from the Republicans this year, too?
Geneva Republican Party “Sunday Surprise” – A Brief History
In 2011, the two incumbent At-Large Councilors went head-to-head in the Mayoral race: Democrat Steve O’Malley against Republican Ron Alcock.
Earlier in 2011, City Council had voted to increase sewer rates by 34%. It was a difficult and complicated decision. Some Councilors wanted a more modest raise around 18%, which would have required using money from the fund balance, and would have required a raise in the sewer rate to a staggering 50% within two years. There were several possible solutions discussed as well; again, it was a complicated and urgent issue.
In the end, the 34% rate increase was approved by a 5-4 vote, with Steve O’Malley among those voting for the increase.
Alcock voted against the increase. Earlier, he had stated his support for using the fund balance, increasing the rate by 18.5%, and kicking the can down the road for a 50% increase in two years.
Many residents were very upset by the increase. By the time election season rolled around a few months later, the sewer rate hike was still on a lot of peoples’ minds.
On Sunday, November 6th 2011, the Republican party hand-delivered their “Sunday Surprise” to residents across the city.
The flyer blamed the sewer rate hike on Steve O’Malley, while promoting Ron Alcock as a champion of lower rates.
Thousands of voters were given this information, which was incomplete and incredibly misleading.
And O’Malley was unable to respond and explain why the claims in the flyer were wrong. The Finger Lakes Times wouldn’t publish a response, and there wasn’t enough time for O’Malley to write and print thousands of flyers to drop on every doorstep in the city.
Alcock won the election, and was quoted in the Finger Lakes Times saying, ““I think the 34 percent sewer rate increase was a factor. People were really upset about that, and I think they wanted a change in leadership to address it.”
In 2015, the City of Geneva began the consolidation of some services with the county, which had been approved by City Council in 2014. The consolidation included moving the 911 call center to Ontario County.
In retrospect, we know that the 911 move made good sense from both a safety and a financial standpoint for the City of Geneva.
However, many first responders were upset back in 2014 by the 911 move, and the Republican Party figured they would exploit this issue for their Sunday Surprise.
On Sunday, November 1st 2015, the Republican Party distributed a flyer to thousands of residents around the city, blaming Democratic Mayoral candidate Jackie Augustine and Democratic Ward 4 candidate Ken Camera for endangering the people of Geneva by voting for the 911 consolidation.
Thousands of voters were given this misleading information, with their concerns about the safety of their families and loved ones exploited by a cynical Republican flyers.
Again, the Democrats were unable to respond, or to offer any explanation of why they voted for the change more than a year prior. The Finger Lakes Times wouldn’t publish a response, and there was not enough time for the Democrats to respond with a flyer of their own.
It’s not guaranteed, but it’s a good bet that the Republicans will have another Sunday Surprise up their sleeves this weekend, too.
And when you find that flyer on your doorstep, it’s a good bet that whatever it says is either misleading or entirely untrue.