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Utica's Mayoral Candidates square off, discuss master plan, public safety

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica's five mayoral candidates sat before dozens of members of the community at the Dorothy Smith Advocacy Center at RCIL in Utica Thursday night for a Meet-the-Candidates Forum.

After a brief bio on each of the candidates, the five took questions from a panel.

One of the questions raised - their take on the city's Master Plan.

"Without a direction, you have no direction," says Democratic and Working Families Candidate Robert Palmieri. "The master plan gives us direction. It gives the ability for grants when we're applying for grants and see where the city will be five, ten, fifteen years down the road."

Palmieri saying the plan gives the city the direction it needs and that it is just a blueprint, and something Green Party Candidate Robert Clemente and Republican Candidate Michael Cerminaro agree could use some work.

"I think we've missed some people and their ideas, so let's bring those in, re-work the plan," said Clemente. "It's a good start."

"One thing we need to focus on, in the heart of that master plan is neighborhoods," says Cerminaro. "Cleanliness, safety, because no city can survive without decent, clean, livable neighborhoods."

Rainbow Candidate Ernie Sanita thinks the plan wasn't worth the money.

"What good of a plan is a blueprint if we can't get the money to put into effect the plan and make the changes?" says Sanita. "It was not worth $325,000 of our money."

However, it is an expense that Conservative and Independence Candidate Robert Cardillo feels is necessary for development.

"The way you are looked at is based on what you have in terms of a plan," says Cardillo. "The fact that we have the Master Plan is really a blessing to work towards the future, to make these things happen."

Other questions raised at the forum included whether each candidate would consider police and fire department layoffs, and what they thought of the government's role in the quality of school district.

Sanita said he felt cuts needed to be made in public safety, but that he would shift people to other departments before looking at any cuts.

Palmieri and Cerminaro both said they would do their most to make sure they wouldn't have to cut into public safety. Several of the candidates answered by saying they would explore consolidation options.

Another question that came up was whether any of the candidates would hire any of their opponents once elected.

Sanita was the only candidate to answer "no" about the possibility of hiring any of his opponents once taking office.

Cardillo, Cerminaro, Clemente and Palmieri had praise for some of the other candidates and said they would not rule out giving them consideration.

The final question of the night was form the audience, and asked about the status of the HSBC building in downtown and each candidate's position on historic structures within the city.

Cerminaro said he had been contacted by a potential developer interested in possibly purchasing the facility. Cardillo said he would consider legislation giving the city more rights to protect its historic structures in light of the HSBC situation and the historic building on Genesee Street recently purchased by a self-proclaimed Polish Princess.

With five candidates and 90 minutes for the forum, panelists and audience members only got in roughly five questions total throughout the night.

The Mayoral Forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Utica/Rome, the American Association of University Women, and the Resource Center for Independent Living.

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