Contested Races: Lansing trustees facing challenges in election

By Rob Montana

Tompkins Weekly

 

Lansing village elections will take place Tuesday, April 25, with voting from noon to 9 p.m. at the Lansing Village Office, located at 2405 N. Triphammer Road.
Incumbent trustees Ronny Hardaway and Patricia O’Rourke are seeking re-election for two-year terms and are listed on the Community ballot line. They are facing challenges from candidates on the Preservation ballot line; John LaVine and Gregory Eells are running for trustee positions.

Tompkins Weekly reached out to all candidates to ask them a few questions in advance of the election; here’s what they had to say.

 

Ronny James Hardaway

Ronny Hardaway

Ronny Hardaway, 64, is finishing his first term as a Lansing village trustee and is a retired Texas Instruments software engineer who now has his own website business.
“I enjoy working with the village government and the Community Party that I run with,” he said of his reason for seeking re-election. “It’s apolitical, there are all sorts of political leanings in the (Community) Party and the village government, and I appreciate that in the current political culture.
“I enjoy the village – it’s a nice place to live,” Hardaway added. “It’s nice to be in the Ithaca area, there are diverse and robust people that live here. I enjoy working and getting things done, and helping people out.”

Other than his single term on the village board, he has been involved in community work through volunteer church work with youth.

In terms of issues, infrastructure tops Hardaway’s list.
“Primarily the infrastructure issues of water and sewer in the village to meet the demand for new growth,” he said. “We have an aging infrastructure, our water lines and sewer lines, many of them are at the end of the useful life and have to be worked on. We have to plan for that work to be done, because it will disrupt roads.
“The other major one is basically reestablishing a strong commercial or retail base within the village,” Hardaway added. “We have been, for a long time, a major contributor to the Tompkns County tax base and I would love to see us do more of that and good jobs for people to be able to live where the cost of living is high.”

He said his ability to assess the skills of others around him is an asset, and he works to complement those skills.
“I like making things work synergistically, and getting jobs done as fast as possible,” Hardaway said. “I like to work with people and give them enough information, so they can make decisions in emergency situations.
“I do enjoy working for the village – it’s been an interesting change in perspective, going from working with software to working with infrastructure,” he added. “It’s a learning process. The first term, I spent time learning what needs to be done. I would like to put that knowledge to use and do more for the village.”

 

John A. LaVine

John LaVine

John LaVine, 67, is a state-licensed general real estate appraiser and has been engaged in the real estate business since 1972.
“I am running for election to further the cause of fiscal transparency and community engagement,” he said, “to listen to the concerns of the Village residents, and begin a discourse in community development.”

LaVine has previously been a Democratic Committee member in the City of Syracuse and ran for Onondaga County Legislature prior to moving to the Village of Lansing.
“The two top issues facing the Village are fiscal transparency and community engagement with the present administration failing in these regards,” he said. “They do not listen to the Village residents and offer poor monetary management.”

LaVine pointed to his diligence as something that would be an asset if he were elected to the village board.
“I like people and want to work with them to a successful outcome,” he said. “I have an open mind, and am concerned and care about our village.”

 

Patricia O’Rourke

Patricia O’Rourke

Patricia O’Rourke, 68, has been a Lansing village trustee since 2010, and is a substitute teacher in the Ithaca City School District.
“I lived in the Village of Lansing for 32 years and have a deep commitment to the quality of life and good governance of this community. I want to see that the Village receives guidance from people who have roots here and who care for the place,” she said of why she’s running for re-election. “I am a staunch supporter of green space. A number of years ago, I helped defeat the ‘Sundowns Farm’ project, which would have transformed a very large part of this community into a commercial development.
“I ran a successful business in the Village for 22 years, and strongly support businesses that serve this community,” O’Rourke added. “As a member of the Board of Trustees, I can exercise a balanced approach to governance that improves quality of life, preserves green space, and supports business.”

In addition to serving as village trustee, she has served on numerous community boards, and is currently village representative for the Tompkins County Council of Governments, and rotates as a trustee liaison for the Village of Lansing Planning Board.
“A top priority for the Village is a strong infrastructure, with a well-maintained, reliable road system and public services that are provided at low cost to tax payers,” O’Rourke said. “Another top priority is sustaining a balanced mix of green space, residential properties and businesses.
“I intend to preserve green space where possible and support housing options for all residents,” she added. “I and my fellow Board members have been successful is establishing two parks in the Village that enhance the environment for nearby residents and improve the quality of life for all.”

O’Rourke said she works “diligently to understand the development issues and challenges that both the Board of Trustees and Planning Board face,” and believes “in being at the center of the political spectrum so I can represent fairly and unselfishly all community members.”

Gregory T. Eells

Greg Eells

Greg Eells, 50, has been the director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell for the past 14 years. He was asked about running for trustee and felt the time was right to jump into local government.
“I was approached by some folks in the neighborhood, the impetus was development in Lansing,” Eells said. “In going to some meetings, I was feeling like folks in office weren’t listening.
“They had been running unopposed, and I ton’t think that’s good for democracy,” he added. “I wanted to give the people of Lansing a choice.”
“There are things happening in the village with pretty large increases in spending,” Eells said. “I wanted to get a little more active, that’s really what led to me deciding to run.”

Eells is making his first foray into the political arena, though he has served in leadership capacities in his position at Cornell as well as president of the Association for University and Counseling Center Directors.
“I hear now is the time not to be experienced,” Eells said of his experience in the political arena. “In some ways, it’s good, we should be involved. I think what’s happened nationally made me think about what’s going on locally and get more involved.
“My view is to try to make the process of governing the village more transparent, to have more conversation about how money is being spent on snowplows, on buildings, on lawyers,” he added. “Without opposition, the conversation probably won’t happen.”

Development and financial accountability are two top issues facing the village, Eells said.
“I think the first one is development – how to do it and how to do it in a transparent way,” he said. “It was concerning to me that a plan was developed for the village for development, and then a project came along and changes were adopted. For me that’s an issue – if you’re going to make changes, you should do it transparently.
“The other (issue) is financial accountability,” Eells added. “No one is wanting to pay more in taxes. I think taxes go to the common good, but we need to be mindful in how we are spending money.”

He pointed to his education and experience as assets in serving on the village board.
“I have a doctorate in psychology and I think there are transferable skills from psychology to politics,” Eells said. “I have an ability to listen, and I want people to feel like they’re heard.
“Being able to weigh evidence and arguments in a rational way in making a decision, knowing that no conclusion is perfect, is important,” he added. “Also, having been in leadership roles is an asset as well.”

Eells said he wants voters to know he wants to work in their best interests.
“I want to work for them and with them. There may be some disagreements, but if I am elected, I will work with them,” he said. “My goal is to come to a compromise in making decisions. I see compromise as the best outcome, incorporating as many viewpoints as possible.
“I think that is something that’s been lost, where compromise is seen as cowardice rather than courage,” Eells added. “My approach, really, is to compromise and come to rational solutions. It’s much better than getting locked into an argument and nothing happening.”