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Incumbent Edward LaVigne faces a challenger this year in Democratic nominee Michael Koplinka-Loehr for the Town Supervisor seat. With councilwoman Katrina Binkewicz choosing not to run for reelection and councilwoman Andra Benson’s (Democrat) term expired, there will be two seats open on the Town Council in 2019. Benson is running for reelection, and fellow Democrat Bronwyn Losey is vying for a sport on the council. Both Benson and Losey are opposed by Republicans Judy Drake and Jeffrey “Otto” Norman. Below are the Q&A’s with LaVigne, Koplinka-Loehr, Drake and Losey. Benson and Norman did not respond to the Ledger’s interview requests.

Town Supervisor

Edward LaVigne (R)

Ed LaVigne

Lansing Ledger: How long have you lived in the Town of Lansing?

Edward LaVigne: My parents moved to Lansing when I was one year old. I graduated from Lansing in 1973, graduated from TC3 in 1976 (AAS degree in Accounting) and graduated from Albany College of Pharmacy in 1982 (BS in Pharmacy). The cumulative number of years in Lansing excluding absence due to my college education is 59 years.

LL: What qualifications do you have that would prepare you to be a councilperson? 

EL: My qualifications to continue to be the Town Supervisor have resulted in a long list of accomplishments that are beneficial to our town residents. The town employees, consultants, volunteers and myself work well as a team for our citizens. Listening respectfully, bringing our whole team into the discussions and finding consensus resulting in achieving reasonable and [attainable] goals. 

LL: What skills do you possess that you believe would be an asset to the town?

EL: I am a public servant and view this job as a ministry (please view my website www.lavigneforlansing.com). In a leadership position as a volunteer before being Lansing's town supervisor (President of the Lansing Community Council) the Myer's Park Playground was created, the North Log Cabin was resurrected, the annual Lansing Harborfests were conducted and the Annual Giving Appeal was implemented. I put people before politics and create an environment of producing value for the hardworking people of Lansing.

LL: Is there a specific project or an area of interest that you are looking forward to working on if you are elected?

EL: There are many that are in progress. Here are a few: the new sewer metering system (that will revolutionize sewer flow calculations, resulting in potentially more capacity), Consolidated Water Districts #3, #5 and #6  these CWDs will improve water quality for our residents) and Sewer District #1 (which will increase density, increase our tax base and maximize our green space protection). Protect our environment with accurate information resulting in obtaining reasonable goals that all of our Lansing residents can support.

LL: What are some of the challenges the town will face over the next several years and how would you like to see the board address them?

EL: Remove Washington, D.C. politics from Lansing, N.Y. Also, continue to be inclusive (ex. flag policy that improves awareness for many different concerns) and provide housing that people can afford from our recent high school graduates to our senior citizens. Another challenge is to address our land use concerns respectfully by allowing for public comment and input.

Michael Koplinka-Loehr (D)

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Lansing Ledger: How long have you lived in the Town of Lansing?

Michael Koplinka-Loehr: As a nine-year resident of the Town and 51 year resident of Tompkins County, I would bring over 45 years of non-profit and governmental leadership expertise to the role of Supervisor, in serving all residents of the Town.

LL: What qualifications do you have that would prepare you to be the Town Supervisor?

MKL: Planning: My Masters Degree in Planning can assist the Town with the 2020 Zoning update, aligning with the Town Comprehensive Plan.

Resident communication and participation: In my 12 years on the Tompkins County Legislature (two years as Chair), I was a leader in designing methods for meaningful citizen engagement, combining the substance of issues with open, fair processes for participation by everyone.

Transparency, including budgeting: I have a track record of budget accountability (creating a “reader friendly” budget; transforming a higher-than-inflation county-wide budget process to one averaging below-inflation tax increases for the past 14 years, with bi-partisan support) and experience in forming shared-services partnerships to leverage tax dollars.

LL: What skills do you possess that you believe would be an asset to the town?

MKL: My skills include abundant energy and optimism; a thirst for better ways of doing things; perseverance; a deep belief in the power of the people to improve their lives; a commitment to including too-often marginalized populations; a knowledge of sensible budgeting that maintains quality services; and expertise with long-term planning for community-wide quality of life.

I have successfully led many organizations to a new threshold of their positive growth, as defined by those whom they serve.

I have a proven history of inviting, listening to, and respecting voices from all backgrounds and walks of life.

LL: Is there a specific project or an area of interest that you are looking forward to working on if you are elected?

MKL: My 3 key areas of interest include: Facilitating the Town zoning upgrade. What kind of community do you want? Residents need to understand how they will be affected by the zoning code updates so that growth is balanced with community priorities and values.

Improving Town transparency and budget accountability, which is tailored to citizens with busy lives.

Strengthening citizen engagement/participation and two-way communication—through direct mailings, phone surveys, focus groups, neighborhood meetings, and community-based committees/task forces that make recommendations.

LL: What are some of the challenges the town will face over the next several years and how would you like to see the board address them?

MKL: In addition to the challenges previously outlined (such as the upgrade to our zoning codes, fiscal transparency and improving citizen participation), an essential and ongoing challenge will be to build a united community across differences.

There are 11,750 Town of Lansing residents, and thus 11,750 important personal stories and unique circumstances that we need to celebrate and respect.

As Supervisor I would imbue every aspect and action of the role with respect for every voice, creating a Town-wide culture that empowers each person to share their unique gifts, for the betterment of us all.

Town Councilpersons

Judy Drake (R)

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Lansing Ledger: How long have you lived in the Town of Lansing?  

Judy Drake: Fifty years minus time I was away at college. I graduated from Lansing in 1987 and my children graduated in 2016 (Lizzy) and 2018 (Brandon). I am the seventh generation to live on my mom’s family farm on Buck Road.

LL: What qualifications do you have that would prepare you to be a board member? 

JD: I have been a Lansing Zoning Board member for seven years and have served on the Agricultural Committee. Also, I have over 22 years working for the town of Ithaca in Human Resources, Risk Management and behind the scenes operations. I work directly for the Town Supervisor with a focus on open communication and collaboration. I understand town law and the rules and regulations that guide the departments and boards in town government.   

LL: What skills do you possess that you believe would be an asset to the town?

JD: Outside of my work experience in Human Resources I have also served on boards or committees in different roles. This takes the ability to bring diverse opinions to discussion in order to come to a decision for the organization. For the last several years I have been serving as the Chair of the Greater Tompkins County Intermunicipal Health Insurance Consortium, which has a 45-member board of directors from municipalities from a five-county region and includes six labor representatives. 

LL: Is there a specific project or an area of interest that you are looking forward to working on if you are elected?

JD: I was raised on a dairy farm, spent years in high school (as did my daughter) on the Tompkins County Dairy Princess program, so working with the agricultural community is important to me.  I love the open space but it is in the backs of the land owners. The town will have growth so planning for it through good planning practices And smart zoning are vital.  

I am also interested in efficient operations and inter municipal cooperation which allows the town to be able to provide services such as water and sewer. 

LL: What are some of the challenges the town will face over the next several years and how would you like to see the board address them?

JD: There are several issues such as falling tax assessments and PILOTS, expanding desires for infrastructure and how to pay for it, maintaining prudent fund balances and environmental issues. I would like to see the board come together forget party lines and work as a team for the best outcome for the whole community. We have been chosen by the people to work together and that is what we need to be able to do.  

Bronwyn Losey (D)

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Lansing Ledger: How long have you lived in the Town of Lansing? 

Bronwyn Losey: Just over 30 years now. I grew up here, graduated from Lansing High School, and chose to raise my family here.

LL: What qualifications do you have that would prepare you to be a councilperson? 

BL: Most recently I am the founding director of a preschool, Global Roots Play School, whose mission is to provide educational and social opportunities for refugee and immigrant children and families in our community. In this position I have utilized my skills at budgeting, grant tracking, and management. I work with people with a diverse range of needs, perspectives and strengths: from parents to staff members; volunteers to board members.

LL: What skills do you possess that you believe would be an asset to the town?

BL: I care deeply for Lansing and believe that in many ways we all want the same thing: a town we are proud of and a community we want to live in. I am very good at listening to many different viewpoints about the details of what that may look like and helping to move forward thoughtfully. I am very good at seeing the big picture, and doing the steps necessary to get there. I'm not bringing a lot of my own agenda, but I'm bringing a desire to represent the citizens of Lansing in a decision-making capacity.

LL: Is there a specific project or an area of interest that you are looking forward to working on if you are elected? 

BL: I chose to run now is because the next Town Board is going to be pivotal in implementing the Comprehensive Plan. As a member of the town board I will take into account what people love about Lansing and why people want to live here as we do that.

LL: What are some of the challenges the town will face over the next several years and how would you like to see the board address them?

BL: As someone who was raised in Lansing, I understand the need to see Lansing grow while sharing the desire to keep the heart and soul of our community intact. We can choose to encourage as much development as possible or we can choose to shape how our town will look and plan our steps thoughtfully. Instead of responding to plans developers bring to us I want to listen to the community and plan our community for our residents.

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Sports Editor

Andrew is the sports editor as well as a news reporter for the Ithaca Times/Finger Lakes Community Newspapers. He also enjoys writing personal essays in his spare time.

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