By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 28, 2003 District 9 includes the majority of the Town of Thompson.
The current incumbent is Republican and conservative Jim Carnell Jr. His opponent is Democratic businessman Sam Wohl.
Jim Carnell Jr.
Jim Carnell beat Wohl two years ago to fill the unexpired term of Steven Kurlander.
This is the rematch. Except this time, only two of them are running, as opposed to four last time.
"I am running for the same reasons I ran last time," Carnell commented. " I want to see some ideas and changes brought to the Legislature. A four-year term would give me the ability to follow through on those changes."
Carnell was asked about the biggest issue facing his district.
"While the landfill is the most talked about and discussed, every issue is important," he said. "We have 1,200 employees and hundreds of programs. As legislators, we have to be involved in every one.
"The landfill is important to me," Carnell continued. "However, each issue personally affects someone. An effect is felt by every resident in Sullivan County by the decisions made in Legislature in some form or fashion."
But Carnell did discuss the landfill.
"I was against importation prior to my becoming a legislator," he pointed out. "I have family near the landfill, and I grew up there. It is not a money issue. It is a quality-of-life issue.
"Above and beyond, it needs to be operated more efficiently, Carnell continued. "There is no excuse for odors to be smelled two or three miles away on a regular basis.
"Since I have been there," Carnell went on, "we have had a new environmental firm come in to mitigate different issues and take several different approaches. Temporarily, it seemed to help. Recently, it seems like there is more odor. This is the same group that has worked on the proposed expansion."
Carnell explained other methods they are trying with the landfill.
"The New York Power Authority is building a methane power plant there," he remarked. "Once the three-kilowatt power plant is incorporated, it should make the landfill more efficient."
Carnell addressed the potential revenue loss of importation.
"Who says we have to make up the revenue," he asked. "We need to look deeper in the budget and make cuts. I could vote for an expansion if it was for county residents only. I am against importation. It is clear to me over the last several months that the residents of the district do not want either. That's how I feel if they don't want it, I don't want it."
Carnell moved on to discuss some budgetary issues.
"We should have a hiring freeze," he stated. "We did implement a quasi-hiring freeze last year. We need to have a spending freeze. We have to look close to save money.
"I can't support a 5 percent real property tax increase," Carnell said in reference to the county manager's proposed budget. "We need to go over the mandated and non-mandated programs. I cannot support the budget in its current form."
Carnell chairs the Real Property Committee. In doing so, one of his big issues is the number of tax-exempt lands in the county.
"If everyone paid their fair share of taxes, it would reduce the burden on everyone," Carnell commented. "Overall, we are about average in the state about 31 or 33 out of 52 counties as it goes with tax-exempt lands. Through NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties), we have been working to change the guidelines and the laws."
Next, Carnell looked at gaming and economic development.
Gaming and economic development are two separate issues," he pointed out. "Whether gaming comes in or not, we need smart economic growth. We will continue to promote the area and prepare for what will happen. We need to stay proactive so that we have controlled growth and preserve our natural resources.
"I was disappointed the state bills [on gaming] did not pass in 1996 and 1997," Carnell continued. "It does not look like they will reintroduce it anytime soon. For several years, we have discussed Indian gaming. We do need to be prepared. There are positives and negatives, and we all have to prepare to mitigate all impacts. There are expenses attached to positive growth."
Carnell addressed the issue of open government.
Every one of our meetings are open to the public," he said. "People can chose to come to our meetings or get their information via hearsay. The process has not changed. We are open and accessible.
"I look at this position as a job," he reflected. "It has been an honor to serve and I want to continue to serve. I enjoy working there.
"It has been tough on my family," Carnell concluded. I had to consider again if I wanted to do this for family reasons. The good days do outweigh the bad days. It is not about money. I enjoy serving and dealing with the people."Carnell lives in Rock Hill with his wife, Laura. They have two children.
Sam Wohl is a lifelong resident of the county. He has been a member of such organizations as Kiwanis and the Elks. He has seen the changes and made the decision to get more involved.
"I believe I can make a difference," Wohl remarked. "I will be the voice of my constituents."
The biggest issue in District 9, and one of the biggest countywide, is the landfill.
"We cannot reduce importation. We have to stop it," Wohl stated firmly. "We need a five-year fiscal plan. Whatever excess revenue we get from the sales tax would go to the general fund. That would make up the shortfall. We also receive money from land sales.
"We have to look at other alternatives," Wohl continued. "It is a big county. There are less populated areas. My feelings on expansion are not important. What is important is what my constituents want. And they do not want it."
Wohl addressed the potential five percent real property tax increase.
"If it had gone up gradually over the years, we would not be in the position we are in," he said.
As for open government, "I am against afternoon meetings," commented Wohl. "It should be more open to the public. They should be held at night in various locations."
Next was casino gaming.
"I remember the signs in the '70s that said casinos means jobs," he recalled. "That holds true today. There will be 400 jobs created at the raceway due to the VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals). We have to take one step at a time. I would be open to any projects that create jobs and helps the economy.
"Many of our resources, like the hotels, chicken and dairy farms, have diminished over the years," Wohl continued. "We need to be more diversified. I do not want to see casinos become the chicken farms of the 21st century. We can't put all our eggs in one basket."
Wohl looked at tourism.
"We have to expand tourism," he said. "When we have casinos, daytrippers will abound. We have the best golf and natural resources. I want everyone to fall in love with the place as I have."
Wohl summed things up: "My number is in the phone book," he remarked. "I will be open and available."
Wohl and his wife, Honora, life in Monticello. They have three children and three grandchildren.