CORNWALL – Incumbent mayoral candidate Bob Kilger found himself defending his record in office during the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum.
Roughly 350 people were in the salons at the Civic Complex Wednesday night to hear the platforms for the candidates for council but also to hear the three mayoral candidates square off.
Kilger said, during his eight years as mayor, the city has made strategic investments like the Benson Center, the waste water treatment plant and Cornwall Hospice, to improve the quality of life for residents. He also touted his record on taxes, keeping any yearly increase below the rate of inflation. “Cornwall’s future is burning bright,” Kilger said.
But his challengers – Jamie Gilcig and Leslie O’Shaughnessy – wasted no time picking away at the mayor’s record.
O’Shaughnessy zeroed in on accountability and transparency. “This must change. (There must be) a clear vision and a clear direction.” He questioned Kilger’s growth achievement saying residential taxes continue to rise despite supposed growth in the commercial and industrial sector.
On bringing an arts and culture center to the city, candidate Jamie Gilcig suggested the downtown library should be the future arts center while O’Shaughnessy said the idea needs further study. Kilger seemed to score a victory on his opponents. “Let me make this clear…I support the Cornwall Public Library,” he said to fevered applause.
The candidates also fielded questions from the chamber and the audience on youth retention, taxation, fluoride in the drinking water and a residential development on the former Courtaulds site. The east end development was denied a tax incentive grant twice where Kilger cast the deciding vote. “That deal was too rich,” said Kilger, alluding to the $1.8 million the developer would have received as a grant in lieu of taxes over the next decade. While not mentioning King’s Landing by name, he said a “similar” building was built nearby without the same type of deal.
But criticism wasn’t exclusive to Kilger. Gilcig also fielded it from audience members. “Is this (running for mayor) a joke to you?,” questioned resident Markus Noe. “I have put out more platform issues than any other candidate,” Gilcig retorted. Another member of the audience asked if he would continue writing negative articles on his website if elected mayor.
In their closing statements, Kilger said “if we don’t have a vision we won’t have progress.” But O’Shaughnessy had his eye firmly on the mayoral seat. “I’m ready to do your job,” he said, looking at Kilger. Gilcig agreed with Kilger the election is extremely important. He suggested there was another whistle blower in the public ready to come forward this week and voting in the same mayor and council would bring more of the same problems at city hall over the next four years.
Voters can go to the advance poll on Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday at city hall from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Election Day is Oct. 27.