Council, Legislature and mayoral hopefuls outline qualifications, goals at forum

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Common Council

First Ward

• Cam T. Tien, D, is a first-term councilor who was first elected in 2017. He has taught seventh and eighth grade social studies in the Rome City School District since 2001. He graduated from La Salle Academy in New York City in 1994, then earned a bachelor’s degree in history and government from Daemen College in Amherst, NY, and a master’s in literacy from SUNY Cortland.

Tien said he sought his council position to be able to help his students “outside the classroom, and that if re-elected, he will “continue to help First Ward residents” by “work(ing) with the administration and department heads.”

He said working to pass an anti-hate resolution in 2018 after Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyers were found in the city’s outer district was “one of the most rewarding things” he’s accomplished in his first term.

• John M. Sparace, R, has worked in special education in the Whitesboro Central School District since 2001.

He has an associates degree from Niagara County Community College, bachelors degrees in elementary and special education from SUNY Plattsburgh, and a masters in special education from SUNY Plattsburgh.

He was elected first ward councilor in 2005, holding the position until 2013 when he decided not to run again while his children were young.

Sparace said he “want(s) to get back into it” because his “passion’s still burning” for public service. While on the council, he said he assisted in “developing the Little Italy Colonnade and Little Italy itself” and was “able to obtain the police armored vehicle” for the city.

If elected again, Sparace said he was “eager to get back in” and be an “active” and “stern” voice for the First Ward.

Second Ward

• John B. Mortise, R, is the incumbent Second Ward councilor and is seeking a sixth term.

He graduated from Oriskany Central School then the state fire academy and state emergency medical service school. He works for Ber-Mor Gas Service and is a member of the Stanwix Heights Volunteer Fire Department.

Mortise, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said his “biggest reason for running is safety.”

“Public safety is number one. If we don’t keep our residents safe, our constituents safe, it’s a terrible idea,” he said, noting that he has voted to apply for Police and Fire department grants that ease the public’s tax burden.

Mortise also touted his support for the Bellamy Harbor cleanup and pavilion, and for the DePaul Properties housing development at the former DeWitt Clinton School site.

• Shelly Gardner, D, is running for the Second Ward council seat. She graduated from RFA in 1974, has a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany, and has a law degree.

She has worked for the city council in Washington, D.C., and said Monday night she will soon open a farm-to-table restaurant in Rome.

“I come from a platform of knowing rural parochial to knowing worldly cosmopolitan, and Rome I think is trying to straddle the middle of both of those roads,” she said.

Gardner criticized the council’s general public hearing in its meetings, which limits public speakers to five minutes without compelling councilors to respond. She also said that if elected, she would hear concerns from voters beyond the second ward.

Gardner also said city development needs to stress greenery and landscaping instead of “asphalt, cement.”

Third Ward

• Kimberly A. Rogers, R, is the incumbent Third Ward councilor and is running unopposed for her sixth term.

She is a 1984 graduate of Rome Free Academy with an associate’s degree in accounting from Mohawk Valley Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from SUNY Empire State College.

She is the owner of Cytech Meridian, a business services firm.

“Like any city, there are always issues, there will always be issues, however, it’s what you do when you’re faced with a problem and how you react with that problem and the effort that you take to try to come to a resolution,” Rogers said.

“Anybody can stand around and point out that there’s a problem. What really matters is are you the type of person to look for a solution, keep working until you find it, then actually make sure that the solution is implemented,” she added.

Fourth Ward

• Ramona M. Smith, D, is the incumbent Fourth Ward councilor, and is running unopposed. She held the position from 2005 to 2015, then ran again and won in 2017.

She has an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Mohawk Valley Community College and a bachelor’s degree in human resource management from the New School for Social Research, New York City. She works for Andro Computational Solutions.

Smith said she is running again because she “like(s) our community” and “like(s) working with people.” She noted her previous support for the Liberty Gardens renovations and for Kennedy Arena.

Smith also called the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award “nothing more than seed money,” but “a start, and a glimmer” of future economic development.

Fifth Ward

• Frank Anderson, R, is the incumbent Fifth Ward councilor, and is seeking his sixth term.

Anderson was a member of the Board of Education for the Rome City School District from 2007 to 2009, though he was forced to resign his position due to a New York State Education Law which states that a person can not be a school board member at the same time that he is holding office as a member of the Common Council for a small city.

“You’re going to hear a lot of comments during the campaign about the economic development projects we have going on in Rome,” Anderson said. “It’s an exciting time in Rome.

Anderson also touted infrastructure projects, including roadwork and water/sewer improvements, noting that he chairs the council’s Municipal Operations Committee.

• Samantha Hallenbeck, D, 22, is seeking the Fifth Ward Common Council seat.

She is the Visual Promotions Coordinator at Copperccino’s Coffee House and also works as an Art Assistant at Upstate Cerebral Palsy. She is a 2015 graduate of RFA and has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from SUNY Oswego.

She decided to run because she felt “run(ning) for public office” was the “best way to make a change” in the community.

She said that if elected, communication with residents would be her top priority, noting that many voters do not know who their councilor is, or what the body does. She also said she would stress youth engagement in office, saying “we don’t need to guess what the youth want if we ask them.”

Sixth Ward

• Riccardo D. Dursi Jr., R, is the incumbent Sixth Ward Councilor and is seeking his third term unopposed.

He has taught history at RFA for 22 years, is a 1988 graduate of RFA, earned a liberal arts degree from Mohawk Valley Community College, bachelor’s degrees in history and anthropology from SUNY Potsdam and has an education certificate for social studies (grades 7-12).

Dursi touted his Rome Youth Council program, which gives RFA students a voice at City Hall. He said two of that council’s five members were recently named to a city Brownfield Opportunity Area steering committee.

Dursi said that if re-elected he would “push Rome forward” and focus on the city as a whole, not just his north Rome constituency.

Seventh Ward

• A. Robert Tracy, R, is the Seventh Ward Common Councilor, running unopposed for his second term.

He graduated from Rome Free Academy in 1976. A graduate of Yale University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English, Tracy later attended Syracuse University College of Law (1983-86), though he has stressed in the past that he is not an attorney.

He previously served on the Capitol Theatre’s Board of Directors.

Tracy said he has always had an interest in public service but sought office because of his time working with non-profit organizations.

He said he has learned since being elected in 2017 that the office of the Common Council “is about the individual and their problems,” and that he will continue to be available to individual constituents in the future.

He graduated from Rome Free Academy in 1976.

A graduate of Yale University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English, Tracy later attended Syracuse University College of Law (1983-86), though he has stressed in the past that he is not an attorney.

Council President

• Stephanie Viscelli, R, is the incumbent Council President and was first elected in 2015.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Ithaca College, her law degree from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse as well. She is an attorney at a private practice.

“I think I’m the best candidate for Council President based on my background, based on my qualifications, and based on my experience,” she said.

Viscelli said her “first and most important” duty as Council President is to “represent every single constituent in the city of Rome,” and that she acts as a steward of taxpayer dollars.

• Carolyn Trela-Ferlo, D, is running for Common Council President as well. She has worked as a teacher and administrator in the Rome and Whitesboro School Districts.

Trela-Ferlo said she has been engaged in community groups like her church, Professional and Business Women of Rome, Zonta International, the Rome Community Theatre, and the Capitol Theatre, among others.

She said she has experience as a parliamentarian, which is one role of the office, and that she would stress “communication, transparency, and bipartisanship” while in office.

“I have the heart of the community right in my heart,” she said.

County legislature

4th District

• Cynthia Rogers-Witt, R, is seeking the Fourth District seat in the Oneida County Legislature, currently held by Michael J. Clancy, D.

This is her third run for the post, having lost to Clancy in 2015 and 2017. She is a retired state employee, having worked for the Office for People with Disabilities for 37 years.

She was active in the CSEA, retiring as executive vice president.

Rogers-Witt said her experience in union leadership would help her on the job in Utica.

12th District

• Michael Brown, D, is the incumbent 12th District legislator. He is the executive director of Rome Main Streets Alliance.

Brown said that the county government is limited in what it can do because of state mandated obligations.

He said that the county should allocate some of its non-earmarked funds to continuing development on technological services at Griffiss. He said he also supports further development of the arts in Rome.

• Brenda McMonagle, R, is seeking the 12th district seat. She works at AmeriCU and has served as the chairperson for the Rome Run & Indoor Walk.

McMonagle said she’s running because she “want(s) to do more for the community” and would seek to secure “jobs” for the area that would encourage “(her) kids to stay here.”

7th District

• Leigh Loughran, D, is running for the Seventh District in the county legislature, held currently by Legislature Chairman Gerald J. Fiorini.

She is on the Rome school board and works in the Medical Imaging Department at Rome Memorial Hospital.

She said she would push for term limits, noting her opponent’s tenure of more than three decades.

Mayoral candidates

• David J. Halpin is the Democratic nominee for Rome’s highest office. He is a general manager at Advance Auto Parts and has never sought or held elected office.

He is a 1972 graduate of Rome Free Academy and has an associate’s degree in business administration and accounting from the Utica School of Commerce.

Halpin said his administration would stress an “Open, honest line of communication,” would be “responsive, respectful,” and would “work in all neighborhoods.”

He said he would prioritize “major issues” like “crime, drugs, and blight” that affect quality of life.”

• Jacqueline M. Izzo is the incumbent mayor of Rome and is the Republican nominee for the office. She graduated from Rome Catholic High School in 1979 and earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations-journalism from Utica College in 1984.

She formerly owned and ran a medical transcription service company.

Izzo touted the $40 million in grants her administration secured in its first term, especially her “signature win,” the $10 million DRI award. She said now is “a time of growth that we haven’t seen” since Griffiss Air Force Base left in the early 1990s.

“This is a great time to be Rome, it’s a great time to live in Rome and work in Rome,” she said.

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