Candidate interview: Rich David

Rich David via Facebook
November 4, 2013

Republican Rich David will face Teri Rennia in tomorrow’s election for Mayor of Binghamton. All Things Considered host Crystal Sarakas spoke with David earlier today as the campaign was nearing an end.

CS: Mr. David, thanks so much for taking time out what I’m sure must be a pretty busy day.

RD: I’m happy to be here, thank you.

CS: Now, if you’re elected tomorrow, what will you do on day one of your administration?

RD: I think the first and most important thing you can do is surround yourself with the best and the brightest and the most qualified people because at the end of the day, the mayor may be the one that has the accountability and the responsibility, but it really and truly is a team effort. So I think those first personnel decisions that you make are among the most important decisions that a mayor or a public administrator will ever make. So really, after the election starts the transition process and that’s where you begin to cast that wide net to begin to talk with and interview experts in the related field that you want to hire. So that’s really what I plan on doing on day one is beginning the process of assembling a top-notch administrative team.

CS: Your main message during this campaign has been public safety and more specifically restoring 20 positions in the police department. You said that you’d do that through cuts rather than raising taxes. What specifically do you plan to cut to help pay for those positions?

RD: Well I think that my main message over the course of the campaign has really been talking about five different areas. One is fighting crime and of course my plan to fight crime and keep people safe has been endorsed by the Binghamton Police Benevolent Association. But I’ve also talked about the increases in taxes and water and sewer rates and how to create jobs and how to fix our streets and potholes and other public infrastructure, better managing money and of course the quality of life issues that impact our neighborhoods.

These things I call basic city services and these are collectively what I want to focus on. But of course a main element of that is crime because I think that residents and businesses don’t want to locate in areas that are unsafe. So I have proposed that we gradually, on an annual basis, begin to restore the cuts that were made in the police department and I would like to do that by eliminating administrative positions, patronage positions that have been added over the course of the last 8 years in different departments such as information technology and different deputies and assistants, electricians, things of that nature where, as the police department has been downsized, there have been redundancies that have been created in city hall.

So that’s the starting point. That’s not the only thing we could do. We also need to look for other efficiencies within city hall. But if you look at this proposed 2014 budget, there are 3 police positions being added. And right now it’s about a .01 percent tax increase. So the concept that this can’t be done is false because the city is already following my lead and I was very pleased to see them do so.

CS: In August, the Binghamton City Police Chief Joseph Zikuski released some numbers that talked about how crime in the city has increased, particularly violent crime is up 31.8%. Do you think that the reduction in the police force is in part responsible for this increase in crime that we’ve seen.

RD: I do, and I will also say that as part of that presentation to city council that Chief Zikuski, he directly came out and said that he believes that the increase in not only violent crime but in burglary and larcenies is directly related to the reduction of police officers. And I can also tell you that when I was endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association, in the letter that the president wrote to me, he said, and the president was Robert Fimbres, he said in his letter that the position of the PBA is that there also is a direct correlation between the reduction in police officers and the steady rise in crime. So it’s not just the police chief, it’s also the union and the men and women that are tasked with the very difficult job of protecting our community.

But I also want to say that adding police in and of itself is not the only thing that we need to do. That’s not my entire plan. I also thing we need to focus on high crime areas. We also need to lock down crime ridden properties. We need to expand community policing. We need to increase patrols in our neighborhoods. We need to re-implement foot patrols in downtown. But I also think we need to be conscious of the fact that whatever we do, we’re going to need more bodies to do it. I also think the first step in solving a problem is first acknowledging that it exists. It’s not a perception issue as we hear from my opponent and others at city hall. Crime is very real and it’s causing very significant impacts on residents across the city.

CS: Are there any misconceptions about you that have come up during this campaign that you would like to clear up?

RD: That’s a good question and I think there has been a lot of misinformation and distortions unfortunately coming from City Hall and others. But I would very much sum it up like this: I think that if you want four more years of the Ryan administration, that’s what my opponent offers. If you’re looking for a change and you’re looking for the city to focus on basic city services that impact residents as opposed to issues and causes that the city really doesn’t have any influence, impact or control over, that’s what I offer.

I’ve talked a lot more about issues other than just crime and that’s what a lot of people tend to focus on. I think crime is very important and as I talk to residents across the city, they feel their concerns are falling on deaf ears on city hall and that’s one of the many reasons I’ve been such an advocate for it. But you know my campaign has touched on a multitude of issues – what can we do to make city hall more business friendly? How can we create a better environment for businesses and residents? Investing in infrastructure, managing money, and dealing with the quality of life issues in the neighborhoods and I think people want somebody with experience. I’m the only candidate that has experience working in City Hall. I think it’s important for people to realize, there’s a big difference between working in the mayor’s office and working in the legislative branch. It’s one thing to just vote Yes or No on something, it’s a completely other thing to actually do the work and negotiate the contracts, come up with the ideas, work on managing the departments on a day to day basis. SO I’m the candidate that has six years of full-time experience working in the mayor’s office and I know the challenges residents face as a business owner and resident myself. I believe that puts me in the best position to move this city forward.

CS: Mr. David, thank you so much for joining me today.

RD: Thank you very much.