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Mayoral Debate Focuses on Keeping or Killing Mayor’s Housing Program

Mayoral candidates, from left:  Tom Kenyon, Ralph Stacy, Jr., and Ron Woodward shake hands after their debate.
Mayoral candidates, from left: Tom Kenyon, Ralph Stacy, Jr., and Ron Woodward shake hands after their debate.

The candidates vying to become Mayor of Fulton disagreed at their only debate of the election season on how to revitalize city neighborhoods.

Incumbent Mayor Ron Woodward, a Republican who is cross-endorsed this year by the Democratic party, defended his program of fixing up a handful of homes seized for unpaid taxes and selling them at market rates. Homes that had been converted into apartments are converted back to single-family homes.

Five homes have been renovated and sold in this manner so far, using a mix of city employees and outside contractors. A sixth is underway. The program is about two years old.

The program is believed to be unique in New York State, where the common practice is to auction seized homes for the amount of unpaid taxes.

Common Council member Tom Kenyon, who is the Conservative party’s candidate, said he would end the program.

“The way the mayor’s doing it, we’re putting 3 to 4 [homes] back on the tax rolls every year. The way I want to do it….I would like to put ’em all [up for auction],” Kenyon said, noting that county records show the city owns 122 parcels. “We’re going to get more tax money as far as I’m concerned. We’ll get more people living here, more people buying stuff here.”

Independent candidate Ralph Stacy, Jr. offered a third idea: Sell the homes for the amount of back taxes, but offer a five year break on property taxes if the homeowner fixes up the home within two years. “As time goes on, the assesments can be raised. We can get them up to an equitable rate and we can make money off these without putting more city resources than absolutely necessary,” he said.

But Woodward said the program stemmed from his visits to neighborhoods shortly after he became Mayor. He said many problems stemmed from homes that had been sold at tax auction to out-of-town investors. He said those investors often used the city as if it was their property manager, to handle problems with tenants.

Woodward said he was “trying to change the demographics of the city,” which is heavy on apartments owned by landlords who work elsewhere. “I said what if the city started [fixing up the homes] and sold them at market value? I thought, what is wrong with getting a working family that can afford a mortgage back into the neighborhoods to start stabilizing them?”

The candidates discussed a range of issues in their only joint meeting of the campaign. In fact, neither Woodward nor Kenyon had ever met Stacy until Thursday’s debate.

You can see the entire debate in the three videos below. The first two sections run 30 minutes each. The third section is about 15 minutes long.

5 Comments

  1. they didnt talk about how they are going to save money and taxes i know of only one way layoff in dpw and the firing of very good department head and replacing them with people that dont know what they are doing

  2. tHE MAYOR BRAGS ABOUT HIS Broadway rental the Longley lot he says he is making 18,000 a year on. But if he sold the building he would be making the same in taxes a year. Plus he would not have to replace the roof, parking lot, and other deferred maintenance on the building if the city doesn’t own it. The Seneca St house the city poured money into it, it sits vacant and deteriorating, and is good example of the mayors fix it up program with over 60 houses to go. He says he wants homeowners and not renters in the houses what is he going to do with the renters give them a bus ticket to leave town? He is holding so many properties that should be auctioned off so that the rest of us taxpayers won’t have to pay higher taxes now and in the future. The city needs to be out of the house flipping and rental business the city is losing taxpayer money on! Way past time for a change of administration, lets look at the city books and get new ideas in office, before the City of Fulton goes bankrupt with this Mayor!

  3. Thank you Dave Bullard for moderating such an informative debate.
    You allowed to hear the issues facing our community,
    and to see the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.
    And how complicated the issues facing Fulton are,
    what is being done, and what can be done for our future.
    Mayor Woodward understands that we have no quick fixes,
    and is working to keep taxes down while positioning Fulton
    to be a solid middle class community rather than a
    haven to slum lords.
    Mr. Stacy is very well spoken, and has quite a future
    ahead of him, but seems a little too inexperienced
    for these most demanding times.
    And Mr. Kenyon, sorry to say, seems to have
    completely given up on Fulton’s future.
    Thank you to all the candidates for
    for participating in this important,
    informative discussion for the future of Fulton.

  4. I am not sure if you had seen the debate but the moderator did not restrict time. So it was difficult for Kenyon or Stacy to speak about there views. Woodward took up the majority of the time, and I believe I may be incorrect that there was only three questions from the public given out. I believe that this debate was poorly constructed, and a time limit should have been put in place. I just hope that the correct man got his view across to the people and the citizens of Fulton vote correctly. Not strickly on friends or “the good old boys club”. I will be dissapointed in my community if things continue the way they are now because people voted like that. Just to everyone out there, do your homework and make a good decision.

  5. Public:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I didn’t keep count, but I think I got about 5 questions from the audience into the discussion. However, I was able to group questions by content area, and those questions represented a majority of the questions submitted.

    There were, as always, a couple of questions that were never going to be read (personal attacks, for example) and a few unusual questions. I tried to represent the unusual questions with the question about their greatest mistakes.

    I also did not get to most of the questions I wanted to ask.

    It was not my job to restrict time, or to decide when someone’s answer was “too long”. I felt, as I told the Post-Standard, that Mr. Woodward’s answers were long, but contained good information. It might have been too much for some, maybe even for most, but it’s also true that every problem the city faces is complicated and there are no short or easy answers.

    And the debate showed the personalities of the candidates as well. Mr. Woodward’s long answers are not limited to the debate; this is how he thinks and talks for real. And I think you got a good sense of all three candidates’ personalities from the debate.

    Thanks again for your comment!

    -Dave

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