Students and local politicians met in Newton Hall on Monday, March 11 to discuss issues pertaining to the upcoming village elections on March 18.
The gathering, which was not officially sanctioned by the college, was organized by student group Think Globally, Vote Locally, with candidates running for Village Board in attendance.
Several issues dominated the discussion, namely rental housing and the possibility of opening a farmers' market in Geneseo.
Village Board candidate Bob Wilcox, a Democrat, was concerned that Main Street would not remain viable in light of recent development on Route 20A. He said that he believes that a farmers' market is just what Geneseo needs to bring students and community members together.
Democrat Margaret Duff, who said she was "not opposed to growth, as long as it is smart growth," promised to carry the torch if incumbent Wilcox is not re-elected.
Republican candidate John Fox Jr. was not as confident. He explained that although he didn't discredit the appeal of a farmers' market, he felt that competition from existing farmers' markets and initial capital expenses make the project unrealistic. According to Fox, the market "seems to be too costly an endeavor to embark upon at this point."
Old tensions resurfaced upon mention of the divisive issue of rental housing. Last year, the village board passed a resolution that forbade any more than four non-related persons from sharing a residence. This resolution left students with fewer off-campus housing options and landlords stood to have their investments devalued. In light of such conflict, the law was overturned after its constitutionality was challenged in a lawsuit.
Republican representatives repeatedly stated that the rental affair was a waste of the taxpayers' time and money.
Wilcox said to those gathered that a new compromise had been reached wherein all current residence limits would be retained in a grandfather clause. The new law will govern all subsequent rental development and require a thorough inspection every three years.
Towards the conclusion of the meeting, several students commented on the tendency for village residents to deny the importance of the college. As a result, both parties stressed the importance of communication between students and community members.
According to Tom LaGrou, a Republican, "We live here, the students live here, we all need to communicate and get along."
Duff said she wants Geneseo to remain "a place where college students want to stay and high-school students want to raise their families." She called for students to get involved in local politics and to lend some of their ideas to those in power.
Junior Fiona Murray, TGVL chairperson, concluded the talk by stating that "Main Street could be ten times better at bringing the students into the community, and that the college could be ten times better at getting the community involved on campus."
Democrat Bill Brennan and Republican Brad Janson are competing for the non-partisan position of town justice and thus refrained from participating in the debate.