On student candidates’ campaigns for Village Board

Geneseo students will have an unprecedented opportunity to shift the balance of power in a very constructive direction in the March 15 Geneseo Village Board elections. Freshman Mary Rutigliano and junior Matthew Cook are running as independents to fill the two available positions—and students should turn out in force to support them. Especially noting the currently tense atmosphere following the rollout of the Social Host Law, dialogue between the college and the town is particularly vital for the functioning of our community.

Rutigliano and Cook are strong candidates who seem eager to learn about local issues and to listen to voices from the town and the college in making decisions. Rutigliano grew up in Geneseo and knows firsthand many of the issues the town faces. She and Cook—a political science major—cited the difficulties that Dansville has experienced after the town’s water treatment plant broke down from years of underinvestment as a useful case study. These are two intelligent, curious people who will make good public servants.

They also expressed their belief that the Social Host Law needs to be amended or enforced differently so that students are protected by the law, rather than preyed upon. This law is a case in which it is easy to see how input from students—as well as permanent residents—could lead to policies that are more fair and amenable to all.

Rutigliano and Cook are also much stronger candidates than their opponents. The local Republican Party is running one candidate—Leslie Carson—for the two positions. Carson is married to a local police sergeant, which means that she will be prevented from participating in a number of major votes—including the budget—because they conflict directly with her personal interests.

On the Democratic side, the candidates are Bob Wilcox and Phil Jones. Wilcox was a strong advocate of the Social Host Law and if Rutigliano and Cook win the election, Wilcox will be voted out of office. This would be a welcome development following his recent comments expressing the ignorant opinion that time constraints make students unfit to hold public office.

Additionally, he said that students should not hold public office because they do not pay property taxes—never mind that 44 percent of students live off campus and that decisions about businesses, street repairs and law enforcement affect all of us just as well.

Older generations claim that our generation is politically complacent. The recent presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders challenges this notion, but it is not only for big-time outsider candidates that we can become excited. When we have the opportunity to support qualified, concerned candidates like Rutigliano and Cook, we should seize it because the decisions made at the local level are often the ones that ending up impacting our lives the most.

To vote in the local election, students have to be registered to vote in Livingston County. The deadline to register to vote is Friday March 4 and most students will have to complete an absentee ballot because the election occurs over spring break. The deadline for that is Tuesday March 8.

Both forms can be found online at ny.elections.gov or in the Board of Elections Office in the county government building behind the court building on Court Street.