Geneseo hosted a public candidate forum on Wednesday Feb. 24 in Newton Hall for those running for the Village Trustees and Village Justice positions. Village Trustee candidates who attended included Rochester native political science and history major junior Matthew Cook, Geneseo native Spanish major freshman Mary Rutigliano and incumbent Trustee Bob Wilcox. Both Village Justice candidates—Brad Janson and Bill Brennan—also attended. The forum began with each of the candidates providing an opening statement. Brennan and Janson used this time to discuss how their experiences qualify them for the Village Justice position.
In Cook and Rutigliano’s opening statements, they each discussed their hopes to bridge the divide between the Geneseo campus and the community. “Having someone who can properly see both sides of Main Street as a student and as a lifelong resident of the village is something than can be really refreshing for our community and strengthen our … friendship with the college community,” Rutigliano said.
Wilcox emphasized his commitment to the trustee position and his disappointment about student turnout during his opening statement.
After opening statements, Interim Assistant Provost Kenneth Kallio served as the forum’s moderator and read questions written by attendees to the candidates. Kallio asked Village Trustee candidates whether students’ role in government should be serving in the Village government, working for the college administration or attending trustee meetings.
Cook and Rutigliano cited the necessity for students to be involved in all areas of local government in order for democracy to be successful.
“If you don’t have students at the table, then democracy can’t happen,” Cook said.
Wilcox disagreed with Cook and Rutigliano, explaining his concerns about students’ time commitment to the Village Trustee positions.
“I do disagree with students serving as trustees because of the fact that it takes up a lot of time, which I don’t believe students have,” he said. “It takes a certain maturity and life experience to deal with it.”
Cook added that he is willing to stay in Geneseo for the next few years to fulfill the obligations of the trustee position. Rutigliano reflected the same sentiment and added that if elected, instead of studying abroad as she originally hoped, she is planning on taking advantage of the language resources available in the town of Geneseo.
Wilcox commented that he considers Rutigliano’s decision to give up studying abroad to be a Village Trustee unwise. He added that the position of a trustee is a substantial time commitment, taking approximately 15–20 hours each week.
When the question of time management was raised again during the forum, Rutigliano explained that this question assumes an entire portion of the community is unfit to govern because they are students.
“It almost seems like we’re saying that [students] are not fit to govern because they don’t have enough time to dedicate to it,” she said. “That’s hurtful to Matt and I … and that’s not engaging us in a dialogue and invalidating our candidacy.”
Another topic discussed at the forum was how action that the Village Board takes affects the Village’s credit rating. Wilcox said that Geneseo’s bond rating is as high as it can get and that Geneseo stays within its limit in regards to credit. Cook and Rutigliano could not comment on this, but noted that they are excited to learn more about it.
“You don’t have to be an expert on everything you do—you just have to know how to do your homework and use your resources,” Rutigliano said.
Wilcox brought up the Social Host Law, asking how Cook and Rutigliano were planning on addressing students’ concerns about this issue.
Cook responded by arguing that there needs to be a more open discussion between students and the community. He expressed his belief that students were not treated as equals when the law was passed, despite its good intentions.
The candidates each had an opportunity for a two-minute closing statement at the end of the forum. Most of the candidates used this time to thank the college and those who attended, as well as encouraging attendees to vote.
The elections for the Trustees and Justice positions will be on March 15. Polls will be open from 12-9 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church or United Methodist Church.