JAMESTOWN – More than 70 people were on hand at Jamestown Community College Tuesday night as the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters presented a Meet the Candidates forum, featuring candidates for Chautauqua County Sheriff – incumbent Joseph Gerace (D) and challenger James Quattrone (R) – and candidates for State Assembly – incumbent Andrew Goodell (R) and challenger Judith Einach (D).
While the candidates for sheriff agreed the biggest law enforcement issue facing the county is the ongoing opioid and drug epidemic, Quattrone was critical of Gerace’s oversight of the department, saying the current sheriff hasn’t done a good enough job working with other law enforcement agencies within the county.
“A big problem we have in the enforcement issue of drugs is we have two drug task forces, Quattrone said, noting both the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force and the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force. “Working and talking with other police chiefs in the county we realize that we have to work together and share that information if we want to eradicate the problem and makes the arrests of those that are peddling the drugs.”
Quattrone also was critical of how the county jail is being run, saying that the jail staff is an often overlooked component of the Sheriff’s Office they are currently experience low morale.
Gerace, meanwhile, highlighted his long-time record of improving the sheriff’s office, including improvements to the 911 central dispatch service, as well as working recently to reduce the number of inmates at the county jail.
When an audience member asked why there were two different drug task forces operating in the county, Gerace explained it had more to do with a decision by the Jamestown Police Department.
“The reason there are two task forces is because the Jamestown Police Department chose to withdraw from the [Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force]. At one time, when it was created under the late Sheriff John Bentley and then Sheriff [Jerry] Burrell in Cattaraugus County, it was a four county task force and all the agencies were involved, but there was funding. The state actually passed through funding from the federal government and that attracted law enforcement,” Gerace said. “But the reason we have two today, and its not because I want to and I’ve met with the Jamestown Police Chief and I’ve met with the mayor and we’ve met together, they chose to move and do their own thing. It’s not something where I can say, ‘You can’t do that.’ That was their choice.”
In the forum featuring the assembly candidates, challenger Judith Einach was straightforward, saying the only way residents in Chautauqua County would get more help and assistance from Albany is if they put a Democrat in office, because the Assembly is currently controlled by Democrats.
“I’ve been told by our lieutenant governor that I am correct: once we have a Democrat in that seat, resources will truly flow to this county. As we know many of the resources that been flowing to this county have been coming because, like it our not, we have a governor who’s been giving them to us,” Einach said.
However, Einach was unable to provide specific examples of what additional funding she could help secure or where it would come from when pressed by an audience member.
Meanwhile, Goodell focused on his effort to increase the business climate in New York State and Chautauqua County, while also working to reform the state’s welfare system so that those receiving social services from the state will only use the short-term.
“In my opinion the most urgent issue facing New York State is our need to be more competitive with our other states so we can build a stronger economy, have more job opportunities for all our friends, neighbors and our kids, and provide the foundation for job and population growth and a more prosperous community,” Goodell said, adding, “What can we do, though to help those that are less fortunate to get out of welfare? Sadly our system traps a lot of people in welfare.”
Both Goodell and Einach agreed that more needs to be done to help Jamestown Community College receive additional funding, especially with a decline in enrollment due to the recently enacted Excelsior Scholarship Program that provides free tuition to low income and middle class students. They also felt that the state needs to do more to help struggling dairy farmers.
The forum became most heated when the issue of women’s reproductive rights and abortion came up. Goodell said there is no need to expand the abortion laws for the state that are currently in place and he is fighting new legislation that he said would increase the rate of late term abortions – even for healthy babies and mothers – all the way up to the ninth month. Einach said she is in full support of a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her own body.
Both forums will be broadcast in their entirety on WRFA on Thursday Nov. 1, beginning at 7pm and then posted on our website. You can also find and listen to recent episodes of Community Matters, which already features interviews with all four candidates.
Meanwhile, our next episode of Community Matters will feature our interviews with the candidates for congress – Tom Reed and Tracy Mitrano. It will air this Thursday, Oct. 25 at 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m., and then Sunday, Oct. 28 at noon.