NAME: Michael Stolzer
OFFICE BEING SOUGHT: Oneonta Town Councilman
COMMUNITY OF RESIDENCE: Town of Oneonta
EDUCATION: College (four years, graduated with honors) plus 2 years, Brooklyn Museum School
After studying there, I was hired by the Brooklyn Museum as a studio technician. Two years later, I left and started my own business, becoming self-employed at the age of 24.
In 1980, I was hired to manage and maintain two large estates, which I did until they were sold six years later. I also ran my own studio/gallery in New York City for five years. Over the years I have consistently been self-employed, doing custom interior renovation work, and as a sculptor and painter.
Most recently, I have owned and operated a business renting houses that I renovated, to students and local residents. I also opened a local art gallery a few years ago.
I have lived in the area over 25 years, and have made a business of renovating neglected and abandoned houses, improving neighborhoods, reducing blight, and providing good quality homes for students and local residents.
To contribute to the vitality and cultural life of the area, I opened an art gallery hosting rotating exhibits for local artists. There are no commissions or fees and all sales go directly to the artist. My own work is on view as well.
As a Town Councilman, I advocated for the re-opening of a walking trail in Morningside Heights, which is now completed, as well as taking a stand to preserve Fortin House and allow Oneonta World of Learning (OWL) to use it as a children’s museum and play center, creating an opportunity for young families and bringing new life to Fortin Park.
My voice has been heard at many town hall meetings. I worked hard to help pass the Town’s moratorium on fracking prior to the state-wide fracking ban. This was of critical importance to the vast majority of our residents at that time. I also made efforts to help inform voters about the candidates in the following local elections.
Maintaining integrity on the Town Board is among my primary reasons for accepting the appointment and for running to keep my seat.
As councilman, I have drafted several resolutions (all passed unanimously) promoting the health and safety of residents as well as embracing renewable energy and related economic development tools to assist existing businesses and to help attract new ones.
I have three grown children and all of them live in the area. My oldest son is a local homeowner. My youngest is an engineering student at SUNY Oneonta, and my daughter and son-In-law have recently returned to buy a house and place to settle down. I live with my longtime partner, Rachel Soper, on Southside Drive along with our dog and three cats.
IN TWO OR THREE SENTENCES, EXPLAIN YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT:
I believe in the basic principles of democracy. I believe the job of the Town Board is to fulfill the will of the people. Over the past nine months as Town Councilman the direction of my efforts has been guided by the Town Survey, and will continue to be if I am elected.
WHAT ARE THE THREE MAJOR ISSUES THE TOWN OF ONEONTA FACES, AND HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THEM?
From my many conversations with residents it is clear that two of their major concerns are taxes and a town/city merger. It goes without saying that no one wants to pay more taxes. I took a stand for a 0% tax increase for next year; this is exactly what the budget we are now working on calls for, and I will continue to be fiscally responsible if elected. Regarding a merger, the majority of the residents are opposed. Therefore, although I believe strongly in sharing services and being a good neighbor, at this time I consider a merger to be off the table.
1) In my assessment, the biggest issue is the lack of good paying jobs… and not just jobs… careers. We need to bring businesses that offer their employees room to grow so our young people stay and others will come. We must create opportunity and possibility if we are to remain a vibrant community. Since my appointment in January I have been promoting the adoption of PACE Enabling Legislation. This powerful economic development tool can help our existing businesses to grow by reducing their energy costs and increasing their property values, while attracting new businesses and creating jobs in the rapidly growing industries of energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. I drafted two resolutions (both passed unanimously by the Oneonta Town Board) which were sent to the County Board of Representatives and the IDA promoting this program. I have also reached out to every Town Supervisor and Town Board member in the County as well as having begun working with the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District, which also supports making PACE available locally. I also voted to change zoning requirements in HDD zones (Highway Development District) which now permit affected properties to contain more than one business, allowing for larger parcels to maximize use of their space without having to rely on attracting national chains or big box stores and increasing the possibility of development by local businesses.
I am committed to creating and promoting more opportunities for intelligent, sensible development to attract the kind of businesses we need.
2) On the other hand, the volume and nature of development and its impact on residential neighborhoods is another of the issues that the town faces. While development is an essential part of a healthy community, I will continue to work hard to make sure the rights of property owners are respected. As Councilman the first issue I pressed to resolve was the impact of commercial development on Southside residential properties. We passed a change in regulations requiring a mandatory buffer zone which must be in place prior to beginning any work.
3) Dependable, high quality EMS and Fire protection is essential to our community. Safety and health are the first responsibilities of any government and is the right of all residents. Although this may well be considered the biggest issue facing the town, it is not under the control of the Town Board. Rather, it is entirely in the hands of the fire commissioners, whose recent work has been effective and diligent. As councilman I will encourage and support the commission in any way possible, as well as hold them accountable for their actions.
WHAT QUALITIES/EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE THAT MAKES YOU THE BETTER CHOICE IN THIS RACE?
When I see a problem, I take responsibility for finding a solution, and take action. I see “problems” as an opportunity to make things better. I am fulfilled by hard work, and am not deterred by adversity. I have compassion for others and their circumstances and enjoy helping people. I am a creative thinker and problem solver, working well with others even when we disagree. I am fair and open minded and value common sense. I have a vision of making Oneonta the town that residents have asked for, and am excited about helping make it happen.
IS THERE A STATEMENT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH VOTERS?
I have lived in the area over 25 years and have two local businesses. I grew up in a lower middle class working family and, like many, I had to make my own way; venturing out into the world with nothing and no help from anyone. As a result, I have a first-hand understanding of the difficulties of not having enough money to get by. In contrast, my successes later in life lead to an understanding of the concerns of the business community. My wide range of experiences brought me into contact with a wide range of people, teaching me that in spite differences, we are fundamentally the same, and should be treated as such regardless of financial or social position. As town councilman, I will continue to respect and to listen to each and every concern brought to my attention and do everything in my power to resolve issues. As councilman, I have also had the honor of working with an excellent group of people. With my presence, we have had a well balanced town board, with two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Independent, fairly representing the make-up of Oneonta’s voters.
My only goal as councilman is to help make the improvements residents have asked for, while leaving everything that is right about Oneonta untouched. I would appreciate your vote on November 8th so I can continue the work that I have started. Thank you.