LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS FORUM
Buttermann, Cornell, Salka Debate
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Where did that question on whether to fund the Catskill Regional Teacher Center come from?
Two of the 121st District candidates were caught off guard by the first question; Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, had actually toured the place and declared, “Spending on education is one of the most important investments we can make.” The other two candidates could agree with that.
Beyond that wild card, the three candidates – in addition to Republican Salka, they were Democrat challenger Dan Buttermann, Oneonta, and Libertarian Jacob Cornell – jousted on a range of issues, including three particularly hot ones: supporting law enforcement, bail reform and gun laws.
Liane Hirabayashi, co-president of the League of Women Voters, Cooperstown chapter, moderated, and fielded questions from a Zoom audience. Other topics included the Farm Bill imposing overtime costs on farms, can a COVID vaccine be effectively distributed locally (yes, they agreed), and whether legislators can get along in Albany (yes, they agreed). All supported an independent commission to draw district lines, avoiding gerrymandering.
“What I don’t like about the public discussion,” said Buttermann on supporting police, “it has to be one or the other,” adding, “It can be both.” He said Governor Cuomo’s Citizen Advisory Boards, now in place in all communities with police departments, are a good way to work through issues of policing that are now disputed.
Salka said, “Hopefully this discussion will give more impetus to community policing, particularly in our poor communities” with “poor schools, no jobs and no dignity being offered.” The “root cause” of the current debate about policing is “high incarceration; we’ve got a lot of work to do with that.”
Cornell supported an end to “unqualified immunity,” which prevents citizens from suing officers for wrongdoing. “Good cops should be our only cops,” he said. He also blamed drugs arrests for pumping up prison populations, and called for decriminalization of marijuana.
Salka raised concerns about the “unintended consequences” of the bail reform law, in particular “the revolving door of justice,” and called for approval of a bail-reform repeal bill he introduced last week.
“John’s bill, he knows full well, is not going to get any action this year,” responded Buttermann. “I want an amendment approach, restoration of judicial discretion. Full repeal is not necessary; it’s not going to happen.”
Cornell called bail reform “horrendous … Nobody should be getting off for a murder, for a rape, for an assault.” In Oneida, he said, police “arrested a woman five times in the same week for breaking and entering.”
On guns, in particular safe use of guns, Cornell opted for “not banning guns,” but more training of people who use them. “I want to be protected,” he said, and gun dealers tell him a lot of people feel the same. “They’re all buying guns, because they feel they need it for safety.”
Said Salka, “it’s a matter of protecting them against people who shouldn’t have guns … Mental health is at the core of what we should do about gun violence.”
Buttermann said he favors universal background checks and “red flag” laws, but also more training. He and his three daughters visited the Milford Fish & Game Club recently. “The first thing they explained to me was the youth program they have to provide training to students,” he said. “My girls will be participating in that when they are age-ready.”
Salka, 66, the freshman incumbent, is a retired respiratory therapist at Community Memorial Hospital in Hamilton who had served on schools board and as town supervisor. Buttermann, 36, a NYCM insurance adjuster, has served on the Oneonta school board, and organized TedX talks in Oneonta. Cornell, 24, is the father of three and runs his own business.