Cross Roads Elections
By Joe Fragano
In a departure from Cross Roads’ council meetings which are usually marked by lengthy citizen input periods, multiple council members took center stage to discuss the town’s upcoming election and some of its key issues on Monday night.
Wendy White-Stevens kicked off the council members’ collective announcement time by throwing her support onto another council member running for mayor. White-Stevens announced publicly that she would be voting for Bobby Phillips in the mayoral election and for both Kay Neubauer and Jim Riley in their quests to join the city council.
“I am planning on casting my vote for Bobby Phillips, and I am planning on casting my vote for Kay Neubauer, and also Jim,” White-Stevens said. “My problem lies with operational inefficiencies and feeling like I have been silenced as a ... three-term council member. I can’t appreciate that. You can’t convince me that we are as cohesive and effective moving forward when council members do not have a voice. That’s not why I serve. I’m not here to warm this chair.”
Phillips also had something to say about the election during his allotted announcements time. Phillips expressed disappointment that some members of the council have used their announcement time in recent meetings to discuss campaign disagreements, a practice he said is improper for council meetings.
“That’s not what town council meetings are about,” Phillips said. “Personal matters should be left outside those doors. Campaigning isn’t appropriate at a meeting meant to conduct town business and the people’s business. … I would not be saying any of this if I had not been publicly attacked while I was not even present to defend. Because that attack was personal and campaign-related, it is inappropriate for me to respond at a council meeting.”
During Cross Roads’ previous town council meeting on March 21, council member Greg Gaalema issued a challenge to Phillips. Gaalema asked Phillips, who was not in attendance at the March 21 meeting due to a case of the flu, to bring proof of “runaway spending” by the town in recent months.
Gaalema, who is running as an incumbent for his current seat on the council in the town’s next election, doubled down on his request for proof of irresponsible spending from Phillips Monday night. In Gaalema’s opinion, discussing the town’s finances as they relate to Phillips’ campaign literature at a council meeting was above board because a discussion of the town’s finances as a whole was included on Monday night’s meeting agenda.
“Spending is the town’s business,” Gaalema said. “When a current councilman alleges that this council has allowed runaway spending to occur, which is absolutely false, it deserves to be put on the agenda. It is on the agenda today, … and we’re going to discuss it.”
Gaalema did not wait until the agenda called for a discussion of the town’s finances. Instead, Gaalema spent the next 21 minutes and 13 seconds giving a detailed report on the town’s spending that he felt shows not only a lack of irresponsible spending by the town, but that the town is healthier financially than it has ever been.
The report given by Gaalema during his announcement time included figures from an audit of the town’s finances that show a lower percentage of increase of the town’s expenditures on police, fire and EMS services, and town administration under Tompkins compared to previous years, as well as an increase in surplus funds.
When the agenda item calling for a discussion of the town’s finances came later in the meeting, Gaalema declined to speak on the towns funds because he felt he had already said his piece during his announcement time. Instead, he demanded either a rebuttal or an apology from Phillips. Phillips made no comment during the meeting.
Cross Roads returns to forum on May 2 for the first of two scheduled council meetings next month.