The Daily Sentinel asked a series of questions for Common Council candidates in the city of Oneida. Each candidate was given 700 words to respond. The following are the answers from Ward 3 Democratic incumbent candidate Jim Coulthart.
Coulthart has been the Ward 3 councilor since 2018 and has been a strong voice for Ward 3 residents. Coulthart worked to keep commercial tankers heading to H.P. Hood off of residential streets through Ward 3.
What do you feel is the most pressing matter facing the city of Oneida at the moment and what can be done?
The single most important matter facing the City of Oneida is to re-prioritize functions of the city government to respond more effectively and efficiently to the needs of its citizens. That is the simple answer. In a time of limited resources, this will not be so easily accomplished. People have shared with me many ideas on what concerns they have — drug-related crime, homelessness, poverty, code enforcement to make our city a safe and healthy place to live. I understand the importance of fire and police services but this needs to be tempered by what Oneida can afford. Add to that list badly needed repairs to streets, sidewalks, addressing the diseased trees in town. An emphasis on robust economic development efforts to bring more and diverse business to the area should be acted on. Oneida is well past the time we can settle for what businesses just happen to come our way.
A strategic 5 or 10 year plan to re-invent city functions would give everyone a roadmap. Honest assessment of long held departmental functions should be reimagined for today’s needs. Regardless of the direction taken, more communication and active inclusion of citizens on all information platforms should be undertaken.
The state of Oneida’s downtown area has been a hot-button topic for years. Ideally, how would you improve downtown Oneida?
I firmly believe some aspects of the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative can be implemented, even if we do not get the funds from the State grant. The success of shops like Hipstir, the Bella Vita and locating the Teaken Insurance Agency downtown proves a reinvigoration is possible. I envision downtown as an arts/music hub with small shops and restaurants. Enforcement of codes and nuisance violations along with increased police presence in troubled areas will make a difference. The recent Fall Festival proves downtown can be a family friendly destination.
What would you do or what would you focus on if elected/re-elected in the coming year? Is there something pressing you think needs addressed?
As I mentioned in answering the first question, evolution of Oneida City government to economically and effectively meet the needs of our citizens will remain my focus. As always, Ward 3 residents’ needs will also remain high on my list. I continue to want to find a workable solution for maintenance of Higginbotham Creek along it’s route. Creative use of the abandoned land on the Flats is also on my radar.
I started and will continue talking with elected officials at all levels about putting a Thruway Interchange in North Oneida to bring people to and through Oneida. This would benefit and grow area business by increased consumer traffic. It would give public safety responders easy interstate access in emergencies. It will provide access to out of towners looking to access the “Route 46 Corridor” to colleges south of Oneida. Money will be spent on lodging, gas, food. The same for access to northern destinations such as Verona and Sylvan Beaches. I would also like to actively explore shared services with Madison County government in the areas of information technology, human resources management, health services management.
What can be done to keep people in New York and more specifically, Oneida?
A coordinated regional economic policy needs to be developed to link all communities in our area to entice businesses and their workers to town. At the end of the day we still have land, abundant resources, decent infrastructure and our people possess excellent work ethics. One only needs to drive through the Griffiss Business Park to see what is possible. Oneida can “help to set the table” for our area’s reinvigoration.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit everyone hard. While we’re starting down a road to recovery, what do you think can be done to help people recover, socially or economically?
First, wiser use of limited City money will cost taxpayers less to live in our community. A lot of projects spending has taken place under the present administration. It is not clear that all of this is needed.
Such spending is tone deaf to the financial impact of the ongoing pandemic. Social recovery from the ill effects of the pandemic is unknown but will most likely be long term. A good first step would be to gather Oneida non-profit and social service agencies together to coordinate and focus efforts.