Slim margins and the Home

Never let it be said your vote doesn’t matter.

Look at Wednesday’s 16-9 failed vote to sell the Chautauqua County Home as proof. It is the second time a deal to sell the Home has fallen through because one more vote was needed to reach a supermajority of 17 legislators.

We harken back to 2011, when Jamestown’s Tim Hoyer earned election to the Chautauqua County Legislature by 16 votes over challenger Michael Haddad in a district with 489 votes cast, and Robert Whitney fended off a challenge by David Wilfong by 58 votes in a district in which 709 votes were cast. They are two of the three legislators on whom selling the Chautauqua County Home hinge.

Both were elected by slim margins. Both could have been the one vote needed to sell the home.

Nine legislators voted against the sale – Whitney, Lori Cornell and Hoyer, all Jamestown Democrats; Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; William Coughlin, D-Fredonia; Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia.

Ahlstrom’s vote, judging from his public comments, had less to do with faith in county ownership in the Home than in doing what his constituents ask of him. Ahlstrom admitted there will come a time when legislators in favor of selling are correct in their belief continued county ownership of the home isn’t sustainable.

North county legislators can fall back on listening to their constituents, though we say the concerns of north county residents are based on comfort rather than what is best for the Home’s residents. What about their south county counterparts?

Hoyer, who thankfully isn’t running for re-election, says his vote against the sale comes from his belief society should take care of the elderly. He reasons selling the Home goes against the idea of caring for our neighbors. We ask Mr. Hoyer how well the Home will care for our neighbors when it is forced to close? It is a scenario for which he relies on flimsy logic and funhouse mirrors the likes of which don’t deserve to be heard on the legislature floor. Good riddance.

As for the other Jamestown Democrats, their reasons are similarly flimsy.

Cornell didn’t speak during Wednesday’s meeting. She has never voted in favor of a sale offer for the home. Cornell didn’t think Avi Rothner was a suitable buyer. Her silence after voting against VestraCare’s purchase offer, however, comes in comparison to rave reviews from legislators who have toured VestraCare’s other facilities. Her silence and nay vote come despite VestraCare’s desire to add to the County Home more rehabilitation services, assisted living, independent living, apartments, adult day care and specific changes in care for people who are developmentally disabled.

Whitney, meanwhile, relied on politics – blaming Republicans who scheduled the vote so close to Election Day. His voting history suggests the vote had less to do with politics and timing of the vote than what the sale would do to the home’s employees. That was his reasoning when questioned in August about a possible sale of the home to Richard Platschek, a deal whose failure led to VestraCare’s offer.

Those who are on the fence in the race for Chautauqua County clerk, which deals heavily in revenues, may now have a clearer choice in the election. Larry Barmore’s vote on the Home was about eliminating a deficit for the county, Cornell’s was not. She may pay for that on Tuesday.

Whitney is running for office on Tuesday against David Wilfong for the legislature. There are other differences between the candidates, but Wilfong and Whitney are diametrically opposed on the home. A vote for Wilfong is a vote for another legislator who will sell the home and make a solid financial decision for all taxpayers. Votes for Whitney are votes to keep the home and keep losing money on a facility that is unlikely to break even under county ownership.

The message to registered voters is clear: your vote matters.