Your Voice On Home Vote Will Be Heard Tuesday

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 Tim Hoyer, D-Jamestown, earned election to the Chautauqua County Legislature by 16 votes over challenger Michael Haddad, in a district with 489 votes cast, and Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown, 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 Wednesday – Bob Whitney, Lori Cornell and Tim 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 at Wednesday’s meeting, had less to do with faith in county ownership in the home than in doing what his constituents ask of him. Ahlstrom admitted after the meeting 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 fear and ignorance 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 Wednesday, however, comes in comparison to rave reviews from legislators who have toured VestraCare’s other facilities. Her silence comes in spite of VestraCare’s investment in a nursing home it bought in Ulster County that was previously a county-owned facility. Her silence comes in spite of numerous awards and citations garnered by VestraCare’s owners and operators. Her silence and nay vote come in spite of 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.

We note, however, that Jamestown Democrats were the only ones bringing politics into the vote. Talk of changing votes after Election Day, which was intimated earlier this month by Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, is incredibly disingenuous and makes one wonder for whom exactly the three Jamestown Democrats are really working. Now, they will have a chance to answer for their politics.

Those who are on the fence in the race for Chautauqua County Clerk, which deals heavily in revenues, may now have a purer choice in the election. Larry Barmore’s vote on the home was about eliminating a deficit for the county, Cornell’s was not. Cornell’s is a vote she may pay for on Tuesday.

Whitney, meanwhile, 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.