lavigne_button120The November election is still more than three months away.  Some candidates are definitely running, others still have some time to decide. One candidate has already started campaigning aggressively for a Lansing Town Board seat, which makes him unique in the Lansing political field.  Ed LaVigne has been gathering signatures to run on the Republican and Independence party lines, has launched a Web site for his campaign, and is already handing out buttons with his campaign slogan, 'Plan Prepare Produce'.  He says mixing community involvement with government makes the impossible possible.

"In the business world you have to have a plan, you have to implement that plan, and you have to be successful," he says.  "That's the tangibles.  Now you deal with the intangibles, which is community.  That means you can tap into something you can't see, you can't smell, you can't taste, but you can feel.  That is that community spirit.  You tap into that and it is the missing ingredient for a lot of people who try to get things done."

LaVigne was born and raised in Lansing, went to Lansing schools, then earned a two year degree in accounting.  After that he studied to become a pharmacist, and he has been in that profession since 1982.  Over the past ten years he has been especially involved in community, ramping it up over the past five years.  he is currently President of the Lansing Community Council, and in that position he has led several projects such as reassembling the historic north log cabin, the Myers Park Playground Project, and Saturday's fireworks, to name a few.

In many ways the log cabin project was a test.  The Revolutionary War era log cabin originated in Lansing when Cayuga and Tompkins counties were one big county.  It had spent 50 years at the Cayuga museum, which wanted to get rid of it.  The Town rescued it in an effort led by then Councilman Bud Shattuck, disassembling it log by log and piling the logs outside on Lansing Highway Department land.  But the Town Board did not want to spend tax money to restore it.

"The real concern was how to find the money to do this," he says.  "It wasn't that they didn't want it reassembled.  They didn't want to spend tax money.  They needed money from a different source.  So we found the money from different sources.   We were creative about it, and we asked for different people's input, and it happened."

LaVigne stepped up and devised a plan to raise $15,000 to pay for materials and hire a contractor who would work with volunteers to keep costs down.  He raised the money over the summer, and when more was needed to finish paying for the roof and some finishing touches, he raised about $10,000 more.  That gave him the creds to tackle the playground project.  This time about $130,000 was raised within a six month period to pay for an enormous playground in Myers Park, that was supervised and designed by professionals with input and labor from community volunteers.  You only have to visit Myers Park to see the result of those campaigns.

"There is something about being part of something bigger than yourself," LaVigne says.  "There's that community spirit.  I think a lot of people are looking for something like that.  What I try to do is provide them a comfortable area.  The bottom line is that you're allowing someone to be empowered.  I'm all for empowering and I detest enabling."

lavigne400Ed LaVigne

Bringing that community piece to local government is LaVigne's strategy for facing Lansing's challenges in these economically uncertain times.  The Town Center initiative has become an important part of the Town's struggle to make up for lost tax revenue from the devaluation of it's biggest taxpayer, the AES Cayuga power plant.  Rather than keeping all the Town's eggs in that basket, LaVigne is for attracting more business to the Town, spreading out the risk for local taxing authorities and making it possible to plan budgets more reliably.

To that end he says he sees the town center plan less as a town center and more as a Lansing revitalization project.  He is anxious to attract new business to the town land across from the Town Hall and ball fields, and to help create an environment that will attract developers and business owners there.  He says that the Town will play a key role in making that happen.

"There are certain things that are fed by individuals," he says.  "Those may not need the Board's assistance, I don't know.  Things like the grocery store.  Thanks goodness for Andy Sciarabba and his being the driving force behind that.  If anything that gives credibility to the fact that we're a growing area.  There are things that feed off of things like a grocery.  Maybe there's a bank.  Maybe a doctor's office opens here.  Maybe there's a dentist office.  There are a variety of things down the road that could happen quickly."

On the issue of hydrofracking, LaVigne says he is for energy seeking development, but only if it is proven safe.  He notes that in his profession drugs are not approved until they are proven safe, and are pulled from the marketif it later turns out they were not.

"Until I know that hydrofracking is safe, that it won't contaminate the water table, I would be very hesitant to embrace it," he says.

The core of his campaign is to harness volunteer power to work with the Town government to get things done.  The main challenge will be getting new business into the Town to take some pressure off of overburdened home owners, and to continue to bring quality of life projects to fruition, including a walking bridge that connects Myers Park and Salt Point.

"This next ten years is going to be crucial to Lansing residents' survival and how they go about their business for the next ten years.  Let's be crystal clear about this: when we say Lansing residents we're talking about the Village of Lansing, we're talking about the Town of Lansing, we're talking about Lansingville, we're talking about Ludlowville, we're talking about Myers -- we're talking about all of Lansing."

As he is getting signatures for his campaign petition he is being inclusive not only across boundaries, but across political parties.

"Why not?" he asks.  "Why not be out there every day getting people to sign petitions and talking to them?  Some of them say I'm not in your (political) party so I can't sign.  I say that's OK, I want to hear you.  It doesn't matter.  This is about Lansing.  It isn't about some ideology that I have to prove that you're wrong and therefore we're right."

There is no denying that his 'three Ps' -- Plan, Prepare, Produce -- have worked for him in the community arena.  The Community council not only fronted the log cabin and playground projects, but funnels money to countless local programs, and have brought the fireworks and Lansing Harbor Festival into being under his leadership.  LaVigne says that a large part of that is empowering other people to take a project and run with it.  Now he wants to bring that approach into the government arena.

"Lansing is a great place to be.  I think our best days are in front of us.  I think if you could flash forward ten or twenty years you would be pleasantly surprised.  What some people think is impossible, we simply think is just being Lansing."