miller201109 120Kathy Miller is the Democratic candidate for Lansing Town Supervisor.  Miller won the nomination at the Lansing Democratic Caucus in July, beating current Supervisor Scott Pinney and Deputy Supervisor Connie Wilcox for the Democratic nod.  On November 8th Lansing voters will choose between Miller and Wilcox, who is running as an Independent.

Miller and her husband Bill have lived in Lansing for 25 years.  They have three children, Stephen, Julia, and Andrew.  Miller recently retired from her job at Cornell University where she worked in Clinical Sciences at the Vet School in the field of molecular genetics studying genetic disease in animals.

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She has been a Lansing Town Board member for two years.  As part of that role she serves as liaison to the Cayuga Lake Watershed Management Plans Intermunicipal Organization and Lansing's Zoning Board of Appeals.  Miller is a former Lansing Board Of Education member, and chairs the Lansing Town Center Committee.  

Lansing Star: Why are you running for Supervisor?

Kathy Miller: I'm running for Supervisor because I've been on the Town Board for two years.  I've developed a fairly good feel for what's happening and where we're going as a town.  I would like to be part of that.

In the 25 years that we've lived here I've been very active in the Town.  It seems like the day we came someone asked me 'would you do this?'  Before I knew it I was involved in so many things at the school.  Then I was involved with the Town Board.  I've always been involved with the Town.  This seems like a natural progression.

The bottom line is I am very interested in what Lansing will look like in ten years.  I'm very interested in making sure the reasons that we moved here don't change.  All the things that were good, all the reasons we moved here -- with progress, with development, I would still like them to be the same.

One of the impetuses for my running (in the Democratic Caucus) was that Scott was unopposed.  I felt that people should have a choice.  There should be other ideas in the mix.

The reason I quit my job is that I couldn't work and be on the Town Board to the degree that I am and do a good job both places.  I thought, of the two where do I want to be?  This is what I want to do.

LS: The perception around town is that you will bring more vision to the Supervisor position and Connie will keep taxes down.  How do you address that?

KM: First of all, I am fiscally very conservative.  Certainly the taxes haven't gone up since I have been on the Town Board.  I have no intentions of changing that.  One of the reasons it's on the top of my list is that the town taxes are a very small percentage of what we pay in taxes.  Town taxes are 6% of what we pay.  School taxes are 60% of what we pay in taxes.  25% of our taxes are county taxes.  So the town is a very small part of it.

My idea is to not raise that in any way, shape, or form.  but what I would like to do is address this 60% that is the school tax.

We've taken a hit with AES, that's for sure.  So we need to start looking to the future to diversify our tax base so that we don't depend solely on residents and businesses that might, in fact, not do well, like AES.  That's what happens.  We need to diversify the tax base so that residents don't carry the whole burden for the school tax.

One of the reasons we moved here, like many people, is that we have good schools.  We don't want to see that go away.  Our schools, I think, are the best in the county.  We don't want anything to happen to the schools, but we also don't want to pay more taxes.  The only way to do that is to diversify the tax base.

Residential development doesn't bring in as much revenue as business development.  Business development doesn't demand the services that residential development does.  You just don't need as much infrastructure for business.

I don't want to see the very things that we love about Lansing to change when we bring development here.  That's very important to me.

LS: In announcing her candidacy Wilcox said that you are supported by 'special interests'.

KM: I think that came from the caucus because people from the Library and people from Pathways were there.  But 69 people voted for me.  There were only 21 people from Pathways and the Library there.  That means 48 people had nothing to do with either.

Do I support the library?  Absolutely.  Do I think Pathways is a good idea? Absolutely it's a good idea.  I don't think that either one of those things costs us a lot of money or will cost us a lot of money in the future.  They're just not real expensive things.

I don't see the library or Pathways as things you would funnel money to anyway.  For what?  They're raising their own money.  The Town Highway Department is providing a lot of in-kind services, and that's great when they're not busy and have the time.

But we do the same thing for the parks, we do the same thing for the schools on occasion.  As far as the library goes, it is so self-sufficient it's amazing.  The town has really not put any money into the library.

LS: Is Lansing at a crossroads in its history right now?  If so, what are the top issues the Town will face in the next four years?

KM: I think we are at a crossroads insomuch as development is happening.  People can sit back and say 'I don't want anything to change,' but it's happening.  I think it's incumbent on us to plan for the future so that as that development happens in ten years we all sit back and say 'that was good.  And we don't say 'Oh my God, what happened?'

It's going to happen no matter what, so that's important.

So knowing that it's going to happen, let's turn that to our advantage.  I think we're also going to pay 60% of taxes to schools, but I don't want it to go up.  So let's keep taxes from going up.  It would be lovely if we could decrease school taxes, but that's something we can't predict.  Certainly let's try and not let them go higher than they are.  We're going to have to think of ways to do this.

The other issue that is part of this is the sewer.  We have to start thinking about the sewer because in order to get the right kind of development in here, development that will add to the tax base, we need sewer.

LS: Connie has said that she fears that if you win the Supervisor race it will leave the board with little experience.  Based on existing board members and the slate for this election that the most experienced board members would only have two years.  At the last board meeting I went down the row and realized she is right -- there won't be anybody with more than two year's experience.

KM: But Mike (Koplinka-Loehr) was on the county legislature.  What more experience do you want than that?  In all honesty, the four people who are running for Town Board, I believe, have an incredible totality of experience, including the school board, the county legislature -- Ruth (Hopkins) who knows finances... I think the people who are running for the board this year have credentials that far exceed those of most people who have run for the board in the past.

Andra (Benson) was on the school board for a long time.  She had to work with a huge budget.  I was on the school board and had to work with a huge budget.  The four people running have all had to work with people.

I think they are all more than qualified to step into this job.  And maybe it's time for some new blood.

They have seen how other parts of the town run.  Certainly Koplinka-Loehr has, Andra has, and Ed (LaVigne) -- they all understand the town.  the things they need to learn about being on the Town Board they can learn.  They're all capable, and I think they'll pick things up quickly.  There won't be any problem.

LS: Do you think sewer should be a shovel-ready project waiting for a funding option, or something the Town should aggressively pursue to make it happen sooner?

KM: I think it should be shovel-ready looking for grants and financing, and I think that's the plan.

LS: Then what kind of time table would you envision for sewer as Supervisor?

KM: I know where we are right now and what they have accomplished so far.  Now it's going to be going out for money.  So I would say at least two years to get funding.  That's just to try to get funding, not necessarily to dig the first hole.

LS: When would you like that hole to be dug?

KM: Like anybody I'd like it to be dug as soon as possible.  That said, sometimes you don't want to rush into things either.  I want to be sure we do it right.  That's the bottom line.  And that we get as much funding as we can.

This is another thing that we want to be affordable for the people who would hook on.

LS: Right, that's why the sewer failed a few years ago.

KM: We're trying to make this as affordable as possible for those people who are in the district.

LS: When I worked on the article about road maintenance in Lansing I was surprised at how drastically the schedule has fallen behind because of lower budgets and higher costs.  Town taxes have been held at bay, but with soaring costs has that gone too far?  How will the Town pay for infrastructure maintenance?

KM: First of all I think infrastructure is incredibly important.  It should be one of the main concerns of the Town along with budget.  I think we have to depend upon the Highway Department to give us the information that we need.

I think the budget at the level it is right now, will be able to take care of our needs going forward.  We need to talk with (Highway Superintendent jack French) and the highway people to discern whether there is any discrepancy here, and what we should change.

If we do that we have to look at other areas of the budget.  But I think infrastructure is important enough that it shouldn't take a lot of hits.  If we don't have good roads and culverts... and we have.  We are superior to county roads and state roads -- that's one of the things about Lansing roads.

LS: What can or should the Town do to control oil or natural gas drilling and contain its consequences?  Should the Town have an agreement with the drilling companies for the Town lands?

KM: I don't think the Town should have agreements with them.  I never would have signed the town lands off.  I just don't think it was the right thing to do, because town lands belong to everybody.

I think we need to look at our zoning.  We need to look at road regulations.  We need to look at all of these things and decide how to protect our infrastructure.  It's a big deal.

We need to protect our infrastructure, even if  -- one of the things I've heard -- we never have drilling in Lansing.  I can't say whether that's true or not, but the bottom line is we could have what they call 'pass through'.  Drilling may not be going on right here, but the trucks that bring supplies to that drilling pad such as gravel, dirt, and water, may in fact come through our town.  Like we have Cargill's trucks going through our town.  They're going to other places, but they come through Lansing.

We have to be concerned about what condition our roads are in now.  They obviously should never have that kind of heavy trucks, and a lot of them.  So we need to take a look at that.  We need to protect ourselves from those things.

LS: I drove to Williamsport, Pennsylvania last Friday and I have to say I was surprised at how much impact fracking obviously has there.  The number of trucks -- even the billboards we saw were come-ons to the mining companies to buy materials.  The large amount of truck traffic, the dust, and the poor quality of the roads were the two things that really stood out.  That was a graphic illustration of what we have to lose here if we don't plan ahead.

KM: Most people moved here because of the beautiful environment and the schools.  Those are the two things I think brought people here.  The one thing that would be very much altered is the environment.  The other thing is we have to realize what drilling would do to tourism, to the businesses that are already here.  I personally feel we owe them something.  And that is part of our economic growth, so the bottom line is we need to take into consideration the businesses that are already here and the businesses that are involved in tourism that would be impacted by drilling.

LS: How important is rural broadband in Lansing now?  How should the Town be involved in procuring it?  How do you see that happening?

KM: I want to wait and see what the county committee comes up with .  They are much more knowledgeable in this area than I am and I know they are working hard to bring internet service to all citizens. I feel confident that they will come upwith  a solution that serves as many people as possible for the best price.  And that may include the need for towns to invest in infrastructure and create broad band districts.  Nothing is free.

LS: Town-Village relations seem to have really deteriorated in the past four years, especially since the disagreement on snow plowing.  Now the Mayor wants villagers' town taxes reduced from $700,000 to $100,000 because he says they don't get $700,000 worth of services from the Town.  Does Village-Town relations need to be a priority and what, if anything, will you do to improve them if elected?

KM: Yes, I think the Village and Town relationship should be made better.  The first thing to do would be to meet with (Village of Lansing Mayor) Don Hartill to discuss where he sees the problems and where we see the problems.  You have to start somewhere.  Where this will lead, I don't know.  I am certainly very open to anything he has to say.

We would have to sit down and discuss this.  Go over our budget and what they get for paying their taxes.  I disagree that they only get $100,000 of services.  Most of what goes on in the court is generated by the mall, and that's in the Village.  And court costs are high.  We have the building, we have the constable, the judges.

LS: What unique skills and experience will you bring to the position of Supervisor?

KM: One of the skills I have is working with people.  I enjoy working with people toward a common goal.  I like to listen to people.  I like to listen to their ideas.  I like to feel that we work as a group.  it's not me and them -- it's us together moving forward.  And I work hard.  if I say I'm going to do something I do it.  I have a background where I've had to work with people and supervise people.  That's one of my biggest skills.

And I think I have a really good grasp of our town budget.  I worked on it for two years.  it was very hard.  Sharon and Charmagne and Scott have been wonderful at answering my questions about the budget.  I have really stuck my nose in there because I feel that's the most important thing we do.  Everything else flows from that.

I certainly don't want to see taxes go up for people.  I think where they are right now is fine.  The Town offers a lot of services to people.  We have a wonderful recreation department bar none.  We have a great highway department.  These are two places that I think people realize that Lansing is superior.