Coverage of individual ward races will appear on the following days:
1st Ward - ran in Friday’s paper.
2nd Ward - ran in Saturday’s paper.
5th Ward - will be in Monday’s paper.
7th Ward - will be in Tuesday’s paper.
By Jeffery Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
CORNING - Democratic candidate Jim Scouten will challenge incumbent Chris Karam in the Nov. 7 general election for the City Council’s 3rd Ward seat. The two recently answered several questions at the Steuben County League of Women Voters candidate forum at the Southeast Steuben County Library.
“Back in 1985 I graduated from Corning Community College with a degree in business administration,” Karam said. “In 1987 I graduated from St. John Fisher with a degree in management. After I graduated from Fisher, I went to Fort Bragg with the 82nd Airborne and completed my military training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After that I went home on leave and waited for my orders. When my orders came they assigned me the the engineering air branch. So when I was driving to Fort Belvoir, I was talking to myself saying 'Why would the Army send me to an engineer school why I’m a business guy?' In hindsight it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had a great career in the Army of 22 years because of my background. I’m now enjoying my career as vice president of a local civil environmental engineering firm and lastly that combination of experience and education helps me with my service on the City Council, especially attacking the tasks that are before us currently.”
“I am a card-carrying member of the Democratic party,” Scouten said. “I’m running because I care about preserving the historical resources of Corning. I’m running because I will bring new ideas to the City Council such as a sidewalk matching fund improvement program. I also would like to see the parking restrictions revised because it’s very difficult for some of our residents who have to park on street to be able to park and not get tickets. I think the regulations need to be looked at. I’m running because I believe that the local politics is important to Corning voters and it’s also important to America’s two-party system. I believe in bipartisan political cooperation such as getting people to pay attention to the fact that there was hazardous waste in Houghton Plot. I will always be willing to meet and talk with whoever to solve problems.”
What do you think is the most critical issue facing the city and how would you address this if elected?
“We need an infrastructure master plan,” Karam said. “We have to get a plan. When we start to look at our infrastructure projects, one of the things that I require is that when we contract with architectural or especially engineering firms, I insist that we include in our scope of services that these firms identify any possible funding. You know we all have these great ideas, but somebody’s got to pay for it, abut how are we going to do it? I feel the specific approach is to incentivize these firms that we deal with. The more money that they can bring in from state and federal funding, the more aggressive we can be on our projects infrastructure wise. At the (Steuben) county level unfunded mandates take up about 93 percent of all the property tax income, and that’s pretty frightening. In addition to unfunded mandate relief, I’d like to talk about a couple other things. The unrestricted state aid or AIM reimbursement to the city has stayed flat since 2008, and that's truly the only pot of money (the city) can use as we wish on high priority projects. The other item is the architectural reimbursement rate the city received to take care of Denison Parkway and Centerway. It hasn’t been adjusted since 1987.”
“Corning needs to increase the city’s future revenues without raising property taxes,” Scouten said. “This need has gotten worse during the four years Karam has been on the City Council. By cutting future federal funding Karam’s Republican Party will make the situation worse. The city manager has been very good at getting grant money. While I hope that we can get grant money for sidewalks, it seems unlikely that grant money alone will cover the additional revenues we will need. The mayor, city council, city manager and local development organizations must strengthen their efforts to increase the tax base and increase sales tax revenues. Corning must be strongly presented as a location for new enterprises. Corning must be strongly presented as a destination for tourists, artists and small business conferences.”
What do you regard as your greatest contribution to our community?
“My wife Kim has taught 5th grade at Carder Elementary School for 17 years, positively impacting hundreds of children in the Corning community,” Karam said. “As for my greatest community contribution, it was also a contribution to our country. In 1991 I was mobilized with the Army reserve unit from here in Corning in support of Operation Desert Storm. I had the honor of serving with many great soldiers, men and women from the Corning community. I’ve also had some fun in community service, I’ve coached youth sports for 30 years.”
“I made my greatest contribution to Corning some 13 years ago when I brought my wife, Delight, here,” Scouten said. “She is vice-president of the Corning Clionian Circle. She taught English at Corning Community College. She was in the choir at Christ Episcopal Church. She plays keyboard with the Hepcats Big Band. We treasure the historic buildings of Corning and were among the first residents at Academy Place, our beautiful historic new home. We opened our apartment to the Southside Neighborhood Association. We opened our previous home at 46 East Third to the historic house tour. We both served terms on the board of the historical society. We helped with the relocation of the Cooley Blacksmith Shop and the acquisition of the historical society’s administrative building."
How will you promote civility and cooperation at city council meetings?
“We’re all committed to working together at the community level and the city level, and get away from this hatred and this extremism on both sides,” Karam said. “That’s at the national level and like I said it's just so enjoyable and encouraging to see this cooperative attitude. I think we have to recognize Mayor (Rich) Negri. It”s been one of his priorities, and he’s done a wonderful job. I think as we vent issues that a healthy tension is OK, to make sure that we’re fully and completely taking a hard look at the issues.”
“I think the City Council is a pretty civil,” Scouten said. “The discourse certainly should be welcomed -- everybody should have a chance to express their ideas. Some of us, if we get excited about something we’re going to express our ideas vigorously. But as long as we politely listen to other people’s views and we work together toward solutions for the City of Corning the City Council will be doing its job.”