Voters in Onondaga County’s 15th legislative district might recognize some of the names in the three-way contest. Incumbent republican Miles Bottrill served as a city councilor from 1994 to 2001. More recently, democrat Bill Kinne looks to make a return after representing the district from 1991 to 2011. Misse Ross on the Working Families party line has been an outspoken community activist for years.
Here's an overview of the race to represent the gerrymandered district which sweeps south and east from Solvay to southern edge of Syracuse.
The chopped up nature of the district really bothers Misse Ross. She says she’ll fight for non-partisan redistricting to keep neighborhoods together.
"Because if they're not kept together, they're not a strong enough voting black to advocate for their communities to get what they need. And I will fight very hard for that cause I understand it. Our voice was stolen. It's gone."
She says she wants to be a voice for those who feel they’ve been left behind for decades.
"I've had so many people telling me, why would you even bother to knock doors down there? Those people don't vote. They don't care. They're not paying attention. You know what? I've knocked these doors. Oh, they're paying attention. And they care. And they know, and that's why they don't vote because they know you're not going to be a champion for them."
Ross calls herself a progressive and an advocate. She says the legislature needs to be more transparent and accessible by livestreaming meetings and holding them after work hours. Ross is glad to see the county executive taking over and fixing the crumbling sewer system. But she says the valley section near Onondaga Creek with its frequent sewer backups into basements needs more immediate attention than say better off areas like Manlius or Baldwinsville. County leadership has also focused on tackling poverty, but Ross, who herself lives in poverty, says it has to be done carefully.
"If you want to deconcentrate poverty, we have to look at the entire county. We've got to look at public transportation. We have to look at affordable housing and we've got to do it strategically and plan it. We can't just let things pop up organically because then it will just create a situation where you're moving concentrated poverty around it and it's not what we want to do."
Miles Bottrill is running to keep his seat after being appointed by former legislator and chairman…now county executive Ryan McMahon.
"[Poverty] is certainly not going to go away. And I think that we have the resources. But it's really going be...do we have the will to move forward on issues to address poverty? I think we do. As a matter of fact, I know we do. It's about finding solutions to help individuals."
Bottrill’s roots in the district go back generations, and he’d like to stay on to help connect struggling residents to key services.
"It's certainly unique district. I think most importantly it's addressing the issues of people across the district, whether it's in the Valley all the way across Strathmore, Winkworth, Geddes, Onondaga, and Solvay. The needs are the same in many cases, but in other cases they're very, very unique."
Again, the meandering shape of the district raises the issue of redistricting after the 2020 census. In a party line vote, GOP legislators in March shot down the creation of an advisory committee to ensure an objective process. Bottrill says it wasn’t necessary.
"In most cases it was really redoing what's already in the charter. Everybody wants fair redistricting. So anybody can say that their proposals is fair. The proposal that was put forward was to begin the process right away. The census data is not going to be available until late 2020, early 2021."
Democrat Bill Kinne says he supported reducing the size of the legislature during his last stint as a lawmaker. But the results lead to confusion among residents.
"The way the lines were drawn is just appalling. I knocked on a door in Geddes, and the lady was very upset. She didn't think she could vote for me or my opponent because we both live in the city. She wanted representation for her in Geddes."
Kinne says the new lines have to be drawn independently. He says he’s running again because he’s not happy with how things are going behind the scenes and in chambers. A brain aneurism in 2010 forced him to leave office. When he recovered, he took a job as a legislative aide, which frustrated him even more. He left that job in February to seek his old seat.
"I've been told by former republican legislators and one present republican legislator that there's no debate allowed...you have to do what you're told. I want to see what I can do on the democratic side to have some more debate."
For example, Kinne says there wasn’t enough discussion about spending $1.9 million a 1/3 mile trail on Murphy’s Island.
"I'm a strong supporter of loop the lake. But this dead-end trail that's going to go through the eagles roost on contaminated soil is just a waste of taxpayers dollars. For them to justify it any other way...to me, they must be doing to appease Honeywell. Honeywell must not want to be help responsible to clean it up."
Meanwhile, Kinne says he’ll focus on constituent service…something he’s been recognized for in the past by both parties. Early voting at select sites continues through Sunday. All polling places will be open Tuesday.