Victorious write-in candidates say public was feeling left out

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Medina voters on Tuesday elected the following, from left: Marguerite Sherman for village trustee, Andrew Meier for mayor, and Michael Sidari for trustee.

MEDINA – Two candidates who last week announced a write-in bid for Village Board pulled off the upset victory, saying their campaign struck a chord with village residents who have wanted more information about a possible village dissolution.

“We want some transparency in village government,” said Marguerite Sherman, who won a trustee position along with Michael Sidari.

Sherman was the top vote-getter on the day with 229 votes followed by 207 for Sidari. They won two-year terms to the Village Board, outpolling incumbents David Barhite, 175; and Patricia Crowley, 171.

Barhite said a mailer to village residents from the towns of Ridgeway and Shelby on Friday played a factor in the victory for the write-in candidates. Town officials offered their opinions on scenarios should the village dissolve, saying Medina would see a reduction in services.

The taxpayer-funded letter, and its timing right before the village election, infuriated the Village Board, which fired off its own news release on Saturday.

The letter from the towns created some fear in residents, village officials said, and the voters responded at the polls. Barhite said a dissolution plan isn’t finished yet. He didn’t think the village should have commented on the plan until it was complete.

Once the document is accepted by a Dissolution Committee, public hearings will be set and residents can weigh in on the proposal, Barhite said.

Sherman and Sidari said the village should have shared more about possible dissolution scenarios, and looked at the pros and cons of dissolving the village, rather than focusing on possible tax savings. Sherman, a special education teacher at Medina and member of the Village Planning Board, worries dissolution will result in a reduction in services to village residents.

“I want to preserve our village and the services,” she said tonight after the election results were announced. “But we have to keep an open mind.”

Sherman said the write-in campaign quickly picked up momentum after last week.

“It raised an awareness with the public,” she said. “I feel like they’ve only been presented with one side of the issue.”

Sidari is an active member of the Medina Fire Department. He works as the food service administrator for the Orleans Correctional Facility. He will retire from that job next week.

Sidari said he is leaning against dissolution, but he wants to see the final plan and hear from the public about the issue.

“I want to make sure the facts being put forward are true,” he said.

The Dissolution Committee has identified about $1 million in tax savings to the Medina community through a dissolution. The village services would be folded into the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway, with special districts or other entities as possibilities for fire protection, debt, water, sewer and lighting.

Meier was re-elected to another two-year term as mayor. He sees dissolution as a way to reduce the village’s “crushing tax burden” while maintaining current services.

Officials from the two towns see the village dissolution as a cost shift to Shelby and Ridgeway. Meier said there is a great disparity in tax rates between the village and towns, and that difference is unfair to the village and is a disincentive to investment in Medina.

The village’s assessments have been shrinking in recent years while the tax rate goes up. That is a big problem to solve, he said.

The community has assets: a vibrant downtown business district and a community of wonderful people, Meier said.

“I look forward to working with them,” he said about Sherman and Sidari. “I think they are fair-minded people.”