Legislature

Augustyn and Basil compete to represent the 1st District of the Cayuga County Legislature | Politics


Starting in January, the 1st District of the Cayuga County Legislature will have a new representative.

Cait Augustyn, a Democrat, and Fair Haven Mayor Jim Basile, a Republican, are in the running to succeed Tucker Whitman, a former speaker of the County Legislature. Borough 1 includes the towns of Sterling and Victory in northern Cayuga County.

Augustyn and Basil both cite their experience as reasons to come forward. Augustyn, who fell in love with the northernmost part of Cayuga County after visiting Little Sodus Bay, moved to Sterling four years ago. She is an entrepreneur. She started her own plant-based ice cream business, Eat Me Ice Cream, which sells her products in more than 200 stores across the Northeast. Basil, in addition to serving in local government, has worked for over 40 years in the construction industry. In these roles, he oversaw many projects.

Augustyn is eager to serve the community. This is her first candidacy for political office and she wants to give voters a choice. She criticized Basil for his apparent intention to remain mayor of Fair Haven if elected county lawmaker. In New York City, a village mayor can serve as a county legislator.

Although she is proud of her businesses, she is looking for a post-pandemic challenge.

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“I’m young, so I can bring a different perspective,” Augustyn told The Citizen. “I am an entrepreneur and I am qualified to help the county.”

Basil’s top priority: fiscal responsibility. Cayuga County has lost nearly 4,000 people in the past decade, according to the latest census figures.

“This means that everyone who remains will have to make up the difference,” said Basil. He wants to meet with county level heads of departments to “get a feel for what they’re doing and how they’re doing their business.” Through this process, he said, the county can ensure that, fiscally, “we are doing things right.”

Candidates have different views on a few issues affecting county government. The county struggled to retain an administrator. These functions are now managed by Cayuga County Legislative Assembly Speaker Aileen McNabb-Coleman.

A permanent solution remains elusive. There is some support for continuing to try the administrator route. Others want to implement a county executive model, which would require voters to elect someone to lead the county government. There is a third possibility: that the Speaker of the County Legislature take care of these tasks full time.

Augustyn believes the best approach is to hire a qualified person to oversee day-to-day operations or to empower the president to carry out these responsibilities. But whatever the county’s decision, she thinks it has to stick to it.

“This is where everything can get lost and the ball is dropped,” she said. “Things are not moving forward. This is a basic business operating situation.” She added that if the president is the one doing the work, he should be paid for that extra work.

Basile prefers to explore the creation of a county executive post similar to what is in place in Onondaga County. But he is also supporting consideration of whether the current model – the president overseeing the county’s operations – is working. One of the perks of having a county executive, he says, is that if voters aren’t happy with them, they can vote to remove him in the next election.

“I would surely like to look at both (options) before making a final decision,” he said. “Like everything, I think you have to weigh the pros and cons.”

The two candidates have different assessments of the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the mayor of Fair Haven, Basil said he offered the county health department a village worker to come to Auburn and help him with various tasks. While the ministry “appreciated the offer,” he said, he did not accept it.

He thinks the county struggled at first, but doesn’t think it was negative. He blamed a lack of information on COVID-19 and “mixed messages” from different entities.

“As it progressed, they did their best to deal with it,” Basil continued.

Augustyn said the county’s COVID-19 case count was “pretty bad.” She believes the county needs to work with unions to address workplace safety concerns and ensure the workforce is protected from COVID-19.

“We have to take the right steps to make sure they are safe and feel safe at work,” she said.

The redistribution could change the existing legislative constituencies and change the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly. Basil opposes increasing the number of lawmakers – there are 15 now – but wants to see more details on the redistribution process.

“We cannot increase government when we have a declining population,” he said. “It doesn’t make budgetary sense.”

However, he would support the reduction in the number of legislators if this were possible through a redistribution. This could help cover the costs of setting up a county executive office, he says.

Augustyn said she supported tracking the redistribution process and then determining whether there should be a change in the composition of the Legislature. But she wants to make sure her neighborhood isn’t left behind.

“After going door to door, people here don’t even know they have a county legislature and a county legislator,” she said.

Basile presents himself on the Republican and Conservative lines. Augustyn will appear on the Democratic line and an independent line she created, Preserve & Protect Our Water.

Election day is Tuesday, November 2.

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


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