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Binghamton Mayor Candidates Square Off in BU Downtown Center

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Round 2 of 6 -- Binghamton mayoral candidates went discussed issues facing the Binghamton University community during a Wednesday forum at the University Downtown Center.

Challenger Tarik Abdelazim (D) and Mayor Rich David (R) responded to pre-supplied questions separately.

David began by answering questions about incentives to keep students from leaving the Southern Tier. David said with an aging population of Binghamton residents, keeping a younger generation of taxpayers, locally, is a large concern among many Binghamton residents.

"Many students want to stay in this area, but they don't have the opportunities. They have to go where the jobs are." — Mayor Rich David, City of Binghamton (R)

David said the city needs to continue to improve the quality of life downtown and throughout the city. David added addressing other factors including public safety, infrastructure, economic development and finances play a key role to retain and attract young people.

"Students don't want to live in areas that are unsafe, with crumbling infrastructure, high taxes, quality of life issues or lack of jobs. We have a region that has been economically depressed...so we're working with our partners (County and State) to get that basic foundation set," said David.

For David, a question arose surrounding altered headlines on his Facebook page. Asking, if altering that information construes an accurate and fair take on important issues? According to student-run newspaper Pipe Dream, 24 of 43 headlines of re-posted local media coverage since Jan.1 had been changed on David’s Facebook page.

David responded,"We should probably talk about what we're talking about here. We're talking about advertisements that my campaign did. I think it was a mistake on the part of the campaign and all I can do is stand here and take responsibility for it." He went on to say  people make mistakes, and he cannot justify his campaign's actions, but the altering of headlines "should not have been done."

One student who attended was not satisfied with what the mayor had to say.

"[David's] response had a really good rhetorical spin on it, but I don't think he took the time to claim any real responsibility or really explain what happened. The people of Binghamton really deserve an explanation on what happened," said Wyatt Shartrand, Binghamton University senior.

In closing, Mayor David challenged voters to focus on his four-year record, which includes reduced taxes and attracting new businesses and events to the downtown area.

"I have delivered results in every area that really matters. And that's what I will continue to do over the next four years," said Mayor David.

Following Mayor David, Tarik Abdelazim criticized the current administration's stance on safety issues facing Binghamton. Stating by bringing his creativity, vision and leadership, Abdelazim will bring forth a new investment that will deal with crime, as well economic crisis facing the area.

"We have to focus on job creation strategies, I also think that's a crime prevention strategy. Dealing with the lack of jobs and systemic poverty is a way to create safer neighborhoods," said Tarik Abdelazim.

Tarik said the most important political issue he wants to tackle is rebuilding the trust between the public and politics. 

"We can't solve any complicated challenges...if we don't have trust and faith in our leaders. I'm either going to rebuild that trust or erode it. And every day I'll work to rebuild it," said Abdelazim.

One way Abdelazim plans to rebuild trust in the local government is to provide a more sustainable investment regarding the food desert in the North Side of Binghamton. Abdelazim said he commends David for the work he is doing to provide produce to the North Side residents, but creating a grocery bus is not enough.

"What we need to do is stop thinking that we're going to wait for a vendor and a grocery store to come in. Let's just do it," said Abdelazim. He said by promoting a cooperatively owned produce establishment, both jobs and a supply of food would help lessen the effects of a food desert.

"We can start as small as 20 employees. They would have the opportunity to pick whatever supplies they want to offer," said Tarik Abdelazim. Offering models of similar establishments throughout the country that are thriving, today.

Both candidates offered many more solutions to problems facing both students and non-students.

Candidates have four remaining forums scheduled before the November 7 election:

  • Wed, October 18, 7-9 p.m.  Southern Tier Independence Center
  • Tues, October 24, 5-6 p.m.  WHRW (90.5 FM)
  • Mon, October 30, 10-11 a.m.  WNBF (1290 AM)
  • Tues, October 31, 12-1:30 p.m.  Holiday Inn (Binghamton)