PLATTSBURGH — James Calnon is so confident that nonprofit groups can have a positive effect on city life that he will be giving them a significant portion of his mayoral pay.
“I am going to give $500 a month of my salary to a group I think is working toward improving the quality of life in the community,” the city’s new mayor told members of the Plattsburgh Noon Rotary Club.
“I really believe this is the right thing to do.”
Calnon, 64, is retired from the New York State Department of Labor.
He was elected mayor last November after serving seven years on the Common Council. The job pays $75,689 per year.
As a councilor, he earned $10,000 per year for what is considered a part-time position. He has donated 10 percent of his salary to local causes for the past three years.
He pledged during last fall’s campaign that he would continue to donate part of his salary if he was elected mayor.
“I can do this, and if there are others who can only afford to give $5, $10 or $15, that would be great, so we can feel a little better about where we are as a community,” he said.
He made good on his pledge at Thursday night’s council meeting, when he handed a surprised Ashley Cousins, project coordinator of the Max Moore Memorial Tree House, a check for $500.
“Oh wow, thank you so much — we really appreciate it,” Cousins said.
“I’m glad to do this,” the mayor responded.
Calnon began his three-year term as mayor on Jan. 1. He told Rotary members in a 19-minute talk that while he still expects difficult budget years for the city coming up, the situation is better than it was when he joined the council.
“I think there are bright skies ahead and we can accomplish some good things,” he said.
Calnon said he wants the council to “celebrate the little victories” and work toward changing the attitude of the community.
“It’s about being proud of being from the community of Plattsburgh,” he said.
Calnon said he would like the council to re-visit the 112-year-old City Charter and adjust it to modern life.
“There are aspects of the charter that just don’t make sense,” he said. “They might have made sense 100 years ago, but don’t today.”
One example he cited later was that the charter calls for the city to have a constable.
“I’m not sure what a constable’s duties even are,” Calnon said.
Also, many charter provisions regarding City Court matters and local elections have been overwritten by state law since the charter was enacted, he said.
The mayor said he would support forming a Charter Revision Committee to study the document and come up with recommendations, which would then be voted on by the public.
“The citizens should have a say because it is their contract with government, really.”
Calnon also said he will work toward sharing more services with the Town of Plattsburgh and marketing the region as one Plattsburgh.
“We need to send the message that we are all part of the same community, and we need to work together,” he said.
Calnon said the city will be more than happy to work with community groups such as First Weekends to help put on events that stimulate not only the economy but the culture of the city and surrounding areas.
“We will work with anybody that wants to work with us,” he said. “It is important to support local groups and let them build their natural energy.”
In response to a question from avid train buff Alan Booth, Calnon said he would support a state-level feasibility study of moving the Canadian and Pacific Railroad line from its present route that goes directly through Plattsburgh to one that would pass outside the city to the west.
The rail line cuts through the city along the shores of Lake Champlain and through the North End.
“One of our most important assets is our waterfront, and we have some marvelous property with no access, so for no other reason we should consider that,” Calnon said.
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