Richard 'Joe' Goke

MALONE -- Democrat Richard "Joe" Gokey wants to be mayor of the Village of Malone again.

He recently announced his intention to challenge incumbent Republican Mayor Brent Stewart, who defeated Gokey for re-election in 2003.

"I figure the people ought to have a choice," the General Motors retiree said Monday of his decision to run for a seat he has held twice before.

"And there are things we need to be doing in the village."

Lowering property taxes will be a priority, since the village is close to its taxable limit set by the state.

Village Board budget sessions this spring lowered the allowable tax limit from 94.42 percent in fiscal year 2006-07 to 88.45 for the coming fiscal year, said Village Treasurer Dorothy Maguire.

The State Comptroller's Office considers a community with a tax limit at 80 percent to be in the caution zone and one in the 90th percentile in the danger zone.

Increasing the size of the Malone Village Police Department is also important, Gokey said.

He had advocated for 12-hour work shifts while in office and saw them put in place this year.

"I would work to increase the police force so we can have an officer put back in the schools because you see there's a lot going on in there," he said.

A three-year federal Department of Justice grant called Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) placed officers in the Malone Middle School and Franklin Academy High School.

But retirements cut the size of the police force in December 2001, and school-resource funding was not allocated during budget discussions in 2002 because Gokey said it would cost taxpayers $1.4 million over a new officer's lifetime to pay for the position.

He said he will now work to finance such a position because the Police Department staff is too small.

"We need more than 13," he said.

Abandoned and run-down buildings also top Gokey's agenda for change in the village.

"A lot of people are sick of it. There are sagging buildings and some half torn down. It's ruining the property values next door."

Gokey plans to go door to door to leave literature and to discuss issues with taxpayers to learn their concerns.

He said he would be glad to debate Stewart about village issues and said he's learned a lot since his last campaign for office.

"I'm not going to criticize my opponent. I want it to be an easy campaign."

Stewart could not be reached for comment Monday.

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