Meet the man who wants to be the village of Homer's next mayor

Hal McCabe at his home in Homer (photo provided by Hal McCabe)

HOMER, N.Y. — It's election day in the village of Homer, and incumbent Mayor Genevieve Suits is facing a challenge from a man named Hal McCabe.

Voting takes place in the Paul Hill Memorial Building, behind the Homer Fire Station. Polls are open from 12 until 9 p.m. Two trustee seats are also up for a vote.

McCabe, a Democrat and Homer resident who works for the Ithaca-based NY FarmNet, hopes to unseat Suits and become the village's next mayor.

We spoke with McCabe earlier this month about his mayoral campaign and how he would run things differently if elected. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

What are your ties to Homer?

I grew up in Binghamton and have lived between Washington, D.C. and upstate New York ever since then. I've owned a house here in Homer that I have lived in since 1998. I worked for a couple of different consulting firms, one was land use planning consulting and the other was a large grant making foundation. I was teaching them how to lobby their members of congress. I worked with grant making foundations all over the country, be it a small community foundation or a family foundation right on up to large foundations like the Ford, Packard, or Gates foundation. The larger ones didn’t need a lot of help.

Are you currently employed?

I work at New York Farm Net. We're in our 30th year. It's a program that helps New York farm families with crisis issues —maybe there was a death in the family, difficult financial times, or difficulty with substance abuse or suicide. Right now we do a lot of pro-active things, helping farms get ready to transition to the next generation. We help with a business planning, and it's a free service to farms. It's an absolutely great program. We're 100 percent confidential. I've been with them for about 4 and a half years.

What is your political background?

I have a pretty heavy political background. I was in and out of politics through the early nineties and then I got back into it in 2004. I went to work for the New York State Democratic Committee for about three years. I was part of the DNC 50 States Strategy. I  was the deputy district director for Congressman Mike Arcuri when he worked for us. I oversaw 9 counties for him. In my current job I work a lot with the state senate and assembly in restoring cuts to our funding every year. Every year we get our funding cut by two-thirds in the governor's executive budget. I work in a very bi-partisan manner. Since I left Arcuri’s office I've been pretty strictly bipartisan. I am a democrat, but even when we worked with Arcuri we were very moderate had support on both sides. We were one of the remaining blue dog democrats in congress. Socially progressive, fiscally more conservative.

What made you decide to run for mayor of Homer?

For the most part we have a village that runs exceedingly well and people are happy, but we do have relatively high taxes. We’ve had an issue that’s sort of been dogging the village for six years now which is where to locate the village offices. It's an issue thats important to you if you live in the village, but the impact it would have on residents is a potentially high tax increase. The proposal out there supported by the current administration is to purchase a building, take it off the tax rolls and rehabilitate it to make a pretty large, and I would say extravagant, office space for a fairly small municipality. The plan is also not very concrete. I haven't seem them put forward a real budget for it. I don't think its fiscally responsible to vote for something and say we’ll figure it out from there. The flip side of where to locate the office is that for a long time the village and the town co-located at the historic Town of Homer office building, which is located in the village. It's absolutely beautiful on the outside, and they just re-did the parking. There was an air quality issue, or at least folks thought, but it’s been tested several times and there hasn’t been a problem. The other knock against it has been that they say there’s not enough space. I toured the Town of Homer offices last week and there’s absolutely a ton of room there. As it stands there’s plenty of space for the village and town to be in the same spot. You’re sharing internet utility costs that are going to keep the taxpayer share for all of this down, plus you’re providing a one-stop location to do their municipal business for the town or the village, and there's plenty of meeting space. We won't have our own dedicated large meeting just for the village, but we don’t need it. We have other facilites we can use. We can use the senior center downstairs. It seats well over 100. We really for the most part don’t have large, loud contentious meetings at the village. I think its the number one, two, and three issue on the minds of people here in the village.

What are some things you would do differently as mayor?

I would like to reinvigorate the Homer Farmer's Market. I think with a little bit of support from the village it could become another great reason for people to come to Homer. Economic development is a big issue. I think we need to start bringing in some non-retail businesses to broaden the tax base here. We have a very limited amount of buildings on the tax rolls, so we need to start making them produce a little bit more.

I think the final issue is more communication to residents of the village from their municipal government, why decisions are being made, when meetings are held. I think we need to redo the website. The website is pretty bad at this point. Increasing communication but also increasing transparency. That was another thing that upset people about the office space issue. It seemed like it was being done behind closed doors and people weren’t being informed until over the fact. Other than that, things for the most part run pretty well here.