Political Musical Chairs has Consequences

Edited to add by Mindy MacLaren:

As a candidate for office, communicating one’s platform is vital and is the responsibility of the candidate to do in a complete way that voters can understand, to give them enough information to make an informed decision. Although we have seen Republicans explaining to the rest of us what Donald Trump actually meant to say when he uttered x, y, or z for 4+ years now, it is not the job of the voter to decipher the candidate’s views, it is the job of the person who wants their vote to make sure there is no opportunity for misunderstanding.  I don’t know what my opponent’s views on race are, nor those of the rest of the Town Board. My opponent made an open-ended statement that he will “keep Penfield safe”. The reply “safe from what?” is logical. According to Neighborhood Scout’s analysis of FBI crime data, Penfield does not have a crime problem, stating: “Penfield is safer than the majority of cities, towns, and villages in America (71%) and also has a lower crime rate than 59% of the communities in New York,” and goes on to state: “The chance of being a victim of a violent crime in Penfield is 1 in 2,511; in NYS it is 1 in 285.” https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ny/penfield/crime So, again, “safe from what?” is the logical response. When the Republican POTUS is claiming he will “protect” the suburbs from low-income housing, largely understood to be racist fear-mongering, with no pushback from Republicans at any level of government, to have this response to the statement my opponent made as part of his platform is not really that big a leap.

I’m grateful to Penfield resident, Art North, for allowing me to share the important article below on The New Penfield Optimist. As Art outlines, the Penfield Republican party has been playing political musical chairs for decades, leaving our town with a vacuum of motivated, enthusiastic, and creative leaders, choosing to hold on to power over the best interests of Penfield and its residents. Mr. North’s letter has also been submitted for publication to the Penfield Post.

“Dear Editor:

I am writing, again, to remind Penfield town residents of the method of succession for the Town Board, which has guaranteed one-party control (in this case Republican) of the town for the last 40 years or so. 

That method is to resign several months, even a year, before the member’s term is up. The remaining Board – all of the same party – appoints his/her successor from that party’s rolls, to finish out the term, enabling her/him to run as an incumbent.  Incumbents always have better than a 50-50 chance of winning an election.

This method needs to be changed, either (i) by filling the post with the candidate from the next-highest vote getting party in that last election or (ii) having the opposing majority party (by registration) appoint a person to fill the office.  There must be a 45 day limit on the time that the office is empty.

This has not happened once or twice.  It started in 1968 under Howard Frank (Annett, R, resigns, replaced by Scott, R), and, when I last looked at this in 2009, had been used at least 10 more times since then. Well, now we are up to a total of 12!

* In 1971 DeBiase (R) resigns, replaced by Kerbey, Jr; (R);

* In 1981 Milton (R) resigns, replaced by Wink (R);

* In 1982 Fonte (R) resigned, Gossin (D) was Supervisor, no replacement;

* In 1988 Wink (R) resigns, replaced by Santirocco (R);

* In 1996 Santirocco (R) resigns, replaced by Peters (R);

* In 2004 LaFountain (R) resigns, replaced by Sugumele (R -nee Rocco), LaFountain runs for County Legislature

* In  2005 Rosenbaum (R) resigns, replaced by Mulley (R);

* In 2008 Sugumele (R) resigns, replaced by Moore (R);

* In 2009 Draw (R) resigns, replaced by Quinn (R), Drawe goes to County Legislature.

* In 2009 Weil (R-Clerk) resigns, replaced by Steklof (R).

* In 2020 Metzler (R) elected to Town Justice and Quinn (R) resigns; Drawe (R) sits via 2019 election, Board appoints Ockenden in January, 2020 (R).

(sources: Penfield’s Past and Penfield Post past issues; Penfield Library,

Baird Rd, Penfield, NY; Penfield Town Board Meeting Minutes)

Self-perpetuating systems like this demonstrate, politically, the social principle of why it’s illegal to marry your first cousin (in most states).  In the case of the Penfield Town Board, it serves the people in the party first, then, coincidentally or accidentally, the Town.

The more insidious results of this ‘inbreeding’ are the disappearance of transparency of action (all decisions are made behind closed doors, with little if any public debate); accountability (as an example: the portion of the new sidewalks on Panorama Trail done by Town personnel – already on the Town payroll – were installed faster and look better than the portion installed by an out-of-town contractor who is apparently being sued by the Town); and cronyism (almost without exception, all appointments to town committees are – in this case – Republicans, and one committee appointment was even made to a person who didn’t even live in the state!).

Penfield (and, perhaps other towns who practice this form of political incest) are no more than a source of revenue for (in this case) the Republican Party and their cronies – living off the government dole with health care and a pension to boot.  The Towns are also the proverbial Farm Teams for the County and State government jobs, which pay, incidentally, way more than the average income of the people who elect them!

In 2009, Tom Trevett, then one of the Democratic candidates for town office, talked about service without compensation.  If that can help to get rid of this travesty of succession it would be worth it.

I think it’s about time that Penfield elects a Democrat. Mindy MacLaren is running for Town Board to fill the seat that Ockenden was appointed to. I refer the reader to her website, votemindymaclaren.com, to read why she makes sense as the next Town Board member.

MacLaren, a prime driver in the Save Shadow Pines success, advocates promoting investment and economic development, while building and expanding on what makes Penfield unique.

Ockenden says he wants to “keep Penfield safe” (isn’t that the Republican code for “white” this year?). From what, I ask? Certainly not from the hate and violence spewing forth at the national and state levels from the Republican Party.

In my mind there’s no contest. It’s way past time to break the stranglehold the Republicans have on the Town’s character and growth.


Art North”

One thought on “Political Musical Chairs has Consequences

  1. Hear hear
    Thank you Art North (a long time Penfield resident) for providing the compelling FACTS about the 35 + years under one party rule and the process Republicans utilize to maintain that control.
    They do not trust Penfield residents to vote their choice for a truly open seat on the town board.
    I suppose they justify their antics to fill the seat before Election Day because there are now more Democrat voters in Penfield than Republican voters.
    We need Mindy MacLaren with her community experiences on the town board to have some semblance of democracy given our voter registration statistics.


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