Editorial: Let Kolb be heard in Albany

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Even when Brian Kolb first arrived on the political scene — he was elected Richmond town supervisor in the mid-1980s and served on the Ontario County Board of Supervisors — it was apparent he could be a player in politics. Articulate and persuasive, he was a young buck who enjoyed the occasional verbal joust with other, more experienced county lawmakers. And he showed an ability to work with or around political coalitions, depending on what the situation demanded.

The question was always whether he would seek higher office and, if so, would he use his skills to just join the political system, or would he challenge it when it failed the people?

It is a tragic indicator of how dysfunctional our state Legislature is that, eight years after he joined the Assembly, it’s hard to tell if Kolb or anyone else in a political minority is a true reformer. The system is so rigged that incumbents are almost guaranteed re-election, and if they aren’t a member of the “right” party — Democrats rule the Assembly and Republicans control the Senate — they are sentenced to a career of bemoaning what they wished they could do.

We hope and believe Kolb, a 56-year-old Republican, is the real deal. And despite our inclination to support anyone who would challenge an incumbent, we urge voters to re-elect Kolb to the 129th Assembly seat, which includes the Ontario County cities and towns of Canandaigua and Geneva, and the towns of Gorham, Hopewell, Manchester, Phelps and Seneca.

His challenger, 37-year-old Democrat Noah Sargent of Clifton Springs, deserves praise for giving voters a choice — and for serving as an Army reservist in recent years while trying to balance his duties as a radiology technologist. But his experience as a former member of the Fayette Town Board and his limited command of the issues suggests the learning curve would be too steep.

Kolb knows the issues, is a student of Albany and its mysteries and can thus navigate the system. It would be interesting to see what he would do in an unrigged system that would honor dissenting views. But what Kolb can’t do legislatively, he makes up for in the nuts-and-bolts duties of the office. He remains a diligent representative of the little guy who needs help overcoming a state bureaucracy that is nothing short of maddening. If it’s a paperwork hang-up somewhere in Albany that is holding you up some way, Kolb and his staff have proven to be responsive and effective.

As a businessman, Kolb has also endured the overregulation and outlandish fees that cripple private industry. That perspective is needed at the state Capitol. Most everyone agrees Albany’s tax-and-spend mentality is at the heart of what ails the upstate economy. Kolb speaks with conviction on such issues.

But he shows judicious restraint, opposing, for example, across-the-board budget cuts that have a populist ring. Instead, budget writers should start from scratch and review entire departments to see if their very existence is justified. Fund, as we can afford, what works. Eliminate what doesn’t. Why, he asks by way of example, does there remain a state office to review capital convictions when New York does not impose the death penalty?

Sargent is most passionate in his support for universal health care. Kolb, though, doesn’t buy such a costly once-size-fits-all fix, noting that those kinds of programs have already broken the backs of New York’s taxpayers. Instead, he says, organizations and businesses would respond to incentives aimed at offering coverage to folks who are under- or uninsured. That, he says, would be a good first step.

Of course, such nuances can only carry a cause so far. While Sargent outright opposes the “pork” system that allows legislators to hand out taxpayer funds like presents at Christmas, Kolb advocates improvements that would provide a more equal distribution of money. The fact is, New York simply can’t afford to have lawmakers doling out money. Kolb’s contention that the re-elect-me grant system needs tweaking is indicative of a political player anxious to “get in the game.”

The fact is, Albany is a wreck. It needs strong, articulate voices to scream loud enough to bring change. Kolb has that ability, and we encourage you to vote for him — and we encourage him to go back to Albany and scream bloody murder.

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