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Council incumbents challenged by Independent candidate

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City elections are less than a month away and Independent candidate Troy Gregorino is attempting to shake things up with his bid for city council.

Gregorino’s run for At-Large City Councilman puts the number of candidates at four. There are three available seats.

Currently the seats are held by Democratic incumbents At-Large Council members Steve Patterson, Christine Knisely and Jennifer Cochran. All members are running for reelection.

An open forum was held recently in which all the candidates had the opportunity to meet each other and answer questions from the public. All three shared their take on Gregorino with The New Political.

“I think he’s a fine person,” Patterson said. “I think that in terms of experience with things at the civic level in terms of city government, he’s new.”

Knisely provided her opinion.

“I thought he was very thoughtful and a considerate person, and he seems to have good experience working with nonprofit organizations,” Knisely said. “And I understand his reasoning for running, thinking there should be competition.”

Cochran also responded favorably.

“I think he has some great ideas, and I welcome his input in the ongoing conversation of Athens, community building Athens,” Cochran said.

When asked how confident he felt regarding his chances for reelection, Patterson listed the accomplishments of himself and committees that he has been a part of during his his two year term.

“I think my record stands for itself,” he said. “This year alone, 2013, there have been over 13 miles of city repaving that has taken place. That’s a lot of streets.”

Patterson went on to discuss appropriations given to the city’s waste water treatment plant.

“We passed legislation to have a 20 million dollar improvement to our waste water treatment plant. Now with those improvements, the discharge water is leaving our water plant much cleaner than in the past. Once the project is completed, at least, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Patterson said that these actions are important because infrastructure is good for the economy.

“Up to date and state of the art infrastructure drives the economy to some extent,” Patterson said. “If you’ve got good roads, good sewers, good water, good internet connection and so forth, it enhances the attractiveness of your environment for businesses.”

Patterson also cited his work to ensure equal access for individuals with disabilities and closeness with those involved in the Farmers’ Market as factors that will help in his reelection.

“Cautiously optimistic,” is how Knisely described her feelings toward her reelection bid. She emphasized the importance of campaigning and ensuring that her name is known.

Cochran was unsure but hopeful regarding her chances for victory.

“I can’t say for certain what’s going to happen in November,” Cochran said. “The voters have the opportunity to make those choices, but of course I’m hopeful that I will return to my seat, which I have only been in for a few months since I was appointed to fill a vacant seat. I think I bring not only a fresh perspective as someone who is new to the government, but also experience since I have been attending Athens city council meetings since January in preparation for Athens primary elections.”

At the forum, Gregorino claimed that he is a superior candidate due to his lack of ties to party lines. The New Political asked the incumbents to respond.

“When you look across the spectrum, we don’t agree on everything,” Patterson said. “It’s unfair to say we’re all cookie cutter since we’re all in the same party, because we all have different opinions on how we see things going forward.”

Patterson and Knisely both cited an issue that came up earlier in the year regarding a restaurant balcony on Court Street. The balcony in question belonged to The Overhang. Knisely and Patterson both stated that the council was “equally divided” on the issue.

Cochran does not believe that an all Democratic council hinders its effectiveness.

“Even though all the city council members are Democrats, they still bring a diverse background and experience to the table, and represent all of the citizens of Athens, not only the Democrats,” she said.

Cochran also added that “I don’t feel like I’m beholden to any particular party.”

Gregorino could not be reached for comment regarding his prediction for his campaign nor for his opinion on an all Democratic council.

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