November 1, 2010

Sheriff Candidates Face Tough Race

Print More

The race for Tompkins’ County’s next sheriff –– the county’s top law enforcement position –– has been tightly contested between incumbent Peter Meskill (D) and Kenneth Lansing (I). While the campaign has centered on budget management, it has been particularly nasty, with both candidates circulating fliers accusing their opponent of distorting facts and dedicating a majority of their respective websites to “fact-checking” the others’ figures.

Meskill, who won the Democratic primary in September, has held the position for the past 12 years and considers himself the “CEO” of the Tompkin’s County Sheriff’s Department.  Meskill has spent the majority of the time on the campaign trail emphasizing his experience on the job.

“I’ve consistently promised to give the people of Tompkin’s County professional public safety services that recognize budget limitations.  I’ve kept those promises and professionalized every aspect of the sheriff’s office.” Meskill said last Wednesday morning on a WHCU radio station forum.

As evidence, Meskill pointed to some of his most recent cost-cutting initiatives. He said that, before he was elected, inmates were frequently shipped to jails in other counties before local ones were filled to capacity –– something that was costly for taxpayers and inconvenient for the prisoners’ families. Meskill said that, in his time as County Sheriff, he has prioritized filling jails to capacity in order to better balance the budget.

Lansing, however, rebuffed Meskill’s claims. On his website, Lansing argues that Meskill’s figures are overly exaggerated, adding that costs have increased an average of 5.5 percent each year since he took office.

Meskill responded on his website to what he has labeled “Lansings’ negative campaign,” by claiming that he never once exceeded his budget. He adds on his website that Lansing’s claim that he has not reduced burglaries is false, and they have actually gone down 43 percent in the past year.

Lansing, though, has proved a tough challenge for Meskill. After spending 33 years at the Cayuga Heights Police Department –– rising to chief –– he believes that a change is needed in the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office. He has argued that his law enforcement experience and personal skills are needed more than Meskill’s management experience.

“They key is not how you mange the budget, rather it is how you mange the people.  I can assure you, when you have the support of your staff in administrating and controlling, reducing spending, for example, like overtime is a much easier task.  I will build my foundations by establishing a sheriff’s oversight committee.”  Lansing said during the radio forum.

In the only other major contested election in Tompkins County, Judith A. Rossiter (D) is running against John Norman (R) for City Court Judge.

Original Author: Laura Shepard