Peace in our time?

Of all the ironies in Geneseo these days, the most marvelous is the complaint made by Supervisor Kennison that PDDG’s recent lawsuit is a violation of the spirit of cooperation of the upcoming 175th Anniversary of the Village starting on April 21 and the so-called Peace Banquet, which has now been officially scheduled for April 30.

For those not familiar with the Peace Banquet, it is a proposal made by Bill Cook, a close associate of the Supervisor, for all parties in the Big Box War to break bread together without talking about any of the many issues that divide us. Your intrepid columnists, both peace lovers, have agreed to attend this event, along with a couple other PDDGers and most of the town and village boards and members of the Town Planning Board.

Of course, there has been no actual ceasefire declared and both sides continue to execute their military strategies at full force. For proof of that, one need only look at the Supervisor’s words in last week’s paper on the other major issue in town, the future of the jointly owned Geneseo Building.

While refusing to negotiate privately, Mr. Kennison publicly lambasted the latest trial balloon floated by the village, suggesting that the joint town and village courtroom move upstairs in the Geneseo Building. Leaving the merits of that proposal aside, the Supervisor has aggressively pursued a policy of division between the town and village on the building issue for months. This has included a frenetic attempt to rewrite history, both ancient and recent.

The Geneseo Building is a symbol of over a century of cooperation between town and village, ever since the two municipalities got together in 1905 and agreed to share the costs of building it. That spirit of cooperation was renewed in a 2001 agreement that confirmed that the building is jointly owned and that neither party would move out and abandon the other without first submitting to an arbitration process.

As recently as January, both boards endorsed Articles of Agreement in the face of a public referendum over the town’s proposal to move its offices to the former Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). As soon as the votes in the referendum were counted, however, the Town began to violate both the spirit and the letter of its agreement. Taking the three parts of the January Agreement separately:

First, the town agreed to share the SNF space with the village to use as swing space while the Geneseo Building was being renovated. This quickly turned into the statement that if the Village wanted space they should go talk to the landlord to see if there was any more available.

Second, the town agreed to share equally in the costs of renovating the first floor. This quickly became, “We will help fix the roof, and after that you’re on your own!”

Finally, the town agreed to return “core government functions” downtown after the building is renovated. The town has not even moved out yet, but everyone understands that once they do, the current leaders have no intention of coming back.

It has become painfully clear that town leaders only entered into the January agreement because they feared they would lose the referendum if they didn’t. Now that the agreement has served its purpose of deceiving the voters, they have no intention of living up to it.

Is this the type of behavior that peaceful people engage in?

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