Purple ribbons by courthouse highlight domestic violence

Photos by Peggy Barringer Posted 16 October 2014
ALBION – Some of the trees by the Orleans County Courthouse have purple ribbons tied around them, symbolic of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The county also has the courthouse dome lighted up in purple at night to show its support for the cause. On Wednesday, many community members also wore purple to promote domestic violence awareness.


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County directs nearly $40K to EDA for business sites

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2014
MEDINA – The Orleans Economic Development Agency has nearly $40,000 to spend for signs, wetlands work and other site improvements for business parks.

The County Legislature last week authorized shifting $38,625 from contingency to the Orleans EDA. That’s on top of the $150,000 the county approved for the agency in 2014.

The money will go towards new signs for the Holley Business Park, the Medina Business Park on Bates Road and the Keppler site, which includes 280 acres of “shovel ready” land on Route 31A in the Town of Shelby.

The signs will make the sites more marketable and appealing to potential developers, EDA officials said Friday. The agency also do some wetlands work and site clean up at the Medina Business Park, which starts on Bates Road and heads west, covering about 120 acres. The agency will also do some wetlands work at the Albion Business Park at Butts Road and Route 31.

“The county has really stepped up for us this year,” said Jim Whipple, EDA chief executive officer.

The EDA has submitted its budget request for 2015 to the county, and asked for $166,500. Paul Hendel, the EDA board chairman, said he and other EDA officials will try to build support for more county aid, as well as support from the towns and villages.

That support could be through in-kind contributions. Hendel noted the Town of Shelby Highway Department recently mowed the Medina Business Park, making the site look more desirable for potential developers.

Hendel said economic development in the community needs to be a total team effort from all of the local municipalities.


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United Way sets $325,000 funding goal for local agencies

Photo by Tom Rivers
Charlie Nesbitt, the honorary chairman for the United Way fund drive, announces a $325,000 goal with Marsha Rivers, executive director for the United Way. Penny Nice, president of Orleans County Adult Learning Services, is pictured at right. OCALS receives funding through United Way.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 October 2014
MEDINA – At a downtown center in Holley, Community Action runs an after-school program that wouldn’t happen without support from the United Way.

Community Action also uses United Way dollars to help run the Main Street Store in Albion, which provides job training and skills to many local residents.

The United Way funding is steady each year, bringing stability to an agency that also relies on grants and other government funding that often varies each year, said Ed Fancher, executive director of Community Action of Orleans & Genesee.

“The grants are hit or miss,” Fancher said. “If we don’t have them we flex the size of the program to meet the resources we have.”

Community Action is one of about 20 agencies that receive funding through the United Way of Orleans County. The United Way kicked off its annual fund-raising campaign this evening and set a goal of $325,000.

The Boy Scouts (Iroquois Trail Council) is one of the funded agencies through United Way. Jim McMullen, the Scout executive, said the United Way dollars help keep down the costs of the Scouting program.

“Unlike other sources, it’s consistent,” he said about the United Way dollars. “We can rely on it every year. It provides programs for families in need. Without it, everything would be higher.”

File photo by Tom Rivers
Boy Scouts and their families are on a fishing expedition at a former quarry on Keitel Road, now owned by the Albion Sportsmen’s Association.

The Iroquois Trail Council serves Scouts in five counties. McMullen said each of those counties contribute funding through the United Way.

He would welcome more money so the Council could expand Scouting programs and push to attract more youths into the program.

“With even another $1,000 you’d have more opportunities to recruit kids in the community,” McMullen said.

Several agency leaders attended the kickoff celebration at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina. Marsha Rivers started as United Way executive director last month. She said the campaign “is all about building stronger communities.”

Before joining the United Way, she worked for Hospice of Orleans, which provides palliative care for people with advanced illness. Prior to that she worked with younger families through the Care Net Center of Greater Orleans, which offers ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and other resources for families.

She thanked a dedicated United Way board of directors for giving its time to support the United Way mission, and the many residents and businesses for contributing money to the campaign. Those funds will help the agencies provides services to residents.

“Everybody here is a giver, whether you’re giving money or time,” said Charlie Nesbitt, the honorary campaign chairman and former state assemblyman. “It’s about individuals and their needs. That’s why we will make a meaningful commitment to those that need us.”

Jodi Gaines, president and CEO of Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion, serves on the United Way board. She has been pushing the United Way campaign for more than 20 years.

“It’s about helping the community,” Gaines said. “I know these agencies are top notch and well run.”


Some of the funded United Way agencies include 4-H and Cornell Cooperative Extension, Camp Rainbow through the Arc of Orleans, Meals on Wheels, Boy Scouts, Community Action’s Main Street store and after-school program, Community Kitchen at Christ Episcopal Church in Albion, GCASA and Students United for Positive Action, Girl Scouts and Hospice of Orleans.

Other funded agencies include Just Friends, Medina Youth Commission, Ministry of Concern, Habitat for Humanity, Orleans County Adult Learning Service, PathStone Domestic Violence Shelter, Regional Action Phone, Senior Citizens of WNY, and the Orleans County YMCA.

For more information, click here.


(Editor's note: Tom Rivers is married to Marsha Rivers, the United Way executive director.)


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County expands tax exemption for low-income senior citizens

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 October 2014
ALBION – The County Legislature unanimously voted on Wednesday to expand the income threshold for senior citizens to qualify for a discount on their county taxes.

Residents 65 and older currently are eligible for a discount if they earn less than $19,200 a year. Beginning with the March 1, 2015 tax rolls, the threshold has been raised to $21,200.

Right now the county offers 50 percent off for seniors with household incomes up to $13,500. The sliding scale exemption drops to 20 percent off for seniors with annual incomes between $18,300 and $19,199. It's 0 percent for seniors with incomes at $19,200 or above.

The new schedule gives senior citizens 50 percent off if they earn less than $15,500 and then the discount drops 5 percent in a sliding scale to 20 percent before being capped at $21,200.

There are 313 seniors who currently receive the exemption. The county hasn’t changed the income levels in seven years. Seniors have been getting small increases in Social Security, putting some on the verge of losing the county tax discount, said Dawn Allen, director of the county’s Real Property Tax Services Department.

“We’re trying to maintain the current seniors in the program,” Allen told legislators.

Most of the towns in the county have a similar tax discount program for seniors, capping it at incomes above $21,200, Allen said.

The new proposed schedule includes the following percentage exemptions:

• 50 percent off for incomes up to $15,500;
• 45 percent off for incomes between $15,500 and $16,499;
• 40 percent between $16,500 and $17,499;
• 35 percent between $17,500 and $18,499;
• 30 percent between $18,500 and $19,399;
• 25 percent between $19,400 and $20,299;
• 20 percent between $20,300 and $21,199;
• 0 percent after $21,200.


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County will borrow $8M to tackle range of projects

6 new bridges tops the infrastructure list

Photo by Tom Rivers
Orleans County officials want to see fewer road closed signs in the county. This sign is out while the Village of Medina rebuilds a section of Horan Road.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 October 2014
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature approved an $8 million bond today so the county can get to work on replacing bridges, culverts, roofs and other infrastructure work.

The bond will provide $4,963,000 to replace six bridges from 2015 to 2017. The county is moving forward with the projects after getting little state and federal dollars for bridges. Another state and federal funding cycle doesn’t come up until 2017.

If the county waits until they to again seek funding, some of the bridges may be closed. The bridge funds tend to go to projects with high-volume counts, making it unlikely the rural county could rely on state and federal money for its infrastructure needs.

“Failure to act on our part will result in further deterioration of our infrastructure assets and unnecessary closures of county-owned roads and bridges,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard.


The county has identified six bridges for replacement, starting with two in 2015: a bridge from 1934 over Beardsley Creek on Waterport-Carlton Road in Carlton, and a bridge from 1968 in Barre over Manning Muckland Creek on Oak Orchard Road.


Other bridges to follow include one from 1959 in Kendall on Carton Road over Sandy Creek, a bridge from 1936 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on East Scott Road, one from 1928 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on Culvert Road, and a bridge from 1956 in Kendall over Sandy Creek on Norway Road.


Callard said that plan could be altered if a different bridge is “red flagged” by the state and closed.


The county also plans to replace six culverts for $1,500,000. Those culverts are identified as two on Knowlesville Road in Ridgeway, two on Platten Road in Yates, and two on South Holley Road in Clarendon.


The infrastructure investment plan also includes $1,540,000 in work at county buildings, including two new pole barns. Those 60-by-150 foot barns are estimated to cost $230,000 each. One would be used by the highway department and the other by emergency management.


The county also wants to replace the roofs on the County Administration Building and the Public Safety Building, with each at an estimated $510,000.

The remaining project includes a generator for the mental health building for $60,000. That generator will service a new hub for county information technology infrastructure, Callard said.

The bond is expected to cost the county a little over $400,000 annually for the next 20 years. The borrowing terms will be worked out in the coming months. Interest rates have been at about 2 percent, noted Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.

“That’s another factor: the money is so cheap right now,” he said.

The county doesn’t anticipate higher taxes because of the bond because it will be done paying off the debt for the Public Safety Building’s original construction next year, the final $160,000 payment. The county also is to receive $268,000 annually as part of a state gambling compact. The first partial payment arrived this year.

The gambling funds and the relief from the Public Safety Building debt should cover the new borrowing costs for the projects, making the work cost neutral on the county budget, Nesbitt said.


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Orleans United Way accepting applications from new agencies

Press Release, United Way of Orleans County Posted 6 October 2014

MEDINA — United Way of Orleans County is again accepting applications from new non-profit agencies.


“United Way has great momentum right now,” said Marsha Rivers, who started as executive director Sept. 22. “Since the merger of our eastern and western chapters, our organization is stronger than ever, which means more giving power to help more agency programs, which in turn improve and enrich the community in so many ways. It’s a wonderful time to be part of all this.”


Rivers spoke after her first United Way Board meeting Wednesday night. It was the final meeting for outgoing Executive Director Lisa Ireland, who accepted a position as an Advancement Officer at Rochester Institute of Technology.


United Way, which currently funds programs of 20 agencies in the county, has opened the allocations process to new agencies for the past two years.


Any 501(c)3 agency is welcome to apply for funding by contacting Rivers at 585-355-7373 or mrivers@orleansunitedway.org.


New agencies must be prepared to undergo an extensive review process of the last five years, including budgets and program outcomes. Grant applications are due to the United Way office, 534 Main St., Medina, no later than 5 p.m. Nov. 7.


This year’s United Way fundraising goal will be announced at a kick-off celebration on Thursday at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery on Route 104. About 60 attendees are expected, representing the agricultural, corporate, educational, health, non-profit and public sectors.


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Counties press NY to pay more for rising costs of indigent legal expenses

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 October 2014
ALBION – In Orleans County, the costs for providing attorneys for poor residents has increased from a budgeted $493,983 in 2011 to $586,713 projected for this year.

State-wide other counties are seeing increases in the costs for legal services for the poor. Altogether, 57 counties outside New York City will spend about $175 for indigent legal services, with the state paying $35 million, said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties.

In many other states, the cost is borne solely by the state. During its annual meeting last week, NYSAC leaders called on NY officials to have the state assume the full costs of indigent representation.

“Counties do the best they can to ensure that justice is carried out,” Acquario said. “The tax cap and other state mandated programs make it difficult for additional local resources to be added to this program from the local level. This is a state responsibility and the state should provide enhanced aid to ensure proper representation is afforded to all.”

The state and five counties have been sued in a class-action lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring et. al. v. State of New York, where plaintiffs accuse the state and five counties for inadequately representing the poor accused of crimes in the state.

The plaintiffs are seeking changes to the indigent defense system, Including a cap on caseloads for public defenders and uniform first arraignment counsel rights.

“The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that this is a state constitutional responsibility,” Acquario said.

He cited a Supreme Court decision in the 1960s, Gideon vs. Wainwright, that the right to counsel is fundamental in the United States, and that the states are responsible for providing lawyers for those who are unable to afford them.

However, in 1965 the state shifted the financial responsibility to counties, Acquario said, to the level where more than 80 percent of the costs is now on county taxpayers.


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Hawley plans 4 town hall meetings in Orleans on Saturday

Press release, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley Posted 1 October 2014
ALBION – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) is holding a series of four town hall meetings for Orleans County constituents this Saturday.

Hawley invites his constituents to ask questions about any state or local issue that concerns them. Hawley frequently holds town halls across his district to make sure that the people his represents have as much access to him as possible and to give them the opportunity to provide their input of the direction of the area.

“One of my responsibilities as an elected official is to keep my constituents informed on state and local issues that affect them,” Hawley said. “These town halls are one way to do that. I invite every one of my constituents to come out and discuss whatever is on their minds. I am here to listen and work with them to make Western New York a great place to live and work.”

The schedule for the town hall events includes:


• 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. at Ridgeway Town Hall, 410 W. Ave., Medina;


• 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. at Carlton Town Hall, 14341 Waterport-Carlton Rd.;


• 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Albion Town Hall,3665 Clarendon Rd.;


• 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. at Murray Town Hall, 3840 Fancher Rd., Holley.


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No more ‘Truth in Taxation’ on county tax bills

Legislature also weighs expanding senior tax exemptions
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2014
ALBION – The new Orleans County tax bills that come out in January will no longer list taxpayer costs for the nursing home, state-mandated programs and other general services.

The Legislature voted last week to go back to one line item for the tax bills. The break-out was confusing to residents, said Legislator Lynne Johnson.

The county also expects to close on the sale of the nursing home by the end of the year, meaning there shouldn’t be county taxpayer subsidies for The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in the future.

The Legislature in 2011 voted to have “Truth in Taxation” on the tax bills, trying to highlight key cost drivers in the county tax bill. Legislators say they will continue to raise awareness on the impact of state mandated programs on the county budget. State programs such as Medicaid, indigent defense and several others account for more than the county’s total tax levy of about $15 million.

The Legislature also is considering expanding the tax discounts for lower-income senior citizens. Seniors who earn less than $19,200 are eligible for discounts on their county taxes. That level hasn’t been changed since 2007. The new level would be increased by $2,000.

The Legislature held a public hearing on the issue last Wednesday and set a second hearing for 4:25 p.m. on Oct. 8.

Paul Lauricella, vice chairman of the Orleans County Conservative Party, said the county should work to giving every resident a tax break, not just a select group.

“I feel for the seniors,” Lauricella said during the public hearing. “But when you do these target groups everybody else pays the difference.”


Right now the county offers 50 percent off for seniors with household incomes up to $13,500. The sliding scale exemption drops to 20 percent off for seniors with annual incomes between $18,300 and $19,199. It's 0 percent for seniors with incomes at $19,200 or above.


The new proposed schedule includes the following percentage exemptions:


• 50 percent off for incomes up to $15,500;
• 45 percent off for incomes between $15,500 and $16,499;
• 40 percent between $16,500 and $17,499;
• 35 percent between $17,500 and $18,499;
• 30 percent between $18,500 and $19,399;
• 25 percent between $19,400 and $20,299;
• 20 percent between $20,300 and $21,199;
• 0 percent after $21,200.


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Gia Arnold backs Destino, a Democrat, for State Senate

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 September 2014
Gia Arnold worked hard for several months to secure the Republican line for the State Senate, but lost a Sept. 9 primary to Robert Ortt, the mayor of North Tonawanda.

Today, she is coming out in support of Johnny Destino, a lawyer in Niagara Falls who is running under the Democratic Party line. Destino ran as a Republican two years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to get the GOP line from George Maziarz.

Maziarz announced in late July he wasn’t seeking re-election. Ortt was picked by Republican Party leaders to be a last-second switch for Maziarz.

Arnold, 24, had already been working on a campaign against Maziarz. She said the party leaders picked an establishment candidate rather than backing her. She would later withdraw from the race after admitting an affair, but jumped back in after support from residents in the district, she said.

Ortt won the primary on Sept. 9, getting 71 percent of the vote.

Arnold still had a shot to appear on the November ballot, but her petitions for the Libertarian Party were challenged in court. She lost the court fight and won’t appear on the ballot.

She is still determined to have an impact in the race. Today on her Facebook page she said she is backing Destino, and urged people to back Destino who she said is “anti-establishment.”

Destino will fight for Constitutional rights and personal freedom, Arnold said.

“Not only has he vowed to stop corruption and increase transparency, but he has also been fighting against the two-party elitists longer than I,” she said. “You can trust that Johnny will not cater to the pressures of party power, and will only work for the best interests of the people.”

Destino on Thursday also picked up the endorsements of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and Congressman Brian Higgins.

Ortt on Wednesday announced he had the endorsement of National Federation of Independent Business. Ortt is the endorsed Republican, Conservative and Independence party candidate.


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Legislature given 9-11 Flag


Photo by Tom Rivers Posted 25 September 2014
ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature was presented an official 9-11 flag on Wednesday from Larry Montello, commander of Medina's Butts-Clark American Legion and also the coordinator of 9-11 memorial events in Orleans County.

The flag given to the Legislature was the first one to fly in front of the courthouse about four years ago. Montello, left, presented the flag to David Callard, Orleans County Legislature chairman.


Montello thanked the county for supporting a 9-11 memorial near the flagpole in front of the courthouse. Callard commended Montello for heading the memorial events every 9-11.


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Study says Orleans one of hardest places to live in NY

Nationally, Orleans ranks more in middle of pack

File photo by Tom Rivers
A study that measures household income, unemployment, obesity rates and other factors says Orleans County ranks in the bottom half of the country.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 September 2014
A study that looks at 3,135 counties across the United States puts Orleans County below average at 1,894 based on a ranking of quality of life issues.


However, when comparing counties in New York State, Orleans would be the sixth hardest to live out of 62 counties.

The New York Times used six criteria for determining the rankings for an article called, “Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?

The report is based on ranking the median household income ($50,113 in Orleans), education or percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree (15.8 percent in Orleans), unemployment rate (10.4 percent), disability rate (1.3 percent), life expectancy (78.3 years) and obesity (41 percent).

In New York state, five counties ranked worse than Orleans, including Fulton County (ranked 1,992), St. Lawrence (2,048), Oswego (2,052), Cattaraugus (2,064) and Montgomery (2,149).

In Montgomery, the median household income is $42,830, more than $7,000 less than in Orleans. Montgomery tops Orleans with a 16.1 percent college educate rate, ties with a 10.4 percent unemployment rate, has a higher disability rate (2.1 percent), a similar life expectancy at 78 years and a slightly lower obesity rate at 39 percent.

The upstate counties that are in the worse shape or considered the hardest places to live are a long ways from the bottom of the heap nationally. Consider Breathitt County in Kentucky, ranked 3,129 of 3,135 overall. That county has a median household income of 23,049, a college education rate of 10.2 percent, an 11.9 percent unemployment rate, 11.5 percent of adults on disability, a life expectancy of 71.4 and an obesity rate of 47 percent.

Six counties in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky are among the 10 hardest places to live in the country, according to the report.

Six of the top 10 counties are in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. New York state has six counties in the top 200, including Tompkins at 170, Saratoga at 129, Westchester at 98, Rockland at 96, Putnam at 66 and Nassau at 63.


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Nursing Home LDC meets Thursday for first time since February

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2014
ALBION – The three-person local development corporation that was formed to sell the county-owned nursing home will meet Thursday for the first time since Feb. 6, the day the nursing home was sold to Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC for $7.8 million.

The sale isn’t final until the state Department of Health gives the final OK. That is expected before Dec. 31, said Russell Martino, chairman of the Orleans County Health Facilities Corporation.

The County Legislature voted in 2012 to transfer the nursing home, The Villages of Orleans, to the Health Facilities Corporation. That group then worked with a firm, Marcus and Millichap’s National Senior Housing Group in Chicago, that specializes in nursing home sales.

The LDC board of Russell Martino, Richard DeCarlo Sr. and Richard Moy on Feb. 6 accepted the $7.8 million bid from of Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC. That company also recently purchased three Catholic Health facilities in Buffalo.

The $7.8 million will more than offset the remaining debt following a renovation of the nursing home about five years ago. County officials also say the sale will relieve the county from taxpayer subsidies for the operating deficits at the site, deficits officials feared would grow to $2 million or more annually.

The public meeting Thursday will be at the at Health Department’s building, 14012 Route 31 West. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.

“This is just to catch up on where we are,” Martino said about the meeting.


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Sportsman puts out sign in favor of SAFE Act

Former bait shop owner in Gaines says SAFE Act deserves public support

Photos by Tom Rivers

Al Capurso and his wife Christine have two signs in their front yard on Route 279 in Gaines that show their support for the state’s gun control legislation known as the SAFE Act.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 September 2014
GAINES – About a week ago Al Capurso put up two lawn signs, both in support of the SAFE Act.

That might not seem newsworthy, but Capurso might be the first Orleans County resident to make such a public declaration of support for the state’s controversial gun control law. Capurso sees many “Repeal the Safe Act” signs, and he knows all of the elected town, village and county boards in Orleans have passed formal resolutions, calling for the law’s repeal.

Many of the law’s opponents see it as an attack on the Second Amendment’s Right to Bear Arms. Capurso doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t believe the framers of the Constitution foresaw a citizens’ arms race where they have to get bigger and faster guns to feel safe,” Capurso said today. “A citizens’ arms race is not the Second Amendment.”

Capurso, a long-time sportsman who owned a bait shop for more than 20 years, said the anti-Safe Act voices don’t acknowledge the good with the law, mainly a restriction against magazines with more than 10 bullets. (The law, passed in January 2013, first limited it to seven bullets, but was overruled in a court challenge to a 10-bullet limit.)

Capurso also worked in the mental health field, retiring as an intensive case manager at the Orleans County Mental Health Department. He supports background checks and the pistol permit process. He supports the 10-bullet limit so madmen can’t fire off numerous rounds before reloading.

“Extremist” vices have dominated the SAFE Act discussion locally, Capurso said. He would like to see the public consider other viewpoints, and respect people with differing views.

Paul McQuillen of Buffalo is the Western New York coordinator of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. He sent Capurso one of the signs in support of the SAFE Act. Capurso hand-painted the other one, which says “Keep S.A.F.E.”

McQuillen says a “silent majority” supports the SAFE Act and efforts to rein in gun violence. He gives out many of the organization’s signs, although he said they are often stolen from front lawns.

He pointed to a Sienna College poll in March that showed the majority of the state by a 2 to 1 ratio backs the SAFE Act. In New York City, the law has about 75 percent of the public’s support. In Upstate New York, a slight majority opposes the law, according the poll.

Capurso would like to see the public, including local elected officials, offer constructive criticism of the law, looking for ways to make it better rather than roundly rejecting it.

“There needs to be another side of this story told besides the extremist point of view,” Capurso said. “I’m not seeing a voice of moderation out there. The pendulum is swinging so far to the extreme. They’re afraid the government might come get their guns and that’s nonsense. They’re afraid the bogeyman will come get them.”

Capurso also took issue with the anti-Safe Act message that proclaims those supporters as “true patriots.” Capurso considers himself a “patriot” who supports the Second Amendment and “common sense” gun laws.

“I respect people’s rights to have signs in their yard,” he said. “I would defend that to that hilt. But I don’t have to agree with them. That’s what being an American is about: You have the right to speak out.”


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