Mayor Brian U. Stratton on Tuesday continued his hard-line talk on police discipline, vowing to fire any officer guilty of misconduct.
Stratton used his second-term inaugural address to talk of progress made since his first inaugural four years ago. Much work still must be done on the city’s neighborhoods, he said, and the city must get its fair share of state and federal funds.
But the strongest words were left for the Police Department, which saw five officers placed on paid administrative leave last week while investigators look into an alleged Dec. 7 beating of a drunken driving suspect.
The paid suspensions capped a full year of turmoil, the latest such year in the department’s history.
A drug evidence scandal that broke last January, a detective went to prison in September and a grand jury report on police discipline was released in November — less than three weeks before the alleged beating.
“There can be no room for rogues, cowboys and thugs,” Stratton told a packed house at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, adding soon after, “They will be fired. They will be replaced. We will rebuild and we will move on.”
Stratton looked both backwards at the past four years and forward at work that must still be done.
His own future, however, remains in flux. Though he won a new four-year term, there has been much speculation that he would seek the congressional seat being left open by U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty.
McNulty on Tuesday attended the city ceremonies, and was among the series of handshakes Stratton shared after his address.
It was one of at least two stops for the congressman Tuesday. He also attended the County Legislature proceedings, home to another potential suitor for his seat, Chairwoman Susan Savage.
But, should Stratton run and win, his potential successor as mayor was voted in Tuesday, or so it seemed.
The City Council voted to name Margaret King council president, a position that council members said she worked for.
But, after Tuesday’s meeting, King said she doesn’t see herself becoming mayor. She noted she still has her full-time job at Schenectady County Community College that she’s not ready to retire from yet.
Asked if she could be convinced, if the situation arose, she responded, “I seriously doubt it.
“I think there are other people who would be much better suited to being mayor than me,” she said.
If Stratton were to replace McNulty, the City Council president would become acting mayor until a special election could be held in November 2009.
If the council president declined to become mayor, someone would be appointed, officials have said. But that someone could not be another member of the council.
Before being named council president, King took her oath of office for the council. She was joined in taking the oath by returning council members Denise Brucker and Joseph Allen. Newly elected Councilman Thomas Della Sala rounded out the swearing-in.
Stratton won re-election this year with 71 percent of the vote, the largest percentage received by any Schenectady mayor since the city returned to the strong-mayor form of government in 1978.
Stratton noted that figure in his inaugural address. Among the council members, King was the top vote-getter, with newcomer Della Sala coming in second.
The mayor gave his synopsis of the past four years, where the city went from the brink of financial ruin to attracting new jobs and a restored credit rating.
“Taking the tough medicine was not always easy,” he said, “but it proved essential to eliminating the debt.”
The city is now at the stage where it can look toward improving the neighborhoods through eliminating blight, Stratton said.
He touched on code enforcement and absentee landlords, an issue that began to come to prominence in 2007.
Cleaning up derelict properties is vital to restoring the neighborhoods, Stratton said.
“Once-proud neighborhoods where families grew up today too often have become home to absentee landlords and negligent investors who have shirked their social and financial responsibilities,” Stratton said.
Those owners have forced the city to spend thousands on code enforcement and blight removal. Those owners will also be held accountable, he said. The most severely blighted properties will be targeted for demolition.
The city must go after every federal and Metroplex dollar toward those goals, Stratton said.
Earlier in his speech, he acknowledged dignitaries in attendance. He took the state funding reference to acknowledge another dignitary in attendance.
“I also want to point out that Assemblyman [James] Tedisco is with us, too,” Stratton said to laughs, “and I hope Jim heard that last part.”
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