Amsterdam Common Council candidates seek to revive city

Incumbent Common Council members are working to fend off challengers for their seats in the upcoming

Gina M. DeRossi


AGE: 32

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree, public relations, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication, Syracuse University; two years, 3rd Ward alderwoman; former member, Amsterdam Zoning Board; former member, Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education


David J. Dybas


Age: 66


EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: B.A. Siena College, accounting and business administration majors; former 24-year corporate financial analyst, General Electric; former adjunct faculty Hudson Valley Community College, Fulton-Montgomery Community College; former Montgomery County supervisor, 4th Ward


Thomas J. Georgia


AGE: 24

BALLOT LINES: Democrat, Working Families

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree, political science, Excelsior College; former confidential aide to Amsterdam mayor Ann M. Thane; former director, federal Broadband Technology Program at Amsterdam Free Library


Diane Hatzenbuhler


AGE: 65

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Associate’s degree, retail marketing, Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Va.; served on city’s Master Plan Commission, Cable Commission, Planning Board and Citizen’s Review Board; member of Neighborhood Watch, Century Club, Amsterdam Beautification Committee

PERSONAL: Married, one daughter

Joseph M. Isabel


AGE: 63

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Electrical technician; studied microwave and telecommunications; currently in third term as alderman, deputy mayor; operations manager and engineer, WCSS (1490 AM)


Christina Lajeunesse


AGE: 30

BALLOT LINES: Independent (Good Government Party)

EDUCATION/experience: High school graduate, some college coursework; former Civil Air Patrol participant; works in food stamps and temporary assistance program for Montgomery County Department of Social Services

PERSONAL: Married, 3 children

Kenneth R. Mazur


AGE: 51

BALLOT LINES: Democrat, independent (One Amsterdam party)

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree, food science, Cornell University; state Department of Health surveyor, senior sanitarian; former 20-year health inspector, state of New Hampshire

PERSONAL: Grown daughter

Incumbent Common Council members are working to fend off challengers for their seats in the upcoming elections, with contested races set for three of the city’s five wards.

Unopposed candidates are 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero, a Republican, and Democrat Valerie C. Beekman, who will replace Alderwoman Julie Pierce representing the Second Ward.

A total of seven candidates are vying for the three other seats on the Common Council.

First Ward

Incumbent Republican 1st Ward Alderman Joseph M. Isabel will face off against Democrat Kenneth R. Mazur for the seat Isabel has held for six years.

Mazur, who has helped fellow Democrats with their campaigns in the past, said he wants to put his abilities to work for his hometown.

“I’m running because I’d like to see Amsterdam start doing better,” said Mazur, who sees too much arguing and bickering when he watches Common Council meetings.

“That gives a bad impression for the city,” he said.

Mazur believes current council members are “not doing their homework” before they get to meetings, thus wasting time and energy.

“I hope to bring a measure of decorum and civility, and I will do my homework when it comes budget time and when it comes time to bring forth any sort of resolutions the city may need,” Mazur said.

He said he wants to use his background in code enforcement to bear on improving the looks of the city — doing so will help boost revenues and increase the tax base, lessening taxes for all of the taxpayers.

“It will spread the burden out,” he said.

Mazur has quietly been doing his part to help clean up the city: He’s taken time off from work to clear vegetation in some intersections and mowed grass at some abandoned properties.

That’s helped to ensure that when neighbors look at the properties, “they don’t have an eyesore to look at,” he said.

His opponent, Joseph Isabel, is completing his third, two-year term.

Isabel said he wants to focus on strengthening the city’s attention on absentee landlords.

There’s currently a registration process for landlords living out of the area, but Isabel wants to initiate inspections of rental properties for absentee landlords to make sure they are safe for folks who move in.

“I think in the long run it will increase everyone’s property values by having safe and reputable landlords,” he said.

The city’s financial difficulties will likely present tough choices in 2012, but Isabel said he doesn’t intend to remove the 3 percent cap the city has on fees and taxes because it was a decision voters made.

“They put it there, they’re going to have to take it off,” he said.

Isabel said his campaign is focusing on accomplishments he’s achieved, including cost-cutting efforts like cutting the animal control position to a $15,000-per-year job instead of a $40,000 expenditure.

Crime is on the rise, Isabel said, so it’s important to maintain police protection.

He has a goal of getting the city’s firefighters more involved in code enforcement, as well.

Isabel said difficulties during Common Council meetings could be eliminated with prior planning and better communication with the administration.

“We get dropped a contract 10 minutes before we’re going to vote on it. I would like to see legislation where all of that needs to be submitted a period of time before the meeting. Then we’re not looking at something for the first time,” he said.

Isabel said progress such as demolition under way at the Chalmers Knitting Mill complex on the city’s South Side will help to improve the look of the city, and the site, once cleared, holds potential for development.

“I think that’s going to be a beautiful piece of property,” Isabel said.

He wants to work toward restoring a baseball field at Veteran’s Field on Locust Avenue — an effort that could be done with volunteers, not city money, he said.

“I think my experience will be very helpful going forward next year,” Isabel said.

Third Ward

Incumbent 3rd Ward Alderwoman Gina M. DeRossi also supports maintaining the city’s 3 percent cap on taxes and fees.

“I think that it’s important to our taxpayers who are already overburdened to keep the tax cap in place,” DeRossi said.

She said the overall look of the city is important to the quality of life, but even more important is the infrastructure that isn’t seen, including water lines that serve fire hydrants, which have failed in the past.

“It’s nice to have pretty sidewalks, but I think we need to fix what’s underneath and get our infrastructure in good shape,” DeRossi said.

She said she wants to do more to clean up graffiti and continue with the city’s demolition program to eliminate blight.

Stronger code enforcement and maintaining support for public safety are also important to DeRossi.

She said she expects department heads to work toward finding savings while working with the Common Council.

She said cutting jobs is always a last resort.

“If we can avoid cutting positions, great. There’s no way to guarantee that one way or another,” DeRossi said.

DeRossi’s opponent, Democrat Thomas J. Georgia, said business development should be a key focus for the Common Council.

“I think we need a representative who will actively and legislatively entice new development here,” Georgia said.

Pilot programs and other economic incentives should be explored to lure in businesses and jobs, he said.

Georgia said from what he’s seen, the Common Council spends too much time discussing things that should have been reviewed in committees.

“I don’t think that aldermen need to be sending resolutions to the clerk to be proposed at a meeting without any prior committee discussion, without any prior public forum sometimes, when public input should be and needs to be sought,” Georgia said.

Housing issues need to be addressed, and abandoned properties should be reviewed for the chance of re-selling them or renting them out and turning a profit.

That profit could be directed toward rehabilitating or demolishing other derelict properties, Georgia said.

“I think that money is our biggest problem. We need money, and sitting back and hoping and skating from one budget cycle to another is not going to cut it anymore,” he said.

Fourth Ward

Three candidates are vying to represent Amsterdam’s 4th Ward on the city’s Common Council, a seat to be vacated in January by Alderman William Wills, who is conducting a write-in campaign for mayor.

The hopefuls are former Montgomery County Supervisor David J. Dybas, a Democrat; Republican Diane Hatzenbuhler; and independent Christina Lajeunesse, running under the Good Government Party designation.

Dybas, a retired financial analyst who represented the 4th Ward on the county board for 10 years, said he wants to minimize the unproductive discussion he sees on the Common Council and bring facts to bear on decision-making.

“Elected officials need to have the facts and not put forth only the popular opinions,” Dybas said. “That’s what I see here in the city. There’s a lot of opinions going on and a lot of ‘unfacts.’ ”

Dybas said the city needs to explore consolidation efforts with Montgomery County. A countywide police force, he said, could save the city, villages and county money.

The level of benefits given to public employees, such as those in the fire and police departments, should also be scrutinized, he said.

When looking for revenues, Dybas said the city needs to focus on its water and the golf course.

“When somebody wants to play golf or use the water, should we charge a fair and reasonable amount, absolutely. The tough question is what’s the fair and reasonable amount,” Dybas said.

The difficult decisions need to be made now, not later, he said.

“I can’t do the impossible. We can’t cut taxes and not cut services. That’s the reality. We need to stop kicking the can down the road, that’s what we’ve done for a number of years.”

Hatzenbuhler, a retired 32-year flight attendant, said new forms of revenue are critical, and one idea she wants to explore is getting non-profits to pay a flat fee for police and fire protection and snow removal.

She wants to end the process of simply adding percentage increases to the current year’s budget and instead start the budget process from scratch.

Department heads should start from $0, determine what work they need to do and the number of employees it takes to do it, and then see what the budget might lookslike.

Going line-by-line through the budget will reveal unnecessary spending that can be cut out, such as a $5,500 expense for buying Christmas lights she contends cost the city another $500 just for electricity.

“Because we didn’t go line-by-line to find out what we had in there … it was overlooked,” Hatzenbuhler said.

She blames the current administration of Mayor Thane for spending the $3.5 million in fund balance left in the budget prior to her election.

Hatzenbuhler opposes any change to the 3 percent cap the city imposes on spending increases, and she proposes a wage freeze for two or three years.

“That’s one way of avoiding layoffs. You freeze pay and you make it across the board.”

During her campaign, Hatzenbuhler said one topic that continues to come up is the look of the city, and she intends to address blight, if elected.

“I’ve been talking to the people, they want the city cleaned up,” she said.

In terms of crime, Hatzenbuhler wants the city to consider a curfew of 9 or 10 p.m.

She said it would cut down on graffiti and keep the kids in their homes doing homework, like they’re supposed to.

“It means the kids won’t be in the [abandoned] buildings and hopefully not starting fires,” Hatzenbuhler said.

Political newcomer Christina Lajeunesse, an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Social Services, said she sees the city from the perspective of a working mom and wants to put her concerns into action.

“I’ve always been taught if you want to have a voice, if you want to get things done, you need to get involved,” Lajeunesse said.

Cleaning up the look of the city, she said, is an important goal that would help limit crime.

“I want to see a safe environment for my kids to grow up in, where they will want to stay when they get older and they graduate,” she said.

That makes continued work toward demolishing vacant properties a key task, she said.

Lajeunesse said if elected, she will work to maintain the city’s 3-percent cap on taxes and fees because vulnerable populations can’t afford to pay more.

“It will help the elderly and retired people that are paying taxes on their homes and living on fixed incomes. Everything just gets higher and higher and somebody should be a voice for them, too,” Lajeunesse said.

Incentives to bring businesses into the city are critical, she said, because the city needs jobs.

“We need to populate the area and improve the area so that people want to come here, want to live here and want to spend here,” she said.

Lajeunesse, who speaks Spanish, like a quarter of the city’s population, said she sees herself as the candidate not only for independents, but all who should have a voice.

“I am trying to represent everybody, not any one particular group. I want to hear from everyone, from the Democrats, the Republicans, the independents, from everybody,” she said. “

I want to be able to be a voice for all of the community.”

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply