Schenectady County

Schenectady election dilemma: Voters many, days few

In a hectic night, the mayoral and City Council candidates raced back and forth between two neighbor

In a hectic night, the mayoral and City Council candidates raced back and forth between two neighborhood meetings, answering questions at both as they tried to meet as many residents as possible before the election.

The situation led to each mayoral candidate speaking while the other candidate was on the other side of the city. One meeting was on Hamilton Hill and the other on Goose Hill.

Alliance Party mayoral candidate Roger Hull took a drubbing from a resident who demanded to know why Hull would not pay the city for police and fire services while Hull was the president of Union College.

Hull said the college paid for sewer and water, and fixed up houses near the college — to which the resident said that he hurt the city by taking those properties off the tax roll.

When Hull added that his job at Union was to represent Union, not the city, he was scoffed at and told to get out of the mayoral race.

Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy, the Democrat, received a far more enthusiastic welcome. McCarthy has attended almost every Goose Hill meeting for years, knew the residents by name and spoke with them conversationally.

He told them that he thought the city’s efforts to enforce code violations under Mayor Brian U. Stratton were mostly “media events” at which nothing was accomplished. Now, he said, he will hold city employees accountable to following through on violations until the issues are addressed.

With such a crowded slate — there are 10 candidates running for four council seats, plus the mayoral candidates — the neighborhood forums were brief. Candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves and allowed to answer just one question.

Call for jobs

Only one candidate turned it around.

Councilwoman Denise Brucker, a Democrat, asked the Goose Hill residents what changes they want in the city. That sparked a lively conversation about jobs for youth and the need for more festivals throughout the city and better decorative lighting downtown.

Brucker, who enthusiastically said she wants more jobs for youth, told the audience that the best thing they can do for Schenectady is keep the team of Democrats that have run the city for the last eight years.

“Keep experience,” she said. “I think it’s very important in order to keep Schenectady on the rise it seems to be.”

Democratic Councilwoman Margaret King, the only other incumbent running, said that she would step down after one more term. But first, she said, she wanted to finish what she’s started.

“Paving, changes in the codes [department], home ownership initiatives with the banks — I’m excited by these changes,” she said.

John Mootooveren, a Democrat, said he’d cut costs if elected. “We need common-sense solutions to all problems and a business approach.”

He wants to make all large nonprofits pay for police and fire service, and vowed to help negotiate the city’s “fair share” of the county wide sales tax revenue, which will be negotiated next year.

Leesa Perazzo, a Democrat, said she would work to create a land bank, in which the city would buy vacant houses, sell the valuable ones, and use the money to demolish the rest.

She promised to be the community’s voice.

“I recognize the spirit of public service,” she said. “I know I carry your voice and your concerns.”

Republican Heather Dukes also vowed to be a direct representative, saying she would regularly attend neighborhood association meetings.

“I’m here to tell you I will be a transparent liaison between you and City Hall,” she said, promising to “carry your voice to City Hall.”

She also wants to work on crime, saying that her campaigning through the city has shown her that crime is out of control.

Crime fears

Alliance Party candidate Vince Riggi wants to focus on crime by enforcing zero tolerance for graffiti, loose dogs, noise and other violations that he believes create a permissive atmosphere in which larger crimes flourish.

“I want people to want to live in Schenectady again. But unless things are changed on the ground level, it can’t happen,” he said.

He emphasized his experience: he has attended city council meetings as a resident for 18 years, bringing issues to the council’s attention.

Alliance Party candidate Jacquie Hurd stressed what she has already done for Schenectady. With several other GE workers, she created an analytical laboratory in the city — a small business that still exists. She also helped created the Bellevue neighborhood association.

She wants to make the city work with the neighborhoods, helping associations organize and get grants to do small projects that improve their streets.

“Help each of the neighborhoods become stronger,” she said.

Alliance Party member Phil Tiberio wants to find a way to reduce taxes.

He moved to the suburbs, but moved back because he missed having strong neighbors, he said. “And I love every minute of it, except for the taxes.”

He sells business equipment and said his job has shown him how difficult it is for small companies to succeed in the city.

Taxes and slow governmental processes are the main culprits, he said.

The fourth Alliance Party candidate, Madrea Chaires, was not present. Write-in candidate Mary McClaine was also not at the forum.

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