Schenectady County

Landry facing GOP challenge for third term as Niskayuna supervisor

The Niskayuna town supervisor is seeking his third term as head of the town, while a health programs

The Niskayuna town supervisor is seeking his third term as head of the town, while a health programs manager is looking to unseat him.

Joe Landry

Running for: Supervisor

Age: 53

Occupation: Town supervisor, also serves as counsel to Schenectady County Legislature

Education: Law degree from Albany Law School, undergraduate degree from University of South Carolina

Family: Married, three children

Ballot: Democrat, Conservative, Independence, Working Families

Anthony Pennacchio

Running for: Supervisor

Age: 41

Occupation: Health programs manager, Health Research, Menands

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University, master’s degree in business administration from Western International University in Phoenix

Family: Married, two children

Ballot: Republican

Richard Fisher

Running for: Town Board

Age: 48

Occupation: Home services business owner, former teacher in Watervliet schools

Education: Master’s degree in earth science education from University at Albany, bachelor’s degree from University of Missouri at Columbia

Family: Married, four children

Ballot: Republican

Liz Orzel Kasper

Running For: Town Board

Age: 69

Occupation: Retired Niskayuna teacher

Education: Bachelor’s degree in education from Wheelock College in Boston

Family: Married, two grown children

Ballot: Democrat, Conservative, Independence, Working Families

Julie McDonnell

Running For: Town Board

Age: 43

Occupation: County auditor

Education: Master’s degree from University of Baltimore, bachelor’s degree from Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland

Family: Married, two children

Ballot: Democrat, Conservative, Independence, Working Families

Linda Rizzo

Running For: Town Board

Age: 57

Occupation: Retired associate superintendent of Troy schools, advocate for children with special needs

Education: Master’s and doctoral degrees from University at Albany, bachelor’s degree from College of St. Rose.

Family: Single

Ballot: Republican

The supervisor’s race pits Democratic incumbent Joe Landry against Republican Anthony Pennacchio.

Landry is seeking a new two-year term, citing unfinished business. Pennacchio is arguing that more should be done to lower taxes.

In the Town Board race, two incumbent Democrats, Julie McDonnell and Liz Orzel Kasper, are seeking new four-year terms, while two GOP challengers, Linda Rizzo and Richard Fisher, seek to unseat them in their own second bids for office.

In other town races, Democrat Michele M. Martinelli is running against Republican Janna G. Czernicki for town clerk, and Stephen F. Swinton Jr. is running unopposed for town justice.

The supervisor candidates are seeking a post with a salary of $53,800, while the Town Board candidates are seeking a position that pays $10,450 annually.

Landry, 53, is seeking his third term as Niskayuna supervisor. He was first elected in 2007.

Landry said he believes he has a good track record in his time in office. Specifically, he noted the work at the former St. James Square, now ShopRite Square.

Landry said he helped get the troubled plaza included in the Metroplex area. That effort culminated last month in the opening of ShopRite’s new store, giving the plaza its long-needed anchor, he said.

“The big thing is investment in the town,” Landry said. “We’re pleased to have a very responsible, very large tenant in ShopRite there, and we worked very hard to fill that.”

The ShopRite deal, Landry said, was the result of a lot of hard work by the town and Metroplex.

Landry also said his administration has been able to maintain all town services, while keeping taxes at a modest level.

“We are aware of the financial pressures,” Landry said. “We try to do the best job we can with less money.”

Landry’s challenger, Pennacchio, 41, is a health programs manager with a company in Menands.

Pennacchio has lived in Niskayuna for six years, and he says it’s becoming too expensive for people to live in the town. He says he’s seen neighbors leave because of that.

He noted Landry’s proposed 2012 budget currently calls for a 3.4 percent property tax increase. Pennacchio says that is still too high.

Pennacchio also questioned proposed fees that have never been assessed before, including one for yard waste pickup. He also said he wants to find a way to maintain police department staffing. The proposed budget eliminates a police post through attrition.

“Fees equate to nothing more than taxes,” Pennacchio said. “It’s just a different word.”

Pennacchio, who has a master’s degree in business administration, said he would go through the budget closely, looking for ways to cut.

“We’re going to have to look at everything,” Pennacchio said. “That’s the only way.”

The town’s bond rating needs to improve, as well, Pennacchio said. Moody’s downgraded the town in October, citing fund balance issues. He suggested it was a result of the current administration’s policies. Moody’s cited storm damage and mortgage tax receipts putting pressure on the fund.

Town board races

Fisher, 48, a Republican, is making his second bid for Town Board. He ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for a seat.

Fisher says he believes the town must practice cost containment in all areas of government. He wants an independent auditor to look at the town’s books to see what needs to be done and determine exactly where the town is financially.

Fisher also said he would communicate clearly and transparently, something he says the current administration is not doing.

The town’s infrastructure also needs focus, Fisher said. He noted mandates from the state Department of Environmental Conservation for the town to fix its District 6 sewer system.

“The problem is how we’re going to solve it,” Fisher said, “instead of kicking it down the road.”

Drainage problems in the town also need to be fixed, he said, as well as the town’s bond rating following the October downgrade.

Kasper, 69, a Democrat, is seeking her sixth four-year term on the board. She says she wants to continue her work to ensure the town is operating efficiently. More has to be done, she said.

She said she wants to look at the town’s needs first, including roads, sewers and public safety.

Kasper also said she wants to make sure the town isn’t making fees higher than residents can tolerate. “I want to know where they’re going to impact the most,” she said. She said she wants to have that discussion concerning the 2012 proposed budget, but it hasn’t happened yet.

A main reason she is running again, though, is senior programs, Kasper said. She was one of two board members to vote against the 2011 town spending plan, citing issues with changes to the senior programs and a budget that relied on borrowing.

But the senior changes were enacted, and Kasper said she wants to look forward.

“I’m really trying to win this election so I can put some positive feeling back into the senior program,” Kasper said.

McDonnell, 43, a Democrat, is seeking her second term on the board. She was first elected in 2007 and said she wants to continue the work she’s been doing for the town.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress, and I’ve enjoyed doing it,” McDonnell said.

She’s served as chairwoman of the parks and recreation committee, noting in her time the number of children participating in recreation programs has doubled. She said there’s also been more involvement from community sports programs.

She also noted a ban on smoking in town parks.

Currently the auditor for Schenectady County, McDonnell said the town has to be creative and minimize costs.

“We have to look carefully at new ways of doing business,” McDonnell said.

She also wants to reach out to more seniors for the senior program.

Rizzo, 57, a Republican, is making her second bid for a Town Board seat. Her first was an unsuccessful run in 2009.

She said she is running because she believes it’s important that residents have a choice for Town Board. Rizzo also cited attendance as an issue, saying there should be a requirement for meeting attendance. Rizzo claimed Kasper has missed the most meetings on the board this year. Kasper, though, countered that’s not the case.

Rizzo also expressed concern with the town’s fund balance, saying it needs to be replenished.

Rizzo cited infrastructure issues that need to be addressed, including the sewer system and highway department. The police department also needs to be a priority, she said.

“People come here for those three things,” Rizzo said. “We have to make sure our infrastructure is not crumbling and make sure our sewer pipes aren’t breaking underground.”

Nonessential programs also need to be looked at, Rizzo said. “They’re good programs, when you don’t have economic problems,” she said. Those programs have to be totally self-supporting, she contended.

Categories: Schenectady County

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