Schenectady council needs a true independent voice

While both the Schenectady Democratic and Republican committees scramble to find additional candidat

The praise that former-Schenectady City Councilman Carl Erikson has received across the aisle after he resigned from the council a couple of weeks ago has been more than warranted.

In fact, Erikson has received so much recognition as having been a competent and respectable leader from colleagues and members of the general public that there is nothing more for me to add, except to say that he will be missed.

Now let’s talk about the first Tuesday in November. While both the Schenectady Democratic and Republican committees scramble to find additional candidates to run for the vacant seat left by Erikson, I can’t help but shake my head for two reasons.

The first should be the most obvious one. The Democratic majority on the council will appoint someone to the vacant seat before the nomination deadline on Sept. 16, so they can get that person on the ballot as an incumbent.

After all, the council appointed Ed Kosiur in February to fill the vacant seat left by former Councilwoman Denise Brucker and they’ll be sure do it again.

It was clear back then as it is now that I’m no fan of appointments. This especially applies to any rushed appointments for the sake of giving what I perceive as an unfair advantage to a person unworthy of being called an incumbent.

This is purely a political move used to boost the chances of Democrats grabbing the two available seats, but despite it being a shady practice, you can’t blame them for doing something completely legal. If Republicans had a majority on the council, they would do the same thing.

I also am shaking my head because I do not see a truly new independent voice running this fall. And no, I’m not referring to anyone endorsed by the Working Families, Independence or Alliance parties, so Joseph Kelleher does not qualify. Besides, he is also endorsed by Republicans.

This is not a knock on Kelleher. He has his endorsements and I wish him the best of luck. This is also not a knock on the aforementioned third-party endorsers.

True independent

What I’m referring to by independent voice, is someone that is not party-affiliated, doesn’t have to run on a platform of pre-defined values and doesn’t have to worry about appeasing their political endorsers.

Of course, when you are endorsed by a political party, you can choose to go rogue or alienate yourself from the rest of your colleagues if you wind up getting elected, but good luck being endorsed again next time around.

Then again, there’s something to be said about having that uppercase letter next to your name indicating your party affiliation. Voters seem to be drawn to it like a cat to a laser pointer.

But who wins my respect the most is someone who works tirelessly to get their name on a ballot in order to go up against the big boys, David versus Goliath style.

Which brings me to me next point: I have heard of no one attempting to run a write-in campaign or form their own party for November’s election.

Pat Zollinger formed her own single-person party in 2005 and 2010 to get on those ballots, but was unsuccessful in both attempts. That’s the last person I recall doing things their own way and it’s a shame.

I am still hopeful that someone without party affiliation will give it a go this fall. If they were to have some worthwhile ideas about the future of Schenectady and the ability to genuinely convey them to the public, I believe they would have a puncher’s chance at winning a seat.

While the public’s view of political parties on the local level is far less vitriolic than on the national scale, many people are fed up with both major parties. Just look at the recent congressional job approval numbers. They are near an all-time low.

Let’s be realistic here. The election this November will not decide the majority on the council. Democrats will still reign supreme no matter what the outcome. That is why perhaps, just perhaps, the public might be willing to elect a non-endorsed nominee to join Councilman Vince Riggi, an Alliance Party member, in throwing curveballs at the majority.

It would be like a long-shot pony shocking the favorite for the win, which has been happening quite a lot this season up at Saratoga. So I say, why not in Schenectady?

I encourage any eligible Schenectadians looking to faithfully serve the public to step forward and heed your call. Get those necessary signatures from registered city voters who have not already signed a petition supporting another candidate on the ballot.

The most significant power that city residents have is the ability to register a vote. But if they are only given a choice between Democrats and Republicans, then it diminishes what that power stands for, because it ends up becoming a “lesser of two evils” principle.

That’s not to say that any nominee running as a Democrat or Republican is not a worthy candidate. No, the argument I make has always been about choice, or in Schenectady’s case, lack thereof. There are some cases where too many choices might be disadvantageous, but in politics, more choices should always be encouraged and appreciated.

Robert Caracciolo lives in Schenectady and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.

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