Editor’s note: This story was corrected at 9:35 a.m. on May 8, 2018. An earlier version included an incorrect spelling of Charles Duryee’s last name.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy has three objectives for his tenure as president of the New York Conference of Mayors.
They are leveraging the influence of the conference, reducing healthcare costs in each municipality and utilizing technology in everyday municipal duties.
All three objectives, McCarthy said, are necessary to push New York state cities and villages forward and to effectively advocate for their needs at the state and national levels.
“I hope over the next year to raise the collective influence of the New York Conference of Mayors and municipal officials,” McCarthy said on Monday, after being elected to a one-year term as NYCOM’s president at the conference’s annual meeting in the Gideon Putnam Hotel.
Two other Schenectady mayors have served as president of the statewide organization: former Mayor Karen Johnson, who was president in 1991, and the first mayor to be elected as president of the conference when it was founded in 1910, Charles Duryee.
McCarthy succeeds Fishkill Village Mayor Jim Miccio at NYCOM’s helm.
Also elected Monday were Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy, who is now NYCOM’s first vice president, and Binghamton Mayor Richard David, who was voted second vice president.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan was re-elected as treasurer.
Much of McCarthy’s acceptance speech focused on how municipalities can collaborate. One way, he said, could be to establish 10 regional zones, with one being New York City, much as the Empire State Development regional council is organized. McCarthy’s plan is to have a mayor from each of the 9 regions outside New York City act as regional leaders who will help spread the collective message of the conference, he said.
McCarthy also appointed Binghamton Mayor Richard David, his second Vice President, to be the point person in developing NYCOM’s message.
“Raising our collective influence must include telling the story of what we do well, what our needs are and how public policy should be adapted to enable our communities to be more vibrant and sustainable,” McCarthy said.
Reducing healthcare costs and improving the overall health of each community will be another focus of McCarthy’s presidency, a response to the federal government’s effort to push more healthcare costs onto states, McCarthy said.
While New York state’s obesity and tobacco use rates are below the national average, McCarthy said heart disease rates are 32 percent higher than the national average, and invasive cancers are 8 percent higher than the national average.
“Lifestyle decisions that drive costs — lack of physical activity and high-risk diets — have a negative effect on our overall well-being,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy promoted the idea of including wellness programs in local healthcare coverage plans. That includes making cities and villages more walkable, providing bike paths, investing in parks and providing public transit to promote active lifestyles.
McCarthy pointed out how Schenectady works with MVP Health Care for programs such as biometric screenings and flu shots, in addition to community health fairs and walking challenges.
Technology was also a big component of McCarthy’s speech. He said municipalities need to utilize new technology to improve infrastructure, provide services and control costs. Technology can also be used to promote cities and villages to tourists.
He cited Schenectady’s Smart Cities initiative, which aims to convert streetlights in the city to LED fixtures. McCarthy has previously said the lights program, being done in conjunction with National Grid, will help reduce the city’s electrical costs by 50 percent, or $400,000. McCarthy also wants the new fixtures to include technology that can boost Wi-Fi signals and provide traffic and pedestrian analytics.
The city budgeted $1 million this year for the project.
“We are hopeful this will be a model for other communities to learn and use emerging wireless and sensor-based technologies,” McCarthy said.
Peter Baynes, NYCOM’s executive director, said he was pleased by McCarthy’s election to the post.
“We’re very excited about having him on board,” Baynes said.