SCHENECTADY — Community activist Damonni Farley said Wednesday he running for a seat on the Schenectady City Council, adding to what is already looking like a crowded field for an anticipated Democratic primary in June.
Farley, a 40-year-old city native, said he wants to bring a political progressive point of view to the council, as well as increasing its racial diversity. Farley is Black; Marion Porterfield is the only current Black council person.
“I just know right now that given the national and local climate, people need to step up,” Farley said. “I would bring a progressive perspective to the council.”
At the same time, another well-known community activist, William Rivas, announced he will be dropping out of the race, after announcing in January that he would run. He will instead focus on his work as executive director of C.O.C.O.A. House, which offers free after-school tutoring and academic enrichment programs in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood.
“To me the most important things are integrity and authenticity,” Rivas said in an email. “I have to stand and abide by those things. It is important that I honor my commitment to my youth and the families in which I serve. At this time it is not in that capacity.”
At the city level, Farley said he thinks that new development coming into the city should bring a significant drop in people’s property taxes, and the neighborhoods should see an improvement in quality of life issues — things like fewer potholes on city streets. City workers also deserve to have better pay and working conditions, he said.
Farley, who is married with two children and works as director of community outreach for the Schenectady City School District, ran briefly for a council seat in 2017, but had his nominating petitions invalidated in court and was removed from the ballot. He remained on the Working Families ballot and lost after losing his chance at the Democratic line.
“I learned that we have to uphold free and fair elections, true democratic values,” Farley said of that experience.
“I’ve been just involved in a lot of community issues,” he said. “I prefer a more aggressive roots approach. I want to make decisions with people, and not for them.”
There are five seats on the council up for election in the fall. Three of those seats are currently filled, but their terms expire this year: two of the seats are open due to the recent resignations of former council members Leesa Perazzo and Ed Kosiur. Whoever wins those seats will serve the remainder of their terms.
Incumbent City Council President John Mootooveren and council members Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas and Marion Porterfield are all seeking re-election. The others who are planning to run are Thearse McCalmon, Carl Williams and Haileab Samuel.
All three incumbent lawmakers head into spring with the support of the city Democratic Committee, which formally endorsed the slate last week. The committee has also endorsed Williams and Samuel for the two vacancies, though the council has not acted to fill those vacancies.