Whatever happened to “working together works?” The battle cry of the Schenectady County Democrats since they took control of the city and county governments several years ago seems all but lost when it comes to the subject of police consolidation, which Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton is in favor of but no one else wants to go near with a 10-foot billy club.
Actually, all Stratton wants to do at this point is study the idea, and this week he secured a $45,000 state matching grant to have a Columbia University research team determine whether combining the various police agencies and county sheriff’s department makes sense.
Politically, the answer seems to be a resounding no for suburban legislators — at least on the surface. The Schenectady Police Department is fraught with problems, of course, so let the city suffer with it. That’s been the very vocal opinion expressed by at least a few county legislators, including Chairwoman Susan Savage, ever since Stratton raised the idea of a study last year, and Savage jumped all over it again Tuesday: “The problems ... are unique to the city... the other communities in our county are not experiencing those problems. A shared services agreement isn’t going to fix the city’s problems but could move the problems to the towns ...”
Sounds a lot more like “us against them,” than “working together works.”
Why not wait to see the results of the study — which the city is paying the other $45,000 for — before making up your mind? Why not see what kinds of financial assistance might be available from the state? A subsidy of several million dollars might make consolidation a lot more palatable. After all, the county may not have law enforcement problems, but it certainly has financial ones. So do most of the towns. It’s entirely possible that Andrew Cuomo, who strongly favors incentives for consolidations of this sort, will be governor a year from now, and he may make the county an offer it can’t refuse.
But Savage and County Attorney Chris Gardner seem more intent on trashing the idea before it’s even out of the starting gate. That not only bodes ill for this issue but other areas where cooperation between the city and county could be productive.
It’s been clear for years that the city needs help with its embattled police department. “Getting involved” may not seem like the politically expedient thing to do for county legislators or town politicians, but helping the city solve this problem is no less important to the county’s future than solving Schenectady’s downtown problem was a decade ago. “Working together” worked then; it needs to be tried again. A study is a sound first step.