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New Schenectady councilman steps into office, controversy

New Schenectady councilman steps into office, controversy

The newest city council member ignited a brief controversy Monday night, when he was sworn in before

The newest city council member ignited a brief controversy Monday night, when he was sworn in before the public got a chance to comment on his appointment.

Carl Erikson, a Goose Hill resident, is replacing Mark Blanchfield on the City Council. Blanchfield was appointed a City Court judge last month and returned to the chambers Monday to swear in his replacement.

Erikson, a Democrat, must run for office this fall. But given the lack of Republican candidates at previous elections, and the overwhelming margin of registered Democratic voters in the city, he is widely expected to win.

So residents objected to the secretive way in which the Democratic Committee chose him, saying that under such circumstances the choice should be as transparent as an election campaign.

“There is no rush to fill the Council vacancy,” said Mary McClaine, who has sought the Democratic endorsement in the past. “Postpone the appointment until everyone who is interested in the position is given an opportunity to submit a resume and be properly interviewed by the city Democrats.”

Resident P.D. Voorhis agreed, saying that at the very least the council should have made Erikson’s resume public at Monday’s meeting.

“I do believe a resume is in order,” she said. “I didn’t know what your fit would be on the council, what you bring to the table.”

She added that she did not even know whether he was a Democrat or a Republican, since it had not been announced.

“I think we’re entitled to know that,” she said.

McClaine said Erikson is unqualified — though she offered no specifics.

This was shot down by Councilwoman Margaret King, who said Erikson’s financial background — he negotiated supply contracts for GE — would be “a real asset.”

“You are infinitely qualified to be on the council,” she told Erikson.

Council President Gary McCarthy, who denied McClaine’s request to speak before the council appointed Erikson, also told him to disregard her criticism.

“You’ll learn the more you’re criticized by Mary McClaine, the reaction from the voters is in the inverse,” he said.

Voorhis defended McClaine at once, saying, “That was completely uncalled for.”

Erikson introduced himself to the audience by saying that he’ll focus on taxes.

“We should spend every tax dollar as if it’s our last,” he said, calling that his first priority.

Improving the city neighborhoods — particularly with new sidewalks, streets and trees — is also a priority, he said.

He impressed one regular council critic. Harry Brand told him to stick to his guns on both priorities.

“By God I hope you stand by them and wake up some of these other people,” he said, referring to the rest of the council. “Our city taxes are completely out of control.”

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