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Editorial: Schenectady council must use time off wisely

Editorial: Schenectady council must use time off wisely

OK to use city council members as code enforcers for summer, so long as they do it

The Schenectady City Council’s plan to suspend half its meetings this summer, with members using their Mondays off to individually view the city’s inventory of some 200 neglected properties, is intriguing. Though essentially a no-confidence vote in the city’s code enforcement bureaucracy, it does have the potential to help solve one of the city’s most intractable problems.

What it must not be is an excuse for council members to goof off. They’re paid to do their jobs, which in large part includes going to meetings, and reducing the number of those meetings by exactly half is a somewhat extraordinary step.

On the other hand, if council members use the time as they say they will — each visiting 30 or so of the city’s most notoriously dilapidated properties, contacting their owners and in other ways working to get them fixed up — it will certainly be worth it.

As City Council President Gary McCarthy noted at the beginning of his term, neighborhoods remain one the city’s biggest sore spots. (McCarthy did a decent job addressing another of those sore spots — the state of the city’s schools — by influencing the recent school board election.) Turning the most deteriorated neighborhoods around won’t be easy, but the task probably starts with getting the most dilapidated houses in those neighborhoods fixed up or torn down.

McCarthy admits that his effort thus far has yet to bear fruit, so an extreme measure like this may be what it takes.

McCarthy should make clear to his colleagues that he expects progress reports at the meetings that will be held over the course of the summer. At the same time, he should consider working with Mayor Stratton to address the deficiencies in the code enforcement department that have allowed these properties to slide to the extent that they have.

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