When Gary McCarthy became Schenectady City Council president in January, he brought his usual intelligence and no-nonsense attitude, as well as a promise to focus on some of the city’s obvious problems: school district, police department, code enforcement. Attention has been paid and progress made in at least the first two areas. But with his position also comes a responsibility to act more like a mature leader than a petty dictator, and McCarthy isn’t doing very well in that regard. Eventually it could interfere with what he hopes to accomplish.
One example is the sarcastic comments he makes about speakers during privilege-of-the-floor periods of council meetings. McCarthy may think his remarks and asides are amusing, and sometimes they are. And some of the speakers can certainly say foolish things, over and over, and be annoying. (If they’re totally off point or out of control, they can and should be gavelled.) But they don’t deserve to be treated so derisively by the council president, who has a public relations as well as policy role to play. The speakers don’t appreciate it, and neither do many of those who watch the council meetings on cable access Channel 16.
Which brings us to another McCarthy problem: SACC TV. While chairman of the board of SACC, longtime operator of public access television in Schenectady, McCarthy last year helped engineer its transfer to Proctors. We think that will turn out to be a good thing, giving the station more resources, better management and fund-raising capacity; and also allowing it to improve the quality of its offerings, something McCarthy has long advocated.
But the transition hasn’t been smooth and McCarthy is now involved (and trying to get the city council involved) in a battle with SACC, whose new board recently decided to withhold money promised to Proctors from the sale of its building. Their principal concern, seemingly unwarranted, is that with new requirements for training and quality, the concept of public access will be lost.
But McCarthy doesn’t ease their concerns, or make himself look good, when he cuts off funding and unceremoniously fires someone like John Harnden. For 22 years Harnden has done an excellent job broadcasting the popular city council meetings on Channel 16, even using his own money to buy cameras.
Harnden is a member of SACC, and can also be quite difficult to deal with, which may be the main reason why McCarthy wanted to get rid of him. But like the speakers at the council meetings, he shouldn’t be treated so shabbily. There are better, more gracious, more politic ways of doing things and handling people, and McCarthy needs to start employing them if he wants Schenectadians to respect and trust him.