Schenectady began the year 2014 with the inauguration of a diverse City Council that now includes a member of the city’s Guyanese-American community.
“This is a day of many firsts,” said City Court Judge Mark Blanchfield before swearing in new council member John Mootooveren, the first Guyanese-American to be seated on the council.
Blanchfield recognized the city government’s second “first,” Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, the first black woman to be elected to the city’s Democrat-dominated council.
Following a nomination by Councilwoman Denise Brucker, who announced plans to leave the council in 2014, Councilwoman Margaret King received a unanimous vote to serve as council president. King served as the council’s president during 2013.
The new council also named Charles Thorne as city clerk and designated The Daily Gazette as the city’s official newspaper .
Mootooveren, 41, attended Wednesday’s organizational meeting of the council with an entourage of about 20 friends and family members.
He promised city residents, “I’m ready to start working on your behalf.”
“I am truly grateful to have taken the oath of office and to be your newest city council person,” Mootooveren said, reading from a prepared statement.
He thanked God, his family and his political supporters
“I am blessed to have benefit[ted] from all their talented experience. I could not have done it without your help,” Mootooveren said.
Mootooveren would not speak with a reporter from The Daily Gazette before or after the inauguration nor during and after a cookies and punch celebration downstairs at City Hall.
State Sen. Celelia Tkaczyk performed a swearing-in for Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who offered gratitude to God, supporters and asked residents in the council chambers to keep her informed.
“I’d like to hear from you on a regular basis. My job is to be a public servant to you and I take that very seriously,” Porterfield said.
Porterfield offered a modified title of a Bonnie Raitt song as the city’s theme for 2014: “Let’s give ’em something positive to talk about.”
Also sworn in was Councilman Carl Erikson, now entering his first full four-year term.
Erikson expressed gratitude to citizens who went to the polls in November.
He said many people sit with their friends and talk about government, complain about it and discuss how things can be done better.
“But a lot of people don’t participate. So if you took the time this year to go to the polls and took the time to vote, than you’ve taken the first step in making our government and our community a better place.”
He said he expects to continue asking numerous questions.
Doing so sometimes lengthens meetings, he said, but he believes bringing questions out in the open provides residents with a better understanding of how decisions are made.
“Sometimes, we don’t have the choice between a good option and a bad option, we have the choice between a bad option and a less bad option,” Erikson said.
Council President King said the city saw some success in 2013 — selling 21 foreclosed properties and getting another 41 listed on the real estate market.
A renovation project for Erie Boulevard is well under way and she described the city’s downtown as “a place people want to be. ”
“I look forward to continuing to address the issues we face, including greater equity in the state aid we receive, increased consolidation of services in the county, and quality-of-life issues in our neighborhoods,” King said in a prepared statement.
• Montgomery County inaugurated a new county Legislature under a change in county government approved by voters in 2012. The county, situated west of Schenectady County, shifted from a 15-member Board of Supervisors to a nine-member County Legislature. Voters in November chose Matthew Ossenfort to serve as county executive.
• The city of Amsterdam inaugurated several new officials Wednesday, including Controller Matthew Agresta. Newly-elected council members Diane Hatzenbuhler, Eddie Russo and Ron Barone were all sworn in during a ceremony at City Hall.
• The city of Albany welcomed new Mayor Kathy Sheehan, the city’s first female mayor. Sheehan replaces longtime Mayor Jerry Jennings, who served five terms over 20 years.