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What you need to know for 08/23/2017

Schenectady panels to seek casino zoning input

Schenectady panels to seek casino zoning input

Just in case a casino developer files a proposal to build in Schenectady, the City Council and Plann

Just in case a casino developer files a proposal to build in Schenectady, the City Council and Planning Commission are scheduling public meetings on the topic.

They need to decide whether to approve the zoning change needed to allow a casino at the former Alco site.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said a zoning change is just a starting point.

“This is just us being proactive,” he said. “If it were to happen, we’ve done our homework.”

The Planning Commission will discuss the issue on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The City Council hasn’t scheduled a discussion yet, but it would likely be held after the Planning Commission makes a recommendation regarding the zoning change needed to allow a casino.

It is not at all certain that a developer will apply to open a casino in Schenectady, and even if one does, the state may not grant a license. But several casino developers have toured the Alco site to consider it.

Council members did not discuss whether they would support the zone change for a casino.

But they did take up the issue of affirmative action.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield received 23 resumes from people interested in restarting the defunct Affirmative Action Advisory Committee. However, some of them were not city residents, and of the residents, only two were white.

Councilman Ed Kosiur said that was a problem.

“I have concerns, obviously,” he said. “If we’re doing affirmative action, we need diversity both ways. I think we need to have a fair representation across the board.”

The board, which was designed decades ago, is to have one to two members representing minority interests, one to two representing the disabled, two representing women and two representing Latinos, as well as an at-large member interested in diversity.

Thus, non-minorities could be appointed to five of the nine seats. Kosiur said having only two white members would not be fair.

Porterfield suggested it would be, and noted that she got a total of four resumes from whites. Two of those people live outside the city.

The mayor rejected them, saying he would only appoint city residents.

Kosiur called for more whites to submit resumes, and the mayor said he would continue to accept resumes.

Porterfield did not object, but argued that everyone had an equal chance to apply.

“We didn’t say, ‘You can’t apply.’ This was the response,” she said. “Are you suggesting we somehow solicit non-minorities?”

The council plans to move ahead next week with a vote on the wording for the advisory committee, which would allow the committee to continue to run with as few as seven members or as many as nine.

After that vote, the mayor could appoint members at any time. He said he expects to make those appointments next month.

In other business, the council decided to discuss by email the controversial Community Development Block Grant budget.

Every year, the decision on how to spend the federal grant on various city departments and non-profit groups is fraught with public compromise and debate.

But this year, council members said they would prefer to email their ideas to Council President Margaret King.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo also asked if discussion could be held behind closed doors, but learned that would be illegal under the state’s Open Meetings Law.

King said she would accept the emails, at least as a starting point. In past years, she has called each member to discuss their CDBG proposals.

“Send me your ideas, everybody, and we’ll begin some dialogue,” she said.

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