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Casino, environment discussed at Schenectady mayoral forum

Casino, environment discussed at Schenectady mayoral forum

Roger Hull said that if elected mayor he would implement a single-stream recycling program, while Ga
Casino, environment discussed at Schenectady mayoral forum
Spectators look on during the Schenectady mayoral candidate forum hosted by the League of Conservation Voters Monday evening in the Robb Alley Room at Proctors.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Roger Hull said that if elected mayor he would implement a single-stream recycling program, while Gary McCarthy said he is working on a plan for LED lighting citywide.

The Schenectady mayoral candidates participated in their first forum hosted by the League of Conservation Voters Monday evening, responding to questions focused on the environment and, of course, the casino that will be built along the Mohawk River at the old Alco site. Hull answered questions for the first hour and McCarthy responded to the same questions the second hour.

Hull, the former Union College president, said 8 percent of people in the city recycle. He said he would like to see that percentage go up to at least 50 percent. Hull pointed to single-stream recycling as a solution.

“We set up recycling at the college in 1991 before it was fashionable,” he said. “I spend some time every day picking up the trash. The most important thing is we have a great community that can be made better. The best way to change it is to engage everyone.”

McCarthy, who is seeking a second term, said he is in discussions with Cisco to install LED lighting citywide to help cut down on energy costs and better manage the city’s resources.

“The lights would dim and brighten on sensors so it adds a security feature,” he said. “They are also all Wi-Fi-enabled. It will create a Wi-Fi network within the community.”

McCarthy said a formal announcement on the project is expected in a couple of weeks. The city was also awarded $100,000 from the state in July to study establishing a microgrid to expand power distribution, he said.

Casino

Hull said he doesn’t understand the need for an 80-foot-tall casino pylon sign, while McCarthy said he believes it will be a community asset.

“Why does one need to have a sign that size? It’s not like people are going to be unaware of where the casino is,” Hull said.

The sign, including a 32-foot digital display, will be situated at the entrance of the Mohawk Harbor site off Erie Boulevard. The final design of the sign is expected to be discussed during the city Planning Commission’s Oct. 21 meeting.

“It’s smaller than the [General Electric] sign, which is a symbol of the city,” McCarthy said. “LED signs can also manage electricity much better. It also won’t only promote the casino but also cross-market, like with shows at Proctors.”

If elected mayor, Hull said, he would not be “a secretive mayor,” adding that he believes the mayor and City Council have an obligation to keep the public informed.

The Daily Gazette reported in June and July that the city Planning Commission held closed meetings with the casino project’s architects and developers prior to regularly scheduled public meetings.

The nine-member commission did not violate the state Open Meetings Law by avoiding a quorum of five members, labeling the meetings as “subcommittee meetings.”

“There would not be closed meetings or any attempt to circumvent the Open Meetings Law,” Hull said. “People have a right to know what is happening. I understand the casino is very controversial and is coming, and I would work to make it work.”

McCarthy said the process has been “fairly open,” with six public hearings and opportunity for public comment, which he said resulted in changes to the casino’s previous design proposals.

“I don’t want to create artificial barriers,” he said. “I want Schenectady to be an open government and an open community. I don’t mind the public debate or discussion. We want projects that will reflect well on the community as a whole.”

Flooding

Stockade homeowner Meredith Anker is looking to raise her Washington Avenue home by 7 feet and push it back 20 feet to move it out of the 100-year flood plain. The Historic District Commission has tabled a decision on the project four times.

The seven-member commission stressed that it does not have enough information or the expertise to vote yes or no. Members said their decision would set a precedent for historic homes statewide.

Hull said that if mayor, he would sit down with all the players involved and work to come up with the best answer.

“I don’t have the answer and I’m not going to pretend that I do,” he said. “Should we deal with Lock 7? Others have different views. We should bring everyone in a room and get an agreement.”

McCarthy said he is looking to get money from the state to do a comprehensive study of the flooding issues facing the Stockade after tropical storms Irene and Lee.

“Some problems evolve from the federal flood insurance program, which at one time was more comprehensive to allow a community to bounce back from major events,” he said.

Election

McCarthy said he believes City Hall has a good team in place and that city employees are working together to make the community better.

In his opening statement, he ran through statistics of the city’s record while mayor:

--Modified the wastewater treatment plant, saving the city $30,000 a month in electrical costs.

-- Paved more than 26 miles of streets using hot asphalt recycling.

--Installed one of the largest municipal solar arrays in the state.

-- Demolished about 100 blighted buildings.

“We have put in place a fairly comprehensive record,” he said. “We have stabilized the city’s finances and have a plan in place to knock down the worst of the worst properties, and we’re investing in our parks.”

McCarthy is running on the Democratic, Independence, Working Families and Women’s Equality party lines in the general election. Since the beginning of the year, he has raised about $85,000.

Hull said that while president of Union College, he pulled the school out of “deep financial difficulty,” raised money to preserve the Nott Memorial and expanded the college’s footprint.

If elected mayor, Hull said he would be looking for feedback and suggestions from local residents regarding the issues facing the city.

“I would ask people on January 1 to give me one piece of paper with a problem and an answer to that problem,” he said. “I want to engage people and have them feel they are part of the answer.”

Hull narrowly lost to McCarthy for mayor in 2011. This year, he is running on the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines. Since Jan. 1 Hull has received nearly $50,000 in contributions.

The Daily Gazette is hosting a debate between Hull and McCarthy on Oct. 7 from 7–8:30 p.m. at Proctors’ GE Theater. The event is free to attend.

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