A city council benefits most from members who have a diverse background and proven experience serving their community who are not afraid to speak up and share their views, even if those views might be unpopular.
So when voters in Schenectady go to the polls on Tuesday to fill three seats on the City Council from a field of six candidates, they should choose the people who best represent that type of individual.
For us, that’s Marion Porterfield, Dammoni Farley and John Mootooveren.
Marion Porterfield, who is finishing up her first full term on the council, brings with her many years of experience in the private and public sector and in the political realm. Most importantly, she’s been active in the community, helping women find their way into the work force, helping struggling individuals become self-sufficient by boosting their economic stature, standing up for women and minorities, and serving as an ambassador and advocate for constituents in her neighborhood.
During her five years on the council, she’s continued to be an accessible voice for the less-fortunate, encouraging citizens to speak up just as she did when she stood on the other side of the council table. She continues to speak out on the negative impacts of the casino on crime and poorer residents. She’s pushed for more economic development in the neighborhoods, removing blighted buildings and fixing up sidewalks.
Dammoni Farley, who is seeking his first term on the council, has similar experience serving the community, with a particular focus on families and children, cultural activities, education and helping citizens obtain affordable housing. As a council member, he vows to push for more economic funding for neighborhoods to keep the city from turning into Atlantic City, with its poor neighborhoods surrounding the casino area. He’s lived throughout the city during his lifetime, so he’s familiar with all the residents and their issues. He’s a strong supporter of community policing and helping bridge the disconnect between officers and the people they serve.
The H.O.M.E.S. homeownership task force of which he is a member, he said, is underused. He advocates for people being given the opportunity to purchase homes and fix up their properties, and believes a strong code-enforcement effort is important to making sure buildings are safe and appealing. He also wants to encourage more people to become engaged in government and the community. Given his enthusiasm, and background, he’s clearly poised to accomplish that.
John Mootooveren, like the others, feels investing in the neighborhoods and broadening the city’s tax base are key to the continued revitalization of the city. He would accomplish that by attracting investment with tax breaks such as limited PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), attacking foreclosures and finding ways to help people to stay in their houses and pay their taxes.
One such way to help residents is his support of a waiver on certain city permit fees for home upgrades. On the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, he supports gradually replacing pipes and equipment over time to avoid a giant expense.
We wish he’d be more aggressive on challenging city spending, and we’re not sure he fully appreciates the level of crime in the city, as evidenced by his questioning the value of a recent state report showing Schenectady County with the state’s highest crime rate.
The other three candidates in the race, first-term incumbent Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, Mohamed Hafez and Rima Cerrone all bring a variety of backgrounds and experiences to the council. Zalewski-Wildzunas has banking and real estate experience that’s been valuable to the council in setting the prices on the sale of properties, but she’s hasn’t been as much of an independent voice on the council as we’d hoped. Hafez is a vocal advocate and council critic. But we don’t agree with his stance that the city is too aggressive on code enforcement. In fact, the city should be even more aggressive. And Cerrone is involved in the city helping kids, veterans, fighting the drug problem and in her local neighborhood watch program. But she needs to get a better grasp of the issues and potential solutions before she serves on the council.
Overall, there are six viable candidates for Schenectady City Council on Tuesday.
Of those, Marion Porterfield, Dammoni Farley and John Mootooveren outdistance the field.