The city of Amsterdam’s got a long road back.
Few will argue that.
But every journey starts with a single step. And under the leadership of Mayor Mike Villa, the city finally appears to be moving in the right direction.
In 2016, Villa, a former police detective and the son of a former mayor, took over a city that was showing potential, but that needed a more aggressive approach to fixing its problems.
When he got in office, he did something that a lot of politicians don’t do.
He kept his promises.
He pledged to be more aggressive than the previous administration at addressing the city’s problems with its budget, economic development and blight. He’s done that with some success.
He promised to restore cooperation and a spirit of unity to city government, where public feuding among council members was the rule.
He promised to make the government operate more efficiently. He’s doing that.
In endorsing Villa’s opponent in 2015, we compared the city’s progress to a bottle of thick catsup. We said that was OK, given the city’s mountain of needs.
But since Day 1, Villa has been vigorously pounding the bottom of the bottle trying to get whatever he can out of it as fast as possible, and it’s starting to pay off, with the growth around the pedestrian bridge over the Mohawk River, more foreclosures on delinquent properties and a new $10 million state downtown revitalization grant.
Despite the efforts, city finances are still in horrible shape, but they’re at least no longer in such disarray.
Residents will have to pay for the problems of the past through a period of higher taxes, in part to close an $8 million budget deficit, regardless of who the next mayor is.
Attracting new business, building upon tourism efforts, changing the city’s image and developing a new comprehensive plan will speed up the recovery.
Villa’s opponent in this race is Mike Cinquanti, a local businessman, historian and former school board member.
He seeks to bring a businessman’s approach to city budgeting and management, while building relationships and generating ideas among city residents.
But while his goals are laudable, he isn’t offering any specific ideas for improving the city. With so many urgent needs to address, the slow catsup thing just isn’t going to work.
Villa has brought energy, attention to detail and a results-oriented approach to the mayor’s office.
Amsterdam has a long road ahead of it. Mike Villa is the mayor the city needs at the front of the pack.