6 candidates in Schenectady City Council run
SCHENECTADY As campaign season begins, expect to see a woman dressed all in orange strolling down city streets.
Republican Mary McClaine is catching attention with her orange hat, orange floor-length apron and orange shirt.
“I’m visibly telling people that I’m doing this to promote tourism, to get a fresh influx of new money so we can get serious about lowering taxes on our homes,” she said.
MCCLAINE: ‘depend on creativity’
Orange highlights the city’s Dutch roots. The official name of the Dutch royal house is Orange-Nassau.
McClaine also knows the outfit is eye-catching.
“I tell them I’m Mary McClaine, running for office, and I want to be noticed,” she said.
There’s substance to her campaign as well. She is arguing that the Democrats, who hold a 6-1 majority on the council, spend too much.
Among her calculations: the city could have saved $200,000 by delaying replacement of its retired police chief for a year, no longer putting fluoride in the drinking water and ending medical insurance for part-time elected officials.
“And I’m going to have visual aids to let them see how it happens. It adds up,” she said. “I am going to depend on creativity and shoe leather to get my message across.”
PORTERFIELD focus: jobs
On the other side, Democrat and Councilwoman Marion Porterfield has spent many days crunching numbers and doing research to find jobs for city residents.
Next month, Porterfield and Better Neighborhoods Inc. will open Job Matching Pathways.
“People need to be employed,” Porterfield said. “When you try to transform a community, it takes brick and mortar, but it also takes people who can provide for their family. It helps bring up neighborhoods, it helps us all around.”
Porterfield campaigned last year on a message of getting people employed. Since then, she’s come to several conclusions.
It’s clear there are many available jobs, she said, so she could match them with unemployed residents.
But she thinks many people are mistakenly following the “apply and wait” technique, rather than applying to many jobs at once.
She also thinks many people are missing out on unadvertised jobs. Employed people tend to have far more robust networks to find out about those jobs, so her program includes a networking club.
She also wanted a more flexible program than the county’s One Stop job center. It will be open evenings.
Republican Joseph Lazzari is also focusing on the neighborhoods.
The one-time bike officer is still cycling around the city. Lazzari was a police officer for 26 years, and he’s found that people still remember him.
“If I can’t help them as a police officer any more, maybe I can help as an elected official,” he said. “I want to do what I can to help the neighborhoods.”
He’s talked with residents and business owners about how to improve their security, but it hasn’t been a major issue, he said. He’s still searching for his main cause in the campaign.
“I’m just getting my feet wet,” he said.
He’s researching questionable decisions the council made, particularly the Democrats’ caucus meetings — at which they can exclude non-Democratic Councilman Vince Riggi — and the recent decision to give Galesi Group $500,000 to knock down the former DSS building, which Galesi bought.
He also might join Riggi’s fight against litter.
“I want to clean up the city, that’s for sure,” Lazzari said. “I am very anti, anti litter. I don’t care how poor you are, there’s no excuse for that.”
Democrat and Councilman Carl Erikson wants to improve the look of the city by replacing more sidewalks, curbs and roads.
“You want to draw people in, to see this is the place to be, to raise a family,” he said. “You do that with curbs and sidewalks, investing in the infrastructure.”
To balance the expensive concrete against the city’s limited funds, Erikson said he votes to repair city trucks and other equipment rather than regularly buying new.
“People want to sell you a new unit,” he said. “If you maintain, it takes some investment, but not a huge investment. You can make repairs that will extend their life 5 years, 10 years.”
And then the city could spend money on sidewalks.
“The neighborhoods need that visual impact,” Erikson said.
Erikson recently helped delay the purchase of new garbage trucks.
“It’s about making smart decisions,” he said.
But he has not been successful in persuading his colleagues to spend the savings on sidewalks. The council has consistently voted to pave more roads instead of sidewalks.
KELLEHER: CUT SPENDING
Republican Joseph Kelleher would prefer to find places to stop spending altogether.
“The City Council majority is using the taxpayers more or less as an ATM,” he said. “My goal is to control the taxes and stop them from going up.”
He criticized the $9,000 raise proposed for Ed Waterfield, who may become the city’s next assessor.
“We’re paying more money for someone to do the exact same job,” he said.
As he has campaigned door-to-door, he found residents were more than just unhappy with the taxes.
“They’re ready to jump ship,” he said. “They don’t want to stay in Schenectady anymore because the taxes are going up and up. It’s unsustainable.”
He wants to increase revenues to balance new expenses. Among his ideas: make a bigger push to collect old parking tickets and use that money to buy the new parking meters, which cost $120,000.
And he would work on school taxes, too.
“I’d make every effort to talk with the state and work with [schools Superintendent] Larry Spring to get the state funding we deserve,” he said.
MOOTOOVEREN: CUT tAXES
Democrat John Mootooveren also wants the city to work more closely with the school district. He said a better graduation rate would help the whole city, and he wants the city to encourage community-based organizations to find after-school and summer programs.
Mootooveren is campaigning for the second time, after being narrowly defeated in 2011.
This time he’s focusing on lowering property taxes.
“I believe this is vital to Schenectady’s success,” he said. “Property tax in Schenectady is a burden on homeowners. Many families are working long hours to pay taxes and are spending less time with their children. Lower taxes will also reduce the foreclosure rate in Schenectady and keep people in their house.”
To cut taxes, Mootooveren said he would cut back on spending and enforce city laws, which often bring in revenue.
“Instead of more spending, the focus should be on getting spending and compliance under control,” he said.
He also wants to eliminate unnecessary regulations to free businesses to grow and create jobs, which he said would set Schenectady “on a fiscal path to greater economic certainty.”