McCarthy-Hull Debate Schenectady Issues
With the election day countdown clock ticking, the candidates for mayor of Schenectady went head-to-head last night in a debate on Time Warner Cable.
Incumbent Gary McCarthy and challenger Roger Hull squared off in a spirited discussion, trading barbs on a variety of issues including public education, neighborhoods, the coming casino and crime.
The candidates seemed to agree that current education funding formulas don't channel enough money to Schenectady, and the path to fixing that lies in developing better working relationships with state lawmakers.
McCarthy, a Democrat, criticized Hull's plan to institute a mentoring program with the intention of improving high school graduation rates. "You have strong support on the Board of Education, and again, you just don't seem to be able to implement some of these things in a manner that produces real results."
Hull, who served as Union College president from 1990 to 2005 and narrowly lost to McCarthy four years ago, pulled no punches slamming McCarthy's Homes program, which is supposed to make the home-buying process easy and lure more owner-occupants to the Electric City. Hull says it is simply "not working." "Fact of the matter is, property values have fallen 20 percent in the past four years."
Hull says, save for the State Street corridor, many neighborhoods reflect poorly on the city. "You do not get a second chance to make a first impression. And people coming into Schenectady through those other routes do not have a very good first impression."
MCarthy says he is working on neighborhood growth and development. "And we are creating opportunities not only in downtown, but throughout the city."
Part of that downtown revitalization is the Rivers Casino: Here's McCarthy's take, then Hull's. "It will create roughly 1,200 new jobs. We're very fortunate Rush Gaming is a real estate developer, so that they are in the casino business, but they see their role in a much bigger capacity within the city of Schenectady, where they wanna cross-market with Proctors." "My feeling so far as the casino is concerned is I would have preferred that we make sure that of those 1,200 jobs that are coming, a percentage were guaranteed for people in the city of Schenectady. I also would have preferred an agreement that would have enabled us to know exactly what's coming in terms of real property taxes."
When talk turned to public safety, Hull said 1 in 20 people in the past year was the victim of a crime in Schenectady. He recited a laundry list of statistics to back his stance. "We're the seventh most dangerous city in the state of New York. We have had a 74 percent increase in shootings. A 77 percent increase in drug-related crimes. An 84 percent increase in the percentage of people who were drug felons who committed a crime again."
Hull has a package of reforms including eliminating the public safety commissioner position to pay for putting four additional police officers on the beat. " We need more police on the street and I want to see more community policing."
McCarthy countered, stating firmly "crime is down." "We continue to work in an aggressive manner. Sometimes Roger's numbers are hard to find where he's coming from. The drug crimes are actually, he references, I believe, are much more pro-active, really an endorsement of the policing, where we've done more aggressive interdiction and made drug arrests."
In short, Hull envisions change. He believes he is the best man for the job. "I want to lead the turnaround of Schenectady."
Meantime McCarthy says much of the work has already been done. "I look back at the last four years with a sense of pride."
Voters have their say come next Tuesday. Audio of the debate is courtesy Time Warner Cable News.