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A Look At Troy, Schenectady City Council Races Tuesday

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Composite photo by Dave Lucas/WAMC
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City Council races in Schenectady and Troy could shift political balances in those cities.

In Troy, a current Rensselaer County legislator is making a bid for City Council President: Democrat Gary Pavlic is challenging sitting Republican President Carmella Mantello, who explained how the new charter is impacting politics this year.   "Two years ago, the highest vote-getter at-large automatically becomes council president. Well now, through the voters, we have a new charter in place, they eliminated two at-large seats. So now it's head-to-head. There's only one at-large seat, so this is history, believe it or not, the first time the people of Troy will elect, directly elect, a council president."

Pavlic says he's drawn up an action plan in anticipation of a win.   "Well, first of all I'll meet with the mayor, unlike my opponent, who hasn't met with him since last August. So he'll hear from me what the people are thinking, what direction the people think the city should go in. I think he needs that communication. And we'll have an open communication, so I'll meet with him as often as I need to, so we can find a direction forward.  We'll compromise. We'll do whatever we need to do to move the city in the right direction."

Troy has had its share of financial troubles and infrastructure woes over the last year or two. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office recently pronounced Mayor Patrick Madden's $73.6 million budget plan for 2018 "reasonable," but noted that the budget may depend on contentious new garbage fees, which Mantello branded "a hidden tax."

Over in Schenectady, where the council is currently controlled by Democrats and one Independent, six candidates are running for councilor seats. Incumbent Democrats Marion Porterfield, Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, and John Mootooveren are running for re-election. But there's been a schism involving the council's Democratic majority.

Majority Leader Ed Kosiur could assume the council presidency come January, after an effort with the assistance of fellow Democrats to fast-track the budget, adopting it ahead of current council president Leesa Perazzo's timetable.

Fallout includes Perazzo endorsing Working Families Party candidate Damonni Farley, a community activist and community relations coordinator for Schenectady City Schools.

Farley, who is a registered Democrat, brought suit against the Schenectady County Board of Elections, after an objection to Farley’s petition signatures by the Democratic Party. His suit was dismissed, but the move prevented a Democratic primary.  During an October debate Farley explained he is devoted to  bettering people’s lives in the city.   "It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. And if we’re talking about all of these great things that we’re doing in the city but the people don’t feel them, if the people can’t say that ‘my life has gotten better,’ if the people can’t say that ‘my neighborhood is safer,’ then all we’re doing is talking."

Porterfield has been on the council five years.  "There’s a lot of diversity in our neighborhoods, and I would also suggest that perhaps we could have something called implicit bias training, which will help us to better understand all of the different cultures and ethnicities that make up our city."

Among challengers seeking to better the Electric Cty, Republican Rima Cerrone advocates for “healthy two-party competition.”  "When you do have both parties involved, you open up a dialogue, come up with better solutions because it forces debate. With a broader spectrum of city council people sharing different perspectives to enrich conversation, better solutions will be generated for our city."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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