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Former Democratic Acting Mayor, Rensselaer Common Council President Rich Mooney Joins Mayoral Race

Sabrina Flores

Former acting Rensselaer Mayor Rich Mooney is trying to win the job back.

Voters elected Republican Mike Stammel mayor in a November 2019 special election. Mooney had served as Acting Mayor for about a year following the death of then-Democratic Mayor Dan Dwyer.

"When I was mayor, the city of Rensselaer had momentum building for it, taking off, doing well. And what I see now, looking in, it seems like Rensselaer has just crawled off the tracks. We're at a standstill. Things are stale. We don't have any momentum, no excitement in the city. I wanna change that."

Also a Democrat, Mooney, a former common council president, says he would make the city a cleaner and greener and safer place to live. He says he wants to provide opportunities for new development and growth to expand the tax base.

Mooney says his plans include dealing with the controversial Dunn landfill.

"If elected, I would continue to work with DEC. The mayor of the city does not have the authority to close that landfill. I think this mayor realized that, so you have to work with DEC, work with your state agencies, and come up with a plan on how to shut down that landfill."

Mayor Stammel has butted heads with the Democrat-led common council over holding two political positions, one as mayor and one as a Rensselaer County legislator. Stammel says both jobs are part-time and he has no trouble handling them. The Council has adopted a local law, overriding Stammel's veto, barring Stammel from running for both positions this year.

Mooney says nobody should hold two offices at the same time and pledges he will work together with the Common Council.

"There's some things going in Rensselaer that have caught my attention. One big one being this mayor and the council not being able to work together, the mayor telling his department heads not to work with the council. And that's just not a good way to govern. We need to work together in this time of, we're in a pandemic, we got the mayor against the council is it's just not a good thing for our city."

Stammel says he wants to welcome Mooney back into the mayoral contest.

“You know, I assure I'm disappointed that he wanted to start his campaign off on negative remarks about myself, you know, some of my take rather personally, and I don't think there's a place for that in, you know, small local government or any government. As far as that goes, you know, Mr. Mooney talked about wanting to run a cleaner and greener race. Well, you know, cleaner and greener isn't bringing in biotech that's going to bring more garbage trucks into the city. Cleaner and greener is not Dunn landfill that he promotes because of the dollar value that he would get out of it, not the quality of life that the residents are looking for. So you know, he always looked outside the circle, obviously, to bring in money but he never thought about the people that he was representing, and that's why he didn't win the last election. And I would hope that he doesn't win the next election and I will do everything within my power to defeat them again.”

Mooney points out being mayor of Rensselaer is a part-time position. He adds he holds a full-time job. Mooney has worked for the New York State Assembly Speaker’s Communication Department for just over three decades and doesn't believe that would impact his duties as mayor.

"Going forward I just want to bring, get Rensselaer back on track. We come off the rails and it's time to move forward, whether it be infrastructure upgrades, moving on developing our waterfront. We have a lot of open land at the waterfront. We need to develop that ,and working with the council, together, we can do that."

Stammel says he’s made up his mind and is up for the challenge.

“The Attorney General sure made it clear that I can hold both positions. I am just going to run for the mayor of the city of Rensselaer.”

A spokesman says Mooney will also seek the Working Families Party nomination.

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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