Albany’s Mayoral Candidates Discuss Pressing City Issues As Campaign Season Nears
Candidates for mayor of Albany are discussing several critical issues facing the city.
In March, primary challenger Valerie Faust told WAMC second-term Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan can be defeated, if only voters would "wake up" and give someone else a chance.
Several hopefuls have since jumped into the race. The challengers are developing their campaigns and all agree the gun violence that has plagued Albany has to be stopped.
Entertainer Greg Aidala, who grew up in the West Hill neighborhood, announced his candidacy in January. The independent was one of the first on the scene May 21st when an innocent bystander was killed in a mass-shooting at the corner of First and Quail. He says resolving gun violence and civil unrest should put projects like the Albany Skyway on the back burner. Aidala says public officials need to be accountable by showing up at situations to foster trust and solidarity. He discussed unrest outside the police station in Albany’s South End earlier this spring:
"In regards to the violence in the South Station. If I was the mayor at the time, I would have got right in front of it. And I would have gone down to that station that day, and said the following to the protesters and to cops, law enforcement in the city, and said, 'Look what's happened in Minnesota and with George Floyd, we can empathize with. No one wants to see that happen to anybody, no matter what color race car, right?' So what I would have said is this, 'what's happened across us is not happening in in Albany, New York. We need to celebrate that and come together with civil discourse moving forward.'"
Aidala says he is opposed to a full ban of tear gas and rubber bullets, as is Sheehan.
Christian blogger and social media personality Alicia Purdy entered the race as a Republican in February. Purdy agrees officials should show up at crime scenes and protests.
“We need to address the fact that children, taxpayers, business owners are being are being victimized by behavior that is outside of the law. And that is a problem, at the very least, the law needs to be enforced. And that goes for the unrest at South Station. The fact is, laws were broken by the encampment, I'm not even picking sides in the matter in this specific interview, but just to say that the side needs to be the side of the people of Albany. And from start to finish, there were some ordinances and laws that were completely disregarded at City Hall. “
Purdy says the episode tarnished the police department. She also opposes a total ban on tear gas and rubber bullets.
Purdy believes a municipal aquarium would be a better tourist attraction than the under construction Skyway, which will transform an underutilized Clinton Avenue ramp off 787 and Quay Street in Albany into an elevated, linear park, scheduled to open by the end of the year
Marlon Anderson also announced his candidacy in February. After his petition to run in the Democratic primary was invalidated by the Board of Elections, Anderson vowed to continue as a write-in candidate. He too is against the tear gas ban. He says Albany has failed time and again to address gun violence. As for the days-long protest outside South Station:
“That's simply a publicity stunt and a manufactured situation that was created by the protesters themselves. Police brutality is not to be tolerated. And it needs to be addressed. And it has been addressed in the city of Albany, which has been lost in all the rigmarole around South Station that there was and has been police reforms. But again, in trying to extend their 15 minutes of fame, the protesters went down there to manufacture a situation and they got exactly what they went down there to do. “
Anderson views the Skyway as "a tool of gentrification" that won't do anything to boost the quality of life of people who live in surrounding neighborhoods.
Socialist Workers Party candidate Ved Dookhun tossed his hat in the ring in mid-May. He says capitalism uses racism as a means to divide people. He is calling for the creation of "a new type of police force" to serve, not control, city residents.
"No amount of review boards can make it a gentler, nicer institution, no amount of racial sensitivity training is going to change what its role is under a class divided society, which is to maintain the rule and keep working people in line."
Dookhun says the idea that there is a rise of racism in the United States is false.
In March Valerie Faust pointed to "human life issues" like affordable housing, that she prioritizes above the Skyway and the arts in the city. Faust told WAMC she’ll run in the Democratic primary but is also seeking another party line and intends to be in the November election.
Faust did not respond to an interview request, but did post a Facebook video earlier in recent days:
"Many of us know that our sons and daughters are packing guns. Some of us know that our children are selling drugs and we're benefiting from it. Our Black people know, gang members and gangbangers and our Black people here, their children talking about committing crimes and hating other people and getting even with other people. When are we going to stop? When are we going to get together? We need to put on our fatigues and get out their mothers and fathers and grandmas and great grand mamas. These are our children that are killing our children and it has to stop."
Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a Democrat seeking a third term, says the community has a shared responsibility to end the shooting:
"Well, I would say that our administration is using all of the resources that are available to us to address a tragic issue that is plaguing our community that's unacceptable in our community, and plaguing communities across the country. And I think that we all have to come together to look at what is driving this uptick in gun violence that we've seen over these last 18 plus months. You know, under my leadership, we went 18 months without a single homicide in the city."
A League of Women Voters mayoral forum is set for Tuesday.