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Troy city council considers 'Quality of Life Task Force'

Troy's city seal
Lucas Willard

The Troy City Council is considering creating a “Quality of Life Task Force” to better coordinate the Collar City’s response to minor crimes and code enforcement.

Garbage. Graffiti. Off road vehicles on city streets.

These are everyday issues that Republican Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello hopes can be addressed by creating a new task force to address common complaints.

“These quality of life issues domino into bigger issues,” said Mantello.

In an interview with WAMC, Mantello said she would like to see more coordination between city agencies to clean the city up. She described Troy as operating in silos.

The resolution does not seek to hire additional staff but rather better coordinate existing efforts. It was introduced at last week’s city council Finance Committee meeting.

During the meeting, Republican council member Kim Ashe-McPherson supported the resolution.

“It’s not just the garbage. It’s the tagging and the graffiti. There’s a lot of things. Our city looks dirty and we need to take it back and clean it up. And I think this is a step forward if we can get different people together to go block-by-block in different areas of the city and try and tackle different issues,” said Ashe-McPherson.

Democratic city councilor Emily Menn, a property manager who won election last November, said the costs of cleaning up illegally dumped garbage and graffiti are passed onto the homeowner.

“I know how much time it takes. I know that if your home or your business is graffitied it’s not only the cost of removing it and the time to remove it, but that it also feels like a personal attack and it makes you feel unsafe,” said Menn. “And I also know, as having done a lot of research on who is doing the graffiti, it is not kids, it is not gangs, it is a bunch of 25- to 30-year-old grown men who are having a little…contest to prove whatever in Troy. And unfortunately, the way that our laws are structured, the victims of the crimes are the ones that are fined.”

Democrat Sue Steele voted to move the resolution out of committee, saying she supports further discussion, but also cautioned her colleagues to examine their past votes as they relate to city services and staffing.

“We need to look at our record,” said Steele. “Those of you who at budget time did not support our efforts to increase staffing in these various departments that we are talking about, it’s unfortunate. We don’t always need a task force, we need the staff.”

Mantello says the Quality of Life Task Force would most likely involve meetings between departments. She says the efforts would be augmented by the city’s community policing program. Last year, the city approved hiring six community policing officers with the intention of building relationships in neighborhoods.

“By knowing the community police officers, by building that trust, it’s going to build more coordinated approaches to these quality of life issues and illegal activities happening in the neighborhoods,” said Mantello.

Mantello says the idea for the task force has been supported by her fellow Republicans in the past. Now that her party holds the majority on the council, she is hoping to push Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden to take action.

“You know, hopefully the mayor works with us and, honestly, I didn’t want to have to do a resolution imploring the mayor, but it’s just not happening, Lucas.”

A request to Madden's office for comment Thursday was not returned.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.