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After budget battles and heated Democratic primary, Schenectady mayor, city council president hit reset button

 Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and City Council President Marion Porterfield
City of Schenectady
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and City Council President Marion Porterfield

After several tumultuous months, Schenectady’s top officials took steps to mend fences Tuesday night.  

Following a contentious mayoral primary, general election and strained budget negotiations, Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy and the all-Democrat city council put a fresh start to the new year Tuesday. McCarthy was sworn in to a fourth four-year term while Marion Porterfield, defeated by McCarthy in the June primary for mayor, was reappointed City Council president by a unanimous vote.

It all happened less than two weeks after McCarthy finally signed a council-approved budget that had been due November 1st.

McCarthy admitted the process of finishing and passing the budget through a series of rejections and vetoes took longer than anyone would have liked, saying he's cut taxes seven out of the last nine years.

"And the financial status of the city is sound. Our assessed value of property in the city continues to steadily rise with a total value this year of $2.47 billion," McCarthy said. 

McCarthy's proposed $111 million spending plan was held up due to disagreements over police and fire overtime funding along with trash, water and sewer fee increases.
In delivering his State of the City address, McCarthy revealed plans to deal with cost issues surrounding trash collection, including residents who "put out an excessive amount of trash" as the cost to process recyclables is expected to go up more than 12.5% and rates for municipal solid waste expected to rise 35% over what the city paid in 2023.

"And this week, I'm going to appoint a working group that will include council president Porterfield and public service and utility chair Ditoro, to review our current service model with associated costs and benefits," McCarthy said. "I'll direct that they provide a report and recommendations to the city council and myself for the February 20 Committee meeting of the city council so that we can enact appropriate legislation or fee structure to again hold those individuals accountable that drive our costs."

McCarthy said streamlining city government is a priority, and pointed out that mental health services have been strongly improved through a “hub model.”

“That’s where we take and send fire paramedics, police, social services, mental health professionals, drug and alcohol counselors in a team format, to evaluate and guide individuals to the appropriate support so that they may live with dignity,” said McCarthy. 

Porterfield says despite the protracted budget negotiations, the city remains united and the council plans to do better this year.

"The true measure of character is when you are willing to have authentic, meaningful conversations, accept difficulties, and respond and to accept responsibility for what we've each added to the challenges that we face, and resolve to overcome them all and to do better. Since this is a council that gives out resolutions a lot, we just resolved that we would work together for the benefit of our community, that we will not let outside influences make this, help make a difference with us in determine how we treat each other, but that we work together because the city is counting on us," Porterfield said.


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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