The next mayoral election in the city of Rensselaer will be missing a longtime fixture on the ballot. But as WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports, the new mayor wants to serve a full term.
Rensselaer City Council President Richard Mooney became mayor in November 2018 after Dan Dwyer, a fellow Democrat in his third term, died of cancer at age 84. Under the city charter, Mooney began serving out Dwyer's remaining time in office.
Mooney vowed Dwyer's work would continue. "He laid the foundation for our resurgence. It's a little thing we call 'Resurgent Rensselaer." I was elected with Mayor Dwyer four years ago so I feel it's my turn to continue on with his legacy. The projects are moving along, the De Laet's Landing project on the old Rensselaer High School site is up and running, there's 94 apartments there. They are open. They are ready for business, we do have people moving into those apartments, so we're there. We have an RFP out for another section of waterfront which is an 18-acre property, we're waiting to hear back from potential developers on that."
Other projects in the city of 10,000 include infrastructure maintenance and repair. "Probably in the past 10 years the city of Rensselaer has done about 17 miles of infrastructure repair. Converting over our sanitary sewers, our water lines. We've done well. This past winter while other municipalities around us were struggling with water main breaks here in the city of Rensselaer we only had one break."
Mooney says city business has been running smoothly; the school district is ‘doing OK’ and officials are always mindful of the 2 percent tax cap. "Rensselaer is like any upstate New York city. We're an older city. We struggle with finances. We do the best we can. I like to say that Rensselaer is kinda like your household budget. We struggle, but at the end of the day, we move money around, we do things, we're doing the best we can, and that's really all we can do. We're doing the best we can and I'm sure the city's finances are in pretty good shape. Our budget comes out August 1st and we should be all set by then. The tax cap just makes us sharpen our pencils a little more. It is what it is. It's there and we gotta work with it. And in the past five years since the tax cap's been in place Rensselaer has never gone above the tax cap."
Mooney has met with Republican Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin. "I've had two brief meetings with the County Executive that seemed to be OK. He came to city hall and introduced himself, we had a nice long talk one day, yeah."
Mooney intends to retain his position as Rensselaer's 33rd mayor. Republican Michael Stammel, chair of the Rensselaer County Legislature, is challenging Mooney in the November election. "The vibe I'm getting from the residents has been so far so good and very positive. I'm going to be running a positive campaign, an open campaign, an honest campaign. That's what I believe in. I think the days of local politics being nasty and mean and negative are a thing of the past. I'm all about positivity. I have a saying I use in all my campaign stuff, all my Facebook posts, all my social media posts, something I firmly believe in: positivity breeds positivity. And that's what my campaign will be about. Positivity and all of the residents of the city of Rensselaer."