Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan gave her State of the City Address Monday night before the Common Council.
Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, reflected on a year of achievements during an approximately 40-minute speech that touched on innovation, revitalization, efficiency, education, environment, parks, neighborhood improvements and community policing. "We have done a lot of work in the last year, continuing to build on the investment that we made in moving our city into the 21st century."
Sheehan gave a nod to Common Council President Corey Ellis and councilor Dorcey Applyrs' initiative to expand Albany's Equity Agenda. Sheehan noted she's determined to make $12.5 million in state Capital City Funding that plugs the city’s budget gap permanent.
The mayor touted the city's purchase of its street lights. "Yes, this is part of an environmentally strong city. It's about saving energy. Those are incredibly important. But over the course of the last eighteen months, this initiative, for me, became something even greater. This streetlight conversion is about recognizing that criminals exploit environmental factors to their own end to commit crime. We know this. The darkened areas where so much crime occurs in the city of Albany will look much, much different come the spring. Between the new camera system being deployed this year and our lighting capabilities on our LED streetlights, our ability to identify criminals by face in real time, will be greatly enhanced. My message to those who use these areas and our streets for violence is short and clear. Get out. And get out now."
Speaking later with reporters, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins seconded Sheehan's affirmation. "The mayor's absolutely right. You know environmental design is a huge factor in violence and other types of crimes and even quality of life issues and so these streetlights will help us out."
City officials told WAMC in August that those street lights are destined to be conduits for a future citywide 5G wifi system.
Better lighting coupled with new police technology, Sheehan hopes, will thwart a repeat of 2018's summer crime wave and the year's tally of 15 homicides. "The police department is deploying new technology and strengthening existing programs that we know work, and preparing a plan for the upcoming summer. No violence is acceptable, but last summer was unbearable. And we cannot and will not go through that again.”
Hawkins has developed a plan: "We're committed to working with our partners in this community. Our stakeholders in the community that are dealing with the underlying social issues that drove a lot of the crime that we saw in 2018. You know, lack of educational opportunities, poverty, mental health, substance abuse, family structure problems, lack of mentors. Looking at all of those things. Conflict resolution. And working with our partners in the community to help address those issues, and then putting in the law enforcement-related strategies that we have to go along with that as well."
Sheehan concluded her address vowing to make Albany a “City of Opportunity,” and urged councilors to spread that concept throughout their wards. “When we are a city where every neighborhood works, we are a city where there is opportunity for everyone who is here. And we’re gonna seize on that as we move through 2019.”