Three of the candidates for mayor of Albany discussed gun violence and other issues that are impacting the city in an online forum Tuesday.
Second-term Mayor Kathy Sheehan, her Democratic primary challenger Valerie Faust, and Republican Alicia Purdy, who will face the June 22nd primary winner in November, participated in the two-hour forum. It touched on several significant issues, including the rash of gun violence that has plagued the city, and how to stop it. Purdy says the gun problem evolved over time.
“We can't just say that we care and then do nothing. And certainly you can't legislate people's hearts. So at the end of the day, what we're going to have to do is find a solution that involves the community stepping up, the police stepping up, policies changing to accommodate people who are struggling on. Maybe they have mental health challenges, whatever that is, the multifaceted approach, though, and does not involve lifting guns off the street as much as it does addressing the people.”
Sheehan acknowledged the unprecedented gun violence. She says something must be done about the proliferation of illegal guns.
“We're working with community based organizations to create community outreach workers, who will work within our community, connecting people to the rich services, the rich programming that we do have in this city. But far too many people are still disconnected from that, aren't aware of it, aren't aware of the opportunities that exist. We have hard work ahead of us, engaging the community. But we also need to be honest about the fact that we have to get these illegal guns off the streets.”
Faust says gun buybacks and other local efforts aren't working.
“You have to get to the youth, you have to get to the families to talk. We have to have the community together, the police, the politicians, the churches, because when you talk about somebody's issue, and you don't include them in it, it's like trying to fix them without their input. So we need to bring people in who are experiencing these crimes, bring people in who are doing these crimes, and bring our youth into better programs that work.”
As for the Albany Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, Faust says it wasn't transparent enough and should be restructured. Sheehan says she understands why people don't believe it was transparent enough, noting the pandemic prevented people from getting in a room together and having reform conversations. Purdy claims the board was "not an accurate representation of the diversity of thought, opinion and experience that we have in Albany."
Local activists have faulted the Albany Common Council for tabling a bill this spring that would ban tear gas and rubber bullets. Purdy says she would keep tear gas as an option.
“Am I going to get rid of all that all that we have to protect ourselves in the event that something unlikely should happen? And we cannot , we cannot protect ourselves? We cannot protect our residents and our city? No.”
Sheehan, recalling the May 30, 2020 protests in the South End, says she fully supports a complete ban on tear gas and rubber bullets for peaceful protests. But:
“ That's not what our police officers faced. Let's remember that we had Molotov cocktails thrown at our mounted police officers and at our horses, we have officers who receive bricks to the head, and a situation that grew really violent.”
Sheehan favors restraint, with a system of checks and balances. Faust says alternatives should be sought.
“Tear gas makes victims of people who are not a part of the issue. Rubber bullets are as dangerous.”
The three candidates all favor mayoral term limits. Sheehan noted she's only the fourth mayor of Albany in 79 years.
" I'm on record as supporting term limits. I'm on record as supporting two-term term limits. And I will say that, you know, I think going into 2020, you know, we expected a very different year.”
Faust claims she can bring the city together.
“I believe that if she was doing a great job as she sounds like she is doing, I wouldn't run. I'm running because I think there's a need to run there's a need for change. So yeah, I support term limits. “
Purdy holds a similar view.
“I'm not opposed to a three-term limit. I'm not opposed to something like that, because I will say, in all honesty, regardless of whoever the mayor is, it sometimes does take a long time to get things to turn around. I think it's fair to say that. I think it's fair that especially if you have an opposing Common Council.”
Mary Berry with the League of Women Voters of Albany County, which co-sponsored the forum, tells WAMC League policy dictated only candidates certified by the Albany County Board of Elections could participate. Independent candidate Greg Aidala's petitions face two challenges. Democrat Marlon Anderson's petitions were disqualified but he is pressing on as a write-in candidate.
Early voting in the Democratic primary starts June 12th.