Some Albany residents are calling for the city to appoint a Complete Streets coordinator.
Following the reconfiguration of Madison Avenue, proponents of Complete Streets say it's time to add a coordinator to the city payroll. The issue briefly surfaced during a public hearing on Mayor Kathy Sheehan's budget proposal at Monday night's Common Council meeting.
Former council member and founding member of Capital Region Complete Streets Leah Golby says the group had been talking about the need for a coordinator since the beginning of summer. "We realized that there's no one that we're aware of who is tasked with even one half of their time dedicated to Complete Street work, and we believe that Complete Street work is so important for our city that it's time to create a position that will help to make the city more welcoming to everyone. The fact of the matter is that Complete Street projects increase property values and therefore increase the tax base."
Golby envisions the coordinator as being enabled to use grant funding to pay for projects, which, she says, would benefit taxpayers. She says the position would carry an annual salary of about $50,000. There are several ideas as to how to fund the position initially. "The Chief City Auditor is proposing a 1 percent tax on hotel fees within the city. That would take time to happen but it's certainly not a bad idea, and some of that money could go to fund this position. That would be great. But in terms of for this year, there's also the fact that city got a significant increase in federal community development block grant funding, and so we believe some of the money could come from there. So we do think its fundable and we do think finding the money is easy. The bottom line: this is not a huge increase in the budget. If you look at the overall budget the salary that we are suggesting, the top range of the salary about $53,000. That's a .04 increase in the total budget, so that's money that can be found."
Common Councilor Richard Conti says the panel will continue accepting public input on the addition of a coordinator and any other budget-related matter. The next meeting is set for Monday, November 5th.
Mayor Sheehan's chief of staff Brian Shea responded to a request for comment via email, writing: "We haven’t had time to review this proposal with the appropriate staff – and haven’t yet met with advocates on this."