Activist Lukee Forbes, a fixture at protests and community events throughout the Capital Region, says he’s running for mayor of Albany.
Forbes is an outspoken advocate for police reform, often seen carrying a bullhorn. Arrested in Albany when he was 15, the Brooklyn native was convicted in an assault case.
In jail, Forbes obtained his GED and read over 800 books and researched the justice system. He was released at age 24 after winning an appeal. Today, the 26-year-old says he's not a politician, just someone who wants to "move Albany into the future."
"I decided to run for mayor of Albany because there were so many issues that we learned about and were pointed out during the Black Lives Matter protests. And really a lot of things just ended up happening and transpiring after the death of not just George Floyd but Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, way before that, we can go back to Emmett Till."
Forbes is passionate when it comes to racism in the city.
"And it has been pointed out in the housing, it has been pointed out in health, it has been pointed out in education, the racial disparities, and all these different things, and 24 other cities, they have labeled racism a public health crisis. Yet our city, which is one of the worst cities to raise a Black child, according to the Child Opportunity Index, has not even thought to even have the conversation, or want to address these issues. We have one of the highest mortality rates, for infants of Black descent, we really need to focus in on how we can become more inclusive, how we can eradicate poverty, and the effects of redlining, because this is how we really solve and crack the root of crime."
Forbes says COVID-19's effect on the community is factoring into racial inequality. He says it's also dampening his political campaign.
"And it's hard not only for me and the volunteers that I have, because we also have to make sure that our health is up. But even the community as a whole. No one wants to have to go door to door, especially when it's 2021. The New York state government hasn't updated any form of policy, effective for COVID-19. It has not planned to really make this effective in order for real citizens to gather the signatures in order to be able to run. There has to be some form of something there, especially Albany being one of the highest cases in New York State. And then I have to collect 4000 signatures."
Forbes is hopeful Governor Andrew Cuomo will act on petitioning, either lowering the amount of signatures required to get on the ballot, or allowing them to be gathered online.
On his brush with the law and time served, Forbes has applied for a Certificate of Good Conduct from New York State, which would allow him to run for public office.
"I did put in an application for it. " Dave Lucas: "And what's the status right now?" "It's still pending."
Forbes says he would do many things differently from second-term Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan, mentioning “de-militarizing the police” and focusing on infrastructure, which he claims Sheehan has overlooked.
"We have potholes that ruin people's cars all the time. And these snowstorms literally slow down the productivity in Albany severely for a couple of days. We really have to start monetizing. We're not monetizing. We're not looking into making Albany more durable. There's solar roads that not only generate energy, heat up the surface so that when snowstorms happen, it melts the snow. It also lasts 20 years. This not only, this literally saves us money and taxes because we don't have to really worry about the roads longer. We have to start worrying about making Albany more functional."
Forbes is also keen on initiating new youth employment development programs to create more opportunities to stimulate the city economy. He says perhaps instead of the Skyway project or the Gondola concept, an aquarium would make for a better tourist attraction. Forbes agrees with Sheehan on moving the Philip Schuyler statue from the traffic circle outside city hall.
"Definitely I will remove this actually and place it inside of the museum, because it is still a piece of our history."
Forbes says he is reaching out to the Working Families Party and Green Party to run as their candidate for mayor, in addition to seeking the Democratic nod in the pivotal primary.
Sheehan campaign spokesperson Joe Bonilla:
"Mayor Sheehan is running for re-election on her record of results that builds upon ensuring every neighborhood works, and it speaks for itself, her record. Over the coming months of the campaign, she looks forward to speaking with residents about how Albany will continue to lead the way. She's already shown that she has widespread support in the city. And she looks forward to having a discussion about how we can continue to move Albany forward."
Reverend Valerie Faust of Living Word Tabernacle is also running for mayor. She ran in 2009 and 2013.