Some 300 residents crammed into Temple Emmanuel in Kingston Monday night, to see the mayoral debate between Democratic primary opponents Shayne Gallo and Steven Noble.
Gallo is seeking a second term as mayor, but failed to win the party line at the nominating convention last May, losing to Noble. He is fighting to win the line back at the primary on September 10. The Independence and Conservative lines also slipped through Gallo’s hands earlier this month.
Noble, an employee of Kingston’s Parks and Recreation Department, is himself embroiled in an alleged grant fudging scandal, currently under investigation by the City Council’s Finance and Audit Committee.
Both candidates claimed victory after the forum, moderated by the League of Women Voters.
“I’m a progressive Democrat that has some new ideas, one that is interested in having an accountable, open government, that’s really willing to tackle the tough issues with my sleeves rolled up,” Noble said.Noble said there remain a lot of undecided party voters.
Gallo said he got positive feedback.
“I think I had the opportunity to show I’m the more qualified experienced candidate, who has the skills and knowledge to move the city forward,” the4 incumbent said. “Most people were pleased with the information I conveyed about my qualifications and a record of a partnership.”
The opponents disagreed strongly with each other over the firing of Fire Chief Chris Rea four years ago. Noble said it was inappropriate and would re-hire the former official with back pay; Gallo responded that the decision was upheld in court and prompted by a state comptroller’s audit.
Uptown parking and traffic was another disputed issue.
“If you can’t find [Uptown] because there’s no signs, and you can’t drive around it, because you don’t know where all these one-way streets are going, it really does disconnect our community, I believe it’s a critical issue to address,” Noble argued.
“For 10 years Uptown was a ghost town, but over the past four years you’ve seen a renaissance – new restaurants, art, tech firms, things are happening, property is being sold very high,” Gallo countered, adding his administration’s efforts to improve parking with a new municipal garage bid and work on the old Fair Street lot.
The subject of nepotism drew groans from some in the audience, as Gallo explained none of his relatives hold public office or currently work for the city. Gallo’s late brother Thomas was a popular mayor 10 years ago, and his father was once a city council president. Noble responded that his uncle, city council president and running mate James Noble, holds a separate branch of office, and would enjoy better communication and cooperation with each other.
Judging by the applause between remarks, the crowd in the room was relatively evenly split in their support between the candidates. Kingston’s voter registration is heavily Democrat, but the Republicans do have a candidate, Ron Polacco, who will face the winner of the Democrat primary in the general election.