Councilor Richard Conti, elected in 1997, is one of five senior Albany Common Council members who are not running for another term this year. A Haitian-American artist is among emerging candidates for Conti’s Sixth Ward seat.
Richard-Olivier Marius describes himself as a progressive Democrat as well as an anthropologist and social scientist, who has been involved with humanitarian work around the world.
"I am qualified to run, the Board of Elections has OKed my candidacy. So I think anybody who has a good idea, and good intentions to help the community should certainly run and not be intimidated by anyone or anything."
In 2017, Marius co-founded the Staten Island Democratic Socialists of America branch. The full-time employee of the New York State Senate first came to Albany a decade ago to serve as a Senate intern. He believes he is uniquely qualified to fill Conti's seat.
"My experiences have always been at the New York State Senate. And I'm hoping that, having moved in and out of Albany, living in South Africa as a humanitarian worker, participating in the United States Peace Corps program, in a country called Swaziland, living in Paris as a master's student, where I got the chance to work with asylum seekers and refugees. And returning to Albany, and settling down, it's time to settle down. And I think, in the long run, participating in community groups, running for office and many different ways, is a good way to feel at home."
As a candidate, Marius says he will fight for equity along racial lines in accord with a five-point program.
"I want to slash personal debts, and boost family savings. I want to guarantee full access to public services, our to protect small business owners and startups develop a clean and beautiful environment and establish safe and walkable streets."
Marius has run for office before, making a 2019 bid for New York's 11th congressional district on Staten Island.
"And I was pushing for Medicare for All I was pushing for universal basic income and other progressive ideas to help struggling white people, and struggling Black people have the light of day to finally get concrete policies passed."
Marius pulled out of the race against then-Democratic Rep. Max Rose after Rose agreed to support an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
If elected to the council, Marius has some policy changes in mind he claims would help the city's working poor, including single-payer universal health coverage to supplement Medicaid and cutting fines and fees.
"One policy idea that I'd really like to see happen, is maybe having property taxes be based on income. I want to cancel the waste collection fee program. And all city fines and fees or as many as possible should also be based on income level. Property taxes, city fines and fees, these things should be based on income. Right now, for example, I believe for double parking, it's $35. That's, you know, for somebody like me, that's peanuts, I'll double park every single day, people who are more, who are suffering, financially $35 is a lot."
Marius is also supporting Lukee Forbes' upstart mayoral campaign. Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan is seeking a third term.
Three others have declared candidacies for the 6th Ward: Jeff Mayo, Gabriella Romero and Ford McLain.
Albany's 6th Ward includes the Center Square neighborhood, encompassing Washington Park on its west side running from South Lake Avenue southeast to South Swan Street, bordered on the southwest by Myrtle Avenue and on the northeast by State Street and Washington Avenue.