Democratic Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, independent candidate Rodney Wiltshire, and Republican Tom Reale met Wednesday night for a televised debate on Spectrum News.
The last debate of the campaign came one day after the field returned to three candidates.
Rodney Wiltshire, a former City Council President and enrolled Democrat who lost to incumbent Patrick Madden in the June primary, is running on the Green and Independence Party lines.
“I see a new vision for the city, one that includes everyone in the city,” said Wiltshire.
Tom Reale re-entered the race this week after suspending his campaign earlier this month. The Republican sought to cast himself as the “only” independent candidate in the race, even if he, like the city, as he puts it, is “a little rough around the edges.”
“So in many ways, I am perhaps the perfect person to be a representative for you in City Hall,” said Reale.
Madden, who is running for a second four year-term, defended himself from attacks from both challengers and highlighted his work to expose and fix problems in the city.
“I came into office and I pulled the Band-Aid off the city’s problems and I’m beginning to address them,” said Madden.
When Reale re-joined the race, he claimed he was bullied and threatened by local GOP officials – something County Executive Steve McLaughlin has denied. He was not so explicit when he exited, when he cited the impact on his family.
“And as the weeks went by, I had the opportunity, as I said, to kind of clear my head, see what was really in front of me. And it was ultimately my family that were pushing me hardest to get back in this race,” said Reale.
Asked by debate moderator Nick Reisman, Wiltshire denied any cooperation with the Republican Party as he runs for mayor.
“Is there some sort of an agreement or arrangement that you have made with the local Republicans?” asked Reisman.
“No, absolutely not, there is no arrangement,” said Wiltshire. “I’ve had bipartisan support since my time on the council.”
After issuing a campaign statement earlier this week, Madden spoke about Reale’s re-entry for the first time during the debate.
“Frankly, I don’t know how to read it. I think what happened to Tom was shameful,” said Madden.
A large focus of the debate was public safety. Wiltshire outlined his plan to bolster the city’s police department, including raising minimum staffing levels.
“Our community policing program will be enhanced and we will make sure that we have boots on the ground and people who are walking the streets, getting to know their neighbors and doing the best job as possible to make our city streets safer,” said Wiltshire.
Wiltshire was also pressed on his suggestion that information related to the number of crimes reported was being manipulated. He doubled-down.
“There are ways to manipulate the information, to put the releases out a certain way, and to hide the evidence – or hide the crimes, as they are committed,” said Wiltshire.
That claim gave Madden a chance to fire back.
“Well, I’m sorry Mr. Wiltshire has such a low regard for police department reporting,” said Madden.
Madden gave statistics to illustrate that Troy now has the lowest crime rate of the major Capital Region cities – Albany and Schenectady.
“I attribute that to the hard work of the police department and their efforts to collaborate with the Albany Police Department, the FBI, ATF, and DEC.”
Madden also claimed that local educational institutions – RPI, the Emma Willard School, and the Sage Colleges – were not interested in paying a fee to support public safety, something Wiltshire promised he would push for.
Reale agreed with Wiltshire that residents today perceive a higher crime rate.
“We also say that perception is reality and if our neighborhoods perceive that there is an issue with crime, then it is incumbent on city government to take care of that problem,” said Reale.
He did not give specifics on how to do that.
“Whether that’s a question of numbers, whether that’s a question of equipment, or whether that’s a question of changing their tactics, we need to ensure a holistic approach to law enforcement that helps our communities and helps our police at the same time,” said Reale.
As the Madden administration faces pressure from the public in the case of Edson Thevenin, a Troy man shot and killed by city police during a traffic stop in 2016, Reale said he was “heartened” by Mayor Madden’s work to reinstate the city’s Police Oversight Review Commission. Madden highlighted his work with the NAACP to develop new standards and training for the PORC board. Wiltshire pushed for an open and transparent process and stated his desire for police body cameras.
Wiltshire also accused Madden of neglecting the city’s firefighters.
“You claim repairing of roofs, you claim of investing and making sure that their environment is safe for them to work, but it’s just not happening. So please, let’s be honest about things and not manipulate words,’ said Wiltshire.
“Mr. Mayor, a chance to respond –“
“Yeah, I think maybe you oughta visit a few firehouses. When the new union leadership came in earlier this year, I asked them to do a review of all the firehouses and alert me of issues of what needed to be done,” said Madden.
Reale took the opportunity to cast himself as a new voice, as he went after city leaders for not considering funds for a second set of firefighter turnout gear fast enough.
“Which speaks to a need for a new majority on the city council, and we need additional leadership in the mayor’s office in city hall,” said Reale.
Other topics discussed: infrastructure, city finances, development, and housing.
Audio is courtesy Spectrum News.