Causing a fuss: Watervliet Councilman
PHOTO: Chris Shields
city of Watervliet is caught up in its first mayoral primary
red, white and blue of political signage dominates the landscape
of the small city of Watervliet. Enter the city on Route 2,
and you will see the smiling face of 11-year incumbent Mayor
Robert Carlson on a billboard high above the street. Sit at
a table facing a window at the Dunkin Donuts on Watervliet’s
19th Street and you will gaze at the grinning face of Councilman
Mike Manning, whose image is part of the window display at
Manning, a junior councilman, has initiated the first mayoral
primary in the city’s history by challenging Carlson.
Manning wasn’t on the ballot when he ran for the City Council
in 2005. At the time, he was a registered Independent, and
through a write-in campaign he defeated the incumbent. A lifetime
resident of Watervliet who worked at General Electric in Schenectady
for years, and a well-known youth football coach, Manning
said he became involved in Watervliet politics because many
of his friends felt it necessary to move out of the city.
reason I got involved is I’m 40-something and raising a family
here, and all my friends were leaving,” explained Manning.
“We said, ‘We don’t want to leave. What do we do to keep the
people here?’ ” It was decided someone needed to run for office.
“Someone said, ‘OK, Mike, you do it.’ ”
could probably live anywhere he wanted to but he decided to
stay,” said Mike Reinfurt, a friend of Manning and a Watervliet
business owner. “When he felt the need to get involved, I
was shocked. I said, ‘Why do you want to bother bucking the
Watervliet is a Democratic stronghold, and, as Reinfurt put
it, “In a little city like Watervliet, it is noticed who has
a Manning sign and who has a Carlson sign.”
Manning felt that the government in Watervliet had become
closed off from the average citizen.
As a councilman, Manning passed resolutions to initiate a
public-comment period for council meetings and put public
comment on record. Carlson called the move redundant: “You
can walk off the street, come and see me in my office. The
phone number for my house is in the telephone book. We did
not have a public forum unless it was public hearing, but
we let anybody speak. He wants to say he opened them to the
public and that is nonsense.”
got two different management styles,” he said. “I’m saying,
‘Come to the council meetings, come to City Hall and complain!’
The old style is, ‘I hope someone doesn’t come to the council
meeting and complain.’ ”
Manning also insisted that the council abide by the city charter
and meet twice a month.
years we went twice a month, but then there wasn’t much legislation,”
said Carlson. “We had to create legislation to have a meeting.
So we voted back then to go to once a month. I don’t care
if they want to go twice a month down there; it’s fine for
Concerned about a recent 23-percent tax hike and a budget
that has seen a $2 million dollar surplus whittled away, Manning
put forward Local Law 5, which says that the City Council
must approve budget transfers of $2,000 and over.
Carlson voted for the law at the time, but now is ambivalent
about it. “I didn’t think it was necessary. I didn’t care.
I even voted for it, but I could have lived without it. It
was no concern of mine. I trust the people we have down there
and how they handle the transfers of funds.”
Manning said he realized he would be more effective in the
position of mayor than in his position as councilman, and
decided to register as a Democrat this January and run for
Manning and Carlson share similar views on a number of issues:
They both want to open the Watervliet Arsenal to public businesses
to capitalize on the growth of the tech sector in the region;
they both say code enforcement will make landlords more responsible
for their property and lead to a more stable population; and
they both claim they are financially conservative and want
to ensure that Watervliet is able to provide its citizens
with the services they are used to while maintaining a responsible
They both claim that a good majority of people they speak
to while campaigning say they will support them.
Campaign signs are posted almost tit-for-tat down the streets
(sometimes both candidates have signs in one window), suggesting
that things may be much closer than either candidate would
like to admit. Exactly how their plans to achieve their agendas
differ is not quite clear to everyone.
One issue that does stand out is code enforcement. When Manning
ran for his council seat , this was one issue he focused on.
A code-enforcement law was passed while the campaign was happening,
but Manning has plans to expand it by having the city’s professional
fire fighters do inspections while they aren’t fighting fires.
Manning said he has been told the unions would not go for
that. But Manning said he has spoken to them and has their
approval. The Watervliet Firefighter’s Union, IAFF Local 590,
has endorsed Manning.
According to Manning, in Carlson’s 11 years as mayor, he has
had plenty of opportunity to enact initiatives and address
Reinfurt said that he thinks Carlson has done a lot of good
as mayor, and yet said, “I think it is time for someone young
who will listen to new ideas.”
At the same time, Reinfurt said that he felt the mayor needed
to take part in a debate so that he could put his experience
side by side with Manning’s youth and new ideas.
Weeks ago, Manning sent a registered letter to Carlson challenging
him to debate. Carlson has yet to respond. “I have a very
definite idea about a debate,” Carlson told Metroland,
“that I will discuss at some other time.”
think Bob has done good things,” said Reinfurt, “and in the
debate Bob could represent what he has done well. Let the
people decide. I think if anything, that is what people are
yearning for, so they can say, ‘I heard both sides and now
I will vote for who I think is best.’ ”
and other assorted activists applauded Gov. Eliot
Spitzer’s veto this week of legislation that would
have allowed Segway PTs onto roadways and sidewalks.
The legislation, which aimed to bring the “electric
personal assistive mobility devices” into the
legal fold of other, more traditional two-wheeled
vehicles, was shot down, the governor cited, due
to safety concerns. Advocates, including the Sierra
Club and New York Public Interest Research Group,
worried that allowing the self-balancing personnel
transporters into mainstream use would have offered
people yet another way to avoid walking, leading
to myriad health issues. New York state has now
joined with San Francisco and the Disney Corporation
in banning of the futuristic conveyances.
Steamroll the Father of a Steamroller
consultant Roger Stone was forced to resign this
Wednesday after a threatening call he allegedly
made to the father of Gov. Eliot Spitzer was made
public. The message left on Bernard Spitzer’s
phone said that he would be compelled to testify
about “shady campaign loans” made to his son during
his 1994 run for attorney general. He also called
Spitzer “psycho” and “phony” and a “piece of shit.”
Before resigning, Stone implied that the tape
could have been manufactured or that his apartment
could have been broken into and his phone used
by someone trying to frame him.
“enemy combatant” Jose Padilla, arrested in 2002
for allegedly plotting to detonate a dirty bomb
in the United States, was found guilty this week
of conspiracy to commit murder in Bosnia, Kosovo
and Chechnya. This conviction follows years of
torture, his lawyer alleged, pointing to the 43
months Padilla spent in extreme isolation in a
U.S. Navy brig, during which time he was force-fed
LCD and PCP to act as “truth serums.” Dr. Angela
Hegarty, who spent 22 hours examining Padilla
before he stood trial, spoke to Democracy Now!
this week and detailed the effects of such treatment
on the man’s psyche: “What happened at the brig
was essentially the destruction of a human being’s
mind. . . . His personality was deconstructed
abandoned by the major political parties, residents of North
Greenbush start their own
would love to see Route 4 become another Wolf Road,” said
Jeffrey Spain, the chairman of the North Greenbush Democratic
Committee. “I want development for this town.”
People from all over the Capital Region, he pointed out, travel
to Wolf Road to shop and eat at any number of the road’s thriving
businesses. There is no reason that Route 4 from North Greenbush
down to Hudson Valley Community College can’t be just like
think that would be a wonderful thing,” he enthused.
That is exactly the kind of talk that makes Mike Angelo nervous.
The Greenbush resident is a proponent of growth and development,
he said, but it must be responsible growth and reasonable
development that respects the semi-rural nature of his community.
This year, North Greenbush will go to the polls to elect a
new supervisor, town justice, town council members, as well
as a highway superintendent, town clerk and receiver of taxes.
With the North Greenbush Republican Party seen as a proxy
of big developers, and now the Democratic Party echoing similar
pro-development sentiments, and with so many important positions
up for election, Angelo decided he needed to find another
way to get his voice heard.
So he gathered together dozens of his neighbors and founded
the Greenbush Party.
a grassroots effort,” said Angelo. “A lot of us are neophytes.
I, for one, was not involved with politics with the exception
They raised 500 signatures, twice the number needed, and have
submitted their petitions to the New York State Board of Elections.
Opponents have until today (Thursday), he said, to dispute
At the heart of the development controversies in North Greenbush
is the years-old plan to build a shopping mall on an open
swath of once-pristine land at the northeast corner of routes
4 and 43. The land has been zoned for commercial use for years,
Spain said, and has been the subject of continual battles
The people in Defreestville, where many of the members of
the Greenbush Party live, Spain suspects, have been fighting
development of the land for years.
want to keep it forever a field because somebody saw a white
deer in there 10 years ago,” he derided. “I would love to
see everything become forever wild. But it just isn’t realistic.”
the meantime, everybody in the town of North Greenbush drives
past that intersection to go to Crossgates, to go to Colonie
Center, to go to Stuyvesant Plaza, to spend their hard-earned
money. We could be spending our money in the town of North
seems like that where there is a piece of ground that is not
developed, they want to tear it up and develop it for something,”
Angelo countered. “We understand development is not bad in
and of itself, but it has got to be something that is keeping
in the character of the town. We are definitely not against
development. That would be just silly.”
Another reason Angelo wanted to start the Greenbush Party
is the very real possibility looming over the upcoming November
elections that the two major parties, plus the Independence
and Conservative parties, would be running an identical slate
was no choice being given to the voters,” Angelo said. “There
will be no choice available for the voters with the major
parties running the same slate of candidates.”
Many insiders voice the belief that Spain is working to align
the Democratic Party in North Greenbush with Republicans who
have strong ties to Sen. Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick), though Spain
has argued that it is simply not true.
personally am endorsing a slate of candidates,” Spain said.
“That is my right.”
It is true, he said, that the Conservative and Independence
parties are supporting the same candidates he is supporting.
But the Republicans are having a primary, so it is not known
yet who they will endorse. When the North Greenbush Democrats
caucus, then the town Democrats will choose who they want
to represent the party.
North Greenbush Democratic Party will select at its caucus
the seven candidates to run on its Democratic line, and I
will support those candidates in the general election,” Spain
said. “I am going to call a caucus. It is the American way.
The Democratic voters in the town of North Greenbush deserve
to have a caucus.”
think he is lying,” said Thomas Wade, chairman of the Rensselaer
County Democratic Party. “I believe Jeff Spain, as town chairman,
will not call a Democratic caucus.”
Wade said that he believes that the Conservative and Independence
parties are working closely with the Republicans. “The two
people who control the Independence and Conservative parties
are both on Senate payrolls, thanks to Sen. Bruno,” he said.
The hope, he said, is for the same slate to hold the three
lines, after a Republican primary. The fourth line—the Democratic—would
be the icing on the cake.
None of this, however, directly affects Angelo’s newly formed
party. They have stepped out of the fray of the Democratic
Party, and have sought support and candidates from a broad
expression of the political spectrum. They have chosen candidates
they believe share their “smart growth” vision for North Greenbush.
this thing would not be happening if the response we were
getting from our petition gathering was, ‘We don’t need another
party and things are fine in the town of North Greenbush,’
” Angelo said. “We want to win at the polls. But winning at
the polls for us isn’t about power. It is about bringing the
whole town of North Greenbush together, so that we can work
toward a common goal, instead of being at each others’ throats
all the time.”
loose ends this week-