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Thinking "green": Lussier shares his hopes for Albany's seventh district.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Finding What Works

Green Party candidate for Albany County Legislator discusses housing, health care, and the “greening” of Albany’s streets


‘I am most concerned about the abandoned buildings issue,” said David Lussier, Green Party candidate for Albany County Legislator in the 7th District. “The county actually has a lot of influence on it—they control the auctions that only go on a couple times a year. If they keep canceling them, basically what that means is that these buildings are sitting longer and longer.”

“If you don’t have these buildings up and running,” he continued, “it becomes a downward spiral, which means they’re attracting undesirable elements. It does nothing for the neighborhood.”

Lussier, 31, works during the day as a private contractor and spends his evenings earning a masters degree in urban and regional planning. In between school and work, he involves himself in his community, doing neighborhood cleanups on Saturday mornings and knocking on doors to hear residents’ concerns.

While he admitted that working, going to school, and running for office was “tough,” Lussier was not lacking in energy, or in awareness of the problems plaguing his district and things he could do to help the community.

“I was the vice president of the neighborhood association for Washington Square,” said Lussier, who is from Bethlehem and has lived in Albany for 10 years. “This was several years ago. People had all these problems and questions. I got frustrated because I didn’t have any answers, so I started doing research. You have to look, not just to people you know, but to people outside of your circle, and keep expanding until you find something that might work.”

A major focus for Lussier is improving the local economy by preventing “big box” stores from eliminating small businesses. “If you do a licensing program,” said Lussier, “big box stores have to come to you for a license. You have the complete authority to deny them.”

He also wants to bulk purchase medication for seniors, improve the CDTA bus line, and increase the county’s minimum wage to $10 an hour.

It’s a proven thing that when you raise the minimum wage,” he said, “the people who are going to spend it first are the people who’ve been waiting for an opportunity to spend money. They’re the people at the bottom. If you give people the opportunity to spend, they will. It will create a huge economic boost.”

Democratic opponent Brian Scavo, who has lived in the neighborhood for 53 years and is currently a self-employed mechanic who restores classic cars, is more focused on developing business districts, emergency disaster preparedness, and improving safety on the streets and in schools.

“I want to improve residential integrity to make it safe for seniors to walk down the streets,” said Scavo. “When you send your kids to an Albany school, you want to know they’re safe—that they have adequate police protection and security.” In order to have more safety in schools, Scavo said he would increase the number of security guards. “People have the power to make the decisions on how our kids are secured in schools—they need to speak up and say what they want.”

In 2005, Scavo ran for Albany Common Council on the self-created “Law and Order” party in the general election against Democratic primary winner Cathy Fahey. A former military policeman, he is “honored to be endorsed by the Albany Police Union” in the 2007 election.

Scavo defeated incumbent Thomas Monjeau by 101 votes in this year’s Democratic primary, largely by interacting more with residents. “I love going door to door,” said Scavo. “I went out and got all the signatures myself. That’s the difference between me and [Lussier], though I’m sure he’s a nice fellow.”

For Scavo, being a Democrat is “all about helping people; going door to door. I showed people how to do their tax assessments. I’ll be on the front lines helping people.”

According to Lussier, crime is “largely a reflection of economics. If we can provide jobs, gangs don’t look like such an attractive money-making option. This is where I feel like we need to bring manufacturing back into the city.”

When asked what he thought about his opponent, Lussier stated that he makes it a point not to involve himself in political bashing: “We don’t do the dirty fighting.”

An active member of the Green Party since 2000, Lussier is running “on a green cities initiative.” Electric buses could be in Albany’s future, along with “green” buildings, improved recycling programs, and neighborhood gardening, if he is elected.

“I personally don’t understand why the Park South redevelopment is taking so long, and why they paved over everything,” Lussier said. “They could have used the asphalt to pave over potholes; you know we have plenty of them. And then you can allow the people in the neighborhood to have a say as to what kind of bushes, what kind of plants they want. Instead we get caught in this planning process that takes who knows how long. It’s obvious what the neighborhood needs: road maintenance, sidewalks, planting strips.”

“A major part of the green platform is the universal health-care idea,” said Lussier. “I want to get state funding for an experiment in Albany to provide the health care that everybody needs. It’s a shame that people in the Park South neighborhood can see the hospital, but they can’t go there unless they’re going to the emergency room to wait. It’s an economic issue as well. I think if we were a pilot case here in Albany, we would actually have a major increase in job creation.”

“I’m confident that if I can get a chance—if people are just open minded enough to give me a chance—I can back up what I’m saying. I can prove there’s merit to what I’m saying,” said Lussier. “I’m not expecting to push through some radical green agenda; I can work with people. You give a little, you take a little. I don’t expect anything to happen overnight, but at the same time, I’m not giving up hope either.”

—Jessica Best

What a Week

Down to the Wire

This Wednesday, more than a week after the polls closed in Albany, incumbent County Legislator Lucy McKnight was declared the victor in the heated Democratic primary for the 2nd Legislative District. Her opponent, Lester Freeman, initially appeared to be ahead with a four-vote lead as returns came in, but after counting absentee ballots, McKnight was left with a small lead.

Remember $9.11

Already criticized for exploiting 9/11 for political reasons, Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani’s campaign suffered embarrassment when an unaffiliated political supporter announced that he would host a fund-raising party where Giuliani supporters would be asked to contribute $9.11. Former State Department advisor Abraham Sofaer was to host the fund-raiser at his California home but denies any part in the “$9.11 for Rudy” theme. According to Maria Comella, a spokesperson for the Giuliani campaign, the “$9.11 for Rudy” theme was conceived by “two volunteers who acted independently of and without the knowledge of the campaign.” The goal of the fund-raiser, according to the invitation, is to “raise $10,000 in small increments to show how many individual, everyday Americans support ‘America’s Mayor.’ ”

Lethal and Questionable

The United States Supreme Court announced that it would rule on the case of two death-row inmates in Kentucky who claim that the widely used procedure of lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment and is therefore unconstitutional. The three chemicals used in lethal injection cause unconsciousness, paralysis, and cardiac arrest, but critics of the procedure say that sometimes the barbiturate used to induce unconsciousness wears off too quickly, and that the paralyzed convict can be subjected to excruciating pain as cardiac arrest sets in. In other cases, the drugs did not stop the convict’s heart and they asphyxiated slowly and consciously. Executions across the country could be postponed while the Supreme Court decides the fate of the procedure.

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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