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Rumble in Ward Seven

The Albany Democratic Committee will endorse anyone for Cathy Fahey’s council seat, except Cathy Fahey

Team player, said Bob Jukes, means exactly that: team player. Cathy Fahey, councilwoman for the 7th Ward, might represent the 7th well in the Albany Common Council, but when it comes to her responsibilities in the ward’s Democratic committee, Jukes, the ward leader, said, she hasn’t been a team player.

Fahey, who is running for a second term in the 7th Ward, has now twice lost her committee’s endorsement vote. The first time, she lost to George Lynch, who later withdrew from the race due to a job conflict. The second time, Fahey lost to political neophyte Susan Tobin. However, Jukes failed to invite Fahey to this second vote, which he now admits was a mistake, and Fahey complained to the committee’s chair, Dan McCoy. A third vote has been scheduled.

“It has nothing to do with her representing the 7th Ward,” said Jukes. “And it has nothing to do with Jerry [Jennings]. My thing with Cathy is, as a committee person, that she is doing her job. A committee person usually knows the rest of her committee.”

“The committee themselves decided, when they interviewed her, didn’t like the answers she gave, and didn’t think she was a team player,” he added. “She had never reached out to them before, and it’s hard to back somebody if they aren’t on board.”

Jukes said that Fahey rarely attends committee meetings, and has been less-than-stellar when it comes to petitioning time. He claimed that the last time she carried petitions for the Democrats in the 3rd Election District, which she represents, she got enough signatures only to fill a single sheet.

“Ten names,” Jukes said. “That left another 100 people who didn’t get a chance to sign a petition. I don’t care if it’s her or anyone else, that’s not doing your job.”

The vote against Fahey should have come as no surprise, he said, as the committee didn’t support Fahey the first time she ran, either. But it did surprise Fahey. She said that she believes that she has done the job that the voters in the 7th elected her to do—that is, represent them effectively on the council—and she would have thought that would have been a sufficient enough reason to get the committee’s support.

“I’ve worked hard,” she said. “I’ve done my job. I felt that they should have endorsed me.”

“What am I running for?” Fahey asked. “There is a suggestion that I have missed meetings, but I only missed one or two, but I have made most of the meetings.”

As for carrying petitions, she will admit that she hasn’t been very aggressive.

“Have I gone really out of my way to do a tremendous job with the petitions?” she asked. “Probably not. But that is because I have had a full plate. I take my council position very seriously, and I put a lot of time and effort into it. It is more than just a part-time job for me.”

And, she said, she was admittedly furious that she hadn’t even been invited to the committee meeting. As a committee member, she said, she ought to have been notified regardless of her candidacy. She said that she heard about the meeting “through the grapevine.” And had she missed the meeting, she “would have missed hearing the candidates for auditor, and the eight candidates for council president, and that is not fair to the people I represent in the 3rd ED.”

Fahey said that she believes that the real reason the committee didn’t support her is because of her early endorsement of council President Shawn Morris’ mayoral bid against Jennings, and her support of the council’s investigation into the ghost tickets scandal.

“There was a lot of discussion and banter over the fact that they viewed the council members who have taken a stance as being politically motivated,” Fahey said. Others who were at the meeting said that the candidates’ positions on the investigation were a leading concern.

“Also, there is a bit of a bias, I think, because I came out for Shawn Morris,” Fahey said. “I came out in support of her, and I told the committee, and I think that there is some problem with that.”

Morris used her blog on timesunion.com to blast the 7th Ward’s committee, alleging that Fahey’s loss was due not to her lack of loyalty to the 7th Ward, but her lack of loyalty to the mayor, and loyalty to “a political structure that works to exclude new ideas and independence . . . loyalty to an age of party manipulation of government for personal gain.”

She called the committees in the wards—such as the 7th—that still enforce this form of loyalty as “woefully out of touch with the voters.”

Jukes dismissed Morris’ missive as a “political ploy,” saying that the 7th Ward has always supported Jennings, and will continue to do so. “Where was she all those other years when we went for Jerry Jennings, and we were backing her?” he asked. “There was nothing said.”

On May 26, the 7th Ward will hold another vote. Unlike the first two votes, it will be a weighted vote.

“We are going to have the re-vote. And everyone should be happy, then,” Jukes said, adding, “But I don’t think Cathy will have a different outcome.”

—Chet Hardin

chardin@metroland.net


What a Week

 




The Bus Stops Stopping Here

Transportation advocates complain about lack of public outreach over route consolidations, while CDTA says the changes will improve service

Blue bags have been placed on 250 bus-stop signs throughout the Capital Region, notifying riders of route consolidations by the Capital District Transportation Authority. As part of that consolidation, CDTA will eliminate some bus stops. On routes where buses once stopped at every block, for example, some routes will now have bus stops only every two or three blocks.

This has transportation advocates concerned with how the changes will affect riders, and upset over what they feel has been a lack of public notification and involvement by CDTA.

Leah Golby, co-president of the Albany Parent Teachers Association and member of the Capital Region Traffic Advocates, said that while the changes probably will not be prevented, more should be done to involve the public in route changes. “People are concerned,” she said, “about why they are making the changes without a public hearing.”

Donna Suhor, of the Capital District Coalition for Accessible Transportation, is particularly concerned that CDTA is not doing enough to inform the public about the reduction of stops.

“One of the calls that I had was about a man waiting at a bus stop that had been removed and he didn’t know because he was blind,” Suhor said. “They’re putting the information on the Web site, but not everybody has a computer or would think to check the CDTA Web site.”

According to Carm Basile of CDTA, the route consolidations are part of an attempt to cut 35,000 service hours in 2009. The elimination of bus stops, he said, is not meant to reduce service hours but rather to improve service.

“They’re separate issues, but they are related because the service that we’re eliminating is particularly unproductive,” Basile said. “Bus stops are really, we think, one of the few things available to us to improve travel time and reliability. We have been systematically reviewing route by route ways to coordinate, consolidate, and, in some cases, eliminate bus stops to be more effective.”

According to Basile, CDTA didn’t hold a public hearing because CDTA officials felt the changes wouldn’t have an impact on the majority of riders.

“The percentage of service being eliminated is very minor, at about 1 percent,” Basile said. “If we were affecting routes that had more ridership, that would require more outreach.”

A public hearing may not have even been effective in preventing the changes.

“They were required to have a public hearing when they were going to implement the fare hike and many people came out and spoke against it, but it didn’t change their mind,” Golby said. “They just pushed it through. Public hearings at least give the public an opportunity to give comments, but if they’re not going to listen, it’s problematic.”

Suhor agreed.

“They said that they don’t need a public hearing,” she said, “but I think that keeping in touch with the public would be a better thing to do, and I think that the CDTA board of directors is too insular. There is no public- comment period even at the board meetings.”

Golby is particularly concerned with the changes made to bus route 6 in Albany, which currently runs on North Pearl Street. As of May 24, the bus will no longer stop in front of the North Albany Academy.

“That’s a real problem,” she said, particularly for those who are unable to get transportation from the school district. “In order to catch a school bus you have to be eligible, and you have to be a mile and half from the school. That’s pretty far to walk if you’re 6 years old.”

According to Basile, the route was discontinued due to low ridership.

“Our Route 22 stops a very short city block from there,” he said. “In fact, our work shows that most people are walking to the Route 22 line because it runs more frequently. That’s one of the reasons why we made the change.”

Basile said that overall, a reduction of 35,000 service hours is only a 4.5 percent decrease, and that CDTA is focusing on improving service for routes that are heavily used.

“Our intent is to run as much service as we possibly can in areas where people want it, need it, and use it. Like any good business, you have to evaluate the product, and where people are using and where your service is strongest is where you need to be investing.”

CDTA is still 10,000 hours short of its goal, meaning that more route consolidations are likely to take place. Basile said that it is too soon to tell whether or not additional changes will happen next year, but they intend to continue systematic reviews of routes.

—Cecelia Martinez

For more information on route changes, visit cdta.org. More information about the Capital District Coalition for Accessible Transportation can be found at mobilityfreedom.org.



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