for the 10th Ward: Leah Golby.
for the Challenge
Golby will be the first candidate to challenge James Scalzo’s
Common Council seat in 12 years
Leah Golby, a resident of Al bany’s Pine Hills neighborhood
and a political activist, hit the streets Tuesday collecting
signatures to run on the Democratic line for Albany Common
Council representing the 10th Ward. Golby, the current co-vice
president of the citywide Parent-Teacher Association, and
a founding member of the Capital Region Transit Advocates,
will be running against James Scalzo, who has represented
the ward for 20 years and is the longest-seated Common Council
not doing what he needs to do,” Golby said.
Golby, who calls herself a lifelong Democrat, also has an
endorsement from the Working Families Party. According to
Golby, the party will petition for her to be added to the
WFP line in November. Golby has also received an endorsement
from advocacy group Citizen Action.
is supporting mayoral candidate Shawn Morris, who spoke at
Golby’s candidacy announcement. Common Council member Catherine
Fahey from the 7th Ward and PTA president Mark Mishler also
were on hand to speak in her support.
When Golby spoke of her opponent, she pointed to the 20 years
that Scalzo has served on the Common Council: “When you do
the same thing year in and year out you’ve kind of lost your
steam,” Golby said. “I also wonder, what does a council member
get out of sitting on a virtually powerless governing body
for 20 years?”
Golby thinks that a challenge is due.
years ago nobody challenged him, and during that period of
time when nobody challenged him he made, in my opinion, two
critical errors that affected city government,” she said.
One of those mistakes, she said, was a vote striking down
the Albany Civic Agenda, which she said would have given the
Common Council significantly more power. The other involved
the approval of a zoning change for a Walgreen’s on Holland
Avenue in the 7th ward, which critics claim was a case of
didn’t feel the need to answer to his constituents or to the
more active people in the constituency,” said Golby, who petitioned
in support of the Albany Civic Agenda.
Golby said that while she had been considering a run for Common
Council for a while, the increase in crime in the city—including
the murders of Kathina Thomas and Richard Bailey—reinforced
a problem in this city,” she said, as a crumpled flier for
Mayor Jennings lay just feet away on the ground. “We need
change, we need new leadership all over this city, but this
neighborhood has especially been neglected.”
say it has become more difficult to use CDTA’s paratransit
When Michelle Braman went for a medical exam last November
to be recertified for paratransit bus service, she was shocked
at the treatment she received from the doctors hired by the
Capital District Transportation Authority.
way the doctor treated me was horrible,” said Braman, who
is blind and suffers from a hip injury. “He as much implied
that I could really see, or that I had some vision, and he
even had the audacity to ask me if my guide dog was really
my dog.” Braman said that she was also told that she would
have to take a psychological evaluation, which she viewed
is absolutely no requirement that one has to have a psych
evaluation,” she said. “I know that I’m likely viewed as a
troublemaker because I don’t put up with their stuff, and
I’m an advocate as well.” Braman refused to be evaluated.
Braman’s experience is one of many complaints received recently
by the Capital District Coalition for Accessible Transportation
(CDCAT), an advocacy group that provides transportation information
for people with disabilities and also aids people with appeals
for STAR—Special Transit Available by Request—service. Donna
Suhor, the director of CDCAT, said that they receive many
complaints about the STAR service, particularly involving
what they say is an overly intensive certification process
and problems with on-time, reliable service.
STAR is a paratransit service offered by CDTA for those who
are unable to use or have difficulty using regular bus routes
due to disability. STAR operates within three-fourths of a
mile of, and during the regular operating hours of, regular
bus routes, and riders must first be certified. The service
costs $2.50 a ride. Similar services are required of all public-transportation
systems across the country in compliance with the American
However, critics of the service allege that CDTA seems to
discourage ridership for the program, and provides inadequate
service for those that do ride.
seem to be concerned to the point where they must be by law,”
said Ed Rich, vice chairman of CDCAT. “I don’t think there’s
any human concern, really.”
The problem, according to Braman, is a change CDTA made to
its certification process about a year ago. The CDTA now pays
an independent medical evaluation company $100,000 annually
to conduct the assessments of riders.
shelling out a ton of money to this so-called independent
medical evaluating group of doctors,” Braman said. “They’re
working for STAR, they’re being paid by CDTA, and their job—because
they’re being paid by CDTA—is to keep people from getting
benefits, from getting the STAR service. That’s really the
intent behind it,” she asserted.
Rich, who is legally blind, also had a negative experience
when he went through the certification process.
went through one of those assessments recently and I wasn’t
very impressed with the confidence of the contractor going
through the process,” he said. Rich was initially denied service
when he first applied in the late ’90s, and went through two
appeals before successfully receiving service. Rich said that
another big issue with STAR is the supplemental use of taxi
service for riders.
far as the actual service goes, the CDTA had to subcontract
to Capitaland Taxi service for supplemental resources,” Rich
said, “because they really don’t have the proper personnel
or equipment to do it themselves completely.” This is called
a “cash-call cab service” as opposed to dedicated STAR buses.
Braman refuses to use taxi service because in the past she
has had issues with drivers being rude toward her service
dog, as well as having enough space to accommodate her hip
injury. Because of this, Braman had issues receiving door-to-door
service when visiting Honest Weight Food Co-op on Central
Avenue. STAR instead wanted the pick-up location to be at
the Family Dollar. She eventually received the door-to-door
I could use public transportation I would, because to have
to go through this is—I think it’s just totally wrong,” she
Suhor is trying to set up a meeting with CDTA to discuss the
complaints CDCAT has received about the certification process.
CDTA did not return a call for comment in time for publication.
loose ends this week-