me! Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin gets support in
her bid for council president from current president,
for Albany Common Council president Lenny Ricchiuti wants
to be the bridge missing at City Hall
Councilwoman Carolyn Mc Laughlin (Ward 2), sat in the shady
park in front of City Hall and said that she got into politics
to be an advocate for the people of the South End. “And I
have lived up to that. I have reached out to the people who
don’t have the resources to do something about their situation,
and for those people, I have spoken up.”
From advocating for affordable housing to securing money for
her ward, she said, “I have been there so that when we talked
about doing projects in the city, we did not leave the South
End out. They were part of the conversation.” She pointed
to affordable housing on Clinton Street and also to Eagle
Court on Morton Avenue. “That was a project that was long
overdue. But that changed that corner. Those are apartments
that anyone would be proud to live in, that you or I would
be proud to live in. Is there a lot more we can do? Oh absolutely,”
she said, but there is always a question of resources.
The 12-year veteran of the common council had held a press
conference earlier in the afternoon Tuesday to announce the
endorsement of her candidacy for council president by Shawn
Morris, the current president and former mayoral candidate.
Councilwomen Barbara Smith and Catherine Fahey, along with
councilman Dominick Calsolaro, were also there to show their
support for McLaughlin. Former president Helen Desfosses,
who was not present, has also endorsed McLaughlin.
The next day, McLaughlin’s only opponent in the race, fellow
Democrat Lenny Ricchiuti, sent out a press release blasting
the councilwoman’s record.
the past 12 years, I’ve watched as the Presidents of the Common
Council have presided over the deterioration of Albany. It
seems fitting that the two people who served as council president
during this time have joined together to endorse my opponent,
Carolyn McLaughlin,” the release read. “McLaughlin’s do-nothing
attitude during her 12 year tenure as a member of the common
council represents a continuation of their failed leadership
and a continuation of politics as usual on the council.”
A retired Albany Police sergeant, Ricchiuti is best known
for his work with the Police Athletic League, an organization
he joined back in 1989 when it was just one year old. Today,
he is the executive director of PAL.
He said that he is running for the president’s seat “to be
the bridge between the common council and the mayor, to get
Politics, he said, should be removed from the equation.
the past year it seems more and more that our electeds don’t
want to work together,” Ricchiuti said. “I don’t know if it
is because they don’t like each other, or if it’s politics,
as I’m learning. I like to think that politics should be removed
from the equation because it’s about providing services to
the people who put you there. And they aren’t providing the
have no agenda,” he continued. “My agenda will be to see that
the people’s business gets done.”
Ricchiuti’s critics have focused mainly on two criticisms.
One is that Ricchiuti’s run might be in violation of the Hatch
Act, since PAL receives federal money. This, Ricchiuti claimed,
has been settled. An attorney from the Hatch Division ruled
that there is no violation, and that the letter is “in the
And second, Ricchiuti’s critics have dismissed him as just
being one of Jerry’s Boys, a hand-picked candidate of the
mayor’s office—someone who has spent almost no time in attendance
at council meetings and will answer solely to the mayor.
According to financial filings, Ricchiuti hasn’t received
money from Jennings, but since 2006 he has donated more than
$1,100 to the mayor’s primary and political action committees.
He has also been able to draw water from the mayor’s well,
receiving nearly a third of his $30,000-plus campaign contributions
from Jennings backers. Further, he was endorsed, along with
Albany city treasurer and Jennings ally Betty Barnette, by
the Conservative Party.
But as Ricchiuti put it, he has been doing “good work” at
a successful nonprofit in the city for more than 20 years
and has the reputation in his community as someone who can
get things done—is it any wonder that the mayor would want
to be associated with him?
In other words: Who, exactly, is whose boy?
Ricchiuti argued that when he disagrees with the mayor, he
will speak out. His main criticisms of Jennings’ tenure are
common among the mayor’s critics: the lack of community policing;
the lack of serious code enforcement and the expansion of
abandoned and neglected housing stock. Yet it is for the common
council that Ricchiuti reserves his sharpest criticism.
like a nine-month investigation into a parking-tickets scandal,
or whatever you want to call it, would not have lasted nine
months,” he said, had he been on the council. “And we still
have the same results that we knew nine months ago. So what
got done in the past nine months for the people? Are they
better off? We have spent all this time looking for scandal
and no scandal has been produced.”
He shrugged off the suggestion that Albany follow Nassau County
Executive Tom Suozzi’s lead; Suozzi fired six people after
a similar, yet much more limited, swindle was uncovered in
just don’t care about this anymore,” he argued. “They just
want it to be over. They want to hear what is going to be
done to correct the problem, not who’s going to get a spanking.
What, you want a pound of flesh or something? And why do you
want that pound of flesh at this particular time?” he said,
echoing the trope that the investigation has been politically
beg to differ with Mr. Ricchiuti,” said McLaughlin. “The work
done on the council in relation to the ghost tickets was some
good work. The first time in history that the council exercised
its subpoena power, that was not a waste. We set an example
of what the council can do, moving a discussion forward so
that the people of this city can get answers to their questions.”
It isn’t as though McLaughlin is known to be a fierce critic
of Jennings. Her early support for Jennings’ convention center
dreams and her recent vote to allow the expansion of the Rapp
Road landfill broke with the more ardent progressives. Her
silence on the mayor’s race, in a year when the progressive
movement boasted two viable candidates, has been especially
Yet she is sticking by her choice to not endorse in that race.
As she said, if she wins the president’s seat, she will work
with whoever occupies City Hall’s corner office. “I would
hope that the relationship could be such that there would
be open dialogue.”
in the race for Albany’s Third Ward council seat say they
want to reverse years of neglect
Policing and a lack of city services are the main issues shaping
the race in Albany’s 3rd Ward of the Common Council. The position,
which is being vacated by Councilman Corey Ellis in his mayoral
bid, represents Arbor Hill and part of West Hill. Three candidates
will face off in September’s Democratic primary: political
newcomers Lisa Feaster and LaSone Garland-Bryan, and Democratic
Party operative and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings ally, Ronald
Feaster is also running on the Working Families Party line,
and said that she sees herself as part of a progressive movement
within the Democratic Party in Albany. She supported David
Soares in his 2004 upset victory and Ellis in his council
win. However, she said that she recognizes the distinction
between politics and serving the people.
don’t care who you are,” Feaster said. “I’ll be there to do
Both Feaster and Garland-Bryan think that much of this work
must focus on a return to community policing.
cannot observe what’s happening by slow-rolling through the
neighborhood,” said Feaster. “We need local police stations.
We need police on the beat.”
Garland-Bryan cited incidents dating as far back as 1992 that
she said could have been avoided if the police had been familiar
with the community in Arbor Hill. One such incident was the
shooting of a mentally ill man in his home, who was described
as harmless by Garland-Bryan.
is a fear of officers,” Garland-Bryan said, particularly among
young black males. Garland-Bryan, who is African-American,
referred to her own encounters with the police, stating that
there is a lack of training in the department, which comes
through in the way they talk to members of the community.
Feaster claims that this attitude is a result of indifference.
“They come in and do their job, but when they’re done they
leave,” Feaster said. Feaster would like to see a push to
recruit from within the community.
Bailey, who did not respond to multiple phone calls, has also
stated that he was opposed to the Jennings administration’s
closing of the North Station in 2006. Bailey has been sure
in the past to assert his distance from Jennings’ political
establishment, however many of his critics view this as simple
posturing. While petitioning for a place on the Democratic
ballot, Bailey gathered signatures for Jennings, as well as
for city treasurer Betty Barnette.
Bailey also supported incumbent Micheal Brown, a Jennings
ally, in 2004. In a contentious election, Ellis ran and won
in the 3rd Ward on the Working Families Party line after losing
the Democratic primary to Brown.
Bailey also has the Conservative Party’s support, along with
Jennings and Barnette.
Garland-Bryan stresses that the race is not just about policing,
it’s about finally bringing needed services to Albany’s 3rd
you do things the same way, you’re going to get the same results,”
Garland-Bryan said. She believes that many on the Common Council
aren’t connected to their community and have become more interested
in their own agendas.
Garland-Bryan called attention to roads that have gone unpaved
for years and roads that have been paved right before the
need lighting on his own block,” said Garland-Bryan in reference
to Bailey, a ward leader and executive committeeperson of
the Albany County Democratic Committee. A women’s shelter
a few blocks away from Garland-Bryan’s house still does not
have a street lamp, and a building on Ten Broeck Avenue remains
just a façade after a fire gutted it a number of years ago.
signal it sends to residents is ‘We don’t care about you,’
” said Garland-Bryan. Garland-Bryan also recalled the community
beautification projects in Arbor Hill during the mayoral administration
of Erastus Corning, such as window boxes for flowers. “I haven’t
known Jennings to participate in it.”
should be a beautiful city,” said Feaster. In order for this
to happen, Feaster continued that residents have to be engaged,
something that can’t happen in areas where fear of crime prevails.
don’t talk to neighbors,” Feaster said. “There’s hardly any
interaction.” In places where there is a strong community
engagement with the police, people are more willing to speak
and aid investigations, Feaster claimed.
you live in the community,” said Feaster, “when you’re invested,
I think you care more.”
Different Kind of Race
candidates for Albany city auditor stress independence and
qualifications, not politics
Earlier this year, the Albany Common Council approved legislation
altering the City Charter, creating the position of city auditor.
The position replaces that of the comptroller, but in ways
is very different.
would have had no interest whatsoever in the comptroller’s
office, because of its role in investing and bonding,” said
city auditor candidate Leif Engstrom. “When I read what was
designated for city auditor, it was something that I really
was interested in and felt qualified for.”
The city auditor is responsible for performance reviews and
analyzing different areas of city government to check for
abuse and efficiency. Candidate Darius Shahinfar described
the position as being a “taxpayer advocate and mayoral watchdog”
and said that, as an attorney, he is someone who can “part
through the legal issues in ways that others can’t.”
Shahinfar said that having an independent candidate in the
role of city auditor is “vital to this position.” He said
that for this reason he is not accepting any endorsements
from any politicians in the city, unlike Engstrom who has
been endorsed by city and county politicians like county comptroller
Mike Connors, Albany Common Council members Dominick Calsolaro
and Carolyn McLaughlin and county legislators Dan McCoy and
Darius isn’t clear on is that the charter says that the common
council, in effect, can instruct the auditor to conduct investigations,
and that the opinion of the common council towards a city
auditor is important,” Engstrom said. “You don’t investigate
a legislative body.”
Engstrom has also been endorsed by the Albany Professional
Firefighters Union and the Albany County Central Federation
of Labor, while Shahinfar has received an endorsement from
U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, for whom he previously worked
as a regional representative.
Both candidates have run into issues with third-party nominations.
Shahinfar, according to Engstrom, received an endorsement
from the Conservative Party, along with Mayor Jerry Jennings
and treasurer Betty Barnette, but it was rejected by the New
York Board of Elections because the certificate of acceptance
was not signed or notarized. Engstrom is in jeopardy of losing
his Independence Party nomination—along with all other Independence
Party candidates—after Republican mayoral candidate Nathan
Lebron challenged the petitions filed over questions of whether
or not signatories swore an oath.
it boils down to is a conflict between the 2nd and 4th appellate
divisions of the New York State courts,” said Engstrom. He
explained that the 4th division found that signing your name
constitutes an oath, while the 2nd division found that the
oath must be verbalized. The issue is currently in the 3rd
division court awaiting decision, meaning that both candidates
may be without a ballot backup in November, making the democratic
primary the final vote.
is a race that is going to be won on the ground,” said Shahinfar,
who said that the biggest aspect of his campaign is talking
to people on an individual basis. He said that a large part
of the interactions involves educating people about the new
position and the roles of the city auditor. Shahinfar, who
ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress representing the 21st
District in 2008, said that while there are differences between
the two campaigns, his experience with his 2008 run has “absolutely”
helped to prepare him for the city auditor race.
Engstrom also said that door-to-door interaction is a large
part of his campaign, but that he is running a full campaign
include mailings and literature drops. “We have a lot of volunteers
for a low-profile race,” Engstrom said.
Engstrom stressed that the position of city auditor, although
elected, is one that should have very little to do with politics.
is a professional job that should not be politicized,” Engstrom
said. “It’s not about the issues, it’s about the qualifications
Engstrom said that he feels his background as an industrial
engineer gives him specific qualifications needed for the
job. He said that industrial engineering involves a lot of
cost-benefit analysis, performance reviews and applying scientific
methods to management. “We make the trains run on time, and
we organize things in a way that allows organizations to thrive.”
Shahinfar and Engstrom will both participate in a debate sponsored
by the League of Women Voters held September 8 at 6:30 PM
at the Albany Public Library.
loose ends this week-