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The visible candidate: Leah Golby challenges long-time incumbent James Scalzo in the 10th Ward Albany Common Council race.

Photo: Joe Putrock

The Invisible Councilman

10th Ward challenger Leah Golby says the time has come for real representation on the council

Thousands of college students returned to Albany this past weekend, bringing along with them the parties, noise, and trash that have annually plagued the residents of the Pine Hills neighborhood. The strained relationship between students and the community—along with the often related issues of crime and code violations—is shaping up to be a key issue for the voters of the 10th Ward election for Albany Common Council.

Those frustrated will, for the first time in 12 years, have a choice when voting in the 10th for the common council elections. Leah Golby, a political newcomer but long-time activist, is challenging 20-year incumbent James Scalzo in the upcoming Democratic primary. She also has the endorsement of the Working Families Party.

“I am really talking to people about including the students in cleaning up the neighborhood,” said Golby. “If you walk down Hudson and Hamilton, they’re just trashed. A lot of it is that student- community relations need to improve. It’s going to take both sides; it’s going to take the homeowners and it’s going to take the students.”

While many college students only live in the city part-time and do not vote in Albany elections, they do make up a large part of the 10th Ward, and Golby said that including them in the community efforts is crucial.

“I get very mom-like about this,” she said. “You wouldn’t do this at your parents’ house, in your own neighborhood, so please, let’s work together and not do it in ours.” Golby said that she has talked to students in the area and that many were particularly eager to participate in a monthly neighborhood block clean-up.

For many residents in Pine Hills, a win by Golby would be an opportunity for the 10th Ward to have a progressive representative on the Common Council.

At an August debate, Golby criticized Scalzo for never questioning budgets submitted by Mayor Jerry Jennings. “I will take a good, hard look at the budget,” said Golby, who currently supports Corey Ellis for mayor.

“Our mayor’s done a great job in this city,” Scalzo said in response.

Also at the debate, Scalzo blamed the state Legislature for hold-ups in funding that would contribute to community programs and community policing. He also pointed to his years of working with and listening to his neighbors.

“I have a long history of community service and community work,” he said.

Golby, however, said that she is hearing a different response from constituents in the 10th.

“It is evident from going door-to-door that this neighborhood is hungry for, and deserves, a common council member who communicates regularly and effectively with constituents,” Golby said. “When I talk to people who have moved to this neighborhood in the past 11 years . . . they say that they never knew who he was, then all of a sudden he started dropping off newsletters. He’s been a common council person all this time. How are we supposed to believe that he’s suddenly going to start representing us when he hasn’t been present?”

Golby also pointed to the issue of vacant buildings in the city.

“He is contributing to Albany’s problems by owning a vacant building and owing back taxes on that property, therefore burdening his neighbors and the rest of the city,” Golby said.

Scalzo, who owes at least $12,000 in back taxes to the city of Albany, has said that it is the failure of his two businesses that lead to the back taxes and that he has already paid over $100,000 in back taxes.

Scalzo did not return a call for comment for this article.

“People want to get this neighborhood back on the right track,” Golby said, “and that is the overwhelming response that I hear when I go door-to-door.”

A video of the 10th ward debate is available online at pinehillsdebate.bas


—Cecelia Martinez

Down to Two

With Veronica Horne out of the race in the 5th Ward, Jackie Jenkins-Cox goes full steam ahead against incumbent Willard Timmons

Jackie Jenkins-Cox is a lifetime resident of Albany. She has raised three children in West Hill, worked with the Arbor Hill Community Center and at the New York State Legislature, and served on the Albany school board for two years. So, she was surprised to find that many of her neighbors in the 5th Ward most remember her as ‘Precious J,’ her radio persona on the Siena College Radio Station.

“It’s kind of funny, even now when I go through the neighborhood I get ‘Precious J,’ not Jackie,” she said. “But I know that I’m the same person and they love me the same.”

Jenkins-Cox is now the only remaining candidate running against incumbent Councilman Willard Timmons in the 5th Ward after Veronica Horne made the surprise decision to drop from the race.

“I am dropping out of the race, and should have everything taken care of with the board of elections by the end of the week,” said Horne, who declined to offer explanation for her decision and said that she would not be doing any additional interviews with the press.

Jenkins-Cox called Horne’s decision to drop out of the race “disheartening,” and said that with three candidates there would be a better chance of getting Timmons out of office.

“I felt like, if not me, at least her,” Jenkins-Cox said. “Just as long as it’s not him, please not him.”

Jenkins-Cox said that she feels that the problems in her ward have been neglected by the current representation.

“What have you done for our community?” she said. “I don’t think the common council is just something that you get involved with, it’s something where you want to make a difference for where you live.”

Timmons, who joined the council in 2005 after beating incumbent Shirley Foskey, is endorsed by the Democratic Committee and the Conservative Party line, and is seen to be an unwavering ally for Jennings.

Jenkins-Cox said that she first wanted to run for council in 2005 but decided to run for the school board instead.

“It’s always been heavy on my heart,” she said. “I always said that, in four years, if he hadn’t done anything, then I was going to run.”

“You have to live in your ward to run, but you also have to live in your ward,” she said, “meaning being outside, talking to people, communicating with people, letting people vent.”

Jenkins-Cox said that people have a misconception about the ward. “There are a lot more people here that are employed and responsible than people think, and I think that’s why we often get overlooked.”

Jenkins-Cox said that she is limiting her door-to-door campaigning as to not disturb her neighbors during dinnertime. She also wants to differentiate herself from the candidates that only come around every four years.

“If the only time you can come knocking on our doors is when you need a signature, that’s not right,” she said. “The people in the 5th Ward are intelligent, and they understand that we need their vote. I tell people that if they are frustrated with the way things are and want them to change, they can start that change at the voting booths. You don’t have to keep voting for someone you don’t think is doing a good job.”

Timmons did not return calls for comment.

She said that basic services like street sweeping, trash cans, and streetlights are being neglected in the 5th Ward.

Jenkins-Cox said that while there might not be changes over night, she believes that she can make a difference by working closely with the people of the 5th.

“We all, each individual, need to take responsibility,” she said. “We need to take accountability for where we live and not look for someone else to do it for us. We are all looking for that little bit of hope, and I believe that I can be a part of that.”


—Cecelia Martinez

Loose Ends

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