Mayor: Corey Ellis (D, WFP)
Mayor: Corey Ellis (D, WFP)
years ago, when the brash, outsider alderman, the loudest
critic of City Hall, won a surprise victory against an established
leader of the Democratic Party machine, the win was heralded
as the end of the political culture that dominated Albany
for more than half a century—a culture of backroom dealing,
thuggish voter manipulation and cronyism. Sixteen years later,
many of the trappings of the machine’s power that were supposedly
eliminated in a wave of reform have reemerged, and the onetime
outsider and reformer—Jerry Jennings—directs a secretive administration
from his corner office. Without term limits, Democracy suffers.
And it suffers here in Albany. Sixteen years is long enough.
It is time to clean out the halls of city power, to bring
in new voices, new ideas, new vision, and new leaders. And
there is no way better to start this era of reform than with
the election of Corey Ellis.
Ellis’ years as a union organizer have left a deep impression
on the 38-year-old councilman. A natural leader with an impressive
gift for rallying disparate troops, Ellis has proven a boldness
of vision that inspires and challenges the status quo. His
2005 Common Council victory over machine incumbent Michael
Brown is a testament to hard work and belief in the future
of the city. Losing by only a handful of votes in the Democratic
Primary, Ellis mounted a general election campaign on the
Working Families Party line and succeeded at something most
people told him would be impossible.
As councilman for the 3rd Ward, Ellis defined himself as a
leading voice for the progressive movement in Albany. Early
on, he tackled the issue of abandoned buildings that cripple
the city and his ward. He advocated for public-access television
and charter reform. He joined Councilman Dominick Calsolaro
in raising the alarm over the Rapp Road Landfill, which the
administration had no plan to deal with. Most impressively,
it was Ellis’ relentless advocacy for an investigation into
the system of no-fine parking tickets that initiated two investigations—one
mounted by the council itself—and uncovered a decades-long
swindle that had robbed the city of untold revenue.
Ellis is challenging a mayor who has led the city into numerous
crises. The city’s budget shortfall is estimated as likely
to reach $20 million by 2012. The landfill’s expansion into
the city’s ecological treasure, the Pine Bush Reserve, is
a tragedy that could have been avoided. The mayor’s appointment
and unyielding support of Police Chief James Tuffey—his fifth
chief in 16 years—has robbed the city of vital community policing.
Both the mayor and chief have proven themselves incapable
of controlling the waves of violent crime and gun violence
that terrorize Albany neighborhoods. Jennings’ push for an
unneeded and ill-conceived convention center speaks volumes
about his lack of vision for the city—and his proffering of
costly construction contracts to his friends in the business
world. Jennings has touted entertainment over infrastructure,
ignored the abandoned buildings that blight neighborhoods
and cripple the city. He has failed to create neighborhoods
that people want to live in, giving state workers a city to
come to for work and for drinks, but not a city where they
want to raise their children.
If there is to be real reform in Albany, if the progressive
movement is to have an opportunity to define a new vision
for our city, then we must win the mayor’s seat on Sept. 15.
We strongly support Corey Ellis for mayor, and urge our readers
to give him the opportunity to chart a new course.
City Treasurer: Kathy Sheehan (D, WFP)
City Treasurer: Kathy Sheehan (D, WFP)
citywide race for the crucial position of city treasurer will
allow the voters of Albany the chance to level a verdict on
the disgraceful tenure of Betty Barnette, and we urge our
readers to vote against the 18-year incumbent. We are extremely
pleased that, in her place, we can endorse one of the strongest
candidates of this election season, a woman who promises to
bring to the office a transparency and dedication to ethical
government that Barnette sorely lacks.
Sheehan, who built her career as a top executive at multimillion-dollar
high-tech firm, has the kind of experience and leadership
that we believe is vital for Albany at this time. Sheehan
held three titles at the firm she helped to guide over a decade
and helped to grow from $88 million in sales to more than
$300 million. As vice president she worked closely with the
top tier of management to forge the company’s successful trajectory.
As the general counsel, she was responsible for the publicly
traded company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, as well as overseeing the company’s legal obligations
to its shareholders. She worked in a high-pressure, transparent
environment, which trained her well for the daunting task
of assuming an office that has been misguided and obsessively
opaque under Barnette’s leadership.
This year, Barnette went before the Albany Common Council
and claimed that, in her 18 years as treasurer, she had never
heard of the ghost tickets or VIP list that, according to
the state comptroller’s office, allowed city employees, their
friends and family to skirt the parking penalties that most
of us in Albany have had to deal with at one time or another.
She made this claim regardless of the fact that her office
oversees the collection of these fines. According to the comptroller’s
audit, more than 50,000 no-fine tickets were issued between
2001and 2008 due to these unregulated systems, and Barnette
herself received seven. This begs the question: Was Barnette
lying? And if not, was she derelict in her duties?
As for Barnette’s dedication to transparent government, two
former city comptrollers had to level lawsuits to force her
office to comply with the most basic requests.
Next year, the office of treasurer will assume responsibilities
that were once handled by the now-dissolved comptroller’s
office, including the issuance of municipal bonds, cash-flow
forecasting, and overseeing investments made for the city—essentially
making the treasurer the city’s chief financial officer. More
than ever, there will be no room for politics in this crucial
office and, as the former chair of the Albany County Democratic
Committee, Barnette is viewed by many within the city government
as a fiercely political actor.
This year we have the opportunity to usher in real change
in Albany, and to place a respected, hard-working adult in
a vital role in city government. We strongly support Kathy
Common Council President: Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin
hard for us to get very en thused about our endorsement in
this citywide race. To begin with, the role of council president
is a largely ceremonial one with limited responsibilities.
The president can level no vote on legislation unless it is
to break a tie. However, skillful and dedicated representatives
have served in this position and have helped shape public
opinion by offering valuable insight into the machinations
of the council.
Unfortunately, we don’t believe that either Democrat running
this year will bend the office to offer any more beyond its
On one hand we have Carolyn McLaughlin. A 12-year veteran
of the Common Council and the current majority leader, McLaughlin
came to office as a driven community advocate, yet has matured
over her tenure into something quite different. The councilwoman
from the 2nd Ward was an early supporter of the convention
center fiasco, has refused to state publicly who she supports
in the current mayoral challenge, and has been quick to concede
the important issues.
On the other we have Leonard Ricchiuti. A 20-year veteran
of the Albany police force, Ricchiuti made a name for himself
as the director of the nonprofit Police Athletic League. At
first blush he seems like a stand-up, apolitical fellow driven
by his altruistic interest in the city. And while his lack
of participation in the Common Council at any level at any
time certainly casts him in the popular role of political
outsider, we find his newfound interest a little suspicious.
Putting aside the recent allegations of Ricchiuti’s sexual
and physical intimidation of an underling at PAL, we instead
will focus on his campaign.
His pledge to be a bridge between the mayor and council sounds
nice until you consider his stance on two key issues: He dismisses
the council’s lengthy ghost-tickets investigation as a pointless
dud, and he chides the council’s 2006 attempt to reform the
charter by removing the mayoral stranglehold that it currently
allows. Both are positions taken by the current mayor. And
when you add to this the fact that Ricchiuti’s impressive
fundraising has drawn nearly a third of its money from supporters
of Jerry Jennings, one wonders exactly what kind of bridge
he intends to be.
McLaughlin did support both the ghost-tickets investigation
and the attempt at charter reform.
All of this considered, the most important role for the council
president is that of bench warmer in case the next mayor is
unable to see through his term. In that instance, we would
much rather have a lapsed progressive than a groomed machine
candidate leading our city.
City Auditor: Leif Engstrom (D)
City Auditor: Leif Engstrom (D)
citywide auditor position—created this year to absorb many
of the responsibilities of the now-defunct comptroller’s office—is
responsible for performing reviews and analyses of city departments
for efficiency and abuse, particularly in areas of budget.
It is a position that, although elected, needs to be carried
out apolitically. Further, it needs an officer who will be
thorough and detail-oriented. We are fortunate to have two
qualified, serious and compelling contenders.
Darius Shahinfar, an attorney, is a favorite among many Democratic
Party insiders. He worked closely with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
while she represented the 20th Congressional District, and
has secured her endorsement. Shahinfar even mounted his own
run for Congress last year in the 21st District. However,
while Shahinfar may indeed have a future as an elected official,
in this instance we don’t believe the office fits the man.
Leif Engstrom is a newcomer to the political arena and one
who has demonstrated an energetic and serious work ethic.
His years as an industrial engineer have given him experience
with cost- benefit analyses and performance reviews, which
will be vital for analyzing the minutia that makes a city
run. He appears to understand the importance of not politicizing
the position, and has run on a platform emphasizing independence.
While we are not so naïve as to believe that any elected official
operates outside the dealings and alliances necessary to mount
a campaign, we do believe that, for Engstrom, this position
is likely not a stepping stone in a political career, but
one that is an obvious fit.
We urge our readers to vote for Engstrom for city auditor.
Common Council Ward 1: Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (D, WFP)
Dominick Calsolaro, the voters of the 1st Ward have the ideal
representative. No one else on the council brings his level
of commitment to the job. He understands that a great representative
is able to advocate on citywide issues, such as his opposition
to the recent bonding for the unfortunate expansion of the
Rapp Road Landfill, his ardent advocacy for public-access
television, the ghost-tickets investigation, and charter reform.
Yet he is also able to tend to the needs of his neighbors
who put him into that seat, attracting money and resources
for vital infrastructure work in his ward.
Calsolaro is being challenged in the primary by Scott Mannarino,
who appears to be nothing more than a puppet candidate, propped
up and backed by Mayor Jerry Jennings. Mannarino has refused
to debate Calsolaro, refused to respond to reporters’ repeated
questions, and has never attempted to articulate his stance
on any of the issues facing his ward. Mannarino simply brings
nothing to the table.
We strongly support Calsolaro’s bid to serve the 1st Ward
for a third term.
Common Council Ward 3: Lisa Feaster (D, WFP)
candidate Lisa Feaster might be a newcomer in terms of running
for office, but the Working Families Party-endorsed activist
has an impressive history of promoting progressive politicians
and the progressive agenda in the city. In 2004, she helped
secure District Attorney David Soares’ upset victory. In 2005,
she campaigned on behalf of Councilwoman Barbara Smith, and
for the current Councilman for the 3rd Ward, Corey Ellis,
in his surprise ousting of Jennings-ally Michael Brown. Feaster
works for the Albany Community Land Trust.
Her opponent, Ronald Bailey, is the second vice-chairman of
the Albany County Democratic Committee, and a strong supporter
of Jennings. In interviews with Metroland, he has demonstrated
a lack of depth in his understanding of the issues, and a
lack of vision for his ward.
We give our endorsement to Feaster in this race, and with
this endorsement we believe that she will continue to push
for a progressive agenda, and work to ease the burdens facing
some of the most undervalued neighborhoods in the city.
Common Council Ward 4: Councilwoman Barbara Smith (D, WFP)
Councilwoman Barbara Smith has served the people of the 4th
Ward with intelligence, studiousness, and dedication during
her tenure. She boasts a strong voting record of supporting
progressive legislation and has demonstrated a commendable
independence. Her work with Operation SNUG brought hundreds
of thousands of dollars to Albany in an effort to deal with
violent crime, and is a great testament to her work ethic
and dedication to the city.
We support her bid for reelection.
Common Council Ward 5: Jackie Jenkins-Cox (D)
5th Ward has a history of being neglected by both the city
of Albany and its representation on the Common Council. Jackie
Jenkins-Cox has the passion and political savvy to change
that history. A former school board member who has worked
with the New York State Legislature and the Arbor Hill Community
Center, Jenkins-Cox is so involved in the community that she
was able to get 180 signatures in two days with the help of
just a few friends and family members.
Her opponent, incumbent Willard Timmons, has done little for
the ward over the past four years, and has been a consistent
ally with Mayor Jerry Jennings in the mayor’s most unfortunate
policy actions. Jenkins-Cox has pride and respect for her
ward, and will bring the urgency to the Common Council that
the 5th so desperately needs.
Common Council Ward 7: Councilwoman Catherine Fahey (D, WFP)
Councilwoman Cat herine Fahey has proven in one term to be
a fine representative. Her opponent, Susan Tobin, is a political
newcomer who secured the endorsement of the Albany County
Democratic Committee, which has backed Jerry Jennings and
Betty Barnette in their reelection campaigns. While Tobin
claims that she knows how to work well with people, which
we don’t doubt, it is the people she might choose to work
with that concerns us.
With Fahey, we wholeheartedly support her voting record and
the people, such as Barbara Smith and Dominick Calsolaro,
with whom she has aligned herself.
We are happy to endorse Fahey in her bid for a second term.
Common Council Ward 10: Leah Golby (D, WFP)
up against a 20-year incumbent is not an easy task. Councilman
James Scalzo has made a lot of friends during his two decades
representing the 10th Ward, and has the backing of the Albany
Democratic Committee. However, more and more residents feel
that the quality of their representation has declined in recent
years, and that the neighborhood is suffering from out-of-control
college students, code violations, absentee landlords and
a spike in crime. Gone is the family-friendly atmosphere of
the ward from when Scalzo was first elected, many residents
Challenger Leah Golby is up to the task of not only dethroning
Scalzo, but also tackling the big issues facing the ward.
Golby has talked to both residents and students about improving
the student/community relationship in the 10th and, although
she is a political newcomer, her experience as an advocate
has earned her endorsements from the Working Families Party,
Citizen Action and former mayoral candidate Shawn Morris.
Golby would bring an important progressive voice to the Common
Council, and has the fire and passion that Scalzo lacks after
20 years in office.
We support her candidacy in the 10th Ward.
Common Council Ward 11: Luke Gucker (D, WFP)
year, four candidates step ped forward to fill the 11th Ward
seat being vacated by Glen Casey. While all four seemingly
come together on big issues like community policing, the landfill
expansion and the convention center, Luke Gucker stands out
from the crowd, due to his background in urban planning and
his depth of analysis for issues affecting the ward.
Candidate Ken Barnes has some creative ideas, but seems to
lack the political know-how to see them through, while consummate
campaigner Anton Konev falls on the other end of this spectrum.
Justin Teff, the current ward leader for the Democratic Committee
in the 11th, has experience working with the people and issues
of the ward, but it’s too close to call on whether or not
he would bring a sense of independence to the council.
Gucker has, from the outset, been a progressive political
voice and, being the only candidate not to have previously
run for an office, his claim that he is motivated, not by
career politics, but by a passion to bring change to his ward,
is one we believe. Gucker has the right balance of political
persona and platform to get the 11th back on track.