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Candidates Night
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Lasagna & Politics

by Lynne Jackson

ALBANY, NY: The July SPB veggie lasagna dinner at the First Presbyterian Church was a forum for a bevy of politicians. Everyone came out to support Pine Bush preservation, a welcome change from previous elections.

Candidates from Albany, most facing primaries in September attended as well as Ken Runion, candidate for Guilderland Town Supervisor who faces his challengers in the general election.

First to speak was Marggie Skinner, Democrat, running for Common Council in the 9th ward in Albany. Though this is her first run for office, she has extensive experience in advocating for neighborhoods, as she was the chair and founding member of the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA). “I want to be an independent voice and make sure people who live and work in the city of Albany have representation on the Council,” said Marggie. Marggie wants to see more open government by creating an Albany Public Access TV station, which would be able to broadcast Common Council meetings, school board meetings, etc. More information about Marggie and her campaign can be found at www.marggieskinner.com or emailing marggies@aol.com.

Next, long-time Pine Bush supporter Richard Conti, Democrat, 6th ward spoke. During his tenure as member of the Common Council, there have been three votes* affecting the Pine Bush, votes to re-zone land to allow commercial development. Richard looks at the votes not so much as for Pine Bush preservation, but as voting against commercialization of the Pine Bush. Either way you look at it, Richard voted for Pine Bush protection, and against Pine Bush development on all three important votes. Richard said that Pine Bush preservation is a “no-brainer,“ and that he is against suburban sprawl and believes that the focus should be placed on downtown. He wants the Common Council to focus on more environmental and anti-sprawl issues. He too advocates for a public access TV station, saying that he was amazed at how little press coverage the Council receives and how little people know about what the Council does. For more information about Richard, please contact him at rc6thward@aol.com.

Long-time Pine Bush friend, Shawn Morris, Democrat, 7th Ward spoke about the importance of Pine Bush preservation to her downtown ward. She, too, voted with the Pine Bush on the three important Council votes. She said that Save the Pine Bush is one of the most consistent lobbyists for the Council. Saving the Pine Bush is not just good for open space, but its good for the City. Shawn noted that a lot of good things are happening in downtown Albany now, but that our neighborhoods are suffering. We need to make City living a good thing again. We need to have a strong voice with the CDTA, so that residents in neighborhoods like hers do not need to drive downtown. Shawn is not facing a primary opponent. For more information about Shawn, please contact her at morrisshawn @worldnet.att.net.

Helen DesFosses, Democrat, long-time Pine Bush supporter, is running for her second term as President of the Albany Common Council. Though she just came to visit Save the Pine Bush in April when she spoke about “Forces for Change in Albany’s Future”, Helen graciously accepted our invitation to candidates night. She faces a primary opponent and is taking her campaign quite seriously and has on her “door-to-door clothes and her door-to-door shoes.” She hopes to meet many of her constituents personally during this campaign. Helen noted what a critical resource the Pine Bush is, and that she takes a commitment to the environment seriously. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has talked about putting up signs noting the Pine Bush along the Thruway, and Helen believes that similar signs should be put up on Washington Avenue Extension. Albany, said Helen, needs a master plan, a plan to fight against sprawl. Albany needs to do more for historic preservation. “We can’t keep running after a moving bulldozer.” Helen observed that Save the Pine Bush has been one of the most dedicated speakers to the Common Council. Her campaign just paid for the first city-wide newsletter, mailed to 35,000 households, that has the phone numbers and addresses of government offices to help citizens find where to bring their concerns and complaints. Helen ended by letting us all know that anyone can come down to the Common Council and speak on any issue for five minutes at the beginning of the meetings, at 7:00. For more information on Helen’s campaign, contact her at Hdesfosses@aol.com or www. albanycouncilpres.com Rezsin Adams noted that long-time Pine Bush member and supporter, John Portelli, is running for School Board. John was not at the dinner, but Rezsin was collecting signatures for his petitions. Lynne Jackson announced that Dominick Calsalaro, Democrat, is running for Common Council member in the 1st Ward. He regretted not being able to attend the dinner, but unfortunately, had a prior commitment at a fund-raiser. Carol Wallace, long-time friend, supporter and outspoken advocate for Pine Bush Preservation, is retiring (after eight years) from the Common Council. She will be missed! Dominick hopes to follow in Carol’s shoes, as an advocate for the Pine Bush and downtown revitalization. Dominick believes that the City needs to continue to expand the City’s recycling program and look for alternative sites for solid waste disposal outside of the Pine Bush. Contact Dominick at www.calsolaro.org or dcalsol1@nycap.rr.com. Ken Runion, Democrat, is running for his second term for Guilderland Town Supervisor. He spoke eloquently about the Guilderland Master Plan, which was passed by the Guilderland Town Board on August 7, after the dinner. He noted that his other three opponents oppose the Master Plan. The Master Plan has had four public hearings before the Town Board, and he is asking us to support the Master Plan. 13,000 questionnaires were sent to all Guilderland property owners, and 3,000 questionnaires were returned for an astounding 23% return. Eighty per cent of respondents wanted preservation and to have growth curtailed. The Master Plan includes a Fiscal Model, which proves that preservation of open space is less expensive than development. The Fiscal Model shows that taxes increase with the development of single-family houses, because of the demand on the infrastructure for more water, schools, sewers, etc.. to sustain growth. Commercial and industrial growth also does not curtail taxes. The Master Plan would allow for the Town to set aside $750,000 a year to purchase open space. The key, according to Ken, is the preservation of open space. Ken noted that some people at the public hearings on the Master Plan criticized the fiscal model because it was based on 1998 data. Ken then had the fiscal model run again, using data from 2000. The conclusion was the same. Preservation keeps taxes down. Another issue for the Master Plan is water. About 800 residents do not have access to water out of the 35,000 Guilderland residents. Ken is working with them to bring them water. What Ken does not want to see if the Town supplying water to people who wish to sub-divide their land for profit. The Master Plan is to be reviewed every five years. Ken spoke about the Schoolcraft House, an historic building SPB member John Wolcott helped save from the wrecking ball, which is located in the Pine Bush. Ken noted that his predecessors refused to fund or seek grant monies to renovate the house. Now, under Ken’s administration, the Town is starting to rehab and restore the Schoolcraft House. Ken did not mention purchasing the DiCaprio Farm in the Pine Bush. Save the Pine Bush is thrilled that the Town of Guilderland, under Ken’s leadership, purchased the DiCaprio Farm and saved it from being a housing development. The Town and Ken are to be commended for their foresight in preserving this land. However, the current plan is to make the farm into soccer fields, which SPB opposes. SPB is hoping that the Town will find a way to preserve all of the Farm. Though Ken mentioned the Town of Guilderland website (www.guilderland.org), he did not mention how unusual it is. Under Ken’s direction, the web master contacted Lynne Jackson, the SPB web master, and specifically asked if the Town could link to SPB’s website. This is the very first and only time a municipality that SPB has sued (of course, we have sued all the local municipalities with Pine Bush in their borders) has ever asked to link to the Pine Bush web site. This demonstrates Ken‘s willingness to facilitate truly open government, by linking to sites that may have views in opposite to Guilderland’s. After Ken was finished, Lynne Jackson made the observation that she has attended many government meetings over the past 23 years. Lynne noted that though she appreciates very much the warm, gracious welcome that Helen DesFossess offers to people attending the Common Council meetings, that the Town of Guilderland, under Ken’s direction, beats all the municipal meetings hands down. Not only is any one allowed to speak on any topic at the beginning of the Guilderland Town Board Meeting, but any one can then speak about each of the specific agenda items. This is an openness and welcoming of ideas not found in any of the other government bodies of municipalities with Pine Bush in their borders.

Printed in the August, September, 2001 Newsletter

This page last modified January 12, 2008
Contact Save the Pine Bush at pinebush@aol.com.