Save the Pine Bush

Vote Primary Day – Tuesday, September 15, Noon to 9:00 pm


ALBANY: Six candidates for Albany City-wide races came to speak at the August Save the Pine Bush dinner. Four city-wide seats are up this year (as well as the entire Common Council). Running for Mayor – Corey Ellis; for treasurer – Kathy Sheehan; for Common Council President – Carolyn McLaughlin and Lenny Ricchiuti; and for auditor – Leif Engstrom and Darius Shahinfar. Jerry Jennings, running for his fifth term as Mayor sent his regrets; Betty Barnett, running again for treasurer, did not respond. Here is a brief summary of what the candidates said:

Corey Ellis began by saying we need to listen to the many advocates in the City. During his time on the Common Council, he has listened to citizens advocating to prevent gun violence, for public access TV, for community policing, to solve the issue of vacant buildings, to oppose the construction of a WalGreens, and many other issues. But, the current administration did not listen to any of the advocates, and the city is worse off because of it.

As mayor, Corey will listen to the advocates in the City. When he is elected, people will want to move back into the City because they will see the City moving forward. Corey detailed his plans to create economic opportunity in every neighborhood, work for solutions to the vacant building problem, address the budget problems, improve city infrastructure, as well as plans to address many other issues. He wants every child in every school to know about the Pine Bush. He advocates for zero organics to be placed in the landfill, and to implement innovative solutions to the city’s garbage problem. Corey envisions a City with open and responsive government, where Albany residents benefit, not special interests.

Kathy Sheehan worked for Intermagnetics (which makes magnets MRIs and other health care products) as vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for ten years, in which time the company went from $90 million a year to $160 million a year. Kathy became interested in the position of treasurer because of this year’s change in the treasurer’s responsibilities. Now the function of overseeing the City’s investments is being moved from the position of the comptroller to the treasurer. She feels the City’s finances needs to be run as a business, and she feels because of her successful business background, she is particularly qualified. She loves living in Albany. Kathy’s believes it is important to look at the real costs of the landfill in the Pine Bush, as that the landfill appears to make more money than it really does. “We need to come up with better answers.,” she said. She pledged that she would be answerable only to the citizens, and that she would operate in an open, professional, public manner.

Leif Engstrom explained in great detail the City Charter changes that take effect for this year’s election with the elimination of the City Comptroller position and the creation of the auditor position. The duties of the the new auditor position include auditing investments, payments and City operations. Leif believes the first responsibility of auditor is to conduct performance audits of City departments and operations. He pledged to make his audits available to the public and to operate in a transparent manner. Leif believes that his background makes him particularly suitable for the auditor position: as an industrial engineer, he understands organizational dynamics and systems analysis and as a city planner, he understands local government services. He most recently worked at the Capital District Regional Planning Commission working on the combined sewer overflow project and other regional planning projects. He opposes all development in the Pine Bush.

Darius Shahainfar was the capital district representative for now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He believes that independence for the auditor position is crucial. As auditor, he will be a taxpayer advocate, increase transparency and will publish his audit results. He will followup on the bullseye parking ticket issue. Darius stated that he would regularly report on the landfill and how fast it is filling up. He would institute better internal controls, and consolidate computer systems and audit appropriate billing and on-time payments. He will be accessible and answerable.

Carolyn McLaughlin is currently the Common Council member representing the second ward, and has served on the Council for 12 years. She began by noting she has lived in both Arbor Hill and the South End. “We need to talk about the good things about the City,” she said. She focused on what the City can do for senior citizens and young people, observing that if we take care of our young people and our seniors, the others will be all right. She noted the naturally occurring retirement communities in Albany such as on Whitehall Road and Mount Hope and spoke about the importance of providing additional services to these communities. She spoke about how we need to continue to encourage young people to have productive lives. She pledged to create an “Albany Youth Commission” who would report directly to her and would be made up of one young person for each ward.

Lenny Ricchiuti is a retired police officer who has been running PAL — the Police Athletic League and currently serves on the Albany Library Board. He believes all city employees should be residents of the City. He believes its terrible what has happened to the vacant buildings and thinks that Albany should adopt a program to solve the issue. He observed that if you take “neighbor” out of “neighborhood”, you get “hood”. He loves Albany but believes we are being “taxed beyond belief.” He believes the role of the Common Council President is to be an ombudsman for the people. When he was a police officer, he worked for a time at the Pine Bush Police Station. He said that when he drove to work, the stench of the landfill was horrendous and he did not know how people could live with it. He says the landfill needs to close and that the City has to address the shortfalls in the revenue when it closes.




Published in the September 2009 Dinner/Walk Notice