The three Democratic candidates for Albany mayor debated for the second time Tuesday night at the Times Union’s Hearst Media Center before a capacity crowd.
With pivotal September 12th primary nearing, first-term Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin and Common Councilmember Frank Commisso Jr. answered panelists' questions during a nearly 90-minute session.
Among the issues: economic segregation.
Sheehan: "One of the biggest challengers I hear from employers, and I talk to employers all the time, is that they can't find employees, and I know when I tell people in our neighborhoods that that's what employers are saying, they don't believe it."
McLaughlin: "We have to get our own house in order, because on a daily basis I speak with people, individuals who have applied for multiple jobs and cannot get a job with the city fo Albany. Now if you have a city that is approaching over 50 percent black, brown, and beige people and they represent maybe 12 percent of the workforce in the city of Albany, therein lies a big problem, right there."
Commisso "What I saw during this term was an effort to close the fire apparatus in the South End, I saw a recreation program that previously had been free of charge for children, now became a charge model, similar to the suburbs. We lost a gang prevention, a truancy abatement program, and of course we instituted a trash fee, specifically, on the most vulnerable residents in our city."
McLaughlin's stance on getting tough with "not-for-profit" SUNY Polytechnic uptown connected with the crowd. "Why can't they buy our police cars, our firetrucks, help us to put together a long-term strategic plan on dealing with our infrastructure problems. When they separated from SUNY Albany and became SUNY Poly, I believe the door was opened right then for us to have this conversation."
Sheehan pointed out that Albany has been working to develop a relationship with SUNY Poly. "We've succeeded in getting half a million dollars a year from Fuller Road management. We also have a payment that they make with respect to the Kiernan Plaza building, and so it is about having a relationship, talking about needs, and finding ways to fill those needs."
The candidates saw eye-to-eye on some issues: all agreed the mayor should serve a maximum two terms. One of the more contentious issues : the decision to place state troopers in city police cars three nights a week.
McLaughlin: "I was really concerned about it because I felt like it was sending a wrong messaqe to our neighborhoods."
Commisso: "It's timely because just last week we had our 26th shooting of the year in broad daylight."
Sheehan: "I've talked to people in neighborhoods who have said that they are grateful to have additional law enforcement in place."
Candidates also were quizzed about the recent Siena College poll of "likely voters" earlier this month that showed Sheehan far ahead.
Commisso: "A poll is a snapshot in time of a sample of voters"
McLaughlin : "It is the unlikely voter that I'm gonna need to win, and those are not the people that were called."
Sheehan: "We will continue to move the city in a great direction. We've accomplished a great deal. There is still much work to be done."