Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan has delivered her last State of the City address ahead of the November election. Reviews were mixed — and potential rivals were watching closely.
Wednesday evening, Sheehan had to compete for ear time against chanting protestors critical of her administration and its policies. Black Lives Matter representatives picked up on last year's mantras of "Justice for Dontay" and "Fire Those Cops," referring to the mentally-ill black man who they say was “tased to death” by four Albany police officers as he walked unarmed through his Arbor Hill neighborhood. No charges were brought. The continuous cacophony forced some members of the audience to pick up and go. "I certainly respect people's right to free speech. I think it was incredibly disrespectful of the people who gathered here from throughout our community who wanted to hear a speech and be able to listen to what is happening in the city."
Sheehan quipped had they listened, they would have heard about "a remarkable transformation" that is occurring in the city. "We are in negotiations with labor. They deserve a raise and I want to give them a raise. I'm proud of the work that our police department has done. And so when you chant about justice for Dontay Ivy, you know, you need to listen. It's not about shouting. It's about helping us to devise solutions. It's not about just firing a couple of people. That'd be easy. It'd be wrong, but it'd be easy. The hard work is training a police department, working within the community, coming up with a policy on body-worn cameras that everybody can trust and believe in. They've been invited to the table to do that work with us, and I think we heard tonight that instead they choose to shout."
First ward common council member Dorcey Applyrs heard a positive message of leadership. "We have a mayor who will protect the rights of all of our citizens in the city, and that's been a concern with some of my constituents and I'm sure residents across the board."
Councilman Frank Commisso, expected to announce his candidacy for mayor, left the address early, saying the mayor didn't address any concrete issues. "No mention of Albany's high levels of property taxes. No mention of the mayor's discriminatory regressive trash fee, which is confined to people of lesser wealth because they don't own homes. No mentions of the failed red light camera program, violations of civil service law, $12.5 million deficit, downgraded credit rating or Albany's increasing rate of poverty."
Former mayoral candidate and activist Marlon Anderson was unfazed by the address, noting "taxes are still going up, the schools are still going down," and he's "97 percent sure" he'll toss his hat in the ring. "We'll have to see in the spring when I make it official. And again you never know. Perhaps someone could come up that I could support and things could change."
Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, who recently announced her candidacy for mayor, says after hearing the address she doesn't feel much excitement about Sheehan's proposal to build a new courthouse. She wonders why more wasn't said about the landfill's scheduled closing in 2020. "We've already reduced our intake so that we can extend it, so what are we gonna do about that? Just in terms of what we had to deal with here, I think she did a great job, continuing to stay on message, even while the other opposing team was staying on message as well. I think she did a great job of continuing to get the story told on what the state of the city is."
Another former mayoral candidate is eyeing McLaughlin's post: Corey Ellis, who alluded to making a run last week, tells The Alt newspaper he is running for common council president. Ellis said he'll base his run on what he accomplished during the time he served as a councilman following the 2006 election, and believes can be a bridge between community members, activists and City Hall.