Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wreaths for a cause

ALBANY>>  Bright Horizons Adult Day Care Program members and staff put their heads together to create holiday wreaths for a good cause. After the Times Union announced “Circles of Caring,” Bright Horizons staff jumped on the opportunity to give back to the community all while supplying members with a fun, creative activity.

Bright Horizons has four different locations throughout the Capital Region including Colonie, Guilderland, Latham, and Clifton Park, with each site creating their own wreath, but also with a common theme- “Home for the Holidays.”  This embodies the mission of Bright Horizons to help people remain in their own homes or with family. Each location made a wreath that reminds them of what it means to be home for the holidays, each with its own unique design.

Bright Horizons, celebrating 30 years of service in 2015, is the Adult Day Care Program of Colonie Senior Service Centers, an independent, community based non-profit serving the largest population of seniors in the Capital Region.

Bright Horizons’ members (back left to right) Ernie DeSantis, Evelyn Zuccardi, (front left to right) Marilyn Fink, Alice Ellett, Rita McAuliffe, Barb Gauthier pose with the sites’ holiday wreaths for the Circle of Caring.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

CEO and Unity House working together to brighten holidays for area children

TROY– CEO and Unity House are once again joining forces to provide holiday gifts to families in need.  The joint effort, known as the Holiday Store, engages families who need a little extra help during the holidays and provides a retail-like experience in which parents are offered the opportunity to select age-appropriate gift items for their children.

The agencies are seeking donations to support this effort for the 2015 holiday season.  “We are in need of unwrapped new or gently-used toys, educational items, books, gift cards and other gift items for children from birth to age 17,” said Erin Bradley, CEO’s Director of Program Operations.  “We are so thankful to our generous supporters who consistently help us make the holidays bright for those living in difficult circumstances.”

Donations can be dropped off at CEO’s Community Resource Center at 2328 Fifth Ave. or at Unity House’s Front Door at 2431 Sixth Avenue, both in Troy.   Monetary donations are also gladly accepted and can be made online at http://www.ceoempowers.org/how-to-give/online-donations/ or by contacting Leah Carroll, Development Manager, at 518-272-6012 ext. 225 or lcarroll@ceoempowers.org.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mayoral candidates Q&A: miscellaneous

This is the final post in a series of Q&As with mayoral candidates. While our previous posts had specific topics like public safety, infrastructure or housing, this last post is miscellaneous.

Republican candidate Jim Gordon did not send answers to these questions.

At one time or another, nearly every elected official in the city has commented on the problem of petty politics in Troy. Have you historically worked well with those from opposing parties -- or with conflicting ideas?

Wiltshire: I’m proud of being both a lifelong Democrat, and having consistently worked across the aisle as City Council President. I appointed councilors from the minority, as committee chairs. I’m especially proud of working on the apprenticeship program, a great shared economic resource, which garnered bipartisan support, along with many of my other initiatives, including the recent protections from discrimination for Transgender, Military and other Trojans. If elected, I will appoint competent city officials, not friends or party patrons. And I will make our city government the most transparent and accessible in New York State. I’ve run and won my campaigns based on the support of ordinary Trojans, not machine bosses, and I hold myself accountable only to the people of Troy.

Madden: I come to this with 30 years of productive accomplishment with both parties. I have worked successfully with 15 City Councils, 3 Mayors and 4 City Managers. I am not a partisan person. I have never been the subject of, or the instigator of, political sniping. I don’t judge people or their ideas based on the letter that follows their name. And I have never, and will never, run to the press or social media to discredit anyone or run them down for my gain. It is just not in my nature. I have always worked with anyone willing to help advance the welfare of the City and our residents. I have always been willing to share or give credit to whoever needs to have it as long as the job gets done.

Cox: To date I have not had the privilege of holding public office therefore I have no history that I can refer to. My campaign is and has always been about working together to serve the people, not a party. My intention is to provide a teamwork environment. I am hopeful that whatever candidates the voters elect for the new City Council will have the same goal. There will be no conflicting ideas, just ideas. I will present a city issue and encourage all council members to add their thoughts and ideas with mine. We will analyze every idea until only one remains determined by majority vote. This idea will be approved and enacted immediately. I do not expect every team decision to be unanimous. I do not expect my idea to always be the one selected. Sooner or later every member of the team will be outvoted on an issue, even me. That is no reason to become combative or counterproductive. I have no intention of getting involved in petty squabbles with rigid party members. If they don’t want to be part of the team, they are more than welcome to sit on the bench and the voters can elect a more team oriented candidate in the next election.

Recent efforts to introduce a methadone clinic downtown have been halted by downtown business owners. Do you believe that downtown is the proper location for a methadone clinic, and why or why not?

Cox: No, I do not. I understand the need and support the creation of clinics to help individuals to recover from drug addictions but this is not the best use of downtown property. I can’t stress enough how important proper development of our business zoned property is. Business zoned property not only provides property taxes, like all property, but sales tax revenue as well. This is where we create jobs that stimulate the economy and fund the State and Federal government with income taxes. I am committed to keeping as much of the city’s property on the tax role, especially in our business districts, and providing a service that benefits the greater good whether residential, commercial or industrial.

Wiltshire: To the greatest extent possible, properties downtown should be used for businesses. There are many other locations within the city that would be accessible to those who need the clinic, and more protective of their privacy.

Madden: The heroin epidemic is real and it is a challenge to all our communities. I will work with the clinic to develop a plan that enables them to effectively provide services while minimizing any negative impact on our residents and businesses.

Would you seek to relocate City Hall during your term? 

Wiltshire: The lease agreement we have at present is fair. If right opportunity presents itself I’d certainly look into it.

Madden: Not immediately. Though less than perfect, the present location functions well and is attractively priced. We currently carry too much debt. I am reticent to add to our debt load absent an essential need. I don’t see a new city hall as essential at this time. As our debt is paid down we will have an opportunity to make a smart and strategic decision about finding a permanent home for City Hall.

Cox: Not only in my first term but if possible in my first year. I may not actually have a site ready in my first year based on where we decide to go, but a plan will be in motion. If we have to stick it out and pay rent while we build a new City Hall or retrofit an older building to accommodate our needs, so be it, at least there will be an end in sight. With a lost opportunity possibly reemerging (see question above) and many other opportunities available in the city, there is no reason why the City Hall issue cannot be resolved quickly and cost effectively. We already have a line item in the budget for City Hall so taxes will not need to be raised. The sooner we make a decision the sooner we can eliminate this unnecessary expense.

Mayoral candidates Q&A: Infrastructure, Parks and Recreation

The following questions were sent to mayoral candidates in mid-August, along with a number of questions on other city issues. See our previous posts with Q&As on public safety and economic development.

Republican candidate Jim Gordon did not submit answers to these questions.

What specific improvements to city infrastructure would you prioritize?

Madden: This will need to be determined and reflected in a comprehensive multi-year capital plan.

Cox: We have many infrastructure issues citywide. My highest priority would be our water and sewer systems. We all saw this past winter how dire situations can get without water. Water is a basic necessity for life and much of the existing infrastructure has reached the end of its lifespan. Unless we make aggressive investments upgrading our existing antiquated system, we will spend twice the cost of the new system repairing the old system with half the efficiency. The current sewer system is also deteriorating and overloaded due to extensive storm water runoff dumped into the sanitary system during periods of rain. There are many opportunities citywide to accommodate some of this excess water without putting it into the sanitary system. Removing excess water from the sanitary system will allow it to run more efficiently saving money. A modern reliable underground infrastructure is just as important as any potential investment above ground. This type of investment comes with a heavy price tag but I assure you if we don’t spend as much time and money on our underground utilities as we do our downtown and neighborhood development, we are wasting our time and money.

Wiltshire: Water, Sewer, and Sidewalks. I would remove the politics from the process of infrastructure development, make sure everything was well-planned and budgeted, and make sure all services were available city-wide.

How can those priorities be funded?

Wiltshire: As Council President I work with the Commissioner of DPU to apply for a grant to improve both the water and sewer infrastructure. And we will continue to use CDBG funding to fix and maintain sidewalks.

Madden: These are the difficult decisions we need to make. Our finances will remain remarkably tight for the next several years. Success lies in fully understanding exactly where we are, setting priorities and developing multi-year plans that move us in that direction. There are no quick fixes.

Cox: Major municipal infrastructure investment is typically funded by bonding the money and I am sure this practice will be involved. This is the easiest and fastest way to achieve project completion while spreading the cost over time. I dislike the idea of the city going further into debt but unlike wanting a road paved, water and sewer are a necessity. I will of course seek out State and Federal grants to help fund the upgrades. I am also hopeful that every year I have the ability to work our budget I will continue to find money that is wasted or being used in an unproductive manner. This money will be reallocated to support infrastructure development, park development and debt relief. The city has many issues, most of which require money to resolve. Finding the funding to solve any one of our problems is in question let alone all our problems. As a hands on, non-party affiliated Mayor I can trim the fat in City Hall. With my diversified education and work experience I can get all our departments running in a cost effective manner.

What is your plan for the future of telecommunications infrastructure and services in the city?

Cox: It is my understanding that the telecommunication industry is a private sector industry. I don’t know what, if any, ability the Mayor has to enhance telecommunication services in the city. I support the expansion of this infrastructure but am uncertain as to what the Mayor can do to help. If it is an issue of finding a location for a communication tower or similar hardware I can resolve that problem. If it is a corporate issue that involves demand versus cost and profitability it would be beyond the Mayor’s scope of authority.

Madden: Telecommunications, like all other infrastructure priorities, need to be assessed based on what we have, what we need and what we can afford.

Wiltshire: As City Council President I’ve worked with CWA (whom I’m proud to have the endorsement of Local 1118) to actively pursue citywide FIOS through Verizon in Troy and I’ll continue to push for this if elected Mayor. I’ve also worked with local business Massive Mesh to see their internet service network deployed throughout the city.

Parks & Rec 

What do you think of the current conditions of the city’s parks? How can they be improved? 

Wiltshire: Some of our parks are immaculate and an incredible resource for neighbors. Others are neglected. Our parks are a public, city-wide resource for all. Parks allow community activities, keep kids off the streets, and add to the beauty, morale and home values of our city as a whole. We need to have a maintenance and improvement plan for all of our parks, so that all of our communities have the clean parks they deserve.

Cox: There are no words to truly express my feelings of dissatisfaction with the current condition of our city parks. Parks that will remain part of my oldest and fondest memories of life in Troy. Parks that once brought the community together are now just wasted space. Restoring our parks to their former glory is one of my highest priorities as Mayor. I have many ideas on how to enhance our parks including but not limited to an indoor racquetball and tennis facility, indoor/outdoor rollerblade/skateboard park and my favorite a year round miniature golf course. What improvements are actually made will rely heavily on input from the community.

Madden: Our parks like so much of our infrastructure could use investment and a facelift – some more than others. I have fond recollections of our parks from when I was a youth. I would love to bring them back but we do not have the resources to do that quickly. We will need to create a plan, prioritize, and pursue the plan. Anything short of that dooms these gems to continual decline.

Do you think the city’s parks should be used to create additional revenue for the city?

Madden: My goal is to look for ways to harness the truly fantastic resources we have in our city and to work with those who care most about them to not only sustain them but to improve them. 

Wiltshire: I’d like to see programs similar to Holiday Lights and the Park Playhouse in Troy. That being said, the city parks themselves should be free to all residents. \

Cox: Yes, I do.  Many of the improvements I will recommend for our larger parks will be focused on generating revenue. The improvements will not only accommodate our local population but hopefully bring people in from other communities like the golf course. I haven’t visited a Troy public pool in almost 40 years but the last time I did it cost a dime. It didn’t matter whether it was the Knickerbocker pool, Prospect Park pool or the South Troy pool it cost a dime. The cost of construction and maintenance of higher end recreational amenities should not fall on the shoulders of the taxpayers but on those that use the amenities. Improvements in the smaller neighborhood parks of course will be free and focused on improving quality of life not revenue.

What opportunities do you see to further improve recreation on the riverfront?

Cox: The sky is the limit. We have over seven miles of riverfront and I believe this to be one of our city’s biggest assets. Its current uses range from residential to heavy industrial. What form of recreational opportunities emerge will be based on investor interest as a majority of it is privately owned. I will continue to support events like the Riverfront Concert Series, Victorian Stroll and the Troy Pig Out. Restoring our Independence Day fireworks presentation is on the list but will take a few years before I can fit it back into the budget. I believe there are many opportunities to improve recreation on the riverfront. What opportunities I pursue will be based solely on input from the community. You tell me what you want, as Mayor I will do my best to make it happen.

Wiltshire: I’d like to open up our riverfront to more boat access, seasonal amusement attractions and other amenities. I would love to solicit plans from local businesses, large and small, to undertake this projects on this.

Madden: I think we need to revisit the opportunity to partner with local businesses and those who use the river to maintain and improve the waterfront for recreation while making sure its access remains available to all our residents.

Mayoral candidates Q&A: Housing

The following questions were sent to mayoral candidates in mid-August, along with a number of questions on other city issues.
Republican candidate Jim Gordon did not submit answers to these questions.
How would you address the problem of vacant properties in the city? 

Wiltshire: I’m proud that we got the Troy Land Bank off the ground this year. As the Land Bank begins to work it will be putting abandoned properties back on tax rolls.

Madden: I have spent a career working to improve the housing stock and, more importantly, improve the opportunities for Troy residents to improve their communities. The causes of vacancy, abandonment and blight are numerous and so too must be the tools we use to attack this problem. We will be aggressive in the pursuit of federal and state capital funding opportunities. We will work in closer collaboration with the non-profit sector where the capacity and ability to leverage other resources will serve to magnify our impact. We will strengthen the Land Bank’s ability to be a meaningful player and we will continue our work with the State in the development of new tools to identify problem buildings before they become vacant.

Cox: We have two types of vacant property in the city, city owned and privately owned, and each need to be addressed differently. Privately owned property owners need’s will be determined and the city will help find the resources to fulfill those needs. Whether the goal is to fix, sell or demolish, we’re going to get it done. City owned property is a little more creative. The ultimate goal is to get this property on the tax role. In their current condition, most of them have little if any marketability. My goal is to increase their marketability with as little investment as possible. My plan is to create specialized micro crews drawn from our current workforce to perform specific tasks to increase investor interest. These tasks will include water and sewer line repairs, roof repair and replacement, interior demolition and window and door replacement. The city will purchase the material and perform the work. The building will be sold with a minimum bid requirement equivalent to the funds invested. This is not about making money just increasing marketability. I will investigate the ability for the city to demolish city owned buildings using city resources. We have plenty of dump trucks to haul debris and I’m sure we can come up with a few firehoses for dust control. If we don’t own an excavator we can rent one, with an operator if necessary, and get it done.

What approach should the city take in dealing with property owners who don’t take care of their properties, particularly rental properties?

Cox: The city should take the same approach with rental property that it does with all property. I find it distressing that many people like to blame the city’s problems on one group of landowners. The city code applies to all property regardless of use or where the owner lives. Our approach should first involve finding out why the owner has a problem complying with the codes. They may be seniors that no longer have the ability to maintain their property. In this instance I will reach out to their neighbors to find someone to assist them. They may be new to our community and are having trouble finding quality affordable contractors. Whatever the problem, my goal is to assist first, violate second. I believe the majority of landowners would prefer to be in code compliance. Those that have no intention of complying will feel the full might of code enforcement.

Madden: I fully support stronger code enforcement coupled with stronger and more empowered neighborhood associations. Irresponsible landlords are a scourge on many of our neighborhoods. In my view, and based on many years of working with residents, this is a matter of great urgency and it will be a high priority of mine.

Wiltshire: We need to have codes enforced universally and systematically. The landlord registry needs to be maintained. Furthermore I advocate for rental occupancy permits where annual inspection of non-owner occupied rental properties are required. Additionally, moving our tax code to a land value tax system where properties that decay incur higher taxes could encourage owners to maintain and develop their rental properties. I will look into the feasibility of land value taxation if elected.

How would you improve code enforcement, especially concerning vacant homes? 

Wiltshire: This city needs to take steps immediately to shore up roofs and make homes weather tight while properties are disposed of by the Land Bank.

Cox: Zero tolerance is a great slogan to get you elected but it doesn’t help the community if you don’t know what it means or how to enforce it. Code enforcement in general will be improved by getting the code enforcers out on the streets. While walking the streets gathering signatures, I’ve encountered code violations that our inspectors never see sitting in city hall or driving in a car. Overgrown shrubs and trees that block off pedestrian passage on sidewalks, tree roots that have lifted sidewalks introducing severe trip hazards. Improper or nonexistent house numbers, doorbells that don’t function and the list goes on. The only way to truly understand our deficiencies is to get out there and investigate. The days of chasing anonymous complaints are over. When code gets a complaint all property within a two block radius of the complaint will be inspected, not just the property called on.

Madden: It appears to me that the Code Department needs more resources. In the short term, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with them to assess their needs and collaboratively develop the systems and procedures that can maximize their efficacy. Longer term I would like to direct more resources into our Code Enforcement efforts.

What amenities and resources are our neighborhoods lacking and how should those voids be filled? 

Cox: One of the biggest amenities we are lacking citywide is recreational activities. I have many ideas on how to enhance recreational opportunities and look forward to developing these ideas with the guidance of the community. The needs of the neighborhoods of Troy vary greatly from one block to the next. Parking is a common issue in many places in Troy but the solution will vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. There is no one size fits all approach to fixing our neighborhoods and to try this method will be futile. My neighborhood would like to see more owner occupied property. Owner occupied landlords would like city provided resources that assist in tenant screening so they can secure better tenants without the cost of using a rental agency. As a hands-on Mayor I will work with every neighborhood to determine their specific needs and provide the necessary resources to fulfill those needs.

Madden: Each one of our neighborhoods is unique. The needs and resources may well vary from one neighborhood to another. I would hope that the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which is well underway, would assist us in developing a consensus for each neighborhood. We will address those needs with the careful investment of city resources coupled with citizen and neighborhood action.

Wiltshire: We need more community resource centers throughout the city. We need more grocery stores to put an end to food deserts – this is a basic issue of social justice, public health and economic efficiency. Every Trojan, everywhere, should have access to clean neighborhood parks (as a specific aside, I’d like to look into creating dog parks in Troy). Better sidewalks must be a priority. I will also enforce and expand upon the Complete Streets planning we started under my tenure on City Council, which will allow for smart, multi-modal and vibrant development.

Given the swift changes and growth in downtown Troy, and planned development of luxury apartments, do you foresee a problem with increasing rent downtown? 

Madden: The “problem” is part of what will drive new investment in other neighborhoods.

Wiltshire: Obviously, market forces will determine the price of rents to some extent – but I think our challenge here is to build up all parts of the City, so that the demand for downtown properties isn't all-consuming. I don’t see a problem in the short term, while that process is taking place. There are, and still will be, enough affordable homes and rental properties within the immediate vicinity of downtown Troy. Market-rate apartments and luxury apartments are the type of apartments that attract people who want to live in downtown Troy, with the disposable income necessary to sustain the small businesses that drive Troy’s Downtown economy.

Cox: No, I do not. What I have learned over the years is that the market sets the price. It doesn’t matter whether it involves property rental or property sales. This is an issue many home owners in the city are dealing with. They have a house that is assessed for a specific value and are being taxed on that value and yet in the current market they would be lucky to get 70% of their current assessment. Downtown property, and any form of waterfront property, rental prices and purchase prices are traditionally higher than other locations in a community. If you desire to live in one of these locations be prepared to pay more money for less space. I am confident that unless property owners are going to increase the quality of the current housing to the quality of the new housing being created rent prices shouldn’t fluctuate too much.

Mayoral candidates Q&A: Finances

The following questions were sent to mayoral candidates in mid-August, along with a number of questions on other city issues. See our previous posts with Q&As on public safety and economic development.

Republican candidate Jim Gordon did not submit answers to these questions.

In the last budget process, we heard officials say the city needs to find additional and creative sources of revenue. What creative, sustainable revenue sources would you propose in the annual budget? 

Patrick Madden: Too often, creative sources of revenue are uncertain and generally not sustainable. I am for smart well grounded budgeting. Budgeting ought to be done on a three year rolling basis so as to minimize “surprises”. Collaborations and intergovernmental agreements need to be more exhaustively explored. The city charter defines a number of positions in the city as optional.

Jack Cox: I have found in the past that every time a city official talks about finding creative sources of revenue, it usually results in some form of new tax or fee. There is typically only one source of revenue for any level of government in this country and that is tax revenue. Although I will aggressively seek all opportunities to expand property, school and sales tax revenue by reclaiming vacant property, I plan to fix our financial issues with sound money management practices. I will always offer a balanced budget and offer it on time. Every department will be required to make sacrifices until the city’s finances stabilize. The first cuts will be in the Mayor’s office. All unnecessary party patronage jobs will be eliminated. City departments will be combined where feasible and city employees will be cross trained to ensure every department has backup personnel. My job as Mayor will be to work with every department to find ways to reduce costs while increasing efficiency with the least amount of interruption to city provided services.

Rodney Wiltshire: I’ve worked hard to pass the Troy Solar Farm. The Farm will take advantage of an otherwise unusable landfill, lessen the fossil fuels Troy uses, and save taxpayers $300,000 in its first year alone. Over 25 years, the Solar Farm will provide over $25 million dollars in taxpayer savings. Reducing our energy expenditures is one of the easiest way to cut waste from the budget. The
Solar Farm is just one way of pursuing that goal. Mandatory recycling, and the compost project, would lower our landfill tipping fees, which eat up over $2.5 million/year from our budget.

Which currently filled positions in City Hall would you remove, and which vacant positions would you fill? 

Wiltshire: With my private sector experience as a small business owner I will run city hall more like a business- cutting fat and investing in what’s important.  My administration will be focused from
day one on appointing competent professionals who work to serve the public and provide a high
return on investment to taxpayers.
I will appoint a Commissioner of Public Works and a full time Comptroller – both crucial to the functioning of any city, let alone one in transition like Troy, but frustratingly absent now.  I will also appoint a full time grant-writer. Our previous grant-writer, Bill Roehr, secured millions of dollars in grants every year for Troy, more than paying for his position by giving Trojans money that was easily available with the proper outreach.
Within City Hall itself there are some redundant positions that I would reorganize or excise. I would have to review the entire budget, from the perspective of the Mayor's office, to ensure that positions we cut or merged would make for a maximally efficient overall picture.

Madden: I will develop an organizational plan that reflects our priorities and our financial position. In my view we will need to prioritize our finance operations and look to streamline the general services of public works and public utilities.

Cox: I plan to be an extremely hands on Mayor, I will not have the need for the majority of the optional positions. I do not have a definite answer to this question until I am elected, as each filled position’s benefits and effectiveness needs to be evaluated before I eliminate it. I can tell you that I will have a Deputy Mayor, Corporation Council, City Engineer and most importantly a Grant Writer.

The 2015 budget was built using one-time cost savings measures. How would you cut costs in the budget sustainably? 

Witlshire: See above answers.

Cox: Cost cutting measures both one-time and long term only deal with part of the problem. Increasing revenue is the other half of the equation. Getting the city into a mortgage instead of paying rent for City Hall will save money, but the benefit will not be realized for a decade. Many party patronage jobs will be eliminated under my administration but that may not be the case under the next administration. I will work diligently to find places to cut expenses citywide in every department but you can only cut so deep before you compromise the quality of city provided services. Increasing revenue is my primary goal. Every time we open a new business in the city of Troy or build / rehab a home we are not creating new revenue, we are merely replacing lost revenue. Even if we are fortunate enough to rebuild our business and industrial tax base as well as get a large portion of the currently non tax bearing property on the tax role, that’s all there is. We are a mature community that has very limited ability for expansion. We are finite in size and already heavily developed. It won’t be long before almost every project presented to the city will involve some form of demolition. We need to start building budgets that will maintain harmony with our limited future earning potential while maintaining an acceptable quality of life.

Madden: We will invest in operational and productivity improvements. We will explore technology enhancements and better management structures all with an eye to focusing our finite resources on our agreed upon priorities.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mayoral candidates Q&A: Economic Development

This is an installment in a series of Q&A posts with mayoral candidates. The Record sent candidates a number of questions on different topics in mid-August and their full answers can be found here. In this post, candidates weigh in on economic development in the city.

While Republican candidate Jim Gordon did send answers addressing public safety, which were published weeks ago, he did not send answers for this series of questions. Shown below are answers from Patrick Madden, Rodney Wiltshire and Jack Cox Jr. Madden and Wiltshire are both Democrats; Madden has the Democratic line and Wiltshire has the Working Families Party line. Cox has the independent Revolutionary Party line.

 How would you balance efforts to continue the success in downtown Troy versus encouraging business development in neighborhoods like Lansingburgh and South Troy?

Cox: My efforts short term will continue to be heavily focused on downtown. We have momentum downtown and now is not the time to divert our resources. The reason our residential property taxes are so high is because we have lost our business and industrial tax base. Downtown development is vital to the city’s recovery as it generates revenue above and beyond property taxes. Downtown is easier to market as it offers a variety of development opportunities and typically attracts larger developers and corporations that have well defined business plans and are better capitalized. Neighborhood business areas are harder to market and develop due to the limited customer base and city zoning restrictions. They typically attract business investors who are usually owner operators. When you limit business uses you eliminate diversification. When you eliminate diversification you create a watered down market where every business is trying to attract the same customer. Being more creative and diversified in our neighborhood business districts will allow local customers better access to goods and services while providing a cooperative, not competitive business environment. Providing resources like grants, tax breaks and management training will help small business owners to get into operation and provide them with the knowledge and capital to stay in business. I will start immediately and work diligently to attract quality business opportunities in our neighborhood areas, it will take some time however to get the resources in place.

Wiltshire: I think we need to keep focusing on supporting small local businesses throughout Troy and apply what has worked Downtown across the city. I will work with business owners to see if launching a BID (Business Improvement District) in Lansingburgh and South Troy is feasible.  I  also want to reform our IDA so it focuses on local (and longstanding) businesses investing in  Troy, not just large developers.

Madden: The success of the downtown enables and enhances development opportunities in the neighborhoods. We need to strategically identify opportunities for development in each of our neighborhoods and promote them. I am a big proponent of neighborhood development and I would support investment in the neighborhoods around specific development opportunities.

What types of businesses and industries do you envision growing in Troy?

Madden: We have a great and growing interest from businesses that value the ‘thick and rich’ environment created by our educational institutions (RPI, Sage and HVCC), our walkable  neighborhoods, historic fabric and cultural opportunities. I see that sector continuing to grow.

Wiltshire: Troy is famous for its history, architecture and iconic figures. While Troy has become a destination city I don’t believe we’ve tapped our full potential for historical tourism.  We need to capitalize on that.
Troy also has a history as a center of manufacturing and solid, blue-collar jobs.  We need more of these jobs to make Troy sustainable and vibrant. One immediate avenue we should pursue is harnessing our hydro power in Troy.  If elected I will look into how we can create jobs in this sector, while finding even more ways to capture renewable energy.

Cox: All forms of business and industry will be sought out and encouraged to consider Troy as a place of operation. I will not exclude any industry and every opportunity will be reviewed and judged soley on its benefit to the community. I will not allow quality projects to be overlooked because they do not fall into a specific genre. With help from RPI, I hope to attract and expand the high tech opportunities that are emerging in Troy and the greater Capital region. Blue collar light duty manufacturing jobs are also a priority. Industry was one of the many things that made Troy famous. We were known for making quality goods. Jobs that pay enough to raise a family on that you can get with limited formal education. My biggest concern right now is that most of the existing light duty industrial buildings in the city are being converted into residential housing. If we are fortunate enough to attract new industry, where will we put it?

Do you think too much investment has been made in Troy’s downtown, compared with North and South Troy?

Wiltshire: I don’t believe development is a zero sum game where each part of Troy is competing for the same resources. We don’t want to lose momentum in downtown, and downtown isn’t completely sustainable on its own- all of Troy does better when each part of Troy does better. The barriers to investment aren’t economic but in everything else tied to the economy. You can’t walk down the streets in Lansingburgh and South Troy without running into abandoned buildings, crumbling sidewalks and pothole littered roads. We need to invest the resources of public works into cleaning up these areas and rebuilding their infrastructure. Business development requires an opportunity for growth, and regardless of financial support, if the infrastructure isn’t there, businesses can’t thrive.

Madden: Certainly not. The investment in our downtown is predominantly private investment generated by opportunities that motivate the private market. This has not happened at the expense of the neighborhoods. It can and should, however, be used to leverage similar opportunities for investment throughout all of our neighborhoods.

Cox: No, I do not. I do think the investment in downtown was done in a way that sold the city taxpayers short. What many taxpayers do not know is that less than 20 million dollars (30%) of the 65 million dollar city budget comes from property tax revenue. The remaining revenue comes from our business districts and State and Federal funding. Our property taxes alone do not cover the 48 million dollar plus cost for the city’s payroll let alone the city’s operating costs and MAC debt. City personnel services alone utilize 73% of the entire budget. Expanding the downtown business district and securing additional government funding will help stabilize property taxes until we can make progress with investments in North and South Troy.

Do you think it would be feasible to create Business Improvement Districts outside downtown, and would this be the way to stimulate growth in struggling neighborhoods?

Wiltshire: I think this is an option well worth exploring. If elected I’ll actively seek input from the local business owners on whether BIDs are feasible.  And if launching a BID is what the communities want to pursue, I’ll make sure City Hall is an active partner and supporter.

Cox: No, I do not. The business districts outside downtown are not that large in size and typically fall into lower level business zones (B1 – B2 – B3). This lower business zone classification limits opportunity to business uses that are readily available in other areas of the city. I believe that a BID program in these areas would create unnecessary financial burden on an already struggling business environment. The way I will stimulate growth in struggling neighborhood business districts will be to provide a planning and zoning approval process that will be fair, impartial and creative. A department that understands that very seldom can you take property from its lowest form to its highest form in one step. A planning department that understands a less desirable short-term opportunity is better than a non-existent long term opportunity. A planning department that understands that diversification is the key to survival in all business areas of the city.

Madden: Business Improvement Districts are the creation of the business and property owners deciding to tax themselves to provide supplemental services. I would be glad to work with interested
businesses and property owners if they were interested in advancing the concept in their respective neighborhoods. Whether a BID stimulates growth will depend on how the BID manages itself.

In the last year, the city cut the resources and support offered to events organized by the Downtown BID. Do you believe the city should contribute resources to these events and in what capacity?

Cox: The city has made cuts in resources to many programs in the city including the public library. We are bleeding money and losing our tax base. We have lost valuable assets in one-time deals that, managed properly, could have provided long term income for the city. The additional revenue generated by the recent improvements downtown are being squandered away. I understand how vital downtown is to our future and respect those who have invested there. Until I meet with the downtown BID to fully understand their needs and review the city finances I will make no formal commitment to city resources. To answer the question, yes I do believe the city should contribute resources. The capacity should be to the best of our financial ability.

Madden: We are in this together. We have to work with event organizers to find a way to maintain these events, but we need to balance the benefit with the appropriate level of City resources.

Wiltshire: I absolutely support providing resources and in kind assistance to make these events successful.  As Council President I sit on the board of the BID.  I understand that the BID does more for the city than just simply hold events.  The BID is an invaluable resource for marketing, promotion and has been a driving force of why people are now viewing Troy as a destination city.