Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.
Does the candidate feel that the number of police officers in the city is sufficient, or have a plan to find a way to unfreeze the open positions?
TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)
There is no question that the staff at the police department are stretched thin. We have just enough staff at the department to cover the needed shifts—but that leaves little flexibility when someone is ill, on vacation, or otherwise unable to work. At any time there are three police officers on duty and one dispatcher. The department is short a dispatcher, though, leaving no backup. When a dispatcher isn’t able to work, one of the officers on duty must take over, leaving just two available for calls. The number of officers is sufficient—but just barely (something that could be said for just about all city staffing). The city has been managing its budget well, but we’ve had to lean hard on all city staff and that isn’t sustainable.
It’s no secret the key to this is budget. Over the long term, we need the economy to improve (which it seems to be doing, though slowly), and we need limited, intelligent commercial development to bring more money to the city. I am hopeful that the half-cent sales tax measure will pass in November to help tide us over until longer-term plans can come to fruition.
PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)
Currently the Albany Police Department is down by two positions, a patrol officer and a dispatcher. The department is performing pretty well under these circumstances, but like much of the rest of the city government, is starting to get stretched thin. Since budgetary restraints are at the heart of the problem, we can either move resources from another department into the police department, reorganize to make the department more efficient (such as sharing the chief with another jurisdiction, as we do with the fire chief), or find new ways to increase revenues. All of these choices will have pluses and minuses. At this point, I think the city would do best to explore some combination of efficiency changes and revenue increases. Passage of Measure F will help this situation.
PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)
Public safety is one of the most important priorities. As part of a highly populated urban corridor, we need to have a full complement of officers to provide service to citizens and handle criminal activity. Unfreezing positions should be a high priority for any new funding.
SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)
Public safety is one my top priorities, including filling vacant police positions.
ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)
Albany has been fiscally conservative throughout this recession. It is generally agreed that we are past the worst and our economic future is looking brighter. The Albany City budget is just over $17 million of which we spend more than 80% on our employees (mainly police and fire). We receive the vast majority of our revenue from transfer taxes when people buy a house and annual property taxes.
The best thing we can do for Albany’s budget is to keep our home value up (they have increased every year for the past 10 years) and make our small town even more desirable for people to buy homes in.
As I walk around town for this campaign I am reminded time and again that the main reasons people move to Albany is because of our excellent schools, our safe streets and our unique small business environment.
We have balanced our budged by keeping our costs down (freezing salaries) and by withholding services. As our finances recover, we need to restore the services that have been cut – especially in our police force. The first order of business should be to fill the police dispatcher position. [Read more]
MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)
The first priority for our police department is to fill the vacant dispatcher position. If there is not a dispatcher on duty, then a patrol officer typically has to cover the position. Once the dispatcher position is filled, the police department will be doing OK; not great, but OK.
Currently, it’s tough if any of the officers get sick or injured, or even want to take vacation, because it is hard to find a replacement to cover the shift. Hiring another officer would be a good idea, but that depends upon the city’s funding.
NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)
We are down two positions out of approximately 28. Most troubling is that we are down a dispatcher, from what I understand. I would seek to learn the ramifications of having one less dispatcher, and attempt to find funds for this position if I deemed its loss important enough.
Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.