As part of a push to get RPI students engaged in Troy affairs, the Student Senate’s Advocacy, Community, and Advancement Committee sponsored a Candidates’ Forum last Wednesday in Mother’s to allow RPI students a chance to engage with the community members running for local elections and bring forward their concerns.
However, only a handful of current students were in attendance at the forum, and the room was filled primarily with Troy community members. The forum kicked off with the mayoral candidates. Then it moved on to the City Council candidates for Districts 3, 4, and 5, and At-large. Anasha Cummings ’12 served as moderator, asking the candidates a set series of questions before opening it up to the audience.
Democrat Lou Rosamilia and Republican Carmella Mantello stepped up to the microphones to provide their input first. In discussing RPI, Rosamilia urged the audience to envision Troy without the Institute’s presence, citing loss of revenue, taxes, and jobs. “Troy’s not going to go anywhere. RPI’s not going to go anywhere. Troy would be lost without RPI. So we need to communicate.” If elected Mayor, he promised to be present at all of Rensselaer’s board of trustee meetings as the mayor has an honorary seat on the board.
Mantello promised that, if elected, she would work to further the idea of communiversity, citing the newly-opened City Station, which was “a product of a partnership between RPI and the city,” and the Frear Park Conservancy as having done just that. She would also use her local ties to further communication; for example, she was endorsed by the Troy Fire Department as a mayoral candidate.
Both expressed concern for current housing issues such as absentee landlords and tenants not following housing codes, and promised to address those issues more seriously.
Rosamilia promised to develop space downtown. “We have a lot of buildings in the city of Troy suited for businesses. We want to work with [RPI students.]”
Mantello also had plans, stating, “We need to get students more involved in city government, in terms of the waterfront, and economic development.”
A member of the audience posed a question about increasing staffing for firehouses; he proposed that perhaps RPI could contribute to a “public safety” fund. Mantello agreed that the issue needed to be addressed and stated that the idea of charging a public safety fee as is in place in other college cities such as Ithaca and Syracuse had been brought up in Troy before. “We need to take advantage of RPI’s wealth,” she acknowledged, “not to take advantage of RPI’s services for students, but to ensure that we have appropriate fire service all throughout our city.”
Next, Lynn Kopka, Tom Killips, Jim Gordon, Rodney Wiltshire, Billie-Jean Greene, and Nina Nichols, all running for City Council At-large, provided their input on the relationship between RPI and Troy. Gordon, a native of South Troy, emphasized that Troy needed to reach out to students and faculty living in the community. “[We need to] get them off the hill. We are a college town, we need to act like that. We should be promoting RPI, HVCC, and Sage.”
Cummings next asked the candidates for their ideas on how to change the perception of off-campus safety, in the face of recent off-campus incidents involving students, including robberies. Greene stated, “The best criminal deterrant is a busy city. It should be active; if people are down there, students will feel safer, and that will help with crime.”
Finally, the district City Council candidates stepped up to answer questions. All expressed equal concern that RPI students be actively involved in improving Troy.
Addressing the students in the audience, District 4’s Bob Doherty said, “What happens in my front yard is your back yard, RPI. We need to continue our community relations. RPI is first-rate, but you would not be unless Troy is respected and valued, too. That’s why we have a seat on your [board of trustees], and we need to work together.”
Last Wednesday’s Candidates’ Forum can be watched in its entirety at http://rpitv.org/. Elections will be held on Tuesday, November 8.