City Council president explains political involvement

Rodney Wiltshire talks about Troy environmental, economic iniatives; former RPI students active in politics

On Wednesday, March 19, the Vasudha Living and Learning Community brought in Troy City Council President Rodney Wiltshire. Wiltshire explained how he got into local politics, what he does for Troy, and his background (an electrical engineering degree at Cornell University). Around 30 people, including undergraduate and graduate RPI students, faculty members, and community members filled the seats of Nason 130.

Wiltshire is the owner of a small solar panel business, Empire Solar. He got into politics after his children were born. Wiltshire and Ken Zalewski ’94 ran on a climate sustainability platform two years ago. Wiltshire said that a surprise for him about politics is how slowly government moves.

According to Wiltshire, politics is about keeping costs for taxpayers down. Other goals, such as environmental goals, are after the economic goals. Wiltshire noted that certain projects could increase both Troy’s economy and be good for the environment. Many people want electric vehicles and providing charging stations might draw these people into Troy. They also want to live close to their work, like Wiltshire does. Wiltshire said that if the right type of city is built, people will come.

Projects being worked on by the Troy City Council include a solar farm and electric vehicle charging stations. Projects to reduce Troy’s carbon footprint are being looked into, too. Troy is taking the Climate Smart pledge and one of the requirements for it is a sustainability task force. Legislation for the Troy sustainability task force, worked on by people including former RPI student Anasha Cummings, was passed unanimously by the committee and goes before the City Council on April 3.

The sustainability task force would be a nine-member team of people with member cycles lasting three years and running from Earth Day to Earth Day. Members could be anyone from the community, including RPI students.

Graduate student Dan Lyles asked Wiltshire who would own the solar farm and charging stations. While the city would definitely own the solar farm, charging stations would be owned by whoever owned the parking lot. For example, a Price Chopper or Stewarts’ might decide, or be told by the city, to include charging stations in their parking lot. Graduate student and Vasudha Teaching and Learning Assistant David Banks asked whether there were any courses or a different major that Wiltshire wished he had done. Wiltshire said “a lot of things I’ve done have been trial by fire,” though political science and business courses would have helped. Taylor Prince ’14 asked how Wiltshire did everything that he does, from a mental and legal standpoint. Wiltshire agreed that he wore many hats.

Wiltshire concluded by talking about how certain projects that were good for the environment could help people economic-wise; currently, utility companies cannot shut off utilities during winter and instead they are subsidized by taxpayers. Wiltshire noted that insulation could be put in those houses to save everyone money.