Mantello, Nichols spar in Troy Mayoral Debate
In the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, ABC News10 evening anchor Lydia Kulbida hosted the 2023 Troy Mayoral debate between Republican Carmella Mantello and Democrat Nina Nichols.
Nichols began her introduction highlighting her experience at the Unity House of Troy in development and advocating for the human services workforce, affordable childcare, and affordable supportive housing. She is currently the president of the Board of Directors for Oakwood Community Center and used to serve on the Troy City Council. She serves as a legislator for Rensselaer County, serving on Veterans and Youth and Planning and Tourism committees, and wants to make Troy a safer and greener city.
Mantello then introduced herself, talking about her experience as the Troy City Council Co-President. She showed her strong support for police and firefighters and noted that she would not raise taxes. She then promised a commitment for action on improving the quality of life for Troy residents.
Throughout the debate, questions covered various topics, such as the current lead pipe issue, improving overall Troy economy and liveability, plans for decreasing crime, and candidates’ main priorities in their first budget.
The first issue Kulbida asked about was the lead pipe issue in Troy. Both candidates strongly enforced their concerns about these issues, talking about the recent efforts to replace pipes around the city. Mantello answered first, explaining that in the past year, the city council found out that half a million dollars was sitting unused. With this, they used it to implement a lead pipe replacement program. They have already fixed 80 homes in Troy and she committed 25 to 30 million for the program to replace all the pipes in Troy. The audience was very appreciative and excited about this commitment, which Nichols also committed to. Following Mantello’s answer, Nichols pointed out flaws in Mantello’s leadership. The half million dollars that Mantello was referring to came to Troy during Mantello’s tenure, and Nichols thought it should have been used better during her time in office. Nichols said that other municipalities expended their money for the issue faster, arguing that Albany better had a system in place. She wants to use every available dollar for the issue, specifically highlighting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act as a source for aid. She noted that Albany had a system, albeit not equitable, that would match money paid by private residents to fix individual pipes, which reduced the overall tax burden on citizens.
Following the question about the lead pipes, overall Troy economy and livability covered the next few questions in the debate. Both candidates talked about plans for expanding the economy and making Troy more appealing. Nichols wants to preserve historic buildings and invest in the code enforcement department. She wants to grow the creative economy and recruit small businesses around downtown. She loves the waterfront and wants to make the city more walkable and rideable. She wants to support investments across Troy, preserving Prospect Park and extending walkways on the waterfront. Mantello talked about similar plans, wanting to preserve Friar park and make parks across Troy more accessible. She wants downtown to be safer and she talked about the Quality of Life Task Force to help on the issue. Mantello spoke in depth about improving the waterfront and using it to bring more people to Troy.
Towards the end of the debate, the candidates were asked about their plans for reducing crime in Troy. Mantello told a story about a recent incident when she was at the water main break and heard of a shooting close to Lansingburgh High School. She said safety is a very big priority for her and wants to provide more resource officers at schools. Nichols talked about investing in police to make sure they are fully staffed and trained for their work. She mentioned that officers would have adequate partners for cases that a mental health professional would be more suited to handle. She noted that crimes often stem from youth, so she wants to have better support for community centers. She talked about an older program that had staff at various parks to have programming during the summer, which she wants to bring back. For older youth, she wants to help make pathways for employment.
Kulbida asked the candidates what their main priorities were in their first budget. Nichols spoke about investing in neighborhoods and growth of jobs for residents, as well as making Troy cleaner and greener. She wants to make sure salaries for city workers are high enough to compete with the private sector. Specifically, she wants to grow the code enforcement department and launch a program to inspect apartments and address vacancies across the city. Mantello spoke about these vacancies as well, and also highlighted the water main break recently and losses from the Department of Public Utilities. She wants to be a leader in growing the departments in the DPU and implementing the Quality of Life Task Force. She plans to bring in more directors and employees on the ground to address various issues under the DPU. Once Mantello talked about the DPU, Nichols pointed out that the Mayor is not the head of the DPU and that recently, hiring of operations persons to oversee sewer lines was tabled, provoking the leaving of the head of the DPU. She wants to be a support of city workers, better helping their growth. In response, Mantello explained that the hiring was tabled because of other vacancies in the DPU and that the department was putting in all their effort to address the water main break.
During closing statements, both candidates thanked those who came and helped to make the debate happen. They both spoke about their love for Troy and encouraged those to vote at the polls in November.