2011 Primary Elections

Posted: September 10, 2011 in Elections

The Primary elections are coming up September 13th.  Here’s a breakdown of the races, links to information, along with my wise and enlightening remarks : )

 Republican and Democratic Primaries for Controller’s Office

 Article from the Recorder summarizing the primaries for the Controller’s office

For the Republicans, I would have liked to see some sort of online presence from both Matthew Agresta and Heather Reynicke. The only solid campaign information I’ve read about both candidates so far has come from Recorder article mentioned above. There’s really no excuse for either of them not to have some sort of web presence.

Based on the Recorder article, Agresta is coming into the race fresh out of college, not a lot of real world experience (except for working as Mayor Thane’s confidential aid), but with plenty of energy and a desire to serve. So while you have to respect his motivation, one has to consider that fact that he would probably have a huge learning curve to deal with.  Reynicke expresses a desire to continue doing what she has been doing, and suggests reducing supervisory positions. She also points out that governmental accounting is different from commercial accounting, which might be directed at her possible Democratic challenger.

In Democratic race, I’ve found two very thorough web sites by candidates Manfred Phemister and Ron Wierzbicki.  Based on the information they’ve provided, it looks to me like a choice between someone with a commercial financial background (Phemister) and someone with a governmental financial background (Wierzbicki).

Republican Primary for 4th Ward Alderman

Article from the Recorder summarizing the primary for 4th Ward Alderman

Candidates Diane Hatzenbueler and Christina Lajeunesse both have Facebook pages. Hatzenbueler lists a good number of details as to her ideas and positions on the issues. Lajeunesse gives us a few general ideas and sentiments, but I would have to say is lacking in any specifics. It would be great to see a more in-depth platform such as what Diane presents.

Democratic and Conservative Primaries for Mayor

Article from the Recorder summarizing the primaries for the office of Mayor.

In the Democratic Primary we have incumbent Mayor Ann Thane and current 4th ward Alderman Bill Wills.  Wills is also challenging former mayor Joe Emanuele  in the Conservative Party Primary.

Thane’s web site contains a well thought out list of ideas for improving Amsterdam that together give me a strong sense of what to expect from her if re-elected.

I have yet to see any solid plan or specific ideas put in writing by Emanuele. Nothing. Nada. Zip…

I’ve gotten a better sense of Wills’ thinking from his comments on this blog and also from his interview on the Grove Street Grumble.  While I like his populist approach, and he does offer a few specific ideas, I still don’t get the sense of a well thought out action plan for city revitalization.

Will’s states in his latest letter to the editor (also posted on his Facebook page), “I hope to connect with you all so that I can better understand where we, not I, should take our City for the future.”

This is a respectable approach, however, in my view, the job of an elected official is to both represent and lead. Representing involves listening and responding. All the candidates seem to have a good sense of that. However leading requires figuring out an action plan and following through with it. This is the area that I see lacking in some of these candidate’s campaigns.

I think community meetings to help establish public policy are a great idea.  Thane also includes this idea in her platform. I might suggest that it could be a winning strategy for a mayoral candidate to hold these types of meetings first,  and then develop a platform to run on containing action plans based on the ideas from those meetings. That way the candidate can put forth ideas during their campaign that they know have good public support.

The other thing I have trouble with is when Wills states on his Facebook page “I want the City to achieve greatness and prominence once again in the Capital District.”  However in his response to the question on The Grove Street Grumble, “What actions will you take to see that Amsterdam has a viable economic plan for the future,”  the end of his response is, “Explore consolidation with the Town of Amsterdam as I see that as our future if we are to survive.” To me, these statements suggest two entirely different directions.

[Edit:  My initial perception of the phrase “consolidation with the Town of Amsterdam” was that Wills was suggesting a complete merger. There are those who advocate that idea, and that’s what I attributed his statement to. But on second thought, it may be possible the he is only referring to consolidating services, which wouldn’t necessarily be in conflict with his first statement. ] 

One last item that Wills writes that I think deserves some further thought is, “My ability to work with members of the so-called opposite party also says much. No one person/Mayor can accomplish anything without the support and approval of the Council. Any accomplishments or failures of an Administration can be attributed to the cooperation or not with others.”

Although Thane has good ideas, building consensus on the Common Council has been a struggle for her. If re-elected she may or may not end up with a council that is any more agreeable with her than the last. Having good ideas is not everything. Thane will have to be able to work toward political unity on the council in order to see many of her ideas brought about. I wonder if she has any ideas on how to do that any more effectively?

Thoughts, opinions and reflections related to the primaries are welcome in the comments section. Let’s try to focus on the positives of each candidate and keep any negatives respectful and specific to the issues!

  1. diane says:

    Matt Agresta is currently working three jobs which to me shows determination. We need the controllers job filled by a person who has determination, will show up for work everyday and put in a full day’s worth of work from the get go. I think Matt will do that. With the fact that the number 2 person resigned and went to the school board, should he not win, maybe he could get another job in the controller’s office to see how things are being done. I wish him all the best.

    • Michael Donnan says:

      Diane, I wonder if you think the Mayors job needs to be filled by someone who “…will show up for work everyday and put in a full days worth of work from the get go.”?

      I understand you’re in a primary and don’t want to alienate the county Chairman of your party so don’t feel obligated to answer if it could cause a problem for you.

      • diane says:


        I am of the opinion that just because there are no set rules for the controller’s position, does not mean that she does not show up daily and put in a full days work. Since she took the job there were many days where she would not show up until after 10, leave early, and just plain take time off. She has even scheduled her vacations during budget sessions leaving the council high and dry. She makes 55,000 a year and for that kind of money she needs to show up for work and stop cheating the taxpayers of this city. I have been outspoken on this subject, and her comings and goings and not being around are a sore spot with many.

        If this causes a problem for me with the county chairman, I apologize, but as a taxpayer and someone in the know about her schedule, I hope someone who really wants the job and is qualified will win the primary. She only just recently, in the past year got her acctg degree.

      • Tim Becker says:

        I think what Michael is getting at is if you should hold Joe Emanuele to the same standard of expecting a “full day’s work from the get go”, given that he is on record as saying that if elected, he would not start full time work for 6 months.

      • diane says:

        Tim, I was so tired that went right over my head completely. Joe has made it clear that the 1st 6 months will be part time. He will however be available by phone, text, computer and after class. Remember during his tenure the city did not fall apart, and he did leave a 3 million fund balance that is now gone. If he can leave that kind of fund balance on a part time basis, imagin what he can leave on a full time basis?? (although the economic times are different, he will be very carefull with the people’s money) And he will put us back on the right path to a brighter financial future.

      • Rob Millan says:


        Nothing for nothing, but you may want to leave Joe Emanuele’s talking to Joe Emanuele since what you suggest in saying he’d be available by ‘phone, text, computer’, etc., would most likely be in violation of his contractual obligations to the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District. I’d be more than happy to pul the contract and review it myself to be sure If that’s true, what a disenfranchisement to those students that their teacher wouldn’t be available during school hours. Did you even stop to think about what you just said or if what he intends to use as his plan if that is even fact?

        I sure hope, for those students, that what you just said is a rumor. Again, I ask that you please leave his talking to him.

        What do the people of Amsterdam need to do in order to extract an answer or response from a candidate for the top leadership position of the city? We’ve yet to hear anything with regard to a plan.

        To reiterate Becker: Nothing. Nada. Zip…

      • diane says:

        Rob nothing can be simple with you. I was wrong for speaking out of turn. I was remembering that during his previous administration that he always communicated in some form with Carol during his lunch hour. Certainly the man is entitled to lunch???

        I beleive in an open and honest and above board government. I have nothing to hide, but when someone is always attacking, it makes for fewer responses.

  2. Rob Millan says:

    Thanks, Tim, for the links. This answers a lot (but not all) of my questions regarding the two candidates for the Republican party in the fourth ward. Some questions linger, specifically for Diane Hatzenbuhler since she was the only one to comment here, mostly relating to “HOW”?:

    Candidate Hatzenbuhler’s suggestions look great on paper. However, I question the practicality of actually implementing an ‘online bill payment system’, as I am sure she hasn’t done her research with respect to the start-up costs and fees these systems take as a cut for processing payments. Believe me, I’m as much for technology making life easier as the next guy, but this service isn’t free and the city could be in line to take a hit to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars a year if homeowners took the web to make their tax and user fee payments.

    Adding to the costs of this, an interface of this sort needs to be encrypted for security if it is to process credit card and bank payments. After all, you wouldn’t want your financial information leaked. With this, an online payment account would need to be established with each and every homeowner.

    More costs to this method are found in the need for a) training the receiver at City Hall to be able to use the software allowing him/her to view these online records; and b) training someone, preferably in IT, to deal with the customer service issues that are bound to be had with a new user to a new system for a new method of payment.

    This is money the city is in no position to lose at this point. I hope she will take this lost revenue into consideration during budget meetings.

    The idea of a curfew is great, but how enforceable? If you were 17 and in a car making its way through Amsterdam between two non-curfew municipalities, would you be ticketed? Would the driver, too? If you happened to be walking through Amsterdam on the way to Hagaman, would you get a ticket? That doesn’t seem very fair to me, and rather inconvenient for someone to have to drive or walk around Amsterdam city limits because of one alderperson’s zealous and personal vendetta toward youth driven only by the false belief that if you’re under 18 (presuming she meant a curfew for those under this age) and out at 11:00pm, that you must be doing something malicious. If St. Johnsville and Broadalbin have done it, let’s research any resistance they’ve had before selfishly thinking we can so easily implement it ourselves.

    What Diane may not know, and what I believe to still be the case, is that the majority (if not a good chunk) of paving in Schenectady is actually done by a private contractor, Callanan. I can almost guarantee that if Schenectady’s method were implemented in Amsterdam, that the same contractor would want to pave here as well. With that, need we be reminded what happened the last time a private contractor came in to do a job in the city and Diane made a case against them? See: Bombard and the Hydrant Issue.

    The biggest issue I take with this candidate’s campaign promises is how she ‘would insist that private owners of homes slated for demolition contribute to the cost of demolition by signing a contract with the city,’ key operator being ‘insist’, versus ‘force’ or ‘oblige’, probably because such a contract would either be un-forceable upon a homeowner or would be declared null and void in court if the city were to even attempt to seek damages. This isn’t even touching down on the number of people who would want nothing to do with buying a home or property in Amsterdam, what with such strict rules put in place regarding their private property.

    I hope the candidate will take the time to answer my questions.

  3. […] primary day on local races. I think Tim Becker at Pars Nova does a nice job describing the races (here) if you want some […]

  4. diane says:


    the city just spent 150,000 on new software for the controllers office and it better have a program to do this as it was discussed. I am sure there will be start up costs as there are with most projects, and all of that will have to be considered. It is my hope that we can do some serious short term and long term planning for the controllers office, including on line payments etc. Because I think something is a good idea, does not mean I expect it to be done tomorrow. I do beleive in planning which has been sorely lacking in that department.

    The possibilty of an IT person combined with another job is something that may have to be looked at. Right now our controller will need to buckle down and pick up the slack left from the recent resignation of the deputy controller. I would not replace this person at this time, there is a hiring freeze at present. and let the next controller make that decision as needed.

    With competent legal counsel that is willing to do some research on how and why curfews work in other communities maybe we can resolve this issue. It would in most cases reduce the graffitti and petty crimes that are occurring. Again, there are many citizens that do support this issue, it must be researched and addressed, once and for all. We also have a new Polcie Cheif that I feel is willing to listen, where as Brownell was not.

    I am in support of Bombard and the work that they have done. We would not have had but 6 hydrants done if left up to Halgas. I do not think that I have ever complained about them, but have found them to have done their job correctly from what I have been told. And are doing additional work.

    As for the paving, it was being done by a contractor, just as it is done here. I do not understand your point as the city always goes out to bid for the paving…..it is not an in house project. I would imagine if this is a viable paving method it will be used by more than one contractor.

    And as for property owners paying to have their own property taken down that is the way it should be. If there is a fire, and no insurance, it is the homeowners responsibility to take it down, not the taxpayers of this city. Or instead of waiting for the homeowner to take the insurance money and run, there must be some sort of legal channel so the city is reimbursed. The taxpayers of this city are already way overburdened with high taxes, why are you wanting to increasse it more?? Demolitions are expensive, and homeowners insurance is relatively cheap and I am amazed at the number of folks, especially absentee landlords, and local some ones for that matter, that have no insurance on their properties. That is the property owners loss, not the taxpayers.

    I am a reasonable person who believes in an honest days work for an honest days pay. I think for too long the taxpayers have been getting the short end of the stick in too many areas and everything should be looked into. We are in a serious financial crisis and not burying my head in the sand and looking for ways to solve problems will be one of my responsibilities if elected.

    I have been out campaigning and only just found these comments.

    • Tim Becker says:

      In regards to credit card processing, I think the main cost concern that Rob was referring to had to do with the percentage rate that the credit card companies take from every transaction. I know that for an average small business, this rate might be between 2% to 3%. I’m sure the greater the size and volume of transactions, the lower the rate goes. But even if we have a 1% charge on each payment, that would be a $10,000 charge on every 1 million dollars collected. Think of how many rose gardens could be bought with that money! : )

      One way to deal with that would be to add a “convenience fee” onto any online payment to defray the cost. I also found a 3rd party site officialpayments.com, that allows you to pay local taxes with municipalities that are set up with their service. They would handle all the security and encryption. I found I could pay a $2000 tax bill in Rome, NY for a $60 convenience fee.

      For me personally, the way my mortgage is set up, I make a single payment to the bank that covers the mortgage, taxes and insurance, then the bank pays those bills for me. So I already have a way to make my local tax and user fee payments online. I’m not sure how many people are set up that way. What would be most convenient for me is if I could pay a bulk garbage pickup fee or parking ticket online rather than having to go down to city hall or dropping a check in the mail.

    • Michael Donnan says:

      Congratulations on your primary victory, Diane.

      • diane says:

        Thank you Michael, although until the absentee ballots are posted next Tuesday, there is still a chance it can go either way depending on the numbers.

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