Thoughts on the 2013 Amsterdam Elections

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Elections

In the city races, it seems to me that the lack of differentiation between the candidate’s platforms resulted in a situation where perceptions, personalities and past experience were the most important drivers.

I think the release of the draft state audit (which was published in October – surprise!) was probably the most pivotal element in the election. I also think the way the Recorder covered and editorialized the financial situation – before and after the draft audit release – did it’s part to amplify voter outrage. Even though the problems with the city’s books had been known about for years, and the Mayor and Common Council had recently implemented measures to correct the situation (such as hiring the Deputy Controller), there was something about seeing it all laid out in the state audit that was extremely jarring and disheartening. I felt it myself.

In short, the Mayor’s defense didn’t get much traction. Saying it was “all good” and referring to some emails she sent to the controller a while back came across as passing the buck rather than demonstrating proactive leadership. The audit confirmed the accounting problems were widespread and had gone on for far too many years without anyone taking any decisive action. Even though neither Republican or Democratic candidates offered any substantial ideas as to how to do things any differently than what was already being done, I believe the Republicans who won benefited greatly from the public’s perception of the Mayor’s role in the situation. And perception is reality – that’s how it’s always been.

I do want to give some credit where it’s due – I have to say that 4th Ward winner Diane Hatzenbuhler has  offered a ton of specific ideas over the years – many on this blog and on others – as to how she would solve many of Amsterdam’s problems. I personally don’t agree with some of those ideas, and I think other ideas lack key details (like how to pay for them). But if she is able to implement even a handful of them I think the city could benefit. Many candidates have given lip-service to the idea of increased code enforcement. But if Diane is able to really apply herself to this issue, maybe we could get somewhere.

I also think the example she has set by coming back twice now after two election defeats is an object lesson in dedication. She has shown that if you truly care about something, you don’t give up. I think some of the losing candidates this year would do well to follow her example.

It will be interesting to see how things play out now that the Common Council will have a veto-proof Republican majority. They will clearly be in the city’s driver’s seat for the next two years and so any success or failure will completely reflect on them in the next election.

I genuinely hope that the new council does well. The state audit and numbers from the state controller’s office show we need get our books and debt under control. Balancing the budget and reducing our debt will require the council to make some tough budget decisions. I think some fiscal conservatism is probably what is needed right now to get things back under control.

However, given many local Republican’s (and not a few Democrat’s) bent toward the idea of regional consolidation, it would not surprise me if instead of working hard to cut expenses and increase revenues, that the idea of declaring bankruptcy or turning over our finances to the state were seriously explored. After all, the population has already been “primed” for this idea anyway. This would essentially amount to giving up being an independent city and would pave the way to creating one BIG regional government. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.

  1. Bill Wills says:

    Tim, while I agree with some of what you said you have forgotten how the Mayor came into office the 2nd time around. Your opinion by the way is slanted much like that of the Recorder’s that you critize but it’s your blog and you do allow opposing views, like mine, to appear on it.
    When the Mayor last ran and I was a legitimate candidate on the ballot for the primary why did she refuse to debate me? Why didn’t she give the public the chance to choose between us two prior to the general election? Instead she called in the big guns, Schumer and Tonko, to put on a display that only true politicians could. They promised to help the Russo’s rebuild, they didn’t own up to that promise and actually National Grid came through on their behalf. They promised to rebuild the Manor and bring in a State Agency. The Manor still sits shored up as if in mothball state.
    The point here going back to you comment is that the City is not in good financial state (I read the preliminary audit), the City is deteriorating (take a ride a way from your comfortable home), and who is ultimately responsible, the Mayor. At the last election the Mayor won a very slim majority and received no overwhelming mandate by the people. As your own figures show there were less voters voting than 4 years before that. The people of Amsterdam are upset because no legitimate leader has come forward yet worth apparently their vote and support. You like Diane have some very good ideas for our City and I once again encourage you to run for office. Although I don’t agree with some of your ideas I respect and support you as someone who could implement them and not just give them lip service. The Mayor promised us accountability and has given us nothing in that area except finger pointing at its worst. I believe you would be responsible for not just the good but the bad that may happen and that’s who we need to lead us. You wouldn’t play dirty politics like those played over and over again in Amsterdam. You would do the job before you and face book and blog it after not during work. Give it a thought.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Well thank you again for suggesting I should run for office, that’s nice of you. I may consider it sometime down the road, but I would definitely want to be much more knowledgeable as to how the political game actually works behind the scenes lest I find myself in a “deer in the headlights” type of situation 🙂

      Some thoughts on your points…

      – Even though I think I try to be objective as I can with my posts, I don’t deny I have a perspective. All opinions are slanted, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, how well those opinions are supported is what determines if it’s a good one or not. I have never said the Recorder is wrong for having an editorial opinion. But I think we’ve seen those opinions filter into the actual editing of the news stories, and that is not a good thing for an organization that claims to value journalistic integrity. It is also not a good thing when a paper essentially re-prints the same editorial arguments over and over and over again. At that point I question whether they are really serving the community or trying to push an agenda?

      – To be fair, you should ask the question about the debate to Joe Emanuele as well as Ann Thane. As I recall, the debate organizers claimed neither agreed to include you in the debate. The answer, as I’m sure you know, is that you had the potential to take votes away from both candidates, and neither wanted that.

      – Just to clarify – it’s Flippin’s blog that has the voting turnout numbers, not mine. You don’t think we’re the same person do you? lol

      – Lastly, I’m not sure why you imply I’m somehow insulated from seeing the deterioration of our neighborhoods. Yes, I was fortunate to find a home in a good neighborhood, but I only have to walk 3-4 blocks until I see the blight. I actually do get out quite a bit and walk through the various neighborhoods on a regular basis, often with my 11 year old son. This past year, we’ve walked down *all* of Division St several times, West Main, Union St, Reid St, Bunn St, etc. I have been on East Main on a regular basis. I am also acutely aware of many of the city’s societal problems from Neighborhood Watch and through various volunteer work. Just bringing my kids to play for an hour at either Arnold Ave park or Sirchia park (which we do several times a year) is enough to get a sense of the breakdown of families in the impoverished sections of our city. So I just wanted to make you aware of that 🙂

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