Albany: Elections might not hurt

 

Albany's City Hall at sunset: Chances are city government could still cope.

Albany's City Hall at sunset: Chances are city government could still cope.

Judging by the letters in the local paper, lots of people are getting exercised about the ballot initiatives now being decided in Albany's special election, which ends March 12. They may be right to be worried, and the measures are still unnecessary as I've said before. But on further reflection, if they are approved the effect is likely to be less dramatic than the opponents fear.

The urban renewal measure would require voter approval of any new urban renewal district or big changes in the existing one for central Albany. No new one is planned, and neither are big changes. So, big deal. And on balance, voting on any new one would not hurt.

The Pepsi deal, which failed to come off but still paid Albany $18.5 million, would not have been possible without an urban renewal district. In future such cases, officials will have to either find a workaround or hold an election. Or, they should keep what remains of the Pepsi settlement in reserve to help finance any new infrastructure if a big project comes along.

As for the debt measure, if it's enacted somebody will have to sort out what's meant by "new debt" so the city government is not disrupted. But if the city council ever again contemplates taking out more than $100 million in loans, as it did in 2003 and 2007 with long-term implications for sharply higher water and sewer rates for years and years, then having an election first would not be such a bad idea. (hh)

From Ray Kopczynski: "And on balance, voting on any new one (Urban Renewal District) would not hurt." But it "might" derail a major project. You know the ramifications of working with a large enterprise who wishes to remain anonymous before signing on the dotted line. Corporations of the PepsiCo scale will not sit around and wait for an election when they have multiple communities vying for their services.

"...they [City of Albany] should keep what remains of the Pepsi settlement in reserve to help finance any new infrastructure if a big project comes along."  I believe "help" would be the operative word in a very minor context. If a "big project" came along that required much "infrastructure," that reserve would be but a drop in the bucket. To then forcibly delay a major project to raise enough in-house capital to fund it is not feasible by any stretch of the imagination. Hence the need for the bonding process...

"As for the debt measure, if it's enacted somebody will have to sort out what's meant by "new debt" so the city government is not disrupted." Yes, that "somebody" will be the legal system. That is what will have to happen, albeit only if the measure passes.

"But if the city council ever again contemplates taking out more than $100 million in loans, as it did in 2003 and 2007 with long-term implications for sharply higher water and sewer rates for years and years, then having an election first would not be such a bad idea." It will interesting to see what happens if a state and/or federal mandate to improve the water/sewer system arises again. If the [ahem] electorate says no, and there is a mandate, exactly what happens?

From Tom Cordier: Mr. Kopzynski's "sky is falling" is just that . No facts. The former mayor of Springfield states they have two URD's -- they must go to the voters -- has had no problems at all. All the talk of measure 22-117's negative impact on growth is biased conjecture at best and outright false at worst. All the city has to do is plan ahead. And Hasso for you to say there is no plan for another URD is to ignore the obvious. The South Albany Plan is perfect for URD -- lots of plans , yet no money. Officials have told me they will likely use URD to implement the plan. There is no announced plan to do it, but there is a plan. We cannot influence Washington, DC, but we can influence local spending by reclaiming our right to vote by voting "YES" to both measures.

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