19 Aug 2014
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Council Candidates on Representing the Community

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items related to the November 2012 election.

Council Candidates on Representing the Community

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our  full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

As a member of the City Council, will you represent the views of the majority, those who elect you, or will you make decisions based on what you feel is the best for Albany, in your personal opinion, when you disagree with the majority position? Please answer in relation to the recent council decisions regarding AT&T and UC's village development project. 

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

I will continue to research each issue and listen to citizens before reaching a decision on a given vote.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

This is an excellent, and somewhat complex question. One of my goals as a member of City Council will be to represent the actual views of the majority of Albany residents, not just the majority that shows up at City Council meetings, particularly on issues that affect the majority. In order to accomplish this, I will not only make myself available to residents, I will also outreach to community groups and residents at large. On issues that I have campaigned on, I will do my best to represent those positions. I also know from experience that working with groups requires compromise to be effective. With social justice issues that affect marginalized or disenfranchised people or groups of people, my goal is to represent those interests, which might be otherwise disregarded or abused by the majority. 

In the case of the UC Village Project, I think the size, scale and location of this project is going to have many significant impacts on Albany including local traffic, the character of our City, our local businesses and the environment. Therefore, I believe large-scale community input is the best way to proceed, as was put forth by the referendum. For more details on my position please see my website: http://spellwomanforalbany.com/uc-village-development-project.

The City Council recently upheld the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation to deny AT&T’s cell tower application because they repeatedly requested approval for the same nonconforming site and refused to make a good faith investigation of conforming sites, proposed by community groups and the City. I agree with this decision. For more information on my position: http://spellwomanforalbany.org/cell-phone-towers.

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

It is important for City Council to solicit views from all of Albany, not just those who show up at Council meetings. As such, especially on large and contentious issues like the UC development and cell tower applications, it is imperative that Council engages the community.

I am an Albany progressive who has seen Albany develop through the 60's all the way to the present. I will balance all of my decisions with my overriding goal to keep Albany small and local. I like the town I grew up in. I am not trying to make it into something it is not.

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

I will vote in way that is best for Albany. That was my position when I was on the school board, and it is still my position. I am very comfortable with making audience members unhappy if I don’t think their ideas are in the best interest of the community. On the other hand, I am good listener and absorb new information quickly.

As for the UC Village development, I think P&Z (planning and zoning) and council did a good job. They were more than diligent in their efforts to keep the public informed. But it’s a free country. Albany residents have the right not to pay attention to what their local governments are doing. But that doesn’t give the same residents the right to insist that complex decisions get repeated simply because they were not paying attention the first time around.

The AT&T decision is a different matter. Our cell ordinance forces P&Z to deal with issues that are beyond their expertise. P&Z commissioners tend to be contractors and architects, not RF engineers and public health officials. On the AT&T decision, P&Z dropped the ball in a way that was just a prolonged embarrassment.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

With regard to the AT&T cell tower decision, from what I understand, more could have been done by AT&T and the city to determine a cell tower location that would not be so problematic (not involve an already non-conforming building). I think the majority want AT&T to have good cell coverage, but pushing this non-conforming location was probably not in the best interests of anybody.

With regard to the UC Village project, I believe the majority of residents in Albany want this project and that the City Council made the correct decision to move forward with the various approvals (except for the misstep of the last-minute language changes to the EIR without public comment).

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

I tell my supporters that if I’m elected, they must expect me to sometimes make decisions they don’t agree with—otherwise I would not be doing my job.

A “majority” is rarely clear. Short of an actual vote, the definite calculation the term “majority” implies is not possible. And there are further questions. For instance, do we assign more weight to those who are most directly impacted by a decision?

The voices of the people must be listened to. Council members have a responsibility to be available to the community. Council decisions must be informed by what they hear from the public, but balanced with what they learn from staff and their own reflection on an issue. What must be guarded against are decisions made from ideology rather than inquiry, or delay from unwillingness to make a difficult decision. 

In both the AT&T and UC Village proposals, the Council heard numerically more Albany residents in favor of the proposals than residents opposed to the proposals. In these cases, I would have voted with the majority, but I can imagine voting against the majority if I felt that the arguments presented by the majority were not factual, informed, or convincing.

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

It is difficult to know at any given time what the majority necessarily wants since we have no accurate way to gauge that opinion (sorry Patch polls are interesting but not necessarily very accurate). As one gets further engaged in volunteering in city government and working on the issues, one’s perspective can change. One may get ahead of his/her base and/or change his/her opinion. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the basic communication skill of approaching issues like AT&T or UC Village by first understanding all aspects, processing this by weighing out the issues, coming to conclusions on the best course of action and finally making your conclusions understandable.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our  full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.

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