Questions for Jerry Jennings

jerry jenningsWe have an interview scheduled later this week with Albany major Jerry Jennings. We'll be talking with him about his bid for re-election. We're hoping you might have some questions in mind.

Here's video from our earlier interviews with Democratic candidates Corey Ellis and Shawn Morris. We'll have answers from Republican Nathan LeBron later this week.

photo: Flickr user m00by


since other municipalities pay for use of Albany's dump, why not increase their fees significantly? They don't really have much of a choice, to *not* pay it (since they have to use it) , and the increase could be used for some school/property tax relief for Albany citizens. There is so much tax exempt property in Albany that the tax burden is becoming more and more onerous on residents as people flee for the burbs. Either that or increase the quality of the schools so taxpayers move back in. or turn the Harriman Campus into tax-revenue generating property.

What Rebecca said. It's now more costly to rent an apartment in the Albany area than it is in Houston, TX due to the tax burden. Since this has happened on Jennings' watch, what does he plan on doing to make the Capital District a more business-friendly and affordable place to live again?

What specifics can you give us regard to transportation alternatives, especially bicycling, in Albany? Will you pledge to implement with the recommendations of the bicycle master plan in a timely fashion?

Why are you so darn tanned?

My question: Do you have any plans to lower the city tax on first time home buyers, who may have recently purchased their first home to benefit from the $8,000 federal tax credit but have to pay increased city taxes and school taxes, without as much assistance from the STAR program?

My rationale behind the question: I bought my first home before the tax credits for first time home buyers were introduced, so I was one of the first of my friends in the area to buy a house, and wasn't truly prepared to pay for things like water payments, sewer payments, school taxes, library taxes, etc. Its all payment for services I receive (well except Library and School - but I do appreciate those things and agree I should contribute to their upkeep) so I don't believe I should be exempt from them because I am a young adult - but I do think some sort of incentive program for young home buyers could bring more of them into the city of Albany. When Eliot Spitzer was still governor, Silda Spitzer headed up a program called "I Live NY" that was meant to bring in/retain more young NY college graduates - this may be another way to do that.

Long rambling response, but I'd love to hear his thoughts. Also - does he really have a tanning bed in his house?

Seems like property taxes are the big concern. So here's my question: Will there be any city-wide reassessments during the next 4 years? Reassessments make our taxes go up even without a tax rate increase. I don't want to be slammed again by a big boost in what some out of town consultant thinks my house is worth.

Please ask the mayor to provide an update on development plans in the Pine Bush Preserve. Advocacy groups in the city are up and arms about a 15-acre expansion of the Rapp Rd. landfill, which is adjacent to the Pine Bush. Also, last spring, there was a big hubbub about a proposed Marriott hotel in the area. I wholeheartedly advocate keeping the preserve (and its surrounding lands) "forever wild," as the Pine Bush is truly a treasure for the city of Albany and the region. But there is a lot of “noise” out there. I'd like to hear directly from the mayor his latest updates on this issue, and what his vision is for the Pine Bush and the lands surrounding it.

Many of the issues confronting this election year's candidates are familiar ones (i.e. high taxes, poor city school performances, crime/graffiti, urban renewal & expansion of businesses downtown). Why should we believe that Mayor Jennings has any more solutions to these problems than he has had the last 12 years in office? The promises he's making in his reelection campaign this year sound eerily familiar to those in the past.

I second the previous posts reflecting concerns over taxes. It won't be long before the remaining city tax payers, including myself, wise-up and join the urban flight. What will Jennings do to give incentive to families and businesses to move back downtown to help shoulder the financial tax burden?

Two major hollywood movies filming in downtown Albany recently (you know what they are) resulted in the closing of many high-traffic streets, even during rush hour. I live and work downtown and these movie filmings, while temporary, were a big inconvenience to a lot of people who also live and work in the area. What exactly were the benefits of inconveniencing Albany residents to accomodate movie filming? Revenue generation, sure, but how am I actually going to benefit at all from that? Will you finally patch the potholes plaguing State Street? Or invest the money to improve and expand CDTA service?

If allowing out-of-town film companies to shut down our city's streets for days, or weeks, at a time is going to become the norm around here, what are the real advantages to Albany?

Save the Pine Bush just sued the City of Albany over the landfill expansion in the Pine Bush. The expansion will take 15 acres of irreplaceable Pine Bush ecosystem. Should Save the Pine Bush prevail, and obtain an injunction on the construction of the landfill, what constructive steps will the City take to deal with the issue of garbage?

Many communities are going towards zero waste (see the New York Times article on 10/20/09), why can't Albany do the same?

When the first landfill expansion happened, you said it would be the last landfill expansion. What planning efforts did you undertake after the first expansion to ensure it would be the last expansion? Why did you expand the landfill a second time? What planning efforts did you undertake after the second expansion to ensure there would not be a need for another expansion? Why are you proposing to expand the landfill a third time? Since you have said that this third expansion will be the last expansion, what guarantee can you give the tax payers that this will truly be the last expansion?

Has the city of Albany regularly enforced recycling laws against those who choose not to recycle?

Will the Albany Bicycle Master Plan contain a time line for implementation? If not, why not?

What sort of tax incentives are available to residents to restore and occupy (i.e., owner-occupied instead of absentee landlords) vacant buildings in Albany?

Your staff claims that the City's public entertainment events are paid by sponsors and are not paid by Albany's taxpayers. Is there a financial accounting of this? Do sponsors write checks out to the specific fund for these events or to the City’s General Fund? If they write checks to the General Fund, why is the accounting done this way?

Do you think it is important to make Albany bicycle-friendly? If so, why? If not, why not?

Why are you using land that was formerly committed by you to become part of the Pine Bush Nature Preserve as the location for the City’s dump expansion?

Why are the tipping fees for the dump passed onto Albany city residents and not to those who dump the trash into the dump (i.e., surrounding communities and private haulers?)

Why are there so many vacant buildings in Albany?

If you were invited to Portland, Oregon to tour their bike-friendly city, would you go?

How do you respond to the criticism that you run the city on behalf of suburbanites and partyers only here for a few hours of the day instead of on behalf of the residents?

Why do you continue to run the Albany golf course as a golf course when it operates at a loss to Albany taxpayers?

How do you think painting pictures on the plywood covering the windows of vacant buildings will solve the vacant building crisis in Albany?

What do you like about the Pine Bush?

Do you care about preserving Albany’s historic buildings? If so, why have so many been torn down or allowed to become dilapidated?

Do you believe in the “broken windows theory” to prevent crime? If so, why don’t the Albany police enforce the “quality of life” laws like loud music, littering and broken windows? 

Why do you accept campaign contributions from those who do not pay their property taxes? 

What “on the ground” bicycle-friendly projects have you implemented while in office?

What have you done to preserve Albany’s historic buildings?

I agree with ph--what about the next 4 years will be different than Mayor Jennings' last 12 years in office? This is not a rhetorical question--I really want to know what will be different.

Also, what does Mayor Jennigs regard as the major accomplishments of his time in office to date? What does he acknowledge as unsuccessful? (You can get great insight into the minds of politicians by asking them what they consider to be successes and failures.)

And if you guys don't ask him about his perma-tan, you're not fulfilling your jobs as muckraking journalists. Make me proud, guys!

I want Jennings to answer why there is such blaringly disproportionate property and school taxation in Albany for low-income neighborhoods? It's obvious that taxes are outrageous throughout the city, but it is very unclear to me how residents in impoverished areas are expected to pay taxes that are based on hugely exaggerated home values and do not reflect basic expectations that homeowners hold of their city (such as city trash cans, street cleaning, basic city system repairs, etc). Residents of my street, Grand Street in downtown, have homes valued so extremely that property and school taxes easily double or triple a normal monthly mortgage payment and make homeownership impossible for most --except for plenty of out-of-town landlords that rent without care, charge high rents, and do not in some cases provide proper livable conditions for tenants. That is to say that many homes on our street sell for as little as $30K to as much as $160K for multi-unit 3+ story homes, with the bulk of homes in severe need of repair or total rehabilitation. I purchased and gutted/renovated a vacant home on Grand Street as a low-income first time homeowner and have seen my taxes double and then triple in the short 7 years of occupation. It's proven that resident homeownership is one of the most reliable measures to assure that a neighborhood's quality of life improves and yet residents of our neighborhood face the reality that school and property taxes could cost them as much as $5000 - $8000 annually on our street. In many homes around here, that's a huge portion of one's annual income for families that struggle to make ends meet on minimum wage. Why, Jennings, on a street like Grand St or any inner-city street here in Albany do we pay taxes of a much more cared for area at the expense of being overrun with vacant homes, foreclosures, and absentee landlords? All homeowners taxations rates need to reflect the basic quality of life of a neighborhood as well as the presumed home value and I want to know how this will be addressed in the next four years? All residents of our city are taxed unfairly, but I question how the unheard voices of inner-city homeowers or residents that never think they can possibly become homeowners are expected to pay tax rates so high?

Follow-up question for Mayor Jennings: I would be curious to know why he opposes resident parking permits for those living in downtown Albany. We're one of the few state capitals on the eastern seaboard that doesn't offer this to their residents.

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