Republican candidate for Colonie town supervisor Todd Drake has laid out a platform that chiefly targets the town’s finances and calls for an end to “one-party rule,” a scant few years after the GOP effectively exercised singular control of town government.
In his first major policy announcement, Drake vowed that if elected, he would double the amount of money in the town’s cash reserves, grow the tax base, institute transparency measures and pursue a ward system of government.
But incumbent Supervisor Paula Mahan countered that many of Drake’s ideas are ones that have been or are being implemented by her administration.
Drake said the money to increase the town’s savings would be realized by finding savings and growing the town’s tax base through courting private businesses to Colonie, especially high-tech companies. He argued the supervisor should partner with the Industrial Development Agency to promote the town with a full-on marketing campaign.
“We want to take advantage of the multimillion dollar projects that are happening on both sides of our borders … we are at the epicenter, and we should be marketing that aggressively,” Drake said.
Mahan pointed to companies that have located in Colonie during her tenure, including tech companies like Precision Valve & Automation, AngioDynamics and M&G DuraVent. Other companies offering medical, retail and construction have also come to Colonie, Mahan said.
“We have been working on attracting businesses to town, including businesses related to technology, and they have been bringing jobs to the community,” she said.
She also said the town ended 2011 with a $700,000 fund balance and increased that to nearly $1.5 million over the next year. Since 2008, the town payroll has also been trimmed by 76 full-time positions and 124 part-time jobs. Now, the town employs 497 full-time workers and 124 part-timers.
Drake, a Latham resident and owner of a real estate firm who is making his first stab at public office, was already critical of the Mahan administration when a state comptroller’s report listed Colonie as among the most fiscally distressed municipalities in the state. Mahan, in turn, called that report’s methodology flawed, and pointed to a recent community profile from the comptroller’s office that found the town is moving in the right direction. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently came to the town to praise the administration’s efforts.
Drake has focused anew on a recommendation in the comptroller’s report that the town update its budget format. He said budget documents are difficult to decipher in their current state and also called for an update to the town’s website that would make public information more easily accessible.
“One of the biggest problems that we have is a lack of transparency. … We don’t have a clear picture with what’s going on with the Mahan administration’s payroll,” he said.
Mahan said changes in communicating the budgeting process have already been made, and they were well received.
“Our budget is very transparent, we put a line item budget in place … and we think that it’s much easier to read for our taxpayers. They can see where the money is going line item by line item,” she said.
Drake traced many of his criticisms back to the fact Colonie’s elected officials are now almost exclusively Democrat, and he argued that has led to a lack of public debate and accountability. He included the past Republican dynasty in his criticism of partisan governance.
“No matter what the party, one-party rule is unhealthy,” Drake said.
In addition to his other initiatives, Drake also called for the adoption of a ward system to dictate makeup of the Town Board by 2015. The idea was previously floated by Independence Party candidate Ken Champagne, who had been set to run against Mahan in a primary before he dropped out of the race for health reasons.
Mahan said if reelected, one area she’d like to focus on in her next term would be improving infrastructure like roads, water lines and sewers.
“We’re pretty much about the basics and providing our residents and visitors with the best services possible,” she said. “In this economic climate, there’s not a lot of room for fluff.”