Another Election Day has come and gone and, by most accounts, it was particularly rough and tumble.
The five-term incumbent supervisor, Paula Mahan, won by about 6 percent of the vote, 53 to 47, so not much will change in how the town operates.
But, if you think about it, since the supervisor serves two-year terms, she can focus on governing for about 14 or so months and then, if she chooses to run for a seventh term, she will likely set her sights on the following November.
That’s too quick, and since the Town Board members serve four-year terms, it’s backwards too. The legislative branch should serve two years and the executive four years. That’s how it is in just about every other municipality in the area.
Colonie is 57-plus square miles, has a population of more than 80,000 people and a general fund budget of roughly $89 million, which doesn’t include the dozen fire districts or the water and sewer departments. In Albany County, it is second only to the City of Albany in population size and if it were a city, it would be the seventh largest in the state. It has more people than 28 of the state’s 62 counties.
Obviously, running such an operation is no easy task, and doing so while in election mode every other year makes it all the more difficult. It is not fair to the residents and, frankly, not fair to the supervisor.
It’s easy to say “well the supervisor shouldn’t campaign for a year” but that’s a naïve view of how elections work and how much they cost — especially in a town the size of Colonie where there is an active and healthy two-party system in place. Campaigns take time and they take money, and raising money takes time.
And think about if Mahan’s opponent, Frank Mauriello, won. Not meant to disparage his abilities, but there is a learning curve even with a smooth transition. It will take a new supervisor a few months to get things in place, and then have to think about running again just a few months after that.
Increasing anything for a politician – salaries, benefits or terms of office – is not an easy sell and it can’t happen to benefit anyone already in office. It could, though, be brought to a referendum next year and, if the voters choose, go into effect the following year for whoever wins the supervisor’s seat.
Also, having the five Council candidates run at large to represent the entire town is ludicrous. It would make for better government if the town was broken up into five districts – or wards or whatever you want to call them – and have a representative from each.
There is little similarity between Loudonville and Menands, between Central Avenue and Park Avenue or between Wolf Road and Forts Ferry Road.
As it stands now, there may not even be a representative on the Town Board who lives in a particular part of town and, in the extreme, all five could all hale from the same neighborhood or even the same block.
Breaking the town into five districts, and requiring a Town Board candidate to live in that district, is a much more representative structure and would ensure each part of town has a voice.
There is the chance shifting to such a format could pit incumbent board members against each other, maybe even of the same party, so it will certainly upset some but it would not have to go into effect right away. Maybe even implement it at the same time the supervisor’s term of office is changed.
Colonie, given its location, amenities, solid schools and low taxes, is already one of the best municipalities in the state. It could be better, should someone have the political courage to make it so.