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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 3, 2011
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND During the re-districting of the Albany County legislature, after the completion of the 2010 Census, the district numbers were shifted. Due to the shifts, there is no incumbent candidate in District 28, which covers portions of Colonie and Guilderland. Battling for the seat are Republican Bryan Best, and Democrat Dennis Feeney, who also has the Conservative and Independence lines.
Bryan Best, 24, a lifelong resident of Guilderland, graduated from high school in 2005, Hudson Valley Community College in 2007, and the University at Albany in 2010. He currently works at the State Capitol.
“Ever since I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to get involved with the community and I saw this as a good opportunity,” said Best. “My youth and energy are my best qualifications.”
Best said he would oppose “any and all” new taxes and tax increases, especially the 19.2-percent increase proposed in outgoing county executive Michael Breslin’s budget.
“It is a little ridiculous in this economic climate to expect people to pay that much more,” said Best, adding that he believes in cutting the waste and excess in government, but not services.
“A lot of people are concerned with a bloated county government,” he said. He wants to advocate for leaving positions due to retirements vacant, in order to save money, and he wants to see a reduction in spending.
The county distributes a percentage of sales-tax revenues to each municipality annually, based on population. Best said he thinks that Guilderland does not get a fair share of the revenues.
“We have Crossgates Mall, where a majority of the county’s sales-tax revenues are generated, and a disproportionately low amount of that revenue goes to our town; we get shafted,” said Best. He said he would advocate a more even distribution.
“Building a new nursing home facility is out of the question,” Best said. The county already says the nursing home is too expensive, said Best, and building a new one would only increase the costs.
“It would be more cost-efficient to privatize the nursing home and it would be run more efficiently by someone who knows what they are doing,” rather than have the county manage it, Best said.
“The county should stay out of it and the state should regulate it,” said Best, in reference to hydraulic fracturing.
In terms of the recent re-districting of the legislature, Best said he thinks the process of re-districting should be more open and transparent in the future.
“Residents want to know what is going on, and sometimes aspects of the procedure are lost in the mix,” said Best.
“I do believe in reducing the size of the legislature,” Best said, adding that, if 10 legislators were cut, the county would save over $200,000 a year.
“That’s the kind of savings I think we should advocate,” said Best, adding that he does not think reducing the legislature would hurt representation, and the residents would care more about the cost savings.
“I’ve hit every single house in my district and I’ve only been out there for one or two months,” said Best.
“I know this area well, and I have the energy to really advocate for change,” Best concluded. “I want to stop the politics as usual.”
Dennis Feeney, also a lifelong resident of Guilderland, graduated from Guilderland High School in 1979, and went on to earn a degree in history from the University at Buffalo and a law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law.
He has been a principal in the law firm of Feeney, Centi, and Mackey, which his father started, in 1993. Feeney also served part of a term as a county legislator, for District 30, from 2004 to the middle of 2007. He had to resign when he moved out of the district.
“It was interesting; I was new and I had to learn,” said Feeney, of his time spent on the legislature.
“I want to be able to help the residents of Guilderland in any way that I can,” he said, of his decision to run again in a new district.
Feeney said he would not support a tax hike of over 19 percent, which is what the county executive has proposed. He said the property taxes are already too high in upstate New York, which is why the 2-percent tax levy cap was implemented.
“One of the main problems is that the counties pay 25 percent, give or take, of the share of Medicaid costs; it’s an unfunded mandate that is getting passed down, and it’s unfair to ask counties to stick to a two-percent hike while the cost of Medicaid goes up $10 million,” said Feeney.
He said he would support asking the governor to provide mandate relief on the issue.
“Most likely, I would support a budget that stayed with the two-percent cap,” Feeney said.
“You have to be careful about using surpluses because you’re passing the buck to future budgets, which could create issues,” said Feeney. He also said he thought it would be best to have government employees retire and to leave the positions open, rather than institute lay-offs.
“The best way to reduce government is through attrition, and I would hope that would be the way we could do it,” he said.
Feeney said the nursing home in Albany County could not continue running the way it is.
“It is just unacceptable; you can’t have something that loses millions of dollars a year,” he said. Before he could make a decision on whether to eliminate the facility completely or build a new one, Feeney said, he would have to look at the numbers involved with renovations and construction.
Providing funding for employees to conduct home visits, rather than subsidizing a nursing home, sounds like a good idea in theory, according to Feeney.
“You won’t find out whether it’s practical unless you start doing it,” he said.
Feeney said there were a lot of problems created in other parts of the state by hydraulic fracturing, and that he doesn’t know if it’s anything the county legislature should get involved with.
“I think we’d be pre-empted by the state, legally,” he said. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation should put rules and regulations in place to make sure natural gas extraction would be conducted safely, if it were to occur in New York, said Feeney.
“I can’t say that I have the highest opinion of it, but I wouldn’t want to shut the door on it,” he said.
The re-districting of the county legislature, said Feeney, was based on population.
“That was the main driving force behind the city of Albany losing a seat and the suburban area gaining a seat,” he said. Though he was not involved with the process, he said he hoped the committee followed the data correctly and made the right decisions.
“It sounds, according to the lawsuits, that they did follow the rules, especially with the majority minority districts,” Feeney said.
If reducing the number of legislators would provide some cost savings, Feeney said, he would be willing to look at it.
“I’d be open to discussion on reducing the legislature,” he said. “I wouldn’t shut the door on it.”
“This is a very tough time for elected officials,” concluded Feeney. “ I want to be able to get down there and have a say.”