Generally, it’s not huge news, but the political intrigue behind the picks this year can’t be ignored. Ken Crowe, of the TU, did a pretty good job addressing it in a straight up news story but since I have the luxury of expressing opinion as well as reporting news, I will expound on Crowe’s astute observations.
For starters, two Republican councilmen were given committees to chair – Jim Gordon, R-District 1, who was elected in November, will chair the Law Committee and Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, who will enter his third term, will chair the Planning Committee.
Despite reports to the contrary, Gordon will not chair the high-profile Public Safety Committee. Rather, that will go to Bob Doherty, D-District 4, and with it comes the unenviable job of dealing with the Troy Police Department drama. And, despite Council President-elect Rodney Wiltshire’s pledge to not give Councilman Gary Galuski, D-District 6, a committee to chair, he now has two – the Parks and Recreation and Public Works Committees. Council President Lynn Kopka, who will be a straight up At Large representative come Jan. 1, will chair the Public Utilities Committee and not the Planning Committee as she wanted.
A few things stand out.
One giving two minority members their own committees to chair just does not happen and is indicative of the fractured majority caucus. Sure, it’s easy to hide true motives behind the guise of starting the New Year with a “bipartisan spirit” but I’ve been around long enough to know there is more to it.
And that is, quite simply, Wiltshire wants a couple things – a new city clerk and Councilman Ken Zalewski as pro temp - and is unsure he can get five Democratic votes so he needs the two Republicans.
Wiltshire wants to elevate Cheryl Christianson to clerk but the current city clerk, Karla Guererri, is Kopka’s girl. To replace her, Wiltshire needs five votes and since Christianson is Galuski’s sister in law he has to abstain so Wiltshire needs the two Republicans to ensure he has the votes. If it’s a four-four tie, which was a real possibility, Guererri would remain clerk until the tie is broken.
The same goes for pro temp. Galuski (picture left), in an email, said he was going for the job and could have gotten enough votes to put a monkey wrench in Wiltshire’s plans to give it to Zalewski but instead now has two committees to chair.
Another point worth mentioning is, as Crowe points out, Wiltshire and Galuski seemed to have buried the hatchet after a nasty email exchange last week where Galuski said he would vie for pro temp and Wiltshire said he would not be Galuski’s – or anyone else’s – “house nigger.” Nasty stuff, without a doubt, but this is Troy.
Finally, by not giving Kopka the Planning Committee, Wiltshire sends a clear and distinct message to Kopka and by extension Rensselaer County Democratic Committee Chairman Tom Wade that he is the president, he has some juice and is not afraid to use it.
All in all, it’s pretty savvy chess moves on Wiltshire’s part, unless of course hard core Democrats start getting upset with him playing footsie with the GOP again like he did by accepting the Independence Party line earlier this year to ensure him the presidency. One such Dem is Wade (pictured right) and another is Kopka, and you can bet both are already starting the “treason” whisper campaign among the party faithful. Honestly, I can't say as I blame them.
To wrap up, according to the Times Union and not The Record, Councilwoman-elect Erin Sullivan-Teta, I-At Large, will chair the Human Resources Committee; Wiltshire by default will chair the Finance Committee, Zalewski will chair the Technology Committee and Councilwoman-elect Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, opted not to accept a chairmanship at all, which is kind of odd but I can’t blame her for avoiding the fray.The respective committees and the chairs will be formalized on Jan. 9 during the Council’s organizational meeting.