Now that the dust is settling on what was a pretty dusty deal to sell the Scolite property to RJ Valente one thing is clear: Council President Rodney Wiltshire is setting himself up for a mayoral run.
True, the dynamics changed a bit since Wiltshire was one of six votes to move the deal out of committee two weeks ago, but if he wanted to play nice with Mayor Lou Rosamilia and the rest of the Democratic Party proper, he would have tabled it as the mayor wanted to do Thursday morning.
The dynamics I’m referring to, of course, are the FBI making inquiries and a strongly worded letter written by the attorney representing one of the bidders - a conglomerate of companies including Don Fane - not awarded the South Troy chunk of land which indicated a lawsuit was coming should the Council approve the deal.
But still, Wiltshire could have tabled the ordinance. Instead, in an email to his Council colleagues Thursday, he said he was pushing it to a vote and it ended up getting shot down by a 5-4 count. Wiltshire and Councilwoman Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, changed their votes and Councilman Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, who was absent from the committee meeting also voted no.
Thursday morning saw a flurry of activity. First Rosamilia wanted to amend the ordinance to remove the licensing provision extended to Valente and convert it to a straight sale pending state approval. But, that would have needed six votes that obviously weren’t there. Then the mayor wanted it tabled, but since it was already on the agenda it was Wiltshire’s call and he refused. He really couldn't orchestrate the administration's unorganized efforts but he certainly took advantage of them.
It’s a pretty gutsy move by Wiltshire because he did make Rosamlia look bad - and weak - and he further alienated himself from the party and that includes Chairman Tom Wade.
If you remember, Wiltshire got the Independence Party line thanks to the GOP and he used that along with Working Families Party support to wrest the Council presidency away from Councilwoman Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, a party loyalist. True, Kopka came in third behind Erin Sullivan-Teta, but she too is loyal to the Dems. In other words he made no friends by playing footsie with the GOP and lost even more by butting heads with Rosamilia.
Wiltshire has said he wants to run for mayor but won’t primary Rosamilia should the mayor opt to run again. I don’t think he will, and I don’t think the Dems will support Wiltshire. That means there could be a primary – the first for a major party line since the city changed to this form of government nearly 20 years ago – if Wiltshire continues down the path he’s started to clear.
In fact, I’m told the last time there was a mayoral primary for a major party line was when Republican Neil Kelleher Sr. defeated Frank Pop in 1959 before the city changed from an elected strong mayor form of government to an appointed city manager. It changed back for the election of 1995. Pop, by the way, was the party’s choice and Kelleher went on to win the general election.
I’ve been trying to get in touch with Vegas to get some odds on potential mayoral candidates and hopefully they get back to me sometime over the weekend. When they do, I will post.