By ALISSA SCOTT
Two lifelong Amsterdam residents will compete in this year's race for the city's 3rd Ward council seat.
Debra Baranello, 60, a clinical supervisor technician at the Cataract Care Center, and Ronald J. Barone Sr., 68, outgoing 3rd Ward supervisor, will each vie for the position. Current 3rd Ward Alderwoman Gina DeRossi, a Republican, decided to not run for another term this year.
Barone, a Republican, has held elected office at the county level for 17 years, but this will be his first attempt to secure a city seat. He defeated Anthony Leggiero in September's primary election and is also running on the Conservative line.
This is the first time Baranello has run for office, which, she said, is because she thinks voters want to see a change of face in the Common Council. She said the current group is "getting stale" and has run out of ideas.
"I think it's time for a change," Baranello said. "There's too many career politicians, and that's what I've heard going door-to-door. People don't want the same old people in."
Baranello has also been involved with the Citizen's Review Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and several "positive" community functions like planting flowers or cleaning up the city, she said.
Barone, chairman of the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency, says he has also served on "every single committee in the whole county," adding his years of experience are too valuable to waste.
"This is no time for an amateur," Barone said. "This is time for seriousness, and you've got to be on top of it right away. You've got to be ready to go the first day you're in there. I'm ready to go now."
The city has yet to file its annual update document and each of its accounts has not been balanced in the past couple of years.
"I just can't understand what could have happened," Baranello said. "I think it's been a mess for so long and it just got to a point where it's just one big job that somebody's going to have."
Barone said that one area in which he has gained experience at the county level is garnering accountability for spending. He said he isn't afraid to be burdensome and request fund balances before approving funding.
"You're in dire straits right now," Barone said. "Let's get on to reality. This isn't fantasy world. We're in trouble. We don't even know how much money we have in our accounts. I'm not afraid to get answers. I might be a little abrupt at times, but that's my way."
With the city's current financial state, Barone said this isn't the time to make "frivolous, silly" purchases. Mayor Ann Thane recently purchased decorative ram statues to market the city; the money coming from a special account to which she has access. She has also hosted flower planting sessions at City Hall and created a mosaic at the Creative Connections Art Center.
Barone said he doesn't approve of these expenditures because the city has more immediate concerns.
"The city is in dire need of repair, the water system is in dire need of repair, but you're worrying about rams?" Barone asked. "You're worrying about flowers?"
Baranello, who said she loves flowers and planting, agrees with "anything positive for the city." She is aware that people think she will just be a rubber stamp for the mayor.
"I can understand why they feel like that because I'm into anything that's positive and she's the first mayor that's ever gotten out and done anything," Baranello said. "I think it's great. If it's going to be a positive effort for the city, and if people will buy [the rams], and the money goes toward something that's going to help the city, I think it's great."
While campaigning throughout the 3rd Ward, Barone and Baranello each said one of the major concerns voiced by residents is the enforcement of mandates by the codes department.
"They're concerned with the neighborhood and their property and the value of their property," Barone said. "Property values are diminishing in certain areas that are not taken care of. Codes enforcement needs to be stiffer. I'd like to find out how many times we've been in litigation."
"I don't think ... I don't know what they're doing," Baranello said. "I don't think the city should be crumbling like it is. I don't understand why houses are falling down and nothing's being done about it. And then all of a sudden you have to demolish them. Pretty soon there won't be very many houses left."
Baranello hopes to meet with department heads, if elected, to learn more about making the changes residents want to see. She also pledged to continue meeting with members of the 3rd Ward.
Barone said he's familiar with most of the city residents and if he doesn't get to knock on everyone's door, though he's trying, he's sure people will recognize his experience and vote for him.