By Joshua Ostrer
Last Friday, Feb. 25th, Byron Nichols and Roger Hull spoke at a Pizza and Politics event about the political party they founded here in Schenectady, the Alliance Party.
Hull, who was President of Union College for fifteen years until 2005, has since set up a foundation that organizes after-school programs on college campuses nationwide. He intends to become the Alliance Party’s first candidate and the next mayor of Schenectady.
Recently, Hull approached two local Democrats and two local Republicans with the prospect of running for the four opening city council spots this year. Currently, both the mayor and city council members are Democrats, though Hull has indicated that this could change.
The Alliance Party, whose ballot will consist of both Democrats and Republicans, does not require its candidates to shed their previous political affiliation, but merely add to it.
“We are an alliance of Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike,” said Hull.
In order to spread awareness and support for the new political party, Nichols, a former Union professor, posed the question: “What are your perceptions of Schenectady?” Responses to this question ranged from feelings of increased safety, perceived separation between Schenectady and Union, lack of trust in the police department, to issues relating to low-rent property in Schenectady.
“Many of these problems have been resolved,” said Nichols.
Hull then addressed the students, faculty, and community in attendance at the meeting. “The mayor must be its [Schenectady’s] chief cheerleader,” he said.
In regard to the 41% dropout rate from Schenectady’s school system, Hull insisted that he intends to focus on the 59% that do graduate.
“Great opportunities arise for that 59%” he said.
The Alliance Party and Hull, its leading man, are on a mission to deal with what they perceive to be Schenectady’s biggest problem: a one-party system. In recent years, Schenectady’s local government has been overwhelmingly Democratic and the only significant Republican candidate for mayor was crushed 2 years ago.
“[It] doesn’t make a difference if it’s Republican or Democratic, no one benefits from a lack of competition. When you have no competition, you can treat people poorly,” said Hull.
Hull then described the six guiding motives that drive the Alliance Party. The party wants a two-term limit for local government, a 5-year pay freeze on both the mayor and city council, complete budget transparency (Schenectady’s budget is 60% police and fire expenses and is 10% in the red), to begin lowering tax rates, work with the surrounding county and consolidating functions wherever possible within Schenectady, and improve neighborhoods neighborhood improvements possibly through the utilization of grants.
Hull and the entire Alliance Party are preparing for their elections in November; however, currently neither the Democratic nor Republican party has announced their candidates for any of the positions for the four council spots. There have also been no announcements for candidates running for the mayor position.
“The thought is very simple, at the local level it doesn’t make a difference if they’re Republican, Democratic, or Green. What is relevant is we have competition, cooperation, and deal with the problems before us,” said Hull.
For anyone interested in assisting the Alliance Party in its November campaign, there are several ways in which people can get involved. In particular, the party is looking for people to help with research projects and policy involvement. For more information, e-mail schenectady.alliance.gmail.com.