ALBANY — The Tuesday mayoral runoff isn’t the only unsettled race in Albany’s city government.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel John Hawthorne and Demetrius Young are both seeking a four-year term in Ward VI, with the winner taking office next year as the replacement for Commissioner Tommie Postell, who did not seek re-election.
A graduate of Albany State University, Hawthorne retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He has worked with Procter & Gamble, Ford Motor Co. and as Albany’s deputy director for community and economic development following the Flood of 1994.
As part of his campaign platform, he has developed a declaration for the citizens in Ward VI. Focusing heavily on the concept of community engagement, the theme is “Together We Can!”
The challenge Hawthorne issues to citizens is to maintain what they value, better advocate for needed improvements, keep their properties and streets safe and clean, better educate youths for the future, hold city staff and elected officials accountable, and be more vigilant about holding each other accountable.
“That is my message to the people of Ward VI. If we want better, we must be better,” Hawthorne said during an interview with a Herald reporter earlier this year.
Hawthorne could not be reached for comment for this story.
Young, who has been pounding the streets and knocking on doors to reach voters he missed earlier, said during an interview this week that he doesn’t think “trickle down” is working for the largest and most poverty-stricken of the city’s political territories.
Instead of an attitude of “What’s good for all of Albany is good for Ward VI,” he said he thinks the formula should be turned around to “What’s good for Ward VI is good for all of Albany.”
That means addressing specific needs in the ward that encompasses south Albany and, Young said, that primarily is the issue of crime. While enhanced police action can be positive, blanket policies such as having a task force arrest everyone with outstanding probation warrants for minor offenses can be overreach, he said.
“Ward VI is probably the battleground of the fight on crime,” Young said. “Where the battleground lies, you don’t want casualties, casualties in terms of injustice. We don’t want this to be like South Central L.A. What we need is for the community police force — the Albany Police Department — to be empowered to solve crimes.
“If it’s a matter of gangs, we need to get the gang members off the streets. Any assaults, murders, we need to get those crimes solved.”
Another issue important to the residents of Ward VI is utilities, Young said. After crime, it comes up near the top of citizens’ concerns.
The issue of utilities has been raised by nearly every candidate who entered the race for the November general election. The consensus has been that utilities should be returned to an independent agency instead of being under the purview of the city manager’s office.
“We know the utility is owned by the city, which means it is owned by the citizens,” Young said. “I want to approach it from the standpoint that Ward VI voters want utilities lowered. It’s almost a mandate at this point.”