Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We Saw This Coming

Originally run on August 17, 2012:

It’s time for longstanding Albany Mayor Gerry Jennings to step aside. Yes, this needs to be Jennings’s last term in office. He’s been mayor since 1994. It’s been a great run, a historic run, second only to the unconquerable Erastus Corning who ruled for 42 years. And I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Jennings. He's part of the city’s homegrown fabric, the good old boy who went from bartender’s kid to CEO. But everything has to end.

Before I get to the base of my argument, let’s take a snapshot of the city’s landscape. The schools are a disaster. The taxes are through the roof. The city is losing population. The number of boarded-up business fronts is rising like rapid fire. The crime is out of control. And don’t believe that APD report about city crime being down. Like Mark Twain said about lies, “there are three types: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Albany is a terrifying place, and I’m not just talking Arbor Hill, which is worse than Bedford Stuyvesant, I’m talking the entire city. It’s scary, big-city scary. But let’s forget all that, if such forgetting is possible, and talk about the latest issue at hand: Jennings vs. the Bar Scene.

Wow, that’s a line I thought I’d never write about the Capital City’s 74th Mayor. Jennings grew up the son of a bartender, and one of the first things he did when coming into office was take up the idea to build Albany’s economy on the back of Pearl Street. He jump started Alive at Five, and he was at the forefront of the bar scene buildup. He was Mayor when the Big House got rolling. Then came Mad River, the Bayou, Jillian’s, just to name a few. I can’t count the number of times I saw GJ at McGeary’s, beer in hand, mixing with the masses. His Alive at Five moves were brilliant. County and State Workers get paid on Thursday, so let’s bring all that new money to the Riverfront and let’s rock. I loved Alive at Five. It was all going great. Talk of a Convention Center and "Destination City” status was in the works. He got the Giants up here. He built up Albany International Airport. The U Albany Science buildings are here. Parking-ticket scandal aside, his legacy is secured. Get out, Gerry, while the getting is good.

Before I say another word about the bar scene battle, I will tell you that Jennings is 100% right on this issue. Most of the Downtown trouble comes after 2AM, and said trouble is a strain on local police and even hospitals. It’s a Warzone on Pearl Street after 2AM. But right doesn't always mean right. The fact remains that Jennings is trying to stifle out the monster he built, he’s turning his back on the partnership he made from Day One. Even though he’s 100% right on this 2AM thing, it feels a bit desperate to me. It feels like the end. The Big House is gone, Mad River is gone. And now Jillian’s is gone. That was a big one. And when the Bayou goes dark (because the Bayou is as Albany as Jennings himself) that to me will feel like a symbolic finish. And don’t get fooled, this Mayor cannot rebuild Downtown by waging this war against the bars. It’s time to start fresh.

Five terms in, Jennings is just too comfortable. He’s not hungry enough. How could he be? The man walks on water. He even made number one on my Famous Capital Region List. I love consistency. And I love Jennings as the face of Albany. But the ship is sinking. Smart people are moving out of Albany, and it looks like the bar scene isn’t far behind. The Convention Center can’t get off the ground. If Jennings is sticking around to outlast Corning as Albany’s longest-running Mayor, I don’t think he’s going to make it anyway. Jennings must be hungry for a new challenge. Senate? Congress? And the City of Albany needs a new voice to get in there and shake some things up. I love Gerry. He has great taste in food (I see him at D’Raymond’s all the time). He’s a homegrown good old boy. But it’s time to change gears. Get out, Gerry, while the getting is good.

Read More about Jennings:

Brian Huba
Originally: 8/17/12

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