By Natalie Williams
A brief article on the Mayoral Debate with photos of the Candidates was presented
after the Mayoral Forum at MVCC on September 19, 2023.
Each Candidate was asked by The Utica Phoenix Reporter to answer the following Questions:
Please answer: What would you do as Mayor of Utica, NY to improve the CORN HILL Community?
Please particularly address the land theft issue of the Linwood Place community garden, the lack of funding for black organized community programs [ ex. Study Buddy Club, Summer Youth Employment ], for activities for youth and the local spaces for them to go to, housing, and providing a way for small businesses to flourish.
Here are their replies, one week later.
Robert Cardillo – Conservative [ First Respondent – two email replies were sent ]
1. AS MAYOR, HOW TO IMPROVE THE CORN HILL COMMUNITY
I would be a Mayor who has a strong connection to Corn Hill community. I would hold Town Hall neighborhood meeting and include department heads on a consistent basis. I want to hear the residents concerns and how we can, together, provide solutions. I will make sure that we have a program to increase housing opportunities by using many of the vacant lots to build new homes for sale. We can also use People First to potentially build quality rental homes on some of these lots. People First has a great track record and is providing development on James Street in conjunction with Utica Foundation. I believe in home ownership and this is a chance for residents in this neighborhood to own their own homes. I will work with local banks similar to a project in the Arbour Hill area of Albany where money was made available for investment in the neighborhood. I will also insist that Community Planning and Development (CDBG) funds are used more extensively in Corn Hill. We also need investment for small business and the opportunity can be made in conjunctions with the bankers and the city. We can and will allocate resources for this community to be a reality.
2. Land Theft Issue at Linwood Garden:
The garden is a wonderful asset for the Corn Hill neighborhood. I will do all I can to insure that it continues. The land theft issue as it relates to the questionable sale to a private owner will be addressed by my administration. This property belongs to the people of Corn Hill and no mater what it takes I will prevail for this neighborhood. Furthermore there maybe opportunities for additional funding through the Federal government and the Department of Agriculture.
3. Youth Organizations
Youth Programs are essential if we are going to make our neighborhoods safe. Regardless of the neighborhood all of our young people need things to do. Extra curriculum activity to keep their minds and bodies occupied with good intentions.I am a firm believer that sports builds character, team building, leadership and how to get along with others. It is good for the body and the soul. We use to have Boys and Girls Clubs where kids could play and work together. We need to establish a similar type of program possibly using our school district sights to make this happen. I would be in favor of working with school district to provide an avenue for opening our doors to having kids use the facilities. I would also like to see that our young people have greater opportunities with education especially in the area of Science and Technology. There maybe an Elon Musk among these kids. We need to foster education as it is the ticket to diminishing poverty. If we use our education system effectively, it will promote new opportunities and create jobs opportunities for our young people.
Robert C Cardillo, JD
The Cardinal Center LLC.
I would make sure that we have a program to increase housing opportunities by using many of the vacant lots to build new houses for sale. I believe in Home ownership and this is a chance for people in this neighborhood to own their homes.I will work with local bankers similar to a project in Arbor hill, in Albany where money was made available for investment in the neighborhood. I will also make sure that Community Planning and Development ( CDBG ) funds are used to the fullest in this community. Also we need investment for small business. We can allocate resources for this to become a reality.
CDBG Funds could be used for Linwood Place community garden . In addition there should be opportunities for funding through the Federal government and the Department of Agriculture.
Youth Programs are essential if we are going to make our neighborhoods safe. Regardless of the area all our youth need things to do. To occupy their time and become interested in educational opportunities. I am a firm believer that sports is a good way for our youth to learn team building and overall greater benefit for their health. I believe we can work with our local school district to provide more youth programs possibly using our schools not only for learning but for a place to be mentored and learn about life in general, I will work with our colleges to see if we can bring some programs to encourage interest in science and technology. We can look to establish a computer lab that young people can come to and develop skills for job opportunities.
As I have said during this campaign, our neighborhoods are most important. There are great things happening downtown but our neighborhoods need a lot of work. That is where our people live and work. I am committed to make our neighborhood clean, safe and vibrant.
Robert C Cardillo, JD
The Cardinal Center LLC.
Celeste Friend – Democrat [ Second Respondent – two email replies were sent]
Cornhill, and other communities of color in West Utica, have been woefully neglected by generations of leaders in Utica. Any real resurgence of Utica must include these communities and should include improving rates of home ownership, getting lead out of our housing, and attending to quality of life and public safety with an eye to block-by-block attention to these issues. And these efforts must be led by the very people who live in these communities. I am committed to empowering all the citizens of Utica to engage their government to get help them solve the problems of their neighborhoods.
I have canvassed all across Cornhill, since the Primary, and have held campaign events on James St. I have strong support in Cornhill.
Courtney Muhammad – Write In [ Third Respondent – his verbal reply was typed up by the reporter]
I have always been in the community. I have been part of those organizations. That is why I am going to be a write-in candidate for Mayor.
I have been in Utica and learned under my mother’s tutelage. I want to be in a position to move us forward.
It is because of what has happened in Cornhill. That is why I am running. When people have literally X’ed you out, you have to go to war. Our divide and separation, look at the whole of Utica, all that money… Others have gotten resources. We have been building buildings; instead of building up people.
I have been witness to the homelessness, drug addiction, and blight. This is our neighborhood.
I am not taking anything away from the other candidates, they are all politicians. I bring in a human factor.
I was in the Community, and part of many groups and organizations that did not get funding to the level that was needed. For example, Hoops and Dreams Basketball Tournament; organized by Patrick Johnson. Hoops and Dreams, other things were not funded to the level that they needed to be.
No one is listening to the concerns of Cornhill. The problem is getting worse now, and spilling into other communities.
We have a street by street, block by block plan to Heal Utica. These can be better implemented inside of City Hall rather than outside of it.
Michael Galime – Republican [ Fourth Respondent ]
The long term erosion of funding for programs, or “defunding of the programs” as stated in the question, which impacted african-american communities, as well as neighborhoods defined by lower socio-economic situations as a whole, happened out of ignorance of what could happen to future generations. In particular, right now we do have a crisis among youth in which without path and guidance a disproportionate amount of kids end up on a path of crime. First and foremost these children have limited guidance toward opportunity. Even with guidance, the lack of venues to spend time in, outside of school, creates idle hands which cause trouble, eroding our neighborhoods for those who want to simply live their lives and/or raise a family. The right thing to do is acknowledge that this is an issue, and change it. Everyone talks about it, but it does not happen. We have multiple organizations constantly asking to help, and within the City money which we are the stewards of, that can have a direct impact on youth. In 2015 and 2019, during my door to door canvassing, youth centers were the #1 priority of Cornhill residents. As Council President I did work with past 5th Ward council people to act on this, but we did not gain traction. As Mayor, I can direct that traction and create the collaboration needed to drive change. In order to move in the right direction, simply looking at this like a funding issue is shortsighted. We also need community outreach, engagement, and support to truly make a difference. I look forward to seeing that happen.
More information on these candidates can be found at: