Q & A: Utica mayoral candidate Bob Cardillo

Photo courtesy of Bob Cardillo.

Photo courtesy of Bob Cardillo.

Hollie David, Managing Editor

What should the citizens of Utica know about you?

I was born and raised in Utica. I went to Notre Dame High School, and I loved Burrstone Road. So much so that I decided to travel it for another four years and go to Utica College. When I graduated from Utica College, my first job was in Washington D.C. I worked for Congressman Donald Mitchell and I was on his congressional staff, which was my first introduction to national politics. I remember the first day that I drove into my office at the Capitol going over the South Capitol Street Bridge and I looked at the dome and I said ‘oh my god I actually work here.’ I was 20 years old. I began my interest in government at that point and over the last several years or many years I should say. 

Eventually I continued my education and I went to law school. I worked for President (George W) Bush in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I was senior advisor to the secretary of HUD and I had some real experiences with Hurricane Katrina. Which was quite… I can’t explain… experience is the wrong word. It was something that, if it didn’t touch your heart something was radically wrong. I was able to help those people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 

I retired from HUD 11 years ago because I wanted to be back home with my children. I have a consulting company called the Cardinal Center. I do business development and economic development. I also worked for companies like CONMED Corporation.

I actually put the project together for (Utica University’s) new dorms. Currently, I am on the Utica School Board and am in my fourth year of a five-year term. 

What inspired you to run for mayor?

I have a passion for our community and I believe I have the knowledge and experience in the passion to be able to continue the progress to be made. The city’s come a long way in the last several years. I think Mayor (Robert) Palmeri has done a really good job of expanding the projects that come through Downtown Utica. I compliment him for the work that he’s done. He’s not able to run again, and I think we need to be able to have somebody who can continue that growth and enthusiasm he’s had for Downtown. And also take a serious look at what we need to do with our neighborhoods. I think I can make that difference based on my background and based around the amount of time I have to put into this. This will be for me, the only thing I do, my full-time job. Also, it’s not just a job, you have to have the passion for it, and the instincts for it. You also need to have the fortitude to recognize you need to be on call 24/7. 

What are projects you have worked on?

I think the Municipal Housing Authority project should be done in March. It is a new housing project that will be on the corner of Mohawk and Broad Street. I’ve had a pretty good indoctrination into the world of business development. 

I think one of the huge issues we have in the community is crime. And it was five weeks ago today that I went on a ride along and let me tell you it was an eye-opener. If you want to continue that progress you need to have a community that is safe. If I am a business that is interested in development, if I come into town and pick up a newspaper and read some of the problems we have with crime, it’s problematic for development. The most important part of it, though, is the people in the neighborhoods. They are suffering and don’t want that crime there either. 

We need to put together a task force. That’s the Utica Police, fire department, our county sheriff’s department, New York State Police, our district attorney, our state attorney general’s office, and people in the neighborhoods because if they’re not participating it’s not going to work.

We need to keep our pedal to the metal. I think we need more programs for our young people such as you. I’m a music guy. I’ve played drums since I was a kid. I like music and wish I had the opportunity to play more, but I think having programs and things for our young people to do. One thing that we don’t talk about too much but we should is the Pratt Institute. It’s right in Downtown Utica and it is one of the finest institutes for art in the country. And I think we need to develop more of an affinity with those places. I think we’re doing a great job with people being able to go to some great hockey games. I think the (Nexus) project that’s next door is terrific. It brings people here. I think it is also something we could touch on for tourism because that generates dollars. I think there are a lot of things we could work on to get people here. 

What do you plan on doing to help college students?

I have a wonderful affection for Utica University. Utica College was developed as a local college years ago for people to come and get an education here when they couldn’t go to Syracuse University.

 One of the things we need to be able to do is to take all of our universities and all of our colleges and try to see how we can better retain our young people from a job perspective. We need to be able to do something to try to encourage people. We need to have our colleges tell us what we need, and what programs to do these things. I know the college is going through these changes right now So maybe it’s appropriate for the college and the city to sit down and say, look, we know you’re going through these changes. What are the things that are most important? I also think relationships between city school districts and the colleges need to be strong because these kids are going to become college students eventually.

Anything to get college kids to vote?

Generally speaking, people don’t vote in primaries, especially young people, so encouraging people to vote in the primaries is big. What I think people need, young people need, to recognize is that they want to make a difference. They think about a general election, so they go out and vote in a general election but think about how you get to those folks that you really want in office and that is the primaries.

Young kids don’t know how much politicians may affect them. Quite frankly, if you are gonna pay taxes, do you know how it is determined how much in taxes you are going to pay? It’s the politicians who make the budgets. So if you don’t want to care about policy, think about how much the people in the office are going to affect your taxes.

Is there anything you want to add?

I admire the college and I admire you young folks. You are all doing a good job, and keep up the good work.