With the election for Albany’s next Common Council fast approaching, candidate Malcolm Thorpe is working hard to sell his passion and experience to local residents before they head to the polls to vote in the Democratic Primary this week.
Thorpe, 31, has his focus on the future when it comes to plans of revitalizing the 5th Ward community. The Albany native already has years of leadership and management experience under his belt and has been deeply involved in working to improve the community. For one, he formerly served as community justice coordinator for the Albany County D.A.’s Office, and is a member of both the West Hill and Beverly Ave. neighborhood associations.
The city’s Democratic Primary for the Common Council post is set to take place Tuesday, Sept. 12, and Thorpe has a lot he hopes to get done if elected to the 5th Ward seat. Some of campaign goals include developing workforce development programs for youths and young adults and bringing the 5th Ward into the 21st century.
Thorpe spoke exclusively to Atlanta Black Star to tell us why he deserves to be Albany’s next Common Council.
*This interview has been edited for clarity.
ABS: As a candidate, what are the top three issues you hope to address if elected 5th Ward councilman?
MT: “[The] top three issues I’m planning to address are the abandoned buildings in my ward; I’d like to focus also on workforce development for teens and young adults. I’d also like to serve as like a pipeline to bring information to my ward, because oftentimes it feels as though the people who live in my ward are left out of what goes in at City Hall.”
ABS: On your campaign website, one of your focus points is “bringing the 5th Ward into the 21st century.” What does that mean, and what specific steps do you plan to take to make that happen?
MT: “When we talk about bringing [our] neighborhood or city into the 21st century, [we] have to look at it from a perspective of kind of everything. Like what’s going on? With emerging technologies, the internet and what kind of goes on with social media sites. Just how we live in this day. I don’t think that we’re to that point yet, the city of Albany as well as the 5th Ward. So, [when it comes to] the abandoned buildings, some of these buildings are abandoned and have been abandoned for years. I’d like to see them up to code, see their facades revitalized and looking better, as well as try to bring some of the city laws up to speed. When I talk about workforce development, I would like to continue to focus on the trades. Our city has good programming around the trades, but I think they don’t meet the needs of the 21st-century workforce that we have.”
ABS: How do you feel your former role as a community justice coordinator at the Albany County District Attorney’s Office has prepared you to be councilman?
MT: My old role prepared me, I think, because working at the district attorney’s office, I sometimes saw how the criminal justice system, at the county level as well as the city level, how they work together and how sometimes the people in my community are railroaded by the criminal justice system. I’ve also seen how the cost that’s associated with dealing with low-level offenses, such as being found in possession of small quantities of marijuana and things of that nature. And I think that that ties in with what I’m talking about with bringing our city into the 21st century. It costs a lot to prosecute someone for small quantities of drugs. Then, when they are prosecuted, they’re oftentimes put into these programs, which then burden the taxpayers again. So, now we have to deal with the arrest, we have to deal with the prosecution, then we have to deal with the program side of things and also the jailing. … So, you know, it’s a lot. I would like to try to help balance and fiscally address some of those things and try to put some things into place that can help our community. So, I think that my [former] role has at least allowed me and showed me some issues in our criminal justice system and how I would like to try to fix some of those things.”
ABS: So far, what’s been the toughest issue you’ve faced during the campaign?
MT: “Probably the toughest has been meeting with people and seeing that, oftentimes, they don’t know what’s going on. How the city is moving, we have places in the city of Albany where they’re getting monies to get their sidewalks done, they’re getting money to bring more businesses to the area, there’s been some rezoning in the area and, just the way that my ward is zoned, it kind of left it alone to fend for itself. Our tax base is kind of bad just because of our abandoned-building issue. So, I would definitely say that lack of information from City Hall to my ward [is a big issue].”
ABS: What’s the one thing that makes you stand out from the other three candidates (Nigel Banks, Cliffton Patterson and Jahmel Robinson) in the race?
MT: “My experience and my community.”
ABS: Why do you feel the people of Albany should elect you for Common Council?
MT: “I really feel I’m the best candidate. I’m from the city of Albany, I grew up here. I’ve been through a lot of adversity. There are a lot of things I’ve seen in life and I fought through all that. And I’m resilient, I’m here. I went off and I’ve done my studies in other places and decided to come back home to Albany, the place I love most, to serve my community.”