Thursday, March 31, 2005

Barbara Smith Running In the Fourth Ward

Good news...we've got some candidates. According to the Times Union, longtime local activist Barbara Smith has announced she is running for the common council seat in the Fourth Ward. Smith is a member of the Democratic party and the Working Families Party.

"I have devoted my entire life to service with integrity," said Smith, a Livingston Avenue resident. She vowed to be a "new and independent voice" for her neighborhood, which includes some of the poorest sections of the city.

The article also points out that Mayor Jennings isn't a big fan of the Working Families Party and claims he referred to them as "meddling outsiders" during the Soares race. Looks like things are going to be getting interesting in Albany.

The article also mentions that Sarah Curry-Cobb of the Fourth Ward and Shawn Morris of the Seventh have both announced their intentions to run for Common Council President since current President Helen Desfosses will not be running for re-election.

Trouble for New York's Cities

There is an article in the Times Union today about a recent local-government finance conference in Albany (I'd link to it, but its not online). General consensus is that New York's cities have serious financial problems in the near future.

"Many cities are nearing their legal limit for taxation" (no surprise there)

"Rochester Mayor William Johnson, who is leaving office after 12 years said his successor will be in 'real trouble'".

"Fend-for-yourself localism is probably a disaster for upstate cities" John Traylor, aid to the Comptroller.

Unfortunately, the article didn't provide any solutions.

Dear New York Public, You've Been Warned

So, we've got a budget. Sort of. Yeah! Ready...set...bribe and waste!

"Some Assembly majority members on Wednesday warned the public about a lack of accountability in a major transportation borrowing plan in the Legislature's budget scheduled to be passed Thursday as the first on-time budget in 20 years."

"the dissenting Democrats warned that lawmakers have no idea how such huge bond issues are spent until after-project audits."

Assemblyman William Parment, a Jamestown Democrat, said competitive bidding should be required to choose the private companies that are hired to do projects paid for by the substantial borrowing in a $38.5 billion transportation package.
"Competitive bidding is to keep public officials honest," Parment said. Without it, "you are asking for trouble."

"Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio of Queens, a lawmaker since 1978, said the Legislature doesn't ask the most basic question in approving billions of dollars in borrowing: How will it be spent?

"You know what I do when my kid asks for money? I say, `What are you going to do with it?'" Seminerio said in the floor debate. "Simple, isn't it? We do it every day at home. Why can't we do it on a regular basis here? ... You won't believe how much is wasted."

Correction Assemblyman Seminerio, I believe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Housekeeping

In the next few weeks or so this site will be changing location and format to offer more comprehensive services. Depending on how much magic I can conjure this should mean:

  • A Campaign 2005 section to serve as a resource for all of Albany's races this year.
  • Some way of separating Albany city specific stories from NY specific stories (let me know if this is currently a problem)
  • The ability to have online polls.
  • The ability to have people "join" the site and add their own content and stories in a Diaries section. This also will allow candidates to join the conversation about their races.

And whatever else might be useful. This should make the site better and also get it off of Blogger which has become an increasingly frustrating tool to use if you update regularly.

For whatever reason, you people keep coming back to this site. Hopefully this will make it better.

Looks budget-like, smells budget-like....not a budget

We know what Joe Bruno thinks:

"We have got a damn budget done...It’s a testament to the Legislature”

But not everyone really agrees with Joe since Joe's "budget" has a $1.7 billion hole in it. From the NY Times today:

"Would a budget that left such big issues to be sewn up later - particularly one being touted as the first budget to be passed on time in more than two decades - be a real budget at all?

Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who oversaw the passage of the last on-time budget in 1984, said he thought not.

He said a budget was only a budget if the governor and the Legislature agreed to the same spending levels and if the plan had no huge holes.

"It's not a real budget if, when the Legislature adopts it, they know there are a billion and more dollars they have to add to it to meet their important needs," Mr. Cuomo said. "It sounds to me like a Potemkin Village of a budget - it has the facade of a budget, it looks like a budget, but it's not a budget."

Buffalo Citizens Getting Started

A group of citizens has organized in Buffalo to start addressing the need for change in their city. They are calling themselves Revitilize Buffalo. They met last thursday and 60 people showed up. If you get 60 motivated people in a room on a regular basis. You can make things happen. Just ask Paul Clyne.

Their goals:
  • Improve urban experience
  • Acquire a building to use as business incubator
  • Promote photography
  • Promote music
  • Neighborhood revitalization

Good news for Buffalo. And they need it because they are facing quite the tax crisis. To get a taste of what they are facing here is the opening to this article:

"This area has two choices: a new approach to regionalism or even deeper chaos. It's over. Screeching and shuddering, the golden age of the Status Quo in Buffalo has finally ground to a bitter halt.

It ended this winter, as Erie County officials bickered and scrapped over the bloated carcass of the 2005 county budget. It vanished in the heat and energy generated by thousands of Western New Yorkers' voices, as they dug in their heels and said, at last, an emphatic "No" to any new sales tax. The message is clear. It is no longer acceptable - no longer excusable - in the Buffalo Niagara region to do things the Same Old Way. What we've been through the past few months has taught us nothing less. Now, we're faced with a mess.

Our elected leaders have failed us, most of them, by their selfishness and incompetence. While the city remains under a control board, the county is in fiscal meltdown. Services that we care about, like parks and libraries, have been threatened, cut and closed, while many officials have fought to protect pork and patronage. It's been a soul-sapping process to witness. And rather than getting better, the situation will soon grow worse.

Next fall, chances are good you will have to pay more - much more - in county property taxes on your home, to support a government that's been exposed to public view this winter for what it has been for quite some time: Too big. Too expensive. Too inefficient. Too out-of-date. Prepare yourself for the Coming Fiscal Disaster of 2005-2006."

Albany Schools Find Money

"City school officials have found an additional $3.9 million during the past few days"

"School board members Tuesday night were discussing details of the plan, which carries a proposed 4.5 percent tax increase (down from the previous 8.3%)."

Any day the schools find $3.9 million has to be a good day. I say, keep looking.

Wellington and Sebba Rockaway, Pt 9

More in the TU on the Wellington Row and Sebba Rockaway. Sebba still hasn't paid their $490,000 fine and still has done nothing to address the code violations at the Wellington. Now the city wants to inspect the other 4 buildings owned by Sebba on Wellington Row. But Sebba is refusing. So the city will have to get a search warrant. Why is Sebba refusing? Here is what their lawyer said:

"When the city said the building is unsafe, I have a problem letting people in there"

That is right! They are saying you can't go in to inspect the buildings to see if they are safe because WE KNOW they are unsafe. I don't think that argument would hold up in court.

If you need some more Wellingon background, here it is.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

9/11 9/11 9/11

There was report last night that claimed Pataki wouldn't seek re-election and cited unnamed sources. I don't think that is any real news. The only part of the report that caught my eye was this line:

"The New York 1 report suggested Pataki was also leaving open the possibility that he would run again if there is another major terrorist attack"

Remember those 81% approval ratings a month after 9/11. Those were the good old days for Pataki. So about that poor port security in NYC....

Telecommuters Must Pay New York Taxes

The courts have just ruled that if you don't live in New York but that is where your employer does business, you still have to pay taxes to New York. Good. At least we know that Lieutenant Govenor Donohue will have to pay her taxes even though she telecommutes.

Bad Lieutenant

Seems like our Lieutenant Governor Mary Donohue might have trouble meeting some residency requirements in the near future. It appears that although she is getting paid $151,500 to show up at work, she doesn't do that. The word is she thought Pataki was going to step down (perhaps for one of those Bush appointments?) and she would inherit the top job. Once it became clear that wasn't happening, she has been spending more time at her house in Cape Cod, MA than here in sunny Albany. And apparently she's even headed to the beach when she had promised to stay in the state. Now you are probably saying, "well, what does the Lt. Gov do anyway?"

The job "has only one legally mandated responsibility: to preside over state Senate sessions.
But official records show she's missed nearly half of them this year — appearing on the rostrum on only 16 of 29 session days"

I guess we can be pretty sure Mary isn't thinking of running for Governor. Which really leaves only one open question for this installment of Living Large While Wasting Your Tax Payer Dollars. Does she get a car and driver with this job AND has she been using that car to get to Cape Cod?

Schumer Gaining Power

Love them or hate them, Schumer and Clinton are putting NY on the map.

"Schumer's ascension to the Democratic leadership position gives New York a significant amount of clout in Washington, and should pay huge dividends for the state"

"In just a few months since taking a key leadership post in the Democratic Party, Sen. Charles Schumer has quietly but forcefully emerged as one of the most powerful players in national politics."

Having two of the most powerful Senators should be good for New York. Of course, there is a downside to power. To the downside:

"[Schumer] collected well over $1 million at a $100,000-a-table New York City breakfast with major real-estate developers last week"

Sigh. I think I'll stop typing so much and start buying up some land (and influence).

Bruno, Silver vs The Cynics

More comedy to cheer up a gray Albany morning. Imagine failing for 20 years at something and then bragging about finally getting it done....before its done.

Here, let me try:

ME: My book has been published! I'm on the best sellers list! I'm the greatest! Take that Hemingway...you punk!

ANYONE: Wow. Can I get a copy?

ME: Copy? No. I only have one. And it has all my edits in it. I guess if you want to take it to Kinko's and pay for the copies you can have one.

Now, let the New York Legislature try:

"We have got a damn budget done” Joe Bruno

“It’s a testament to the Legislature” Bruno

“Success has many fathers” Silver

ME: Wow, great! Can I get a copy?

“Legislative leaders acknowledged that their budget was missing $1.4 billion….including $1.1 billion for programs for poor and needy familes”

“the governor also has not signed on to the Legislature’s plan for an $840 million increase in school aid”

Hmm...sort of sounds like my book.

Regardless, "Bruno and Silver were in good moods. They criticized “cynics” who suspected the two chambers wouldn’t get the budget done on time”.

I feel criticized. I'm sorry Joe and Shelly. You're right. After 20 years of abysmal failure, we should all pretend you are doing your jobs at the absolutely lowest standard since you've never been able to even reach that bar. Maybe we could be the "second worst legislature" in the country this year. Then we could really criticize some cynics. And now a word from our future Governor:

"The assumption that Albany is broken is absolutely correct — and we need to fix that, if we don't reform the trilateral arrangement, we will have failed New York state."

Human Rights in Albany County

A bill to amend Albany County law to extend civil rights protections to transgender individuals was withdrawn yesterday because it had no chance of passing. The bill was introduced by Albany's 6th district representative John Frederick:

"I'm disappointed we couldn't convince 20 legislators (needed for passage) that amending the county's Human Rights Law to protect this vulnerable group of citizens is the right thing to do"

Against the bill? The Association of Politically Active Christians. Spokeschristian Bill Carlson:

"Our problem with this bill was that it would have created special rights for people based on lifestyle choices"

What kinds of "special rights" are we talking about? Well, how about having the special right to not be discriminated against when trying to rent an apartment or get a job? Those are the special rights that the Association of Politically Active Christians don't think transgender people should have.

I can think of some special rights that people have due to "lifestyle choices"? I know someone who chose to have a baby and she got paid leave from work. Can you beat that? I had to keep going to work and she got paid to stay home?! I hope APAC gets on the case of all these people gaming the system by having babies and getting special treatment.

Monday, March 28, 2005

99.7% of you just don't matter. Sorry.

Let’s take a look at the “I’m pretty sure I know how this one is going to turn out without reading it” report on government integrity in New York. This was a while back (1991) so I guess you can forgive them for wasting their time. But they did provide us with some fun facts.

"Less than three-tenths of 1 percent of voters in New York make political contributions. The vast majority of contributions come from a small core group of contributors, many with special interests to promote”

"These contributors give most freely to those already in office, those in powerful positions, and those seen as likely winners, in order to ensure access and influence and to protect against the specter of adverse action”

The quotes are from this article. More on that later.

I gave some money in the last round of elections. I think I better start thinking of some “special interests to promote”. I guess a fair representative democracy with a special focus on providing a good education for everyone isn’t special enough as far as interests go? I want to “protect against the specter of adverse action” Hell, I want to protect against specters in general (Arlen specifically, specters generally).

Very Light Shades of Green...almost not green?

Is the grass always greener? I write my rants about the Albany police chief being an admitted liar who lied to cover up an illegal investigation and still got to continue on with his job like nothing ever happened. Well, apparently in New York there are some illegal things they just won't let you do. Lying to cover up illegal investigations...not a problem. Illegal investigations...please. Getting drunk and swerving around town in your car and hitting someone on a bicycle and refusing a breathalyzer....over the line. In Syracuse, that will cost you your job. I feel better (but only because this drunk asshole didn't kill the biker or anyone else).

20/20 Hindsight - Is this vision?

A long time ago(in 2002) Mayor Jennings endorsed George Pataki for Governor of New York. The first Quinnipiac poll after that endorsement showed Pataki with a 70% approval rating.. The numbers don’t look quite so good these days. Can you really blame Mayor Jennings? So what if it meant he was betraying his party back in 2002, he was attaching himself to a winner. How could he have foreseen this? Ah, the fickle public. Politics would be a lot easier without those creatures.

From the Q-poll. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George Pataki is handling his job as Governor?

Feb 10, 2005 Approve 34% Disapprove 49%

Feb 27, 2002 Approve 70% Disapprove 18%

A Rare Sighting - National Dems in Albany

Last week's visit to Albany by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer has made some news. This along with Spitzer's national profile, Schumer's bigger role in national Democratic party stategy, continued mumbling of reform in Albany and all the Hillary hype add up to some interesting NY politics in the next 2 years. The Hoyer Visit stories:

Times Union
New York Sun
NYCO's Comments

The top points appear to be:

1) David Patterson, our New York State Minority Senate leader is gaining some national attention for his ideas on what the Democratic party needs in New York and beyond. This should be good for New York. One of his main ideas is that democrats need to build strong grassroots support on a State level in order to win on a national level.

2) Redistricting in New York prior to the 2010 census appears to be off the table.

3) Mr. Hoyer said the DNC will be spending money in New York to help Democrats gain seats at the state and national levels.

4) On the national levels the two '06 targets appear to be Vito Fossella, a Republican of Staten Island, and Rep. Sue Kelly, a Republican of Rockland County.

Sadly, neither article got a quote from Stephen Minarik. Those are always fun. Minarik has the same kind of tough odds and misplaced optimism as the Black Knight in The Search for the Holy Grail. "come back here and I'll bite your legs off..."

Madison Theatre - User Comment

Here is a comment on the recent Madison theatre news and this post that I think is worth reading because it sheds more light on this issue and addresses some issues that haven't made the papers.

"If the mayor really wanted people to believe he had a hand in making any of this happen, maybe he should have spent more than 5 minutes at any of the Friends of the Madison public input events? At the most recent event, where they solicited ideas from the public about possible uses for the theater, the mayor posed for a few photos, stayed long enough to get a "We'd like to thank the mayor for being here" and disappeared before a single proposal was introduced.

Also, nobody is discussing the new owner's plans for the theater - which is worrying, because they don't bode well for its success. According to the new owner, he intends to keep it as a seven-screen first-run movie house - despite most people saying that when the last owner turned it from a single screen to a multi-screen (with "theaters" smaller than some apartments' living rooms) it ceased being an enjoyable experience. The new owner has said he plans to keep it that way. During the FotM meeting, several people stood up and said that there's no way it could be successful as a first-run theater without filling another niche (dinner/movie, bar/movie, genre movies, etc)... Personally, I'm worried that this is going to be the third strike against the theater, and like the Wellington, the city will use that demise to justify tearing it down."

Also, I'm looking at changing the functionality of this site to allow for more people to contribute stories and to make it more of a community resource. Let me know what you think of that.

The Garbage Plan

It was just last week, while discussing the not so encouraging economics of Albany's Golf Course, that I wrote, "So, the city budget shows the golf course as a money loser. Good thing we've got the city dump. That thing is a gold mine!". And it is...for now. Because Albany accepts garbage from other municipalities, the dump brings in over $13 million a year. This is by far the second largest revenue generator for the city (taxes being #1). However, it is forecasted that the dump could be full by 2007 even though the city spent $9.5 million to expand it in 2002 and another $1 million on a garbage shredder to increase efficiency. So since the administration has known about this for at least 5-10 years, they must have a plan to insure that we protect this major revenue stream?

Read all about it. This one has all of your favorites...

Allegations of Political Favoritism

"the latest chapter of a sweetheart deal..."

City Officials Downplaying Risk

"the city is risking that it could have to cover a hefty legal bill, Reilly said he did not "anticipate that it would be substantial..."

Someone Suing the City

"I believe the court's ruling prevents the city from purchasing the property," said Lewis Oliver, an Albany lawyer who represents Marshall and other dump opponents. "This is a project that might never be approved by the state."

So the plan for how the city will protect approximately a tenth of its annual revenue after 2007 has significant financial risk involved. Which brings us back to that #1 revenue generator of property taxes. Less garbage revenue means....

If I was running for a city wide position against someone that has presided over this problem for the last 4, 8 or 12 years I think I'd make this a campaign issue. Dear Incumbent...start explaining.

And of course we want to end with the money quote:

"I would love it if I could do a deal with the city and the city would pay for all my attorneys fees. I'm just glad that they aren't doing it with my tax dollars," said Linda Marshall, who lives near the proposed dump site in Coeymans and has led the opponents for a decade.

If you live in Albany, those are your tax dollars she is talking about. Read the article.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Invest in New York's Kids

Hopefully there won't be too many more of these posts about gangs in Albany and our city can start to provide positive options for our kids. But for now, another article about gangs and kids in Albany. We know we've got a problem. Now we need some solutions. What does Meredith Wiley, the State Director for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York, have to say?

"We can talk about $600 million for a new stadium in New York City yet they knock $1.3 million out of a program that prevents child abuse. And where are they on a $1.6 million cut in the Healthy Families after-school programs?"

"Kids who don't get in trouble believe they have a future."

Hey, Meredith, don't forget another $185-$225 for a convention center in Albany. But I'm sure we won't have any problems getting funding for programs here in Albany. See, our Mayor claims to be a Democrat but he crossed party lines to endorse Governor Pataki. But he only did it so we could get funding for our city so we would prosper. So I'm sure while Troy and Schenectady might be without hope, the funding will pour into Albany programs for Healthy Families. Right?

Albany Convention Center...Silence?

Interesting column from Fred Lebrun today. He has no real news to report, just his comments on the lack of news or forward momentum on the Albany Covention Center project. Lebrun appears to have talked to Mayor Jennings who reported that "names for potential [convention center] authority members will be submitted to Pataki this week". So the Mayor and Assemblyman Jack McEneny assure us that things are moving forward. But Lebrun doesn't seem to be buying it. Lots of speculation from Lebrun that the silence around this project doesn't bode well for it. As you may know, I think that bodes well for the citizens of Albany. I'm willing to bet (just not at a Casino in the Catskills) that Pataki has other things on his mind these days. And finally, to Lebrun's money quote:

"Still unresolved is the issue of where all the money[for the convention center] is coming from."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Hey, This Stuff Works

While its a little early to start handing out awards, the initial excitement around the Madison theatre is encouraging. Imagine what would happen if the Wellington was restored and reopened? And guess who is jumping on the bandwagon?

"This is about neighborhood revitalization"

Mayor Jennings? Is that you? Have you been reading the Goodbee campaign literature? If you find you like this "neighborhood revitilization" we've got plenty of other opportunities. Of course, none of them involve convention centers.

Baby Gangs

This one is pretty self explanatory.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friends of the Madison

Back on January 11th we had the following in a column by Paul Bray.

"Fortunately, neighborhood groups are organizing to save the Madison and the "walking style of neighborhood" threatened by a drive-through and expanded parking. Their vigorous opposition is driven in part by active professionals who have recently moved into Albany and don't accept top-down governance from City Hall."

Well now we all owe the Friends of Madison a big Thank You. Someone bought the theatre and plans to reopen it this summer as a theatre, not as CVS pharmacy. The Friends of the Madison realized that they couldn't rely on City Hall to help with their neighborhood. If you want to know why, just talk to Betsy Mercogliano. They organized, raised awareness, worked...and got results. In a properly run city this wouldn't be necessary. Butit is in Albany, for now. I look forward to walking to the movies again. It's a start. Thanks.

Albany School Budget and Taxes

Article in the TU today on the school budget. It doesn't appear to be on the web site but here are the highlights.

Current proposed budget would have a 8.8% tax increase.

Charter schools are causing public schools big problems.

May need to cut progams and have larger class sizes.

The budget director said "he was concerned that voteers might not approve a budget carrying an 8.8% tax hike and hoped to bring it down to 5%". I'd say that is a pretty valid concern.

Overall, things don't look so good. How the educational system can be in such bad shape in the richest country in the history of the world is very hard for me to comprehend. We've got a lot of work to do.

Inside Politics

It's Friday so make sure to check out Inside Politics. Our old friend Albany County Republican Chairman Kermani is firing up the GOP and it sounds like his new policy is suporting a Republican Culture of Life.

"We just want to let the GOP voters know that we as Albany County Republicans are alive, and we realize that they're there, and they're alive," Kermani said.

Elsewhere in Inside Politics the ellusive John Sweeney still appears to be missing and his spokesman has resorted to namecalling instead of dealing with Sweeney's position on Social Security. And then he further avoided the issue with this gem:

"Unfortunately there are those who see this issue as an opportunity to play politics. The need for Social Security reform is an important issue for all Americans, not just for those who yell the loudest."

The problem isn't that John Sweeney isn't yelling the loudest, the problem is that he refuses to speak on the issue AT ALL. And yes, this is political. Bush made it political, go talk to him if you've got a problem with that. Or talk to the voters.

Getting Loud!!

Just for the record, I am not Betsy Mercogliano. But I'll put her on staff anytime she wants to come aboard. Her letter to the editor is in the TU today and its got the good stuff.

"My deep concern: This mayor and city administration do not have a record of helping citizens create livable neighborhoods. Why should anyone believe that they will start now?"

"Shame on this administration for wasting our housing resources, then having the audacity to suggest now to bulldoze them to make more transient housing, all at the expense of the people who already live in that neighborhood."

"It is time for this city administration, this mayor, to get a lot more creative in order to rebuild livable neighborhoods in Albany so that in 20 years we are not putting the wrecking ball to another eminent domain project gone sour (like the public housing towers being wrecked in the South End). This was and still is not urban renewal but urban removal at its worst."

The only thing I have to add to this is that the Mayor has shown us his approach for 11 years. Let's not delude ourselves into thinking he will change. He needs to go if we are going to start to fix our neighborhoods.

Pataki Literacy Program Ends

Remember the Pataki Literacy Program? For the last 3 years we've all been paying this woman $82,789 to sit in her office and do nothing but read books. She had no job responsibility because she had criticized Pataki's Prayer Breakfast and been punished. So she sued, won and is moving on. Personally, I think I might have ridden that horse a little longer. I've got a long list of books I want to read and write and that job sounds like it would've been perfect for me. And I've criticized the Prayer Breakfast, too. Speaking of which, I don't normally get invited but I'd really like to attend this year. If anyone knows when it is, let me know.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Democracy In Buffalo

A quick quote from the Buffalo Pundit

"The first step to changing Buffalo is to show up and get loud "

Pretty much sums up democracy. Show up. Get loud. Or just show up...and vote. And if you think we've got problems in Albany, Buffalonians have some serious reasons to show up and get loud.

I think we can do this.

Urban Planning and Consultants

So you may know that the city likes to hire consultants to figure out The Plan for the future of Albany. We've got the Strategic Advisory Group telling us that a convention center will be a big success in Albany. These are the "experts" that also helped out St. Louis and Washington DC with their convention centers. Those two centers are two of the biggest money losers in the country. The Strategic Advisory Group didn't mention that bit of info in their report on Albany. Lots more info on them here if you care to read it.

And for the new Midtown Plan the city hired some consultants from Chicago. In today's Metroland you can read an article about the plan. One of the points in the article is that the Midtown Plan includes drawings that show a "new hotel and conference center" in Park South. You can see it yourself in this document. It's on page 9. This has been questioned by some residents. The questions run along the lines of "what the fuck?! Isn't there another planned Convention Center in Albany? " However, according to planning commissioner Lori Harris there is no cause for alarm.

"All that dot means is that the midtown consultants thought that the area around University Heights could sustain a hotel/convention center".

Hmm. With the amount of our tax dollars being spent on these consultants is it too much to ask that they review the other current plans for the city like...perhaps...the largest planned investment since the Empire State Plaza? I don't think that's being too picky. But apparently these consultants created a plan for all of midtown with NO knowledge of the planned Albany Convention Center. If they missed that, it makes you wonder what other things they don't know about Albany which then makes you wonder if their plan is worth the paper its printed on.

Good luck everyone. Here is to hoping your house or neighborhood doesn't fall prey to an errant consultant's "dot".

"We're sorry we tore down your house, sir, but there was a dot on the plan so it had to go".

Gangs? In Albany?

Now we know Mayor Jennings says we don't have gangs in Albany. In his own words "this is just kids misbehaving". But the good news is that District Attorney David Soares does think there is a gang problem in Albany. And when it comes right down to it, if I had to pick I think I'd prefer my D.A. was actually addressing the crime issues instead of my Mayor. In an ideal world we'd have both working together in reality. We're not quite there yet. But now we've got Cheryl Fowler on the job. She was recently promoted to lead the Street Crimes unit (yes, Mayor, we do have street crimes in Albany).

"Cheryl Fowler is the kind of tough, smart prosecutor that I want to pull together the prosecution of guns, gangs and drugs," Soares said. "The size of this bureau reflects my choice to concentrate our resources on developing and implementing a comprehensive attack on street crime."

Go get 'em Cheryl.

Sweeney....Well....We're Waiting

Representative John Sweeney hasn't exactly flip flopped. He said he was going to hold a town hall meeting to discuss his views on social security. And its not that he's now said he won't have a meeting with his constituents its that he hasn't said anything at all. He's hiding. Anyway, the good people at www.inthistogethercampaign.org have released the following statement which I will shamelessly quote verbatim because I'm a sucker for grassroots efforts and because I learned all my reporting skills from Jeff Gannon. From In This Together:

“We can’t keep on waiting for Rep. Sweeney. Rep. Sweeney continues to leave his constituents in the dark on his stance toward privatizing Social Security. It is upsetting that the Congressman has not taken the time to meet publicly with his constituents to hear what they have to say. Therefore, we have decided to move forward with a town meeting and hope that Congressman Sweeney will take the time to attend.”

The IN THIS TOGETHER campaign is a grassroots effort to educate and mobilize voters to ensure that their Senators and Representatives will oppose any proposals to privatization Social Security, cut benefits or divert funds from the Trust Fund to pay for private accounts. For more information, see:www.InThisTogetherCampaign.org

WHO: IN THIS TOGETHER CAMPAIGN, New Yorkers United to Protect Social Security

WHAT: Press conference announcing TownMeeting on Social Security.

WHERE: In front of Rep. John Sweeney’s office
939 Route 146
Clifton Park, NY

WHEN: Thursday, March 24, 2005 – 12:00 p.m.

I also like In This Together for another reason. Bush has been touting his website www.strengtheningsocialsecurity.gov during his staged events. The In This Together people have their own site www.strengtheningsocialsecurity.com. Its easy to get them confused.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More Trivia

Big story on CNN about They Might Be Giants. And the story supposedly was filed from Albany. Anyone recognize this store?

In other They Might Be Giants news. If you scroll down this page you'll see the comic with the text "Scientists have discovered that They Might Be Giants, are not, in fact, giants. They are actually small trolls.".

I'm taking bets as to how long it will take Common Council member M. Brown to call the other common council members trolls. "Trolls, and not even big trolls, you are small trolls, small fucking trolls...shit you people are cockroaches!"

Making Every Vote Count

As mentioned before in a somewhat rambling post about Dr. Dre, NY State is in the process of deciding what type of new voting machines we will get. The options are the bad kind (no paper trail) or the good kind (optical scan, paper trail). New Yorkers for Verified Voting are asking you to contact your representatives if you would like to have them select the good kind (you would). All the info you need is here. Write some letters. It is no fun when your votes don't get counted. This here is a good old fashioned bi-partisan issue. And don't put it off, this is happening soon.

Small Business Day

It was Small Business Day yesterday here in Albany. Guess what we learned?

"Small business owners might pay a lot in taxes, but they won't get any relief until they start paying a lot more in campaign contributions to state politicians. That was a key message Tuesday during "small business day" at the state Capitol."

And now to the money quote:

"Our leaders have corrupted our state to the point where the young and talented leave and the lazy and dependent multiply"

Of course you didn't see those quotes in the Albany papers. Read all about it in the Syracuse papers.

Polling in Albany

Rumors abound about some phone polling going on in Albany. The only campaign that could afford to do that at this point is Mayor Jennings'. Let me know if you get a call. A summary of the questions would be fun, too. Could Mayor Jennings be worried?

UPDATE: Just heard from a reader that has received one of these calls. Lots of questions about the Mayor's race, if you'd vote for Jerry, Archie or Jack McEneny, etc. Also questions about Common Council President race. Now, if anyone would care to leak the results of that poll, we'd love to hear about it. I'm sure it will leak if its positive news for Jerry. If we hear nothing, that probably means the poll isn't showing much support for the boss. So in this case, no news is good news.

And come on TU or Metroland, how about an online poll on your website? Let's have some fun.

Work To Do

While its depressing to hear that there are 300 kids in Albany that need a food kitchen, at least there is someone willing to do something about it. Check it out. If you've got an extra $500,000 and want to help out, they could use it. I'm sure they'd put your name on the building. To the money quote:

"We got a lot of work to do...We will do it" 18 year old Daniel Colbart.

You heard the boy...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gangs in Albany

From the TU:

"The fact is, we have a gang problem in this city," Soares said.

"We have to get away from the attitude that it's the teachers' job, or the police's job. It's our job. And not taking steps to remedy it is foolish....I don't want to see police outside middle schools. I want to see families. ... "

So, everyone knows we have a gang problem in Albany. Hell, there is a link to the Gang Prevention Center off of the home page of the City's web site. But the Mayor refuses to acknowledge a problem. Which brings me back to a bit I wrote last October when the Mayor was saying there were no gang problems. The money quote from Gangwar.com:

"Politicians often fear they'll be blamed for the problem. (Citizens) have to make it clear to the leadership, 'We don't blame you for this. But we will blame you for this if you don't do something about it.' "

Ok, citizens, get to work.

Democracy in Yonkers

The NY Times has an article about a Yonkers based site that focuses on local politics. Some choice quotes:

"He's done a lot for the city in terms of keeping people aware and shaking up City Hall," said Karen G. Edmonson, president of the Yonkers branch of the N.A.A.C.P. "Before, people would just whisper things."

"What we have here in Yonkers is the need to express," Mr. Aris said. "It's a reaction to being repressed for so long."

www.yonkerstribune.com

Not bad. This guy started his own damn paper. And he's got a radio show, too. If I could turn this into a full time gig that would be one thing. But a radio show? I'm not sure Alan or the Mayor would like that.

Makes Me Think

More letters about how the TU is too liberal today. However, one Republican writer actually supported keeping Maureen Dowd around because she "makes me think". Amen, brother. And to all the people wasting time writing about Dowd being a "leftist" I recommend going back and reading her columns during the Clinton era. She ripped into him, too. Think about that.

Business as Usual

More comedy in the paper.

"Lawmakers missed their self-imposed deadline Monday to finish budget talks..."

April 1st is right around the corner. Can we make 21 years in a row?

Influenced by Lobbyists

And now, Comedic Moments in NY State Assembly history.

There have been ridiculous amounts of money thrown around to try to get 5 new casinos in the Catskills. Joe Bruno’s kid is a lobbyist for one of the tribes looking to get a casino. This is a big money game. And of course the existing area casinos like Turning Stone are lobbying hard to not let the new casinos be approved. These people are in the gambling business. They understand these things. They’d really prefer to corner the market on taking stupid people’s money. Which brings us to Republican Senator John Bonacic. He “alleged that Assembly Democrats are being influenced by lobbyists”. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure how this went over. But I’m assuming there was a brief moment of silence and then a lot of laughter as all of the assembly members enjoyed this comment while lovingly stroking their wallets.
And for the money quote:

"More money is spent on gambling than on elementary and secondary education."

(Christianity Today, 11/25/91)

Imminent Donations

The common council has voted 11-3 to designate Park South an "urban renewal area" which is the first step on the path to eminent domain. Good news for developers. And there are currently three in the running for this project. Of course there is BBL. You've got to expect that. Then there is WinnCompanies from Boston. And lastly the somewhat mysterious State Street Partners working with the even more ambiguously named XO Projects. These people are working in conjunction with local firm and city zoning board favorites Hershberg & Hershberg. State Street Partners recently bought an apartment building on State street for $1.5 million. I'm thinking they might be a contender.

So, imagine if you are paying your mortgage this month knowing the city has the right to come and "buy" your house from you. Not too pleasant. Resident Thelma McCargo:

"The city just has been waiting for the right time to seize our homes, they are going to steal it from us, tear it down and give it to private developers."

Well, if these people are still in the city on September 7th, I bet I know how they'll vote in the primary.

Giuliani Likely to Run For Something

Giuliani supposedly isn't ruling out a run for Governor. The really bad news in all of this is that if he runs we won't have Chris Farley around to do skits about his kid. Here's what I would ask anyone thinking of running for Governor against Eliot Spitzer. Have you seen this guy speak in public? This guy is a rock star. He's smarter than you, is a much better speaker and has lots of money. And the only accusation that GOP State Chairman has come up with is that Eliot is a "Job Killer". Well, as NYCO recently pointed out, this bit from the NYTimes appears to say otherwise.

"In a further signal that New York's economy is rebounding from a long downturn, the unemployment rate in the region fell to 5.1 percent in January, down from 6.8 percent in the comparable period in 2004, one of the largest year-over-year declines in unemployment in the nation, according to the federal government. "

Monday, March 21, 2005

Mayor Jennings' Priorities

Today Mayor Jennings made an announcement about his committment to the citizens of Albany. And before all you cynics out there say, "he announces lots of things...what does he DO?" I'm going to have to say "shut your whining traps" because I really believe Mayor Jennings is dedicated to this cause.

“2005 promises to be a great season of golf at our beautiful Capital Hills at Albany Golf Course. I am thoroughly committed to making Capital Hills the premiere course in our Capital Region, if not New York State. In fact, we have just completed Phase III of improvements to the course totaling $700,000” stated Mayor Jennings. “I encourage all of our residents to take advantage of this great and challenging golf course we have right here in our beautiful City”

See what I mean? Now, where else could we have spent $700,000 in Albany and do as much for the citizens?

Update: Here are the numbers for the Albany Golf Course according to the city budget.

In the comments a "conservative" writer mentioned how I was just being a "cynical democrat" and not taking into account what a great revenue generator the golf course was and thus I wasn't employing the solid common sense that I would have if I'd had the good fortune of being a conservative. Well, I'm a fiscal conservative myself and so I checked the numbers. So much for the "profit center".

Estimated Revenue:

Fees: $550,000
Commissions: $300,000

Total Estimated Revenue: $850,000

Expenses:

Personal Services: $467,293
Equipment: $48,000
Contractual Expenses: $316,000
Benefits: $108,223

Total Expenses: $939,516

Now we can't be sure about the estimated revenue. Could be higher, could be lowerbut typically if someone isn't eager to update their projected revenue with "actual" totals its because they didn't meet or exceed the projections. Either way it looks like the golf course lost approximately $89,000 in 2004. And these numbers do not include the $750,000 expense for the "Phase 3" improvements. So, the city budget shows the golf course as a money loser. Good thing we've got the city dump. That thing is a gold mine!

The King as Court Jester

In case you missed it the TU printed some fine comedy in the letters to the editor section yesterday. It seems that SUNY Chancellor King has recently come under some criticism for his lavish compensation package. Yes, he gets paid $250,000 a year. Yes, he gets an additional $7,500 a month for his "housing" costs. Yes, he gets a car. Yes, he has a three drivers. And according to the Chancellor he does not consider having a car and driver as a "perk". So on Sunday, his letter was printed in which he defended his compensation. Now when you read this, imagine trying to make this same statement yourself and try to keep a straight face.

"Contrary to your assertion, I have only one driver, not three." Chancellor King

Oh, King! Damn! You showed us. I feel foolish. So now that we've been admonished what else does he have to say?

"Finally, this page continuously attacks my compensation. This is set by the board of trustees, not by me and has not changed since I became chancellor in January 2000."

Well. See. I've got a problem with that statement. Contrary to your assertion, Mr. King, you recently tried to get a raise to $420,000 a year. You did this. It was the board that voted it down.

And remember when you wanted to take a 6 month paid vacation and keep ALL of the above benefits? Remember?

Lame Duck or Just Lame?

Governor Pataki has some pretty dismal approval ratings. And the national Republicans are telling him not to even think about running for president. And his ego is hurt because his wife makes a lot more money than he does even if her children's book isn't selling. So what can he do? His budget doesn't have any money in it for raises for the Attorney General's office. In Pataki's budget everyone else gets raises this year, except for Eliot's people. Isn't it comforting to know your state is being run by a spoiled child?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sweeney, Chartock and Social Security

WAMC's Congressional Corner on Saturday featured John Sweeney. Alan Chartock was asking Sweeney about Social Security. Despite the serious nature of the topic, there was a lot of joking and laughing. What could be so funny? Here is what Sweeney had to say:

On Raising The Payroll Tax Cap - Currently you are only taxed up to $90,000 for your social security benefits. Anything over that is gravy. One proposed solution to increase funding for social security is to raise this cap. Only people who make more than $90,000 a year would be affected. Sweeney says, "its a disincentive to continue to make money" and "a disincentive to growth". That's right. If we raise the payroll tax, according to John Sweeney, people will have no incentive to make more that $90,000 a year. How about those of us that currently make less than that? Don't we currently have a disincentive to make more since we are taxed on any increase? Why does anyone work at all if they are just going to have to pay taxes?

On Privitization of Social Security - "I haven't endorsed it" However, he hasn't not endorsed it either and he likes the idea because as he says it will "mitigate the need to raise taxes or cut benefits". This is simply not true. Privitization does nothing to address any funding issues with social security and actually would cost at least $2 trillion extra. So, this is your representative lying to you. Unfortunately Alan didn't take the opportunity to point this out. Then Sweeney said he really likes the idea of privitization because it give you "an opportunity to own something". I don't know about you but I don't care who owns my social security check as long as it shows up and it doesn't bounce. So, in the end, John Sweeney REALLY likes privitization but he hasn't endorsed it.

Alan disagreed with Sweeney on many of these points but still ended the show with:

"We love John Sweeney"

I'm not sure who Alan meant by WE but you can be sure I'm not in that group.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Gangs In Albany - From Anonymous

As more people are reading and commenting on the information here I will start to try to highlight some of those comments when I think they deserve a wider audience. I recently wrote about the issue of gangs in Albany. Over the past 6 months I've mentioned this several times. Usually in the context of "Mayor Jennings says gangs are not a problem in Albany". Someone posted the following comment which certainly taught me a thing or two and I believe more people should read. Thanks to everyone taking the time to comment.

If anyone doesn't think having a 12 year old girl responding to the stabbing of four of her of 12 and 13 year old classmates by saying "“Tell OGK, don’t come to the ‘hood,” isn't a sign of a very serious problem, this should help them get some perspective.

From Anonymous Commenting on this post:

The person who knows this best is Ron "Cook" Barrett, who runs NYS Gang Prevention office out of the Dept for Children, Youth and Families at 175 Central Ave. The TU article quoted a police representative saying they've never heard of OGK and the Jungle Junkies. That means they're not listening to Cook. The TU writer had never heard of Cook til I emailed him after this article. Even though he has been training schools and social service agencies and neighborhood associations and everyone else who will listen to him in this area for several years.The first thing we can all do about the gang problem is educate ourselves, and NYS Gang Prevention is a place to start. One important point is that these kids do not have to be connected to the big national gangs in order to be in serious danger. And as Cook says, "wannabes are gonnabes." Especially if they get into the jails or youth corrections systems, they will be bloods and crips and the like before they come out. We need police response, but we also need serious support for the youth programs that will give these kids something else to care about.

Canal Scandal Catching Up To Pataki?

If you've been a regular reader over the past 6 months you know all about the Great Pataki Canal Giveaway Scandal. If you want a recap, read this. It took a while but the State has stopped any new canal development for now. This is good news. We don't need developers putting up cheap McMansions all along the canal. To the money quote:

"A November attorney general/inspector general report said canal officials lacked economic development expertise and were "unprepared to make critical decisions on large-scale projects."

These people sold the majority of the Erie Canal for $30,000. I'd say that quote is probably accurate.

Soares and Hubbard Meet

D.A. Soares and Albany Bishop Hubbard reportedly met this week for an "informational meeting". Soares' take on it:

"This is my community, and I have a vested interest," he said. "I want to know everything that is going on. And I always welcome the opportunity to speak with people representing my community to get a different perspective."

When he campaigned he said he was going to do it, and now he's doing it. I've got no problem with that.



Friday, March 18, 2005

Mr. Soares Goes to Harvard

No matter what you think of Harvard*, it probably doesn't hurt to have our D.A. attending networking events there. David Soares recently attended the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) 22nd Annual Spring Conference.

*I've softened my stance on Harvard since Barack Obama has been making their Law School proud. If Soares can get a couple of Obama quality A.D.A.'s in Albany, I might just become a fan of that place.

WROW - Mayor Jennings

The Mayor is taking 2 weeks off from his radio show according to Paul Van. No reason given. Speculate if you must.

Challenger - 14th Ward Common Council

Check out the Inside Politics column this week. The 14th ward is going to have a race this year. Michael Whalen will challenge Joseph Igoe. Let's break this down:

The challenger Michael Whalen:

Oddly familiar name.

Quote: "I get the sense that we're on the cusp of making it or breaking it as a city, and I think it's time for independent voices"

And the incumbent Joseph Igoe:

8 years ago he campaigned on the topic of terms limits. Don't expect that as part of his platform this time.

He supports Mayor Jerry Jennings.

Quote: "Do I see eye to eye with him on everything? No," Igoe said. "But do I think he's doing a good job? Yes."


And for the "No, I'm not making this up section"

Michael Brown reportedly called all the other members of the common council "cockroaches". Apparently this was due to them not allowing him to burn through our tax payer money for his own political purposes by using it for mailings. I'd have to think this guy might be getting a challenger for office. And for some reason I'd really like to see the Chapelle Show do a skit on the Albany Common Council with Dave Chappelle as Michael Brown. "Cockroaches!"

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What is it Doctor? Well, It Appears You're Disturbed

dis·turb (d -stûrb ) tr.v. dis·turbed, dis·turb·ing, dis·turbs

1. To break up or destroy the tranquillity or settled state of;
2. To trouble emotionally or mentally; upset.

The following is a letter written to Alan Chartock after his three part “interview” with Mayor Jennings. Following is his reply in which he calls me “very disturbed”. Unfortunately he didn’t reply to any of my questions but instead punted. Hey, what’s one less WAMC donor? Read away and let me know what you think. I’m betting the Doctor was picking definition #2 and means I’m emotionally troubled. Perhaps (meaning perhaps I am, not perhaps that is what he meant). I agree I’m disturbed but I’m going with definition #1 type of disturbed. What possibly could be destroying my tranquility? Read away and please comment if you feel this letter sounds more like #1 disturbed, #2 disturbed, valid criticism and questions, or “how the hell does he type with the straitjacket on” disturbed?

Dr. Chartock

First I'd like to say that historically I've been a WAMC supporter and on occasion have found myself defending you to some of my more conservative associates. So please don't take the following as Alan bashing for the sake of Alan bashing. These are what I feel are legitimate questions from a concerned Albany resident. I'm writing to try to get some explanation of the lack of anything beyond incredibly generic questions in your 3 part interview with Mayor Jennings. I have to say I was shocked at how all of his answers were just accepted as truth and not challenged. I know the Mayor doesn't like to answer questions when he doesn't know what they will be about and in other public forums (e.g. Albany Roundtable) he insists he has final say over the questions. Perhaps he set down some guidelines before the interview? If so, it would be nice to inform your listeners of that (as you have said you would want to be notified about the authenticity of Martha Stewart's ex-con hips on the cover of a magazine). If this was not the case the general fluffiness of the questions is really mind boggling to someone who lives in the city and cares about it. What follows is just a sampling of what bothered me (and others that heard this).

But first I recommend you go back and listen to your interview with Ralph Nader. It's a good example of how you don't handle everyone with kid gloves. We know you really cared about the issues and you gave Nader hell. Lots of follow up questions to hammer home your points. I'm sure you remember. Which makes what I'm about to describe all the more disheartening because I and others like me live in the city and really care about these issues.

You start the show by telling everyone how hard it is to be Mayor ofAlbany (you say this, not the Mayor). You and the Mayor than start a contest to see how many times each of you could point this out. The Mayor can't go 5 minutes without mentioning he works "24/7" or how"hard it is to be mayor" or "what hard work this is" or how he is a"workaholic". Don't you think you could have spared us all your mentions? Lots of people have tough jobs. The good ones let their actions speak for themselves.

You ask the Mayor how he deals with corruption. He replies he's never had to. Follow up? Nope. Perhaps you aren't aware of the federal voter fraud case that is ongoing in Albany? Or how about the $6 million dollar lawsuit filed by the police Commander who was allegedly fired for reporting police corruption?! Or how about the recent federal audit of the police department finances? And the fact that very recently the police chief admitting to being a liar? (I'm really hoping you recorded this prior to the Police Chief admitting to lying or that one is really amazing). Did you know that Albany's treasurer (employee, Mayoral friend, and head of the Albany CountyDemocratic Committee) recently mailed out the "results" of a closed door election the day before the election occured? No corruption inAlbany City Hall? Do you honestly believe that?

You ask him about his endorsement of Pataki and then let him off the hook when he claims to be the CEO of Albany and thus above politics. Alan, this is so laughable in a town like Albany and you didn't even bother to call him on this. Amazing. By that reasoning he should've endorsed Bush since he might have been able to get some extra handouts for selling out to him, too. And how about the fact that he didn't endorse the Democratic candidate for D.A. (Soares, if you have forgotten)? You're the political scientist, I was wondering how this could get by without a question? William Kennedy called the Soares victory a "sea change in the political climate" and "as big a surprise as when Jennings backed Pataki". Perhaps Kennedy just doesn't understand Albany politics?

At one point you ask a question in which you basically answer it at the end, "In the old days you would have to be a registered Democrat to get a job in the city... are those days gone? The Mayor, of course, says those days are gone. And then goes on to say how he mostly hires people he knew from back when he was a vice principle.Help me here. It appears you don't have to be a Democrat to get a job, you just have to know the Mayor or be a former student. How is that different? Apparently it didn't raise any flags for you and there was no follow up.

At one point the Mayor said it would be irresponsible for him to not get re-elected. Apparently things will just fall apart without his leadership. Again, you're the political scientist, is this good for democracy? Do you agree that we should just keep re-electing incumbents because they already have the job experience? Remember when Cheney was scaring the American public with his "you don't want to change leaders in the middle of the war" crap? I'm not saying Jennings shouldn't say this crap. It might be a good political move on his part. But it certainly isn't good for democracy.

The Mayor is a big champion of the proposed Albany Convention Center. It could cost up to $225 million dollars. A recent study by the Brookings Institute clearly shows why investing in urban convention center's does nothing to raise the economic level of the residents of the city and all but a few (Orlando, Vegas) lose money. The Mayor dismissed the study claiming Albany is immune to the downward trend of this industry because we are "unique". If you ever want Central Avenue to be something worth visiting again, you might want to take a look into this. If you'd like more information you can start here.

I'm sure you know that those of us discussing the lack of any hard questions in this interview (which resulted in it basically being a re-election commercial) have our theories about why you let the Mayor off so easily. I'll hold off on those until I hear back from you because at this point, they all are just theories. Perhaps you really think the Mayor is doing a great job? I'd love to hear about it. And if not perhaps you might want to rethink this show? In my opinion it really didn't help the people of Albany but it may have helped the Mayor of Albany.

I write about these issues at http://albanyny.blogspot.com/ Mostly because the Albany media doesn't cover them in depth and hasn't askedthe Mayor a hard question in years. If you choose to reply I would consider posting the reply unless you request that I do not.

Thanks

Chartock Replies:


Hi:

I'm in France. Sorry you didn't like the interview. We'll try to do better in the future. This was the first in a series. However, I must say, that this is a very different forum than the Nader interview. You sound very disturbed, too much so and that, sadly, says something about you. I will try not to let my friends say bad things about you once I figure out who you are. Thanks for writing. Feel free to call. By the way, we try to give everyone a chance. You, of all people should know that.

Alan

Update: My disturbing reply

Thanks for the reply.

I would say you sounded "disturbed" by the idea of Bush getting elected and overturning Roe V. Wade when you were talking to Nader.I t was evident you really cared about that. As did I. If you thinkI sound disturbed in this letter, you should've heard me back inOctober 04.

I believe there are valid reasons to be disturbed by what is going on in Albany government. You think everyone deserves a chance. I agree. But not multiple chances. Jennings has had 11 years. I don't think he deserves four more and I don't think he deserves a free pass from the local media. And when the police chief admits to lying and your friend Rex's paper has their guy Lebrun write a column saying its ok that he lied this time because he apologized and that he deserves a second chance....that disturbs me. Voter fraud. Disturbing. Honest cops fired for reporting police corruption. Very distrubing. Its no fun being powerless in your own community.

I'm disturbed because I see a lot of wrong and a lot of greed in Albany and then I open the paper and see that due to gang violence a couple of 12 and 13 year olds just got stabbed (that was in today's paper). Mayor Jennings has repeatedly said there are no gang problems in Albany.

I do agree with you, I hope my being very disturbed by all this says alot about me.

Enjoy France.

Update: Alan's Response

Okay. Sounds reasonable. Alan

I guess that wraps that one. Green beer for everyone.

John Sweeney - Afraid of his constituents?

The group In This Together has called on John Sweeney (R-NY) to hold a town hall style meeting to lead a discussion on social security reform. From their press release:

"In This Together called on Rep. John Sweeney to meet with his constituents to discuss Social Security. “We’re disappointed that John Sweeney has not yet scheduled a town meeting to discuss the future of Social Security,” said Gallagher. “He may not have made his mind up about cutting benefits and diverting money from the Social Security trust fund to private accounts, but that’s not a reason to ignore what his constituents have to say. "

I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Sweeney to face the voters. Seems like the powers that be in D.C. have instructed the Republican representatives to limit audiences to supporters only. That is right, if you might have a voice of opposition, you aren't welcome. Sounds downright American, right? From USAToday

"This month, Republican leaders say they are chucking the open town-hall format. They plan to visit newspaper editorial boards and talk to constituents at Rotary Club lunches, senior citizen centers, chambers of commerce meetings and local businesses. In those settings, "there isn't an opportunity for it to disintegrate into something that's less desirable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference."

That is right. You don't want something "less desirable" like, perhaps, open debate of an issue.

So, I'm pretty sure John Sweeney will hide out somewhere with a bunch of "believers" and avoid the rest of us. Ironic that we have elected officials who think it is ok to vote for our soldiers to go and fight preemptive wars while they can't even face unarmed voters. Would it be ok if our soliders decided not to go into Fallujah because it might "disintegrate into something that's less desirable".

Gangs in Albany

Back on October 29th I mentioned how Mayor Jennings was denying there were any gang problems in Albany.

He was trying to calm a radio caller that was complaining about the graffiti that she thought represented gang activity. Mayor Jennings told her that there were not gangs in Albany and that these kids were just graffiti artists. Sue protested, the Mayor again said there was “no formalized gang activity…and if there is I’ll be the first to admit it”

Fast forward to the present. Hopefully it won’t take much more of these types of situations for the Mayor to “admit” there is a problem. I know Archie Goodbee has said he thinks there is a problem.

According to the TU a "13-year-old student with a punctured lung was interviewed Wednesday by city police in his bed at Albany Medical Center Hospital. The teen, whose name was not made public, was found bleeding on the sidewalk on Henry Johnson Boulevard near police headquarters about 3:40 p.m."

Four teenagers were stabbed in broad daylight near the police headquarters. What did the kids have to say about this?

"It was gang relations," said a 12-year-old, who identified the competing groups by the names OGK and Jungle Junkies. Several other students also cited those names.

“Tell OGK, don’t come to the ‘hood,” said one girl

How about it Mayor?

Colonie, Pretend Subpoenas, Real Lawsuits

“I wouldn’t call it a “mistake” for the town to use pretend subpoenas to secretly access somebody’s home computer account… and to then use that information to ruin two careers is unacceptable”. Kevin Luibrand, Attorney for the two Colonie Paramedics

Pretend subpoenas! The Albany police department recently used some off those too for the same reason. Than the Police Chief lied to cover it up. Then he got caught and apologized. Supposedly that is good enough in Albany.

Not in Colonie. They town is saying they made mistakes. The town supervisor issued a 10 page apology/explanation. That’s all well and good unless you were the one that lost your job. The two paramedics in Colonie are going to be suing the city for their illegal behavior. They both lost their jobs over this, reputations were tarnished, etc. Remember that lawsuit in Albany about the police commander that lost his job because he supposedly was trying to put an end to department corruption? He’s suing the city of Albany to the tune of $6 million. I’d say Colonie has an expensive problem on their hands.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Walmart and The People vs. The Other People

So Ballston’s town board voted for a moratorium on building because the majority of the town was concerned about the impact of a new planned Walmart. As noted here earlier, a 6 month moratorium supported by the majority of the people and voted on by the Town Board seems like the sign of a functioning representational democracy. On to the lawsuits. Apparently the people who own the land that would have been sold to Walmart are suing the Town Board. Guess what they are suing these elected officials for?

“the suit alleges the Town Board caved to public opinion”

How dare those bastards?! Caving into the public. Who do they think they are?!

“The suit also alludes to a possible political motivation, mentioning that Wal-Mart opponents threatened not to vote for the Town Board members”

Is that legal? Can you tell an elected official that you won’t vote for them unless they represent your views?! That sounds like a threat. What happens if everyone started acting that way? The elected officials would have no free will of their own and would be mere puppets of public opinion. Is that the kind of society we want to live in? What is this, Altamont?

Three Term Incumbent Mayor Loses

I'm looking forward to writing that opening again in September but for now at least the people of Altamont have elected themselves a new Mayor. Apparently the last Mayor of Altamont pretty much just did what he want and didn't listen to the people. Turns out that isn't a good long-term strategy. So the new Mayor is James Gaughan. To the quotes:

"Gaughan said he felt the incumbent had not done enough to engage townspeople in the decision-making process. "No. 1 on the agenda is putting in place a government that's more participatory, more responsive," said Gaughan, who is 60."

Participatory Responsive Government - It's a winning strategy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

This Week In Lobbying

So I'm sure since you are a hard working tax paying citizen you got your many invitations to the fundraising events your politicians are holding this week in Albany. No? Me neither. But that doesn't mean we can't go and try to enjoy the food and drink, does it? How about Democratic Assemblyman Ryan Karben's $375 a ticket event? Does anyone who isn't a lobbyist even know who this guy is? All I know is that his Vote For Jobs New York grade is a C. This guy is from Pearl River. That is practically New Jersey. And he is going to get a bunch of people to show up in Albany and give him $375. Welcome to democracy in Albany. Let's see what his spokesman has to say:

"Assemblyman Karben approaches government with an open mind," said Karben spokesman Aaron Troodler. "At the end of the day, he makes up his own mind. It's as simple as that."

So Karben, about that C?

Anyway, there are going to be a lot of expensive parties held this week in Albany. And we weren't invited. But since this is a democracy, shouldn't we be able to go? Food, drink and a chance to talk to your elected representatives? Sounds fantastic. I recommend crashing these parties if you get a chance. Dress nice, practice your nodding and winking. If anyone questions you say you are with Cendant and there must be some mistake that you aren't on the list. Nod. Wink. Say, "yes, THAT Cendant". Laugh at your joke and head to the bar.

DRE's?

I'm not sure about you, but I like Doctor Dre. Both of 'em. I liked the old school Dre on MTV (with Ed Lover). His Chuck D imitation still makes me chuckle whenever I need to get some chicken or tell someone to get out of the shower. The new Dr. Dre is an incredible musician. Spare me your comments on this, I'm an expert in these matters. On to the commentable bit.

DRE's? What does the TU have to say about DRE's

"To date, most talk has focused on DREs, in part because manufacturers have spent millions on lobbying."

Lobbyists? Spending millions? In Albany? Thank your lobbyists for the following exchange.

"There's no specific reference, but we're not precluding their use," said Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican and the committee's GOP co-chair.

"So you wouldn't mind putting something in the bill regarding their use?" asked Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Harlem, his Democratic counterpart.

"I didn't say that," Flanagan responded.

Will someone please get to the point? DRE's. Direct Recording Electronic Machines. These are the expensive and controversial voting machines. The other cheap reliable onces are called Optical Scan. The Republicans in NY want DRE's. The Democrats want Optical Scan. Groups that are for fair elections are for optical scan. You like fair elections, don't you?

To the money quote:

"To date, most talk has focused on DREs, in part because manufacturers have spent millions on lobbying. Optical scan machine supporters say they cost about $5,000 apiece, while DREs could run $12,000."

Something to ponder. New York State is billions of dollars in debt. And we are about to have our elected officials choose more expensive, less reliable voting machines because of a couple million dollars. Doesn't that piss you off? I'd really like to put Senator John Flanagan in a room with a bunch of the founding fathers and watch them beat the snot out of him.

Good luck, Villagers

Today voters in villages in New York (villagers, as we like to call them) will be electing their Mayors, board members and town criers. Good luck, my village friends. I tend to peruse the media for the occasional mention of local politics and of all the elections that are going on all I've been able to glean is that I wouldn't vote for the incumbent in Altamont (Paul DeSarbo). For the rest of you I say guess away and hope your vote is counted.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Chartock and Jennings

Here you go. Alan Chartock interviews the Mayor. Take a listen. It's a nice campaign commercial. For example:

ALAN: "You have to run all the departments is that hard, for example, is running the police department tough?"

MAYOR JENNINGS: "Challenge, it's a challenge but we have a great department"

And then no follow up. No questions about the recent troubles with the Police Department. The Chief admitted to lying THIS week. Don't you think that might be a relevant question?! This guy runs a show called the Media Project! But it was on to the next softball from there. Easy lobs from Alan with the Mayor smacking them out of the park with cookie cutter answers. How about this question where Alan asks it and then gives an answer himself?

ALAN: In the old days you would have to be a registered Democrat to get a job in the city... are those days gone?

The Mayor agreed with Alan and said yes, yes they were gone.

By the end of the 7 minutes I was thinking of voting for the Mayor myself. Apparently there are two more segments coming in the future. Stay tuned.

Somewhere Tom Delay is Laughing

Why is Tom Delay laughing? You might want to check out the Daily Delay to see some reasons why he isn't laughing but if he read this column in the TU today he would laugh and probably make some comment about the pathetic spineless Democrats in NY. And on this one point, The Hammer and I agree.

Why do the Republicans hold such a commanding lead in the House? Because Delay redistricted Texas to make it easier for Republicans to win. And they did. And now Republicans are doing this in Georgia and other states as well. Because they can and because it works. Is it fair? No. Is is working? Yes. Might be time to check in with an installment of WWMD. Hmm...what would Machiavelli do?

"Politics have no relation to morals." Machiavelli

Now we know Delay probably has this posted on the ceiling of his bedroom so its the first thing he sees in the morning when he wakes up. This is probably his only guiding principle. Which is why the Democrats need to consider redistricting. When you are getting your ass kicked the way Democrats have been by the Bush Delay Texas Republicans you need to start thinking about fighting fire with fire. You can't let your party get redistricted into irrelevance. Some blue states are going to have to fight back or every corporate handout, like the bankruptcy bill that just breezed through congress, will pass with flying colors.

Integrity Official? In Albany?

Oh, its strange times in Albany. One day Fred Lebrun says every public official lies every day and we expect it AND the next day there is a quote (in a non-Albany paper of course) from the Soares spokesman saying that they will be hiring their new "public integrity" prosecutor this week to start up a new group in the DA's office? Hmm. I wonder if they might be looking into that recent illegal activity over at the Albany Police Department? Seems like a public integrity issue. On to the money quote for Soares spokemen Richard Arthur:

"The same standard of justice that applies to a local crack dealer is going to apply to public officials"

I like the sound of that. Its a good first step. But I still think we won't ever really get integrity in our public officials until we not only apply the same standards of justice to crack dealers and public officials but that when we convict them they get to share cells and cell blocks. That will start to clean things up quick fast in a hurry. A scared straight program for politicians.

In this particular case it seems to be another simple misunderstanding where the staff of elected officials also just happened to be registered lobbyists. If it wasn't for lobbyists and real estate developers do you think our elected officials might be able to act in the public's best interest? Its worth testing that out too.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Its Albany, Just Don't Get Caught..More Than Once...For Now

Hey, check out Fred LeBrun's deeply disturbing column today! Finally someone wrote about the fact that the Police Chief is an admitted liar. But Fred took this opportunity to give the Mayor and the Chief a pass. See, you might not have known the reality of Albany but Fred does so let's start there.

"This is Albany. We are lied to every day and rather expect it, by politicians and lawyers, cops and even clerics."

Sounds like this might be our fault. Since we expect to be lied to, what choice did Chief Turley really have? I'm sorry. I apologize for enabling the Chief.

And the Chief supposedly did get in trouble with the Mayor.

"Word is he was quickly summoned to Mayor Jerry Jennings's office for a session behind the woodpile. Turley's butt was handed back to him flayed about nine different ways."

Ok. What word? Who's word? I'm not going to keep up this enabling behavior and let my politicians think its ok to lie to me (since i've apologized it is a matter of honor). Fred Lebrun (why trust him?...this is Albany) says that the "word" is that Mayor Jennings reprimanded the Chief. Now, we know we can't believe the Chief and Fred said that our politicians lie to us every day (its Albany!) so what if Fred was lying when he said the Mayor is a liar (we know the Chief is, unless of course he was lying about his lying). Until I see some flayed butt, I'm not so sure I can believe any of this.

And that still leaves the Mayor with no public comment on this situation aside from him perhaps being "the word". Is that what you want out of your leaders? If he would just stand up an openly lie to us and let us know that the chief would make sure to not get caught again....Oh yeah...Fred Lebrun failed to mention that the Chief actually got CAUGHT not only lying but lying to cover up an illegal investigation of an innocent civilian. The Chief wasn't simply lying about an intern and oral sex. He was lying to cover up an illegal investigation. But Fred thinks this is ok becaues the Chief was "frustrated" with anonymous tips to the media which led to the police department breaking the law. So, while I think he should be fired because he admits he is a liar I REALLY think he should be fired because the department appears to operate with complete disregard for the law. But Fred doesn't think that is worth mentioning.

So Fred lets it be known that the Chief is "on notice". Yeah. I feel better (actually, I'm lying about that).

Meanwhile the city of Colonie is being sued for doing exactly what the Chief was lying to cover up.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Pot holes in Arbor Hill

You know what the real problem with Arbor Hill is? Pot holes!! Its tough to speed by all the vacant buildings with those crappy roads. No longer! The Mayor has just announced that a new project to redo Henry Johnson Blvd in Arbor Hill will be done shortly before the election. Once it's done you will drive so fast you won't even see the vacant buildings. To the money quote:

"It's good that they are doing the road. It'll probably help," said Ron Bailey, vice chairman of the Sheridan Hollow Neighborhood Association. "But I'd rather that the city use the money to fix up vacant and abandoned buildings in the community. I don't know why they do this stuff. Maybe it's an election year."

Oh... oh cynical Ron Bailey. Can't the Mayor do anything good without being criticized? Like perhaps fix up New Scotland Ave or Whitehall where all those voters live? Back to the TU!

"Meanwhile, the city also is remaking about 1.7 miles of Hackett Boulevard, a major route that runs through the Delaware Avenue and Whitehall neighborhoods in the heavily residential southern party of the city.

That work, from Holland to Forest avenues, will include doubling the width of a biking/walking path along the road from five feet to 10 feet, along with improved crosswalks to make it easier for pedestrians, Bruce said.

This week's contract award comes as Mayor Jerry Jennings begins his campaign for a fourth four-year term. The two road projects follow similar upgrades on upper New Scotland Avenue (a $5.4 million job), Pearl Street ($9.5 million) and Lark Street ($2.5 million), which have been rebuilt during the last five years. The New Scotland Avenue work is still under way and should be completed by August 2005."

It's a fund raising Renaissance! I wonder why they aren't doubling the width of the "biking/walking path" in Arbor Hill? Maybe next election year.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Uh, Mayor? Pick up the phone, its the Tooth Fairy

If you tuned into the Mayor's show today you heard this:

"you guys are great role models...that's nice"

Was he talking to Police Chief Turley?

Sadly, no. He was talking to the Tulip Queen. Perhaps if we all just made wishes to the Tulip Queen things would be o.k. I mean, the Police Chief is an admitted liar so we really can't trust him and the Mayor didn't bring up this point on his sad sit com of a radio show(e.g. "you've got to get involved[click] thanks for your call, John"). I think the Tulip Queen is our only hope. Please Tulip Queen, I pray at your feet for two three things:

1) Accountable government
2) Fair elections

If the Tulip Queen won't clean house...I guess its up to us. See you at 8:00 AM. I'll bring the coffee.

Blogging in The News

The TU mentions some blogs in today's Inside Politics column. Unfortunately, aside from this humble blog none of the ones mentioned have anything to do with Politics. The following blogs do and they all have important things you should know that you aren't getting from your Star Spangled TU:

BuffaloPundit
NYCO
Working Families Party

If you want to get Inside Politics, start with these people.

"I Lied, I Apologize..If It Costs Me My Job..."

"I lied. I apologize. ... If it costs me my job, so be it"

That is what the Albany Police Chief said on Tuesday of this week.

But guess what? It hasn't cost him a damn thing! This is Albany. Who cares if the Police Chief is a liar and conducts illegal investigations of innocent civilians? Apparently not the media in Albany. And what does Mayor Jennings have to say? Nothing. Apparently he doesn't think this is even worthy of a comment. The Chief even knew this was something that should "cost me my job". We all know it. But the only people that can do a damn thing about it are named Turley and Jennings and they probably will be kicking back for beers somewhere later today and laughing about the whole thing. Want to be above the law? Get elected.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Corrupt Judges? Urgent Reform Needed

Jonathan Lippman, the state's chief administrative judge, has said that there is urgent need for reform in the way our judges are chosen.

"Political influence, financial contributions, and acrimonious campaigns have eroded the public's confidence in the way state judges are elected and "urgent" reform is needed, one of New York's top judges said Wednesday."

If the judges admit there is a problem, you KNOW there is a big problem.

Pataki's Budget

So what do we get now that Pataki has more power than ever over the budget?

Two thousand health care workers were on the steps of the Capitol today to protest Pataki’s budget’s health care cuts. Speaker Silver asserted the following:

“Pataki’s budget plan reveals the governor’s wrong priorities of protecting the wealthy at the expense of poor and working class New Yorkers.”

And Lebrun weighs in and says its good that Pataki is addressing the Medicaid issue but its too bad he is shorting education.

“So we save a buck on Medicaid, but lose two on education. The administration's new math is killing us, although this, too, will be remembered as George Pataki's legacy”.

The Man With The Plan

First the Park South “plan” gets unveiled and now the Mid Town plan. The Mayor sure is busy revitalizing the city with all of these plans now that its an election year. Remember that Arbor Hill plan? How about that new board put together to address the vacant housing problem in Albany? Heard from them lately? Plans are great. We need some results.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

News! Give me the News!!

Times Union Offices, shortly before press time

Rex Smith: Damn you fools!! Don't any of you have some news worthy of the front page?!! I've got a paper to run here. We need to make some money so I can pay you hacks!!

Reporter: Ah, sir, how about some investigation into the fact that the Albany Police Chief admitted to lying and apparently conducted an illegal investigation?

Smith: Shut your hole! That's not a story. He lied. Big deal. Who doesn't lie?

Reporter: How about the lawsuit by the police commander that was fired for pointing out all of the corruption in the police department? Apparently he is suing the city for $6 million. The Mayor gave his deposition recently...

Smith: Do you honestly think its newsworthy to let the people of the city know they are being sued for $6 million due to the incompetance and lack of integrity in City Hall and the Police Department? Honestly?! Where did you go to school, SUNY?

Reporter: Well sir, we are at war and our troops keep dying and there is no end in sight.

Smith: No one wants to read about the war! It depresses people. For fuck's sake can't you people bring me a goddamn news story for once?!!

Reporter: The congress is about to sell out to corporate America and pass a new bankruptcy bill that along with the rest of the dismal US economy has led Warren Buffet to declare that America is headed towards a "sharecropper society".

Smith: Worthless drivel!

Reporter: How about the fact that the President is trying to phase out social security and no less than CNN have pointed out that he is blatantly misleading the public about the issue?

Smith: thptp!! Ack!!

Singelais: Sir, I think i've got it. I know we ran a story yesterday saying that the Sienna basketball coach was about to be fired but...and this is big...he actually was fired!!

Smith: Brilliant!! Singelais you are a fucking genius. The rest of you hacks could learn a lot of from this boy!!

Singelais: Who would've seen this coming? I'm mean, he won 6 games....

Smith: Front page, my boy. Front page right at the fucking top!! Yeeehaaa!! I love this news business!! Man, I'm on fire. Hot damn. Take that to the bank!!

.....

Go back to sleep Albany.