The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

HONORING SAMUEL WILSON

By now, everyone has heard the tragic news: No Uncle Sam Day parade.

But no one should despair yet. According to The Record a replacement event is in the works:

It might be a block party, or it could be a hot dog-eating contest, or maybe even a classic car show, but about 25 people who came out for a community meeting Monday night vowed to find some way for the city to honor the 250th birthday of its favorite son later this year.

In the wake of the cancellation earlier this month of the annual Uncle Sam Birthday Parade, city officials, local business owners and concerned residents filled an upstairs room at Forty-One Sports Bar & Grille in Lansingburgh to discuss possible alternatives for this fall, as well as to address the long-term future of the celebration.

Now, for full disclosure, the whole Uncle Sam thing always struck us as rather stupid. As an actual person, Sam Wilson is irrelevant. He sold some meat, which was likely rancid by the time it reached the army, to make a profit. There is nothing special or particularly patriotic about his activities.

By an accident, his name became linked to  what would become a national symbol. So, pride in the fact that Wilson lived in Troy for a few years and decided to die in Troy, seems silly. It is not an accomplishment.

Now, the parade replacements mentioned in the article sound, well, stupid. A hot dog eating contest? Is a public display of gluttony an appropriate celebration of a national symbol? A car show? A block party? A wet t-shirt contest? Maybe a bingo tournament.

Is this nonsense really about honoring a national symbol or is it about bringing people downtown to make a few bucks? If its about honoring a national symbol, a modest graveside ceremony seems reasonable. Some of the other ideas are just stupid, unrelated to the supposed goal and embarrassing.

Let it go.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NEWS DUMP

Jim Walsh dies last week. Walsh was a long-time figure in Republican politics in Rensselaer County for years. He was a former county legislator, Chair of both the Troy and county Republican Committees as well as a State Board of Elections Official. Walsh was 76 years old.

Walsh was brought into the Tutunjian Administration early on  as a Co-Deputy Mayor in order to babysit Dan Crawley. Probably one of the better personnel moves made by Harry. Walsh ensured that Crawley had a regular supply of binks and bahs as well as making sure Crawley didn't forget nap time and get too cranky.

We liked Walsh. RIP Jim.



People complain that children are not given enough to do. That they spend too much time inside, on their electronic devices; that they do not get enough exercise. Yet, when a Troy man tries to involve children in outside activities, the law comes down on him.

A Troy man went on a December tire-slashing rampage with two children last year — slashing and puncturing 31 tires on 14 different vehicles, State Police said Tuesday.

Louis Valente, 26, is accused of the vandalism in Stephentown on Dec. 19. He is charged with nine counts of felony criminal mischief and one count of felony conspiracy for planning the damage with two children. He was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was arraigned in Sand Lake Town Court and sent to the Rensselaer County Jail on $7,500 bail and due back in court Thursday.



Troy's amnesty program for scofflaws netted about $100,000, approximately 10% of what is owed in unpaid parking tickets and fees. While this is better than nothing (and we have the math to prove it), does anyone find this disappointing? We were hoping for twice what was eventually recouped.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

POLICE UPGRADES

The Troy PD will get several upgrades including original, Troy PD badges. Until now, police badges have been refurbished NYC badges that eventual fall apart.

We had no idea. That sounds a little sad. As if we buy our badges off of EBay or the Dollar Store.

But in Troy, where the badges are refurbished from New York City-area agencies, not all are made the same. In fact, sometimes they eventually fall off in pieces.



Chief John Tedesco spoke before the City Council to get money approved for the department's badges. Tedesco told the City Council that for $8,000, the department could create a mold and design a unique badge for the department.

"The cost to this proposal is the creation of the molds for TPD products. Once accomplished, a local vendor who represents a noteworthy manufacturer will be chosen," Tedesco said in a memo.

Not to worry, penny-pinchers, this will not cost the taxpayer.

The city is drawing on $85,892 in federal asset forfeiture funds for the initial $8,000 expenditure.
The city will also apply the forfeiture funds for other police equipment upgrades. This will allow the financially-strapped city to avoid tapping into its budget to equip its officers.

Patrol officers will see new mobile data terminals installed in their squad cars. This $49,356 investment will help make the switch to tablets from laptops in marked cars. In addition, five driver's license reader kits will be purchased for $1,695.

The department will also spend $9,000 to issue Springfield SDS .45-caliber semi-automatic pistols to the detective bureau. These pistols are smaller than the standard issued SIG Sauer patrol weapons.


Welcome to the 21st Century.

The City will also spend $75,000 to equip twenty-five police officers and four patrol cars with cameras, probably Polaroids. More on that later.


In other news, Troy City Court Judge Matthew Turner will run for re-election. Turner has been City Court Judge since 1962. Actually, Turner seeks a fourth, six-year term. Turner should be a shoe-in for re-election except that this is a presidential election year. A credible opponent could make a race of it.

Turner, a Conservative, does a decent job and there seems no compelling reason to switch horses this year.


Monday, June 13, 2016

RESIDENCY EXEMPTION SURVIVES

Revoking the residency exemption for Troy's public officers will not make it to a vote in the State legislature. The Council had previously approved a measure:

The City Council narrowly approved a resolution at their May 5 meeting to seek legislation overturning the exemption. State Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany, and Assemblyman John McDonald III, D-Cohoes, had agreed to sponsor the legislation in their respective houses, and both said they expected the requests to be approved once they make it to the floor for a vote.

However, state law required that for the bills to move forward, the council not only had to approve the initial request to the state Legislature, but also reaffirm that support once the bill was formally introduced in the state Senate and Assembly. Doherty said Saturday, though, that after careful consideration, he preferred to trust a pledge made by Mayor Patrick Madden during that May 5 meeting that he would give preference to city residents in hiring whenever possible.

District 4 Councilman Bob Doherty went on to say that The Troy Polloi's opposition to the measure was the driving force behind his vote. 

The residency exemption allows for a greater, more diverse applicant pool for some of the more important positions that require some specialized education. True, the villagers and peasants love these residency requirements but it is time for Troy to move beyond such provincial thinking.

Studies have continually shown that an employee's residency has no appreciable effect on overall competency. In fact, maybe an officer or two who has no history in the city might be a good thing. We do tend to be a little inbred around here.



Wednesday, June 08, 2016

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A FUN SATURDAY

According to the Times Union:

The Troy City Council will hold a rare weekend meeting 10 a.m. Saturday at City Hall. The topic is the passage of a Home Rule Message to send to the State Legislature asking to end an exemption for appointed public officers from living in the city.

The move comes from the Republican majority.  Requiring city employees to live in town has been a topic for some. There are exemptions such as the supporting memo for the resolution notes for firefighters and police officers.  The supporting memo for the council resolution notes that the State Legislature’s session is anticipated to end June 16.

The Memo in Support states:

It is noteworthy that in 1984, local law 4 of 1984, the city passed a local law requiring non-public officers (employees) to be residents of Troy. It certainly makes no sense to allow top policy makers in our city to be non-residents while the average city employee must be a resident.

Of course it makes sense to allow top policy makers a residency exemption. Ideally, top policy makers, Corporation Counsel for instance, are professionals with (hopefully) a unique skill set. By requiring them to live in the city shrinks the pool of available talent willing to take the position.

There are many skilled, private sector attorneys in Troy. How many are willing to take a job that pays less than $100,000 a year? Do we want a private sector attorney who isn't making much more than the Corporation Counsel salary? Then, even if they wouldn't mind living in Troy, moving is a huge hassle.

When a true professional is hired, they take their job seriously no matter where they may happen to reside. To believe that an Albany attorney would not be as good a Corporation Counsel as one that lives in Troy is typical of the small-town provincialism that holds cities back.

We realize where on an island on this one but residency requirements are an old and tired way of doing business. We understand the arguments for residency requirements and they are not without some limited merit. We'd do away with all of them if we could. Either you care about doing the best job possible or you don't, that is unaffected by your residence.

Is a lazy city worker any less lazy if he or she lives in Troy as opposed to Watervliet? Is a poor Corporation Counsel from Saratoga County going to be better if he or she moves to Troy?

Like we said, we're probably alone on this one. Residency requirements are quite popular amongst the villagers and peasants. It distracts from the real problems at hand. It is certainly not worth a special Saturday meeting. Hopefully, the measure won't get through the legislature.

Go ahead, have at it.

Monday, June 06, 2016

VEGA VERDICT

There is much chatter about the Vega verdict. Gabriel Vega was accused of the 2nd Degree murder of his girlfriend, pregnant at the time with his child, and then burning down the crime scene. The victim, Vanessa Milligan, was nineteen years-old when murdered. Vega was twenty years-old.

The jury deliberated for four days before finding Vega guilty of Manslaughter, a lesser crime than 2nd Degree Murder. Frederick Rench defended Vega, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Botts was the prosecutor.

We all know that Vega was charged with 2nd Degree Murder and we all wish he had been convicted of that crime. The fact the jury convicted him of a lesser charge should not lead anyone to the conclusion that Botts did anything but a good job.

A prosecutor can only put out what he or she has in front of a jury. They can do that in a competent manner with the belief that they have met their burden of proof. It is then up to twelve average citizens to decide.

We've seen good verdicts and bad. The non-juror reads about the case in the paper and, in this case, recalls the initial press reports. That may differ from what the jury is able to hear. These things are messy. There is a judge, two attorneys and twelve citizens involved. Just because Vega didn't get convicted of 2nd Degree Murder doesn't mean Botts screwed-up. He could have a tried the perfect case but if a juror or two wants to hold out, you get compromise verdicts. This, as one reader points out, has the stench of a compromise verdict.

Unless your an attorney with criminal law experience and sat through the entire case, it seems unfair to criticize Botts. Unless you can point to specific errors, Botts did what he could with what he had. Vega is going away for a long time. It's not a time to do cartwheels, but Vega won't be out until he's a middle-aged man.


Thursday, June 02, 2016

MAHAR'S REIGN...

...THE GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING.

According to the Times Union:

Attorneys for Rensselaer County agreed to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit against former sheriff Jack Mahar — just two days after a judge issued a ruling that would have allowed a jury to hear a racist remark allegedly uttered by Mahar's successor, Patrick Russo.

county's lawyers, John W. Bailey and Crystal Peck, agreed to the settlement in a phone conference Friday with A.J. Bosman, the attorney for Lt. James Karam, a longtime internal affairs officer whose civil case against the county was set to go to trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court before Judge .

Karam's claim is that he suffered ridicule based on his Lebanese heritage.

More from the article:

The settlement was reached two days after D'Agostino issued a May 25 ruling that, among other things, would have allowed jurors to hear evidence that Russo, while undersheriff, once told Karam, who is of Lebanese ancestry, that he "should shave his goatee or he would be put back on the terrorist watch list."

Now, we don't know if Sheriff Russo is a bigot. Who knows the heart of a man? We do know that he said the best thing ever about the statement:

A transcript of a March 16, 2015 deposition of Russo, listed in court papers, showed that Russo did not deny making the "watch list" comment — but denied having any issues with Karam over his ethnicity.

"I wouldn't be derogatory to him because he's Lebanese because my wife's family is Lebanese," Russo told Bosman. "The best man in my wedding was Lebanese. I have probably as many Lebanese friends as Jim Karam has. So, therefore, I wouldn't be derogatory because of his heritage toward Jimmy."

"So the 'watch list' reference was for what reason?" Karam's attorney pressed.

"Just to maybe lighten the mood up," Russo replied, noting that he had known Karam since he was a child.

Russo actually pulled out the "Some of my best friends are...." line. Kind of reminds you of the guy who starts a conversation: "Hey, I ain't got nothing against the Jews but...". Given Russo's street cred amongst the regions Lebanese-American community, maybe Russo could have admitted he's just shitty at lightening-up the mood. Or, he could have said, "I'm not a bigot, I'm just kind of a dick."

This settlement comes on the heels of a $3,000,000 award given to former corrections officer Lora Seabury.

In 2013, an administrative law judge with the state Division of Human Rights determined Seabury was harassed by a clique of jail officers known as the "Boys Club" and that top sheriff's officials at the jail engaged in "deliberate inaction" in dealing with the harassment of Seabury.

That award was later bumped up to $3,000,000.

Was Russo considered a top sheriff's official at that time? No idea but it makes you wonder about the man we elected.

Mahar's reign as Rensselaer County Sheriff, and we don't recall that he was ever had a serious challenger, seems to have benefited no one except the plaintiff's bar.