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

Tuesday, April 29, 2008



Rensselaer County released an Officials & Services Directory.

"For anyone who wants to learn more about Rensselaer County, our Officials and Services Directory is a great place to start. We encourage interested residents to contact the legislative offices for a copy," County Legislature Chairman Neil Kelleher said.

In addition to aiding citizens in identify public officials, the guide contains useful tips on:

1- The care and feeding of officials;
2- A vaccination schedule;
3- Which officials are safe to approach;
4- Emergency phone numbers in the event an official gets inside your home or garage.


Another possible contestant in the race to replace Congressman Mike McNulty. From the Times Union:

Former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko resigned this afternoon from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the first step in his bid for a congressional seat.

Meanwhile, Tracey Brooks went door-to-door in Colonie on Sunday and celebrated Earth Day by calling for:

Enhanced environmental protection and energy conservation efforts and more funding for renewable energy development, alternative fuels and climate change research.

"Each year, we celebrate Earth Day as a reminder of what we can and should be doing 365 days a year to help protect our planet, preserve the environment and find cleaner, more renewable ways to fuel our cars, heat and cool our homes and produce the energy we need for economic development,"

Candidate Phil Steck continues to utilize free media and receives more endorsements:

Phil Steck announced today that he has been endorsed by several more local elected officials from Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady Counties in his campaign to succeed Congressman Mike McNulty. Albany County Legislator Don Rahm (city of Albany), Guilderland Town Clerk Rosemary Centi, Delanson Trustee Dianne Grygas, Rensselaer City Treasurer Susan Lupian, former Troy City Council President Beth Walsh, former Niskayuna Town Supervisor Luke Smith, and former Albany County Legislator Tom Cairns (city of Albany) have officially endorsed Steck.

Last Friday, congressional hopeful Darius Shahinfar, along with Mayor Tutunjian, spoke at the 93rd Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

“Last year, as Capital District Representative for Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, I was privileged to work on House Resolution 106 – the Armenian Genocide Resolution,” said Shahinfar. “Through that process I met with many Armenian and human rights groups. What I quickly learned is that the Armenian community’s strength transcends beyond the itself. To its great credit, the Armenian community has played an active role in raising awareness of the atrocities in Darfur , a region of the world to which the community has no connection other than the kinship of horrors.”

“Earlier this month was Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day,” said Shahinfar. “On this day, the world remembers and commemorates the atrocities that began against the Armenian people 93 years ago. We vow to never forget and to renew our promise to stand strong against violence and hatred wherever it rears its ugly head.”

The United States continues to refuse to recognize the Armenian Genocide for fear of pissing off the Turks.

Monday, April 28, 2008


The new blog, The Albany Amp, is rumored to be authored by a Senate Majority insider. A quick read leads us to believe that rumor is accurate. If it is authored by a Republican, why the shots at Senator Bruno?

Despite protestations to the contrary, there's obviously interest among Senate Republicans in dethroning Senator Bruno. How could there not be, given his age and the condition of the Republican Party.

Bruno's potential ouster, either by his own conference or by loss of his Senate Majority, will have consequences, both economic and political.

Today, we'll focus on one very practical consequence: political dollars.

Every campaign season local papers are very good at telling us what campaigns raise and spend. They look at the Board of Elections filings and tell us that Candidate A raised $45,000 and spent $33,000.

What they don't tell us is how much money is spent by State Committees on behalf of local candidates. These are expenditures that do not show-up on individual candidate filings.

Here's a random sampling of what Senator Bruno means to local GOP candidates in terms of campaign cash:

It's no small contribution to the local party to pay for a mailer or pick-up some other hefty campaign expense. It's also saves time for the local candidates and their people to go door-to-door. The State Party also subsidizes the County party to the tune of $5,000 a month.

When Senator Bruno is no longer around, this money source dries up.

*We have no idea who William Steinhaus is.

Friday, April 25, 2008


The political cycle in Troy hums along. Scandal, controversy and then things quiet down. It's down time now so here's a few miscellaneous items.

Franco followed the Jeffery Hunter case closely. His column on the case and the appeal is worth a read.

The State Audit of the controversial North Greenbush Water District has generated a lot of ink.
The topic is on tonight's Council meeting agenda. The issue also found it's way into Metroland.

In the wake of the state audit of North Greenbush’s project mismanagement, everyone is trying to direct the blame

One thing is certain: Water District 14 is a comedy of errors. And it has been, according to the findings of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, since the beginning.

The Water District 14 capital project in North Greenbush, to extend water service to roughly 1,000 homes, was undertaken back in 2003 with an estimated price tag of $5.5 million. In 2005, the town was authorized by the state to increase that expenditure to $7.1 million for a $6.4 million contract price. Upon nearing completion the following year, according to the comptroller’s audit, members of the community, as well as officials, began to worry that the project was running drastically over budget.

Troy's City Hall Review Committee will meet on April 28, at 6:30PM. Be careful if you decide to attend. Hard hats will be distributed at the door.

Finally, still no word on whether Troy's Empire State Development grant money application has been approved. As of April 1st the application had not been approved. Funds from this grant were earmarked for the demolition of City Hall as well as some of the Hedley properties.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Remember when Mayor Tutunjian told us of the dangers of working in City Hall? How someone may get seriously injured?

Recently, the firm of Ryan-Biggs determined that Troy City Hall was structurally sound.*

The Democratic majority of the City Council announced Wednesday that an independent study had determined that City Hall was structurally sound, confirming the findings of City Engineer Russ Reeves, who had first noted the fact in a February structural evaluation of the building.

But is it?

From: Kelly Moscatiello [mailto:]
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 6:31 PM
To: Citycouncil.
Cc: Harry.Tutunjian; Dan.Crawley
Subject: City Hall

Dear City Council,

I am requesting that immediate action be taken in regards to the deterioration of City Hall. I am not only requesting this as a Civil Service employee of the City of Troy, but as a taxpayer in this City. I think it is time that some action is taken in regards to moving the employees out of City Hall as soon as possible OR making the appropriate repairs in order to assure myself and my co workers a safe work place. I am also requsting the names, email addresses, phone numbers or physical addresses of the members of the panel that has been asked to study the current City Hall issues. I would appreciate a timely response from the Council President or his liason as soon as possible. Time is not on our side right now. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation

This e-mail is interesting for any number of reasons:

1) Is Ms. Moscatiello** acknowledging that the City Council is really in charge? Why else would a safety concern be addressed to the City Council rather than the Mayor? If City Hall poses a safety risk to anyone, the Mayor should move employees to someplace safe. Where? Not really our problem. We're not the Mayor of a city with a 'strong' mayoral form of government.

2) Ms. Moscatiello lost her job when the Democrats took control of the City Council. She was then offered and accepted a job with the Administration. This raises the question of why Ms. Moscatiello took such a dangerous job. Or, was this e-mail politically motivated?

3) What does Ms. Moscatiello know that Ryan-Biggs and Russ Reeves don't know? Has she notified the PESH (the state version of OSHA)?

If the Mayor believes that City Hall poses a risk to employees, it's incumbent upon him to move city hall employees to a safe location. Not to do so borders on the criminal. Where he moves them and how is not our concern. That is the burden of leadership.

*Although structurally sound, Ryan-Biggs also found that City Hall was not emotionally stable and months of therapy may be necessary.

** No personal attacks on Ms. Moscatiello. Her e-mail raised a variety of questions but no personal attacks will be published.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008




Democratic congressional candidate Phil Steck has added a video component to his website,, called “Real People for Steck.” The testimonials are offered by real people who know Phil from his work as a civil rights and labor attorney, as a County Legislator , or as Democratic Chairman in the Town of Colonie .

“I am not surrounded by an army of lobbyists, and my campaign is rooted in the community,” said Steck. “I am running for Congress with the support of people at the grassroots level, and I have a 20 year commitment to community-based politics. The strides we have made in the Town of Colonie are one clear example of the work I have been doing. We ended 112 years of one party rule against all odds and Town Hall is now an open house.”


Within only three weeks of announcing his campaign to Renew America ’s Promise, Darius Shahinfar raised impressive fundraising numbers for his congressional campaign. He enters the second fundraising quarter with $82,000 cash-on-hand. In the last week of March alone, over $25,000 came in from grassroots supporters.

“Even though we just began our campaign, I am excited that we’ve hit the ground running and I’m gratified for the grassroots support we are receiving,” said Shahinfar. “I’m running to bring much-needed change to Washington and to make life better for my neighbors here in the Capital Region. I will work hard to Renew America ’s Promise - to our children and seniors, to our taxpayers and working families, to our soldiers serving abroad and veterans here at home. I’ll fight to bring our troops home from Iraq and to create 21st century jobs here in the 21st Congressional District.”


Bobbleheads are in the news.

They even got a quote from Three Job Bob:

"I'll have his bobblehead on my trophy case for the rest of my life," Mirch said.

It will no doubt sit between the dried-up husk of the First Amendment and the Tutunjian knee-pads.

Does anyone think that Tutunjian looks like Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy? Or Jennings like former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder?


Found via the North Greenbush Pipeline: A new blog that looks like it comes from a real insider. We wish the posts were a bit longer.

Monday, April 21, 2008


In what city does the mayor have time to pursue a moot lawsuit?

If you said any city other than Troy, New York you'd be wrong and probably a newcomer to these here parts.

Here's the facts, in a nutshell (an appropriate receptacle):

1. Mayor and lame-duck City Council handout raises to political cronies like candy, post-election;
2. New Council revokes those raises;

3. Mayor vetoes ordinance revoking raises;

4. Council overrides vetoes;

5. Mayor sues Council and also seeks a temporary restraining order to ensure raises are not cut while litigation pending;

6. Council passes ordinance rescinding the pay raise revocation.

7. Lastly, we now have unconfirmed reports that the Mayor has, or will be, vetoing the ordinance that restored the pay hikes.

At one point in this saga, Councilman Wojcik offered an ordinance that would restore the raises in order to avoid the Mayor's Article 78 proceeding.

The Democrats did just that. The Mayor won't let go.

Tutunjian's attorney John Bailey argued that the case is about the mayor's budgetary powers under the charter and that the council attempted to usurp them by cutting the salaries.

What does all this mean?

The Mayor's lawsuit was about the pay raises. He wanted to hand them out, the new Council wanted to take them back. The Mayor sued, saying that under the Charter, only the mayor has the authority to set salaries. The salaries he set are now back in place. The vote restoring the salaries was 8-0 (Bauer abstained).

Like a petulent child, it looks as if Tutunjian wants Judge Egan to scold the Democrats in a written decision that details the Mayor's budgetary powers.

The problem is, Tutunjian has no claim that the Democrats usurped the Mayor's authority because Tutunjian's cronies have gotten their money. According to staff legal, "There is no longer a controversy and courts decide cases and controversies. Courts are not there to waste time issuing advisory opinions."

State Supreme Court Justice John Egan said this morning that he'll wait until May 2 to see if the mayor approves the ordinance or vetoes it. If there's a veto, Egan will see if the City Council would then over ride it.

It looks like the Judge agrees. If the Council overrides the veto, there is no case to decide. If the Council respects the veto, there is still a case to decide.

It must be pointed out that the ordinance that the Mayor may veto was reviewed by and had input from Corporation Council's Office.

A few Questions:

1. Why is the Mayor punishing his appointees by vetoing the ordinance that restores the pay raises?

2. Should the Council override the veto?

This could be an attempt to make this nonsense appear to be about something other than money for cronies. They've now officially overreached. They look greedy and silly and willing to waste the valuable time of a Supreme Court judge. It's all just more proof that the Mayor cannot compromise.

There's a lesson here for the Democrats. When Tutunjian speaks of compromise, working together or bipartisanship he really means capitulation.

Thursday, April 17, 2008



Department of Public Works Commissioner, Rensselaer County Legislator, Bruno Senate liaison and shameless recipient of two, post-election raises, Bob Mirch, issued a challenge to the Troy City Council: Pay for recent legal services using their own funds to prove they had the best interests of the taxpayers in mind.

This, after Mayor Tutunjian said that he would pay for John Bailey's legal services using campaign funds.

We are not sure that is even legal, given the laws on campaign expenditures. We'll let any lawyers weigh-in if they no the answer.

Mirch's challenge is one more reason why he's a first ballot Hall of Shame candidate. It's quite brave of Mr. Mirch to put Harry's money where his (Mirch's) mouth is.

That said, we believe the Democrats should give serious consideration to this idea. Only if:

1) Mr. Mirch will use his City and County pay hikes to pay for Mr. Bailey's legal services. That is, if he has the best interests of the taxpayers in mind:

2) Mr. Mirch should pledge to reimburse the City for any and all legal bills incurred if the City is sued for illegally using Code Enforcement for political retaliation and for any First Amendment violations.

Will Mr. Mirch agree?

In fact, now that they've proved their point, why not voluntarily rescind the pay raises? You know, for the good of the tax payers?


Last night, the Troy City Council approved legislation that would restore pay raises for the City's highest-paid public servants.

We've finally been able to devote some time to this issue.

The Democrats should have fought this battle. For people interested more in inside politics, the Council majority looks clumsy, indecisive and has rightly opened themselves to partisan ridicule.

For all that, there's been a stunning lack of support shown for this Administration on this very issue by the residents. The only columns that have appeared in the papers were signed by the Mayor and two people with financial interests: Mr. Mirch and Mr. Crawley. The Republicans are winning the battle and losing the public opinion war. To the non-insider, this is bad press for the GOP. Cheering because your paycheck is now larger, at taxpayer expense, is a poor narrative.

Tutunjian's new found reverence for the sanctity of the City Charter amuses many and drips with their trademark hypocrisy. The catalogue of this Administration's ignorance or direct violation of the City Charter and City Code is thicker than a phone book and lectures by this Administration on law and ethics is akin to marriage advice from Eliot Spitzer.

Stop worrying about what the Republicans will say and do. We know they will say and do anything no matter what transpires. The pay raises for Mirch, Crawley, Mitchell, the top salaried 'public servants,' were done after the election. It was a cowardly, cynical scheme that deserves condemnation. Any attempt to revoke those raises should be applauded even if that attempt ultimately fails.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


With the addition of John Aretakis, the race for the congressional seat of retiring Congressman Mike McNulty now boats no fewer than 43 candidates.

What are they up to:*

Phil Steck:

Phil Steck, Democratic candidate in the race to succeed retiring Congressman Mike McNulty (NY-21) announced today that he will be reporting to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) at the April 15 deadline that he has contributions exceeding $200,000 for the 1st Quarter. Steck said that he actively started fundraising just 60 days ago and his efforts have resulted in 355 donors, 85% of whom are from the 21st congressional district.

Steck has also recently reported that he has been endorsed by over 40 local elected officials and party leaders, representing serious grassroots strength. “I am very pleased with the results of our efforts over the past 2 months,” said Steck. “I am not surrounded by an army of lobbyists and my campaign, both our field organization and our fundraising, has tremendous support right here in the Capital Region community. These local donors and 40 local officials who have endorsed my candidacy are a testament to that.”

Steck is also talking about healthcare:

Democratic congressional candidate Phil Steck said that a new survey of doctors shows that the country is moving closer to a national single-payer health program. An Annals of Internal Medicine study released yesterday, conducted by two doctors at Indiana University , says that 59% of doctors support a single-payer universal health program. Last month, Steck joined with local members of Physicians for a National Health Program to express his support for single-payer health care.

“Over the past few months, I have talked to a large number of doctors and hospital administrators in the Capital Region and they have consistently expressed their support for a single-payer health care system,” said Steck. “We already have a system similar to single- payer that works very well called Medicare. In the single-payer system, doctors and patients make choices, not insurance and drug companies.”

Single-payer health care, also called “Medicare for All,” is a system where a public or quasi-public entity manages health financing. The estimated annual savings from eliminating administrative waste caused by private insurers is $350 billion per year. This money is now spent on insurance executive compensation and bonuses, overhead, underwriting, billing, and sales and marketing departments.

Tracey Brooks:

Congressional Candidate Tracey Brooks met with local residents
and small business owners to discuss the impact of rising food and gas
prices on household budgets across the Capital Region.

"We need to ease the squeeze on our local middle-class," said Brooks,
a Democratic candidate in the 21st Congressional District. "From
working families trying to make ends meet, to seniors living on fixed
incomes, to individuals just trying to make it on their own, we can't
afford to wait any longer as seven years of Bush Administration
policies have left us with out-of-control prices for gas and basic
commodities that make it more difficult for most Americans to keep up,
let alone get ahead."

Brooks is also no slouch when it comes to raising cash.

Tracey Brooks, one of several Democrats vying to succeed U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, said today that she’s raised $175,000 in campaign contributions.


The Sanctuary for Independent Media, closed since March 11 by order of the City of Troy, will re-open on Saturday, April 26, 2008. The celebration features the inauguration of a major traveling art exhibit, "An Atlas of Radical Cartography," at 6 PM, followed at 8 PM by the Capital Region premiere of noted New York City-based jazz vocalist Fay Victor and her ensemble. Admission to the art opening is free of charge, admission to the all-ages music show is $10. For directions and more information, visit, email, or call (518) 272-2390.

The Tutunjian Administration may despise the First Amendment, they may attack the First Amendment, but they can't kill free speech.

*All candidates are free to send us campaign information and news.

Monday, April 14, 2008


What the hell? We take a break and look what happens.

The Democratic City Council will withdraw their veto override of an ordinance that revoked a pay raise ordinance. This early withdrawal leaves us feeling....unsatisfied. Also, the Gods appear to be angry as well.

The City Council move will save the taxpayers money. The Tutunjian pay raises have cost the City more than $40,000, plus the bill for John Bailey's legal services. Best of all, and the real reason for the withdrawal, the Democrats won't lose in court. We'd prefer they go down swinging but....

The Administration insists this in not about the money. It's about the integrity of the City Charter. If that's true, it would be the first time they cared about the integrity of the City Charter. And, since they have won, they can now voluntarily return their raises at a time when rising food and gas prices are hurting many residents. That is, if it's all about integrity.

Why is it that when the GOP wins the taxpayers lose?

Next, we hear that the Mayor will sue Code Enforcement? You know, to ensure the integrity of the Constitution?

Let the Mirch sycophants gloat. They deserve it. It's their first victory in a long time. Despite the win, they have already lost in the court of public opinion. Council members Wojcik, McGrath and Bauer fought harder for Mitchell and Crawley then they have for anything else these past few months.

As bad as this makes the Democrats look, and it makes them look bad, Tutunjian looks worse. Fighting tooth and nail for the good of Troy is one thing. Going to the matresses for the salaries of your top cronies is quite another.

UPDATE: We just read Jim Franco's Talespin (not yet available on-line. He sums up our feelings quite nicely.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Round two in the pay hike wars goes to the Republicans. On Monday, Judge Egan granted a Temporary Restraining Order that keeps the pay hikes in place for some of Troy's highest paid public servants.

A temporary restraining order is only supposed to be granted when the petitioner can show irreparable harm. Clearly, that is not the case here. Any harm is easily reparable. Egan is probably wrong on the law. Yet, in practical terms, it was probably the right decision. If Tutunjian loses, those employees will have their wages garnished until the taxpayers get their money back. If Tutunjian wins, no adjustment is necessary.

As the official charged with enforcing the law, Tutunjian is actually seeking to restrain himself from enforcing the law, something he typically does on his own. If he keeps it up, he may go blind.

Good times in Troy continue.

The Record had a semi-reasonable editorial on Saturday.

The council and the mayor are stuck with each other for nearly another 21 months, when a new, duly elected City Council takes office. They don’t need to like it, or like each other, but for the good of the city they should learn to work together.

Nice sentiments, in the abstract. With all due respect, The Record should cut the crap, analyze the situation and inform the public about what is really going on. That is their duty to the public. If that means taking off the editorial gloves, then do it.

We understand that The Record has to appear unbiased in this matter, scolding both sides in this war of attrition. The only reasonable interpretation of events is that the impasse is primarily the fault of the Mayor and his under bosses.

The Council has shown great restraint these past few months. The fact is, Tutunjian has said that the Council cannot amend the budget, except during the budget process. That issue has been raised in connection with certain pay raises. The Council says that they can amend the budget at any time. Under the Council's theory, they could slash Mr. Crawley's budget or Mr. Mirch's budget or Mr. Mitchell's budget by 5%...10%....50% They could amend the budget and triple the Council's own budget. That hasn't happened.

Conversely, while the Mayor (occasionally) pleads to put politics aside, his actions prove otherwise. The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Mr. Mirch have consistently bombarded The Record with letters that contain personal attacks and demonstrate, at best, a stunning flexibility with the truth.

- The Deputy Mayor has refused to pay overtime to his staff videotape council meeting. This began in January, when the new Council was sworn in.

- The Administration is not posting Council agenda or meeting minutes on the City's website. That practice stopped in....January.

- The Deputy Mayor informed the Council that no member of his staff would be allowed to attend a committee meeting without a written request and his permission. This, despite the fact that some of his staff are actual members of those same committees. Again, this practice began in January '08.

-Corporation Counsel, David Mitchell, the person whom the Council is supposed to rely upon for legal advice, has used his City e-mail to personally attack elected officials and even referred a matter to the then District Attorney Patricia DeAngelis. That matter went nowhere.

Shall we go on?

We're not talking about policy differences. We're talking about continuous, systematic, infantile games that belie the Mayor's call to put politics aside.

The Record editorial staff is smart enough to know that the Mayor and his unelected staff have to respect, if not the actual council members, then at least the legislative branch. When the Council was in GOP hands, there was talk of Tutunjian's leadership. A one-man show, with a rubber stamp Council does not demonstrate leadership. Now is the time to demonstrate real leadership. Both sides could give a little and take a little, accomplishing portions of their agendas and make each other look good. There would be disagreements along the way, situations where no compromise can be reached. That's not necessarily a negative.

The problem is that the Mayor has never had to work with a City Council. The Mayor has never had to demonstrate leadership. In fact, it has become increasingly clear that this Administration resents the very idea of a legislative branch of government.

Does the Council play politics? Absolutely. The fact remains that most of the items the Mayor requests go onto the Council agenda. Those items are passed and usually pass unanimously. It is a small percentage that actually cause heated debate.

Play all the games you want. This is politics in the City of Troy, after all. Talespin, this blog and others would be shut down if Tutunjian demonstrated a willingness to compromise. The circus has always been popular entertainment.

Tutunjian would earn the respect of many, us included, if he dropped this suit. And believe it or not, the Council would have our respect if they revisited cost of living increases for these employees at budget time and granted those increases.

But, while The Record must appear unbiased, they should lay the blame for most of these battles where that blame belongs: squarely on the shoulders of the Mayor.

Now, unless something big happens, we'll probably take a few days off to enjoy the weather.

Monday, April 07, 2008


While clearling rubble from the basement of City Hall, workers discovered the city's Ethics Board.

Once thought to be a myth, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, the Ethics Board was dusted-off and escorted back into the daylight. All four members were immediately air-lifted to a medical facility for examination.

Current ethics board members include Gerald Degnan, Francis Kramer, Agnes Zink and Rev. Eric Shaw, all of whom were appointed by Mayor Harry Tutunjian in either 2007 or 2008 and will serve until December 2010.

So, who is the fifth member of the Ethics Board?

§ 43-14. Ethics Board established.

The Board of Ethics for the City of Troy which shall consist of five members is hereby established.
§ 43-15. Qualifications of members of Ethics Board.

A. No Ethics Board member shall hold office in a political party or be employed or act as a lobbyist or hold elective office in the City.

B. No more than one member of an Ethics Board may be an appointed officer or employee of the City. Of the total membership of the Ethics Board, no more than the majority minus one shall be registered in the same political party.

C. Ethics Board members must be residents of the City of Troy throughout their tenure as Board members, provided however that a member appointed because he or she is an officer or employee of the City shall not be subject to this requirement.

Section C is a favorite of ours. So, who will check on the political affiliation of the Board? Who is the fifth member? Please, let it be Mirch.

Do these people have to be confirmed by the City Council?

As usual, when it comes to ethics, Tutunjian is playing catch-up. This move has to be in response to the Council's Whistle Blower legislation. Under the proposed legislation, a city employees will be protected from Administration retaliation when the employee registers a complaint about unethical behavior.

State grant money will be used to purchase the whistles.

Friday, April 04, 2008


As many of you may have guessed, the proposal to settle Rensselaer's water debt shown in Tuesday's post was a deal that the Council would have approved in 2007. We set forth the entire deal in the thumbnails below (once you click on the thumbnail you may have to maximize the Window screen).

We haven't seen Councilman Brown's written proposal. According to news sources, the Brown deal would require a $1.1 million up-front payment, more than double that suggested by the Republican-controlled City Council.

The proposal acknowledges that the city of Rensselaer owes the city of Troy the principal amount of $2.15 million, accounting for unpaid water bills. After a settlement agreement has been made, Rensselaer will make a total payment of $1.1 million. - February 20, The Record

The quote also notes the principal amount owed is $2.15. Adding interest to that for any number of years will drive the total amount up owed closer to the $2.6 - $3 million mark.

The proposed agreement also indicates the Rensselaer will establish a dedicated water account and any excess water revenue that accrues in the water account, after operating expenses have been paid, will go to Troy to reduce the balance of the unpaid water bill.

More importantly, the proposal states that Rensselaer will keep current on the water payments that are due to Troy, plus it will make annual payments concerning past due water bill in the amount of $125,000 beginning March 15, 2009. - February 20, The Record

Both proposals have the same, basic structure: Upfront cash, structured payments, a mechanism ensuring current payments and forgiveness of some interest and penalties. Both proposals settle the debt. Details may differ.

Despite the Administration's recent attacks on Councilman Brown for "selling Troy down the river," it looks like the GOP was willing to do the same. The attacks on Brown, which we'll explore next week, are not about the deal. The attacks are about control. The Administration has failed to adjust to the change on the Council. Perhaps they are incapable of adjusting. How many rookie phenomenons have we seen, hitting .345 for the first half of a season? Then, the opposition adjusts and the rookie is back in the minors the following season. That's what is happening here. Until the Administration adjusts, they will be in the minors, watching the Council set the agenda.

Point is, lets get this done. At the very least, the two sides are (or were) talking. That's a long, overdue step. It will be budget time again and Troy will need the revenue.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


A quick break from the Rensselaer Water debate.

An interesting proposal was raised at Tuesday night's Law Committee meeting by Councilman Wojcik (1st District). The proposal was this: If the City Council would rescind the ordinance that overrode Tutunjian's veto of the pay raises, the mayor would drop his lawsuit against the City Council.

No....we haven't been drinking. It's quite an offer.

First, if the City Council did rescind the override, there would be no basis for a lawsuit. So, it goes something like this: Do what we want and we won't do what we can no longer do because you did what we wanted you to do.

Second, what exactly is the deal? It goes something like this: We have an offer. You do what we want.

Why Wojcik, a Defendant in the lawsuit, wants to capitulate is not known. Wojcik also suggested that the GOP minority members of the Council should have their own legal counsel. Why this would be necessary is also not known. A councilman can support the pay hikes (Wojcik, McGrath, Bauer) and still respect the institutional prerogatives of the legislative branch of government.

That said, we think the GOP minority should have their own legal counsel. As long as the Tutunjian Administration and their allies are acting like a drunken governor at the Emperors Club, why not:

-Pay hikes = taxpayer $
-Lawsuit to protect pay hikes = taxpayer $$
-City to hire counsel because Corporation Counsel has conflict=taxpayer $$$
-Defendant Council to hire counsel because Corporation Counsel has conflict=taxpayer $$$$
-GOP Council members want representation=taxpayer $$$$$

May as well toss another stack of dead presidents on the burning wreckage that has become the Tutunjian Administration.

In other news:

Finally, that bank's regional headquarters is moving to town. No, not our town. To Albany. Still no word on the status of the 'you know what, you know where.'

Hoard all the bottled-water you can find. Isn't this one of the Biblical signs of Armageddon?

He said in a news release that he has been an advocate for the marginalized, and has participated in 15 New York City marathons, examples of his mental and physical strengths.

Mini-Dorm Veto

Mayor Harry Tutunjian has vetoed a year-long moratorium that would stop residential buildings from being cut up to create additional bedrooms.

The Thursday action was the second time Tutunjian, a Republican, has vetoed the legislation pushed forward by the City Council's Democratic majority as one of its initial legislative objectives.

Tutunjian said the legislation would harm homeowners who might need an additional bedroom for family members. He said the City Council should address the issue of buildings being subdivided into mini-dorms for students by rewriting the city zoning code to permanently outlaw them.

Councilman Ken Zalewski, the Democratic chairman of the City Council's Planning Committee, said he anticipates the council will override Tutunjian's veto when it meets on April 3.

Is there an additional bedroom epidemic in the city? With the population dropping, why so many new bedrooms?

This is the legislation that Tutunjian originally vetoed for being too vague, a subject of some familiarity to the Mayor. Councilman Zalewski then sat down with members of the Administration and the legislation was revised to specifically address the Mayor's concerns. Then, another veto.

We can only surmise that he enjoys appearing impotent. Or he like mini-dorms. We know we like saying mini-dorm. Try it. It's fun.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Water, water everywhere....

Everyone agrees that the city of Rensselaer owes Troy money for water. The initial question is: How much?

The Administration says $3,500,000. Rensselaer says anywhere from $2.2-2.6 million. In January, Republican Councilman, Mark Wojcik stated he did not believe the total amount owed was more than $3,000,000:

Wojcik Monday said he didn’t believe that Rensselaer’s total balance due was in excess of $3 million. He likewise admitted that he had not been made aware that a water contract between the cities had expired, which is something Dwyer claims.

The easiest part should be determining what is actually owed for the H20. From that, we can calculate interest. There's also the issue of penalties. Some of what Troy claims is from penalties. This is further complicated by the fact that penalties only derive from written contracts. While written contracts cover a portion of the time period involved, there is currently no written contract. Certainly, no one has produced an executed contract.

So, what can we do?

Lawsuit: A lawsuit has been filed, or so we're told. It seems like slow going. That suit was filed at least 9 months ago but no depositions have been conducted. Lawsuits are expensive. They take time. If they do not settle, there's a trial. After a verdict, the losing side will appeal.

There's little doubt that Troy would prevail in a suit. The question will be what Troy can prove. It could be that Troy prevails but the amount owed is more in line with Rensselaer's calculations that Troy's calculations. That's always a gamble.

More significant is Rensselaer's ability to pay. There seems to be an assumption that the City of Rensselaer will pay the full amount of any award in one, lump sum. That is, scribble out a check for $3,500,000. If Rensselaer's budget is, as mentioned, $8,000,000, Rensselaer will not be able to pay a judgment nearly one half of it's annual budget. That's simple fact. You may not like that fact but it's no less a fact because of your displeasure.

Settlement: The other option is settling the claim. This is an attractive option because the details of the settlement agreement are limited only by the imagination of the parties.

For instance, here's one possible agreement.

This is what an agreement may look like. Troy does not get every penny on the dollar. Rensselaer does not skate away. What is wrong with such an approach? Obviously, some penalties and interest are waived in this proposal. Does this agreement "sell Troy down the river?"

The most important thing for Troy in any agreement is to create a mechanism by which Rensselaer will remain current in it's obligation to Troy. With that in place, Troy can continue to profit from one of it's best and most valuable resources, water. What we don't want to do is bankrupt a customer.

The remaining issues about what is owed from 2000 or 2002 or 2004 can be dealt with in any number of ways, including the proposal set forth above.

What gets us nowhere is a lot of chest-thumping, macho bullshit about collecting every last penny one lump sum. Unless Rensselaer has some off-shore accounts in the Caymans, that's simply not realistic. It may not be fair but it's not realistic.

Lastly, but more importantly, is water as an issue and a future revenue source. Many communities throughout the region are either in desperate need of a water source or will be in the future. If this issue can be handled in a calm, mature manner, it would go a long way to lining up future customers. If it's handled with chest-thumping and meaningless threats, would-be customers may think twice about seeking water from Troy.

The only changes we might make to the above agreement is demanding a few of the children of Rensselaer's elite as hostages. Just a few. To keep Rensselaer in line.

Note: A few days ago we mentioned a candidate's blog for the 109 Assembly District but forgot the link. The candidate is Republican Eryn Foster.