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

Monday, March 31, 2008


But you can't make him think.

The ongoing, epic struggle, to collect a water debt from the City of Rensselaer (the Wateriad?) continues. Sing, goddess, the thirst of Rensselaer!

The City of Rensselaer owes the City of Troy money. How much money is in dispute. Estimates range from $2.6 million to $3.5 million. The fluctuation in debt amount may be due to including interest. Or maybe it's a faulty calculator.

The debt appears to have begun to accumulate 6 years ago (maybe longer), when Rensselaer began a vigorous exercise program that left it dehydrated. Both sides agree that money is owed. It is a substantial debt, whether $2.6 million or $3.5 million.

How did things get so out of hand? Perhaps it was when Virgil Sollozzo arrived in town. Or maybe it was the murder of Sonny. We're not sure. What we do know is that the situation was simply ignored by the previous administration. That was all going to change under Tutunjian.

In his first State of the City address, Tutunjian promised:

But as we search for new revenues an emphasis is also being placed on those who owe us money. They will not be given a free pass, we will not look the other way, and we will be vigilant in collecting outstanding debt. In short, there are no more deals!

In the next few weeks we will finalize a settlement concerning property assessment for the Tomhannock Reservoir. This battle has been waging for years and will bring us a financial gain of more than $1.5 million, and a savings of hundreds of thousands dollars in future years.

We are currently in negotiations with the City of Rensselaer for the services of our water.

The City gladly extends the invitation to continue our relationship, but will do so
remembering that Rensselaer happens to owe us more than one million dollars in past water bills. For the past five years they have not been made to pay that bill. Now, it is money we expect to collect. It is money I know we will collect. - Tutunjian, February 5th, 2004

As we all know, Tutunjian's speeches are probably the most imaginative fiction being written these days. Full of sound and fury, the speech signified nothing. No action was taken to collect the debt. That is not surprising. Other promises in the 2004 speech remain unfulfilled: creating a task force to sell water to surrounding communities as well as having a part-time corporation counsel.

That part-time corporation counsel, by the way, was John Hicks. Hicks, in addition to being the City of Troy's attorney, moonlighted as the City of Rensselaer's Corporation Counsel under Republican Mayor Pratt. No move was made to collect the debt under Rensselaer's GOP leadership.

In fact, the debt received little serious attention until.....we moved into the 2007 election season, with the Tutunjian campaign staying true to it's theme: vultus bonus , operor nusquam.

According the Troy Comptroller, Deborah Witkowski, the failure to obtain the outstanding debt could have severe fiscal implications:

“If this continues there could be a severe cash flow issue in our water fund, after our materials, supplies and salaries,” said city Comptroller Deborah Witkowski. “On paper it won’t be a short fall but if it becomes a cash flow problem I’ll have to come to the council to borrow money.” - The Record, February 20, 2008

Why has Rensselaer been delinquent in it's aquatic obligations? We're not sure. This report, from the New York State Comptroller (through 2004), paints an ugly picture of Rensselaer's finances. We doubt much has changed. If things have changed, or are changing, it may take some time to clean up the mess.

Troy has two realistic options:

1) Proceed with a lawsuit;
2) Settle the debt.

We'll take a look at both options this week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008



Round One in Tutunjian & Co.'s lawsuit goes to the Democrats.

In response to a request by attorney Richard Hanft, Republican Judge Henry Zwack has recused himself from Tutunjian V Troy City Council and the companion case, Raise Happy People V Troy City Council.

According to sources, the basis for the recusal was a conversation between Judge Zwack and a Council member on the pay-hike revocation. That conversation occurred before the lawsuit was filed.

We're joking about Round One going to the Democrats. Far be it from us to presume that a judge would decide a case based solely on political affiliation. However, it's not a stretch to believe Tutunjian & Co. were not entirely displeased at the assignment of Judge Zwack.

The new judge will be Thomas Egan, a Democrat, if that kind of thing is important to you.

Judge Zwack deserves credit for doing the right thing. Needless to say, that doesn't always happen in Rensselaer County.



A Civil Rights attorney has sent a FOIL request to the City of Troy. Let us know how that works out for you, Mr. Henner. As we all know, the Freedom of Information Law get as much respect in Troy as the First Amendment. Here's the specifics of what they're looking for:

1. All records in the possession of the City of Troy, or any of its bureaus or departments, including but not limited to, the Department of Public Works, Office of Code Enforcement, Engineer's Office, and Fire Department, that relate or pertain to the building located at 3361 6th Ave, which is the home of the Sanctuary for Independent Media, including records that may have been generated by the City, received by the City, or are otherwise in the possession of the City, since January 1, 2005. This request includes copies of all correspondence, including e-mails, inspection reports, notices of violation, and complaints, by either private citizens or public officials.

2. To the extent that these documents are not included in ¶1 above, all records pertaining to complaints about activities and/or code violations at the Sanctuary for Independent Media that have been received by the City, specifically including but not limited to any complaints that were received between March 7, and March 10, 2008 regarding the Sanctuary's code violations, and/or regarding the Sanctuary's intended program "The Night of Bush Capturing."

3. All records of communications, including e-mails, written correspondence, memoranda, notes, leaflets, that were prepared by, sent at the request of, or are simply in the possession of the City of Troy, pertaining to a demonstration that was conducted at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in the afternoon and evening of March 10, 2008. This request specifically includes, but is not limited to, any communications sent by Mr. Robert Mirch, Commissioner of Public Works for the City of Troy, encouraging, directing, or advising employees of the City of Troy of the demonstration, and in any way suggesting that they attend said demonstration. For the purposes of this request, I note that documents within Mr. Mirch's personal possession which relate to his role as Commissioner of Public Works are in the constructive possession of the City of Troy, and even if these documents are in the physical custody of Mr. Mirch rather than the City, the City has an obligation to obtain these documents from Mr. Mirch to respond to this FOIL request.

4. Copies of any and all complaints received by the City of Troy, pertaining to code violations at any building within the City of Troy since January 1, 2006.

5. Any notice, sent by the City of Troy, or any of its bureaus or agencies, including but not limited to, the Department of Public Works, the Office of Code Enforcement, City Engineer's Office, Fire Department, which required the cessation of activities at the building in question, or which required that the building be closed to public use or occupancy, that have been prepared since January 1, 2006.

6. Any documents which show lists of alleged code violators within the City of Troy that may been prepared since January 1, 2006. This request specifically seeks copies of any summary reports, wherever prepared on a weekly, monthly or other periodic basis, showing lists of structures, facilities or buildings that are not in compliance with state or local building codes.

Thank God for "Anonymous tips."


And, as the City's Code Department protected us from the death-trap that was the Sanctuary for Independent Media, a Troy building actually endangered the public. Maybe the City can hire those "media viewers" that spotted the Sanctuary violation and put them to work.



Schenectady County Legislator Jim Buhrmaster has announced he's seeking to replace Mike McNulty in the 21st Congressional District.

And a guy named Eryn Foster sets his sights on the Assembly (109th District). Foster has a blog. Unlike many politicians that blog, he lets people comment. We like that. Stop by, say hello and tell him Democratus sent you.


Next week we'll take a comprehensive look at Rensselaer's water woes.

Also, we'll try and get our hands on Harry's Article 78 to see just what they're arguing. Unfortunately, legal arguments over the City Charter are not real page turners. Finally, will Judge Zwack be asked to recuse himself from the matter?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Harry and the gang appear increasingly desperate to recapture the political narrative. To accomplish this the Mayor has:

1) Closed the SEFCU deal?

2) Agreed to crack down on negligent landlords?

3) Proposed an investigation into First Amendment violations by Code Enforcement?

4) Obtained a $3.3 million dollar settlement from the City of Rensselaer?

5) Written letters?

If you said're a winner. In order to gain some traction the Mayor spent Friday, March 14, sequestered in his office with Rich Crist. Were they working on anything substantive? Anything that might benefit the City? Any new ideas or proposals? No, they were.....writing letters to The Record. The Administration's newest offensive has been nothing short of flaccid and frankly, has left us unsatisfied.

Yesterday afternoon the Administration's political impotence continued:

Sorry for the small print. Here's a close-up:

This is the first step in the attempt to de-revoke the revoked pay raises for Deputy Mayor Crawley, DPW Commissioner/County Legislator/Bruno Liaison Bob Mirch, Corporation Counsel David B. Mitchell etc.

Specifically, the Mayor seeks a Temporary Restraining Order that would prevent Ordinances #5 and #6 from coming within 100 feet of City Hall, the Mayor or Dave Mitchell's paycheck.
If granted, the Ordinances would also have to attend Salary Readjustment Sensitivity Training.

With a looming recession* you would think the Mayor may have more important things to do. Or not.

Since you can't please all of the people all of the time, it looks like the Administration's new policy is to please eight people all of the time. Eight down, 47,529** to go.

Chet Hardin at Metroland had the story first. Here's The Record's take.

It's a great show. And admission is free.

*Loom sales have plummeted in recent months
** Population adjusted for inflation

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Controversial Troy Police Officer Joseph Centanni appears headed back to the Detective Bureau. Centanni was the central figure in an investigation that saw murder suspect Jason Jones acquitted:

Centanni’s agreement to leave the bureau came following the investigation into whether Jones, who was accused of the 2006 stabbing murder of his elderly neighbor Donald Dougrey, was denied access to an attorney when he confessed to Centanni. Jones’ confession was initially permitted into evidence, but shortly before the trial was to start O’Neil came forward and claimed she heard Jones demand a lawyer during questioning and that Bouchard heard the demand but did nothing.

The confession was then ruled inadmissible and prosecutors made a deal with a drug-using prostitute who was also charged with murder for her involvement. Charges were dropped against her in exchange for her testimony, but Jones was acquitted at trial.

Last year it looked like Centanni would be allowed to remain on the force if he left the Detective Bureau. At least, that was the general understanding. An understanding reflected in the media reports.*

There appears to be an agreement between Centanni and the City. Aside from Centanni's attorney, they are the only parties privy to the agreement. Spokesperson Jeff Buell categorized this as a "personnel matter" and thus confidential. However, merely labeling something as a "personnel matter" doesn't necessarily make it so.

The agreement should be made public, at least to the extent that we can all see what the understanding was regarding Centanni's ability to return to the Detective Bureau. There's no reason why that is confidential. At the very least, the it is incumbent on the Administration to tell us that the agreement has not been violated.

Approximately one year ago, Mayor Tutunjian, flanked by Corporation Counsel David B. Mitchell, faced the cameras and called for the heads of three police officers: Centanni, Bouchard and O'Neil. Harry's 'Constanza touch' (do the opposite) ultimately resulted in two officers retiring with full benefits and Centanni's return to the force. The City folded and the residents of Troy never learned why.

The City's refusal to discuss this matter has lead to much speculation. The most popular theory is that the City bought the officers due to conflict issues and threatened lawsuits.

As for Centanni? We don't know Mr. Centanni. We understand he is a controversial officer. We don't know what occurred during the Dougrey murder investigation or the resulting clusterf@#$k.** His return to the Detective Bureau does presents some questions: The foremost being, to what extent can last years difficulties be used to impeach Centanni's credibility? Perhaps an attorney could share their thoughts on that issue. Monday's Record Editorial raised some pertinent issues in this regard.

Feel free to share your thoughts and views. However, understand that we don't want a hatchet job done on anyone involved. We're not interested in who drinks, who cheats, who fellated who (or is it whom?), who is a lying, unethical short don't defame anyone. There's a way to address these issues in a calm and measured tone.

There's some good stuff to get to this week and we hope to do so:

The Water Deal - Brown moves the ball forward and Harry writes a letter;

The Sanctuary for Independent Media Foils the City and they don't even buy them dinner first;

And much, much more.

* Note to young reporters: If the Administration tells you it's 10:00PM, check your watch.

** Not an actual e-mail address

Monday, March 24, 2008


Hope you had a nice holiday. We're taking one more day so talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, March 21, 2008


A positive consequence of any First Amendment controversy is the debate generated by that controversy. The Bilal exhibit has been no exception. Citizens have been treated to a tour de force from some of our most prominent political thinkers.

Years ago, in Jacobellis v Ohio, Justice Potter Stewart struggled with the definition of pornography. After viewing the record (in private, over and over again) Stewart wrote, "hardcore pornography is hard to define but I know it when I see it." Stewart later refined his definition: "That which makes me tingle where my bathing suit covers."

If a Supreme Court Justice of the United States can struggle with the definition of pornography then clearly, local political leaders should be able to have a reasonable discussion on art, terrorism, protesting and free speech.

Is Bilal's work art? If so, under what category does it belong. Is it visual art? Performance art? Crappy art? Under many definitions, Bilal's work is art.

Should art provoke protests? Can art be defined as terrorism? On occasion, yes. The collected works of Thomas Kincaid have terrorized my sight for years. That's not to mention the drab paintings of those kids with really big eyes. Creepy.

Ideally, one should view what one is condemning. How can one protest, define and condemn that which they have not seen? For lesser mortals this would be a problem. Not for Mr. Mirch:
“I have no interest in seeing a video that portrays the assassination of our president,” said Mirch, explaining why he hadn’t actually seen the art he was protesting. “I am all for freedom of speech. I just disagree with the content. I don’t think it is art. To me it is not art. It’s an Al Qaeda video that he changed. Now is Al Qaeda terrorist? The fact that it is a game or video assassinating the president—it’s terrorism.” Metroland

We respect anyone's right to have an opinion. We respect anyone's right to protest. But Mr. Mirch is not merely interested in protesting the exhibit. He wants it shut-down so we can be "American":

“The Sanctuary for Independent Media should cancel this exhibit immediately,” Mirch says. ”Allowing for the portrayal of the assassination of a president to be staged is wrong, un-American and destructive. I support free speech, but this exhibit goes beyond the bounds of what is decent or acceptable.” - Times Union

And behold: The very next day the exhibit is closed by an arm of City government controlled by Mr. Mirch. Perhaps Mr. Mirch's talents are wasted here in Troy. He could be in Iraq, determining, by intuition, who is and who is not a terrorist.

Mirch's ostensible problem (apart from growing largely irrelevant on the political scene) is that the "game" depicts the hunt for, and murder of, the President. Such a depiction is "un-American and destructive."

Unfortunately, the reporter never asked Mr. Mirch how such a depiction was destructive. Or how it was un-American. There are numerous video stores that rent movies such as, In the Line of Fire, The Manchurian Candidate, Oliver Stone's JFK and the television series, 24. Each depict either an assassination of an American President or the attempted assassination of an American President. Market Block Books carries DeLillo's Libra, a fictional account of President Kennedy's assassination. Has Mr. Mirch requested that those films be pulled from video stores? Has he protested at Market Block Books? Will Mr. Mirch be outside Crossgates or Colonie Center protesting the new movie Vantage Point?

Or is it the fact that Bilal's work depicts a sitting, albeit computerized, President? If so, that seems a facile distinction. The office is always more important than the current occupant.

Mr. Mirch calls the exhibit terrorism. Yet, he does not define terrorism. Certainly, the Bilal exhibit fits no known definition of terrorism. In fact, it is the antithesis of terrorism. Terrorism blindly strikes at the innocent in order to reach the intended target. In the exhibit, President Bush is the intended target as well as the intended victim. It would be a video crime, we suppose, but not terrorism. If it is terrorism, did Mr. Mirch call the Troy Police Department? If not, why not?

The intent of the piece must also be taken into account. Bilal has stated that the piece is not pro-violence but rather anti-violence. Shouldn't he know? Or do we adopt the view of elected officials such as Mark Wojcik. Mr. Wojcik brought his trademark eloquence and insight to the debate:

“I have a big problem with Muslims in this country.” - Mark Wojcik, Troy City Council

No doubt the most honest thing said by the Anti- First Amendment crowd to date. The Councilman appears to have no big problem witnessing an assault on the First Amendment.

Back to intent. Does anyone really want Mr. Mirch and Mark Wojcik deciding what people can and cannot see based on how they interrupt something they have not viewed? Let see how this works:

Did you know that Norman Rockwell was a racist? Yes, wholesome, all-American, Saturday Evening Post, Norman Rockwell. We'll show you.

This Rockwell painting is entitled Murder in Mississippi. It celebrates the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three rabble-rousing, lefty, Civil Rights volunteers who were sticking their noses into the business of the good folks of Mississippi. It doesn't matter that Rockwell was an early supporter of Civil Rights. We know racism when we see it. Why else would he depict the deaths of two Jews and an African-American in such graphic terms?

Mr. Mirch has cheapened the debate for his own political purposes. In doing so he displays an appalling disregard for those fighting against terrorism and denigrates the memory of those killed or wounded by terrorists.

Mr. Mirch's radical agenda would see freedom of speech consigned to the "trash heap of history" and must be resisted at every turn. It's the only American thing to do.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Code was here last night and we had to shut down. Something about our margins not being wide enough to support our posts.

You can read Franco's column from today's Record. A good one that fits in well with First Amendment week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Day Three of our Salute to Amendment Uno! Code has not stopped by.

One day after the protest organized by Tripartite Bob, City of Troy Code Enforcement closed the Bilal exhibit.

The reason? According to Mr. Buell:

The building has not been closed. It remains open. Steve Pierce has been sent a letter from the Code Department explaining that there is a life safety issue related to the doors on the building, and that the City does not want large crowds gathering until the problem is fixed. This issue was brought to our attention by people that saw the media reports on the display Monday evening. Again, the building itself has not been shut down.

Steve has been told what issues need to be resolved, just as he was told 14 months ago what deficiencies needed to be resolved. He has 30 days to fix this problem before further action is taken. The Sanctuary would be free to have assembly the minute that issue is resolved- no questions asked. The only way Mr.. Bilal is connected to this issue is that it was the media attention that brought the issue to the City's attention. You can throw the conspiracy theories out the window, sorry to disappoint you.

Does Mr. Buell suggest that people viewed television coverage of this event and spotted supposed code violations?

Who are these eagle-eyed people that brought this issue to the attention of the City? Did these people call City Hall? Send e-mails? Or, was the "anonymous" tip line used. Let us not forget the anonymous tip-line utilized by the City. No potential for abuse there. Can the City produce any evidence of these complaints?

What Mr. Buell falls to state are the following facts:

The first visit from Code Enforcement fourteen months previous, coincided with a Sanctuary event with George Stoney at which Mayor Tutunjian was criticized.

More significantly, a Code employee and a fire marshall inspected the Sanctuary property on the morning the Bilal exhibit was to open. No violations were found. This inspection was videotaped and could prove interesting.

We certainly understand any municipality's desire to avoid potential life-safety hazards. So the question is: Why did the City endanger the lives of everyone that patronized the exhibit? The life-safety issue was present on Monday morning. Code and a fire marshall both ignored that safety issue. Why? How did they miss what other, presumably non-experts, found by watching media reports? Have those men been disciplined for endangering the safety of the public?

We doubt very much if they've been disciplined for endangering the public. We don't think they did endanger the public.

This is simply a pattern of behavior on the part of the City of Troy. The use of Code violations to retaliate against those they view as opponents is this Administration's modus operandi. Sometimes, as in a recent case, there's not even an applicable code provision. They just issue a citation that does not reference an actual code violation.

The problem for the City is that the presence of an actual code violation does not protect them from a Civil Rights suit. Everyone sees the pattern. No one more sophisticated than a spider monkey accepts the administrations retrospective justification(s) for these political raids.

Let us suggest that a written record be made of all complaints. This should include the date, time and source of the complaint. Anonymous phone calls and informants sound more like 1960's East Germany than 21st Century America.

Tomorrow, we'll play Devil's Advocate and explore why Fascism gets a bum rap.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Day Two of our Salute to Free Speech!

The events that followed the Bilal exhibit's exile to the Sanctuary for Independent Media are far more interesting than the preface and perhaps, just perhaps, constitute the actual performance.

A extensive timeline of recent events is offered here.

The exhibit was to open on Monday, March 10, 2008.

Bob Mirch, the City of Troy DPW Commissioner, Rensselaer County Legislator and Bruno Constituent liaison (thus completing a Holy Trinity of public sector employment) organized a protest of the exhibit. Mirch explained his opposition to the exhibit:

"It's the similarity and dissonance between Bilal and Masaccio: The creation of ideal space, the use of line and silhouette. Sure, there is dramatic tension but Bilal has flipped the tables on Ghiberti's exploitation of his idea of pictorial perspective by abandoning his own perspective in favor of dramatic movement and expression alone. It may not bother you but it chills me to the bone."

We applaud Mr. Mirch for exercising his Constitutional rights. We also applaud the counter-protest that was organized. We would, however, draw the line at a counter-counter protest as it would be redundant.

On Monday evening, the protesters protested, the exhibit viewers viewed the exhibit and Troy demonstrated how a functioning Democracy works. Obviously, that situation couldn't last.

The day after the showing, the Sanctuary received a phone call from Ministry of Art and Culture. You can hear the message at the Sanctuary's website ( see above) as well as the less-than-enthusiastic voice of the Ministry employee.

As explained by Jeff Buell:

The building has not been closed. It remains open. Steve Pierce has been sent a letter from the Code Department explaining that there is a life safety issue related to the doors on the building, and that the City does not want large crowds gathering until the problem is fixed. This issue was brought to our attention by people that saw the media reports on the display Monday evening. Again, the building itself has not been shut down.

The Sanctuary is not closed. People just can't assemble at the Sanctuary. Thank God for those alert "media report" viewers. Alas, that such viewers weren't around when the Hindenburg took flight. The humanity!

After the protest, the anti-Bilal protesters broke up into discussion groups to address a variety of topics:

1) The use of light and shadow in "You Can Paint Too, 2nd Edition" or "Why are those Numbers so Damn Small." and

2) Realism and Irony in the works of C.M. Coolidge, or "Dogs Playing Poker is Funny."

And Tonight:

A demonstration has been called for this Tuesday, March 18th, at 5:30
in front of Troy City Hall, One Monument Square, Troy, in support of the
Sanctuary for Independent Media and against the abuse of public power to
suppress art and dissent. The protest, which is being organized by a new
ad hoc group calling itself the Capital Region Committee for Free
Expression, will demand:

1. Stop Abuse of Code Enforcement Power
2. Reopen the Sanctuary for Independent Media
3. End Racist Fear-mongering
4. No Censorship of Art and Dissent

The protest is being called in response to Troy Code
Enforcement' s shutting down of the Sanctuary for Independent Media
last Tuesday, the day after the showing of a controversial art exhibit

Given the condition of City Hall and it's environs this demonstration may be canceled in order to save lives.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Welcome to First Amendment Week, here at The Troy Polloi. First Amendment Week, an annual celebration of our nation's most important right, has a long and glorious history dating back to last Wednesday.

While Eliot Spitzer and Tailgate unfolded, a much more important saga was underway in the City of Troy. Ken Crowe's March 11 article in the Times Union will give you some background.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute expelled a visiting artist's exhibition on Monday as arguments continued about academic freedom and free speech on campus.

However, Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" video game exhibit, which features himself as a suicide bomber on a mission to assassinate President Bush, opened Monday night at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. It will remain on view at the performance and exhibit space at 3361 Sixth Ave. through April 4.

The RPI administration issued a statement Monday evening announcing its decision not to reopen the exhibit, which was shut down last week. RPI said it acted because the video game was derived from a product created by a terrorist organization and that it suggests killing the President.

As best as we can tell, the RPI Young Republicans, who have learned the tactics of Joseph Goebbels quite well, raised a ruckus over the exhibit. The institute's administration, displaying the backbone of Neville Chamberlain, exiled the exhibit.

At this point, we are dealing with censorship but not any First Amendment violations. Young Republicans must be allowed to veil their distaste of freedom in patriotism. The Administration at RPI has every right to act cowardly. There has been no government involvment and the Constitution is not implicated.

The one inspiring development....the exhibit found a home at the Sanctuary for Independent Media located at 3361 6th Avenue in Troy, NY. Troy should be proud that their was a facility that could, and did, offer a home to the exiled.


In the video game "Quest for Saddam," players fight stereotypical Iraqi foes and try to kill Saddam. Al Qaeda created an online video game using "Quest for Saddam" but changed the game into a hunt for President Bush.

Wafaa Bilal, the artist, hacked the Al Qaeda version of the game to create his own vision of the conflict entitled "The Night of Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi."

Bilal casts himself as a suicide-bomber in the game. He learns of the real-life death of his brother in the war and is recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt for Bush.

According to the exhibit's website:

This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as "Quest for Saddam," along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq. The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like "Quest for Saddam" and other media.

"[Virtual Jihadi] is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq. The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media."

Do not expect us to defend or critique the "art." Scholars, experts and historians can spend valuable hours discussing the definition of art. We have too much unwatched porn to get through to engage in that debate. The only significant factor for our purposes is the overt political nature of the work.

Coming up tomorrow....

The real performance gets underway.

Friday, March 14, 2008


The Spitzer scandal, or as we like to call it, Tailgate, has slowed everything down. There's a lot to cover next week. But for now, one news item that we've ignored.

At last Thursday's City Council meeting the Council voted to override the Mayor's veto of an Ordinance that rescinded pay hikes for eight city officials including the Deputy Mayor, DPW Commissioner and the Corporation Counsel.

After the Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Crawley informed residents that:

"....the eight employees whose salaries were lowered by the City Council will now sue the six-member majority for violating the law."

Crawley noted that council was violating the employees’ civil rights and that they would submit the matter as an Article 78 case to the Rensselaer County Supreme Court next week.

While no one is stating what Civil Rights were violated we suspect this entire thing is racial. All of the Plaintiffs are various shades of Caucasian. It's also rumored that one of the eight employees will not be petitioning the Court for relief.

Crawley states (and based on his legal education and training we have no reason to doubt him) that the action will be an Article 78 proceeding. This is much better than an Article 77 but not quite as good as an Article 79.

In essence, an Article 78* will ask the Court to determine whether the Council had the authority to revoke the ordinance that awarded the raises. Unfortunately, it is not a long, drawn out procedure. Article 78 proceedings do not, typically, include discovery or depositions. It's kind of like going to zip in and you zip out.


-The median household income in Troy, NY, according to the latest Census Bureau information is under $30,000.

-The median income of those suing the City Council and taxpayers? We're not sure because math is involved. We do know that public servant Mirch makes $100,000 more than that median household income. The Deputy Mayor makes $50,000 more and the Corporation Counsel will make over $100,000 this year.

- For those interested in the Judge that may get the Article 78, here's the breakdown of case assignments in Rensselaer County (before Judge Stein was appointed to the Appellate Division).

Stein 25%
Donohue 15%
Ceresia 12.5%
Hummel 12.5%
McGrath 12.5%
Zwack 12.5%
Egan 5%
Lynch 5%

- § C-76. Department of Law.

Duties of Corporation Counsel.

The Corporation Counsel shall act as legal advisor to the City Council and to the Mayor. He/She shall appear for and protect the rights and interests of the City in all actions, suits or proceedings brought by it or against it or against any City officer, department, board or commission in connection with municipal business.....

If Mitchell is a Plaintiff in the action, and we're told he is, he'll have a conflict that prevents him from doing his job. The Council will be able to hire their own legal counsel.

- What if they lose? A lawsuit can sometimes have unintended consequences. Here, if the Plaintiff's lose, they lose more than a few dollars. The Court will have said, in essence, that the Council did have the authority to amend the budget. At any time. Since there's no word yet on whether the action has been filed or served we wonder if the Plaintiff's are reconsidering their course of action.


Next week we'll feature a week-long celebration of the First Amendment.

* Our legal analyst tells us it's more nuanced than that but our description is good enough.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Day Three of Spitzer Watch finally brings us some hard polling data.



An overwhelming 70% of you think the Governor should resign. Twenty percent (20%) say no, 10% don't know and one guy at Fox News thought the Governor had resigned.


A slight majority, 53%, have called for the Governor to immediately withdraw from Kristen. Thirty-eight percent (38%) believe the Governor should stay as long as it takes to achieve our goals. Nine percent are not sure.


A minority of you, 41%, believed the Governor looked more relaxed on February 14th. Forty-nine percent said no and 10% did not know.


Less than 30% of you would have gone with a brunette.


Only 28% of you think there's a Greek word for Hubris. Thirty-one percent (31%) say no and 41% don't know.

*Poll's margin of error +/- 1 millimeter

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Yesterday, a choked-up, 48-year old prostitution client admitted that he was governor of New York State. The news shocked family, friends and colleagues.

According to sources, "John", Eliot Spitzer, lived a double-life: Soliciting high-priced prostitutes at night while all the while governing the Empire State.

Said one anonymous friend: "Submitting budgets, sparing with legislators, appointing state officials...that's not the Eliot I know."

Spitzer's Emperor Club associate, Kristen, described the revelations as tragic. "I should have known better," said the prostitute. "He was into some real kinky stuff. He always wanted me to dress-up like a foreigner. Then we'd go down to DMV to apply for a drivers license. Sometimes he'd make me wear a grey wig and call me Senator Joe."

It is not yet known if Spitzer will resign from the Emperor's Club.

Meanwhile, we'll be covering this story from all angles.

Coming up.....

What Did the Governor Know and When did He Know it?

Did the Governor use Performance Enhancing Drugs?

Will New York See More Jobs Shipped Out of State?

and we'll talk with Rensselaer County prostitutes and get their reactions.

Monday, March 10, 2008



On Thursday night, the Troy City Council approved a new PBA Contract. The Ordinance that approved the contract also called for the residency requirement in the City Code to be replaced by the the contract provision that allows officers to reside outside the City in exchange for certain "givebacks."

We've never supported the police residency requirement. We just find it atrocious that City Officials can violate residency laws while the police have to be punished. Even the Administration admits that the police got nothing in exchange for their concessions:

“The residency requirement has never been enforced, and I believe you try to enforce it, you would lose in court,” Crawley told the council.

Corporation Counsel David Mitchell agreed, noting that too many past administrations had appointed or promoted city employees who did not live within the city’s boundaries.

Sweet deal.

As long as everyone is happy, we're happy.


Congressional candidate Tracey Brooks will be endorsed by Albany Mayor Gerry Jennings. No cavity searches are scheduled.

And speaking of Albany, for all the people who think Cops should dole at punishment at their own discretion - this is what can happen. A man with numerous felony convictions walks away with over a quarter of a million dollars. That's why you play by the rules!


The Business Improvement District is once again a possibility. The proposal calls for a district, that would improve business. This is the type of topic that made us start drinking to begin with.

What did catch our eye was the economic climate reported by some:

“We have a lot of struggling businesses in Troy and that money means a lot to small business owners throughout the city,” said Councilman Henry Bauer, R-At Large.

“Downtown retailers really need a boost right now and this is a great way to do it,” said Hedley, who was pleased to see the project continuing to progress.

Pay raises for top Troy officials when small business owners in the city are struggling? And you want to be our latex salesman...


Another entry in the 21st Congressional District sweepstakes. Darius Shahinfar, a former aid to Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, has thrown his hat into the ring.


A forum to discuss the future of Hoosick Street is scheduled for tonight.

Where: Oakwood Presbyterian Church, 10th and Hoosick streets;
When: Monday, March 10 - 6:00PM

Personally, we'd attend this if you have nothing else scheduled. When the Presbyterians are involved anything, and we mean anything, could happen.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Short post. Have to get ready for parole hearing. Should have a good shot at it this time.

Police get their contract....salaries revoked. More on Thursday's Council meeting next week.

In the meantime.....Dear Penthouse Forum, I'm the Mayor of a medium-size Upstate city. I never thought something like this could happen to me....

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Trick question, boys and girls. We don't know if it's been blown.

What we have our inconsistent messages from City Hall.

On the one hand, the Administration knew about the parkland issue in September of 2007. Corporation Counsel David B. Mitchell told Metroland:

“We knew that back in September when the project first began to surface,” he said, referring to the designation. “This is not an obstacle that is new.”

Despite the 2 acres designation as parkland, the obstacle is not an issue, according to Mitchell:

It has become an issue, he said, because Dunne “and his folks are clear in their intent to try to stop this project.” The administration is aiming to move along the alienation process to swap parkland for this parcel.

How, and more importantly why, Dunne "and his folks" intend to stop the project is unclear. As Mitchell states, this is not a new obstacle. However, the Administration is aiming to move along the alienation process.

In fact, Mitchell agrees that the land is municipal parkland protected by the Public Trust Doctrine:

The issue, on which both Mitchell and OPRHP agree, is that the land is “indeed municipal parkland protected by the Public Trust Doctrine.”

It's good to see that our Corporation Counsel has spoken with the Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation. According to Carol Ash's (OPRHP Commissioner) letter:

Perhaps too busy with the alienation process to return calls? Maybe not. According to the Times Union:

Troy Corporation Counsel David Mitchell said the city is hoping to move "as expeditiously as possible" to develop the parcel, but will not necessarily commit to the often slow process of seeking legislative approval.

But, according to The Record:

Mitchell explained that the city has anticipated this situation from the beginning and has been in touch with the office of state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno in case the project needed legislative approval.

The Record Editorial of March 4, 2008 notes that the paper contacted the Senator's office and that nothing "has been filed." Rather cryptic.

So, lets sum up:

- Parkland issue known since September of '07

- Not a new obstacle

- Land is municipal parkland subject to the Public Trust Doctrine

- Administration moving expeditiously as possible to develop the land

- City won't commit to alienation process

But the Administration has other ideas as well.

“The Troy Housing Authority donated this property to the city of Troy, to use as a park during the duration of what they called ‘the project,’ ” Mitchell said. “The deed clearly articulated that. . . . The project was the construction of the Kennedy Tower, which has long past been concluded.” The THA board has signaled it would remove that covenant from the deed.

Signaled it would remove the covenant from the deed? Signaled? Forget the fact that won't cut it: Either the Troy Housing Authority will or it won't remove the covenant and if the Troy Housing Authority will do so, does it take three months?

Last but not least is the tortured legal argument set forth by Mr. Mitchell. Apparently, nothing really needs to be done anyway:

“The Troy Housing Authority donated this property to the city of Troy, to use as a park during the duration of what they called ‘the project,’ ” Mitchell said. “The deed clearly articulated that. . . . The project was the construction of the Kennedy Tower, which has long past been concluded.”

The Troy Housing Authority donated to the City a "Construction Park". During the course of construction a park would be available to the citizens. Children and families could stroll over debris, duck while "I" beams swayed overhead and rent bouncy-bounce jackhammers. Bring your own lanyard and don't forget those earplugs.

It's quite obvious that this two acre parcel is a cursed, ancient, Native American burial ground.

Walk to the light, Dave, walk to the light.

Not surprisingly, the developer is not pleased with the delay:

And the longer the issue is not resolved, the more problems there are, said developer Joseph Nicolla of Columbia Development Cos.

"The reason we haven't gone back to the city with any concrete plans is that we're working on this issue," Nicolla said, adding that his original hope was to acquire the land and start building by spring.

"Do I believe it can still get it done this spring? Sure," he said. "Anytime that there are delays I'm always concerned about it."

This post was brought to you as expeditiously as possible.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


What's all the talk about the proposed SEFCU deal and "parkland?" Is that important?

When the SEFCU deal was first proposed, many people stated their belief that the 2 acre parcel on Sixth Avenue was "parkland." This fact was confirmed by a recent letter from Carol Ash, the New York State Commissioner of the Office of Park, Recreation and Historical Preservation:

As can be seen from the Ordinance that approved the sale contract (ordinance 8 Sec. 5) the "park issue" was contemplated from the very beginning. In the ordinance, reference to "State" Parkland is made. Obviously, the City cannot sell State land. There is no reference to municipal parkland. Either designation requires alienation legislation to be approved by the State Legislature.

No one wants to purchase property unless they can take title free and clear. Therefore, the New York State Legislature needs to act, whether the parcel is State or municipal parkland. We have no idea if this is a difficult or time consuming process. Our research department discovered that the alienation process does involve incantations, a High Priest, a lamb and some eye of newt.

We need answers to the following questions:

1) Have the appropriate members of the Assembly and Senate been contacted by the Administration?

2) If so, when? (please show your work)

3) Why did ordinance 8 from the December 6, 2008 Council meeting not contemplate the fact that the parcel could be municipal parkland? Why did it only reference State parkland?

4) Since the Council approved the contract approximately three months ago, what steps has the Administration undertaken to close the deal?

5) Did any Administration official assure the prospective purchaser that the parkland issue was not an issue?

It's possible that, as stated in the Business Review article (cited in the last post), SEFCU was non-committal and wanted to see other people. Troy was one of many options and they decided to go somewhere else, regardless of the park issue. Maybe to Schenectady. Like it or not, Metroplex has many goodies to give away.

There are two other possibilities: 1) Clumsy handling of the parkland issue scared-off the buyer and 2) the deal will still happen.

More tomorrow or Thursday.

Monday, March 03, 2008


The sale of 2 acres of city-owned property to SEFCU appears to be, if not dead, at least on life support.

The story, to date, is rather simple. Expect distortions and some revisionist history if the deal falls apart.

SEFCU had a project in mind: A $10 million project to house a branch of the credit union and/or administrative personnel. Troy's Mayor was quick to issue a press release, much to the displeasure of Senator Joe Bruno.

The story officially broke in the print media on November 16, 2007. It sounded as if this deal was inevitable. However, the Business Review story was much more tentative:

SEFCU is exploring the possibility of constructing a $10 million office building in Troy, N.Y., but has made no firm decision.

"We're evaluating development opportunities throughout the entire state," said John DeCelle, spokesman for the Albany, N.Y. credit union. "Troy is just one of the areas we're looking at."

The credit union went before the Troy City Council Nov. 15, proposing to purchase a two-acre, city-owned parcel on Sixth Avenue. The city agreed to begin negotiations. The parcel has an appraised value of about $400,000.

DeCelle said that while the property "holds tremendous promise" for a branch or an office building to house other functions, such as commercial banking and insurance, "we have made no decision to put a shovel into the ground." He said the credit union also has not decided which functions would move to the building if it is erected.

"We hope to come to a final decision in the next few weeks," he said.

A $400,000 offer was made on the property. On December 6, 2007 the Troy City Council approved the contract and authorized the Mayor to close the deal (see ordinance 8). Then.....silence from the Mayor.

In the next post will explore the "park" issue and show why it's a red herring or some other fish or fish-like product.