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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

CAN'T ANYONE HERE...

...PLAY THIS GAME?

You know, we wanted to give Carmella Mantello the benefit of the doubt. She has worked in mediocrity the way some masters work in oils. Present but not actively offensive. Recent events have shed a bright light on what can only be termed incompetence, ignorance or arrogance. Ms. Mantello, currently, and until January 1, 2016, is merely a private citizen. She either does not know this undeniable fact, cannot believe it or does not care. To not understand power and the limits of power is a bad sign in the incoming Council President.

At the last Council meeting the Council, as it does, scheduled the next Council meeting for January 7, 2016. This is standard procedure. The Council has been meeting on Thursdays for a long time. Formal notice of the meeting has been sent per the Charter.

Private Citizen Mantello believes she has authority to schedule the meeting for Monday, January 4, 2016. She wants the Finance Committee to meet at 5:00PM as a warm-up for a 6:00PM Council meeting. Apparently, Thursday is a big television night for Ms. Mantello.

-----Original Message-----
From: Carmella Mantello
Sent: Dec 22, 2015 10:49 AM
To: lynn kopka
Cc: erin teta , Mark Mcgrath , Dean , John Donohue , Jim Gulli , Bob Doherty , Kim
Subject: Re: notice for Org. Mtg 2016
Hi all. 
Please be advised that the organizational (regular) meeting of the Troy City Council will be held on Monday, January 4, 2016 at 6 p.m. preceded by a Finance Meeting at 5 p.m. There is no city council meeting on January 7, 2016. 
All council members will be give notice of the January 4th meetings and copy of the agenda in an appropriate manner. 
This meeting is being called pursuant to the Troy City Charter public officers law and second class cities law. Hopefully, this will clear up any confusion. 
 
Thanks. 
 
Carmella

Sent from my iPhone
 
 
On Dec 22, 2015, at 10:59 AM, lynn kopka <lkopka@earthlink.net> wrote:

Can the new council, which is not a duly constituted body until January 1, 2016, set a different date and time or am I misreading the charter? What was reported from December Finance had Jan 7 as the date. Did notice go out from the current city clerk for Jan 4? this is extremely confusing and makes scheduling difficult.



From: Carmella Mantello [mailto:cmantell@nycap.rr.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 1:30 PM
To: Lynn M. Kopka
Cc: Cheryl.Christiansen; Erin Sullivan-Teta; Ian.Silverman; Rodney Wiltshire
Subject: Re: notice for Org. Mtg 2016
 
Lynn,
 
Once again, the outgoing council has no authority to set meeting dates for the council taking office on January 1, 2016. Rather, the new council will give proper notice on January 1, 2016 along with the agenda for the organizational (regular) meeting and finance committee, for Monday, January 4, 2016. 
 
Looking forward to seeing you at the organizational (regular) meeting on Monday, January 4, 2016. 
 
Carmella
 
 While the Council has the authority to schedule the monthly Council meeting on any day they wish, said schedule is set at the first Council meeting in January. According to the Charter, Section-27:
 
Regular meetings of the City Council shall be held once each month on such dates as the Council shall designate, each year, by amendment to its rules at its January meeting. No local law, ordinance or resolution may be acted upon at a regular meeting unless a copy thereof shall have been delivered under the supervision of the City Clerk to each Council member at least 24 hours prior to said meeting.
 
Also per the Charter (C-32):
 
All meetings of the City Council, regular or special, shall be held in the Council Chambers of the City Hall at 7:00 in the evening unless some other place or time has been voted by a majority of the members of the Council or unless a written call for such meeting, signed by five members of the Council, is filed with the City Clerk 72 hours prior to the time of the meeting and due public notice has been given of such change or changes.
 
The Council has designated the date -  January 7, 2016. Notice has been sent by the Clerk. Ms. Mantello lacks authority to change the meeting to January 4, 2016. First, she currently does not have the authority to do anything. Like Democratus, she is a private citizen who holds no government position. Secondly, nothing can occur at said meeting until the Clerk has delivered proposed legislation, etc. to the Council members 24 hours prior to the meeting.
 
Unless the current Clerk wished to comply, and one doubts she will be working on New Years Day or Saturday or Sunday, their can be no meeting.* This is because the current Clerk remains the Clerk until the new Clerk is appointed. Ditto for the Deputy Clerk. The office of Clerk and Deputy Clerk do not have definite terms and last as long as the Council majority wants them to last. Therefore, until the organizational meeting appoints a new clerk.....you get our point.
 
Also note, Ms. Mantello wants to change the time of the meeting in violations of the Charter. Again, one doubts the City Clerk will be available on New Years Day for the appropriate 72 hour Notice.
 
Does Ms. Mantello know the incoming majority does not yet have their clerk or deputy clerk appointed? Does she not know that she needs the current clerk's cooperation or is she deluded into believing that the individual that will be appointed clerk is somehow, magically, the clerk? A magic clerk that is not yet bonded?
 
As an aside, Ms. Mantello, on Christmas Eve, wished the current Clerk and Deputy Clerk a Merry Christmas and then walked into Human Resources to deliver pink slips for both individuals. This was a small act that is beneath the dignity of a would-be public official. The Clerk and Deputy Clerk know they will not maintain their respective positions after the organizational meeting. What was the point of pink slips? Furthermore, and more to the point, Ms. Mantello has no authority to fire anyone. The Council will perform that act when they appoint new individuals to those positions. Bad form, Carmella, bad form.
 
Ms. Mantello (possibly the bastard child of Evita Peron and Gary Busey) has also asked for the keys to City Hall on January 1st, 2016, so proper notice of the new meeting date and time can be sent. She has been told 'no' twice by the Deputy Clerk and finally told to stop calling. The new Mayor should keep City Hall locked over the weekend. If not, Evita will think she can do whatever she wants, whether the Charter says she can or not. Nip this in the bud, Pat, or it will be a long four years.
 
Past Councils have had regular procedural mishaps. Its what you get when the system is based on part-time, citizen legislators. This, however, is just someone who salivates so much at the idea of some power that she can't help herself. Like Kirstie Allie at an all-you-can-eat buffet or Bill Cosby with free pharmaceutical samples.

Ignorant, incompetent or arrogant? You decide (combinations are allowed).

* They can always meet, maybe have some hors d'oeuvres with a fine Armagnac, but they cannot conduct Council business. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

SLOW NEWS WEEK

We are back from a delightful Christmas holiday. Sort of.

Like many of you, we are having a hard time getting going after the Christmas break. We sincerely hope you had a good time with your friends and family. Luckily, there's another long weekend just around the corner.

One story that came out last week, on Tuesday, December 22, was the firing of Assistant District Attorney Shane Hug. District Attorney Joel Abelove terminated his assistant on the previous Friday.

It is not known why Hug was fired although unemployment benefits fraud has been ruled out. According to the Times Union article, sources said that the firing is connected to an ongoing investigation involving the police. Abelove's office obtained a search warrant for Hug's cell phone from an Albany Supreme Court Judge.

Obviously, people have connected this event with the warrant to search Gary Gordon's cell phone, part of the ongoing investigation into the illegal release of the Jim Gordon 911 call from July, 2015. The 911 tape, where Mrs. Gordon told a dispatcher that her husband had held her down, was made public on October 20, by Times Union reporter Brendan Lyons. Some believe the release of the tape cost Gordon, a Republican, the election. In fact, it may have cost Wiltshire the election but that's a different story.

The only difference, and it may mean nothing, is that the Gordon warrant came out of Rensselaer County while the Hug warrant came out of Albany County. Hug, unlike Gordon, would have appeared before both of County Court judges in Rensselaer County.

Hug, as an assistant district attorney, can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason at all, as he serves at the pleasure of the District Attorney.

We held off on the story hoping for some more detail. That detail has not been forthcoming.

While we agree that the cell phone warrant immediately reminds one of the seizure of Gary Gordon's cell phone, there is no information the two are related. Furthermore, it is inconceivable, to us at least, that Hug would risk job and law license, and be involved in something so déclassé.

If we assume, for the moment, that Hug's termination is related to the Gordon 911 tape, it does not mean Hug was involved in anything criminal. It is not illegal to have a copy of the Gordon 911 tape. If it was, Brendan Lyons would be arrested. The First Amendment does not allow reporters to break the law. However, Abelove would be well within his rights to fire Hug if he believed Hug had information about the release of the tape.

Or maybe, it had nothing to do with the Gordon 911 tape.

Franco was first with the story. The comments are of interest.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

UPDATE...

...on the murder of Bill Chamberlain. Sources close to The Troy Polloi have confirmed that the suspect in the Chamberlain slaying, Joseph Vandenburgh, did not work for the City of Troy and had never applied for employment with the city.

Initially, there was some confusion about Vandenburgh's past employment or would-be employment. The confusion likely arose because a different Vandenburgh has applied for a position with the City in recent years. Vandenburgh has not yet been charged in connection with Chamberlain's death.

ELECTION FRAUD REVISITED

Rensselaer County Democratic Election Commissioner Ed McDonough has pulled the trigger on an $8,000,000 lawsuit in connection with his 2012 acquittal for forging absentee ballots. McDonough's first trial ended in a hung jury.

McDonough's attorney, Brian Premo, filed a Notice of Claim shortly after the acquittal. There had been a copy of the Notice of Claim floating around someplace. Perhaps Franco had a copy on his old Tale Spin blog. All we recall about the Notice of Claim is that it was long, rambling and so chaotic it almost gave us a seizure.*We hope, for Ed's sake, Brian has drafted a more coherent complaint.

Although couched as a civil rights suit, this is, at its core, a malicious prosecution claim. McDonough will face an uphill battle on this one. The Grand Jury's indictment is prima facie evidence of probable cause. Further, prior to trial one would think his attorney served an omnibus motion which also sought dismissal for lack of probable cause. That was obviously denied.

McDonough has also opened himself up to being deposed by a number of defense attorneys. While he was acquitted and cannot be tried again for the same crime, no one ever looks after being questioned by a room full of defense attorneys being paid by the hour.

Release the hounds!

* It may have been written in crayon

Monday, December 21, 2015

OUTGOING COUNCIL

On Thursday the Troy City Council passed new rules for sidewalk memorials. This issue hit the news following the August 2015 shooting of Thaddeus Faison. Faison had shot two police officers before being taken down. Faison's friends set-up a sidewalk memorial, an act that did not sit well with police and many others. The vote was 7-2, with District 2 Councilwoman Robertson and At-Large Councilwoman Sullivan-Teta opposing the new regulations.

The new regulation would allow for the memorials to stand for thirty days, with five days notice before the memorial is removed. Any item of a 'sacramental'* nature will be held for thirty days, allowing the owner to retrieve the item at a later date.

This is certainly not a huge piece of legislation but it was handled well by this Council. They focused on a time limitation that is content-neutral rather than constitutionally suspect speech regulation. A mature, well thought-out action by the Council. They should be commended.

The Troy Police should be commended as well. After the issue arose, the Troy Police Department reached out to some major metropolitan departments to get their advice on the issue (in particular, memorials to those killed in confrontations with the police). The response: do nothing. The cities that deal with street memorials on a more frequent basis than Troy know that time takes care of the issue and removal may only pour oil on a potential fire.

Not a big deal but well handled.

INCOMING COUNCIL

The other, more encouraging news, is that the incoming City Council majority plans on eliminating three Council positions: auditor as well as minority and majority counsel.

We could care less about the auditor position. However, elimination of Council Counsel is overdo. These positions are vestigial leftovers from the previous administration and hopefully no longer necessary.

When former mayor Tutunjian first came in to office his Corporation Council was John Hicks. Hicks also maintained a private practice. One of Hicks' clients was the City of Rensselaer. Hicks was an acceptable Corporation Counsel but when a conflict arose between Troy and Rensselaer Hicks chose his practice and the City of Rensselaer.

Hicks' resignation ushered in the David B. Mitchell era. Mitchell was hostile to the Council minority (at that time Democrats). When the Democrats took control of the Council things became worse. Mitchell acted like the Mayor's counsel rather than the city's council. Things were bad and ultimately, Mitchell even sued the man that had hired him, Mayor Tutunjian. During this time period the Council did need counsel. When Mitchell left, Council Counsel was not really required. The Mitchell years were, hopefully, an aberration. Although only part-time positions, they should not be required.

So look at that. Two positive stories.

We apologize for the flat, uninspired prose. The recent murder of Bill Chamberlain has made much of the petty squabbles and, frankly, non-petty squabbles, seem small. It goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that Bill's murder has dampened the season and knocked the wind out of many people. We hope his family can somehow, someday, move beyond this tragedy to whatever extent that is even possible.


* Sacramental items include bit are not limited to crosses, Stars of David and skull bongs.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

TRAGEDY

On Thursday night, Bill Chamberlain was attacked near his North Greenbush home while walking his dog. He was stabbed twenty-three times and died just a few feet from his home after being found by his wife. One week before Christmas. Children home for the holidays.

Chamberlain was a thirty year employee of the City of Troy and Director of Operations since 2004.

The suspect in the attack is twenty-six year old Joseph Vandenburgh. Vandenburgh was released to parole on December 13, 2014 after serving just over seven years for a 1st degree burglary conviction. If he had served his full term Vandenburgh would not have been released until March 27, 2016.

If you'd like to leave some nice words for Bill or his family please do so. This is not the time for petty political bickering. Tragedies put things in perspective.

Friday, December 18, 2015

REJECTED!



In an unusual display of unity the Troy City Council rejected a year-and-a-half old agreement between Mayor Rosamilia and the Troy Police Benevolent Association that would change the service requirements for lifetime health insurance benefits from twenty years to ten years . The agreement was signed in June of 2014 but only presented to the Council for ratification last night. Perhaps Corporation Counsel found the agreement while cleaning out his desk.*

According to those present, the administration offered no explanation for the agreement or the lengthy fermentation process. Nothing. Nada. Not even an "oops, did I do that?" The Council hasn't been this united since they voted on whether or not there were seven days in the week (even then there was one dissent).

The Troy Polloi has a few questions for Lou:

1) What the hell were you thinking?

2) No, answer the question!

3) Really, just tell us what the hell happened!

4) Ah....screw it.

Perhaps a legal-type (and we know a few read this based on some e-mails we have received) can help illuminate something for us about this agreement and the entire process. What was signed in June of 2014 has been called an 'agreement.' However, an agreement is not a contract. While every contract is an agreement not all agreements are contracts. A valid contract is enforceable. Unilateral promises and agreements are not. Contracts involve a little something called consideration. For instance, "we agree to pay health care costs for those with ten or more years of service in exchange for no pay raises for twenty years."

Here, what did the City get in exchange for the agreement? Even if the Council did ratify the agreement, is it actually a contract or just a giveaway? We'll let the lawyers hash that one out and we're sure that is already in the works.


*Sources confirm that Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman has accepted a position with the Office of Mental Health. Four years with Lou has given Ian the experience necessary to represent that agency




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

WTF?

According to Mark Robarge at The Record, the Troy City Council has been asked to ratify a Memorandum Agreement signed by Mayor Lou and former PBA President Bob Fitzgerald in June of 2014.

"Specifically, the agreement spells out that any PBA member who accrues 10 years of service with the department would be eligible for health insurance coverage as a retiree upon leaving the department for any reason. The agreement modifies a memorandum agreed to earlier in 2014 that extends another memorandum from 2010 that extends yet another memorandum agreed to two years before that modified a contract that initially took effect in 2004."

However:

"No current council members date back to the 2004 agreement, and none of those reached Monday were aware of what it said about eligibility for retiree health insurance benefits. However, the proposed agreement points out that 20 years of city employment is required for anyone to qualify for the city to pay half the cost of dental insurance premiums."

It has been the City's practice in negotiating contracts to hammer out minor details that will take effect in the future at a later date. It has also been common practice to amend and extend long-term contracts by memorandum agreements. Again, those items worked out are traditionally minor details with little to no financial consequences. Cutting service time requirements for costly benefits is not a minor detail. In fact, benefits will need to be the prime focus of future contracts.

Here's the thing, though: Assuming that the Mayor had not exceeded his daily limit of laudanum when the agreement was signed, he either has the authority to sign the agreement or he does not. If the mayor has the authority to unilaterally enter into these modifications the agreement stands. If he does not, the agreement is void or voidable. The fact that he now seeks Council ratification would imply that even these modifications need Council approval.  Even if a mayor can modify an agreement unilaterally, it should be done in the open

We also find it disturbing that this was not addressed during the recent budget drama. Was the change reflected in the budget or will this be another expense unaccounted for? Lou and Ian need to answer some tough questions and we find it unlikely that the Council will ratify this agreement which probably means we'll be facing a lawsuit.  We can wait to hear Rosamilia's explanation. It needs to be clear and sensible. We are skeptical.

Finally, can we stop alleging that this agreement was signed for former Officer Brian Gross. Is anyone really so simple-minded to believe such a modification for an officer forced to resign for tipping-off drug dealers? District 4 Councilman Bob Doherty said:

“I don’t think the people of the city of Troy should be paying in perpetuity for the benefits of someone guilty of malfeasance.” We couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, that is something that will need to be taken up in the State Legislature, where former members Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos will be receiving their pensions.

What we do know is that the next administration should hire Bob Fitzgerald as a consultant for contract negotiations.

Monday, December 14, 2015

SUPER MAJORITY NOW A SIMPLE MAJORITY?

Is the City Council's Republican Super Majority in danger? In the short term the answer appears to be yes.

At a recent meeting of the incoming Republican Council members it was decided that District 2 Councilman Mark McGrath would be the Council's President Pro Tempore.* Third District Councilman Dean Bodnar was not at the meeting due to a scheduling conflict.

Everyone knew, before the meeting, that Bodnar desired the position. However, at the meeting, people were informed that Bodnar had withdrawn his name for the position. McGrath was the selected.

Bodnar is not pleased. The fourth term councilman expressed anger not at losing the position to McGrath but rather at the blatant lie that he had withdrawn his name from contention.

According to the Charter, the President Pro Tempore:

 ...shall perform the duties of the President of the City Council in the case of the absence of the President of the City Council or in the case of a vacancy in the office of the President of the City Council.  The President Pro Tempore shall have the salary of a Council member and, in addition, such further amount as may be set by the Council.

Sounds like a heavy lift. In fact, the duties of the Pro Tempore are generally only exercised during the Wiltshire family vacation.

Still, this is a misstep by incoming Council President Carmella Mantello. Aside from fetal alcohol syndrome, there is really no excuse for placing Mark McGrath in any position of authority. He is prickly and obnoxious and past-due for distemper shots for the last three years. Furthermore,  if McGrath disagrees with the majority he will not hesitate to publicly embarrass Mantello and the other council members. After all, he does not hesitate to publicly embarrass himself.

On the other hand, Bodnar is pragmatic, reasonable and well-liked by both sides. The choice was clear and Mantello exercised poor judgment that does not bode well for the future.

Bodnar has indicated that the Council now has three factions: Democrats, Republicans and Bodnar.

McGrath is not officially the Pro Tempore. The actual vote occurs at the organizational meeting which, pursuant to the Charter, takes place in January. Will McGrath be voted Pro Tempore at the January meeting? If yes, the Republicans will no longer have a veto-proof majority. If no, Mantello looks weak. Not good choices for someone who has not spent a day at Council President.

*Pro Tempore is from the Latin meaning in support of (pro) and a light, flaky batter used in frying fish (tempore). McGrath, if successful, will be battered at the organizational meeting in front of friends and family.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

$$$

The Empire Center's annual report on who makes what was just released. Jim Franco has a quick summary over at the Talk1300 Report. The actual report can be found here.

In terms of average salary for the region's city employees, general employees in Troy average $40,885, second only to Saratoga Springs. For police and fire, we rank 7th out of ten cities, with an average salary of $71,660.



As noted in the Franco article, two Rensselaer County employs made the list of the highest paid in the Capital Region: Timothy Landis and Joel Fatato (some say Fah-tot-o, some say Fah-tay-toe). However, Landis is a medical doctor and practicing psychiatrist. Fatato is the Vice  President of Finance as Hudson Valley Community College.

The report is an interesting read. From page 2 of the report:

"The latest county and municipal payroll database includes 2014-15 fiscal year payroll
information for full-time and part-time workers actively enrolled in the pension system
as of August 2015. The figures used to compute the averages include regular pay,
overtime and pay for unused sick and vacation time. It is important to note that the
figures do not include pension contributions, health insurance, and other fringe
benefits, elements of total compensation that can add 35 percent or more to salary costs."


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

VETO



Mayor Lou Rosamilia vetoed the City Council's decision to eliminate the position of Director of Parks and Recreation, currently held by George Rogers. Initially, the Council wanted to actually eliminate George Rogers. Cooler heads prevailed and the Council decided to eliminate the position but leave Rogers physically unscathed. From The Record article:

The council voted 5-4 at a special meeting Nov. 30 to eliminate the position, arguing the duties could be rolled into those of the director of a new general services department that will be established next year as one of several changes to the city charter approved by voters in November. The new department will consolidate the city’s public works, code enforcement and parks and recreation operations.

Rosamilia said last week he was concerned the new department head would not be able to singlehandedly take on all the duties of the recreation director, which he said includes supervising a staff of 14 full-time and nearly 100 part-time employees. But he also said Wednesday he was concerned with the timing of the job cut, since the charter change does not take effect until July.

The Council's position is not unreasonable. Under the new City Charter, the Director of Parks and Recreation will be a vassal of the General Services Czar. However, both the current Charter and the future Charter mandate that there be a Director of Parks and Recreation: "There shall be..."

The Council should be able to override the veto if they want to push the issue.

COMMISSIONER OF GENERAL SERVICES

Speaking of the General Services Czar, it is now well-known that City Engineer Andrew Donovan has expressed a desire for the position. Donovan was hired in June of 2014.

Prior to his current position, Donovan held positions with Smith & Mahoney, PC, Ryan Biggs Associates and Edward Keegan Associates. Donovan was president of his own engineering practice, and served as a full-time instructor in the Civil, Construction, Industrial and Mechanical Technologies Department at Hudson Valley Community College.

Donovan received high ratings on the website Rate My Professor. He received a 5.0 in clarity and a 5.0 in helpfulness. He was not rated for 'hotness.'

Choosing Donovan would be a cost-cutting selection. The City would not need to hire a City Engineer.

Monday, December 07, 2015

NEWS WRAP-UP

After the excitement of the election, things have been a bit dull. The only exception was the debate scrum. We hope things pick up soon. In the meantime, we don't have much.

SHUSH

On Thursday, December 3, 2015, the Troy City Council amended a noise ordinance to set definitive standards that can be objectively enforced. The ordinance will not go into effect for six months, allowing the Troy Police Department to obtain devices that will allow them to enforce the new measure. The Record has the story.

For officers to accurately measure those levels for each complaint, Tedesco said the department needs to purchase as many as 20 sound-measuring devices, with the cost of each device ranging from as little as $43 to as much as $2,700.

In an effort to save money, some have suggested that a volunteer force of Grumpy Old Men (or G.O.M) be deputized and ride with officers. The G.O.M., who previously proved useful in cracking down on lawn trespassing, does not need equipment to measure decibel levels.

The measure mandates that any criticism of the City Council must be whispered.

Mark McGrath and anyone playing Blue Oyster Cult are exempted from the ordinance.


MOSLEY REVISITED

Rensselaer County Court Judge Andrew Ceresia had some choice words for the attorney for Michael Mosely on Friday. Mosely seeks a new trial on his murder convictions, arguing that his former attorney, Terry Kindlon was ineffective.

Mosely was convicted in 2011 for the 2002 murders of Arica Schneider and Samuel Holley.

Mosely's new attorney is Mitchell Kessler from Cohoes.

Ceresia believed that Kessler was threatening ADA Shane Hug. According to the Times Union:

"Do not threaten him!" the typically reserved judge told Kessler.

"The record will reflect that you just stared at Mr. Hug and pointed to him and said, 'Yeah, keep looking at me,' " Ceresia told Kessler.

"I'm going to let that slide. But I promise you — I promise as sure as I am sitting before you — if you do anything like that again there will be consequences."

The judge concluded: "You said earlier that you've been a lawyer for 26 years. I suggest you start acting like it!"

Luckily, no noise ordinances were violated.

WELFARE FRAUD

Paul Moses, a former Troy Housing Authority Official, was indicted on various counts of welfare fraud on Thursday. Moses is accused of stealing more than $50,000 in rent and food subsidies. The investigation into Moses led to the arrest of Rensselaer County Social Services Welfare Investigator Manny Ned. Ned, a former Republican candidate for City Council, was arrested in October for helping Moses with the paperwork.

Moses still intends to run for the Rensselaer County Legislature, hoping to replace Legislature Martin Reid.

And that's your Monday News Wrap-Up

Friday, December 04, 2015

CONSOLIDATING POWER?

As someone kindly pointed out, the new Charter does create a Commissioner of General Services position. That Charter will be effective July 2016. Frankly, we had completely forgotten about the new Charter. How something so exciting can be forgotten, we don't understand it!

So, we decided to take a look at just what the department and the position is all about. Perhaps we'll even apply.

§ C­54.  Department of General Services
A. Establishment.  There shall be a Department of General Services in the executive branch of City government.  The Department shall include a Bureau of Engineering, a Bureau of Traffic Control, a Bureau of Streets, a Bureau of Sanitation, a Bureau of Parks and Recreation, a Bureau of Buildings, a Bureau of Code Enforcement, and a Central Garage.

What can the Commissioner do?

B. Commissioner of General Services.  There shall be a Commissioner of General Services who shall be head of the department and shall have supervision and control of the entities enumerated in paragraph “A” herein.  The Commissioner shall be appointed by the Mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council, to serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and may appoint, with the approval of the
Mayor, a City Engineer, a Traffic Engineer, a Superintendent of Streets and Sanitation, a Director of Code Enforcement., and a Director of Parks and Recreation.

Are there any qualifications for the position? Funny you should ask.

C. Qualifications of Commissioner.  The Commissioner of General Services shall  possess at least a bachelor’s degree in management or logistics, or an equivalent degree, from an accredited four­ year college or university, and shall have had at least five (5) years of increasingly responsible experience in public works administration or equivalent fields prior to appointment.

Logistics majors rejoice!

The commissioner, with approval of the Mayor, can combine certain bureaus and duties. The Commissioner can also be the City Engineer if the appointee happens to meet the qualifications to be the City Engineer.

Under the new Charter there has to be a City Engineer, a Director of Parks and Recreation a Bureau of Buildings and a Central Garage. The other positions are discretionary.

Under Section 56 of the Charter, there shall be a Department of Planning and Economic Development and there may be a Commissioner of that department. If there isn't, the Deputy Mayor can fulfill that role.

It appears that the Commissioner of General Services could have an inordinate amount of power within the administration. If you'll note, the Commissioner, with the approval of the mayor (but not the City Council) can appointment numerous individuals as well as mix-in-match bureaus and duties.

This may be the position to have if you want to control the maximum amount of the city's day-to-day business. The qualifications mandate could prove problematic. First, has anyone ever met someone who had a bachelor's degree in logistics? There could be less degrees in that discipline than in Medieval Balkan Poetry. We think they'll need to rely on the "or an equivalent degree" provision more often than not.

Also, exactly what will the Deputy Mayor do? Well, it looks like the Deputy Mayor will really be the Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development. The Deputy Mayor cannot be expected to be, essentially, a Department head and also oversee everything the Commissioner of General Services does.

Finally, as an aside, given the qualification necessary for the Commissioner of General Services, it remains doubtful that the person filling that position could also operate as Madden's political insider. That political street fighter we believe is necessary for any administration. That's the person who understands Troy City government as well as political history. Here, that can't be Madden, Glasheen, Monica K. and it's unlikely to be the Commissioner of General Services.

We could be wrong but we think Madden doesn't the gun necessary for the knife fight.

Perhaps we overestimate the power and influence a strong Commissioner of General Services may have. Does anyone else think too much power may be concentrated in this position? Does anyone care?







Thursday, December 03, 2015

MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS

In addition to naming Monica K. as Deputy Mayor (subject to the approval of the City Council), Mayor Elect Madden announced that Kevin Glasheen will be the City's top lawyer (or Corporation Counsel).

Glasheen is currently Of Counsel with Barclay Damon (formerly Hiscock & Barclay).

This announcement was not much of a surprise as Glasheen was almost immediately mentioned to be in the running for the spot. The real question was whether Glasheen would leave a lucrative practice to take the job. We imagine Glasheen might have been ready to hang up his spurs at Barclay when he made his decision to join Team Madden.

Barclay Damon is a large law firm with offices in Albany, Syracuse, Washington DC, Boston, NYC, Buffalo and Toronto. They also have offices in Elmira?

Our previous Corporation Counsels have been drawn from small law firms or, in the case of Silverman, the District Attorneys Office. It will be interesting to see if a Corporation Counsel from a higher-end law firm brings anything different to the role. Barclay Damon is involved in high-end litigation and commercial deals worth millions of dollars. Perhaps it will make a difference, perhaps not.

The firm of Goldberger & Kremer has done much of the city's legal work in the past, particularly in the area of contract negotiations. Will Glasheen, no stranger to such negotiations, take on this role and save the city some money?

TRANSITION NEWS

In the meantime, Mayor Elect Madden appears to be taking the City's financial situation seriously and has pledged to devote his efforts to seeking long-term solutions. Well, that's a start.

There was more good news yesterday when we learned that Jeffrey Nesich is on the Madden Transition Team. Nesich is currently with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and is something of a fiscal wizard. He has been consulted by both Democratic and Republican Administrations in the area and is respected by many. If there are some fixes for Troy's budgetary problems, Nesich will find them.

News also reached us that the Transition Co-Chairs have finally met. For the first time. Just days ago. We find it odd that the Transition Team seems to be only just getting off the ground. Perhaps they waited for the budget outcome but there is still much they could have done before then December 1.

That's all we got.





Wednesday, December 02, 2015

COUNCIL ADOPTS BUDGET



The Troy City Council adopted the proposed budget last night with a bipartisan vote of 8-1. Jim Gordon (District 1-R) was the lone 'no' vote.

Interestingly, the Council also voted to eliminate the position of Recreation Director, currently held by George Rogers, by a 5-4 vote. That would mean an extra $72,000 in the city coffers. Said one supporter of the position elimination: "What do we need a recreation director for? Isn't watching city government recreation enough?"

The Rogers move came as a surprise to many as it had not been discussed in caucus. The mayor could veto the cut. Oddly enough, Councilman Gordon, currently a County employee, voted yes in eliminating Rogers' position. Rogers position is considered unnecessary because of the proposed Commissioner of General Services position being considered.

The Commissioner of General Services title is not included in the City Charter and will have to be enacted through a Charter amendment. That could prove an interesting battle, given some of the personalities on the incoming council.

The much debated tax increase will amount to 4.6% or approximately $12.00 per $1,000 in assessed value. The tax increase is almost 2% less than Tutunjian's 2005 tax increase and .1% more than Tutunjian wanted for 2010.

After the budget was formally adopted, it was quickly swaddled, taking for its MMR and a DSS caseworker was assigned. The adoptee is said to be doing well despite a slight case of colic.

On another note, there have been a number of comments aimed at Troy Firefighters and Police. Please be advised that The Troy Polloi stands with our brave Firefighters and Police. And that's not just because of all the tail they get.Their budgets should not be cut. Their training should not be reduced. We know there are occasional abuses or rumors of abuses. No department is without flaws. However, these two departments are the last place to start, not the first. Tough contract negotiations? Sure. Reducing potential raises? Sure. But when the cops or firefighters talk about the need for equipment and training, we should listen. Last summer reminded us that the cliché that they place their lives in danger everyday is a cliche' for a reason.

Therefore, lets not attack individual members of the TPD or TFD. You can criticize all you want but why belittle individual members of those two forces? Is it really a mark of dishonor to have a family of firefighters?







Tuesday, December 01, 2015

TAX CAP TRAMPLED

Last night the Troy City Council overrode the State's real property tax cap by a vote of 8 - 1. The nearly unanimous vote paves the way for tonight's budget vote. The proposed tax increase will be 4.9%. Ken Crowe II has the story.

District 1 Councilman Jim Gordon (R) was the lone nay. Previously, four councilpersons had rejected an override when the tax hike would have been 9.3%. This time, Councilpersons Wiltshire (At-Large), Anastasia Robertson (D-2) and Ken Zalewski (D-5) voted to override the cap. Those three, along with Gordon, will not be returning to the council next year. Robertson was defeated for reelection, Wiltshire and Gordon chose to run for mayor and Zalewski was term-limited out of office.

Frankly, were shocked that Wiltshire and Zalewski changed their minds. Wiltshire kept his promise to consider an override if the tax increase was 5% or less. Zalewski took to social media to ask the voters what they wanted.

According to the Crowe story: "Councilman Jim Gordon, a Republican, was the only council member to vote against the override at both meetings. He condemned the revised budget as built on one-shot revenues and the raiding of city funds."

He ain't wrong.

Mayor Elect Patrick Madden said the proposed budget was a "wing and a prayer."

He ain't wrong.

Council President Elect Carmella Mantello said, "we'll make it I swear, oh, oh, living on a prayer."

If you go back and look at the old budgets, including the Mayor's message to the council explaining the budget, you come to the realization that most of these budgets are built on one-shot revenues, optimistic revenue projections and slight-of-hand. We'll live and will forget all about this until next October. Then, we'll act shocked when we're told there may be fiscal difficulties.

Budget cuts will include limiting the use of vowels at the new Try City Hall and reduced paper clip consumption. Employees will be asked to bring their own writing implements to work and the city will be limited to only three fires a year in order to reduce Fire Department overtime. Any serious crimes will be confined to regular business hours.

Some perspective: the proposed 5% increase is less that Mayor Tutunjian's 6.5% increase for 2005.

Monday, November 30, 2015

BUDGET BLUES

With a cut here, a slice there, Mayor Rosamilia has stated that the tax hike could be as low as 4.9% That only works, of course, if there's a meeting to vote on a tax cap override. Such a meeting has been in doubt but it appears it will go forward.

The 4.9% possibility also throws the issue back to the City Council. Council President Wiltshire previously stated that he could stomach a 5% increase but not a 8% increase. The extra 3% hurt his tummy. We remain skeptical that anything will happen. The 'No's' simply refuse to cooperate.

That said, we have thought long and hard about this situation during Godfather commercial breaks. The conclusion arrived at? While making for semi-interesting drama, this is not the end of the world.

Mayor Rosamilia has his detractors like all mayors. He certainly has his flaws. In particular, his administrative and public relations skills are about as developed as your average mollusk. The budget issues are not one of those flaws. No more than any other mayor.

Lets look at some of the excuses given for tax hikes and/or threatened layoffs.

There's this excuse:

"Based on the current level of spending and a relatively flat increase in revenues, we
have projected costs through .... Major category expenses included an assumption of
salaries at an increase of 3% for each year .... Salary increases at this rate
(3%) are in place for the CSEA and UFA bargaining groups per their contracts through
.... The other large group (PBA) is currently undergoing bargaining
negotiations. However, based on prior negotiations, we feel safe in assuming a three percent
(3%) salary increase for that group as well. Furthermore, given the current trends, we have
assumed an additional 30% of total salary costs to account for employee benefits, and an
increase in other operating categories of 3.9%."


Translation: Expenses go up.

It is ultimately this administrations goal to close these budget gaps through the
measures described above. However, if these means are not sufficient, an alternative plan will
be presented which includes a potential tax increase and/or layoff. In the worst-case scenario,
the budget gap in ... ($1,202,474) would be closed by implementing a 7% property tax
increase equating to approximately $1,050,000. In addition, the City would implement an
employee reduction of at least 5 positions through attrition and/or layoff. This reduction would
equate to approximately $208,000 provided the average salary of each is $32,000 and fringe
benefits of 30% are anticipated.


Translation: We may need more money.

Or this excuse:

"We've done just about everything we can do to put together a budget to continue the quality of life of the residents. By reducing some jobs from the budget, we're able to keep the tax increase to what I believe is a minimum level."

Or this excuse:

"...healthcare costs are projected to increase 7.3 percent for 2011, having already jumped 13.8 percent in 2009 and 6.5 percent in 2010. Altogether, there has been a $1.5 million increase in healthcare costs from 2009 to 2011. Despite employees making health care concessions during the last round of negotiations, it does not necessarily mean the cost to the city is reduced."

Or this excuse:

"There is also a "staggeringly high" 41 percent increase in pension contributions, an amount that may change after the city receives the final amount from the State Comptroller's Office on Oct. 15. Of that 41 percent, the city was able to amortize $1.4 million. Because of the amortization, the pension increase will be around 13 percent, but Mazzariello stressed that the increase will have to be paid eventually. "All we're doing is prolonging the inevitable, and postponing those payments to the future," he said."

Then there is the use of reserve funds to keep tax increases low or non-existent.



These, of course, our quotes from the prior administration when dealing with their own budget woes.

There was the threatened 19% tax increase for 2010.

The administration explained:

"Obviously, this is a very serious situation," wrote Crawley. The city's current situation stands in stark contrast to statements made by Tutunjian to The Record last fall that there was no financial crisis in the city because the total amount of money in city reserve accounts then neared $22 million.
"When I say we're in the best shape we've been in for 20 years, it's true," said Tutunjian at that time.

When asked what had changed since then, Tutunjian said that the city received a bill from the state earlier this month informing his administration that its pension costs were going up by $2 million in 2010.

Ultimately, the proposed budget called for a 4.25% tax increase, later reduced to 2.54% by the City Council.

There was the year when spending went up but there was no corresponding tax increase.

The 4.9% tax increase isn't even the largest in the past decade. If you recall, Tutunjian's first budget raised taxes 6.5%. In the first two years he raised taxes 8%.

That is not to criticize Tutunjian. The 'excuses' his administration made for budget woes remains the same today. It remains the same for many northeastern cities. What some people here and there are the internet seem incapable of understanding is that costs increase over time. In particular, healthcare costs and, of course, contractually mandated raises, COLA's etc. Technology needs updating, roads need to be maintained.... If revenues remain flat or even grow at slower rate than prices, guess what?

Cuts can always be made. There is always something that can go. Sometimes increasing revenue costs money. For instance, we could sell our terrific water to some neighboring municipalities that have a water problem. Most are across the river and we simply do not have the infrastructure to deliver the product. Do we want to invest in that infrastructure?

Do cuts in services help attract investors? Would people be willing to go to private garbage collection?

The point is, this annual budget dance (some years are easier than others) does not represent a systemic problem as much as it represents a new reality. Cuts, like tax hikes, only prolong the inevitable.  Cuts are a one-shot. Tax hikes are a one-shot. Eventually, you can't do either.

Got to love Troy politics. It's never dull.









Saturday, November 28, 2015

NEW TAX HIKE WILL BE DISCUSSED...

AT A VERY SPECIAL MEETING

First up, we would like to welcome Mark Robarge to the scrum. Mark is a new editor/reporter at The Record. We hope he follows in the footsteps of the areas good political reporters: Chet Hardin, Shawn Charniga and Tim O'Brien. This article is a promising start. A bit more meat-on-the-bone than we've seen in the past (or at least since Cinema Art closed).

According to the article (and as we reported on November 21, 2015), the new revenue enhancement proposal would mean a roughly 5% tax increase. This proposal would still be in excess of the real property tax cap and legislation will be needed for the override. According to the article:

"Rosamilia offered the compromise this week in a letter to current council members in which he calls for trimming an additional $463,000 in spending and adding another $250,000 in revenue to his initial, $68.6 million proposal. The plan stays true to Rosamilia’s pledge to avoid layoffs or cuts in essential services, but calls for eliminating four vacant positions in the city assessor’s office, central garage and recreation, as well as a $145,000 cut in the city’s contingency fund, increasing the amount of profit transferred from the city’s water fund by $250,000 and bumping up the total assessed value of property citywide by nearly $900,000."

Mayor Elect Madden responded enthusiastically: “It looks like his budget works, if everything falls into place,” Madden said. “It works on paper, but we’re going to have to deal with reality.”

Council President Elect Carmella Mantello (aka C-Lo) was equally enthusiastic: "They’re really doing nothing more here than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” Mantello said.

C-Lo just doesn't appreciate that there's going down with the ship and then there's going down with the ship in style. Besides, she better get used to it as the new Titanic Cruise Director. The real question is, will Carmella make room on the door for Pat after the ship goes down or, like Rose, hog the entire door while Pat succumbs to hypothermia?

The Special Meeting is scheduled for Monday. It should be, as always, quite a spectacle. We do not believe the tax cap will be breached. The four nays (Wiltshire, Gordon, Robertson & Zalewski) seem intractable. Alas, if they had only shown such backbone in the past. The fact is, they do not want this to occur no matter the consequences. Three of the four seem more than willing to sabotage the incoming administration and council, which is their right, of course.

While Mantello's comment isn't completely false, 'they' have been rearranging, painting, sanding and refinishing the chairs on the Titanic for more than a decade and the ship is still afloat, albeit listing. We'll look at that in the near future.

In the meantime, shuffle board in Barker Park, anyone?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

IT'S OFFICAL

MONICA K.



According to The Record, Mayor Elect Madden will select Economic Development Coordinator Monica Kurzekeski as his Deputy Mayor. We reported this on Sunday but got it wrong. We thought it would be Monica Kurzejeski, not Kurzekeski. We hate to grab the low hanging fruit, especially in The Record orchard, but typos in the headline? Tippos in the axual stori happun, but in the hedline?

Background on the future Deputy Mayor can be found here.

Madden's first mayoral decision is an interesting one. It's our understanding that there will not be a Commissioner of Planning...and that economic development will be Balkanized, with the Deputy Mayor in overall charge of the various development project. This is, in our opinion, a naïve plan. While we'd have no issue with Monica being tapped to be the new Commissioner, we think she'll be in well over her head balancing economic schemes with the deputy mayor's duties. That would be a lot on anyone's plate. The political equivalent of letting loose the former administration in an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Further, and perhaps more important to Madden's long-term success, is the lack of political savvy in the two top spots. Madden has to avoid Mayor Rosamilia's habitual eschewing of the occasional political street fight. There are people who want Madden's job and they will maneuver accordingly.

Good luck and congratulations to Monica.

THE RUMORS ARE TRUE

The chances that the real property tax cap will be overridden have diminished. Council President Wiltshire and District 1 Councilman Jim Gordon want to cancel the council meeting and the vote to override the tax cap. The grounds to do so are procedural. The argument goes something like this, though we don't pretend to be experts on Robert's Rules: The legislation to override the tax cap is the identical legislation that already failed. Therefore, the appropriate vehicle to reintroduce the tax cap override would be a motion to reconsider, not simply another vote. Then there's the fact that legislation must ferment for seven days before being put up for a vote....

At this point, it doesn't matter: The fat lady has sailed, the ship has sung, the metaphors have mixed. Wiltshire, Gordon and Zalewski have simply refused to do their jobs and have asked the administration to do it for them. They will not acknowledge that they have not only the authority but Charterial (Chartertustional?) duty to propose budget cuts and then negotiate those proposed cuts with the administration. Councilwoman Robertson (D-2) is a nonentity.

It's clear that Wiltshire would not vote to override the cap if the proposed increase was 2% This is his attempt to cripple the incoming administration. Councilman Zalewski (D-5) will follow suit. It may work.

One wonders if Madden is happy he may be playing Sisyphus for the next four years.

And a Happy Thanksgiving to our readers!



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SABOTAGE?

From the Charter:

§C-70 I. Council and Mayor budget meeting. After the Council committees file their reports with the Clerk and prior to the final public hearing on the budget, a committee consisting of the Mayor, the Budget Officer, and the City Council members shall convene to review suggested changes to the recommended budget.  [Amended by L.L. No. 5-1994, § 47]


K.  Adoption of the budget. The City Council at a special meeting held after the final public hearing on or before the first day of December, or if that day falls on a Sunday, on or before the second day of December, shall by resolution adopt or amend and adopt the budget and submit the same to the Mayor for his/her approval...

From the City Council President:

From: Rodney Wiltshire [mailto:wiltshirefortroy@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 3:31 PM
To: Cheryl.Christiansen; Adam.Sanzone; Anastasia Robertson; Andrew.Donovan; Bill.Chamberlain; Bill.Dunne; bodnard@hotmail.com; Chris.Wheland; Erin Sullivan-Teta; Gabrielle.Mahoney; galuski@troycitycouncil.com; George.Rogers; George.Vanbramer; Ian.Silverman; jgordon003@nycap.rr.com; Joe Licarrdi; Joe.Mazzariello; John.Salka; John.Tedesco; Kelly Cramer Esq.; kcrowe@timesunion.com; Lynn M. Kopka; Lou.Rosamilia; Marian.Drozd; Mike.Hayner; Monica.Kurzejeski; Peter.Ryan; Rhonda.Reed; Robert J. Doherty; Selena.Skiba; Sharon.Martin; Tom.Garrett; Warren.Mueller; Ken Zalewski
Subject: Re: meetings for 11-30-15


To all in the Administration,
 
The mayor and I spoke earlier today about the re-attempt to override the state’s tax cap and pass a budget that exceeds it.
I can only speak for myself, but as President, I will state that asking us to override the tax cap with the budget that has been presented is still not an option, and in order for us to even consider moving the agenda and the legislation, we expect to have a clear schedule of amendments by Monday with details of either cost savings, and or new qualified revenues that lower this tax increase dramatically.
 
Whatever cuts that you, as department heads, or administration staff need to make, need to be spelled out clearly; whether they include service cuts, staff, or other management decisions.  Identify in as much detail as necessary what the changes are to staff, salaries, personnel if particular, and services or schedules as you would propose them to be made.
We as a council will not be charged with making these decisions or choices for you.  
 
Please propose your plan that balances your essential services and staff with the needs of the taxpayers.
Again, these changes to the budget need to be clear, concise, and non-ambiguous.
This detail, and the overall tax increase, is a precursor to even considering the override.
 
Have a great weekend,

Rodney
 
We suppose a reply of: Fuck You would be frowned upon by Rosamilia.

Wiltshire has yet to discover the beauty and grace of brevity. May we suggest the following:

"Please do our job without us and please make sure services remain intact and taxes as low as possible."

It is clear that Wiltshire wants to sabotage* any effort to avoid State involvement. A Friday afternoon e-mail demands that the administration not only do their job but the Council's as well, by Monday? The tax increase must be lowered dramatically? All of that just so an override might be considered.

The mayor has proposed his plan. The Council now counters with their own plan, or, more accurately, their amendments. That's the process. It occurred under Pattison and Tutunjian and for the last four years. We would recommend cutting Wiltshire out of the process but that presupposes he's involved with the process. Ignore him and work with Gordon or Robertson. Zalewski is just following orders and doesn't understand, by his own admission, the budget or budget process. Gordon can be reasoned with, Robertson's worth a shot.

So, why the sabotage? Rodney clearly dreams of escaping Elba and marching on Troy once again. This time, under the banner of fiscal responsibility. Watch for Team Troy. They will be back in a year. Thwarted ambition can be a very destructive force. Another reason Madden will need a political animal in City Hall. Someone who has the institutional knowledge as well as a keen political radar. We're sure Pattison can recommend someone.

* From the French, meaning sabotage

Monday, November 23, 2015

MLK OVERHAUL

According to  The Record, "The Troy Industrial Development Authority approved an agreement Friday that could save more than $750,000 for the developer poised to undertake a $13.5 million project that includes buying and rehablitating the Martin Luther King Apartments.

IDA members unanimously agreed to a 30-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes deal with Omni Housing Development for the first phase of the project, which will reduce the number of units in the Troy Housing Authority’s apartment complex on Eddys Lane from 120 to between 77 and 84. Omni will make up for the lost units in the second phase of the project by buying property in the North Central neighborhood and constructing new buildings or rehabilitating existing structures to create an additional 37 units, according to Tim O’Byrne, Omni’s project manager."

The IDA will take a leasehold interest in the property and lease it back to Omni Development in order to protect the City's investment.

Frankly, we had no idea that a private entity could purchase public housing.

This is HUGE news! Humongous news! The Record printed a story  more than two paragraphs long, filled with facts and without typos.


TROY SCHOOL #1

From our friends at the Times Union: North Central, the city's poorest neighborhood, will get an economic boost of $1.8 million through a plan to convert the closed School 1 into 28 apartments. Redburn Development Companies, which has a track record of converting old buildings into residential space, outlined its proposal to the Troy Industrial Development Authority Friday.

School 1 will be transformed into one- and two-bedroom apartments, Damien Pinto-Martin, Redburn's vice president of development told the IDA. The rents would be market rate.

The total project cost, including the property, is $1,891,000, according to Redburn's application for financial assistance with the IDA. The developer asked for exemption of $55,000 in sales taxes and $14,000 in mortgage taxes. No property tax exemptions were listed.

The building will house apartments that were expelled from other apartment buildings or apartments that need remedial aid.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

MADSITION TEAM

TRANSITION TEAM


Late last week Mayor Elect Patrick Madden announced the co-chairs of his transition team. The people who will try to ease Madden's evolution from not-for-profit pupa to beautiful mayoral butterfly.

We announced the Wallace Altes appointment earlier. The remaining co-chairs are Alisa Cahill Henderson, President of Duncan & Cahill, Inc. and James Spencer, Executive Director of Rensselaer Technology Park.

Duncan & Cahill is a general contractor and construction management firm located on Oakwood Avenue, Troy, New York. The fly-by-night firm has been in business since 1933. For those wondering about any political leanings, we do not know Alisa Henderson's politics. Duncan & Cahill has been a frequent, yet modest, contributor to County Executive Kathy Jimino's campaigns. They also contributed to Jim Conroy's 2007 campaign against Mayor Tutunjian. One of the few Inc's that backed Conroy over the incumbent Tutunjian.

In high school, Henderson was voted most likely to be co-chair of a transition team.

As the Executive Director of the Rensselaer Technology Park, James Spencer is  "responsible for developing and optimizing the Translational Pathways of the Institute's Innovation Ecosystem through Strategic Innovation Asset Development. Strategic Innovation Assets include institute-owned intellectual property (IP), startups and commercial real estate that supports commercialization and off-campus basic & applied research activities."

Want to know how impressive that is? It's so impressive that we don't understand a f%$#*g thing that means. Our Corporate-to-English translator is down. Another issue with Spencer is that he graduated from Brown University because he couldn't get in to Yale. May as well have gone to Princeton. His LinkedIn page can be found here.

We've been to the Rensselaer Technology Park and no offense to Mr. Spencer but none of the rides are any good and the lines are too long.

We are encouraged by these selections and  Madden's emphasis on the private sector. The answer to Troy's fiscal problems, easier said than accomplished, is simple: tax base growth. That's it. No surprises there. This will need to be tempered with a person or two who understand the limitations of the public sector.

This emphasis on the private sector is in contrast to the Council's transition team that appears weighed down with politico bloat, with that not-so-fresh feeling. However, the two groups have different concerns.

OTHER NEWS

In other news, it looks like the odds of Monica K. becoming Deputy Mayor have gone up. We hear it is all but a done deal. While we have nothing against Monica and no opinion on what position she fills, we wonder if Madden will have at least one political street fighter on his team. Someone who knows city government and the Byzantine politics of the city. Just in case the knives need to come out.

Finally, with the absentee ballots counted, Democratic At-Large candidate Carol Weaver lost to Republican Kim Ashe-McPherson by sixty votes. That a mere two votes per election district.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

DO-OVER

Under the Troy City Charter Section 55-(a)1.23(i) the Mayor has invoked the well-worn DO-OVER provision in an attempt to save resident's money. A special meeting has been called to seek another override of the Real Property Tax Cap. This time, it looks like the tax hike could be 5-6%. We think it could actually be just shy of 5% if they really give it the Old Troy Try.

We're sure that Mayor-Elect Madden as well as the incoming City Council would prefer a 5% tax increase rather than the alternative, which would a be a State Nanny for the next three or four years. While we wouldn't mind a Hollywood Nanny:



State issued nannies from the Office of the New York State Comptroller look more like:



Mayor Elect Madden had this to say:

"I'm going to have to focus on the budget. We're committed to doing everything to make this work." The obviousness of this statement doesn't really add to the conversation.

The new Republican majority wants to achieve cost savings and develop a workable budget for the future, Mantello said."Everything and anything has to be considered. The city has to be working more efficiently." The obviousness of this statement doesn't really add to the conversation.

What is of interest is a quote from current Council President Rodney Wiltshire's letter:

"Whatever cuts that you, as department heads, or administration staff need to make, need to be spelled out clearly; whether they include service cuts, staff, or other management decisions. This detail, and the overall tax increase, is a precursor to even considering the override," Wiltshire said.

At the Wednesday night vote, Wiltshire said the administration has not collaborated with the City Council during the budget discussions.

That Wiltshire intends to be at the vote is progress. Once again, though, he is shirking his, and the Council's, collective responsibilities. The Charter gives the Council the authority to propose cuts. This has never meant asking department heads to cut their own budgets. It has meant that the Council sits down, reviews the budget lines and recommends specific cuts. It's called work. While this did occur, the Council's cuts were the equivalent of going through the city's couch looking for loose change.

Wiltshire's comment that the administration has not collaborated with the City Council is demonstrably false. It is Wiltshire and a minion or two that will not meet with the administration. The fact that the Council President wrote a letter instead of requesting a meeting with the Mayor to discuss this says all there is to say.

Do Wiltshire, Zalewski, Robertson and Gordon know that if the cap isn't lifted the 9.3% increase will go into effect? Their constituents will pay more for less services. We're not sure each of them understand that simple fact.  Nor are we convinced all the people allegedly calling Councilman Zalewski asking him to vote no understand this fact. Wiltshire appears willing to ram the derelict  SS Team Troy straight into the SS City of Troy and the devil-be-damned that we don't have enough lifeboats.

Wiltshire said on Wednesday he would vote to override the tax cap if the increase was 5%. He has refused to lead so it is now time for him to step aside and let the adults do the work. Isn't it vacation time? We're not sure if we've ever seen thwarted ambition manifest itself in such a bitter, public manner.

We do have hope that the eventual increase will be 5%. We hope that Councilman Gordon will reconsider his vote. We have continued hope that Madden and Mantello continue to talk and collaborate and that January 1, 2016 heralds a drama-free period in Troy's history.

Friday, November 20, 2015

NEWS YOU CAN'T USE

REZONING

According to The Times Union:

The City Council agreed to rezone the Hillside and Beman Park neighborhoods. Both neighborhoods are currently R-3. The new zoning would be R-2, more restrictive and hostile to development. The change was pushed by a few people to stop Stewart's from expanding because we wouldn't want a business to expand into such exclusive neighborhoods.

Due to the new restrictions Nieman Marcus and Herrods have decided not to open locations in Beman Park or the Hillside neighborhoods. While we appreciate the desire to limit development in neighborhoods, this appears to be rezoning for one reason: To stop the expansion of a commercial enterprise that sits on Hoosick Street.

ONE MONUMENT SQUARE

The Troy Farmers Market will not relocate to the project currently planned for the former Troy City Hall site. Troy residents will need to buy their farmers somewhere else.

Speaking of One Monument Square, Council President Elect is stepping in:

From: Carmella Mantello [mailto:cmantell@nycap.rr.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2015 1:09 PM
To: MayorsOffice.
Cc: John.Salka
Subject: Re: Attention: Troy IDA (Please forward to Troy IDA)
 
Amendment to letter. Meeting date is Friday, November 20, 2105 not 2016. Thanks.

Sent from my iPhone

On Nov 19, 2015, at 11:32 AM, Carmella Mantello <cmantell@nycap.rr.com> wrote:
Dear Chairman O'Bryan & Troy IDA,

It is my understanding that the Troy IDA will meet on Friday, October 20, 2016 to consider an IDA application for the One Monument Square project. The developers of One Monument Square are seeking extensive tax benefits from the Troy IDA. The $11.7 million financial package includes $10.5 million in estimated property tax savings, $972,000 in sales and use tax exemptions, and $228,750 in mortgage recording tax exemptions. 
 
A review of city records indicates that all members of the Troy IDA, except Chairman O'Bryan, had their terms expire on April 8, 2015. I would strongly suggest that before the Troy IDA acting with expired terms consider the large tax benefits for One Monument Square that this matter be tabled. This will allow the new mayor and new city council to act upon a new IDA. The mayor appoints all members to the IDA and they are confirmed by the city council. 
 
It is important to recognize that the voters of Troy selected a new mayor and city council, and they should be entitled to seek and/or reappoint a new IDA reflective of their philosophy. 
 
This project will have a significant economic impact regarding taxes and other matters in the future of Troy's development. 
 
I certainly appreciate all the work the Troy IDA has done, and hope that you will take my recommendations in the positive spirit that it is offered. 
 
Carmella R. Mantello
Council President-Elect

It seems clear that Ms. Mantello does not understand City government. Government, boards, commissions and authorities do not grind to a halt to await her majesty's coronation. We want to give Carmella the benefit of the doubt but this is the second time she appears to be playing politics. Remember Carmella, you do not choose new appointees, the council only confirms them. The Democratic Council did not block any of Mayor Tutunjian's rather dubious choices and Mantello would do wise to remember she is not appointing anyone, merely confirming the choices of the man the people elected as their mayor.

Yes, Mantello received the most votes of any candidate on November 3, 2015. It's also true that but for the ill-fated, election spoiling, Team Titanic, she might not be Council President. Her numbers would place her in 6th place in 2011 (the last mayoral election year), behind Jim Gordon and Billie-Jean Green. She received 1,100 votes less than Lynn Kopka did in 2011. So, while we don't want to rain on her parade, lets keep things in perspective. Carmella, listen to Hank Bauer, not Dworsky and Frankie L. Bauer was a solid legislator and freed from partisanship is a good tutor.

GOOD NEWS

A City Hall insider is pushing a plan that would result in a tax increase of 4.9%,  just under the bar set by Council President Rodney Wiltshire. This would result in a real, bare bones budget. The City Council did not approve the budget last night and may revisit a tax cap override next week. If the proposed tax increase is 5% or less, will Wiltshire stand by his word and vote to override?

Now you know... the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

NO OVERRIDE

Bouchon d'impôt remplacent échoue!

Last night the Troy City Council rejected legislation that would allow them to pay the City's bills. In order to pass a budget with a projected 8-9.3% tax increase the Council needed pass a local law allowing it to exceed the roughly 1.5% real property tax cap. The Council vote was 5-4 against.

Those voting for the override (who many have labeled "the adults") were Dean Bodnar (D-3), Bob Doherty (D-4), Gary Galuski (D-6), Erin Sullivan-Teta (At-Large) and Lynn Kopka (At-Large).

The nays (who many have labeled the adults) were Jim Gordon (D-1), Ken Zalewski (D-5), Rodney Wiltshire (At-Large) and Anastasia Robertson (D-2).

Councilman Zalewski had said for almost a week that he would be a 'No' vote. His vote was never in doubt. Councilman Wiltshire said that a 5% increase was palatable but they extra 3% was not. Councilman Gordon pulled a Zalewski and stated that a babysitter might be a good thing.

Councilwoman Robertson said, "Not another dollar for Amerikkka!"*

We don't yet know all the consequences, intended or otherwise, from this vote. Some may say they nays exercised fiscal responsibility. Others may say it is not fiscally responsible for a municipality to be unable to pay its bills. This is especially true because we know the source of the problem. Troy was not spending like a drunken sailor in Shanghai on leave in for the first time in 6 months (which sounds more and more attractive). Rather, the bulk of the problem came from pension fund payments, a problem that will plague cities like Troy in the years to come.

We do not believe that the Council, as a whole, made a serious effort to find appropriate and real cuts. We do know that the entire Council never met to try and work this out. certain members, due to personality differences, acted more like petulant children than leaders. One actually threw a juice box against the wall when it was bedtime.** Cutting supplies is not a serious effort. That's a Band-Aid.

Another Councilman who shall remain nameless (Wiltshire) spent more time casting blame and playing victim (Wiltshire) than he spent working on a solution.

Is it telling or mere coincidence that every person voting 'no' will not be present to pick up the pieces?  Two of the four have telegraphed a certain disdain for the Troy Police Department. After what happened this summer, do we want to cut into ERT funding? Do we want to close two firehouses? Will this be the typical situation where citizens do not want a tax increase but want services unaffected?

Getting and keeping the fiscal house in shape should be a priority. Falling back on the New York State Comptrollers Office for oversight still seems like passing the buck.

We guess the question for our multitudinous readership is: Is last night's vote a net positive or negative?

* To the best of our knowledge not actually said

** To the best of our knowledge not actually done