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

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Here's one from the 'better late than never' files. According to The Record, Jack Cox, owner of Jack's Auto Sales on River Street, was fined $81,000 by City Court Judge Chris Maier. The reason? Keeping a junked car on the property. We know, we never would have guessed.

Cox has to pay $1,000 a day for each day a vehicle was illegally stored on the property. This is just one battle in a very long war waged by the City of Troy and Cox for years. The City has, almost always, been in the right. When the Troy Polloi sides with Bob Mirch, the stars have aligned.

Of course, Cox will appeal. Such an appeal should go to one of the County Court Judges. Why they would reverse is beyond us. The pickup truck could not be reached for comment.

We don't care if Cox doesn't want to play by the rules like everyone else. He should just be ready to pay for breaking those rules.

In other news, Troy Police are investigating the alleged murder of an unarmed woodchuck at the Frear Park golf course during a golf tournament. According to witnesses, a manned golf cart pursued and murdered a woodchuck. Police are investigating allegations that the murder was committed by two off-duty City of Rensselaer police officers.

It is not known if alcohol was involved. A motive has not yet been determined but jealousy has not been ruled out. The woodchuck's identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin.

If the allegations are true, it is more than disturbing that two grown men, sworn to uphold the law, would intentional injure, let alone kill, an animal. If the allegations are proven, the officers should be dismissed from employment and prosecuted.

Both stories come courtesy of Mark Robarge at The Record.

By the way, what happened to Franco and Friends and the Talk 1300 Report? If you know, leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

SUMMER BREAK

Summer Break time. Nothing much going on. We've had an indictment and another water main break. Ho-hum. It's all rather tiresome. Really nothing all that fun to write about. See you next week.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

CHARTER ISSUES

Troy's new City Charter is now operational. However, according to one newspaper account, there are issues. It looks like some things were overlooked, creating potential issues for the future. This, after a commission worked on this for quite some time.

We suppose it is not unexpected that one or two things were overlooked. It happens and we all know that committees and commissions produce compromised products. Most of the issues should be addressed by the City Council as long as the items addressed do not reduce the powers of the mayor. We believe that is the standard. As long as changes do not reduce mayoral powers changes to the Charter may be done via legislation. If the mayor's powers are to be reduced, a referendum is necessary.

The biggest mistake, to our minds, was intentional and quite popular: the reduction of at-large representation from three to one. Augmenting the problem is the fact that the one at-large council person is elected to a four year term simultaneously with the mayor. This change sets-up some potential problems.

First, under the old Charter, the chance that the Council President's party would have a majority on the Council. This is what we have now. Council President Mantello will generally have the backing of a council majority. Under the new Charter, the chance that the Council President does not have majority support is much more likely. We think the head of the City Council should be in the majority. Things operate much more smoothly that way.

Also, we have set ourselves up for more politics and less bipartisanship. It is inevitable that the Council President will be the go-to mayoral candidate four years after their election. We will spend four years watching the mayor (if the  mayor seeks re-election) and the Council President spare in an effort to position themselves for the mayoral contest.

There is no guarantee this will happen but given the nature of Troy politics, it will happen. More partisanship, less cooperation.

In an era of great distrust of government, it seems odd that we voted to reduce our representation and essentially increase the influence of two office holders. Instead, we should reduce the Council salary and increase the Council to 12 or 13 seats, eliminate the at-large seat and allow the Council to choose its President. Council Districts should be drawn so that party registration is as even as possible. Perhaps this will make council members more responsive to their constituents.

Won't happen, we know. The real problem with the new Charter is the changes to the council, not the other issues that can be fixed.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

GORGE FATALITY

The Poestenkill Gorge claimed another victim on Tuesday. Connor Reynolds, who would have entered his senior year at Brittonkill this fall, died on Tuesday. He fell, hit his head, and drowned.

It seems like this happens every year or two. Someone is drowned or paralyzed or otherwise severely injured while at the Gorge. Of course, there is really nothing realistic that can be done. People swim where they are not permitted to swim and the area where Reyonlds died looks like a place teenagers would want to swim, regardless of the risks or the prohibitions. Didn't three RPI students ('nuff said)need rescuing from the Gorge not so long ago?

Put up a fence? They will climb it. Assign some one to patrol the area? Not realistic. Just one of those sad occurrences. Being reckless is the hallmark of youth and there, but for the grace of God.....

Anyway, a sad story. The young man's mother is a single mom with cancer. Connor was her only child. A friend has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray the costs of the funeral. If you can, think about sending in a few dollars. It may, in a small way, help the grieving mother through what has to be a unimaginably horrific time.

Don't events like this make the lunacy of Troy politics look small, petty and inconsequential?

Have a safe 4th of July weekend.


Monday, June 27, 2016

ACTING COMPTROLLER PASSES AWAY

Joe Mazzariello, the City of Troy's acting Comptroller, passed away yesterday due to a heart attack.

Mazzariello had worked for the City for more than thirty years and was set to retire on today. He had been working on a part-time basis. he was sixty-four years old.

RIP, Joe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

HONORING SAMUEL WILSON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let it go.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NEWS DUMP

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

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

We liked Walsh. RIP Jim.



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

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

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



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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

POLICE UPGRADES

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


Welcome to the 21st Century.

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


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

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


Monday, June 13, 2016

RESIDENCY EXEMPTION SURVIVES

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, June 08, 2016

THIS SOUNDS LIKE A FUN SATURDAY

According to the Times Union:

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

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

The Memo in Support states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead, have at it.

Monday, June 06, 2016

VEGA VERDICT

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, June 02, 2016

MAHAR'S REIGN...

...THE GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING.

According to the Times Union:

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

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

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

More from the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

ANOTHER SPECIAL EPISODE OF...



We were pleased to see that the New York Times, the nation's paper of record, points out the same issue the Troy Polloi pointed out: District Attorney Abelove's actions are a strong argument for Governor Cuomo's Executive Order granting the Office of the Attorney General jurisdiction over cases of police shootings that involved unarmed civilians.

The New York Times has called for the removal of the Rensselaer County District Attorney:

He hastily took the case before a grand jury — just five days after the shooting — and the jury failed to indict the officer.

News accounts have raised troubling questions about Mr. Abelove’s handling of the case. For example, The Albany Times Union this month reported that Mr. Abelove had failed to call two people who witnessed the episode. The newspaper subsequently reported that Mr. Abelove took the unusual step of giving the police officer immunity in the grand jury proceeding — even though he should have been the subject of the investigation.

Granted, it is only the New York Times. It's not as if it's the New York Post, but the editorial is damning. The Times does not say where Mr. Abelove should be removed to.

Abelove's actions are causing unintended consequences as well:

Citing "apparent manipulation of the grand jury" and "misleading statements" by a police sergeant about whether he faced charges in a fatal shooting, a defense attorney filed a motion Wednesday to reopen a hearing in a Rensselaer County Court double-homicide case.

Joseph Ahearn is seeking County Judge Andrew Ceresia's permission to return to court to question Sgt. Randall French about the fatal wounding of Edson Thevenin in an effort to impeach the officer's credibility as a witness.

Abelove is personally prosecuting the case against Ahearn's client, Jacob Heimroth, who is accused of killing Maria and Allen Lockrow in Lansingburgh in 2014. Heimorth faces first-degree murder and other charges. The district attorney had no comment on Ahearn's motion.


In addition, the Thevenin family has filed a notice of claim for the death of Edson Thevenin. This is not an unusual move and it does not guarantee that a suit will ultimately be filed. However, Abelove's actions have made the success of such a suit much more likely than it would have been had Abelove followed the law.

If Abelove had done what he was supposed to do, Sergeant French may have been cleared without any lingering doubts. There is no reason to doubt French's version of events. There's nothing in the officer's background that would suggest this was anything other than a good shoot.

But then Joel leapt into action. Is it inconceivable that a jury might find the rush to the grand jury as well as the grant of immunity suspicious? Will Joel be called to testify? What an examination that will be:

1) Rush to the Grand Jury in less than a week;
2) No toxicology report;
3) Did not bother to find two witnesses or interview them;
4) Gave the subject of the grand jury immunity from prosecution.

What are they hiding? Probably nothing, which is the real crime here. French did what he was trained to do. If handled correctly this would have gone away. Now, it's a shit sandwich.

Did Abelove think he would curry favor with the PBA? Did he think he would make a name for himself by taking on Governor Cuomo? If the latter, didn't he think it would be better to take on Cuomo from a position of strength, follow the law and then commence your challenge?

The SS Abelove is taking on water. ADA's, we suggest you find a lifeboat before the ship goes down.

The New York Times is right: Abelove needs to resign or he should be removed.

Have a nice weekend.


This episode of Mr. District Attorney brought to you by:


The Extra-Douchey energy drink!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

NEW COMMISH...

...CONTINUED

James Franco (loved him in Freaks & Geeks) dug-up some good background on the presumptive Commissioner of Planning & Economic Development. According to the Talk 1300 Report:

According to The Gazette, James Livingston bashed Strichman, a zoning officer, at a public comment section of a Council meeting for not enforcing the city code in a strict enough manner.
Strichman, in turn, sent a code enforcement officer to Livingston’s Gillespie Street home.
Livingston was cited for “house numbers that were two inches too small and for peeling paint on the porch eaves and soffits,” according to the story.

Then Mayor Brian Stratton confirmed to the newspaper “Livingston’s house was the only building cited in that neighborhood that day.”

Livingston installed larger numbers on his house. It’s unclear if he gave it a paint job.
“That’s pretty scary. Anything of this sort has a chilling effect,” Livingston told The Gazette. “The message would be, the public shouldn’t come out and speak … The aim is perhaps to scare or intimidate a resident who has simply asked a city official to do his job and do his job well.”

Franco also pointed out, as we did, that the previous administration officials that served on these boards did not receive a salary. Is Strichman so good that he warrants a $15,000 pay bump? We'll see.

If the Gazette story is accurate (and who really believes the damned liberal media) Strichman sounds like a Tutunjian  nomination. Why wouldn't the Republicans support this choice? Two jobs, political retribution...sound familiar?


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NEW COMMISH

According the Times Union:

The city's new commissioner of planning and economic development will get a $15,000 boost in his salary under a unanimous vote by the Troy Local Development Corp. at its May meeting.
Steve Strichman will receive the additional compensation as the TLDC's CEO in addition to his budgeted city commissioner's salary of $76,485, bringing his total income to $91,485.
"The administration asked us to do it," TLDC Chairman Kevin O'Bryan said Monday.

City Council President Carmella Mantello was displeased:

City Council President Carmella Mantello said she did not know about the TLDC payment to Strichman.

"As a matter of public policy, it was an end run around the budget process," Mantello said.
"It lacks transparency," said Mantello, observing that the mayor should have come to the council to ask for a higher salary for the job. "Just wait for my press conference!"

TLDC operates independently from the city government.

Of course, it is not an end-run around the budget process as the TLDC, like the Industrial Development Authority, are independent entities, distinct from the City. Yes, there mission is inextricably linked to the City, but they are different entities. District 2 Councilman Mark McGrath has struggled with this concept for years, requesting IDA records from the city numerous times, only to be told that he must request the records from the IDA.

In fact, both the IDA and the TLDC have the authority to give salaries to city officials that sit on their respective boards. It just has not occurred in the past. Neither Deputy Mayor Crawley or former Commissioner Dunne took salaries from these entities.

As for transparency, this is it. The vote is the transparency. The City Council does not oversee the IDA or TLDC. The vote is public and Strichman will need to be confirmed by the Council.

Why the extra $15,000 was needed is unknown.

O'Bryan said the $15,000 payment reflects the work that has to be done by Strichman that is independent of his role as planning commissioner.

Except that the former Commissioner, as well as former Deputy Mayor Crawley, did the same work without the salary bump. In fact, according to the Charter, the Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development is automatically on the TLDC board so...isn't it part of their duties?





Monday, May 23, 2016

FRENCH IMMUNIZED



On a very special episode of...



It looks like D.A. (disaster area?) Joel Abelove declined to obtain a waiver of immunity from Troy Police Sergeant Randall French before French's grand jury testimony. A grand jury that gathered to determine if French committed a crime.

The district attorney's unusual decision not to require the officer, Sgt. Randall French, to waive his immunity from prosecution means he cannot face criminal consequences for his conduct during the April 17 shooting incident.

Nothing to see here. Move it along, move it along.


So, French could never really be indicted. If he was indicted, he had immunity from any prosecution. If he was not indicted, he would not be prosecuted.

Once again, let us be clear: this is not about Sergeant French. We have no reason to doubt his version of events. This is about process. A process that has been abused by District Attorney Abelove  like an alter boy in a room full of randy priests.

Perhaps this is a new policy. It would certainly cut down on prosecutions and save money.

We can only assume that Abelove knew what he was doing. Since his other missteps had the stink of politics, perhaps this was a clumsy attempt to court popularity with the PBA.

In any event, Abelove's attempt to poke his thumb in Cuomo's eye over Executive Order 66 makes Order 66 (of questionable necessity) look more necessary than ever. Ah, the delicious irony. No wonder the other DA's didn't want this guy leading the charge against Cuomo's order.

 So, who's lining up to run in 2018?




Thursday, May 19, 2016

NEWS DROUGHT II

Not much in the way of fun news. Joel hasn't had another case yanked from him and Ms. Mantello hasn't had a press conference in hours. The good people of Troy did pass a school budget and a Capital Project:

Troy City School District residents have approved a $112.9 million budget for the 2016-17 school year as well as a $23.3 million Capital Project – both with a 0-percent tax levy increase. In addition three candidates have been elected to the Board of Education.

The unofficial results of the budget vote are 589 (yes) to 141 (no). This $112,909,509 budget will result in a 0-percent tax levy increase – $47,000 below the allowable tax cap.

Less than 800 people voted?

The Vega Trial is underway.

Vega is accused of strangling Milligan on April 3, 2014, at 271 Fifth Ave. in Lansingburgh, then setting fire to her apartment to cover up the killing.

Milligan was pregnant with Vega's unborn child, Alina, who also died. Prosecutors believe trial testimony will show Vega killed Milligan because his current girlfriend, with whom he also had a child, was angry over the pregnancy, court records said.
 
If acquitted, Vega would like a career working with children.
 
The lead prosecutor is Andrew Botts. Unlike the last fiasco, Mr. Botts was not admitted to practice law this year. He was admitted in 2012. So, we have that going for us. Wish him luck. This was a heinous crime and if Vega was white, and lived in Bethlehem, it would be a Lifetime Original Movie.
 
 
 
 

Monday, May 16, 2016

INDEPENDENT AUDIT SAYS

Troy has fiscal problems.

Yes, the independent audit, which cost $19,000, has told us that Troy's finances are a mess and that the city receives less revenue than it spends. Money well spent, that.

Council members agreed that nothing could be left off the table for them to consider, including layoffs, although Mantello stuck to her pledge not to support any mid-year property tax increase.

So, one thing is left off the table. A mid-year property tax increase is left off the table. Why say nothing can be left off the table when, in the next sentence, you contradict yourself?

That leaves cuts and moving the chess pieces around the board.

The council will also consider a host of other possibilities to improve the city’s finances in the long term, including outsourcing some services, with the Frear Park Municipal Golf Course and city-run ambulance program among those mentioned specifically in the Cusack audit.

When the Council announced they would seek an independent audit, The Troy Polloi said: Hey, sure. Why not. We won't assume it's a political stunt. Give the new Council some room to breath, stretch their legs and scratch their bellies. This result is not worth the....(fill in blank).

There were commentators at this site that made the above suggestions. And they did it for free. The remainder was covered by the Comptroller's report. Was this a $19,000 press conference?

If Troy really wants a balanced budget, they will need to cut jobs and services, investigate outsourcing and possible privatization and yes, eventually, raise taxes again. If none of this sounds like your cup-o-chamomile, fine. We don't want our taxes to rise anymore than the next guy. That doesn't change the solution. We'll just have to live with it.

Troy's long-term future rests with the "creative economy." No large manufacturers are coming here. We'll need to keep making the city friendly for the younger, tech-related crowd, which will mean PILOTS for man-buns and facial hair.

Troy's future also rests with younger, middle-class to upper middle-class families. The families that purchase home. That means improving the reputation of the school system, something that is, for the most part, out of the hands of the administration and Council.

One thing that will not help are those that toss aside something that is good because it is not perfect. There is far too much of that in Troy.

It's a fine fix we're in, Ollie.



Friday, May 13, 2016

PIVODA GOES FREE

On another episode of.....




On April 14, 2016, after less than one hour of jury deliberations, Anthony Pivoda was found not guilty of sexually abusing a 3 year-old. The events occurred in 2012.

Pivoda's assigned counsel was Holly Trexler.

If we have the basics straight, and we'll try to be gentle, DNA was found in the victims mouth and other areas. DNA was also found on a towel. The defense appears to have been that the owner of the DNA gratified himself and used the towel to clean-up. Then, of course, the victim grabbed the towel and DNA found its way onto the child. Makes sense, right? The jury bought it.

Now, we do not want to vilify the jury. They sometimes follow the law and even if they think someone is guilty, if the case isn't proven beyond.....(you've all seen Law & Order)  they acquit.

When the victim, however, is three years old, we would expect the case to be in the hands of an experienced prosecutor. We don't mean oversight by an experienced prosecutor, we mean that the lead prosecutor have some experiences not only in the criminal trenches but in the sex abuse trenches.

The lead prosecutor in this matter had...well, how about a test? How many years of experience did the lead prosecutor have in State v Pivoda?

a) 5 years;

b) 3 years;

c) Less than 2 years;

d) One year;

e) Less than four months.


That's not to say that the outcome would have been different if an experienced prosecutor was at the helm. Who knows, maybe Pivoda was not guilty. Twelve people thought so. Some cases are hard and guilt is tough to prove. However, shouldn't the District Attorney explain why an ADA admitted in 2016 was the lead prosecutor in a child rape case?

There may be a perfectly rationale explanation.

We'll wait.

PS We have refrained from identifying the ADA. If a mistake was made, the head of the office should take responsibility. Please respect our decision if you comment.


In other news Troy, New York received the finding of the City Council's Independent Audit. To the surprise of all, it looks like the City of Troy spends more than it receives in revenue. The answer...wait for it....wait for it...cut spending and/or raise taxes. Money well spent. Wish we had thought of that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

JOEL BLINKS

Joel Blinks.

A settlement filed late Monday in Albany will settle a court petition the attorney general filed last month accusing Abelove of violating an executive order when the district attorney presented evidence in the fatal police shooting to a grand jury that cleared the officer of wrongdoing.

The settlement calls on Abelove to transfer "his office's entire investigative and case file" and states he will "take no further action to investigate and/or prosecute any matter related to the incident."
 
If Abelove had simply waited another week or so instead of rushing the Grand Jury he could have avoided all this wasted time and effort and bad PR. Will he learn?
 
 
SURPLUS!
 
Rensselaer County has a $400,000 surplus for 2015. How soon before Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello requests that the 2015 surplus be given to Troy? Because Troy has fiscal problems...and...Troy needs the money...and we didn't get casino money...
 
Almost six months into the year and no one really seems to have a serious long-term plan.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, May 09, 2016

MONUMENT SQUARE

A big congratulations must go out to the We Care About the Square crowd. The Kirchoff project is dead. Kirchoff blames the City.

"Kirchhoff said the problems go back to Troy's original request for proposals that failed to reveal the site's true conditions.

"The RFP was materially inadequate and misleading in terms of providing mapping and information regarding the presence of significant utilities through the site," said Giovanni Palladino, the developer's director of architecture and construction.

The developer said it was delayed by having to conduct an intensive review of the site. Compounding the problem was the city Planning Commission's five-month delay in reviewing the plans."


Meanwhile, WCATS is doing a well-earned victory lap:

We Care About the Square spokesman Russ Brooks issued a statement saying the group "is pleased that the proposed substandard development of 1 Monument Square no longer threatens to compromise the city's most important urban site."

The group said it is pro-development and "wants to see the gap in River Street and our city's river facade completed in a manner that connects the downtown to the riverfront, meets the highest standards of excellence in architectural design, and is of the construction quality the city deserves."

We hate to splash cold water on the celebration but the sincere members of WCATS have set expectations far too high. Nothing realistic will meet such Platonic standards. Troy is not the prettiest girl at the dance. That location is a $25,000,000 site. Troy is not going to do that much better than the Kirchoff project. One suspects what detractors want (in addition to having the project awarded to a developer friend) will be closer to the Judge project. The Judge project looked great, would have been great and also had a $50,000,000 price tag. Judge could not find the investors because the investors know its not a $50,000,000 site. Lost in all the fuss is that this is ultimately a business deal, not an art show. We can wait forever for Mr. Right.

Nonetheless, to the extent that WCATS did help stop the Kirchoff projects, hats off to them. After all, it is an example of citizen activism that worked. We will see, in about five-to-ten years, whether it was worth it all.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

CURIOUS AND CURIOUSER

District Attorney Joel Abelove's race to the Grand Jury with the Thevenin death just gets more interesting each day.

The Times Union had this story on Saturday and this story yesterday.

From Saturday's story:

"Two civilians who witnessed the fatal shooting of a DWI suspect by a Troy police sergeant were not called to testify before a Rensselaer County grand jury that cleared the officer of wrongdoing last week, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

One of the witnesses is a Troy business owner who told the Times Union Friday that he saw the entire incident unfold and gave city police a written statement. He confirmed the office of District Attorney Joel Abelove did not ask him to testify before the grand jury."

From Tuesday's story:

A Cohoes man told investigators with the state attorney general's office Tuesday that he didn't think a Troy police sergeant was in danger when the officer fatally shot an unarmed DWI suspect following a brief car chase last month.

A person briefed on the investigation, but not authorized to comment publicly, said the 26-year-old man's description of what he saw unfold that night raises questions about public statements by Troy police officials and Rensselaer County prosecutors who said the officer lawfully opened fire as Edson Thevenin's vehicle pinned him against his police cruiser.


This is a process story. There was a process in place. One can criticize the process or approve of the process but there is a process. One official failed to follow that process and the result is many a raised eyebrow. Was there a need to convene a Grand Jury in less than a week? Was there a reason to disregard a lawful Executive Order?

Abelove has managed to set the perfect stage for  activists, and others, to question the results of the investigation and Grand Jury. You don't like groups like Black Lives Matter? You don't want guys like Sharpton showing up? Why invite them? Studies have shown that an unarmed African-American male is twenty times more likely to be killed by police than an unarmed white male.* Some, many in fact, are legitimate killings. Others are highly suspect.

The question you have to ask is: Is Abelove intentionally courting trouble or just in over his head? Also, why would he put French in this predicament?

There is one person to blame for this mess. It isn't French. It isn't Cuomo. It is your District Attorney. On top of Crist, Reid, the rapid departures of his hand-picked assistants and now this, the next election cannot come fast enough. Makes you long for the days of Trish.

* We understand this flies in the face of those who believe racism does not exist while reverse racism is the greatest problem in the country.

Friday, April 29, 2016

UnAbelove?

We've been following this story but waiting for a bit more information. No need to rush to judgment.

So, last year, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order pursuant to the Executive Law that would allow the Executive Branch jurisdiction over police shootings that involved unarmed suspects.....Whether District Attorneys like this or not, it is lawful. Governor Pataki issued a similar order giving the Executive the ability to step-in and take over death penalty cases. District Attorneys were not pleased with Pataki.

Pataki's order was directly related to a number of DA's that publicly stated they would not seek the death penalty. That, of course, was their prerogative. Cuomo's order was a political response to pressure from the black community following a number of questionable incidents in New York City. While legislation drafted in response to political pressure is typically flawed (see The Safe Act), it is a law.

As an aside, many DA's like this order, whether they'll say it or not. Perhaps not in smaller cities and rural areas but certainly in large urban areas. It essentially removes them from a lose-lose situation. If the officer is cleared, DA's are often accused of bias in favor of the police. If the officer is indicted, the DA can incur the wrath of an agency they need to work with every day.

With Officer French, it is inconceivable that a grand jury would indict. French could very well be dead or paralyzed if he had not acted.*

All that aside, after the Crist incident, the Reid incident and now after reading The Record article and the Times Union article: Is Abelove up to the job? You can read the petition here. The story also made the New York Times but we have not yet read that article.

Whatever the outcome, we hope that the Grand Jury's decision stands at that French is not subject to further proceedings. It would seem unfair to leave such a matter hanging over the officer's head due to the actions of the District Attorney.


*While we would make the argument that the decedent was, indeed, 'armed', that is not our call. Or Abelove's.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WHAT IF....

Forrest Gump and Sean Penn had a child. Would that child be District 2 Councilman Mark McGrath?

We can never tell if Mark McGrath is simply a dumb individual or simply cannot grasp a reality that does not comport with his own fantasy world.

In a recent tirade, Councilman McGrath ranted that Spring Little League received a grant for a façade facelift from the LDC. McGrath's issue seems twofold: It is a waste of taxpayer money and Spring Little League draws players that do not reside in Troy.

McGrath has been told numerous times by numerous people (including the Administration) that the LDC is not a City Agency or Bureau. It is not the City of Troy. The LDC, like many quasi-public corporations is a separate legal entity. It is akin to the New York State Thruway Authority. The Thruway Authority is not "The State." This may be a hard concept for a third-grader but should not be too difficult for an adult. While one can criticize the number and necessity for such entities, that does not change reality.

The LDC does not expend taxpayer dollars. Their money is raised through fees.

Therefore, is McGrath lying every time he rants about such entities wasting taxpayer dollars or is he just dumb and cannot comprehend facts that actually comport with reality?

The first option is always a good political move despite the ethical implications. One can never go wrong ranting about wasted taxpayer dollars.

McGrath could, in concert with others, apply for a grant for his district's own little league. Why he chooses not to aid his constituents is a mystery.

The fact that Spring Little League serves many non-Trojans, which is true, should be a source of pride and not a point of criticism. Hasn't the mantra of the previous mayors been making Troy attractive to people outside of the city? Don't we want to bring people in to the City? Wasn't one of the selling points for PILOTS, such as the Dinosaur, is that it will be a destination spot for people in the region?

Spring Little League draws many players from outside of Troy. That is because it is a great league. McGrath should be promoting Spring Little League, not denigrating those that have built it in to one of the premiere leagues in the region.

District 6 Councilman Donohue has identified a project that he should spearhead: sprucing up the entrances to the city. It's not a game changer by any means but it is a positive step. We expect him to act. The former council passed a landlord registry to try and curb some of the issues with absentee landlords. They tried something.  McGrath is just a talker.

See you at the next game.

Monday, April 25, 2016

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Newly minted District 6 Councilman John Donohue would like Troy to make a good first impression on people. In particular, he would like the Gateways to Troy to look better. The gateway closest to Donohue's heart is the area near the Menands Bridge. What greets people entering the city via the Menands Bridge? Not much. Some houses, a billboard or two and a pathetic hill partially covered in some stone.

Donohue has a valid point. One's first view of a city or town can leave a lasting impression. That is particularly true for tourist destinations which Troy is not.

The City actually looks pretty nice when coming over the Green Island Bridge. There is not much you can do with the Collar City Bridge. The tomb stone store is a nice touch. Congress Street? Eh. Not bad and not much that can be done there either.

The city does look better coming down Congress, since the elimination of the empty public housing monstrosities.



The last time something was done for the Menands entrance was two administration's ago. We won't mention names. The City sought bids to spruce up the Menands Gateway. Bids came in and the lowest responsible bidder was rejected by the administration.*Another bid was accepted and we got some stones thrown on a hillside. A lawsuit ensued.

Perhaps this is something neighborhood groups can tackle. Raise some money, dust, vacuum, get some signs and a few flower boxes.

While many may think Donohue's ambition is less than grand, these small things matter. And, they can add up over time. Lets see if Donohue can get something done.

* While the City should go with the highest, responsible bidder, we are not entirely unsympathetic for rejecting this particular bidder. However, the rules are the rules and the result was one more lawsuit the City did not need.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MOSELY STAYS PUT

Rensselaer County County Court Judge Andrew Ceresia rejected convicted killer Michael Mosely's bid for a new trial. Mosely was convicted for the 2002 slaughter of Arica Schneider and Samuel Holley.

Mosely argued that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel during the murder trial. Mosely was represented by well-known criminal defense attorney Terence Kindlon.

Mosley's mother said:

...she believes politics affected the judge's decision.

"It's a sad, sad world we live in when the judicial system is so tainted by political aspirations," she said. "I cannot let this go. I have seen the grief of the Schneiders at these hearings and the trial and I completely understand the loss of their child. I feel the Rensselaer County judicial system has murdered my child."

Mothers usually get a pass when they say stupid things about their children but...politics? The County Judicial system has murdered her child?

Mosely was convicted of the double-murders in 2011 after he had been arrested on another charge. Mosely's DNA was entered into the State Database and came up a match for unidentified DNA found at the Brunswick Road murder scene. Good work by DA McNally's Office on the conviction and DA Abelove's office on the hearing.


It's hard to believe. Is that the face of a killer?

Mosely is one of the more terrifying killers. After the murders Mosely cleaned-up his act and eventually lived what looked like a normal life in North Greenbush. Neighbors were shocked when he was arrested for the murders. He appeared to be an average middle class guy in a middle class neighborhood in a nice, little town.

Monday, April 18, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TROY!

Troy is 200 years old! But doesn't look a day over 150.

Events kicked off at the Rensselaer County Historical Society yesterday at a cake-cutting ceremony led by Mayor Madden and County Executive Kathy Jimino. Simultaneously, golf season also kicked-off at Frear Park.

Two Hundred. People said it would never last. Time for another colonoscopy.

There are plenty of activities upcoming in the next week or two.

Friday saw the official disrobing of the Colonel Pawling Statute, Troy's first mayor, at the former and historic site of Collins Market. It was also announced that funds are currently being raised for a statute of Troy's first City Manager.

April 17 am Flee the Scene Contest - but first, try and kill a cop. Fortunately, Officer French will be fine.

April 18, 9:30  - 2:30  First Annual Tutunjian Code Enforcement Retaliation Contest - See how many "enemies" of the Tutunjian Administration can be fined by Code Enforcement in five hours. All proceeds benefit the Barbeque Sauce Addiction & Recovery Center.

4:30-5:00  Rosamilia Lifetime Health Benefit Raffle - Win free, lifetime health benefits without the need for Council approval. Criminals eligible.

April 19, 10:00- ? Carmella Mantello Press Release Marathon. Release until you drop. Winner gets to run and lose numerous mayoral races.

12:00 - 12:03 Lecture by District 2 Councilman Mark McGrath - How to Make Your District a Better Place.

4:00 - 6:00  Feral Cat Round-Up

And much, much more!





Wednesday, April 13, 2016

FIGHTING FOR FOUND FUNDS

A bipartisan group of Troy City Council persons is disappointed in the six Democratic County legislators representing Troy.

This all goes back to the $900,000 that Rensselaer County will receive as part of the gaming fee paid by Michael Corleone for the future Schenectady casino. Members of the Troy City Council would like some of that money in order to relieve Troy's fiscal stress.

In a prior letter to County Executive Kathy Jimino, Council President Mantello asked that Troy be allowed to wet its beak. Kathy Jimino said she was speaking with Troy's Mayor, her brother, about it and Mantello needed to relax.

Pat then said: "You mean, we get a cut of it and the County takes all the risk?"

Jimino then told Pat, "never let anyone outside the family know what you're thinking," and ordered Mantello to personally put up the fee for the casino herself.

Maybe that's not exactly what happened but the Council has gone begging for some of the gaming fee money, this time asking the 6 Democrats that represent Troy in the County Legislature to join them in the request. In an odd move, the legislators did not directly respond to the invitation but instead had their assistant send an e-mail that essentially reiterated what Jimino had said earlier.

“We agree that providing property tax relief and addressing the potential of added investment to our infrastructure, especially highways and bridges, will enhance our economic development efforts,” the legislators’ email stated. “This is a wise and prudent plan that will help to reduce the county tax burden to the residents of Troy."

So, what gives? Why wouldn't the Troy County contingent join in with the Council? How much of the $900,000 does Troy want? Of course, it is the County's money and $900,000 is not all that much in the grand scheme of things. We understand why the County wants to keep it. They have plans for it and frankly, it is not the city's money. One imagines if the roles were reversed, what Troy would say.

Of course, perhaps a private meeting between some council members and legislators could have been requested. Maybe a phone call or two.  Work it a little more rather than running to the press to call them out. Sometimes our Council seems short on diplomacy and long on scolding.

More importantly, what would we learn if we just received some cash without working for it? Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish...so on and so on.




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PRESIDENTIAL WHIRLWIND

Hits Capital District.

It's been quite the day. The Donald and Bernie Shows landed in Albany and Ohio Governor John Kasich came here, to our very own city. At least Troy got the responsible one. New York is the sad, overweight, neglected spouse of presidential primaries. It has been such a long time since we've felt needed, important and special.

Not much going on these days in Troy.

There was a gas leak down on Fourth yesterday, between Ida and Washington. Fourth was closed down for awhile. Probably Lou's fault.

The City Council has approved amnesty for scofflaws.

Council President Carmella Mantello, who pushed for the amnesty, said it was better to collect 60 percent than nothing. Mantello initiated the amnesty after determining that the city had $562,151 in unpaid ticket fines and $551,233 in unpaid penalties from Jan. 1, 2009, through Feb. 28, 2016.
The amnesty runs from May 1 through June 15 and covers tickets not paid during the seven-year period.

We agree. We are almost certain that 60% is better than 0% There had been a company retained under the previous two administrations that was supposed to work on collections of unpaid fines etc. What happened to that company? What, if anything, did they accomplish.

Otherwise, things are just dull lately. Perhaps the adults are in charge now.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

SEX TOYS SAFE

An attempted burglary of Amazing Intimate Essentials was foiled when the would-be burglar failed to use enough lubricant to squeeze through the air shaft. According to the Times Union:

"I have nothing missing that I can notice," store manager Aaron Moore. "Honestly there's easier ways of stealing porn than breaking into people's stores."

Moore said the burglar probably tried to get into the store through the roof, which now has a small hole where someone tried to dig through the tar cover and then saw the air shaft.
 
Police followed a vibration to a nearby storage facility but cam up empty-handed.
 
FUGITIVES CONFIRMED DEAD
 
The State Department has confirmed that self-styled police watchdog, Adam Rupeka and is girlfriend, died in Tijuana of an apparent suicide. Seems a bit overwrought for misdemeanor charges.
 
DUNNE IN RENO
 
According to Jim Franco at Talk 1300, former Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development Bill Dunne is the Planning Commissioner for Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World.
 
Reno, approximately five-times the population of Troy, is in the northwest part of Nevada.
 
 
BICENTENNIAL BUZZKILL
 
Rumor has it that Council President Carmella Mantello wants to slash funds for Troy's Bicentennial Celebration. Troy turns two-hundred this year. Sure, Troy has some economic woes but sometimes its good to just cut loose. Relax Ma. We just want to have a little fun. 
 

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

NEWS OF INTEREST

Remains light.

RUPEKA FOUND?

Self-styled Cop Watchdog and accused child abuser Adam Rupeka and his girlfriend may be dead. Two bodies found down to Tijuana may be the couple. Must have been some Spring Break. Rupeka recently posted a video claiming he and his gal were crossing into Canada. A rather transparent mislead, no?

While we would not want to see any real harm come to Rupeka due to his obnoxious anti-cop activities (like most watchdogs he likely suffers from low self-esteem and has failed at legitimate endeavors*), we won't lose any sleep if he is dead. The recent allegations, if true, are disturbing.

This is an interesting story, destined for a Lifetime movie, probably starring Michael Cera.

CASINO NEWS

Rensselaer County will receive approximately $900,000 from the licensing fee paid by Rush Street Gaming. Who was there with her hand out? None other than our own Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello.

"Troy is facing difficult financial times and any additional funds will help relieve the fiscal stress on city taxpayers," Mantello said in a statement. "Hopefully the county, as a partner with the city, will strongly consider sharing part of these proceeds with Troy."

Mantello arrived at the County Building to request the funds wearing sunglasses and holding a cardboard sign that identified herself as a homeless vet.

County Executive Kathy Jimino seems unimpressed.

It is my intention that any funding we receive this year and in future years as a result of the casino being built in Schenectady be used to: 1. Provide property tax relief; 2. Address our need for additional investment in our infrastructure, especially highways and bridges, thereby enhancing our economic development efforts; and 3. Provide services for problem gamblers as was anticipated when the state approved casino gambling and established this revenue sharing for counties," Jimino said.

No word from Mantello about River Boat Gambling. That was Mantello's big plan for Troy during the 2011 mayoral contest. Has that gone by the way?

*Ralph Nader and his work in the car industry being an obvious exception

Monday, April 04, 2016

VACANCIES, VACANCIES, VACANCIES

Mayor Patrick Madden seems plagued with vacancies in his first trimester. The departure of City Engineer Andrew Donovan adds to the list. Currently, Troy does not have a full-time Comptroller, a Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development or a City Engineer. Other, more minor positions also remain vacant.

We do not know the reason for Donovan's departure. We have heard he resigned and we have heard he was asked to resign. Rumor has it he was retained to build a wall in Arizona but that is only rumor. In either event, we wish him well. He is a good man.

So what gives? Most municipalities have little problem filling these roles. At worst, there is typically a pool of mid-level political hacks that can fill these roles and be at least barely competent if not inspired.

According to a source close to the administration, Madden has an unrealistic view of local government and a distaste for local politics. The former view is alarming, the latter view understandable yet naïve.

During early Administration meetings, the most overheard quote was: "We want to be the adults." An admirable sentiment depending on the definition of 'adult.'

What exactly does that mean? Two things: the Madden folks believe that they can eschew politics and focus on building a professional organization that will focus on competence and ability, and; the opposition can engage in governance by press release but they wont engage in petty political battles. In short, politics is beneath them.

Like many ideas and centerfolds, this looks quite good on paper as well as in meetings between election day and inauguration day. The limits of this philosophy are readily apparent. Key positions are unfilled. Monica is overworked and floundering according to one source (while another source says she is drowning). City Council President Mantello has become the voice of Troy Government on the theory that no press release or comment is too small or irrelevant.

We believe the Administration's position on politics is, in part, the reason why they have trouble with filling positions at City Hall. One of Rosamilia's faults (among many) was not listening to the people he brought in to the administration. Yet, he did not have a problem bringing people in to the administration. 

One can rarely get the best of the best to take positions in City Hall. The salaries do not lend themselves to competition with the elite in the private sector. True, some do surprise and surpass expectations but minimal competence might be the only option. That is a fact of life that Madden needs to face. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

Madden's other issue is that he believes he won the election and primary despite Democratic Chair Tom Wade.

While there is room for debate, it is not unreasonable to believe that Madden won the primary due to Ernest Everett's bid for the nomination. Maybe Everett voters could have made up the difference for Wiltshire, maybe not. Reasonable minds can differ. However, the County Chair of the Democratic Party can be a valuable resource in staffing. Another quote that sums up the dynamic between the two men is Pat's: "I felt like I was running against Rodney, Jim and Tom Wade."

Yes, many city hall jobs are patronage jobs. That's another mean fact of life in every administration. Tutunjian, Crawley, Mitchell and Mirch haven't exactly set the private sector on fire during their careers. They were 'small government' Republicans that spent most of their lives on the public teat.

Madden should work with Wade to find competent, loyal Democrats to fill the vacancies at City Hall. That builds the party, creates loyalty to Madden and ensures that there are enough staff to deliver the services that citizens pay for. He must be the first out of the gate with news and press releases. People need to know he's in charge. Right now, it feels like Madden is floundering.  Vacancies are just a symptom of the problem.

Being the adult means recognizing certain realities and acting within those realities.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

NEWS DROUGHT WEEK TWO

Still nothing of great interest.

According to the Troy Record, Police Chief John Tedesco now has forty years of service with the Troy Police Department. Ironically, 40 is also the percentage morale had plummeted since Tedesco's chiefship began. Maybe that's generous.

Here's to forty more.

Adam Rupeka has allegedly fled to Alberta Canada. Apparently, the police planted a young girl in Rupeka's apartment who then fled from the apartment, just so they could frame the "police watchdog." Rupeka is posting status reports on his facebook page from the childhood home of Presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Finally, the City Council's Finance Committee is moving forward with an attempt to recoup some a portion of more than $1,000,000 in overdue parking fines. Some of you think this is a no-brainer. However, it is quite difficult to collect from scoff laws. According to one source close to the Administration: "There is no centralized database that would allow the State to put a hold on a scofflaws license renewal or registration renewal. Municipalities are on their own and unless the scofflaw is stopped in Troy, there is no way to force collection."

We also don't have enough boots for residents.

It looks like if we can collect $300,000, that will be a good day.

Still waiting for some real news. Things are quiet. Maybe it was Bill Dunne's fault all along.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

HUGE SPRING SAVINGS

Huge Spring savings are here! Save 40% on all unpaid parking tickets! This bargain won't last forever so hurry. It's HUGE! According to the Times Union:

The city will knock 40 percent off the cost of an outstanding parking picket under the program that received preliminary approval from the City Council Monday night.

The city has $562,151 in unpaid parking tickets from Jan. 1, 2009 through March 1, 2016. Plus there's $551,233 in penalties for not paying the tickets, meaning scofflaws owe the city $1,113,384.
The amnesty program has bipartisan support. Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, said it was an opportunity to collect revenue. Republican Council President Carmella Mantello stressed the money would benefit the financially ailing city.

The sale runs from May 1 to June 15 and will be run by a Nassau County outfit Fundamental Business Services Inc.

Some may scoff at programs like this but something is better than nothing. We'd be interested to know who has outstanding tickets, meaning, how many residents versus non-residents, out-of-staters versus in-staters etc.

Some may scoff at such amnesty programs but non-residents are far more likely to pay under an amnesty program than out of civic duty.

Monday, March 28, 2016

EMERGENCY CONDITIONS

The news drought continues. While there is news, nothing that really catches they eye. There was some irony over the weekend when Adam Rupeka was arrested. According to Talk 1300:

Adam Rupeka, who is known for antagonizing police officers, and a woman from Hudson were arrested this morning for “subjecting a minor female to unwanted sexual contact.”

Rupkea, 36, and 26-year-old Jennifer Ogburn, of 278 Allen St. in Hudson, were arrested at Rupkea’s 37 125th St. home on three misdemeanors related to having sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl.

Last year Rupeka received a $50,000 settlement in a suit against the City of Saratoga when he was pepper-sprayed by a police officer after giving the officer the middle finger.

While in custody, Rupeka should be filmed 24/7. There is no telling what allegations this guy will allege against the police and CO's.

Friday, March 25, 2016

NEWS DROUGHT CONTINUES

Sorry folks but Troy seems to be in a lull when it comes to fun political news. This happens from time to time, especially a few months after an election. Once a new mayor and council takes office there is a flurry of activity and then, once they've shot their load, things settle down for a time.

The City Council will propose a law that will require a hearing and a two-thirds vote before any water or sewer money can be transferred to the general fund. The funds have been raided by Troy administrations since 1998. Fine. Whatever.

The Troy School District is proposing over $20,000,000 in repairs and upgrades. Eighty-five percent of the money will come from the State. The remainder will come from existing funds. They aren't even threatening a tax hike. What the hell?

People are being far too reasonable lately. It is disconcerting. Maybe Bill Dunne was the problem after all. See you next week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

NEWS DROUGHT

We are in day five of a news drought. This works out well because we recently attended a Trump rally and should be out of the hospital soon. We have been prescribed two Ben Carson speeches prn and are resting well.

In the meantime, political correctness has struck again. The Troy City Council (ie. Carmella Mantello) has appointed Troy's first female marshal. In fact, all of the Council's appointments have been female or female adjacent. This is just another slap in the face to men.

We are not suggesting that Sara McDermott isn't qualified:

I’ve always had a fascination with law enforcement,” McDermott said. “I have always been intrigued by forensic shows like ‘Law and Order,’ and I had thought about taking the test for correction officers, then this opportunity came up."

Not Homicide. Not NYPD Blue. Law and Order? She probably can't even name Frank Furillo's first wife. She probably can't name five Tommy Lee Jones movies. Has she seen Cool Hand Luke? Does anyone see the disturbing pattern in local government since they took over? We all know the main qualification for Carmella's appointments: no penis. How long will white, Christian males be kept under the heel of female oppression? This is not the America we know and love.

McDermott was welcomed to the marshals by Marshal Rick Mason. “Nobody has any respect for law enforcement anymore,” Mason said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, eventually we are all thrown down a flight of stairs.”

McDermott thanked Mason and said she looked forward to being thrown down her first flight of stairs. "Just like Briscoe. I just hope it's not The Approach."

Good luck, Sara.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

THE KIND OF THING...

...that makes following local politics so satisfying.


So, at the last Council meeting the Council approved (by a 6-2 bipartisan vote) hiring an independent auditor to crawl through the books and see what up. The Council approved $19,000 for the auditor (slightly less than a good aluminum siding job on a $2,750 square foot house). Ya' gets what you pays for.

Anywho, the Council did not submit the resolution for the auditor to the mayor for his signature or veto within five days. The Council says, "don't have to, none of your business." The Mayor says, "uh-huh."

As usual, Council President Mantello relies upon her own, unique reading of the Charter. To wit:

§ C-56 Executive approval.
 
Except as otherwise provided by this Charter, every local law, ordinance and resolution adopted by the City Council, including the budget and except for resolutions establishing rules, regulations or other matters pertaining solely to the conduct of the Council's own procedures or appointments, shall be submitted within five City business days after passage to the Mayor for his/her approval. Within 10 City business days after receipt of the original enactment as passed by the City Council, the Mayor shall take action approving or vetoing the same.
 
A. Approval. If approved by the Mayor, the original document shall be endorsed by the Mayor on the original document and shall be returned to the City Clerk within the ten-day period set forth above.

Mantello argues (supposedly after consulting with lawyers) that since the Council is hiring the auditor the resolution does not need to be sent to the mayor. Essentially, the hiring pertains solely to the conduct of the of the Council's own procedures or appointments.

While we concede that a third grader could interpret C-56 in that facile way, Mantello should find different lawyers.

The easy hit is that the auditor will be hired to review the city's books, not the Council's books. This is not a hire that pertains solely to the Council. More fundamental is that the language of the section clearly allows the Council to make it's own rules governing its own conduct. For instance, if approved by a majority, the Council could pass a resolution that each Council meeting can only begin once everyone rubs Councilman McGrath's head with Astroglide (unless such a rule already exists as we suspect it does). Much to his relief, that rule would not need the mayor's signature.

According to C-56, the Council need not send their appointments (ie. clerk) to the mayor. What is a council appointment? The Charter sets forth who (or is it whom) the Council can appoint. They are the appointments the Council can make (hence, Council appointments). The independent auditor is not a Council appointment. The Charter does not give the Council authority to appoint an auditor (like it does a clerk and deputy clerk). The auditor is an outside consultant who is hired, not appointed. Mantello is dead wrong and she either does not know it or does not care.

The irony is, the mayor will not veto the resolution because the veto would be overridden. However, based on the Charter, the resolution is dead and will need to be passed again by the Council. That is, unless Madden roles over.

Pat, you need to stop the Queen now. It will only get worse if you enable her.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

ILLEGITIMACY ON THE RISE IN TROY

According to The Record, Corporation Counsel Kevin Glasheen and Deputy Mayor Kurzejeski failed to sign the oath book within thirty days of assuming office. Pursuant to Public Officers Law, such a failure results in the office being vacant, making both Glasheen and Kurzejeski illegitimate. It looks as if both will be re-appointed at the May meeting.

Council President Mantello has assured everyone, numerous times, that the Council will not "make political hay" out of the oversight. Really? What would they do? Not vote to confirm a second time? Puh-leeze!

Under Public Officers Law, the Oath Book must be signed within thirty days of election or appointment to office. The signing is typically done at midnight, in the woods, during the vernal equinox, using the blood of a former mayor or city manager. A ritual sacrifice is common but not mandatory.

A big deal? Not really. But, kind of.

These are the little mistakes that undermine confidence in a regime. If they can't get the little, ministerial things right, can we expect them to get the big things right? In this case the error can be remedied. However, elected officials have lost their seats for failure to comply with this law.

Mayor Madden will fly to the Vatican in April and seek a special dispensation from the Pope that will legitimize both Glasheen and Kurzejeski. No one deserves to go through life under a cloud of illegitimacy. Hopefully, no one at school will pick on them.





Monday, March 14, 2016

MADDEN SEEKS FISCAL EXPERTS

According to The Record:

Mayor Patrick Madden is looking to restore two full-time analyst positions and bring in a consultant to help the city right its financial ship, and he’s looking to independent organizations to fund the first two years of his plan.

The total estimated cost for a two-year period would be just over $372,000.

Per the article:

The plan was first made public Friday morning, during a meeting of the Troy Capital Resource Corporation, an offshoot of the city’s Industrial Development Authority that promotes community and economic development and agreed to fund the first part of the plan with a $100,000 grant. Madden is proposing to restore senior analyst and analyst positions in 2017, at an estimated annual cost of about $150,000, while bringing a municipal finance expert on as a consultant as soon as April, at a cost of just over $91,000 for the remainder of 2016 and $121,500 annually after that.

This plan stands in contrast to The City Council's plan to hire an independent auditor for $19,000.

Hats off to Mayor Madden. Last week we suggested that Madden support the independent auditor and work with the Council on Troy's fiscal quagmire. Although Mayor Madden's public objection was based on a failure to follow the procurement procedures, it wasn't difficult to sense a lack of enthusiasm on the Mayor's part.

The City Council should take a hard look at Madden's plan. It is big and bold, it creates a team of finance professionals and it gives them time. It makes the Council's plan look bush league.

It costs more money. A lot more money. However, it will mean, as noted, a team of professionals working over the course of two years, to help fix the mess. The chances of structural changes that really aid future budgeting are much greater with Madden's plan. Like copper piping, it costs money because it saves money.

The Council will oppose the plan. We'll have an auditor come in, look things over, print a report that will form the basis of numerous press conferences and releases. The auditor will cash her/his check and disappear.

Madden's plan is better in the long run. Between the Council's auditor plan and Madden's plan, it has never been more clear: our elected officials are not up to the financial end of their jobs. The Council clearly does not understand budgeting. The Mayor wants three fiscal professionals to sort through the muck.

Madden's pragmatism is refreshing. He understands that something needs to be done and it will cost something more than pocket change. On the other hand, the Council continues to labor under the delusion that a part-time consultant is enough and that doing more with less is a sustainable vision.

Give Madden his three professionals. He will be held accountable if it doesn't work.

Friday, March 11, 2016

INDEPENDENT AUDIT

We ignored last weeks Council meeting and, in particular, the independent audit issue. Looks like the Council majority doesn't know much about the procurement policy. Who could blame them. It's probably archaic and annoying.

Nonetheless, the Council, in a bipartisan show of support, voted 6-2 in favor of hiring an independent auditor. The Administration does not look favorably on such an endeavor.

We feel constrained to support the Council's decision. The fiscal mess facing Troy is daunting. The Council has approved $30,000 for the independent audit. The amount spent on the audit could either save money immediately or put procedures in place to prevent the City from edging close to the abyss every budget season. The amount allocated is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Every citizen should call upon the Administration and show support for the audit. The Administration should hop on board and support the audit. If done right, it could be the best investment in Troy for some time.

We do not understand the reluctance of the Administration in embracing the audit. We think it's a win-win. It shows the citizens that the Council and Mayor are united and serious about fixing the mess and an outside set of eyes is always useful. It's time to strip this thing down and pull it apart.

If the procurement policy wasn't followed, follow it. Mayor, get on board. This train only leaves once. Government owes it to the people to turn over every rock before the inevitable tax hike comes barreling down the tracks.

Look into refinancing the debt. It could save $2,000,000 a year.

SINKHOLE FIXED

For now. Campbell Avenue has re-opened. Further repairs are coming in May. An engineer close to City government did suggest that the entire area of Campbell Avenue, near Franklin Terrace, is compromised and it is only a matter of time, a year, two, three, before the road will need to be closed or re-routed. He blames it on Irene so saturating the soil in that location that the area will ultimately collapse.

Sinkhole, we hardly got to know you.

LANSINGBURGH FIXES

The section of Troy known as Lansingburgh will receive almost one million dollars for street improvement, including sidewalks and better lighting. City officials hope the lighting improvements will improve shooting accuracy and new sidewalks will allow for easier fleeing.