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

Sunday, May 29, 2016


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



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


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


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


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


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


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.

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?
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


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


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.