Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This one is just too funny not to publish

I got a text from a person heading into the public hearing last night held by the city Council to explore the procedures of demolitions at the King Fuels site and on King Street. Below is the photo and the text:

"Cox left his lights on"

After the three-hour meeting, I got another text from the same person. Below is the photo and the text message.

"We forgot to tell him"

Newsflash: Mayor Lou is in over his head

Before I get going on this one let me remind everyone that I was on more than one occasion accused of writing to get a job with Mayor Mark Pattison, a Democrat.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve said from the get-go, before he even took office, Mayor Lou Rosamilia was in over his head and about everything that happened over the past two-plus years has done nothing but reinforce that observation.
The latest example was revealed by outgoing City Engineer Russ Reeves at a public hearing on Tuesday. Reeves, under oath, said an engineer, Jack Healey, was lined up to take a look at the wall between the buildings that were knocked down in August, 2013 and the adjacent Bomber’s restaurant but Rosamilia pulled the engineer off because the building’s owner, Don Boyajian, asked him to.
Michael Morris, the new mayor’s spokesman, said the mayor likely didn’t understand the protocol. I have no doubt of that. I don’t think the mayor suddenly had an engineering epiphany telling him a report on the wall wasn’t necessary. I don’t think Boyajian directly contacted the mayor either. I think the attorney used an intermediary like he did on Talk 1300 Wednesday morning to declare his innocence, or ignorance.
That means someone in his administration likely told the mayor to call off the study just before Fire Chief Tom Garrett ordered the buildings demolished while Reeves, who twice denied an emergency demolition permit, was on vacation.
I won’t belabor the King Street demolition or the King Fuels demolition or Scolite bid debacle or the sidewalks in North Central because it’s all been written and federal authorities are looking into it. Reeves told the Council the FBI told him he wasn’t a target which means there are targets out there. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out who is on the list. I can’t add anything new, really, outside of observing Troy government and its politics for nearly two decades.
That said, I don’t think Rosamilia is malicious. I don’t think he intentionally jeopardized public safety by the King Street or King Fuels demolitions. I think he expects everyone to act with as much integrity as he has. The might be admirable in the cocoon of academia or on the football field but it doesn’t make an effective mayor, especially in a place like Troy where hidden agendas abound and grudges are held for years or even lifetimes.
The mayor can still be a “nice guy,” but to do the job he needs people, or even one person, he trusts that might not be so nice. Or in the least someone who isn’t afraid to take a stand, put people – employees and otherwise – in their respective place even if it means kicking some butt once in a while.   
For example, Mayor Harry Tutunjian had Deputy Mayor Dan Crawley. Mayor Mark Pattison had a couple people including Owen Goldfarb, Pat Morphy and Mark Streb. Rosamilia really doesn’t have anyone. Bill Dunne, the planning commissioner, is a central figure in all of the above problems, Pete Ryan, the deputy mayor, is in further over his head than Rosamilia, and Ian Silverman, the corporation council who is running for judge, is more focused on getting robes fitted.
Anyone of those people under Tutunjian or Pattison would never have allowed the friction between Dunne and Reeves to fester to the point of boiling over and impacting city business. It simply would not have been allowed and shouldn't have been allowed.

And, it's the mayor's job to be the public face of anything that happens in the city - good or bad. I know Tutunjian and Pattison would have said something to the public if five people got shot under their watch. Last week, we heard nothing from Rosamilia and still haven't.
Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, is calling for Rosamilia’s resignation. A good political move but I don’t see it happening. I’d be willing to bet, though, that Rosamilia can’t wait until his time in office is over in 20 or so months. And actually, a bunch of Trojans probably can’t either.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dunne vs. Reeves: Tale of the Tape

As I wrote before, the gas line on the King Fuels site is just the latest spat between Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne and soon-to-be former City Engineer Russ Reeves. The two have been in a near perpetual pissing match over projects, who heads up the Code Department and in general who is in charge of what since Dunne was appointed nearly two and a half years ago.
While it may look like Reeves is conceding by turning in his resignation effective May 2 he isn’t going down without taking a few parting shots and the first of those shots happened when he went to talk to the FBI, the next round will happen tonight when he testifies in front of the Council.
How Dunne responds, or if Dunne responds, is yet to be seen. He will, though, be hard pressed not to answer a Council subpoena, which will certainly be coming, and harder pressed to not answer questions posed by the feds.
Since the pissing match isn’t over yet, here is a tale of the tape:

Age: Mid to late 50s
Build: Solid, torso as long as legs
Reach: FBI
Demeanor: 1950s sitcom father
Political affiliation: None
Strength: Licensed engineer
Weakness: Malleable at times
To lose: His license, until he resigned
Summary: Reeves is considered a pretty straight shooter. He was hired by a Democrat, Mayor Mark Pattison, and worked eight years for a Republican, Mayor Harry Tutunjian.
Over the years, though, there have been three questionable opinions he rendered.
One had to do with the Bucks, an elderly couple living near Griswald Heights. Before coming to work for the city, the Bucks hired Reeves to determine if the fact their neighbor, a Democratic loyalist with a backyard that backed up to the Bucks’ backyard, filled in a drainage ditch to put up a fence was the reason their basement began flooding. Reeves said yes, that is the reason. But, once he was hired for the city, he changed his mind and said it was caused by problems with the retention pond at the far end of the block.
The second is perhaps the most egregious and had to do with a decision to tear down the marquis on the old Cine Art building on River Street. At the urging of Fire Chief Tom Garrett, Reeves said the historic structure was unstable and could fall down at any time. It did fall down after a demolition crew bashed the crap out of it for hours with a crane, sledgehammers and even a torch.
The third was when a water main broke in South Troy and filled a basement with silt. Even though the pipe was 10 feet underground Reeves blamed the break on the frost and called it an “Act of God.” It, of course, had nothing to do with the fact it was some 100 years old.
Plus, while Reeves was hired by a Democrat he did spend the majority of his Troy career under a Republican and is considered one of "Harry's guys." Dunne, as a rule, doesn't like "Harry's guys."

Age: mid to late 40s
Build: Kind of like a pear
Reach: Tom Wade
Demeanor: 80s rock star sans the big hair
Political affiliation: Staunch Democrat
Strength: Political animal
Weakness: Ego and emails
To lose: His job and possibly more depending on FBI probe.
Summary: Dunne served eight years on the Council and was the most vocal, and most effective, loyal opposition to Mayor Harry Tutunjian and the GOP when they ran both branches of government. His political savvy is a major reason the Democrats ended up taking back the Council, growing the thorn in Tutunjian’s side. In all, Dunne was an effective productive member of the Council.
It’s his actions outside those associated with his work on the Council that seemed to get him jammed up. He got fired from what was considered a decent job at the state Dormitory Authority and while both sides are sworn to secrecy the bottom line is it had to do with a female employee, some emails and he was ordered to never step foot on Dormitory Authority property again. As with any similar story, there are two sides but everyone only knows, or thinks they know, the one.
During his time on the Council he was a stickler for procedure and following the rules and regulations to the letter or at least he held Tutunjian to that standard and rightly so. They are in place for a reason and part of the Legislative Branch’s charge is a check and balance to make sure the Executive Branch follows them.
But, now that he is in a position to do so, it seems Dunne is doing the same thing he accused Tutunjian of doing and even taking it a step further. The sidewalks in North Central, the King Street demolition, sale of the Scolite property and the King Fuels demolition are all examples of Dunne pushing the envelope and now the feds are investigating. How far he pushed it is yet to be determined.
Because of that the FBI is nosing around and his actions are making Mayor Lou Rosamilia look bad. His battle with Reeves is perhaps his most public, but behind the scenes he is battling with a number of employees and, more importantly, Democrats close to Chairman Tom Wade who know Troy voters have, and will again, oust entire slates of candidates if they see something they don’t like.
Since Reeves is heading out of City Hall with his license in tact and Dunne is still there I'd call it a draw for now. That may change depending on how deep the feds go or on what the Democrats do.  


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Five people shot on Fourth Street (UPDATED)

Brian Houle/IPA photo
Gun fire erupted early this morning on Fourth Street, according to Troy police.
Three men and two women were shot about 12:30 a.m. in the area of 121 Fourth St. None of the injuries are believed to be life threatening, according to media reports.
The shooter fled on foot. There is no description available at this time. Police are not releasing a motive or any information on if the shooter was acting alone, according to media reports.
Brian Houle/IPA photo
More information as it becomes available. 
As one business owner in the area, with concern and bit of outrage, called for more foot patrols, another person said, albeit facetiously, “Troy needs a police commissioner.”


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Council investigates for the third time in 36 years and some questions to ask

The last time the Troy Council used subpoena power was in 1978. Steve Dworsky was mayor under a city manager form of government and the legislative body was looking into a concept of team policing.
A host of people were compelled to testify including Dorothy Guiot of New Jersey. I won’t go into what it was all about because I was 12 at the time and dare say the only Troy I knew of at that time had to do with a horse. The Council also exercised its investigatory powers in about 2001 when, under President Frank LaPosta, it hired attorney Richard Hanft to look into a questionable federal grant funneled through the office of then Deputy Mayor Jim Conroy to his brother to buy a house part owned by the deputy mayor.
Now the Council, under President Rodney Wiltshire, issued subpoenas to soon to be former City Engineer Russ Reeves and his assistant Barbara Tozzi, to find out what went down on King Street and King Fuels other than the buildings.
I’m not sure how the subpoenas were actually issued since I don’t think the Council voted to issue them at a properly called meeting as is required, but odds are Reeves and Tozzi just agreed to testify and the subpoenas were a formality.
While Reeves and Tozzi are more than likely willing participants, you can bet Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan, Fire Chief Tom Garrett and even Mayor Lou Rosamilia – should any or all of them get called – won’t come without a properly issued subpoena. And even then they could fight it in court, which won’t look good, or they could plead the fifth on some of the more poignant questions the Council will, or should, ask. That won’t look good either. Or they could get up on the stand and tell the truth whatever it may be.
Either way, just by kicking off the investigation, Wiltshire comes out on top politically speaking.
Anyway, Reeves and Tozzi probably won’t tell the Council anything new. Here is a rundown of what they will say and here’s what should be asked about each property:
King Street
What they will say:
-Reeves denied an emergency demolition permit, went on vacation and the building was declared a threat to public safety and ordered taken down by Fire Chief Tom Garrett when Reeves was on vacation.
-Despite knowing there was asbestos in the building, people were allowed to stay in Bomber’s located next door.
Questions to ask:
-Did the building’s owner, Don Boyajian, pay the demolition company, M. Cristo Inc. of East Greenbush?
-Why was the emergency demolition permit denied?
-Who directed Garrett to take the building down?
-Why was it taken down in front of other derelict, vacant buildings in the city?
-Did someone make a 911 call regarding the building and its condition just prior to the demolition?
King Fuels
This project is a little lessstraight forward in that it was run through the Local Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental body headed up by Dunne.
Here are some questions:
-Why was the initial June, 2013 request for bids withdrawn?
-Why and how, after the initial RFB was withdrawn, were two buildings condemned and taken down under an emergency declaration?
-Why was such short notice given for the submission of a second round of bids – RFB issued on March 1, a Saturday, and bids were due on March 6.
-According to the LDC minutes, Reeves knew of the demolition and the gas line. Did the demolition company, J.R. Casale, just screw up by putting debris on top of the main line that could have caused some serious damage if it was compromised?
-When did Reeves know of the demolition and how involved was he in carrying it out? If not Reeves, did another engineer consult on the demolition as indicated in the minutes and if so let’s see the reports?
-The relationship between Code Enforcement, the Engineering Department, and the Fire Department is a question that has only one answer … there really isn’t one - or not a good one anyway. Everyone is just doing their own thing and it seems that includes stabbing each other in the back. There is only one person to blame for that and it’s Rosamilia. He is the mayor after all, and a strong mayor keeps the troops in line and makes them play nice ... at least in the public eye.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More to King Fuels than a gas line and butting heads (DOCUMENTS)

 The way I see it the administration had a choice … Planning Department Commissioner Bill Dunne or City Engineer Russ Reeves.
The two have clashed on more than one occasion and even came close to fist-a-cuffs at one point. This time, it appears, the administration made up its mind and went with Dunne because Reeves apparently had had enough and submitted his resignation earlier this week.
The latest dust-up revolves around the demolition of 12 buildings at the old King Fuels site in South Troy. The project was through the Local Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental body where Dunne serves as executive director.
In his resignation letter dated Monday, Reeves said engineering work was done by non-engineers and that the demolition crew had come close enough to a main gas line putting public safety in grave danger. As such, since he is the city engineer, he said his license was also in danger should anything have happened. There are a number of ancillary stories depending on who you talk to, but that’s the gist of it.
I’m not saying who is wrong or right, but despite the two not hitting it off the process at King Fuels has been ongoing and, to say the least, convoluted.
-On June 7, 2013 the LDC, which owns the King Fuels site, requested bids to take down 12 buildings. The RFB included performing an asbestos survey, asbestos abatement and the removal of all friable material.
-Before the bids were due on June 20, 2013 the LDC withdrew the RFB, citing the need for an asbestos survey first. The FRB clearly states the contractor who is awarded the bid would need to perform the asbestos survey but the lack of one is the reason it was withdrawn.
-In November, 2013, according to LDC minutes, two of the buildings were condemned and were to be taken down by emergency decree. The board said it had set aside $200,000 for the demolition and were entertaining three bids with the award eventually going to Provincial Contracting Services. Since the buildings were vacant for at least a couple decades, it’s unclear why the emergency demolition was necessary on the isolated, unpopulated site.
-In December, 2013, according to the minutes, Dunne told the board demolition could not proceed on two of the buildings – it’s unclear if it’s the two buildings mentioned above – until Reeves obtained an engineering report.
-In January, the LDC Facebook page shows photos of a company knocking down the former Benzoil building, one of the 12 listed in the June, 2013 RFB. The January minutes also mention an engineering report related to two of the buildings and to a gas line – presumably the one mentioned above that sparked the latest Dunne/Reeves pissing match.
-On March 1, a Saturday, the LDC again requested demolition bids using a website called BidNet, a site that charges either by the month or the year. The bids were due on March 6 and Casale Construction was low bidder out of five companies and was awarded the contract. Work on the site was ongoing until last Friday when it was shut down because of the gas line. It has since picked up again. Here are the TLDC March minutes. I'm awaiting the answer to a FOIL request to see the particulars of the RFB.
-When Reeves submitted his resignation he cited the gas line and public safety as the most recent threat to his engineering license, but he also referred to the controversial King Street demolition where patrons of Bombers were seen coming and going while the asbestos ridden building next door was demolished as per emergency decree. He was asked for an emergency demolition permit but refused, according to sources, so the demo was ordered by Fire Chief Tom Garrett while Reeves was on vacation.
-Reeves was invited to Albany by the FBI to talk about that project as well as redevelopment of the Scolite property and the controversial construction of sidewalks in North Central.
-Dunne is front and center in all three projects and some Democrats are wondering how much longer he will survive in his present position.
-The Council, according to President Rodney Wiltshire, is set to look into what transpired at King Fuels and it will be interesting to see if they utilize subpoena power.
-Reeves met with Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan and Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman Tuesday morning.
-There are fears in City Hall that the administration will go after some of those close to Reeves, for what reason I’m not sure but the fears are very real.
-I don’t think this one is over yet. Never let it be said I don’t have a knack for the painfully obvious.   

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Troy's influence on RPI election

For years, decades even, Troy has tried to get Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students into the city to spend some time and, more importantly, spend some money.
For as long, students and the college itself resisted every effort, preferring to stay on the hill and look down The Approach as if it were a nose at the lowly “townies” below. The residents of Troy, not known to overlook a slight, looked back up The Approach at the “rich, spoiled kids” who thought they were too good to rub elbows with those who chose “Troylet” as their home rather than a pit stop enroute to bigger and better things – even the moon. It’s a vicious cycle.
But all amour has a chink, and all rules have exceptions. RPI, directly or indirectly, invested millions into the old Best Western and the Proctors Theater and Chasan buildings. And Trojans have an indescribable yet indisputable endearing quality about them – which is why I spent more awake time in the Collar City than any other place on earth for more than 15 years – and more students are slowly starting to hang out downtown.
The latest incident though is perhaps the most clear cut example of the RPI student body assimilating itself into Collar City ways.
 According to The Rensselaer Polytechnic, the campus newspaper, five members of student government were caught on tape ripping down signs advocating for changes to the Rensselaer Union Constitution that were on the ballot as a referendum. In all, according to the newspaper, some 1,000 signs were ripped down campus wide.
I won’t go into what the Constitutional changes were but safe to say they were controversial enough within the RPI cocoon to motivate those in favor of the changes to start ripping down posters against them. In the end, the university Judicial Board ruled the five candidates involved cannot hold elected or appointed positions and must complete 15 hours of community service. Furthermore, according to The Poly, “all election results for Constitution amendments and alumni vice president, secretary, and treasurer are null and void.”
Obviously, Troy is wearing off on RPI and I’m not just talking about the most recent voter fraud scandal that saw eight indictments and three trials. Messing around with elections goes back to at least 1893 and Bat Shea, a story turned into a book by Troy author Jack Casey that includes ballot stuffing and murder. While I don’t think anyone has committed murder over an election since, I know there have been variations of ballot stuffing, outright forgeries and even dead people voting by absentee – which isn’t that far from the truth but illegal just the same.
However, unlike Bat Shea or the most recent scandal, most of those committing the infractions don’t get caught because they don’t actually break the letter of the law – they’re just bent to fill a particular need. Taking over parties by electing committee members, running shadow candidates and yes even filling out fake absentees are all legal provided they are done within certain parameters.      
Maybe President Shirley Ann Jackson would serve the student body well to have Troy political operatives like Bob Mirch, Tom Connolly, Mark Streb, Tom Mathews, Bill McInerney, John Sweeney, Rich Crist, Steve Bogess, Ed McDonough, Bill Powers or Tom Wade participate in her next Colloquy instead of someone like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. They may not have the nationwide stature of a Scalia, but they can teach the political neophytes on the hill some practical lessons on how to mess with an election the proper way – or at least not get in too much trouble if the envelope is pushed a bit too far.    

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The FBI and the TPD

The FBI has decided not to pursue a full blown investigation into two other allegations of excessive force filed against the Troy Police Department.
According to Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald, the request to look into the actions of Officer Kyle Jones during two 2012 arrests will not result in anything more than a cursory look. This comes on the heels of the FBI determining the Kokopellis melee of Jan. 25 did not warrant a full blown investigation either.
In June, 2012, Jones was accused of using excessive force while arresting freelance photographer Brian Houle. Days prior to the arrest in front of Houle’s South Troy home, Jones and Houle got into an argument on Facebook over the definition of “hero.” Houle called himself such after putting a car fire out, Jones took exception and called Houle to tell him as much. Houle, of course recorded the conversation and while Jones didn’t outright threaten him, it was close.
Days later, Houle, Jones was on patrol in South Troy, attempted to arrest Houle for some petty crime, Houle allegedly resisted and got beat up pretty good.
Houle currently has a $3 million lawsuit filed against the city. Jones was found to have violated the department’s internet policy and standards of impartiality. I don’t think there is such thing as “violating good judgment” or “thumbing your nose at common sense” in the police officer manual but if there were he would be guilty of those too.
Anyway, in December, Jones tried to arrest Frank Fogarty in downtown for disorderly conduct and Fogarty and his wife allegedly resisted. An Internal Affairs investigation found that Jones did use excessive force, but the PBA claimed Chief John Tedesco released the letter to Fogarty too soon and filed a complaint against the chief for doing so.
Along with allegations of excessive force after the Jan. 25 Kokopellis melee, the two complaints were sent along to the Justice Department by the Troy African American Pastoral Alliance.  The FBI took a look at all three and decided not to conduct a full blown investigation into any of them.
In addition to Houle’s civil suit, Fogarty filed one too, Kokopellis has already filed a notice of claim and I’d be willing to bet it’s only a matter of time before Roshwon Donley, the man captured on cell phone and surveillance videos getting hit by police with nightsticks, files one as well.
Some good did come out of the allegations, however. The Police Department has revamped how it takes complaints – in that they are actually taking them seriously – the Police Objective Review Committee is taking a more active role and there is a separate entity, the Troy Citizens Complaint Board, to assist residents file complaints and see the police follow through with the investigation.
In the end the allegations did have some lasting impact:
-Tedesco came out on top by forwarding everything to the FBI – whether he knew the outcome or not – and got control of the TPD’s day-to-day operations back.
-Not that the TPD didn’t take the more serious complaints seriously, but now officers know the minor ones will too.
-Kokopellis brought to a head what citizens called a systematic, longtime abuse at the hands of police officers. I’m not sure how widespread it was – or if it was institutional racism as indicated by a number of residents – but obviously there was something there based on the number who showed up at the Public Safety Committee meetings to complain and by Tedesco’s own words.
-Despite the FBI, the nation's lead investigatory agency, opting not to pursue the complaints, Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, still wants a district attorney to take a look at possible criminality. I just don't see that happening.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fun Raisers

This month already saw back to back to back fundraisers with another slated for April 30 and according to the Times Union, there is another slated for next month.
The first was held Tuesday by Troy Council President Rodney Wiltshire at Bomber’s Burrito Bar at $150 a pop – but attendees could contribute up to $1,000 or as little as $25 or nothing at all. It’s pretty steep for a fundraiser for a Council president considering on Wednesday the Rensselaer County Republican Party was charging just $40 and they had gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino as the guest of honor.
I guess you could look at it two ways. Either Wiltshire was asking an exorbitant amount of money for a Council president with an eyeball towards higher office or the county GOP don’t think too much of Astorino’s chances of beating Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Doesn’t matter, really, fundraising is one of those things where you get what you can when you can.
The Wiltshire camp says they had 115 people sign in for the event that raised in excess of $8,000. Before the event even kicked off, though, I was getting text messages and emails about how Wiltshire was reaching out to people and offering them comp tickets just to fill the room. The Wiltshire camp, however, said it was also a victory party for the volunteers who helped him win the presidency last year. Also, people at the event claim they figured between 30 and 40 people actually paid the full ticket price.
Not in attendance, I’m told, were any mainstream Democrats like county Chair Tom Wade, City Chair Jack McCann or those close with the party hierarchy. Those Democrats who were, I’m told, are members of what Wade calls “The Delusional Bunch.”
I wasn’t there so I don’t know firsthand and we may not have any idea how much he raised until the formal financials are filed in June. The last filing showed Wiltshire with $6,780 in the bank but during his campaign last year he loaned himself $6,000, a loan he will eventually have to repay.
Wednesday, I’m told more than 200 people showed up and paid the $40 to hear Astorinio speak at Franklin Terrace. Again, it was for the entire committee rather than one person and they charged less than a third of what Wiltshire charged.
On April 30, the County Democrats will hold one of their two major fundraising events at Franklin Terrace and the asking donation is $85 a ticket or $150 per couple to see another statewide candidate – incumbent Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Obviously, the Dems think more of their guest of honor than the GOP does.
Next month, according to the Times Union, Mayor Lou Rosamilia will hold his own fundraiser to boost his paltry war chest that now stands at about $16. While I’m still not convinced Rosamilia will run again, it is clear Wiltshire has an eye towards higher office and many think it is mayor. He has said he won’t primary Rosamilia, and the only sure fire way to stave off any attempt by Wiltshire to force a Democratic primary against another candidate – since there is about no chance the Democrats will support him – is to make it look like Rosamilia runs again, even if it comes down to collecting petitions for him and have him decline the nomination.
Then again, I’ve been wrong before and the mayor may run again. It would certainly make things easier for his appointments in City Hall and the party as a whole.

Monday, April 7, 2014

And now for odds on potential Republican candidates

The boys in Vegas said it was no easy task to put together a list of potential Republican candidates, and actually chuckled over some of them.
Whoever chooses to run – and that may be enough to get the nomination – will be at a distinct enrollment disadvantage to whoever ends up being the Democratic Party nominee.
Yes, voters in Troy have ousted entire slates of candidates because they didn’t like the way things were going, and while things are going close to that ouster threshold I’m not convinced they are there yet. Close, but not yet. The Democrats must be thinking along the same lines too since the party’s front man by default, Mayor Lou Rosamalia, just hired a new spokesman and you really don’t do that unless you feel the need to shake things up a bit.
Anyway, without further ado, according to Vegas, the odds on potential Republicans ending up being the candidate come November:
-Mark McGrath, 5-1: The former eight-year councilman is probably the party’s strongest candidate given he won handily in a Democratic district four times thanks, in part, to pragmatism that crosses party lines. He also knows city government, has name recognition and will not have to give up a job or another elected office should he choose to run. That said, it will take a lot of convincing for him to throw his hat in the ring.
-Jim Gordon, 7-1: I think the first-term councilman is doing a decent job of being the loyal opposition for the minority caucus of two. He has decent name recognition but had a difficult time winning in the ‘Burgh until this time around when Kevin McGrath decided not to run. Since the Council is also up next November he would have to give up his seat to run for mayor if he chooses. I think he has his eye on it but it would be a risky move by him and the Republicans.  
-Carmella Mantello, 9-1: The former councilwoman and former Council and mayoral candidate would likely want to give City Hall another run but don’t expect the GOP to be too keen on that idea. She is, however, a hard working candidate and is nearly guaranteed a respectable showing so if the Republicans decide to punt next year and concentrate on the Council, which is a possibility, she may get the nod by default.
-Dan Crawley, 10-1: The former deputy mayor and current executive secretary of the Troy Housing Authority would make a solid mayor but I don’t know if he has it in him to run a campaign as the front man. Furthermore, I don’t know if he wants to leave the cocoon that is THA and jump into the mainstream spotlight. But, his name has been floated and as I said, it wasn’t easy coming up with a list of potentials.

-Harry Tutunjian, 12-1: The former mayor and councilman would probably like another four years in office but he comes off two city wide losses for Legislature so for him to win this time around – during a presidential year when turnout is generally higher which means more Democrats at the polls in Troy – is a tough sell. Not that Tutunjian had a bad eight-year run as mayor, but if the GOP backs him this time you know there is nobody else.

-John Tedesco, 15-1: I have no inside knowledge that the police chief would want to give up being police chief, move into the city and run for mayor but if he did he would make a pretty good candidate. Despite Rosamilia’s move appointing a police commissioner Tedesco came out looking pretty good in the end. Again, his name was floated to me so I included him.
-Debbie Witkowski, 15-1: The current comptroller at the Troy Housing Authority and former city comptroller would be a great candidate if they GOP can convince her to run, which is a longshot. She knows and respects the political game but under Democratic and Republican administrations in City Hall, and now at the THA, she has managed to stay above the fray. While she would be a solid candidate, I’d be surprised if the GOP convinced her to run.
-Richard “Buddy” McAvoy, 20-1: As I was tying this up someone pitched the deputy chief’s name and since candidates are scarce I figured I would throw it in. I learned too he was considered for sheriff before the party picked Jack Mahar so he has a political bent to him and unlike Tedesco he lives in the city. Outside of that, I really don’t know what else to say about him.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Odds are in for Democratic mayoral candidates


Petitions don’t hit the streets for more than another year, but I did heard back from my friends in Vegas and got the lowdown on some potential mayoral candidates. I’m surprised they are still working with me since I am just a lowly blogger rather than a high brow newspaper columnist, but after some arm twisting they did give me a peak. While the odds do come straight from Vegas, the commentary is my interpretation of what they mean.
I’ll start with the Democrats since the boys in Vegas are having a tough time finding any Republicans to even wager on. The odds reflect the chance they will run, not that they will win. Without further ado:
-Mayor Lou Rosamilia, 8-1: I think the incumbent will be the first one-term mayor since the city went to that form of government nearly 20 years ago. While I do think he likes the mayoral duties of cutting ribbons and reading Dr. Seuss to grade schoolers, I don’t think he likes the day-to-day, nuts and bolts duties and that’s evidenced by the way his administration has stumbled through the last two years. Sure, there are some good things going on in the Collar City but they are overshadowed by things like the King Street demolition, the Scolite debacle and well, not every mayor has the FBI asking questions about what’s going on in his administration.
-Rodney Wiltshire, 3-1: I don’t think it’s any secret the Council president wants to run and his play on Scolite did nothing but reinforce that notion. Bucking the Democratic Party, though, is a risky game. He got the Independence Party line from the GOP and the Working Families Party coordinated his last Council campaign but neither one of those groups will help much in a Democratic Party primary. And it’s all but certain Chairman Tom Wade and company won’t support him. (As an aside, if he gets in a Dem. primary he will likely have the WFP and remain on the ballot regardless of the outcome.)
-Pete Ryan, 12-1: As Rosamilia’s deputy mayor, Ryan has been less than spectacular, I think the party knows that and realizes he would probably be a worse mayor than Rosamilia. The No. 2 guy should make sure the nuts and bolts gets done and well, for the past two years they really haven’t with any semblance of common sense of efficiency. Unlike Wiltshire, there is no way Ryan could wage an independent campaign for anything and I don’t see the party backing him.
-Lynn Kopka, 6-1: The councilwoman wanted to run three years ago but was bested by then Councilman Clement “Chappy” Campana. She has a strong base in Washington Park and is a party loyalist to the extreme – and I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way. It’s a Democratic town and as such it doesn’t hurt to be a loyal Democrat. That said, she has done little establish herself as a true leader, be it in the party or legislatively, and while president she seemed more focused on corralling cats than political allegiances.
-Cindy Doran, 5-1: The county legislator could be the party’s sleeper candidate. She has strong ties to the school district, is a proven vote getter and has great name recognition thanks to her ex-husband, Dan Doran, who had his own political career going for a while. She is a relative newcomer and as such really is not defined by any stellar legislative initiatives or, on the flip side, any scandals or negative press either. She could come in as a blank slate and would be squarely in the party’s corner. That said, should she get elected, she would need a strong deputy to be an effective mayor.
-Ken Zalewski, 15-1: The councilman is in his last term so he would not have to give up his seat to run and I think he can see himself as mayor someday but that means he would have to give up his six figure job in the state Senate which, in addition to paying more than the mayor, probably requires a whole lot less heavy lifting. Plus, he faces the same party loyalty problems as Wiltshire without the outside support.
-Bill Dunne, 16-1: The current commissioner of the Planning Department and former councilman surely has notions of becoming mayor but, unlike Doran, his slate is all chalked up. He certainly has made enemies along the way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but his most recent stumbles – King Street, Scolite and the FBI nosing around – are just too much to overcome. The party knows it and probably so does Dunne, who has been accused of a bunch of things but never stupid.
-Clement “Chappy” Campana, 12-1: The former mayoral candidate and Council president showed up at the last Council meeting and I’m sure he still has hopes of running for mayor. But, his slate is chalked up too and unlike Dunne he has also alienated a number in the Democratic Party. Chairman Tom Wade has coined Campana and his band of Democrats as the “Delusional Bunch” and if they think they can win a primary against Wade and company will only lend credence to the moniker.
-Carmella Mantello, 25-1: Vegas initially gave the Republican one set of odds but I talked them into giving them one for the Democrats too. They thought I was nuts but I just told them to look up #troycrazy. Anyway, she is probably unhappier with the GOP as they are with her and while I don’t see it happening, if the Democrats somehow see fit to give her a cross endorsement she wins hands down.
  Other possibilities
-Legislator Peter Grimm, 17-1
-Legislator Ed Manny, 16-1
-Former Councilman Kevin McGrath, 18-1 
 -Jack Cox Jr., 15-1 

-Legislator Gary Pavlic, 16-1

Friday, April 4, 2014

The politics of Scolite

Now that the dust is settling on what was a pretty dusty deal to sell the Scolite property to RJ Valente one thing is clear: Council President Rodney Wiltshire is setting himself up for a mayoral run.
True, the dynamics changed a bit since Wiltshire was one of six votes to move the deal out of committee two weeks ago, but if he wanted to play nice with Mayor Lou Rosamilia and the rest of the Democratic Party proper, he would have tabled it as the mayor wanted to do Thursday morning.
The dynamics I’m referring to, of course, are the FBI making inquiries and a strongly worded letter written by the attorney representing one of the bidders - a conglomerate of companies including Don Fane - not awarded the South Troy chunk of land which indicated a lawsuit was coming should the Council approve the deal.
But still, Wiltshire could have tabled the ordinance. Instead, in an email to his Council colleagues Thursday, he said he was pushing it to a vote and it ended up getting shot down by a 5-4 count. Wiltshire and Councilwoman Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, changed their votes and Councilman Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, who was absent from the committee meeting also voted no.
Thursday morning saw a flurry of activity. First Rosamilia wanted to amend the ordinance to remove the licensing provision extended to Valente and convert it to a straight sale pending state approval. But, that would have needed six votes that obviously weren’t there. Then the mayor wanted it tabled, but since it was already on the agenda it was Wiltshire’s call and he refused. He really couldn't orchestrate the administration's unorganized efforts but he certainly took advantage of them.
It’s a pretty gutsy move by Wiltshire because he did make Rosamlia look bad - and weak - and he further alienated himself from the party and that includes Chairman Tom Wade.
If you remember, Wiltshire got the Independence Party line thanks to the GOP and he used that along with Working Families Party support to wrest the Council presidency away from Councilwoman Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, a party loyalist. True, Kopka came in third behind Erin Sullivan-Teta, but she too is loyal to the Dems. In other words he made no friends by playing footsie with the GOP and lost even more by butting heads with Rosamilia.  
Wiltshire has said he wants to run for mayor but won’t primary Rosamilia should the mayor opt to run again. I don’t think he will, and I don’t think the Dems will support Wiltshire. That means there could be a primary – the first for a major party line since the city changed to this form of government nearly 20 years ago – if Wiltshire continues down the path he’s started to clear.
In fact, I’m told the last time there was a mayoral primary for a major party line was when Republican Neil Kelleher Sr. defeated Frank Pop in 1959 before the city changed from an elected strong mayor form of government to an appointed city manager. It changed back for the election of 1995. Pop, by the way, was the party’s choice and Kelleher went on to win the general election.
I’ve been trying to get in touch with Vegas to get some odds on potential mayoral candidates and hopefully they get back to me sometime over the weekend. When they do, I will post.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Legal documents related to Scolite sale

As the Council prepares to vote on the deal to sell the Scolite property to RJ Valente, here are a couple legal documents that are of interest.
First is the letter by the city answering concerns raised by one of the companies – a conglomerate that includes local businessman Don Fane - that was not awarded the bid. The concerns raised include items the city would provide the winning bidder including a new access road, additional land and the ability to get a license to operate the land prior to the sale’s approval by the state Legislature.
The second is what amounts to a home rule message that is now before the state Legislature sponsored by Sen. Neil Breslin in the Senate and Assemblyman John McDonald in that chamber. It’s interesting in that it requires the city to either replace the waterfront land it wants to sell or invest a dollar amount equal to the fair market value of what the Scolite property is worth.
After some last minute dancing around that included amending the ordinance, pulling it off the agenda to putting it back on the agenda, the last I knew the Council was going ahead with the vote. Should be interesting.
Here are the documents.

A link to the state Legislation, which has been referred to respective committees:
City’s letter:   

Last minute shuffling over Scolite (UPDATED, 2:11 p.m.)

Now, I'm hearing Mayor Rosamalia wants to keep the amendment and the ordinance the amendment amends - because that's what amendments do - on the agenda.
It appears Mayor Lou Rosamilia wants to pull sale of the Scolite property off the agenda in order to modify the terms but Council President Rodney Wiltshire, in an email to his fellow members, said he wants to go ahead with the vote - At least as of about noontime, Thursday.
There was a flurry of activity this ahead of the tonight’s meeting. Initially the mayor wanted to amend the provision granting RJ Valente a license to operate the South Troy property for up to 10 years based on a $100,000 down payment with the $900,000 balance due when the sale is approved by the state Legislature. Instead, the mayor’s amendment calls for a straight $1 million sale pending the same state approval and Valente would not be allowed to work the site until the sale is finalized. 
Then the mayor wanted to pull the ordinance all together but Wiltshire wanted to push the amendment and the amended ordinance to a vote anyway. As the sponsor, albeit at the request of the administration, he has that authority but it is highly unusual to push it through if the administration wants it pulled.  
Here is where it gets king of stick. It takes a simple five-vote majority to pass the ordinance as initially proposed. It takes the same number to pass an amendment to the ordinance. But, it takes two-thirds of the Council, six votes, to pass the amended ordinance since the Council has not had seven days to review the legislation.  

I’m hearing, as of Thursday morning anyway, there were five votes to pass the amendment and the amended ordinance but Councilwoman Erin Teta Sullivan, I-At Large, is the swing vote to get the needed two-thirds majority. If the amended ordinance is voted down, however, any member who voted with the majority – be it in favor or against - can bring it back to the Council for consideration.
You can read the Times Union editorial urging the city to put off the Scolite sale pending an FBI inquiry here.

Here is the text of Wiltshire's email to the Council:

the mayor would like an amendment made on the floor to the language.  change this from a lease and turn it into a sale making it contingent on the final sale and not have access until the state has made its approval. Final.
I have other thoughts which I will share with you later today, but before the meeting.
I will not pull this or table it, and we will vote on it tonight.
More information as it becomes available.