Friday, January 30, 2015

Wiltshire cancels order for new chairs; shortest lived controversy in Collar City history

The day the purchase order was signed, Council President Rodney Wiltshire opted not to buy nine new chairs – presumably one per Council member - that would have cost $2,352. 
“I've instructed the clerk to cancel the order. I've read some interesting ideas here on getting chairs at low or no cost. Ken Zalewski and Penny thank you for some great ideas. Surplus chairs from an institution that may want to donate them could be a great option,” Wiltshire wrote on Facebook in response to a number of posts critical of the purchase. “Moreover, and just to reiterate, This expenditure is budgeted. But I think that tablets for better productivity is a wiser purchase.”
Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 5, attempted to deflect the critics saying the relatively small amount of money is just 0.0035 percent of the city’s $66 million-plus budget.  
“It ignores the fact that every city employee has a decent chair to sit in. It ignores the fact that the Planning Department recently purchased a brand new set of chairs for the conference room to replace already-comfortable but somewhat dilapidated chairs,” Zalewski said of a post on this blog. “Like I said, I don't care either way. I'll sit on the floor if I have to. But come on, an entire blog post on $2,350 out of a $66,124,624 budget? I'm anxiously awaiting similar scrutiny on that other $66,122,274.”
(As an aside, there are links to stories here, here, here and here and  about the entire budget.)
Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, said he learned of the purchase after the aforementioned blog post was put up on Facebook.
“What??? You're kidding?? This is how I learn of such an unnecessary expense? I spoke against this during the budget hearing and will again - I do not need a new chair! No one does!,” he wrote. “If attendees at council meetings can ‘suffer’ on similar chairs then we too can do their business on them. This is ridiculous.”
Prior to Wiltshire’s decision to nix the new chairs, Gordon said on Twitter that he would buy each member of the Council a seat cushion and that he would gladly give his chair to the first person to mention “chairgate” at the Feb. 5 meeting.
A number of citizens and business owners weighed in on social media too.
“What is really sad is they placed the order in the first place. Then cancel the order when it gets too hot on Facebook?” said Debra Lockrow, owner of Artcentric in downtown. “The council needs Facebook conversations to give them a clue on how to behave with fiscal intelligence?”
“They paid for those chairs with the money they got from me when they hired GAR to overestimate the value of my property!” said Jo Rehm. “Then it cost me more money to hire someone to come in & do an accurate estimate. Do I get any of that money back, hell no!”
Penny Bonesteel said the Council should explore other options like using the new chairs the Planning Department just purchased. Zalewski concurred and said it would take nine minutes to move the chairs – one minute per chair.
“None of us are naive enough to think 2k is going to tip the bucket one way or the other, but given the circumstances, it definitely sends the wrong message to citizens that are going to have to deal with a lot of butt pain in the foreseeable future,” said Nancy A Bourgeois Wright.
And she is right, the $2,352 is not going to make or break the city and either is the $10,000 confidential secretary or the $27,000-plus assistant city clerk. But the impact is two-fold: One is that pennies eventually lead to dollars and it just sends the wrong message given the city's financial crunch that will get nothing but worse in the very near future.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Council answers the fiscal crisis by spending $2,352 on new chairs

I realize I haven’t weighed in on the Council report on the demolition projects but there really isn’t anything new in it. Not to belittle the content, but it’s just a summary of the six hearings the Council held publically so anything that’s in the report has already been out there.
However, while the Council was focusing on the controversial demolition projects – which it should – it’s largely ignored the fiscal crisis. In fact, I dare say again, it’s adding to it.
I wrote about the Council’s decision to hire Adam Sanzone as its confidential secretary. Nothing against Sanzone. He did intern for the Council and volunteered to video tape the meetings and what not so he’s probably a good pick for the job.
But, he takes the place of Emily Rossier, who I understand was a no-show for the past year or so. One anecdote is a member of the Council walked into the office and found 118 messages on the machine that had not even been listened to let alone responded to.

Since the Council has survived a year with a confidential secretary in name alone it stands to reason it could have saved the $10,000 it’s paying Sanzone.
I also wrote about the Council’s rush to hire an assistant city clerk for $27,000-plus. The justification was that the city clerk provided such vital services that without an assistant she could not take any time off. I don’t doubt those who visit the city clerk’s office do expect someone to be at the window to get their dog licensed or permit to fish in the Tomhannock. I do, though, find it hard to believe someone already on the payroll couldn’t be trained to fill in once in a while.
Another rationale is that the mayor’s office hired the former the assistant to fill a secretarial opening. That much is true too, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
I have not reached out to anyone on the Council yet, but I would certainly like to hear how they justify spending $2,352.60 on nine new chairs.
As you can see from the purchase order below, nine new “high back chairs” at $261.40 a pop were ordered from Superior Office Products on Jan. 22 and set to be delivered to the Council’s office in City Hall.
I won’t speculate on why the Council – after the scathing state Comptroller’s Report that said the city spent $5.9 million more than it took in over the past three years, after Moody’s gave the city’s finances a negative outlook, and after the Council punted on any layoffs knowing there are two huge one shots totaling more than $2 million in this year’s budget and all six unions are without a contract – why the Council found it necessary to upgrade the office furniture.
No, the $10,000 here, the $27,000 there and the $2,300 over there won’t solve the city’s money problems. But, it is a start. And I don’t see how the Council majority and its President Council Rodney Wiltshire can possible, in good faith and with a straight face, raise taxes or lay off employees – one of the two or both are inevitable – while he and the other eight are sitting pretty in brand spanking new chairs bought with the taxpayers’ dimes.
And they didn't even buy them from a Collar City company. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

F. James Germano pleads guilty

Former North Greenbush political boss F. James Germano pleaded guilty to felony solicitation, Monday, the day his trial was to begin.
The 86-year-old Germano was arrested on Nov. 2, 2012 in Vero Beach Fla., for offering a 12-year-old boy money for sex and then making the same offer to the boy’s mother. He was initially charged with two counts of stalking, attempting to procure a person under the age of 18 for sex and solicitation and lewd and lascivious behavior.
All but the solicitation charge were dropped in the more than two-year process. He is slated for sentencing on March 3.
Germano ran everything political in North Greenbush for some three decades. He stepped down as Democratic Party chair in 2002 amid allegations he swapped his considerable political influence for favors from then County Executive Henry Zwack.
Germano, Zwack and three of the latter’s top aides were acquitted by a jury.
The heavyset Germano was one of the more colorful characters in Rensselaer County politics. Once during a raucous committee meeting where Germano was vying to be the party chair he stood up and said “the next person who calls me a thug I’m going to break his legs.” Another, during another equally raucous meeting of the Democrats, one party member said he would not let the party turn in a “Banana Republic.” Germano leaned towards a friend and asked quite innocently “Did he just call me an ape?”



Sheriff Mahar will not run for another term

Sheriff Jack Mahar, in a letter to Rensselaer County Chairman John Rustin, said he will not run for a fourth term and instead “enjoy his retirement.”
Now that Mahar’s decision is made, focus is turned to who the major parties will support. Top of the list for the GOP is Pat Russo, a former Troy cop and Mahar’s undersheriff.
Russo has not officially indicated whether or not he will seek the nomination but Bob Ashe, the Hoosick Falls police chief and former North Greenbush Town Board member has also announced his intention to run and has started a Facebook page.
Ashe lost a primary to Mahar in 2003 and appears to be gearing up for a run whether or not he gets the party’s endorsement or not.
Two Troy police captains, John Cooney, who was the public information officer, and Terry Buchanan, who headed the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, were considering running for sheriff and undersheriff, respectively, but have since abandoned the notion. Cooney , who would be the only name on the ballot, is a registered Conservative so he would need permission from a major party to be a viable candidate.
It’s unclear who the Democrats will nominate too. Gary Gordon, who lost a bitter battle to Mahar four years ago, has yet to decide if he will run.
While Russo's record is unblemished, Mahar did have a tough three years-plus in office. He and the county are facing a handful of civil suits related to allegations staff inappropriately and illegally accessed the medical records of political foes and others.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cooney (Buchanan) could join crowded race for sheriff

John Cooney, a former Troy police captain and well-known spokesman for the department, is “seriously considering” a run for Rensselaer County Sheriff, according to a number of sources.
And, while the sheriff does not run as a team with his undersheriff – the latter is appointed by the sheriff – his first choice for the number two spot is another former Troy police captain, Terry Buchanan.
Cooney’s name is the only one that will appear on the ballot. However, getting there may be a challenge for the political newcomer. He is an enrolled member of the Conservative Party and as such would either have to run on that line alone or seek permission from a major party to run on its line - a piece of paper known as a Wilson Pakula.
Meanwhile, Bob Ashe, the Hoosick Falls police chief, sent a letter to Republican committee members touting his extensive law enforcement history as well as his electability – he served on the North Greenbush Town Board from 2000 to 2004. In 1978 he began work as a dispatcher, moved up to corrections officer and then to the North Greenbush Police Department where he earned the rank of sergeant. He has started a Facebook page touting his candidacy.
Mahar’s undersheriff, Pat Russo, another ex-Troy cop, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate should Sheriff Jack Mahar not seek a third term.
Also, former North Greenbush Police Chief Rocco Fragomeni is said to be interested. He was a lifelong Democrat but recently changed his enrollment to Republican.
What the Republicans do depends largely on what Mahar does. It is clear many in the party would rather he not but will likely hold their nose and back him rather than engage him in a primary. As of this writing, he has not formally said one way or another and party leaders say he has not reached out to them either. (As an aside I didn’t even try calling him because he has not returned a phone call since the last time he ran… and even that was iffy)
Mahar beat back a spirited challenge four years ago by Gary Gordon, another former Troy cop and a registered Conservative who ran with Democratic Party backing.
To say the race was contentious is an understatement. In the end, a handful of people filed lawsuits alleging Mahar and his staff inappropriately and illegally accessed their medical records and two officers of the now dissolved jail guard’s union came under a federal investigation for misappropriating union funds.
Gordon, who was also dirtied up during the campaign, has yet to decide if he will take another run at Sheriff.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's an understandable mistake


I think it is an honest mistake. Actually, it’s so understandable it’s painful.
I can see how it all went down now.
Martin Reid, chairman of the Rensselaer County Legislature, gets let go from a pretty nifty $70,000--plus job at the state School Board’s Association and signs up for unemployment. The state Labor Department is pretty liberal in granting unemployment benefits to those just out of work – only to scrutinize later - and since he was making a good buck he gets the max, $405 a week.
Each week he hops online and answers a series of questions to get his $405, one of those being: “Did you work from such and such a date to such and such a date.”
Reid, sitting at his computer on a Sunday night or Monday morning, thinks about the previous week and comes to the only logical conclusion – he didn’t work.
Sure, he approved a resolution honoring the Hoosick Falls Junior Varsity Volleyball team for coming in third out of the four JV volleyball teams in Class DD. Yes, he signed off on another resolution urging state lawmakers to repeal the Safe Act.  And yes, he personally found the legislatures Veteran of the Month to honor and nominated a Rensselaer County Dairy Queen because he is friends with the teen’s parents.
That’s the gist of what the 19-member panel – that has an annual budget of $1.3 million – does at their monthly meetings so it’s understandable if Reid was confused with the word “work.”
But, for being the titular head of that body, Reid gets $30,000. Therein lies the rub.
He failed to report that income – whether he earned it or not – while collecting more than $15,000 in unemployment benefits and that is a problem.
 According to the Times Union, a state administrative law judge assigned the case said Reid: “Willfully and intentionally misrepresented the facts.”
According to the TU, each week Reid collected benefits he told the state he made less than the $405 eligibility threshold to collect any unemployment at all. But, also according to the TU, he made about $1,150 every other week to clap for volleyball teams (that last part was mine, not according to the TU.)
I did, however, break out my calculator and divided $1,150 by two and discovered Reid earned (made is a better word) $575 per week as chairman of the Legislature. That, in case you need me to hold your hand through this complex arithmetic, is $170 more than $405.
The state Labor Department referred the case to Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove, who has yet to indicate whether or not he will pursue criminal charges.
I would say Abelove, who like Reid is a Republican, is in a tough spot.
His office just agreed to dismiss endangering the welfare of a child charges against the county’s top Republican operative, Rich Crist, for an altercation Crist had with his 17-year-old son. And it just so happens Crist makes more than $95,000 a year working for Reid. Also, according to the TU, Abelove , who has been in office all of 21 days, hired one of Reid’s relatives, Christine Labbate, as an assistant district attorney.
And, Crist’s brother, Greg Crist, represented Reid through his dance with the Labor Department.
Legalize for that scenario is: “In a tough spot.”
As an aside, I don’t see the difference between this case and that of Councilman Gary Galuski, D-District 6, who the AG threatened to sue in an effort to recoup more than $30,000 in unemployment benefits Galuski collected while he earned $15,000 a year on the Council.
One difference is that Crist, who is Reid’s spokesman, told the TU Reid settled the case and paid what he was supposed to pay. I don’t know if Galuski did or not, but one reason the AG threatened civil action was because he wasn’t making his payments.
Why one is civil at the state level and the other referred to a local DA as a criminal matter I have no idea.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Abelove should not have touched Crist case

In one of the most egregious displays of political payback I have ever seen, District Attorney Joel Abelove did not contest a request by Rich Crist, a longtime Republican operative, to dismiss charges of harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.
Crist was arrested for a July 11, 2014 incident involving his 17-year-old son, the culmination of a months-long disciplinary issue with the boy that included law enforcement. I’m told the kid took the family car for the night against the parents’ wishes and when Crist caught up with him in the parking lot of the Castleton Elementary School it became physical.
According to the Times Union, Child Protective Services determined there was nothing to warrant the violation harassment charges and the misdemeanor endangering charges stem from children who witnessed the incident in the parking lot of the Schodack school.
It was a weak case from the get go and the charges probably should have been dropped. But not by Abelove. Crist is one of the reasons Abelove beat Carmelo Laquidara for the seat he now holds.
As the TU astutely points out, Crist helped Abelove win the Independence Party primary. On that line, Abelove received 1,596 votes on Election Day. He won the election by 492 with 45,470 cast. 
As such, Abelove should not have touched the case at all. But, Crist’s attorney, William Dryer, made a motion to dismiss the charges and Abelove didn’t challenge the motion in Sand Lake Town Court. The judge is not mentioned in the TU article but the case was bounced around a bit in an effort to find an objective jurist given Crist’s political activity in Rensselaer County. But there are two Democrats on the bench in Sand Lake.   
Crist makes $95,000-plus in his official role as the legislative liaison for the Republican majority, a position he’s held for some two decades. He is also the GOP’s most prolific operative, is the party’s de facto chairman and has a consulting business on the side.  In the past he has come under fire for allegedly doing political work out of the county office building using county staffers. He has worked as a consultant on a number of judicial and other races including those for statewide office and congress. He also serves as the Schodack Republican town chair.
There is no record of Abelove paying Crist for political work at the state Board of Elections but Abelove has not filed his January, 2015 disclosure statement yet either.
Abelove told the TU he saw no reason to recuse himself because most of the work on the case was done before he took office.
"And, he was not directly involved in heading my campaign," Abelove told the TU of Crist.
But Arthur Glass, who was acting DA until Abelove was sworn in on Jan. 1, said there should have been a special prosecutor appointed.
"You don't even want to give the impression of any impropriety," Glass to the TU.
Too late for that.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Council's answer to the fiscal crisis: spend money (UPDATED)


The 2015 budget has two huge one-shots – one is the deferral of a $1.9 million pension payment to next year and one is the $650,000 sale of the old City Hall site – the state Comptroller said the city spent $5.9 million more than it took in from 2011 to 2013, sewer rates increased by 35 percent, all six unions are without a contract, the water and sewer funds have been raided and re-raided, there are hardly any reserves to speak of and Moody’s Investor Services just gave Troy a negative outlook.
So how does the city Council address any or all of the city’s fiscal problems? It convenes a special meeting for Jan. 22 at 7:15 p.m. with the purpose of hiring Adam Sanzone as its “confidential secretary.” Sanzone was an intern with the Council and has videotaped Council meetings free of charge so they could be broadcast on public access television.
The legal notice says the Council will set the salary at the meeting but there is no “confidential secretary” listed in the budget. There is $10,000 allocated for a “confidential assistant,” which I assume is the position the Council wants to give Sanzone, but there is no “confidential secretary.”
I don’t know the nuances of what is a proper legal notice and what isn’t but in the least the Council will have to amend either the budget or the resolution so they match up.

This hire, should it pass, comes on the heels of the Council appointing an assistant city clerk for $27,835.
This also comes on the heels of Mayor Lou Rosamilia answering the Council’s request to make a list of cutting each department by 3 percent. It really came as no surprise when the list included laying off firefighters and police officers, and it came as less of a surprise to watch the Council punt on layoffs or doing anything else to address the financial crisis.
Actually the Council is going the other way – they are spending money. True, the two positions mentioned above are or were vacant, but you would think not filling positions would cause less pain than “unfilling” them through layoffs.

The assistant city clerk, maybe I can see but I'm not sure what a confidential assistant/secretary for the Council actually does. And if there is a job description, why does it include being confidential? Is the Council hiding something? I'm being facetious, but still. I know $10,000 isn't a lot of money, relatively speaking, but you have to start somewhere and if you add up enough $10,000 savings you close the deficit.

CORRECTION: The job of legislative liaison is currently being performed by Emily Rossier but will now be performed by Sanzone. If Sanzone's appointment isn't confirmed, Rossier will continue in the post. Also, the assistant city clerk position was open when the mayor hired Lou Schnieder to replace Kathleen Cassidy Ryan, who was working in a secretary-type position. So, as members of the Council pointed out, the mayor is just as guilty of filling vacant positions.
Also, notice the time of the special meeting … 7:15 p.m. According to the city code:  “All meetings of the City Council, regular or special, shall be held in the Council Chambers of the City hall at 7:00 in the evening unless some other place or time has been voted by a majority of the members of the Council or unless a written call for such meeting, signed by five members of the Council, is filed with the City Clerk 72 hours prior to the time of the meeting and due public notice has been given of such change or changes.”
I’d be willing to bet five members of the Council did not sign a “written call” to change the meeting time. I’d be willing to bet too that the Council will be hard pressed to get five votes to hire Sanzone – who is not really political but is tight with some Democrats.  
If you remember, Councilwoman Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, made a stink about the time of a special meeting once and the majority – an odd mix of four Democrats and two Republicans - were forced to reschedule.  Let’s see what she does this time.

CORRECTION: The Council did get the five required signatures: Rodney Wiltshire, Ken Zalewski, Dean Bodnar, Gary Galuski and Bob Doherty.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Legislator: Shooting victim didn't call the police so all is well

Everything in Troy is political. Everything. If someone on the Council sneezes – or doesn’t sneeze, someone cries foul, creates a Facebook page and then threatens to run them out of office.
The shooting Sunday at Kokopellis is no different, and social media has been abuzz about it almost to the frenzy it was in the weeks following the infamous Jan. 25 2014 melee. An unarmed black man was shot allegedly by the one of the bar’s owners Joe Glick, according to sources. Police expect to charge Glick by mid-week.
Political opponents are quick to point out that Council President Rodney Wiltshire was critical of the police in the aftermath of the melee and Councilman Bob Doherty accompanied the owners at a hearing in front of the State Liquor Authority. As far as I know, the councilmen have been silent on the latest episode.
But, Legislator Gary Pavlic, D-Troy, also defended the bar during the Public Safety Committee hearings and he wasn’t quiet. He defended the bar on Facebook, telling others in the threat about how he used to go to the bar and never had any problems.
At one point he took a veiled shot at the police, saying he used to wave at them while they sat in their cars at the bank parking lot located near the bar. One of the Glicks complaints was that police were harassing their clientele and scaring away businesses.  
Pavlic, during a debate on Facebook said: “It’s been closed since Jan. 1. The even last night was a private farewell party by invitation only. This would not be a story if one of the attendees did not call after everything was over and done with. The person who was shot is fine and did not call police as far as I understand.”
Rather than worry about the shooting of an unarmed black man, Pavlic said: “Onto using our energy to improve our beautiful city!!!”
Must be a new take on the the whole “If you see something say something,” which is the mantra of Homeland Security and about every neighborhood watch program in the nation.  Following Pavlic’s lead, this new philosophy of citizen activism is more along the lines of “no harm, no foul …” or at least “no bad harm, no foul.”
Come to think of it, there was more of a stink made when the police allegedly used excessive force against an unarmed black man in the same bar almost a year ago. The FBI investigated and found they did not. Maybe, if this unarmed black man had been killed, Pavlic would take more of an interest.



Sources: Owner of Kokopellis was the shooter; likely to face charges

Sources say the co-owner of Kokopellis is the one who pulled the trigger in a shooting at the Fourth Street bar early Sunday morning and will likely face charges.
Joe Glick, who owns Kokoeplli’s with his father Barry, was questioned last night by police but sources say he quickly consulted an attorney and was released Sunday morning.
By mid-week, Glick will likely be formally charged with aggravated assault or similar crimes in the shooting of an unarmed black man Sunday morning, according to sources. The victim, who was treated and released from a local hospital, has not been cooperative. However, sources say there are at least two witnesses.  
Police are still trying to piece together a motive for the shooting - which will determine the charges - and it’s unclear if Glick owned the handgun or if it belonged to someone else at the bar. Police are still trying to determine if it was legally registered, if the owner had a permit or it was an illegal weapon.
Also, search warrants are in the works to confiscate video that may or may not have been taken from cameras at the bar. The Glicks made much of the sophisticated surveillance system they have in place in the wake of a Jan. 25, 2014 melee during which eight police officers were injured and that sparked cries of police brutality and discrimination.
On Jan. 1, the Glicks announced they were shuttering the bar and placed blame squarely on the Troy Police Department. While the bar may not be open on a regular basis, the Glicks have not surrendered their liquor license and are still legally hosting private parties.
“Kokopellis is closing as a result of an incident that occurred in January of 2014 in which the Troy Police department brutally beat a patron for no reason, which caused some uproar from the community,” according to a statement posted on the social media site Facebook. “Owners Barry and Joe Glick spoke out against the Troy Police Department for their actions and since that time, they felt they have been targeted and harassed.”
On Jan. 25, 2014, police answered a 911 call about a brawl at the bar. The Glicks say bouncers had spotted someone smoking marijuana on the second floor and, despite a scuffle, had everything under control by the time the TPD arrived at the scene.
A cellphone video showed a handful of police officers beating a black man, Roshowan Donley, with nightsticks and then forcibly restraining him. Surveillance video released by the Glicks show police entering what appeared to be a peaceful scene of patrons leaving the bar. The Glicks, during public forums hosted by the city Council, claim everything was under control until police started harassing the clientele.
Barry Glick, during one of the forums, infuriated many citizens, and officers and Troy Police Chief John Tedesco, by likening the TPD to the KKK while other citizens held marches to protest what they claim is rampant police brutality with minorities more often than not the victims.
The Glicks have filed a notice of claim which is the first step in a formal lawsuit against the city.
Tedesco was unavailable for comment.
More information as it becomes available.    

Friday, January 9, 2015

City employees questioned by federal agents (with names)

Demolition of King Street
Sources confirmed that the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency questioned a number of city employees Friday, some at City Hall and some at their homes.
According to sources, those questioned include Andrew Peterson, who works in the Planning Department, Carlo Soriento, who works in the Code Department, a female in the Assessor’s Office and investigators went to Code Enforcement Officer Mark Lawler’s North Greenbush home to ask him questions.
Part of Peterson's job is working as executive secretary of the Troy Planning Commission and the Zoning Board.
Both federal agencies have questioned former City Engineer Russ Reeves about two controversial demolition projects, one on King Street and one at the King Fuels site. Reeves resigned his position shortly after Fire Chief Tom Garrett ordered the demolition of the King Street buildings, which are owned by attorney Don Boyajian, while Reeves was on vacation. Reeves had previously refused to grant an emergency demolition for the long-vacant buildings.
State and federal agencies then discovered they were demolished prior to the abatement of asbestos.  

Based on the long, sordid history of the two projects, it does not appear those questioned by federal agents on Friday are the target of the investigation. Rather, they would be called upon to simply give information.
Demolition at the King Fuels site was suspended when a main gas line was nearly ruptured. It was later discovered the company doing the demolition failed to follow an engineer-approved plan to demolish the buildings and asbestos was found littered throughout the site.
The city Council also began its own investigation that consisted of a number of city officials – including Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Garrett and Reeves - and private individuals publicly answering questions during six hearings. The Council also asked pointed questions about the decision for City Hall to shutter 51 Third St. for lack of a certificate of occupancy even though the building had been used for years as place for performance art-type programming.
It's unclear who else, if anyone else, was questioned on Friday.
More information on this developing story as it becomes available.



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Odds for Republican mayoral candidates

As promised, here are the odds for Republican Party Troy mayoral candidates. The same criteria was used as for the Democrats: it’s not based on winning the election but on who will run and by run we mean publicly announce and begin the arduous task of raising money.
First a bit of history. Troy changed from a city manager form of government to that of a strong mayor in 1994. Mark Pattison narrowly defeated now Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino in the 1995 election and was sworn in as mayor on Jan. 1 1996. The Democrat served the maximum eight years allowed under the charter – despite efforts to abolish term limits. Harry Tutunjian, a Republican, won the next election and the next and served for eight years. For the last three-plus years Democrat Mayor Lou Rosamilia has been at the helm.
The point is, despite the Democrats enjoying a huge enrollment advantage, Republicans do have a shot at the mayor’s office, particularly since the state allows the minor parties to cross endorse major party candidates.

So without further ado … the odds:

-Carmella Mantello: The former councilwoman has run for mayor twice before – once against Pattison and once four years ago against Rosamilia – and has all but announced her intentions to run this year too.
She narrowly lost an At-Large seat two years ago and has gotten some decent press by exposing irregularities at the less-than-cooperative Board of Elections. She has also criticized the Council for the budget mess it did nothing about and Rosamilia for the same. And perhaps most telling is the fact she recently sent a letter to Republican Party committee members pointing out the many shortcomings in city government as well as her belief there is a need for change.
That said, she had to go directly to the committee members rather than the leadership because, plainly put, they don’t like her much and probably won’t give her the nomination. The thing is, she doesn’t care, has nothing to lose and wants the job perhaps more than anyone in the city - even if it means getting it by first running a primary.
Odds of her running - 2 to 1.

-Jim Gordon: The councilman from District 1 said he has made a decision on a run for mayor but isn’t ready to go public with it yet.
He does have party support should he take the plunge and he has, over the years, made a solid name for himself in his district of Lansingburgh. Being in the minority, he can point his finger at the paper majority of Democrats on the Council and the administration for not doing anything to address the looming fiscal disaster. Close observers, however, know he and his Republican colleague teamed up with four Democrats to form the true majority of six on the same Council that punted the fiscal problems down the road. Let’s just say he has been less than stellar in his role as the minority check and balance watchdog.
Also, he would have to give up his $15,000 Council seat, a seat he won on his third try, to run for mayor and he works for Jimino. a mayoral run would bring her office at least a little bit into the spotlight and that’s something the county executive would rather not see happen.
Odds of him running - 5 to 1.

-Mark McGrath: The former city councilman from District 2 staunchly denies any knowledge of an effort to recruit him into the campaign with “Draft McGrath” signs placed around the city this fall. But, there is no denying he got a kick out of it.
He also got a kick out of being a watchdog on the Council for eight years whether or not it was his own party he was watch dogging or that of the Democrats. He was also elected four times in a district that on paper is a Democratic seat so he obviously appeals to voters across party lines.
He will likely not, however, have the party’s support should he run for mayor – he was recently asked to run for an At Large seat. He responded to that offer with a question: “If I’m running city-wide why don’t I run for mayor?”
A city-wide campaign, though, would take about $150,000. While McGrath does enjoy mixing it up in the press, and the ego-stroke that comes with it, he doesn’t have the temperament or the skill to run the nuts and bolts of a campaign – which includes raising money and coordinating volunteers. A fractured party will do nothing to help that crucial effort. Plus, he is enrolled in the Conservative Party and would need Republican Party permission to even get on the ballot.
Odds of him running – 7 to 1

-Harry Tutunjian: There is no secret the former mayor loved the job and would like to run again but given losses for Council and Legislature the popularity he once enjoyed has evidently waned. The party knows that too and will likely not give him the nod for anything outside another run at Council.
He does, though, have a base of support among the party faithful and does appeal to more moderate voters across party lines. He rightly points to the hypocrisy of some of his critics who would have tarred and feathered him for some of the recent shenanigans - illegal sidewalks, shady demolitions and general incompetence – but have turned a blind eye to Rosamilia and company.
Odds of him running – 15 to 1

-Dan Crawley: The deputy mayor under Tutunjian is currently the executive secretary of the Troy Housing Authority. While his name has been floated as a potential mayoral candidate Crawley doesn’t like the spotlight and would prefer to exercise his influence from behind the scenes.
He has cleaned up the local organization that is funded with federal money and has historically been riddled with scandal and controversy but doesn’t have that much time until he can retire. He may run sometime down the road but likely not this year.
Odds of him running – 20 to 1

-Kevin McCashion: The mad tweeter who coined the phrase #troycrazy has been written up in the Times Union, the Business Review and has appeared on Talk 1300 to give his unique and sometimes off the wall take on all things Troy.
He probably has more enemies than friends and the party wouldn’t even support him for the thankless job of city chair so there is no way he gets the nod for mayor.
But, he did submit a bid to develop the old City Hall Site on Monument Square so there is really no telling what he will do.
Odds of him running – 30 to 1  

Odds for the rest of the field – which includes Councilman Dean Bodnar, THA Comptroller Deb Witkowski, Police Chief John Tedesco and Kevin Vandenburgh stand at 50 to 1.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The odds are in for Troy mayoral candidates (UPDATED)

I took a couple weeks off as kind of a mental health vacation. Didn’t work. I get drawn back to #troycrazy like a moth to a flame; like Sen. Chuck Schumer to a TV camera; like Mayor Lou Rosamilia to a misstep; like Carmella Mantello to an election; like Fire Chief Tom Garrett to overtime; like Councilwoman Lynn Kopka to feral cats;  like Bill Dunne to … never mind; and like Kevin McCashion to Twitter.
Over the past few weeks I missed some stuff, but not much. It’s a slow time of year. And, since it is 2015 and there is a mayoral election year in the Collar City, I spent some time talking to the guys in Vegas on the potential candidates for the city’s top spot.
They do a pretty good job of setting the odds on paper, but they grudgingly accept my input on the web of inter-personal relationships, that have been known to cross political lines, and the tit-for-tat grudges that can span years and sometimes snowball for as long.
So, after inputting all the information, these are the odds the super computers in Vegas spit out on who will run for mayor. By run, we mean the candidate will publicly announce an intention, at least make an effort to raise money and, when the time comes, collect the necessary signatures.
First the Democrats (GOP coming tomorrow):

-Mayor Lou Rosamilia: There is no disputing the incumbent has had a tough three years. From new sidewalks in North Central built outside the scope of federal funding; to an arsonist still on the loose; to the ill-conceived appointment of a police commissioner; to the still-being-investigated demolition projects on King Street and the King Fuels site; to the embarrassing Council hearings on the same; to the finances – which might not be all his fault but he is the mayor so the buck (or lack thereof) stops at his desk.
There have been some good things under his watch like new businesses sprouting up and new development in downtown but the age-old complaint that the neighborhoods are being ignored have never been screamed louder or with as much truth.
Plus he makes a good pension from Hudson Valley, is getting up there in age so why would he want to put himself through another four years? Because he is malleable, and the Democrats may beg him until he agrees.
Odds of him running again are 15 to 1.
-Council President Rodney Wiltshire: There is no doubting he wants to run, and was setting himself up for a solid independent candidacy by spearheading the abovementioned investigation into the Rosamilia Administration and the demolition projects. Plus, he has a formidable following and some pretty smart political people (Sarah Couch and the Working Family Party types) around him.
But, he didn’t show up for the last two budget votes, the Council, under his leadership, failed to do anything about the financial crisis that will get nothing but worse and the much anticipated report on the demolition projects is still not done. Also, he broke from the party ranks and allied himself with the two GOP members – a move that did help him grab total control of the Council, a power he didn’t handle all that well. And hard line Democrats don’t like it much when one of their own plays footsie with the opposition.  
Odds of him running for mayor are 5 to 1
-Brian Howard: The former acting Superintendent of the Enlarged City School District of Troy got his name out there by running a suicide mission against Sen. Kathy Marchione and his name has been floated by Democratic insiders as a candidate untouched by the last three years of chaos.
He doesn’t need a job, obviously likes politics, is well-spoken and is probably looking for something to do. But, it all depends on if Rosamilia runs again or not.
Odds of him running 15 to 1.
-Councilwoman Lynn Kopka: She will be the first to say she doesn’t want to be mayor but she is as sly as one of the feral cats she chases around the city. If you remember, she was actively seeking the post four years ago when the nomination went to Clement Campana, who was later forced out of the race when the party decided he had too much baggage and went instead with Rosamilia. She also remained loyal to the party and the party apparatus does have some juice in the city.
But, she did lose the Council presidency she held for two years to Wiltshire which means her city-wide appeal might not be what it once was. Plus, after the last election and the chaos of the last three years, her claims of not wanting the headache do have a ring of truth
Odds of her running 15 to 1
-Clement (Chappy) Campana: The former Council president secured the nomination four years ago but was talked out of running by the ever-astute Rensselaer County Democratic Party Chairman Tom Wade because of allegations Campana used his influence to secure an apartment in Troy Housing Authority for his aged father. That hurt him more than voter fraud – a years-long scandal where the charges brought against Campana were later dropped.
That said, he has been out of the scene for a the last four years, which can do nothing but help him, he was elected Council president so he can get votes city-wide, the Democrats have a decisive enrollment advantage, he bowed out gracefully four years ago so he could argue the party owes him one, and the Campana name is still solid.
Odds of him running 25 to 1

-Pete Ryan: As the deputy mayor, the number two man to Rosamilia, Ryan could be in a good position to take over for his current boss should said boss bow out for other reasons than those mentioned above.
But, as the number two man in what is widely seen as a three-year disaster puts him in the same boat as Rosamilia – except worse. Who is he going to blame when taxes are jacked by double figures next year or the year after? The administration he supposedly plays a major role in? Plus, while he is a party loyalist, I don’t think he has the political acumen to run a city wide campaign – the party can only do so much – and that puts him at a distinct disadvantage to someone like Wiltshire or even Kopka.
Odds of him running are 20 to 1.

Cindy Doran: The county legislator can get votes city wide and as a former teacher she has a solid base. But, she lacks any sort of executive experience in the private or public sector so should she run she would almost have to announce the members of the administration – and they would have to be well known and respected municipal administrators – and then run as a team rather than her trying to sell her record to the ever-astute voters of Troy.
Odds of her running are 15 to 1.
Ernest Everett: Thanks to an astute reader, I was told I left out this potential candidate who has already had a fundraiser. The little known potential candidate who recently moved back to the area is one step ahead of the rest of the field in that he has begun to raise money and he has a Facebook Page announcing his intentions.

I don't know much about him, but he was a Republican who switched to the Democratic Party. He is also a black man, who could be a thorn in the party proper's side should he have the guts to stay in the race and run a primary.

Since these odds are about who will potentially run, according to the abovementioned criteria, and after consultation with the stunned brokers in Vegas, we have no choice but to give Everett the odds of even money.  

The odds of rest of the field, which includes county Legislator Ed Manny, who expressed an interest four years ago, Legislator Peter Grimm, who has never expressed an interest, former Mayor Mark Pattison, who loved the job but was term limited out, former Deputy Mayor Jim Conroy, who has always wanted the job stand at 50 to 1.

Tomorrow I will post the Republican odds and candidates include former Councilwoman Carmella Mantello, Councilman Jim Gordon, former Councilman Mark McGrath, former Mayor Harry Tutunjian, former deputy mayor Dan Crawley and mad tweeter Kevin McCashion.