Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let the exodus begin (UPDATED)

The first person of Mayor Lou Rosamilia’s administration is jumping ship.
The final day for spokesman Michael Morris will be April 17, according to a source in City Hall. Last week, Rosamilia announced he would not seek a second term.
Morris came to the administration after Rosamilia had already had a tough two years. He was the spokesman during a time when the city’s financial dilemma came to light, during the first Council investigation into a sitting administration in 36 years and during the Lansingburgh frozen pipe fiasco.
In other words, he was in a tough spot. In many ways it was just too late to have a shot at salvaging anything and he was thrown into the rough and tumble world of Troy politics where grudges can last decades and alliances just minutes.  
Morris was working for the state Assembly until taking over for spokeswoman Jessica Sibley in May, 2014. Sibley became the mayor’s spokeswoman in April, 2013. She took over for Michael Frasier, who went to work for Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb after working a year for Rosamilia.
It’s unclear where he will work next. It's also unclear whether or not Rosamilia will fill the spot for his final nine months in office.
Morris said he does have a new gig but preferred not to disclose what or where it is. He did give this statement:

"I appreciate the opportunity given to me last March by Mayor Rosamilia and I really enjoyed working with he and Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan." 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wiltshire is the frontrunner

Now that Council President Rodney Wiltshire is officially a candidate for mayor he is, in my opinion, the frontrunner.
That could change depending on who the Democrats pick but as of right now, when compared to the other names out there, the race is his to lose.
Here are some pros and cons as I see them.
-Solid name recognition, elected citywide twice.
-Successful small business owner.
- Family man
-Well-spoken with a solid presence in front of the cameras.
-Bi-racial. On the one hand I’m not sure why that matters one way or another but on the other he could be the first person of color to ever be Troy’s mayor.  
-Will have Working Families Party support and does have some pretty smart political people around him.
-Has a Council record to run on including holding hearings into an administration for the first time in 36 years.

-Will not have the support of the Democratic Party proper or its Chairman Tom Wade. While being an “outsider” can play well in certain circle he will also not have a proven organization and/or all its workers.
-That same organization will see its demise for all practical purposes should Wiltshire and company beat whoever it is it picks as a candidate. Desperation is a wonderful motivator.
-Will have a Council record to run on which includes going on vacation for two budget votes, the city’s dire fiscal condition which occurred under his watch on the Council and striking deals with the GOP members. That last part doesn’t sit well with many old time, old fashioned Democrats. But, then again, he upset most of them by waging a run without the party’s support anyway so it’s a wash.

I will add some more pros and cons as they come to me. Feel free to weigh in by adding your own to the comment section or drop me a line at jfranco961@gmail.com or at 878-1000. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rosamilia is still out; Republican odds are in

The fact Mayor Lou Rosamilia will not run for a second term did little to change the mix of potential Republican candidates or the odds of them getting into the race, according to Vegas bookmakers.
-Carmella Mantello: The former councilwoman and twice mayoral candidate has all but announced her intention to run for a third time. She is all over social media weighing in on about every issue facing the city, she routinely sends out FOIL requests and even put out an unsolicited statement on Rosamilia’s decision to not run again. After serving six years on the Council representing District 3 she ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Mark Pattison and then, a dozen years later, ran unsuccessfully against Rosamilia.  She really has nothing to lose and despite the Republican Party proper ready to endorse Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, for the spot she is gearing up for a primary if it comes down to it. The Republicans have offered Mantello a job – such as head of the Planning Department – if she withdraws and if Gordon wins but nobody expects her to believe them or to take the deal even if she did. ODDS of her running stand at 2 to 1.
-Jim Gordon: It’s a little harder to tell if Gordon is running since he is already an elected official and the electorate – and his party since he is in the minority - expects him to make some noise. But, while he clearly wants to run he would have to give up the district seat he worked so hard to win – and the $15,000 paycheck that comes with it. The Rensselaer County STOPDWI coordinator would, however, enjoy the Conservative and Independence party lines should he make it past what would be a near certain primary against Mantello. On the flip side of that, she would not have them and they are crucial to a Republican winning a citywide election since Democrats outnumber the GOP by about 5 to 3. He too has built up his name recognition beyond his Lansingburgh district. ODDS of him running stand at 2 to 1.
 -Mark McGrath: The “Draft McGrath” movement is alive and well albeit too small to swing the Republicans into giving the enrolled Conservative Party member permission to run on its line. He could, though, play hardball with City Chairman Mark Wojcik and run a Conservative Party primary his can and then try to run in the general on just the minor party line. But, McGrath won’t run a suicide mission as a vendetta. Instead, he said, he is 99 percent sure he will run again in District 2, where he served eight years before being term limited out of office two years ago. ODDS of him running for mayor stand at 15 to 1.
-Harry Tutunjian: There is no question the former eight-year mayor loved the job and would like nothing more than to be in City Hall again. He did a decent job too before being term limited out. He had his critics, without a doubt, but compared to the Rosamiia debacle, he was FDR, JFK and Ronald Regan all rolled into one. But, he lost twice for Legislature so if the GOP endorses him this year it’s because everyone else bailed out – even Mantello. Odds of him running stand at 20 to 1.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Rosamilia is out; updated odds are in

With Mayor Lou Rosamilia’s decision to not seek re-election I guess now would be a good time to update the odds for who will run for the city's top office later this year. Vegas is a bit overwhelmed thanks to some college basketball tournament, but bookmakers were able to put together preliminary odds on potential Democratic candidates running for mayor and promised to have some odds on the Republican candidates tomorrow.
First, though, I’ve got to say the mayor’s decision came as no surprise. He was in way too far over his head to make good decisions on his own and did not have the right people giving him advice. They were either over their heads themselves (Pete Ryan, Ian Silverman and Mike Morris) or they had their own agendas (Bill Dunne and about every other department head and employee in the city.) Of the three mayors since the city changed its governing structure, Rosamilia may have been the nicest mayor but he was also the worst. 
More on Rosamilia’s rocky one-term later. Tonight, we look to the future. The odds are known to change with the smallest of ripples or whispers or posts on Facebook but as of March 23 sometime after 9 p.m. this is where they stand on who will run, not on who will win. Those will come later too.
For the Dems:
-Rodney Wiltshire: The Times Union is reporting that the council president could announce as soon as March 4. Earlier, he said he would not primary Rosamilia but I think he gave up on that pledge long ago and had been planning to run for a while. He is a solid candidate with the Council presidency under his belt, has better than average name recognition and a good presence in front of the cameras. He will not – or very likely not – have the support of the Democratic Party proper and that means he will probably have to run a primary. He will also likely not enjoy the Independence Party backing he got from the GOP that propelled him to the presidency. ODDS of him running stand at even money.
-Ernest Everett: The little known candidate already has a Facebook page touting his candidacy and has raised some money for a run. He maintains he spent some of that money at places like Hooters and Kokopellis and other bars and restaurants to hold campaign pow wows with key advisers but it will still come back to haunt him - should he opt to continue his run. Whether or not he gets party support is up in the air but since it was the Democrats who initially leaked the campaign summits at Hooters I’m guessing not. ODDS of him staying the race stand at 5 to 1.
Ed Manny: The county legislator wanted to run four years ago but the nod went first to Clement “Chappy” Campana and then to Rosamilia. The retired firefighter is, however, a party loyalist but the only way the Democrats pick him is if everyone else turns them down and they find themselves in a jam. Kinda like how Rosamilia got the endorsement. And Rosamilia, for better or worse, won. ODDS of him running are 7 to 1.
Cindy Doran: Another county legislator who is loyal to the party has shown an affinity for politics during her first term in office. The teacher in the Troy school district got some press – that boosted her name recognition – by calling for the chairman of the Legislature, Martin Reid, to resign and for her criticism of District Attorney Joel Abelove. ODDS of her running are 12 to 1.  
Clement “Chappy” Campana: He was the party’s pick four years ago but his involvement in voter fraud, and more importantly his use of political influence to get his father into one of the nicer Troy Housing Authority apartments, dogged his campaign to the point that Rensselaer County Chairman Tom Wade chased him off the ballot. Wise move on Wade’s part. But, Campana does have a following, solid name recognition and, if you think about it, Wade owes him one. ODDS of him running are 12 to 1.
Lynn Kopka: The city councilwoman’s name was in the mix three-plus years ago, didn’t get the endorsement and ran for the legislative seat instead. She was elected president for two years and then lost that seat to Wiltshire and then nearly lost her Council seat altogether. She is however, a party proper person, which means she is in Wade’s corner and has been the front man (woman) against those Democrats who are not (i.e. Wiltshire.) ODDS of her running are 17 to 1.   
-Bill Dunne: The former eight-year councilman and current director of the city’s Planning Department certainly has name recognition – whether it’s for good or bad reasons is a toss-up. He is loyal to the Democratic Party, though, and he is “confident” enough to think he could win. ODDS of him running are 17 to 1.
-Pete Ryan: The current deputy mayor was elected to the Council and then the Legislature. If he should toss his hat in the ring, however, he would have a tough time – if not impossible time – distancing himself from Rosamilia’s many missteps. ODDS of him running are 20 to 1
-Ken Zalewski: During an appearance on @Talk1300, the four-term councilman said he wouldn’t mind being mayor someday but fell well short of saying he would run this year. He would have to take a pay cut, for starters, and he is a staunch supporter of Wiltshire. ODDS of him running are 25 to 1.
-Jim Conroy: The former deputy mayor under then Mayor Mark Pattison would probably like to run but he won’t run without party support and that doesn’t seem likely at this point in time. ODDS of him running are 25 to 1.
Mayor Mark Pattison: After serving eight years in office he’s been out of the public eye for 12 years but unlike Rosamilia he did like the job and would be a formidable candidate should he opt to run. He does, however, have a cushy job at the State Comptroller’s Office so whether he wants to give that up and jump back into the lion’s den is unlikely. ODDS of him running are 25 to 1.
Tomorrow I will get the odds for potential Republican candidates and they include Councilman Jim Gordon, former Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Carmella Mantello, former Mayor Harry Tutunjian and former Councilman Mark McGrath.
If I forgot anyone from either party please let me know in the comments or drop me a line at 878-1000 or jfranco961@gmail.com




Sunday, March 22, 2015

City Hall departments get subpoenas; feds have photos

The Troy Engineering and Planning departments – in addition to the city Council – received a subpoena from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding controversial demolition projects, according to Amy O’Connor during an appearance on Talk 1300 Saturday.
Also, according to sources, the feds questioned Mike Hayner, head of the Department of Public Utilities and acting commissioner of the Department of Public Works, and the new city Engineer Andrew Donovan, within the last two weeks.
It appears the feds are wondering why there were barricades at the King Street row of buildings a day prior to the Aug. 5 emergency demolition. Investigators are in possession of photos taken from a camera installed on the Green Island Bridge that show barricades stacked outside the buildings before Fire Chief Tom Garrett ordered an emergency demolition.
Hayner, who on Aug. 5 did order crews to set up city barricades around the demolition site, told the feds he has no idea how the barricades got there the night before and said the aluminum barricades at the site did not even belong to the city.
It begs the questions of why preparations were being made to take the buildings down prior to Garrett declaring them an imminent threat to public safety and immediately demolished.
The Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI and the state Labor Department has interviewed a number of former and current City Hall employees as they investigate the King Street demolition project and one at the King Fuels site in South Troy.
At King Street, the buildings’ owner, Don Boyajian, asked the city for an emergency demolition in 2010. Under then Mayor Harry Tutunjian, acting on the advice of City Engineer Russ Reeves, the request was denied. Three years later, a day after Reeves went on vacation, Garrett issued the emergency decree and the buildings came down. There was no asbestos abatement and Bombers, a bar restaurant attached to the King Street buildings, was allowed to stay open. Patrons were seen entering and exiting the establishment not 50 feet from where the proverbial wrecking ball was swinging.  
Reeves later resigned because of demolition irregularities at the King Fuels site. He said the demolition did not follow certified engineering guidelines and that work came dangerously close to a natural gas main. Also, according to former Councilman Mark McGrath during an appearance on Talk 1300 radio, an employee of one of the demolition contractors, J.R. Casale, told authorities the company was burying asbestos at the site.
Last year, the city Council, under President Rodney Wiltshire, conducted its own investigation through six public hearings. Those testifying included Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Garrett, Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan, Boyajian, Tununjian and a host of others.  Part of the EPA subpoena issued to the Council last week requests a transcript of the hearings in addition to any and all other records as well as all electronic and paper correspondence regarding the sites. The request dates to 2010 and includes three successive Councils.
It’s unclear what the subpoenas issued on the City Hall departments demands, but employees were gathering records last week to satisfy the request.
According to O’Connor, an attorney who is an active member of the Democratic Party, the EPA can pursue civil or criminal penalties when it comes to the failure to properly abate and dispose of asbestos, a known carcinogenic. Since there is a grand jury empaneled, it is more than likely looking at criminal sanctions. She did say, however, that it is generally the contractors’ responsibility to follow state and federal regulations.
She also said the intentional disregard of those regulations is one aspect the feds would have to prove should it bring an indictment or indictments. While there is a grand jury empaneled only about a third end with an indictment, O’Connor said.




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It gets real: Feds subpoena records from Troy Council

My version of the story is below but so I don’t rehash all the old news or t 
he Times Union article, the subpoenas issued Wednesday does lead to some interesting questions and observations:
-Why did the EPA subpoena the Council, which had nothing to do with the actual demolitions, rather than go directly to the administration which did? Also, all the records – with the exception of emails and other communications, are already public documents.
-Attorney Don Boyajian’s name is the only one mentioned in the subpoena. His partner, Bill Dryer represented former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno in his second trial that ended with an acquittal ending a nearly decade long investigation and prosecution by the feds. 
-Including the fact Boyajian owned the buildings in 2010, there are other constants from 2010 through 2014: Bill Dunne was on the Council in 2010 and, after being term limited out at the end of 2011, became director of the Planning Department for Mayor Lou Rosamilia in 2012 and Fire Chief Tom Garrett was chief then and when the King Street buildings were knocked down.
-At this stage of the game it is far better to receive a subpoena than not since the targets likely won’t hear anything until there are indictments – if any should be forthcoming, that is.  
-Rosamilia, after taking a beating about frozen pipes and hosting one of the worst press conferences in the history of not just Troy but the world, goes back into hiding with a solid “no comment.”
-The Council, under President Rodney Wiltshire, is again vindicated for holding hearings into the demolition projects.
-I don’t recall the April 2013 demolition of the Ardex Building at 744 Pawling Ave. but the feds remember it because they requested documents related to that too. As an aside, Reeves was in town for that one and did declare the emergency himself.
-The federal government takes its time when investigating such matters but for them to first question City Hall employees in City Hall, like investigators did earlier this year, and then issue subpoenas it is painfully obvious they are taking the whole thing seriously.
-It’s just one more disastrous turn of events for Rosamilia and one more reason I don’t think he runs again.

The Troy City Council received a sweeping federal subpoena, Wednesday, as part of the ongoing probe into controversial demolition projects on King Street and at the King Fuels site.
According to the subpoena, first reported by the Times Union, the Environmental Protection Agency is demanding a host of records from January 2010 to the end of 2013. That includes records from the last two years of Mayor Harry Tutunjian’s term and includes three consecutive city Councils.
The row of buildings on King Street was demolished by an emergency decree called by Fire Chief Tom Garrett. Former City Engineer Russ Reeves was on vacation at the time. He had previously denied a request by the buildings’s owner, attorney Don Boyajian, to declare them a public hazard and to knock them down under the city’s emergency demolition procedure.
The city Council, through a half dozen public hearings, the FBI the EPA and the state Labor Department have been looking into whether or not public safety was in jeopardy during the demolition. Asbestos was known to have been in the buildings but not properly abated and the buildings were demolished while Bomber’s remained open next door. Patrons were seen freely entering and exiting the bar/restaurant while the wrecking ball swung not 50 feet away.
According to the subpoenas, if the Council turns over records the individual members do not have to appear in Albany on April 1.
Earlier this year the FBI and EPA interviewed City Hall employees and last year Reeves, who had resigned at the time and Barbara Tozzi were also interviewed.
“It has been my contention from the beginning that the demolition at 4-10 King Street in August 2013 was conducted unethically, and possibly illegally,” said Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 5. “The City, in its attempt to circumvent the standard demolition process one day after the City Engineer went on vacation, placed the public at risk of exposure to airborne asbestos particles. “
Mayor Lou Rosamilia, through a spokesman, tells the Times Union his office had no comment on the subpoenas.
 Council President Rodney Wiltshire tells the Times Union the Council’s investigation is validated by the fact federal investigators are bringing the issue to a grand jury. Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, tells the newspaper he reached out to the EPA to see specifically what documents they want.
The EPA is also asking for records regarding the demolition of a number of buildings at the former King Fuels site located on a tract of land in South Troy owned by the Troy Industrial Development Agency. The demolition followed no engineer approved plan, the work was conducted in such a manner it threatened to breach a gas main and there was no asbestos abatement. It was so shoddily done, the demolition was the reason Reeves resigned.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Term limits, shrinking the size of Troy's Council on the table (CLARIFICATION)

CLARIFCATION: Zalewski said the commission is exploring whether or not it is legal and/or feasible to break out the controversial question of term limits on it's own and have people vote on the rest of the charter changes as a whole.

The Troy Charter Review Commission is discussing two controversial issues as it determines what revisions to make to the city’s governing document.
The abolition of term limits and reducing the size of the Council from nine to seven members – with six district representatives and one for the entire city - are on the table, said Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 5, on Talk 1300.
Zalewski, who is serving his fourth and final two-year term under the charter, said a representative from the League of Women Voters, Steve Muller, came to the last commission meeting and made a strong case against term limits. While any change to the charter would not impact Zalewski or any other official currently in office, Zalewski said he appreciates both sides of the age-old term limit argument and is open to changing them in Troy. Zalewski is serving on the commission with eight other members.
He said it makes little sense for federal officials like members of Congress – where big money is often exchanged for influence - to serve as long as voters want them elected while in a relatively tiny City of Troy members of the Council and the mayor can only serve eight years.
Other arguments for term limits include allowing politicians to stay in office too long and getting lazy or corrupt, using the office to campaign for what has become a never-ending election cycle and preventing “new blood” with new ideas from getting into office. Arguments against include forcing a conscientious, hard-working honest politician out of office because an arbitrary number of years has passed and the loss of institutional knowledge for the same reason. It also takes power away from voters who should have the final say if they want someone to stay or go.
To the other hot button issue, Zalewski said there have been nine Council members since Troy’s population was upwards towards 75,000. Now, he said, it is right around 50,000 and three At Large members are not necessary. Also, he said, six people running for three seats can confuse some voters because they may think it is a head to head contest between the two who are lined up across from each other on the ballot rather having the ability to choose any three candidates.
The way Troy’s electoral process is now, the candidate with the highest vote total is the Council president. The president does not have any more power than the other eight members but the president does preside over meetings. By default, if the charter is changed reducing the number of members to seven, candidates would run directly for the presidency.
While there has been some talk of reducing the size of the Council, there has not been any serious move towards that end.
Mayoral term limits, however, became an issue in 2003, then Mayor Mark Pattison’s last year in office. First he asked a sharply divided Council to abolish term limits and while everyone thought then Councilman Bill Pascarell, D-District 4, was going to be the swing vote, Councilman Keith Rogers, D-District 3, broke from his Democratic colleagues and voted to keep them in place.
(As an aside, I was covering Troy at the time and for at least a week prior to the vote Pascarell wouldn’t tell anyone which way he was voting. Or, maybe he told both sides he was with them, I honestly have no idea. But the night of the vote, Pascarell was standing about eight-foot tall when he walked up on the dais, relishing the fact all eyes were on him. Not 30 minutes later, Rogers shocked everyone when he voted with then President Frank LaPosta before Pascarell even had a chance to utter a word. You could almost see him deflate back down to his previous stature of a little shy of five-foot.)
After the Council shot it down, it was put to a referendum where about 75 percent of the electorate said they wanted to keep term limits in place. Also, all those on the Council who supported the move were voted out.
To avoid having what is historically a lightning rod issue – not just in Troy but all over the county – overshadow the other revisions to the charter, Zalewski said the commission is exploring whether or not it can legally put two different versions of the new charter to the voters this November. The two would be identical except one would include abolishing term limits and one would leave them in place.





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Frozen pipes in Gloversville versus frozen pipes in Troy


In an earlier post I gave Mayor Lou Rosamilia credit for standing by his guns and not helping residents thaw out their pipes in Lansingburgh.
By the letter of the law, he was probably right too because the city requires someone have a license to use the equipment needed to thaw out the pipes and if the city contracted such a person it would be “gifting” taxpayer money to help only a few residents.
I also said if I were mayor I would have fixed the pipes anyway. It’s not worth the headache for starters, and if doing so violated the city code and/or charter it would take someone to make a stink for it to matter. Nobody is going to make a stink out of helping a cancer survivor or a home with three kids getting the water turned back on. They will, however, make a big stink if you don’t help out. And it's not like the two documents have been sacrosanct by any administration. 
If the mayor was trying to shed his “nice guy” image in preparation for another run, he picked the wrong issue to stand on.
Here’s how it works in Gloversville, my hometown.
I visited my parents on Monday and at about 5:30 p.m. or so my mom discovered they had no water. Despite the fact it was over 40 degrees for the first time in weeks and weeks, the pipes froze – for the first time in 47 years. Evidently, just because the air is a bit warmer doesn’t mean the ground has lost its grip on winter.
Anyway, my parents called the Water Department and a recording gave them a non-emergency number at the Police Department. Whoever answered that number, gave them the number for someone on call at the Water Department. They reached that guy and he and another guy came to the house at about 7:30 p.m. with a funky machine that drives hot water and stem into the pipe.
Two hours later the water was flowing.
They were told that as the air temperature starts to get a  warmer during the day the snow melts into the earth. And because the nights are still cold, it freezes and the frost line actually goes deeper for a short period of time. Like I said, they built the house 47 years ago and it’s the first time the pipes froze.
The Water Department guys told them the first time is on the house but to leave their water running a little bit (kind of like the warning given to homeowners in Troy but in G’Ville they shut the meter off so residents won’t get charged for the water that will do nothing but run down the drain.) If the guys had to come back, it would be a $250 flat fee to thaw the pipes out again.
After reading my blog and hearing about Troy on the news for more than five days in a row, my parents were, to say the least, thrilled with the service they got from the Gloversville Water Department.
My dad, who with my brother owns a butcher store, brought the guys who came a couple nice steaks and my mom wrote a letter to the hometown paper, The Leader Herald, praising their work.
Both of those are fine gestures, but in a small town like Gloversville everyone knows, likes and respects the butcher (an honest, hard working small business owner) and everyone knows, likes and respects the nursery school teacher (in her 30 years, my mom taught a good chunk of two Gloversville generations and since retiring is now involved with so many civic activities my dad can’t even keep track.) Their word of mouth endorsement is worth more to a politician than any minor party line in Troy.
And, I just watched yet another negative story (how many days in a row now?) about Troy and the city’s refusal to help the residents in Lansingburgh get the pipes unfrozen – pipes owned by the city, no less.
By this point in time, Rosamilia and company should be used to their bad decisions making bad press.
Many of the bad decision though (King Street, King Fuels, not addressing the pending financial nightmare, illegal sidewalks, appointing a police commissioner, no union contracts, a shady attempt to sell the Scolite property, and a host of other snafus) are only noticed by those who really pay attention.
Everyone, though, pays attention when those in City Hall screw up basic services like plowing snow, picking up garbage and making sure water gets to a home.
It leads me to again ask: who the hell is giving the mayor advice? And whomever the hell that is should have been fired about three years ago. It also reinforces my other observation: he won’t run again.   








Saturday, March 7, 2015

Another great night with the Friends

The Friends wrapped up another dinner last Saturday and for the 38th year in a row a good time was had by all.
Just to recap, the Friends of 112th Street packed the St. Augustine’s gymnasium, had plenty to eat and drink, reminisced about the old days , honored a few of their own and then had some group laughs thanks to the speakers and the annual skit.
It all started when half dozen guys got together on a whim in 1976 and had such a good time decided to meet again the following year. They’ve been doing it ever since and over the years started drawing others into the mix. This year, some 350 showed up with some walking a couple blocks and others flying in from different states to see old friends and give something back to the community -- all proceeds are donated to non-profit groups and civic organizations.
I can’t go into what was said Saturday night because what happens on the last Saturday of February at St. Augustine’s stays at St. Augustine’s, thankfully.  Actually, for a variety of reasons, I missed the speakers and the skit (no, former U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, my ankle bracelet didn’t go off … I figured out how to disable it … I’ll show you sometime) but I heard everyone was a scream.
(As an aside, I will say that Jimmy Lance was partly correct except he has a bigger chest and less facial hair.)
Joining speakers Sweeney, who I heard was hysterical, and Lance, who is always hysterical, was Dave Kissick, who I heard was equally hysterical.
And as in year’s past, some Friends were lucky enough to get – or worked hard enough to earn– recognition from the group. This year’s award winners were:
-Sports Awards: Nick Davy, Mike Corrigan, David Piscitella and Mayor Lou Rosamilia.
-Veterans Awards: Al O’Brien and Bruce Jensen       -Humanitarian of the Year: Chuck Fentakes               
-Special Award: Bob Swanick
-Man of the Year: Ed Manny
I have to thank the committee – Mick Cahrenger, Kevin Vandenburgh, Jim Duff, Eric Gower, Mike McDonald, Gene Blair, Uncle Tucker Hulihan, Scott Ryan and Ron Bounds – for inviting me again this year.
To close, as with most old adages, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” does ring true. Also last Saturday, some 100 women gathered at Franklin Terrace for the eighth time. Some 100 women attended the event, affectionately known as the “Bitches Brunch,” to raise money for Hope 7. As per tradition, women aren’t allowed at the Friends dinner so some decided to start their own same type of event.
If my opinion matters at all, I highly recommend all men attend the Friends of 112th Street Dinner on the last Saturday in February. I also recommend all men avoid, at all costs, Franklin Terrace on that same day.     

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The power of Mother Nature

The frost line dipped below the four-foot mark, the benchmark to which most things are built and/or installed, and some pipes froze. I guess that happens when we don’t hit 32 degrees for like six weeks in a row.
And from this brutalist of brutal cold snaps a couple amazing things happened.
-Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, and former Councilman Kevin McGrath, D-District 1, actually agree on something – the city should help out the residents of Lansingburgh.
-Mayor Lou Rosamilia grew a spine and is on the right side of an issue. If you remember the memorable quote by then City Engineer Russ Reeves when a pipe froze, burst and filled South Troy resident Ken Dufty's basement with silt: "It was an Act of God." I criticized Reeves and his boss, then Mayor Harry Tutunjian, for the "Act of God" defense but they too stuck to their guns and as far as I know Dufty filed a claim with his insurance company.
-Rosamilia, despite his “nice guy” persona, is sticking to his guns despite what he said is his personal inclination to help out anyone in need.
And some things even Mother Nature can’t change.  
-When it happens in Troy, something like frozen pipes in February makes the big news and gets everyone riled up.
-The Council used the issue to whack the mayor upside the head.
-The mayor loses another public relations battle by disappearing when the story first broke and staying disappeared for no less than nine days. He loses another battle by not having a very good explanation for the why the city can't thaw the pipes when he held his press conference on Thursday.
-Emotions trump logic once again, and politicians and are quick to take advantage.
Here’s my take on it.
The city can’t just go in and help out the residents for a couple reasons.
A section of code only allows those with a particular license to use the equipment – electric, plumbing and/or welding – necessary to thaw the stretch of pipe from the home to the main line.
There is an exception to that rule – if there is an emergency. I’m sorry, but a homeowner that didn’t heed the city’s warning to leave the water dripping or run the risk of the pipes freezing does not, in my book anyway, constitute an emergency.  
I suppose the city could hire licensed contractors to go in and do the job on a private residence but think of the door that would open. And, along those same lines, the city, in case anyone has been living under a rock, is broke.
No, in the grand scheme of things, if the city hired a plumber it wouldn’t make the big financial picture any better or worse but as I’ve been saying right along you have to start somewhere, and to start by hiring private contractors to help homeowners out of a jam they helped create is not a good spot.
In the old days, if a neighbor needed a hand he went next door or down the block and asked for some help with the unwritten understanding of returning the favor down the road. Now, for some reason, the nearest neighbor is the government.
I applaud Rosamilia for sticking to his guns and I too applaud the plumber, Matt Ward, who listened to his mom and went to help out those in need. 
In the end, though, if I were mayor, I'd probably thaw the damn pipes. It wouldn't be worth the headache.