the steps of City Hall: Councilman Dominick Calsolaro
(Ward 1) voices his support for the Albany Civic Agenda.
of Left Field
controversial ruling by a controversial judge is another bump
in the road for charter reform in Albany
Thursday, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Spargo ruled
that 316 signatures collected by the Albany Civic Agenda for
its charter-reform initiative were invalid. But they weren’t
the signatures he’d been called upon to examine.
His ruling came during a case alleging that several hundred
signatures had been incorrectly disqualified by Albany City
Clerk John Marsolais. Spargo reinstated 136 of those signatures,
which would have given the ACA the 3,000 votes needed to put
its reforms on the ballot. But then he threw out 316 other
signatures because they had been collected by non-Albany residents.
judge overstepped his bounds on making his ruling,” said Ward
1 Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, noting that not even the
city had questioned the petitions carried by nonresidents.
“Generally a judge is confined . . . [to] the papers presented
by the parties,” said founding ACA member Paul Bray. “Judges
don’t want to go afield usually.”
In fact, Federal and Supreme Court decisions have found that
there is no residency requirement to circulate petitions.
“It’s not about who carried the petitions but who signed them,”
said Ward 7 Councilwoman Shawn Morris.
Bray noted that in a number of situations similar to this,
judges have generally ruled in favor of the democratic process
rather than letting it be held up on a technicality.
ACA supporters stated that they were not terribly surprised
Spargo made an overreaching ruling. Morris said the idea had
crossed her mind as soon as she heard Spargo was on the case.
Calsolaro noted, “Whenever he is involved in a case, the focus
seems to be on him.”
This is not the first time Spargo has been involved in controversy.
Spargo is currently facing investigations by the Commission
on Judicial Conduct into multiple accusations of misconduct,
vote solicitation, conflict of interest and demanding contributions
to his defense fund from attorneys with cases before him.
He has also said the restrictions on judicial speech and support
of political candidates should be lifted.
The ACA has decided to appeal and is collecting donations
toward the $20,000 cost. “The judge himself said we had undertaken
a Herculean task to get to where we have,” said Bray. “And
Morris said she expects that if the petitions are ruled valid,
the council will put the charter issue on the ballot, but
wouldn’t predict what might happen if they are not.
The scale of devastation in New Orleans in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina is hard to grasp. As
usual, however, it seems that the poor are even
worse off—all evacuation methods required a private
vehicle or enough money to pay for transportation,
and many of the lowest elevation neighborhoods
were also the poorest. People wanting to make
donations to help the displaced can go to www.redcross.
org, (800) HELP-NOW or America’s Second Harvest
Who Would Want to Kill This Guy?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is hugely
popular with the poor in his home country, has
recently made strides to become more popular with
America’s disenfranchised. “We want to sell gasoline
and heating fuel directly to the poor communities
in the United States.” said Chavez. Chavez did
not explain how he would distribute gas in the
United States, but his country already supplies
Cuba with cheap oil and plans to help other Caribbean
nations better afford energy. The price of gas
in Venezuela hovers around 14 cents per gallon.
You Could Start With the Food
Desperately looking for ways to drag customers
away from more trendy fast-food places like Panera
Bread, Moe’s, and Quizno’s Subs, older fast-food
chains such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have taken
to adding complicated lamps, wood facades and
functioning fireplaces. Pizza Hut has even enacted
a plan that requires its franchise owners to find
a unique look for each restaurant. Dutifully following
this spirit, a Pizza Hut in Saratoga Springs has
recently been renamed Pizza Hut Italian Bistro.
A Reuters TV soundman who was shot to death in
Baghdad last week has become the 66th journalist
to be killed in Iraq. The total of journalists
killed in Iraq now exceeds the number killed during
the conflict in Vietnam. Sixty-three journalists
were killed in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. It has
taken two years for that death toll to be exceeded
in Iraq. Reporters Without Borders has named Iraq
the most dangerous place for journalists.
I gave him $50 for 'cheese' from Vermont, and
he brought back $50 worth of actual cheese! It
was damn good cheese though."
night at the Old Songs Festival campground
Aug. 19, the Albany Civic Agenda filed
suit in the State Supreme Court claiming City
Clerk John Marsolais improperly disqualified 224
valid signatures on their charter reform petitions
[“Give Us a Sign,” Aug. 18]. The first hearing
was scheduled yesterday, Aug. 24. . . . Mark McCarthy,
lawyer for Sebba Rockaway Ltd., owners of the
Wellington Hotel [“On First Thought, No,”
Nov. 25, 2005], recently announced that Rockaway
will put the property on the market. “If the city
wants the Wellington Hotel, it can have it.” said
McCarthy. According to the Times Union,
Rockaway is asking $5 million for the now-crumbling
historic building—a steep increase from the $334,639
Rockaway claimed it was worth during a 1998 assessment.
How things change, eh?