Win a Small Step to Diversifying Albany’s Politics
Albany’s Ward 3 on Tuesday, something happened that hadn’t
happened since 1929. An Albany Common Council member was elected
on a line other than the Democratic Party. Corey Ellis, who
lost the Democratic primary in a squeaker to incumbent Michael
Brown, went on to a win of 507 to 445 over Brown in the general
elections. Ellis ran on the Working Families Party line. “I’m
more happy for the ward and the people who helped out on the
campaign,” said a tired Ellis.
Karen Scharff, chair of the Working Families Party in the
region, said that in the time between the primary and the
general elections, voters got to know Ellis better, and realized
that “if they allowed the primary results to become the general
elections results there would be no change.” Compared to the
primary, in the general election, Brown picked up 88 new votes,
and Ellis picked up 157.
level of increased turnout shows that if people are given
a real choice they will make a different choice in November
than September,” said Scharff. “You can no longer assume that
the primary determines the outcome.”
Scharff said that while the technicalities are unknown, because
Ellis is a registered Democrat she expects that he will participate
on the council’s Democratic caucus.
Mayor Jennings Re-elected; Alice Green makes strong showing
Jennings said in his victory speech that he had a mandate
to “stay the course,” Green Party candidate Alice Green and
supporters are saying that her unusually strong showing for
a third-party candidate—5,244 votes to Jennings’ 14,471, more
than the 4,741 that Archie Goodbee garnered in the primaries—shows
that there is a lot of dissatisfaction in the city that needs
to be addressed.
Green is pleased with the results of her campaign. “We set
out to raise issues and talk to people about their concerns,
and present some possible solutions to the problems we see
Albany has. We did that effectively,” she said.
Write Off Albany General Elections
followers of Albany politics have long claimed that the only
real action is in the city’s Democratic primaries, there was
no shortage of drama on Tuesday. Overall, voter turnout was
significantly higher in the general election than in the primary,
with 15,000 voters casting ballots in the mayoral primary
and more than 21,000 in the general election’s mayoral race.
Though he won re-election handily, Mayor Jennings didn’t gain
as much influence on Albany’s School Board as he’d hoped,
as only one of his three candidates, Jacqueline Jenkins-Cox,
won a place on the board alongside independent candidates
Barbara Gaffuri and Judy Doesschate.
In a close multicandidate race, Democratic and Working Families
candidate Catherine Fahey tallied 758 votes to second-place
Law and Order challenger Brian Scavo’s 453 in the 7th ward.
Ward 11 Green Party candidate David Lussier pulled off a respectable
257 votes in challenging incumbent Democrat Glen Casey, who
won with slightly more than 500 votes.
Ugliness in Ward 11
many said that D.A. David Soares’ quick-response election-fraud
teams patrolling the county’s polling places did help encourage
cleaner elections, allegations of election-day law-breaking
were still reported in Albany’s 11th ward. Albany County Green
Party co-chair Peter Lavenia and 11th-ward candidate David
Lussier allege that their party’s campaign workers were harassed
throughout the day by groups of men who ripped Lussier signs
off private lawns and replaced them with Glen Casey signs.
(Mayoral Candidate Alice Green, the other city candidate on
the Green Party line, notes that all her signs disappeared
too, the night before the election.)
Lavenia alleges that after Green Party campaign worker Sally
Kim confronted several of the men she had seen taking signs,
she was shoved by one of the workers. Police were called and
charges were filed. Lavenia also claims they have the license-plate
numbers of what he calls the “Caseymobiles.” Calls to Glen
Casey and the Albany Police Department were not returned.
Metroland plans to follow up on this story for next
hundreds of absentee ballots uncounted, Democrat Valerie Keehn
held a 124 vote lead for mayor of Saratoga Springs over incumbent
Michael Lenz. If she holds on to that lead it will mean a
clean sweep for Democrats in the city—they won all the council
seats and the two county supervisor positions—for the first
time in its history.
Troubled Rensselaer County District Attorney Patricia DeAngelis
took a beating in her race with Democrat Robert Jacon for
a county judgeship, but Democrat/Green/ Working Families candidate
for county legislature Russell Ziemba didn’t make the cut
to be one of Troy’s six representatives.
We Torture Just a Little Bit ?
Senator John McCain and supporters of the torture
ban are preparing for a lengthy fight with the
Bush administration. Bush, who first threatened
to veto a ban on torture, has now asked that the
CIA be exempt from the ban. McCain declared that
unacceptable. McCain announced that “If necessary—and
I sincerely hope it is not—I and the co-sponsors
of this amendment will seek to add it to every
piece of important legislation voted on in the
Senate until the will of a substantial bipartisan
majority in both houses of Congress prevails.”
No More Free Preach
The IRS has decided that the All Saints Church
in Pasadena, Calif., can no longer be tax-exempt.
While other pastors were openly stumping for Bush,
the IRS claims that a sermon delivered by the
church’s former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas,
violated an IRS statute that bans tax-exempt organizations
from interfering in elections. Regas imagined
Jesus telling both Bush and Kerry: “The sin at
the heart of this war against Iraq is your belief
that an American life is of more value than an
Iraqi life. God loathes war.” The church claims
that the IRS offered them a deal: Admit to wrongdoing
and your tax-exempt status will not be revoked.
The church declined.
Cell Phones 1, Internet Phones 0
Providers of emerging Voice Over Internet Protocol
phone technology claim they’re being targeted
unfairly by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC is insisting that either the VOIP providers
invest in new technology that would make the new
E911 call-routing emergency service available
to customers in even the most remote areas, or
stop marketing to these areas entirely, even though
cell phone companies, who have a larger percentage
of customers without E911, have not been made
to stop marketing.
Keep Them Home Now
A group calling itself HomeFrom IraqNow.org is
hoping to collect the 66,000 signatures necessary
by Nov. 23 to put an initiative on next year’s
ballot in Massachusetts that would prevent the
state’s governor from allowing National Guard
forces to be sent overseas without approval by
the state Legislature.
of over-the-counter emergency contraception is facing indefinite
and Democrats alike have elevated the practice of stalling
to a fine art, using it at the federal level to kill everything
from federal budgets to public policies to judicial appointments.
Now, reproductive rights advocates fear the latest example
of death-by-delay may be the long-running and so far unsuccessful
effort to make emergency contraception available as an over-the-counter
The federal Food and Drug Administration has given no clue
as to when the agency will decide whether or not to authorize
over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception, commonly
known as “Plan B.” Although two FDA review panels have recommended
over-the-counter approval of Plan B, the FDA in August decided
to indefinitely delay its decision. That announcement prompted
two prominent FDA doctors to resign in protest of the agency’s
At the same time the FDA announced the delay, however, the
agency also invited interested parties to submit commentary
on the issue.
could go on indefinitely,” said JoAnn Smith, president and
CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. “That’s
the tragedy. And for many of us, it’s almost the expectation.”
Family Planning Advocates—which represents more than two dozen
reproductive-health organizations in the state, including
Planned Parenthood agencies—went ahead and submitted commentary
urging the approval of emergency contraception as an over-the-counter
medication, without any restriction on the age of the person
concern about the use of EC by teens has been stated as the
reason for denying the original application and then delaying
a final decision on the application to make Plan B available
to women aged 16 and over, widespread support among mainstream
medical organizations for making emergency contraception available
over the counter makes that assertion untenable,” Smith wrote.
“Claims by EC opponents that easier access to EC will cause
teens to engage in increased or unprotected sexual activity
are not supported by evidence-based studies.”
Two years ago, New York became one of a handful of states
that require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to
rape victims, thus eliminating the risk that a traumatized
woman would have to stand in line at a pharmacy to fill a
prescription just after undergoing a rape examination in the
emergency room. The New York Catholic Conference endorsed
that law, once the bill was amended to allow hospitals to
do a pregnancy test on the rape victim before administering
But the Catholic Conference is standing firm in its opposition
to over-the-counter emergency contraception, said spokesman
it to be available in every drug store to an 11- or 12-year-old
girl, who might be getting the money from a 20-year-old boyfriend,
just so she can continue having unprotected sex, is bad public
policy,” Poust said.
Smith and other reproductive-health advocates suspect that
religious ideology, not science, is calling the shots in the
federal debate over Plan B. If that’s the case, Smith said,
there’s no way of telling how long the issue will dangle.
there’s a pattern here of ideology trumping science, and of
barriers and roadblocks being erected to prevent women from
getting the health care they need and they deserve,” she said.
a presence: Alfredo Balarin (far left), Anton Konev
(far right), and other members of the new Midtown Neighborhood
Price of Safety
local student wants to help the police make the streets safer,
but they say he is making their job more difficult
8:45 PM on a chilly September night after leaving class, Anton
Konev was pinned to the sidewalk on Washington Avenue as fists
were slammed into his body. Surrounded by six men, Konev simply
did not fight back.
realized I wasn’t going to punch back and that’s what they
wanted,” says Konev. Left lying on the sidewalk as his attackers
took off, Konev immediately called 911 on his cell phone and
just as quickly, he said, he found himself on hold. “I mentioned
I was a student,” said Konev. The operator transferred him
to the University Police, who, learning that he was not on
campus, transferred him back to the Albany police. “They asked,
‘Do you feel safe now? Do you need an ambulance?’ And I didn’t,
and I had a paper to write, so that was that,” Konev reported.
that was not that.
Konev realizes that his experience pales in comparison to
other incidents involving local students. Apartments have
been robbed at gunpoint, students hit over heads with rocks
and then mugged, and through it all, Konev says, the APD and
the UAPD have been playing a blame game. “There was a lot
of back and forth going on,” he said. “ ‘They should be patrolling
here,’ and ‘We can only patrol on this block.’ There needs
to be more communication between those departments.”
Tired of hearing police safety recommendations such as “Avoid
walking alone at night,” and “Always carry a cell phone,”
Konev decided to take action. Konev approached the APD about
starting a neighborhood watch in the Pine Hills neighborhood.
Konev has also been involved in a campaign to draw the attention
of the city’s politicians to what he claims is “a lack of
planning and resources.”
At a press conference held last Thursday (Nov. 3), Konev announced
the start of the watch with help from UAlbany graduate student
and Common Council Ward 11 candidate Alfredo Balarin; Jeff
Blay, the local organizer of the Guardian Angels; and Guillermo
Martinez, a 19-year city resident and head of the Coalition
to Save Albany, a group of citizens, community activists and
graduate students. Martinez offered a plan he says will help
ensure there are enough police on the street that neighborhood
groups will not have to watch over the streets.
According to Martinez, politicians have failed to address
the larger issue of crime in the city. He proposed a commuter
tax he said would make up for the burden placed on the city’s
emergency and crime- prevention resources by the large commuter
base. “Imposing a third of one percent commuter tax on people
this city has to provide police, fire and emergency service
to can generate millions that can be used to improve street
lighting, almost double the size of the police force and virtually
stop all crime in this city,” he stated.
While the Albany police have offered to look into restarting
the Pine Hills community watch, Konev claims they are not
very happy that he challenges their claims that crimes against
students have seen a steady decrease over the years. Detective
James Miller, spokesman for the APD, has continually cited
University statistics that show a 48 percent decrease in crime
against UAlbany students between 1992 and 2004. Both Guillermo
and Konev insist that those statistics are flawed because
they only take into account crime on campus.
Konev is certain crime has increased off campus to a great
degree over the years and points to FBI crime statistics that
show Albany’s crime-per-person rate is double that of most
cities in the United States. At the press conference on Monday
(Nov. 7), he demanded the Common Council hold an emergency
meeting “to deal with the crime wave, resources for the police
department and an inquiry of why this information has been
kept from the public.”
Konev said he then received what he characterized as a “threatening
call” from Sgt. Fred Alberti, the officer who had arranged
to work with Konev on starting the Pine Hills watch, saying
that in holding the press conference and citing those negative
statistics, Konev was not being a team player, and that Alberti
would find another group to work with if Konev continued to
Miller counters that Alberti called Konev after the press
conference to find out why the group was holding more negative
press conferences the day before the start of the neighborhood
watch. Alberti noted his frustration at having to be “worrying
if you say something in the wrong tone the guy is going to
run to the Times Union or the Metroland.”
reeks of a political agenda on the eve of the election,” Miller
said. He further claims that the group’s allegation that it
is safer to live in the Bronx is misleading. “I broke it down
into the neighborhoods they are talking about. Their murders
are on the same level as Albany, so it is not double. I’m
not going to disagree with the FBI statistics, but they are
misleading,” insists Miller.
Miller stated that working with the students is paramount.
“The students are part of the solution, not part of the problem,”
he remarked, but insisted Konev’s press conferences are politically
motivated and “undermining what we are trying to do.”
On Tuesday night, Sgt. Alberti made it known that press were
not welcome into the neighborhood watch meeting, saying it
was a small room and the group was just getting started. Konev
arrived, saw the room full of officials including Miller,
whom he notes has been refuting his every claim in the press,
and told a friend on his cell phone “I’m not going in there
After the meeting, however, Konev was hopeful. He reported
that the newly christened Midtown Neighborhood Watch would
begin after Thanksgiving break. “We’re taking it one step
at a time, we’re going to get uniforms and start training
before Thanksgiving,” he reported. Asked about the tension
between himself and the police he replied, “They gave me first
a big lecture. They didn’t feel the second press conference
was helpful, but they agreed the first one was good to draw
attention, get people excited.”
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
Newspaper Guild/CWA of Albany has ratified a contract
with the Times Union, after 16 months
of negotiations [“Scouring for Sympathy,” Newsfront,
Feb. 10] and after voting down a previous offer
last month. While the new contract includes deep
cuts to an early retirement benefit, the union
decided that the pay raises and other items included
in the contract made the package worthwhile. .
. . On Nov. 3 a majority of the Democratic members
of the Albany County Legislature told County Executive
Michael Breslin that they would reject his proposal
to move the therapists at the county’s Crime
Victim and Sexual Violence Center to the Department
of Mental Health [“Crisis Center Shuffle,” Newsfront,
Sept. 29]. They said they were also concerned
about moving the center’s crime-victim caseworkers
to the District Attorney’s office, but were willing
to consider it if given additional justification.
Opponents of the changes have been attending county
legislature hearings and speaking at comment periods,
and plan to continue doing so.