of Schenectady councilwoman’s resignation called pure by some,
politically motivated by others
For the second time in less than a year, the Schenectady City
Council soon will appoint a new member to fill a vacancy on
the all-Democratic board.
The seat opened up when former Councilwoman Barbara Strangfeld
resigned at the end of September, months after she confirmed
her intention to relocate to Pennsylvania sometime this year.
The timing of her official resignation, days after the Sept.
20 deadline for placing the seat up for election on this November’s
ballot, has some Schenectady residents and politicos crying
foul and alleging that the Democrats purposely manipulated
the system for their own political advantage.
quite obvious, given the fact that she knew she was going
to be resigning several months ago, that she deliberately
delayed her official resignation so that the Democratic Party
could appoint whomever they chose to appoint, rather than
allowing the voters to choose,” said Thomas Buchanan, chairman
of the Schenectady County Republican Party.
Strangfeld’s official resignation was effective Sept. 30.
She said she chose that date for several reasons, but to avoid
putting her seat on this November’s ballot was not one of
an accountant, I actually scheduled it for the end of a quarter:
9/30,” Strangfeld said. Professionally, the date allowed her
time to train her day-job replacement. It also enabled Strangfeld,
who was chairwoman of the council’s finance committee, to
assist in preparing the city’s annual budget.
the beginning, when council members first became aware of
Strangfeld’s impending resignation, the council asked her
if she would consider staying on long enough to guide formulation
of the budget proposal, according to Frank Maurizio, councilman
and finance committee member.
The budget proposal was announced by Mayor Brian Stratton
Sept. 20. Ten days later, Strangfeld’s resignation became
The Sept. 20 deadline for placing vacant seats on the same
year’s ballot is established by New York election law. Vacancies
that occur after this date are not voted upon until the following
November. In the meantime, a temporary council member may
Although Schenectady’s city charter authorizes council members
to make such appointments, the all-Democratic council will
first acknowledge a recommendation from the Democratic committee.
Buchanan said appointment rather than election affords city
Democrats a “tactical political advantage.” Appointment saves
the committee from expending money to support a candidate’s
election campaign and creates an incumbent advantage when
the seat goes up for election the next year, he said.
When the council chooses Strangfeld’s temporary replacement,
it’ll be the second appointment this year. The council appointed
Councilwoman Margaret King earlier this year after former
Councilman Peter Della Ratta resigned in January after pleading
guilty to an assault charge.
Since Ratta’s departure occurred well before the September
deadline, the unexpired time on Della Ratta’s term (one year)
will be on next month’s ballot. King currently is campaigning
to retain her appointed position. Her opponent is Republican-
sponsored Independent Vince Riggi.
now the people of Schenectady are being denied their due process
because they should be voting for two City Council candidates
this year instead of just one,” Riggi said. “[Strangfeld]
waited until just a few days after the deadline to be put
on the ballot to submit her resignation. That part of it does
not sit well with me because I believe that was contrived,
and it took the power of the vote and democracy away from
Riggi is campaigning under the slogans “Vote for Change” and
“Watching the Back Door.” He said he wants to bring a minority
voice to a council whose members have become detrimentally
If Riggi is unsuccessful in his bid to oust King, the council’s
party makeup will not change, at least until the unexpired
time on Strangfeld’s term goes up for election in 2007, as
only Democrats are being considered for the vacant seat.
office is by its nature a political process, so it would be
disingenuous to say there is no politics involved,” Maurizio
said. “We’re an all-Democratic council. We’re not going to
appoint someone who’s not a Democrat or not a Democratic supporter.
It’s just the way of the world. That’s not to say there aren’t
other good people out there who can do the job, but, because
of the investment of time and money that the party makes in
us as candidates, I think it’s only fair to hear what they
have to say and listen to their recommendation.”
The committee already has interviewed two candidates and will
meet with five more during the coming weeks, according to
Richard Naylor, chairman of the city Democratic committee.
He expected the committee would be ready to offer a recommendation
to the council by mid-November. The council is not required
to heed the committee’s advice.
Maurizio said council members have yet to discuss a deadline
for filling the vacant seat, but said he hopes someone will
be chosen by the end of November.
spending weeks on the president’s desk, the controversial
Military Commissions Act was signed into law by
President George W. Bush on Tuesday. The anti-terrorism
law allows the CIA to resume aggressive interrogations
in secret prisons, denies suspected terrorists
the right to challenge their detentions in civilian
courts, and permits the use of evidence obtained
through coercion. It authorizes the president
to draw the line between acceptable interrogation
techniques and impermissible torture. Opponents
and supporters agree the measure marks a major
shift in the nation’s approach to terrorism and
several legal principles by granting approval
to programs Bush first launched in secret.
Bush’s aggressive foreign policy has been so successful
in the earthly realm that it was only a matter
of time before he took it to the final frontier.
This week Bush signed a new National Space Policy
that rejects limits on the right of the United
States to build weapons in space. The policy also
insists that the United States has the right to
deny access to space to anyone perceived to be
“hostile to U.S. interests.”
Ring to Fool Them All
to certain lawmakers, the general public has the
wrong idea about Iraq. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)
told an audience at the Merrick Jewish Center
in Merrick, N.Y., that “the situation [in Iraq]
is more stable than you think.” He talked of “bumper-to-bumper
traffic,” video stores, hotels and vendors. In
fact, he said that being in Baghdad is “like being
in Manhattan.” According to Sen. Rick Santorum
(R-Pa.), Iraq is far more exciting than Manhattan.
In fact, it is a lot like J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord
of the Rings. The Bucks County Courier
Times reported that Santorum told their editorial
board, “As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom,
the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else.
It’s being drawn to Iraq, and it’s not being drawn
to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on
Iraq. I don’t want the Eye to come back here to
the United States.”
by what they see as a lack of police response, local goths
initiate crime patrol in Albany’s “student ghetto”
On Tuesday night, Myron Getman stood on the corner of Quail
Street and Western Avenue in Albany, dressed in a long black
trench coat, covered in beads of water that trickled down
the edges of his wide-brimmed hat. With his imposing stature
and a jutting, scraggly goatee, Getman is the kind of guy
you probably would avoid on a dark, wet night like this. But
according to Getman, he was there because he was tired of
hearing stories from his friends about how scared they are
to be living in Albany’s “student ghetto.” Horror stories
about their apartments being broken into and robbed one week
and then again the next, stories of friends being surrounded
and beaten by six men—“eight if you count the two guys who
stood guard on the corners as lookouts.”
Getman does not live in this neighborhood any more, but he
can remember when he did as a student. He now lives a few
blocks away, and says that now he just wants to help. A regular
in the goth-music scene, a DJ and member of goth band the
Flying Buttresses, Getman decided to hold a “goth neighborhood
walk” after a discussion on his blog, baron-army.livejournal.com,
was flooded with stories about bad experiences with crime
and police in Albany. Two of his friends, Gail Dorn and Seth
Schwartz, showed up to help him.
think the weather scared some people away,” said Getman, as
he strolled down Quail with his friends, handing out flyers
Getman said he contacted Albany Police Sgt. Fred Aliberti
and was greeted with “a terse response, quite a terse response.”
Aliberti said he encouraged Getman to join the city’s police-sanctioned
Midtown Neighborhood Watch. He insisted that cooperation between
watch groups and the APD is essential. “If a neighborhood
watch is not working with police, how are they going to become
knowledgeable about the process and procedures? The Midtown
Watch reports all kinds of codes violations, broken street
lights, and they go through that whole process.”
Getman said he is not interested in being part of a police-organized
watch that meets when told to. He says that isn’t the kind
of vibe that will get students to come out to watch meetings.
“When you’re a student, it’s like you don’t give a shit where
you live,” he explained. “You might not even change your sheets.”
Getman said he thinks a watch led by residents—with flexible
hours to allow students a more wide-open window of time to
take part—might lead to more participation.
Getman’s decision to start a neighborhood watch in the Pine
Hills section of Albany is reminiscent of Anton Konev’s push
to start a watch in the neighborhood around this time last
year [Newsfront, Nov. 10, 2005]. Konev struggled at first
to gain police support, while the police worried whether Konev
was looking to attack them in the press or simply work with
them. Konev had his stories as well—stories about friends
being mugged, and actually being attacked himself. According
to Konev, his watch is doing quite well. The Midtown Neighborhood
Watch meets on Monday and Thursday nights, and according to
Konev, “There has been a healthy turnover of old volunteers
and new students.” Konev says he thinks things have gotten
better in the neighborhood since the watch started.
haven’t come across any crime yet,” he reported, “but we are
always updated on everything going on. Like recently, a couple
of students were burglarized. We are constantly updated through
e-mail from police. So, so far, so good.”
According to Aliberti, the Midtown Watch is “a prime example
of citizens and the police department working together in
a positive community policing atmosphere.”
While business owners accepted Getman’s flyers, their typical
responses afterward were “We already have a neighborhood watch,”
and “We don’t have many problems in this area.”
Getman and his group strolled the streets, chatting about
bands like Grave 45 and Joy Division, stopping to drop off
literature, and periodically returning to the corner of Quail
and Western, where police cars would sometimes park in front
of a fire hydrant to run into Pepper Jack’s for a bite to
eat. After a walk up to Stewart’s on Quail and back around
to Western, Getman and Dorn exclaimed, “Look! They are still
there,” noticing two officers who had been and still were
eating at Pepper Jack’s.
The Albany Police are at the root of Getman’s motivation for
starting his watch. Getman insisted that the police simply
are not getting out and taking care of situations they know
about. He said his friend who was attacked by six men near
the Stewart’s on Quail was told by the police when he filed
a report that “they’ve been aware of similar attacks taking
place over the last week or so in the same area.” Getman said
his friends who have had problems in the “student ghetto”
have simply been blown off by the APD. Officers asked them
questions like, “What do you want us to do about it?” when
calling about groups of kids fighting on the street, and told
to physically “kick” a sleeping transient out of the entryway
to an apartment building. Aliberti insisted, however, that
the midtown area is headed in the right direction, and he
said that he thinks Getman and his friends might have a “perception
problem” regarding the APD. He further insisted that the APD
needs to have open lines of communication with the community,
just as a neighborhood watch should have with the APD.
Getman’s blog features a long rant about crime in Albany,
the experiences of his friends, and the refrain, “The Albany
Police Department is Dysfunctional.” The message board underneath
the thread contains many testimonials, including one from
user “doomsday virus” that says: “half the time i try and
call the police about neighborhood disturbances (fights, rock/bottle
throwing, vandalism, etc) they laugh and say things like ‘what
do you want us to do about it’ (actual quote right there).
more often than not, they don’t even show up.”
loose ends this week-