their voices heard: (l-r) Fred Boehrer, Guillermo Perez,
president of Capital District Labor Council for Latin
American Advancement, and the Rev. Moses Akanbe protest
PHOTO: Chris Shields
New Rules of the Road
York state organizations defend Gov. Spitzer’s plan to return
to pre-Pataki policy on licensing drivers
applying for a New York state driver’s license will no longer
need to provide a Social Security number to the Department
of Motor Vehicles, under the provisions of a contentious mandate
by Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The proposal would return
the state’s licensing policy to the pre-Gov. George Pataki
guidelines: A person need only prove their identity, date
of birth, and fitness to drive in order to obtain a license.
Spitzer had promised to revoke Pataki’s changes during his
campaign for governor.
The rule change, which will be phased in over the next 12
to 16 months, will apply to all driver’s licenses and state
identification, except those that require applicants to provide
a Social Security number under the federal REAL ID Act of
2005, such as commercial driver’s licenses.
Gov. Pataki and his DMV commissioner changed the rule in 2002,
we alleged that he did not have the ability to make the change
without statutory authority,” said Alan Levine Esq., special
counsel for Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“You change a rule, you’re supposed to have a public process.
Up until then, people without status had been able to get
Starting in 2002, Social Security numbers were required to
obtain a driver’s license in New York state. However, under
state law, noncitizens could acquire a license if they demonstrated
that they could not get a Social Security number. According
to Christine Anderson, spokeswoman for Gov. Spitzer, nearly
half a million New Yorkers have been issued an identity document
since 2002 without having a Social Security number.
think that Spitzer’s position is consistent with state law,”
said Levine. “There’s no state law that says you have to have
[legal] immigration status to have a driver’s license. To
be a citizen in New York, you don’t have to have immigration
status. [Spitzer] is undoing the unlawful status that never
had authority under law to begin with.”
According to Brian O’Shaughnessy, executive director of the
New York State Labor Religion Coalition and a Rensselaer County
resident, there are an estimated one million undocumented
workers in New York state. “Bringing unlicensed drivers out
of the shadows will increase accountability and increase security,”
Levine agreed, saying that providing driver’s licenses for
New York residents without legal status will provide an important
avenue of investigation for law enforcement.
better to know who they are and where they are,” he said.
“Otherwise, you’ll have them completely off the radar screen.”
a policy point of view, it would protect drivers and the well-being
of drivers on the streets of New York,” Levine said. “It is
better to have the residents who do not have driver’s licenses
have them, come into the system, learn the rules of road,
be able to get insurance.”
Spitzer’s [proposal] is a very safe and secure measure,” said
Fred Boehrer, chairman of the New Sanctuary Movement, “because
it’s not simply passing out driver’s licenses to just anyone
on the street. They have to show their identity; there’s legal
paperwork that they have to provide. It will provide more
of an opportunity for people to be in the public, and to improve
the safety of all people.”
Boehrer joined about 20 local residents at a rally in front
of the Rensselaer County Court House Friday (Oct. 12), to
denounce Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola’s refusal to
comply with the governor’s plan. Members of New York State
Labor-Religion Coalition, Capital District Worker Center,
Albany Catholic Worker, Troy Catholic Worker, New Sanctuary
Movement and ARISE/Civil Rights of Immigrants Task Force joined
Boehr in protest.
Merola, one of 30 county clerks across the state who have
refused to comply with the governor’s plan (29 of the clerks
are Republican), has stated that he will not issue licenses
for any person who does not have a Social Security number,
because it will decrease state security.
couldn’t get two people in this office that would tell you
that I’m not doing the right thing,” he stated during an Oct.
8 interview on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. “As far as
the law goes, I’m not positive on exactly what it is. But
as far as in our county, we are not going to give a license
to someone who is here illegally.”
The Troy City Council passed a resolution in support of Merola’s
stance on Oct. 4, and the Rensselaer County Legislature passed
a similar resolution Oct. 9. Both the council and the Legislature
have a Republican majority.
O’Shaughnessy pointed out, however, that the governor’s proposal
would completely revamp DMV security.
new technologies [included in the governor’s] proposal will
bring New York into the forefront with anti-fraud and security
effectiveness,” O’Shaughnessy said. “For example, state-of-the-art
document-scanning machines for passports, photo-comparison
technology, and a brand-new document- verification unit with
specially trained staff.”
The New York Catholic Conference, which represents New York
state’s bishops on matters of public policy, has called the
governor’s proposal “appropriate” because of the lack of federal
action regarding immigration law.
this matter is partially one of economic justice for the immigrants
themselves,” said Richard E. Barnes, executive director of
the New York State Catholic Conference, “the state also has
an economic interest at play. We see labor-market shortages,
which are being filled by this population. In order to fill
these positions, which are of critical importance to our state’s
economic well being, the immigrant community needs valid licenses
in order to get to the jobs.”
2002, DMV officers sorted through documents, passports, to
assess someone’s eligibility to establish their identity,”
said Levine. “They were able to do it before, so why not continue
to do it?”
President Vladimir Putin met with Irans
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, along with leaders
from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan,
in Tehran Tuesday to discuss the division of gas
and oil reserves in the lands surrounding the
Caspian Sea. Putin made it clear that the use
of force in the area, as well as any suggestion
of a possible use of force, was inappropriate
and unacceptable. The five leaders signed an agreement
stating that none of the nations would allow a
military base to be established in their country
by a third party for the purpose of attacking
any of the others. The meeting occurred at a time
when the United States and France are considering
military action against Iran in order to prevent
the development of a nuclear program that Iran
insists is for peaceful purposes only.
Congos northern pygmies are using satellite
tracking devices to map sacred sites and hunting
grounds in order to protect these areas from deforestation.
The Mbendjele Yaka people, traditional nomadic
forest dwellers, are working in conjunction with
Africas largest logging company, Congolaise
Industrielle des Bois, owned by Denmarks
DLH group, to ensure that forest sites vital to
their lifestyle are left standing. The GPS devices
use icons, instead of language, creating a map
as the pygmies move. The map is then used to demarcate
forest land in the Congo Basin rainforest that
will not be destroyed by commercial logging.
officials have warned the United States that by
giving the Dalai Lama the U.S. Congressional Gold
Medal for his years of struggle against the communist
government, Washington risks increasing tension
between the two nations. The Foreign Ministry
and the Communist Party secretary for Tibet stated
Tuesday that the award, presented to the Dalai
Lama at the White House Wednesday, would encourage
the separatist beliefs of many Tibetans and the
Dalai Lamas own secessionist activities.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan
Buddhists, has lived in exile since 1959 for his
opposition to the Chinese government and his advocacy
for an independent Tibet.
the streets: Ken Zalewski.
PHOTO: Joe Putrock
on the Upstart
a knack for organizing, a political first-timer in Troy proves
to be a strong opponent
Zalewski might be new to the political game, but the Democratic
candidate for Troy City Council has proven himself an impressive
campaigner. To date, in his bid for the council seat in District
5, the neophyte office-seeker has amassed a war chest of $21,000—by
most accounts, a record-breaking amount.
When asked how he did it, the engaging Zalewski mimics a telephone
receiver with his right hand, puts it up to his face: “It
was just candidate boot camp, on the phone every single day.”
A computer programmer by trade, Zalewski said it wasn’t until
2004 that he made his first foray into the political realm,
campaigning for John Kerry’s presidential bid. In 2005, he
campaigned for Democrats in Troy races, and, a year later,
worked on the successful grassroots campaign for Kirsten Gillibrand
in the 20th Congressional District. When a couple of people
on the Gillibrand campaign suggested that he should run for
office himself, he wasn’t quite sure what to think about it.
But when he mentioned that suggestion to Rensselaer County
Legislator Kevin Harrington (D-District 2), the response was
was like, ‘Oh yeah! You should definitely run! You have to
do it!’ ” Zalewski recalled. “He was so excited about it,
I was convinced.”
At the end of 2006, Zalewski started making those phone calls.
is raising thousands upon thousands of dollars from special-interest
groups. These people don’t know him. They probably don’t know
where Troy is,” claimed Tom Casey, chairman of the Troy Republican
Party. “Did you look at his campaign-finance-disclosure thing
online? None of it is from Troy; a couple of dollars here
or there—that’s it.”
This is, of course, an exaggeration. Although the majority
of the dollars in Zalewski’s coffers do come from people living
outside of Troy, including a $1,000 donation from a Washington
D.C.-based political action committee, he has raised a considerable
amount of money from Troy residents—nearly $6,000.
Zalewski is running against two-term incumbent Robert Krogh,
a lifelong Troy resident, born and raised in his district.
Krogh worked for 10 years as undersheriff for Rensselaer County,
and for the past 20 years as the superintendent of buildings
for the county. He knows just about everyone in the county
that you need to know, he said, and that’s an essential part
of being a councilman.
happens,” Krogh said, “I know who to go to.”
Zalewski is cast as an outsider by some in Troy, even though
he has been living in the Collar City for 20 years, but that
has only driven him to get to know his district, he said.
He plans to walk the entire district and knock on every door,
to find out what issues are on his neighbors’ minds. One of
the top issues, he said, is the rise in crime.
lot of people don’t want to come out of their homes right
now,” he said. “They are afraid.”
One solution to this is obvious: More cops on the streets,
Zalewski said. But another solution, one that Zalewski seems
very fond of, is organizing neighborhood watches, and educating
people about their community police officer.
Krogh agreed that more cops on the streets would be a good
thing, but isn’t convinced that crime is that much of an issue.
am not too sure if crime is rising. I just think that, with
the neighborhood programs, and the neighborhood watches, and
the people getting together, they are noticing it more,” Krogh
said. “They are looking out for it now. In parts of my district,
certainly there is crime. We wouldn’t have a police force
in my area every day,” he continued. “I have the perception.
I see what is going on.”
Another important issue—and one that Krogh and Zalewski can
agree upon—is attracting local business to Troy.
need more businesses, that’s for sure,” said Krogh. “And we
have had more come in over the last few years. And that is
encouraging. Of course, there could be more. . . . You know,
Troy was once known for its boarded-up buildings. That isn’t
the case, anymore.”
need to make a viable local economy. I know that right now
we have a lot of coffee shops, antique stores and galleries,”
Zalewski said, “but that is not the basis for a strong local
economy. We need all those shops and stores, but we also need
some anchor businesses.”
Zalewski said that he sees Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
as a vast, untapped resource.
went to RPI, I love the school,” Zalewski said. “We need to
work with RPI. There are 6,000 students sitting up on the
hill. That’s like 6,000 customers who need to shop, especially
for gadgets and the geeky things that I like.” He would like
to see some businesses in Troy to cater to that clientele.
Also, he said, Troy needs to work harder to attract high-tech
if we were to court several high-tech companies? Imagine if
someone like Google were to open a satellite office right
on the riverfront, what that would do,” he said, without the
slightest irony. RPI’s national clout, he added, might be
able to draw such big-name companies.
resource?” Krogh asked. “We’ve used RPI grads before to help
us with architecture and stuff like that. I don’t know if
there is any more we can tap out of RPI. I know that at one
point, the suggestion was made to charge every student x amount
of dollars, to tag onto their tuition, and that would go to
the city automatically. So that’s one way, but I don’t know
if that’s the correct way.”
Going from door to door, Zalewski said, people have been telling
him the same thing: They want someone who is listening, and
willing to work hard.
feeling is that we have been underrepresented in my district
for the past four years,” Zalewski said. “People are telling
me that they want someone who is very, very committed. People
will have access to me. I will work very hard. I am committed.”
the last four years, millions of dollars have been coming
into Troy,” Tom Casey countered, claiming that much of the
credit for this ought to go to the Republican administration
and council. “Everybody knows Troy is getting better. This
place is turned around. I can’t see why anybody would want
to throw Bob Krogh out.”
loose ends this week-