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Welcome everyone: Albany Gun Violence Task Force chairman the Rev. John Miller.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

At Last, We Meet

Albany’s Gun Violence Task Force assembles for the first time

 

‘Go get ’em!” That is what a passerby told Allison Banks before the first meeting of the Albany Gun Violence Task Force, which took place at the Evangelical Protestant Church at 82 Clinton St. Tuesday night.

Banks, a mother who watched her son lose his life to the cycle of violence that dominates certain Albany neighborhoods, said that there is a feeling in Albany’s communities that something has to change. The Rev. John U. Miller, the chairman of the task force, said he had gotten good wishes from inmates he had visited earlier in Albany county’s jail. Betty Barnette, Albany city treasurer, asserted: “The children are definitely looking for someone to throw them a lifeline, and it is up to us to do that.” The perception among the public that change is needed within Albany to prevent gun crime is widespread, and yet the audience for the first public meeting of the task force was made up mostly of members of the Albany Common Council.

If Miller has his way, the gun-violence task force will make sure its members don’t remain cooped up in meeting halls—that they will take their mission directly to Albany’s more troubled neighborhoods. In fact, as Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings thanked the assembled 13-member task force (two members were not present, District Attorney David Soares and Family Court Judge Gerald Maney), Miller invited Jennings to “walk the neighborhoods.” Jennings agreed, saying that he does and would walk any neighborhood in Albany.

There was a consensus among the task force members that getting into the communities is the only way they would be able to discover the roots of gun violence.

It was further agreed that public hearings will be held. But the Rev. Edward B. Smart wanted to take it a step further. Smart put forward the idea of having a “gang summit,” where immunity would be offered to gang members so that the task force could hear their concerns.

Smart drew the umbrage of Police Chief James Tuffey by referring to language in the Common Council’s bill constituting the committee, language that said Albany is perceived as an “unsafe city.”

Tuffey insisted that Albany is not unsafe.

“Where are they getting that?” he demanded. He then referred to an effort to reduce crime where a patrol car was kept on the corner of one neighborhood for an extended period of time. Tuffey said it was greatly effective.

Betty Barnette spoke up to tell Tuffey that if she had a police car posted outside her house, she could get the impression that the neighborhood was unsafe. Barnette reminded the task force that whether or not Albany is unsafe, the perception remains that Albany is an increasingly dangerous place.

Tuffey, however, said that the time has come for Albany to join together and deal with gun violence proactively. “We know we can all yell when the shot goes off but let’s yell before it goes off.”

Tuffey said that the task force needed to acknowledge that problems start in the home, with parents who aren’t doing their job. But the Rev. Valerie Faust countered, “I have seen children from good, decent, solid families taken away by peer pressure. There is no one sickness; there is no one cure.”

It quickly became apparent that the task force members brought varying backgrounds and approaches to the table. Leonard Morgenbesser pressed the idea of having more statistics to review, Leslie Fisher provided suggestions for ways to better structure the meetings, while Smart pressed for more interaction with community members.

By the end of the meeting it was determined that the next meeting will be closed to the public so that members of the task force can “gel,” and that the task force will meet on the first and third Tuesdays of every month, excluding January.

Eventually, the task force plans to vary the meeting places among different communities throughout Albany.

Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1), who had pressed for a task force for four years said, “After the long struggle to get here, the group that we have assembled is far better than what I had envisioned.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net

The next public meeting of the task force will take place on Dec. 18 from 4 to 6 PM at the Evangelical Protestant Church on 82 Clinton St., Albany.


What a Week

Dirty Little Secrets

A manual documenting the day-to-day operations and procedures at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility was leaked to the whistle-blower Web site Wikileaks.org this week. Named “Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta,” the manual is dated March 27, 2003, and bears the signature of then prison commander Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller. It contains site schematics, detailed lists of “comfort items” that can be given to prisoners as rewards, and processing procedures for new detainees. The manual also contains details of psychological torture techniques, including extreme isolation and intimidation with dogs, and a leveled coding system used to determine the access Red Cross representatives can have to each detainee.

Arms Deal

Times Union reported this week that several police organizations, including the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, Albany Police Department, and the State Police, seized a stockpile of weapons from the home of former Albany Police official William Murray following his 2004 death, but kept no records of the removal. Murray, an avid gun collector, had numerous assault rifles, shotguns, and live artillery shells in the basement of his Watervliet home, many bearing Albany Police Department insignia. Information about the incident surfaced as part of the ongoing investigation led by Albany Police into missing machine guns that were illegally purchased by a number of police officers through the department with Murray’s help in the mid-1990s.

Following the K Street Money

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced this week that he would vacate his seat and retire after a 35-year career in Congress. Lott, who was reelected last year, is the sixth Republican congressman to retire this year. Lott stated that he wanted to leave after his last term, and that he ran again to continue advocating for Hurricane Katrina victims; now, with Katrina behind him, he would move on to “do something else.” Some are speculating that Lott’s reason for leaving has more to do with new the ethics and lobbying rules that go into effect in 2008, which require retiring senators to wait two years before they act as lobbyists. By leaving before Dec. 31, senators have to wait only one year.



Here to Work

The Fiscal Policy Institute releases a study that shows immigrants’ significant contributions to the New York economy

 

According to a study released Monday by the Fiscal Policy Institute, immigrants added $229 billion to the New York state economy last year. “These figures should wipe away any impression that immigrants are holding the New York economy back,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute and principal author of the report. Titled Working for a Better Life: A Profile of Immigrants in the New York Economy, the report was designed to give an overview of the effect all immigrants (both legal and illegal) of all ethnicities have on the New York state economy.

Although the report shows that immigrants make up about 21 percent of New York’s general population, in upstate New York immigrants are only 5 percent of the population. However, according to the report, immigrants constitute a significant proportion of specific areas of the upstate economy—especially the education sector. The report notes that 20 percent of all upstate professors are immigrants.

Although much the immigrant debate that has taken place lately in New York has been stirred by concerns over Mexicans, the three most common countries of origin for immigrants in upstate are Canada, India and Germany.

The report also found that most immigrants in New York speak English and that their English only gets better over time. Immigrants in New York are also likely to start their own businesses, and about two-thirds of them own their own homes.

“Immigrants’ contribution to economic output in New York state is about the same as their share of the population,” noted James Parrott, chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute in a prepared statement. “That’s because immigrants start businesses, invest in New York, and work in jobs all across the economic spectrum—the same as other New Yorkers.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net





Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-



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