everyone: Albany Gun Violence Task Force chairman the
Rev. John Miller.
Last, We Meet
Gun Violence Task Force assembles for the first time
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.
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
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
Tuffey insisted that Albany is not unsafe.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
the K Street Money
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.
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.
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.”
loose ends this week-