new majority: Councilman Bill Dunne (D-District 4).
City Council votes through pay raises and sets the stage for
an early-year battle
than two dozen employees at Troy City Hall will be getting
pay raises just in time for the holidays this year, thanks
to the Republican majority on the city council and Mayor Harry
Tutunjian. Whether or not these workers will be keeping those
bumps in pay, however, depends on the council’s incoming Democratic
majority—and the chances of that happening are slim.
The salary schedule affects “nonrepresented” positions (political
appointees and elected officials who don’t belong to a union
bargaining unit), including the deputy mayor, comptroller,
city clerk and others. It provides a 3.5-percent pay raise
for 2008 for most of the employees, on top of retroactive
raises dated to the beginning of 2007. The workers affected
represent the full scale of pay salaries, from the assistant
to the city clerk, who will receive a 3.5-percent pay increase
to $27,835, up to the mayor, who will receive a nearly 12-
percent pay increase to $95,000.
The raises were adopted by a 5-4 vote at last week’s city
council meeting in a vote that divided mostly along party
lines, with outgoing Councilwoman Marjorie DerGurahian (R-at
large) siding with the Democrats in opposition.
don’t have a problem with somebody getting a salary increase,”
said City Council President-elect Clem Campana (D-at large),
“but don’t shove it down the voters’ throats.”
The pay raises were proposed by the administration after the
recent city council and mayoral elections, he pointed out.
What do you think would have happened, he asked, had the mayor
and city council members campaigned on the promise of handing
out pay raises? Everyone knows what would have happened.
is why the mayor waited until after the election,” he said.
Campana has promised that the council will take steps in January
to invalidate last week’s vote, including rescinding the 2008
pay raises, dropping the salaries of those who received the
retroactive raises back to their initial 2007 amount, and
putting the mayor’s raise up for referendum.
the people decide,” he said. “When he ran for office, he didn’t
ask that the people elect him with a $10,000 raise.”
For the most part, said Councilman Mark Wojcik (R-District
1), this policy will bring the pay raises for these nonrepresented
employees in line with those workers represented by unions.
More important, he said, this policy will standardize the
practice of salaries and raises.
weren’t voting on a few raises,” said Wojcik. “What we were
voting on was a comprehensive policy. And the raises just
were part of it.” The city, he continued, has always had a
policy, but it was never enforced.
mayor or the city council could assign anybody to any position
at any amount of money and the policy didn’t mean anything,”
Wojcik said. “It didn’t have any force to it.”
However, Wojcik did agree that the administration’s timing
with this policy—coming after an election—was unfortunate.
caught all of us by surprise,” Wojcik said, “Republicans and
Democrats. It looks kinda devious and deceitful, the timing.
If you took the timing out of it, you would see that it makes
a lot of sense.”
There was a casual policy floating around City Hall, agreed
DerGurahian, that would be either adhered to or dismissed
depending on who benefited. She said that she had been pushing
since 2005 to upgrade the pay schedule and implement a standardized
policy, but was met with resistance from the administration
and from members of her own party.
all of a sudden, they are going to go look at policy after
people have been pushing for years?” DerGurahian asked. With
January marking the end of the Republican majority on the
council, she said that she felt that the administration rushed
to push through its policy through a compliant council, without
giving the document the due diligence it deserves.
The incoming majority on the city council has made its intentions
clear to rescind the raises. But, if the Democrat-controlled
council attempts this, Wojcik warned, he suspects there will
be a lawsuit. “That will be something for the lawyers to figure
out. It will be another big battle for next year.”
Bill Dunne (D-District 4) argued that rescinding the raises
is the council’s prerogative.
they want to sue us, go ahead,” he said. “Take your best shot.”
told them that if they would have waited until the first of
the year, if they had waited for us, we would have listened.
We would have reviewed these raises on a case-by-case basis.
And if they could make a legitimate case as to why someone
who is making $50,000 should be making $60,000, we would listen
to it,” Dunne said. “But they didn’t do it. So now it is coming
down to this: We will react as we see fit. We haven’t figured
that out quite yet.”
What was the point of pushing through a controversial policy
if the Democrat- controlled council intends to rescind it,
along with the pay raises? With many of the pay raises retroactive
to the beginning of 2007, some employees stand to profit,
if only for a month.
DerGurahian suggested: “They will be getting their little
bonuses for 2007.”
Whooping That Ass
sleeper candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike
Huckabee seems to have woken up this week as he
surged ahead in Republican primary polling. Huckabee
is now ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt
Romney and just behind Rudy Giuliani. A CNN/Opinion
Research poll released Wednesday shows Giuliani
with the support of 24 percent of surveyed likely
voters, Huckabee with 22 percent and Romney with
16 percent. Huckabee recently had to distance
himself from a comment he made in 1992: “We need
to take steps that would isolate the carriers
of this plague.” He now says that he has changed
his mind about those infected with HIV.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has found himself
in yet another losing battle this week—a battle
with the polls. According to a new Quinni- piac
poll, the governor is polling at a 37-percent
approval rating, down from 47-percent in October.
Spitzer’s popularity has taken a dramatic dive:
He was elected with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
The key reason to this current unpopularity? The
Quinnipiac poll indicated that 62 percent of voters
disliked Sptizer’s handling of immigration issues.
Takes the Fun Out of Everything
from NASA’s Themis mission—four satellites launched
this past winter—have helped scientists discover
the source of the famed northern lights. Scientists
say the source of the light display comes from
a stream of charged solar particles that channel
through the magnetic fields that connect Earth’s
atmosphere to the sun. Scientists have hypothesized
for years the light storms might be caused by
bundles of magnetic fields, but they could not
confirm it until this year.
U.S. Supreme Court took a huge step this week
toward equalizing the punishments leveled for
drug offenses. The ruling gives federal judges
the freedom to hand down sentences far below recommended
guidelines in cases of involving crack cocaine.
In the past, a person found guilty of crimes involving
crack cocaine received much harsher sentences
than those found guilty of crimes involving powder
cocaine. This decision could affect 10 percent
of the country’s prison population.
University at Albany ruffles feathers by celebrating the accomplishments
of Jerry Jennings
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings re ceived the University at Albany’s
Medallion of the University during the winter commencement
this past Sunday. Anton Konev, a local resident and recent
unsuccessful candidate for the Albany County Legislature,
held a protest of about a dozen students, activists and residents
during a Saturday night gala honoring Jennings.
Konev said that giving a sitting politician an award of such
a nature is a conflict of interest, especially since the honorary
committee that decided to give Jennings the award includes
the Times Union, a publication that covers Jennings
on a regular basis.
the past, this kind of award was given to distinguished journalists,
or writers, past presidents, or distinguished activists—never
a sitting local politician,” said Konev. “When state resources
are used to give a sitting politician an award like this,
it is a conflict of interest because it is just doing public
relations for a sitting politician.” The honorary committee
also included Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Greenport), State
Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) and the Albany Parking Authority.
Mayor,” read the invitation for the UAlbany gala honoring
Jennings, “Jerry Jennings has presided over an unprecedented
reduction in crime and meaningful increases in quality of
life for all of Albany.”
Konev said that as a resident of the Albany who has personally
experienced a recent rise of crime in the city—he has been
both attacked and robbed in the last few years—he is insulted
that the university would overlook statistics that contradict
the claim that Jennings has significantly reduced crime. Konev
noted that, according to the federal Unified Crime Reporting
Program, Albany’s average rate of crime per 10,000 people
in 2005 was nearly triple that of the national average.
Konev said Jennings was incorrectly cited for reducing crime
in the area around the university. “He was credited with establishing
Operation Safe Corridor, which really is a sham. Why should
students and residents of Albany be able to only walk down
certain streets to feel safe? Shouldn’t we feel safe in general
in that part of the city? There shouldn’t be redesignated
street locations where students should feel safe. It is such
a PR sham!”
The invitation to Jennings gala said Jennings has shown “unparalleled
dedication to children.” Konev fiercely disagreed and pointed
to what he called the Albany City School District’s shaky
record and what he said are “neighborhoods that have been
neglected for the longest time, preteenagers who are going
into gangs and crime, all because there are no youth services.”
In the end, Konev said he found the timing of the award interesting,
with Jennings openly considering a run to fill the seat of
U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty (D-Green Island) next year.
timing is very odd,” said Konev, “to give Jennings an award
right now versus somewhere at the end of his career as a mayor.”
loose ends this week-