you down: DPW Commissioner Bob Mirch.
DPW commissioner says he welcomes the claim filed against
him by the NYCLU for alleged abuse of power in shutting down
the Sanctuary for Independent Media
For Steve Pierce, the Notice of Claim filed by the New York
Civil Liberties Union against the city of Troy and Department
of Public Works Commissioner Robert Mirch goes beyond the
temporary interruption of operations at the Sanctuary for
we want is for the administration to stop abusing code enforcement,”
Pierce said. “It’s not just about what happened to us. It
is about addressing an egregious abuse of power.”
The sanctuary was closed down March 10, the day after the
opening of Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal’s Night of Bush Capturing:
A Virtual Jihadi. The exhibit featured a twice-hacked
video game: American-made Quest for Saddam was co-opted by
a group associated with Al Qaeda. In the original, the goal
was to kill former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; in Al Qaeda’s
version, the goal was switched to the assassination of President
Bush. The second iteration of the game is the one that Bilal
hacked, adding to the mix a suicide-bomber character modeled
on his own appearance.
Bob Mirch, who oversees the code department, organized a protest
outside the sanctuary, calling the artwork “terrorism.” The
next day, the sanctuary was closed down by code enforcement.
It is obvious to Pierce that Mirch used his position as DPW
commissioner to silence artwork that he took personal offense
to, and that the Tutunjian administration allowed it to happen.
For Mirch, a controversial figure in Troy, it is just the
latest in a series of similar allegations. He and the Tutunjian
administration have a reputation of bullishly using code enforcement
as a method of political punishment. Pierce said that, since
the March closure of the sanctuary, many residents have reached
out to him with similar complaints about code.
seems to be a pattern of abuse of code enforcement,” said
Troy Councilman Ken Zalewski (D-District 5). He said that
he believes it would be proper for the council to investigate
these charges of abuse, and has been advocating for the Law
Committee to initiate such an investigation.
So far, the sanctuary has said that it would be happy with
a public acknowledgment by the administration that code was
abused in the shuttering of the sanctuary, and an apology.
Under those conditions, the suit would be dropped.
Don’t hold your breath. Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian said that
he has no intention of apologizing: He has no idea what the
city would even apologize for, he said. The sanctuary was
in violation of code. The city shut the building down. Simple.
As he has said before, the only thing that code was guilty
of was not closing down the sanctuary months earlier.
Mirch, pugnacious as ever, shrugged off the notion of an apology.
got nothing to back down from,” he said, “nothing to apologize
for,” and laughed at the NYCLU’s suit. “They’re gonna waterboard
In fact, the consummate political slugger seemed happy as
hell that the NYCLU filed its claim, thus keeping alive the
I go, people say, ‘You are absolutely right!’ The people are
behind me 100 percent,” he said. “I am having a great time.
I live for this!”
End Is Nigh?
a narrow primary victory in Indiana and a 14-point
defeat in North Carolina, Sen. Hillary Clinton
once again will have to decide whether her candidacy
for president is still viable. Clinton reportedly
loaned her campaign $6 million dollars over the
course of the past month, and with her mixed performance
in the last two primaries, she may have a hard
time securing significant new donations. On Tuesday
night, Tim Russert of NBC News declared,
“We now know who the Democratic nominee’s going
to be, and no one’s going to dispute it. Those
closest to her will give her a hard-headed analysis,
and if they lay it all out, they’ll say, ‘What
is the rationale? What do we say to the undeclared
super delegates tomorrow? Why do we tell them
you’re staying in the race?’ And tonight, there’s
no good answer for that.”
District Attorney David Soares has fired longtime
veteran assistant DA Brian Farley. According to
the Times Union, Farley had 23 years of
experience, working as the narcotics bureau chief
and in the street-crimes bureau, and most recently
successfully prosecuted the homicide of a 69-year-old
man. Farley, however, was one of the individuals
who purchased an automatic weapon in the weapons
scandal involving the Albany Police Department,
which the TU reported last year. Sources
close to the DA’s office have been reported as
citing a record of slow-moving prosecutions for
to a study this week by the National Science Foundation,
conservatives are generally happier than liberals,
regardless of their marriage status, income or
church attendance. Researchers say that conservatives
are able to rationalize economic and social inequalities—inequalities
that trouble the conscience of liberals. “Our
research suggests that inequality takes a greater
psychological toll on liberals than on conservatives,”
stated the report. In a Pew Research Center survey
from 2006, 47 percent of surveyed Republicans
describe themselves as “very happy.” Only 28 percent
of Democrats indicated the same.
Mayor Jennings warns of financial woes that his critics saw
don’t know how the council could have done more. We don’t
really have any say,” said Albany Common Councilman Dominick
Calsolaro (Ward 1), responding to a recent Times Union
article in which Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings announced a hiring
freeze for the city, warned of hard financial times, and asked
the heads of his departments to “look for ways to save money.”
The article noted that Jennings had sent a letter to Council
President Pro Tempore Richard Conti (Ward 6) in November,
acknowledging the concerns of some council members about the
city budget and impending financial shortfalls and recommending
the formation of a “joint council-administration ad-hoc committee”
that would focus on dealing with financial challenges in future
Calsolaro, along with five other council members, voted against
the mayor’s 2008 proposed budget, which passed by a vote of
9-6. But Calsolaro said that, as far as he knows, “we made
that letter part of our budget resolution and it went back
to the mayor. It is in the mayor’s hands now. We agreed to
have a committee set up. It is now up to him to set up that
Council members do not have much control over the city budget.
The council can approve or vote down a budget, or try to cut
certain things out. But most likely, those changes would be
vetoed by the mayor and the council is weighted with enough
mayor loyalists that overriding a mayoral veto would be a
pipe dream. Furthermore, Calsolaro said that the Finance Committee
is rarely, if ever, critical of the city’s borrowing.
This past November, Calsolaro proposed eliminating all of,
or a portion of, the vacant positions from the city budget.
His proposal was ignored.
Mayor] Brian Stratton, when he first came in, one of the earliest
things he did was eliminate vacant positions,” said Calsolaro.
“Stratton has been able to turn around his city budget from
deep debt to budget surpluses.”
Comptroller Tom Nitido said things are not that simple: “I
think we have a tendency to have simple solutions to complex
problems; not filling positions is not the way to provide
services at a price we can afford.” Nitido also said that
it is essential for city officials to work together. “We need
to sit together and figure out what we can do to reduce expenses.
What happens is, one person proposes a way to cut expenses
and the council people or mayor shoot holes in it. Someone
sticks their neck out and, instead of people getting on board,
they gang up on them.”
Calsolaro noted that he has proposed giving the council the
ability to approve transactions made by the city of $10,000
or more. Currently, the Board of Estimate and Approval—a board
made up of Nitido, Council President Shawn Morris, Jennings,
Treasurer Betty Barnette, and Corporation Council John Reilly—is
in charge of approving expenditures of any size. The board
is weighted in Jennings’ favor, with Barnette and Reilly being
close Jennings allies and Morris and Nitido being the only
two possible dissenters.
But Nitido said he is not certain that giving the council
more power would solve Albany’s budget problems. “I think
you would be hard-pressed to find a place where a council
reduced expenditures. They face pressure to increase expenses
to provide services for their district, but you know we have
seen very little action at the executive level to reduce the
overall cost of payroll and benefits. It needs to happen,
but it just can’t happen just from the council.”
The city’s financial situation has grown increasingly bleak
since Jennings began his term as mayor. Jennings has relied
increasingly on state aid and city surplus funds to balance
his budgets. State PILOT payments made to Albany to support
the proposed Albany Convention Center are scheduled to decrease
in the next couple of years, and may eventually dry up.
Said Calsolaro, “Jerry started in 1994 with a $27 million
surplus, and it was gone by 1999. He wiped it all out in six
years to artificially keep taxes down and not cut anything.
You don’t see cuts in the budgets he proposes. He is unwilling
to make hard choices.”
Critics say Jennings has spoken out on the financial issue
in an attempt to head off criticism during next year’s mayoral
race, and to echo the financial concerns expressed by Gov.
Calsolaro insisted that Jennings was spoiled by the extra
state aid delivered to him by former Gov. George Pataki, and
that relying on such state aid to balance Albany’s budget
is irresponsible. But it allowed Jennings to boost his popularity
by not raising taxes.
mayor has done a very good job of bringing revenue in from
the state,” said Nitido. “We do not get the same state aid
other cities get, and we should try and right that, but that
is not the whole answer.”
Calsolaro said that if Jennings does not run for reelection
next year, or if he is defeated, that the person who replaces
him will be left with unpopular choices to be made.
is not a financial manager,” said Calsolaro. “He has been
a terrible financial manager of city funds. No matter how
much money he gets, it’s gone.”
loose ends this week-