Powers That Were
Steck thwarts old guard and secures the Albany County Democratic
Committee endorsement for U.S. representative in the 21st
All it took was a cue from Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, said
Albany County Legislator Phil Steck, and the room began to
clear out—a remaining vestige of the power the mayor once
exerted over the Albany County Democratic Committee. Except
this time, the mayor’s sway wouldn’t prove strong enough.
The struggle for control in the county committee is a long
history, said Steck. “By the time I became chairman of the
Democrats in Colonie in 2002, we had simply written off the
county committee as a source of support because we knew how
it was.” The committee was controlled largely by Jennings.
“He was the de facto chairman. Everything that he said, went.”
However, going into the latest Democratic committee meeting
on May 21—after years of organizing, a historic win in Colonie,
and months of campaigning—Steck was confident that he had
the votes to secure the committee’s endorsement for his bid
to replace Mike McNulty in the 21st Congressional District,
regardless of the mayor, who had thrown his support behind
one of Steck’s leading opponents, former Hillary Clinton staffer
Tracey Brooks. The Steck campaign walked into the meeting
knowing that they had secured 30,000 out of the 72,000 weighted
was probably one of the largest ever coalitions ever,” Steck
said, or at least the largest in his memory.
With that support, the Steck camp was able to deflect an attempt
by another Brooks supporter and father of the outgoing Congressman,
Jack McNulty, to pass a motion stating that the committee
should not endorse any of the candidates in the heated primary
competition. It was a move that many had hoped the committee
would have taken, McNulty reportedly argued, if for no other
reason than to preserve “party unity.”
Prior to the meeting, said Brooks spokesman Kyle Kotary, “We
were contacted by the Albany County Democratic Committee co-chairs
and called to a meeting with [former Assemblyman] Paul Tonko,
Phil Steck, and members of their campaigns, asking the campaigns
and the candidates to support the nonendorsement.”
The Steck, Tonko and Brooks campaigns are considered the front-runners
in the crowded field of the 21st, and were the only candidates
to receive votes of support coming out of the committee’s
preliminary interview process. It was hoped that the party
could avoid stoking the already divisive relationship between
the suburban and urban Democrats if these three candidates
would agree to not seek the committee’s endorsement. Both
Brooks and Tonko said yes. Steck said no.
The endorsement, Steck’s critics said, was more important
than party unity.
Which led to the volatile committee meeting. McNulty put forward
his motion for nonendorsement, which led to a vote. According
to a committeeman who was present that evening, and wished
to go unnamed, all of the votes previous were done by standing
voice. But the vote on the nonendorsement, at the urging of
Steck’s campaign, went instead to a roll call, a long and
tedious process that can last for hours.
Many were frustrated by this move and began to walk out. The
scene turned chaotic, the committeeman said. It appeared to
Steck’s critics that “the fix was in.”
members got up, voicing disgust, and left,” he said.
There appeared to be no real reason for the roll-call vote,
other than to disenfranchise committee members with the long,
drawn-out process of recording the votes of all 503 members
who were present at the beginning of the meeting. Further,
the committeeman argued, had the motion for nonendorsement
been put to a voice vote, it would have likely won out.
As it stands, the committee endorsed Steck by a vote of 124,
with 27 votes going to Tonko and 12 to Brooks.
Steck rejected the notion that he won by any other means than
legitimate process. To him, he said, this was simply a contest—a
contest that he was better prepared for. And it proved, he
said, what years of grassroots organizing can accomplish.
Out of the 109 committee members from the town of Colonie,
all but two—who abstained—voted for Steck.
a very strong showing,” said Steck. “It made me very warm-hearted.
It showed me that people appreciated my hard work.”
Of course, he said, you’re going to have your base of support
from wherever you have been most active, but pointed out that
he also received support from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, and
9th wards of Albany, as well as votes from Watervliet and
Steck also said that Tonko’s campaign had sent out letters
previous to the meeting, seeking the Albany County Democrats’
endorsement, and that Brooks used robocalls and reached out
personally to members of the committee, seeking their support
(although Kotary insisted that she sought support only for
the motion of nonendorsement).
campaigned to win the vote,” Steck said. “The problem was,
they weren’t winning. And then to come to a meeting and see
that you don’t have the votes, because the other guy has brought
together a broader coalition than you could, and then to walk
out, I don’t think that’s an impressive approach.”
help counter concerns he would be too old to serve
as president, Sen. John McCain released 1,172
pages of medical documents that range from 2000
to 2008, including his most recent check-ups.
The New York Times reported that McCain
has kidney stones and takes medication to help
lower his cholesterol. McCain has had the most
dangerous kind of skin cancer, melanoma, removed
on three different occasions. “While it is impossible
to predict any person’s future health,” said Dr.
John D. Eckstein, “today I can find no medical
reason or problems that would preclude Senator
McCain from fulfilling all the duties and obligations
of president of the United States.”
presidential candidate McCain has rejected the
endorsements of two pastors, after they made offensive
comments. In a recently surfaced audio recording
of a sermon from the late 1990’s, Reverend John
Hagee, a Texas televangelist, called Adolf Hitler
a “hunter” who was sent by God to chase the Jews
to the promised land of Israel. McCain called
Hagee’s sermon “highly offensive and indefensible.”
Hagee withdrew his endorsement of McCain and said
he will no longer play any roll in this election.
On Thursday, McCain, who once called Pastor Rod
Parsley “one of the truly great leaders in America,”
rejected Parsley’s endorsement after the minister
bashed Islam, calling Mohammed “the mouthpiece
of a conspiracy of spiritual evil.”
Bailout, Big Brother
new housing bill, approved by the Senate Banking
Committee in a 19-2 vote, is an attempt to help
at-risk homeowners by limiting foreclosures and
creating affordable housing. The piece of legislation
also has a plan for a national fingerprint registry
that would require fingerprints be submitted to
the FBI and a background check on almost everyone
involved in the mortgage business, specifically
“loan originators,” the loan officers who make
the original “sale” to start the application process.
According to the bill, the fingerprint database
will enhance consumer protection, reduce fraud,
and give consumers easily accessible information.
“This fingerprint database, in addition to the
privacy violations, might create a host of new
problems,” said John Berlau, director of the Center
for Entrepreneurship. “Identity theft involving
fingerprints is becoming a major concern among
data security experts.”
: Alicia Solsman
Rensselaer County Democratic Committee meeting Thursday night
(May 22) was a much calmer affair than the meeting of their
Albany County counterparts. Under the direction of Chairman
Tom Wade, the Rensselaer Democrats chose to avoid endorsement
in the 21st Congressional District, instead focusing on the
less contentious endorsement of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand in
the 20th. Seven of the 21st CD hopefuls did get the opportunity
to stump for the Democrats’ support, but the highlight of
the evening was Brian Premo’s acceptance of the committee’s
endorsement in his bid to unseat state Senate Majority Leader—and
32-year incumbent—Joseph Bruno.
Ahead of Horse
bonding ordinance to fund landfill expansion likely will be
undone by the Albany Common Council
At its upcoming June 2 meeting, the Albany Common Council
likely will have to undo some of the work it did last week
and repeal the bonding ordinance it approved in an 11-3 vote
to borrow nearly $7 million to expand its quickly filling
landfill, as well as a $1.7 million bond issue to restore
some of Albany’s Pine Bush Preserve.
called segmentation,” said Councilman Dominic Calsolaro (Ward
1). “You can’t do environmental impact studies and funding
separately. It has to be as one. You can’t break it into pieces.”
The city of Albany has yet to gain approval from the Department
of Environmental Conservation for what city official’s claim
will be the final expansion of the landfill, and yet the council
still approved funding for the project.
Jim Travers, a resident of Coeymans and opponent of Albany’s
proposed new landfill site in his town, said that he is fairly
certain the city moved forward on funding for its proposed
expansion because it is soon to face financial hardship.
city’s bond rating will be reevaluated in June and it is going
to tank,” said Travers.
However, Common Council President Shawn Morris said moving
forward on bonding was more of an “administrative glitch.”
understanding of the situation,” explained Morris, “is that
there was a lack of communication between putting the bonds
together and legal counsel as to timelines and when something
should go in. They went for the approval of the landfill bonding
without the intention of going to market with it.”
However innocent the mistake may have been, Albany could have
faced a stiff penalty for the glitch.
intention was not to bond for the landfill at this point,
but to have approval ready if the rest of the stuff came through,”
said Morris. “The legal counsel, however, felt taking those
steps is premature and that process puts the cart ahead of
the horse and opens up the city to possible legal action.”
Travers said that a group of Coeymans residents, along with
members of Save the Pine Bush, likely would have brought legal
action against the city if the council did not take steps
to repeal the ordinance. Travers said he feels that the DEC
has had its fill of Albany and its trash troubles. In his
opinion, the city has done very little to mitigate its intake
of trash and has failed to institute the DEC recommendations.
DEC] realizes that this is a self- created hardship,” said
Travers. He claims the DEC knows that the City of Albany has
welcomed taking trash from outside contracts in exchange for
profit, rather than saving space in the landfill for city-created
waste. Furthermore, he said, the city has not “instituted
any comprehensive recycling program for electronics and have
done nothing to move forward with the Coeymans landfill development,”
both things that the DEC requested of the city.
Morris said the council will simply pass an ordinance that
says, “Never mind.”
terms of process, it is frustrating,” said Morris of the complication.
“It raises concerns about how parties are speaking to each
other. But you know, it is one of those administrative glitches
that periodically happens and is of not a tremendous amount
of concern. It may kind of raise your antenna a bit about
whether or not all the parties are speaking as clearly as
they need to be, but it is simply a very complicated matter.”
screen: The National Association of Broadcasters wants
you to upgrade.
Association of Broadcasters wants you to know: Upgrade or
television attached to a truck, known as “DTV Trecker,” was
brought to the Wal-Mart on Washington Avenue Extension Tuesday
in an attempt to inform people of the nationwide change from
analog to digital TV that will potentially leave millions
without a signal.
which was implemented by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005,
will begin on Feb. 17, 2009. This law requires all full-power
TV stations to broadcast only in digital. This $1.5 billion
program will offer “crystal-clear pictures and sound, plus
more channels and programming,” at no increased cost, according
to the National Association of Broadcasters. People who use
antennas with analog televisions will be the ones primarily
affected by the transition.
10 percent of households in New York state rely solely on
over-the-air television signals,” said Rossana Weitekamp,
a representative of the NAB’s DTV road show. These TV owners
will lose completely lose their signal once the switchover
has been made.
the federal government is offering every household up to two
$40 coupons redeemable toward a DTV converter box. The box
will allow the digital signal to be converted into analog
format. The coupons will be accepted at large electronic retail
stores, such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, as well as more than
100 other stores. According to a flyer produced by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, the DTV converter boxes are expected
to cost between $50 and $70. There are 33.5 million coupons
available through the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration. The coupons can be applied for online, over
the phone, or by mail.
need to learn about the steps they can take to upgrade to
digital before it’s too late,” said Jonathan Collegio, vice
president of the DTV transition unit at NAB. “As broadcasters,
our goal is to ensure that no American loses television reception
in February 2009 due to a lack of information about the transition
to digital. The DTV road show provides a fun and engaging
event for families to get the information they need to prepare
for the switch to digital television.”
Trecker is part of NAB’s “multifaceted consumer education
campaign,” according to a NAB press release. In addition,
the road show, which includes demonstrations, games and prizes,
will have traveled 95,000 miles, visiting 600 locations by
the time of the February transition.
loose ends this week-