care is a right: Assemblyman Richard Gottfried.
advocates converge in Albany to press for statewide reform
still have a dream, today, in 2008,” breast cancer survivor
Brenda Frost bellowed over the heads of almost 200 people
at the Legislative Office Building, “a dream of a brighter
future, of a place where I will not be judged by my wealth
in society.” Frost’s dream was shared by the 35 people who
told their stories before a panel of state officials on May
28 in hopes of convincing legislators of the importance of
moving universal health care forward in New York state.
The dream is to fix what Frost called “a broken health-care
system,” by implementing a plan for universal health coverage
for all New Yorkers.
representing Big Pharma and HMO’s flood the halls of the Legislature
day and night opposing fundamental reforms of our broken system.
This hearing is designed to make sure that for once, the experiences
and views of average New Yorkers are heard in this debate,”
said Jessica Wisneski, campaigns director coordinator for
Citizen Action of New York. Citizen Action, along with Health
Care for All New York, sponsored the hearing.
After nearly a year of studies and hearings, a task force
created in by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer will be releasing
at least three proposals for universal health-care coverage
in New York later this month. The task force, in interdepartmental
committee known as Partnership for Coverage will release at
least three models for universal health care, said Joseph
Baker, the assistant deputy secretary for Health and Human
Services, and make them available for public comment.
are just the proposals, and then we have to work with the
legislators,” said Baker. “I don’t want to create false optimism;
there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried (D-Manhattan), the chair
of the Assembly Committee on Health, also spoke at the hearing.
He said that the stories further illustrated the need for
universal health care in the state. He briefly outlined his
own proposal, “New York Health Plus: Better Coverage for All
of Us at Lower Cost,” based on the current New York Family
and Child Health Plus plans.
Family and Child Health Plus is a nonprofit health-care program
that makes comprehensive health coverage available to low-income,
uninsured families. Gottfried’s proposal basically takes the
widespread program and makes it an option for every resident
in the state.
offering publicly sponsored, publicly funded coverage as a
choice available to everyone,” said Gottfried, “we can make
New York dramatically more employer-friendly and job-friendly
by eliminating the need for any employer to provide health
coverage for its workers. When employers and individuals don’t
have to be ‘taxed’ by insurance-company premiums and deductibles,
most people’s take-home pay will go up.”
Under Gottfried’s proposal, New Yorkers would be able to keep
their private health plan, and would receive a “tax benefit”
to insure that they do not pay for insurance coverage twice.
Gottfried’s proposal, said Richard Kirsch, director of Citizen
Action of New York, “would offer quality affordable health
care to all New Yorkers. It will make New York a much more
healthy place to live, work and do business. It sets a high
standard that we hope other reform proposals will also reach.”
Plus, Gottfried claimed, his plan would save $4 billion of
the $63 billion spent per fiscal year.
was out mowing the lawn, and I had a heart attack,” said John
McCallen. “Now all of my money goes toward paying my bills.”
He said that after his heart attack last year, he began paying
$780 per month for prescription drugs and still does today.
On top of the money spent on drugs, McCallen pays numerous
medical bills associated to the heart attack as well as internal
injuries he suffered from a separate car accident.
McCallen, a professor at Broome Community College in Binghamton,
came to the People’s Public Hearing in Albany May 28 to get
an idea of how many New Yorkers are uninsured. “There are
17 full-time teachers in my department, and eight of them
want universal health coverage,” McCallen said. “But you have
to have a choice, [universal health care] has to be affordable,
and it has to be so they can’t cancel it. I am one of the
working uninsured, and there are a lot of them in New York”
former Albany District Attorney Paul Clyne try to reclaim
his seat from the man who defeated him?
If you believe the rumors that have been floating around Albany
this week, Paul Clyne has a Machiavellian plan to orchestrate
his political resurrection and challenge Albany County District
Attorney David Soares for the Democratic nomination in a heated
primary battle. However, if you believe some of the people
closest to Clyne, he has decided that a possible primary challenge
would get lost in the shuffle during a busy primary season
that has the press and the public consumed with the tangled
race for the 21st Congressional district.
Clyne was defeated by Soares in the 2004 Democratic primary
and then later Soares bested Republican Roger Cusick in the
general election. Soares had worked under Clyne in the DA’s
office and was fired by Clyne after Soares informed him he
would be running for his job.
Democratic Election Commissioner Matt Clyne said that although
he can not speak for his brother Paul, the time just simply
may not be right for Clyne to try to reclaim the seat Soares
took from him. “There might be too much going on in other
areas. There is a heated congressional race, and there are
committee seats and lots of different things going on. The
DA’s race might just get lost in the shuffle.”
Rumors suggested that Clyne would utilize allies in suburban
Albany County to petition and canvas for him. It was suggested
that petitions for Clyne were already being circulated in
certain areas. However, according to some insiders, Clyne
signaled this week that he would not challenge Soares in a
primary and that his possible supporters were free to carry
petitions for Soares.
Karen Scharf of the Working Families Party said, “Regardless
of opposition, we were confident David Soares would be reelected
Grumblings about Soares’ performance as DA peaked in recent
months leading many to believe that Soares would face a stiff
primary challenge, despite Soares’ status as a local media
darling who enjoys strong popularity. Most assumed that challenge
would come from Clyne.
Some critics have accused Soares of not delivering on his
campaign message of fiercely fighting the Rockefeller Drug
Laws. Others have said Soares has taken time to bolster his
image with high-profile cases, and his public integrity unit,
while ignoring street crime. Others, like Matt and Paul Clyne
who are supporters of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, take issue
with Soares for other reasons.
couldn’t care less if someone is using steroids in Florida,”
said Matt Clyne, referring to Soares’ high profile prosecution
of an Internet pharmaceutical ring based in Florida that sold
steroids. “But even in Albany, I don’t feel threatened by
people using steroids, and I don’t think anyone else does
either. You have to wonder; where is his sense of direction?”
Matt Clyne said that Soares’ liberal approach to prosecuting
criminals has resulted in emboldening local criminals.
Scharf said Soares’ will have a chance in his second term
to build on past successes and address areas of interest that
he may not have devoted as much time to as he would have liked
in his first term.
Clyne, who admittedly has a jaded opinion regarding Soares,
complained that the DA has largely received a pass from local
media and enjoys the popularity he does because of it.
New York press has been critical of his performance and have
asked him some tough questions,” said Clyne. “They have drawn
the opposite conclusion from the Times Union and the
biggest obstacle facing someone challenging Soares is a lack
of any objective reporting on the part of the local press.”
Clyne insisted that Soares is young and has yet to come to
the conclusion more seasoned prosecutors reach—that the only
way to deal with criminals is severely. “Like the communist
system in the economic realm ultimately it collapsed because
it is not grounded in reality,” said Clyne. “I don’t feel
that having a liberal approach to criminal justice is grounded.
It is either too expensive or too dangerous.”
is running with the strong support of the Albany Democratic
Party and that shows that they recognize his strong list of
accomplishments,” said Scharf.
Although Matt Clyne said he was fairly certain Soares would
face no great challenge in a primary, he felt a general election
challenge by an as-yet-unnamed candidate may certainly be
possible. “I think it would be difficult to get something
going for a primary, said Clyne, “you’ve gotta have the political
organization and foot soldiers, and at this point, I don’t
think its realistic that anyone could mount a credible campaign
in a few months. But in a general election . . . it is conceivable.”
Paul Clyne did not return calls for this article.
Recommendations on Old City Hall
five months of meetings, Troy’s City Council officially hears
from the City Hall committee
The election-year shine is off Troy’s City Hall Review Committee.
In front of a sparse crowd of Troy city officials, including
Council President Clem Campana (D-At Large) and Mayor Harry
Tutunjian, as well as a few print reporters, the committee
reviewed, point by point, the report it will be handing off
to the Council today. It is a 14-page recommendation, the
product of months of meetings and research, which concludes
what Ken Zalewski, first-time councilman and the committee’s
chair, has been saying for months—the committee’s resources
in manpower and time could not properly match the scope of
reviewing a project of this size.
What does this mean for the city’s much-maligned, 37-year-old
hall of business?
a good report,” said Zalewski. “And it is a good starting
Tutunjian and a few members of the committee, however, pointed
out that a report is one thing, but it has gotten the city
nowhere closer to an actual solution to the City Hall dilemma.
never see anything done in my lifetime,” said one frustrated
more people you get involved in a project, the longer it is
going to take,” said committeeman Red Griffin. “You ask a
private company to be involved in a public project, and then
subject them to this?”
It is no wonder Judge Development, the company whose initial
proposal for City Hall Tutunjian announced and campaigned
on last year, has withdrawn its interest.
is money,” Griffin said, “and the more time it takes, the
And now the city is left with only two proposals entered during
this year’s RFP process. One, offered by NADC, the company
that attempted to re-imagine the Mooradians building on River
Street as high-end rental lofts, makes no mention of money,
but does include a heady rebuke of the Tutunjian administration.
NADC proposal is critical of the initial absence of a project
RFP, the scarcity of information being made available to interested
developers,” the report summarized, “and the lack of public
input and engagement in the process.”
The second bid is from an individual, Seymour Fox, and it
drew snickers and chides from the committeemen and audience:
Fox offered to buy City Hall for $500,000, make the needed
repairs, then lease the building back to the city, but only
after he had it painted in an “impressionist style,” which,
according to some sketches provided, translates into a river
scene splashed across the building’s facade.
The report ends with a series of recommendations for the council
and mayor. These include the finding that City Hall is not,
in fact, at threat of imminent collapse, yet it is in need
of a $2.7 million investment, and if the city decides to remain
housed at One Monument Square for longer than a year, then
those serious infrastructural concerns, such as the parking
lot, roof, and HVAC unit, must be addressed. However, if the
city intends to continue along the path of selling One Monument
Square and moving its offices to a new location, the report
concludes: the RFP process must be “open, competitive,” and
nationwide; the public must be involved in every step; a comprehensive
plan must be developed for downtown; and a detailed analysis
of cost, accessibility and community impact must be performed
before moving city offices into any other building.
Further, any action undertaken to sell or move City Hall must
attempt to politicize such a project only serves to decrease
the city’s chance of success,” Zalewski read from the report,
drawing a hardly restrained laugh from some of the onlookers.
loose ends this week-