in Troy, Don’t Do as the Trojans Do
it was Greg Floyd’s best effort at covering politics in Troy.
Paid For It,” CBS 6’s series reserved for investigations detailing
possible abuses or questionable uses of taxpayer money, turned
its attention last week to Robert Martiniano, the confidential
secretary to Troy City Council President Clem Campana, and
asked: What exactly does Martiniano do? It was a political
story, fed to the station by political insiders. (Ask people
in Troy and most will have no idea who Martiniano is or what
Martiniano is supposed to be doing in his part-time position.)
Stories like these are shopped around by the regular players
to the regular news outlets all the time. The strong stories
get scooped up fast and reported; the weaker ones sit around
for weeks or months before some poor reporter, under a deadline,
might pick it up and run with it. This one has been passed
around Troy for a long while, now.
Nonetheless, the report certainly shook up the hornets’ nest.
Troy Republicans cheered the segment in the following days,
using it as impetus to call for investigations (a typical
Rensselaer County refrain). Troy Democrats went into an internal
tumult and began reaching out to the media with detailed explanations
of how the Floyd piece failed to present a balanced view of
the confidential secretary’s job and performance.
One man’s hatchet job is another man’s exposé, sure, but the
problem with Floyd’s segment was that it failed to bring forward
information vital to the story, trading on thoroughness for
Vito Ciccarelli, the former confidential secretary and lone
critic interviewed in the segment, was a Republican appointee
who lost his part-time job when his party lost control of
the council majority. He also lost his bid for a council seat
in the 2007 elections, along with many on the Republican slate.
When he told Floyd that no one knows what Martiniano does,
he wasn’t exactly correct, and he wasn’t exactly being fair.
But why should he be? This is politics.
Much in the segment was made about Martiniano’s absence from
the city council office. This included the dismissive (and
hilarious) comments from the 77-year-old council assistant
whose job it is to man the office (a point Floyd failed to
Martiniano works for Health Research Incorporated, not for
the state as Floyd reported, yet he did at one time work for
the state. And with two masters degrees, he said, his skill
set is different than Ciccarelli’s, and therefore his responsibilities
are different, a point that Floyd didn’t bother to make.
Martiniano claimed that he was willing to provide Floyd with
his time sheets, on which he logged his work hours, along
with a description of the duties that he is expected to perform.
These include meeting weekly with the council president to
discuss policy issues, meeting with council majority members
to research issues, help develop legislation, develop letters
and speeches for the council, and so on. The most time-consuming
of his tasks, he stated, is his responsibility to attend various
committee, subcommittee, and council meetings, to take the
minutes at these meetings and then present the minutes to
the council and upon request.
Boring stuff. No wonder Floyd left it out. But, unfortunately,
pretty important to the story.
Martiniano is paid $10,000 a year for his part-time duties.
This salary is provided for from the same budget line that
paid Ciccarelli. The current city council, after taking control
in January, eliminated a full-time position that paid roughly
$28,000 a year plus benefits and used that money to hire three
part-time assistants. These employees draw no benefits; their
salaries combined come to roughly $20,000—a savings of around
$8,000. This freed money to give the council attorney a controversial
pay raise of $5,000. In total, the council is saving $3,000
a year from its employee reshuffling.
This, at least, is according to the documentation that the
council Democrats provided Metroland in defense of
its employment of Martiniano. It is the same documentation
that the Democrats claim they offered to provide Floyd but
were never asked by the TV newsman to hand over.
Had Floyd weighed the council’s explanations and documentation
of Martiniano’s job performance against the comments of a
former Republican appointee and 77-year-old part-time assistant,
then he would have wound up with a much more balanced story.
Perhaps, he would have even concluded what most of us in the
media had already concluded: There was no story.
Floyd told Metroland that he debated running the segment,
for fear of getting dragged down into the political mud that
makes Troy government notorious. Too late. Now the Democrats,
with their own list of no-show job holders (Bob Mirch, anyone?),
will be anticipating a little tit-for-tat.
should know that pretty much everything in Troy is about politics,”
Floyd said at the beginning of the segment, and he was right.
Just about everything in Troy is political, but this time,
he fell for it.
Save for Big Oil
senators did their sugar daddies a big favor this
week and blocked debate of a Democrat-sponsored
energy package that would have removed billions
of dollars of tax breaks from big oil companies
and made them subject to a windfall profits tax.
The bill would have levied a 25-percent tax on
any profits deemed “unreasonable” earned by the
top five United States oil companies. Republicans
argued that the top five oil companies are not
responsible for setting world oil prices and Democrats
could not come up with enough votes to bring the
bill to debate. “We are hurting as a country,”
said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) “We’re hurting
individually as Americans . . . and the other
side says, ‘Do nothing. Don’t even debate the
McCain has earned himself a reputation as a bit
of an odd fish during his time on the campaign
trail. And this week Democrats have begun jumping
on McCain’s sometimes flippant responses and declarations.
On NBC’s Today Show, McCain said that it’s
“not too important” when troops return from Iraq.
Democrats quickly organized a conference call
during which Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) called
McCain’s comments “out of touch” and insisted
that, for military families and soldiers, “It’s
the most important thing in the world.” McCain
has been trying to distance himself from a comment
he made in January that troops may be in Iraq
for 100 years.
15-year-old boy who allegedly shot and killed
10-year-old Kathina Thomas told police “that he
was aiming at a group of teenagers he thought
were preparing to pull a gun on him,” the Times
Union has reported. Jermayne Timmons claimed
that he found the weapon under a shed at an apartment
complex in Arbor Hill, and, after the shooting,
hid the gun in a trash can back at the same complex
because “everyone in the neighborhood uses that
gun and that’s where we keep it.” A ceremony was
held for Thomas at Blessed Hope Worship Center
on Central Avenue, that was attended by more than
700 mourners, according to the TU. Thomas’
death has brought about a call for the end of
violence by the community, and several peace marches
have been held in her honor.
Into Bruno’s Brain
he or isn’t he running in November?
Yes, the state senator from Bruns wick, Majority Leader Joe
Bruno, is going to run—or so said press rep Scott Reif. “We
are focused on finishing up the session, then we’ll be turning
to politics.” In the meantime, Reif pointed out, Bruno’s petitions
are being carried by committee members in Saratoga and Rensselaer
Yet for months, speculation about the senator’s future has
made the rounds in the Capital Region’s political class. Many
of these rumors have focused on stories of federal subpoenas
and indictments tied to an FBI investigation into the embattled
politician’s outside business deals. Other rumors weigh the
senator’s options in the face of a historic loss by the Republican
party of the Senate majority.
really is the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” said Doug Forand,
the chief political strategist for the Democratic Senate Campaign
Committee. “What is Bruno going to do? Is he just petitioning
to prop up a substitute, or does he really going to run and
it turns out,” he joked, “he doesn’t call me.”
Even members of his own party are left to speculate as to
the true intentions of the senator. A former high-ranking
official in the Republican Party, who wished not to be named,
pointed out that he has heard these rumors spreading throughout
the GOP ranks as well. “There is lots of speculation that
Bruno, once his petitions are filed, will file an official
declination and then his committee to fill vacancies will
appoint someone.” Two of the three members of Bruno’s committee
to fill vacancies are from Rensselaer County, so the “rumors
abound that it is going to be Trish DeAngelis, or Kenny Bruno,
or Jack Casey, or Frank Merola. It will be controlled by Rensselaer
Even Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino’s name has been
mentioned, but she is known to be outside the circle of friends
of Senate Secretary Steve Boggess, a longtime aide to Bruno.
We will all know what Bruno is thinking about a November run
by July 14, he added, as that is the last day Bruno can decline
to run after filing his petitions.
FBI stuff sounds very real,” the Republican insider said.
“All the stories of people being subpoenaed, from all the
information I am hearing, all of that is legitimate. Something
is up. Whether it happens in July or it happens in November,
something is coming. Everyone feels it, everyone senses it,
it is just a question now of when.”
If the Senate Republicans lose, Bruno will definitely be gone
from a leadership post, he concluded, because the Republicans
will “throw his butt out.”
is the year. What we are trying to make happen has rarely
been done before in state politics,” said Forand. “The Democrats
had the state Senate in 1964, following the Johnson landslide
over Goldwater. Before that, I think you have to go back to
1938 since the Dems were in the majority. So the scope of
change in government that we are trying to drive here in immense.
With a $125 billion budget, there is a lot of vested interest
in the status quo.”
Of course, the possibility of the Senate flipping is a consideration
that must be weighing on Bruno, Forand said. And you can see
evidence of that in how Bruno has been putting pressure on
his members to not retire or take other opportunities.
Maziarz, Bruno has been leaning on him really hard not to
run for Congress. If you look at some of the more senior members,
Caesar Trunzo, Owen Johnson, Tom Morahan, these guys look
like they want to retire. And what we hear is that Bruno has
leaned really hard on these people to stay. This is their
one shot to stay in power, to not have any more open seats
Forand said that, although there are plenty of rumors and
speculations, he would be surprised to see Bruno decline to
run after petitioning. “He has given no indication that he
is leaving. Everything is the opposite. His petitions are
out there. He has a bunch of money in his campaign committee.”
Plus, he has his legacy to consider.
Joe leaves, it expedites the process of the majority flipping,”
Forand said. “There would be a morale problem in their conference.
I mean, when the captain is first off the ship, you know the
ship is sinking.”
struggling with rising gas prices and “unfair” taxes converge
on Albany to demand relief
Hundreds of tractor-trailers are expected to surround the
Capitol in Albany today (Thursday) in an attempt to gain support
and influence legislators to help lower gas prices, said Charles
Claburn, the director of the New York chapter of Truckers
and Citizens’ United. The protesters are calling for legislators
to make the tax on diesel equal to that of regular gasoline.
is no reason,” said Claburn, “that the tax on diesel should
be higher than the tax on regular.” The federal excise tax
for diesel is roughly 24 cents per gallon, compared to 18
cents per gallon for regular gasoline. This week, the average
cost of diesel was $5.065 per gallon in the Albany area, while
regular gas cost an average of $4.204, according to fuelgage.com,
a Web site created by the American Automobile Association.
The protesters are seeking a cap on all gas taxes, Claburn
said, as well as the elimination of the Highway Use Tax, and
a freeze and decrease in tolls.
The Highway Use Tax, or “Ton-Mile Tax,” applies to trucks,
tractors, or other self-propelled vehicles that have an unloaded
weight of 18,000 pounds or more. The tax is based on the weight
of the vehicle and how many miles it has traveled. According
to the Thruway Authority, tolls are expected to increase 5
percent in 2009 and another 5 percent in 2010.
want to draw attention to the situation,” Claburn said. “Everything
we’ve asked for legislators can do, and why they aren’t doing
it, I don’t understand. They want to grab us and wring us
by the neck.”
TACU has had little support in either the state Senate or
Assembly, said Claburn, who organized a previous convoy that
drove down the Northway on May 22. “Nobody is listening in
Albany,” said Vincent Gramaglia, owner of Betty Beaver’s truck
stop in Fultonville.
However, some members of the Legislature have signaled their
support. Assemblyman George Amedore (R-Rotterdam) has been
a staunch supporter of TACU and its goals. He is scheduled
to speak at the protest today.
we touch, whatever we wear, to even the pillows we lay our
heads on, are brought to us by the truckers,” said Amedore.
“We need to make sure our truckers, especially our independent
truckers, will still be able to function.”
support efforts to reduce the high gas prices to help motorists,
truckers and business people,” said Scott Reif, a press representative
of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick). Bruno,
who is expected to speak at the protest, has “called for a
summerwide suspension of the three New York gas taxes, which
will save consumers and estimated 32 cents [per gallon].”
The three taxes are the motor fuel tax (8 cents per gallon),
the sales tax (8 cents) and the petroleum business tax (16
if we only get a couple months of no state gas taxes, I think
it will help stimulate the economy,” Amedore said. “It adds
Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) also is expected to speak
at the protest.
Little is very concerned for independent truckers, given the
increase prices of fuel, mainly, but also tolls,” said Dan
MacEntee, spokesman for Little. “She also supports eliminating
the Ton-Mile Tax.”
The convoy, which will mainly consist of trucks with no trailers,
is anticipated to come off of I-787 and onto Madison Avenue,
then across Swan Street to Washington Avenue, where the convoy
will parade in front of the Capitol before circling Lincoln
Park and parking across from the Capitol, said Detective James
Miller of Albany’s Department of Public Safety.
affects every single person in New York,” Gramaglia said.
“Truckers and Citizens United is representing every New Yorker.
The convoy is coming, and we’re going to take the Capitol
Solve and Serve
Gun Violence Task Force meets to discuss ways to curb what
many fear will be a long, hot summer of violence
In high school, said Rev. Dr. Ed ward B. Smart, vice chairman
of the Albany Gun Violence Task Force, “I didn’t get to carry
the ball, I blocked while somebody else scored a touchdown.
You have to do what you have to do so that we can win the
game, so that children are not killed in our community.”
Smart was one of 13 task force members in attendance Tuesday
night at the First Israel AME Church for the active, sometimes
heated meeting, full of conversation and ideas as to how Albany
should combat its growing gun-violence issues.
The summer is going to be long and hot, said chief assistant
to the District Attorney Mark Harris, and the youth will have
nowhere to go—a problem for which he offered a temporary solution:
“An immediate goal that is potentially attainable is to open
up community centers on weekends and extend hours.”
Members of the task force agreed that facilities should stay
open longer to get people off of the streets. Harris suggested
providing busing from West Hill to community centers and stationing
police cars at bus stops to maintain order. He said that he
believes this is a partial solution, but a decent one that
could make a major difference in the community.
Representatives of Chicago’s CeaseFire program will be meeting
with the task force this July. Described as a holistic approach
to curbing violence, Chicago’s CeaseFire program coordinates
with community organizations, as well as authorities, to work
to reduce shootings. The Rev. John Miller, task force chair,
said that he considers this program to be a valuable model.
The Rev. Valerie Faust said she believes that problems are
area-specific and that any program implemented must “target
what we need.”
Albany city treasurer Betty Barnette agreed, adding that children
need someone who “looks like them,” someone who they can relate
to and who understands the community, involved in any anti-
violence programs. Members of the task force and other attendees
agreed, and Albany Police Chief James Tuffey admitted that
the force may need to hire more people from within the community
since they can identify with other residents.
youth don’t understand the impact of their actions,” Tuffey
said, discussing the accused killer of 10-year old Kathina
Thomas, 15-year-old Jermayne Timmons. He said that they need
to “channel their energies as another way to settle differences
rather than picking up a gun and shooting it.”
Leonard Morgenbesser, who has been active for some time in
cataloging Albany’s gun violence, said that he wants to establish
a permanent tip line for illegal guns and gang activity and
to publicize it on busses and billboards.
are dying; we’re here to solve and serve,” said Smart. “We’re
here to save lives.”
loose ends this week-