on the Rules
war of dueling Troy charters just won’t die
Leave it to Troy to forge new legal terrain. As it stands
now, on election day, Trojans will have an opportunity to
vote for two different city charters: one proposed by a commission
established by the mayor, and one proposed by the City Council’s
commission. But if Mayor Harry Tutunjian has his way, the
council’s charter proposal will never make it to the voting
booth. There are still many questions, possible legal challenges,
and an appellate court decision looming.
On Monday, Judge John Egan ruled in response to lawsuits brought
by both commissions to knock the other commissions’ proposal
off the Nov. 4 ballot. In his decision, he ruled that both
proposals ought to go to the voters.
Mayor Harry Tutunjian answered that ruling with an appeal.
If the appellate court finds that Egan ruled incorrectly,
as the mayor hopes, then the council’s proposal will be knocked
off the ballot. If the court finds that Egan ruled correctly,
however, then both proposals will continue to go to the voters.
And if that happens, it will raise another legal question:
The proposals are voted on as simple referenda, so what happens
if both charters pass? Which will be adopted as the new legal
infrastructure of Troy?
This is the question Troy Corporation Counsel David Mitchell,
who represents the mayor, is asking. “That’s why we are appealing.
Because there is no provision to that in the Municipal Home
Rule Law or the election law that provides for that” scenario,
in which two competing charter proposals pass. There is no
obvious legal precedent, he said, for what should happen next.
However, according to attorney Tom Kenney, who represents
Jim Conroy, the head of the council’s commission, it is a
simple matter: The charter proposal that receives the most
supporting votes will win.
is in the Municipal Home Rule law,” Kenney said. “It has been
a while since I read that section, but that is my best recollection.”
Kenney was referring to Sec. 36 Sub. D, which reads: “If any
question submitted by the charter commission receives the
affirmative vote of a majority of the qualified electors of
the city voting thereon, the proposal submitted thereby shall
take effect . . . except that if there be a conflict between
the provisions of two or more proposals approved by the electors
at the same election, the proposal receiving the largest number
of affirmative votes shall prevail.”
Mitchell argued that this refers specifically to multiple
proposals generated by one charter commission, and not to
multiple proposals by multiple commissions. “The intention
of this . . . was that this was a conflict within one commission,”
which leads to the heart of the mayor’s attack on the council’s
charter. That lies in Mitchell’s interpretation of Municipal
Home Rule Law: When there is a mayoral charter commission,
no other commissions’ proposals are allowed on the ballot.
This is the interpretation that led the mayor to sue to have
the council’s charter proposal removed from the November ballot.
The mayor’s appeal also hinges on Judge Egan’s disregard to
tangential, yet substantial, arguments, the corporation counsel
argued. “If you take a look at Judge Egan’s decision, he glossed
over all the other substantive issues we raised with respect
to the council’s commission. He was, in my opinion, in a hurry
to get to the issue of competing charters without analyzing
Some of these substantive issues included the argument that
the council’s commission failed to present a final draft of
its charter revision by deadline, and that it’s proposal question,
which appears on the ballot, was worded identically to the
mayoral commission’s proposition.
There is no case on point, Mitchell said, that one could look
to for precedent. The closest is a case in 1998 between former
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his City Council. “That
essentially says that when there is a mayoral charter commission
it bumps all other questions off the ballot.” It was decided
at the appellate level.
an interesting case, for legal arguments’ sake, anyway,” Mitchell
The council’s charter commission obviously disagreed with
the mayor’s legal arguments. In return, the council’s commission,
headed by former mayoral candidate Conroy, sued to have the
mayor’s charter proposal removed from the ballot. Egan, on
Monday, also ruled against that suit.
Conroy said that he sees the legal battle as an attempt by
the mayor to bully the council, and deny the voters the right
would hope that the appeal would be decided before the election,”
Conroy said, as no one is quite clear what will happen if,
say, the council’s charter is the winner on Nov. 4, and the
mayor’s appeal is successful, but decided after the election.
Will that mean that the voters’ choice will be nullified?
That is a possibility, but not one Conroy believes will happen.
“It is typical of the mayor’s stubborn streak. I just think
it is indicative of how he runs the show. It is either his
way or no way, and that is no way to have a participatory
government. It is a waste of time, it is a waste of energy.
But we are not going to be bullied.”
If the mayor’s appeal is successful, Conroy said that he intends
to fight it in the courts.
Of course there are differences between the two proposed charters,
the most significant being the handling of the City Council.
In the council’s charter proposal, the terms of council people
would be extended from two to four years, with consecutive
terms served limited to two. In the mayor’s charter, the term
length of the council people will remain as is, however, the
number of the council’s at-large seats will be reduced from
three to one, decreasing the overall size of the council from
nine to seven.
charter changes are so minuscule [compared] to other issues
facing people in their day-to-day lives,” said Councilman
Bill Dunne (District 4). “If the council commission’s charter
gets thrown out on the appeal, I am going to advocate that
we don’t pursue this any further.”
Sullivan, who ran in the 21st Congressional District
Democratic primary this year, decided this week
to encourage voters to write his name in for the
seat that will be vacated by Congressman Mike
McNulty (D-Green Island). He announced his write-in
candidacy on his blog, lonerangeralbany.blog spot.com.
Sullivan has a history of making controversial
claims, like his assertion that gun owners keep
his neighborhood safe. In his blog post, Sullivan,
a Democrat, criticized Democratic nominee Paul
Tonko for supporting “special interests.” He also
took the opportunity to do some last-minute fear-mongering
when he wrote, “Our enemies are circling us like
sharks in the water. Radical Jihadists have
come to dwell amongst us, and are waiting
budget Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings introduced
this month has nonunion employees up in arms.
Jennings’ budget proposes that nonunion workers
would not get raises during 2009. However, some
of the nonunion employees are the lowest-paid
workers in the city. The Albany Common Council
heard complaints this week from some of those
workers. Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1)
pointed out that giving cost-of-living raises
to nonunion workers making less than $40,000 a
year would cost the city less than $500,000. Councilman
Glen Casey (Ward 11) suggested making city workers
who make more than $55,000 a year take unpaid
days off to free up money to give raises to lower-paid
have been no ramifications at the Rensselaer County
Board of Elections after the Obama/Osama ballot-misspelling
gaffe that made the county the butt of a nationwide
joke. No firings, no resignations, no investigations.
In fact, according to reports this week, the “typo”
has been explained away as a computer error. “This
error may have been due to a spellcheck function
on the operating system of the computers utilized
by the Board of Elections,” the commissioners
of the BOE stated, according to The Record.
So this mistake may have been due to a
human’s inability to outthink a computer’s spellcheck,
or this explanation may be the lame attempt
by bureaucrats to sweep an embarrassment under
the rug. Who knows?
ballots in Albany County leave a number of Democratic incumbents
off the Independence Party line
The Rensselaer County Board of Elec tions no longer has to
take the rap as the only local board of elections to royally
screw up absentee ballots this election season. According
to reports by the Times Union, thousands of absentee
ballots sent out to Albany County voters left Albany District
Attorney David Soares, Sen. Neil Breslin (D-Albany) and Assemblyman
Jack McEneny (D-Albany) off the Independence Party line.
Initially, concerns were raised because Albany County Democratic
election commissioner Matt Clyne is the brother of Paul Clyne,
the man who Soares defeated four years ago to become district
attorney. Matt Clyne has been vocal about his disdain for
Soares in the past. And Republican commissioner John Graziano
was instrumental in constructing the last-minute campaign
of Republican Roger Cusick on the Integrity Party line to
Accusations of impropriety have subsided in the wake of revelations
that Breslin and McEneny also suffered mistakes made by the
BOE. In fact, it was reported that on some ballots, McEneny
was replaced by Assemblyman Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes).
McEneny said he didn’t think “there was anything deliberate,”
and said that Clyne had been helpful in figuring out where
the ballot error originated. Clyne, whose appointment caused
a rift in the party, is up for reappointment by the county
Legislature this year.
Clyne blamed the mistakes on his staff being overworked, noting
an increased number of registrations, in addition to new requirements
put in place by the Help America Vote Act.
Clyne dismissed as absurd the charge that he deliberately
left Soares off the Independence Party ballot line.
was a ridiculous comment without any basis,” said Clyne. “It
was in fact actually an error with the Independence line.
But they tried to cast it as though it was a thing with David
Soares. It had nothing to do with David Soares. It had everything
to do with sending a spreadsheet to the printer.”
Replacement ballots should reach voters this week.
Clyne said that the mistake on the ballot would have no direct
impact on the race for district attorney.
one thing, this would have no perceptible impact on the race,
and two, it’s not like it would go unnoticed,” said Clyne.
“It’s not like fixing a machine to achieve a desired result.”
candidate and corporate foe Ralph Nader stated his case—and
energized the faithful—in an appearance at the Egg
Ralph Nader had just finished his speech from the stage of
the Egg’s Swyer Theatre in Albany’s Empire State Plaza last
Thursday night (Oct. 16), and one of his aides had taken the
podium. Was there anyone, he asked, willing to donate the
full legal amount—$2,300—to the campaign?
The Swyer holds 450 people, and the near-capacity crowd got
quiet. But less than a minute passed before a man raised his
hand. The crowd stood and cheered.
The mainstream media haven’t paid much attention, but Ralph
Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez, a California lawyer,
are going to be on the ballot in 45 states this year—more
states/ballots, Nader noted in his speech, than he was on
in either 2000 or 2004.
This was Nader’s third public event of the day, following
a Wall Street rally at which he railed against the recent
$700 billion corporate bailout, and a campaign stop in New
Paltz. In his speech, he said that both Republican John McCain
and Democrat Barack Obama “have an aversion to challenging
Nader stated his case: There are approximately 35,000 full-time
corporation lobbyists in Washington, D.C., he said, versus
1,000 lobbyists for citizen’s groups like the Sierra Club
and the American Civil Liberties Union. That, along with the
cynicism of voters and the complicity of the political parties,
is why politics is a fixed game that “corporations always
win,” and, he said, helps explain why thousands of American
jobs and entire industries have been shifted to “fascist and
communist dictatorships that know how to keep their workers
in their place.”
To those who question why he’s running, Nader said, “First
we need to vote our consciences. How can anybody not vote
their conscience?” To those who call him a spoiler, he said,
“What’s a spoiler? Who has spoiled America?”
He assailed the recent congressional bailout for having no
strings attached, and reminded the crowd that when then-president
Jimmy Carter made the deal to financially bail out Chrysler,
it included stock warrants that, when the car maker rebounded,
resulted in a $400 million profit for the U.S. treasury.
Nader saved some of his sharpest criticism for media. At a
recent meeting with the Washington Post editorial board,
he asked why they didn’t cover his campaign; he said that
editor Fred Hiatt replied, “Because you can’t win.”
why,” Nader asked Hiatt, “do you cover the Washington Nationals?”
Nader received his strongest crowd response when he called
for the impeachment of George W. Bush. He said that our current
situation reminded him of the beginnings of the country: “Then
we were 13 colonies under George III. We’re now 50 colonies
under George IV.”
Nader ended the evening with a book signing at the merch table.
loose ends this week-