the Troy Public Library the victim of economic downturn or
political ill will?
On Nov. 4, when Troy voters went to the polls, they were met
with two propositions relating to their public-library system.
The first was for the establishment of a special library district,
and the second was to fund that district. Can you guess which
proposition failed and which succeeded?
Currently, the library system is an association that was chartered
a century ago to serve the city of Troy. The library board
is not directly elected by the citizens of Troy. The Troy
voter has no real say over the library’s budget. The board
is a self-perpetuating board.
voter doesn’t really have the control over the library that
they would have under a district library,” said Paul Hicok,
Troy Public Library director. Establishing the special district
would give the voter a significant influence over the library’s
functioning. From budgeting to the election of trustees, a
special library district functions nearly identically to a
school district. And the voters voted 2 to 1 in favor of this
However, the shift to the special district also means that
the library, instead of receiving money through the city budget,
would receive its funding directly from the taxpayer in the
form of a special tax. Another tax, which, before the election,
became a political football in the hands of the cigar-chomping
Republican Rensselaer County legislator, Troy Department of
Public Works commissioner, and onetime “constituent liaison”
for the state Senate, Robert Mirch.
people can’t afford more taxes,” said Mirch. “If it comes
to funding a library or buying a couple of snowplows, the
choice is obvious. I mean, I don’t know how much the library
gets used, with the Internet and computers nowadays.”
obviously a gross oversimplification, but Bobby Mirch is good
at oversimplifying everything in life,” said Hicok.
According to the library’s statistics, usage has been steadily
increasing for every library in the region. Last year, the
Troy Public Library system saw a full 10-percent increase
in usage over 2007. “The Republican representatives were trying
to create an issue where no issue really exists, politically,
and I don’t think that they won that round,” Hicok said. “Mostly,
people were more confused over the split propositions than
anything else. I don’t think that the people were convinced
by the Republicans that they shouldn’t create a district.
People are fully aware of what happens to funding when it
is mixed up with the city’s general operating budget.”
As the library’s budget stands now, it is forcing the closure
of both the Sycaway and Lansingburgh satellite branches in
February. According to sources, the movement to defeat the
special district was generated within the Republican-controlled
Lansingburgh districts, where Mirch holds strong political
Mirch, who has a reputation of saying whatever is politically
expedient, laid the blame for the library closings at the
feet of the library board, chastising them in the pages of
Wednesday’s Record, stating: “I think the library should
have researched different options, instead of closing [the
branches] and disenfranchising residents of the ‘Burgh and
Sycaway.” Which is odd, considering that in the days before
Election Day, he sent out a taunting press release blasting
the attempts to fund the new special district, claiming that
the “council Democrats arrogantly thought they could sneak
their tax by the voters, but alas, like Sherlock Holmes or
the Hardy Boys, I am helping solve the mystery of the ‘Unneeded
Library Tax. . .’ ”
The closure of the two branches is a direct result of the
library’s unsuccessful attempts to secure the new tax revenue,
and because the mayor’s budget failed to assist the library
with an additional $150,000 in funds.
Troy Council President Clem Campana called the closures unfortunate,
but backed away from saying that the council would attempt
to find the library additional funding. And it could definitely
not support an additional tax.
are not blaming the library for the branch closures,” Hicok
said. “They are blaming the City Council, and the mayor. All
the responses I have gotten are blaming the city. Those are
all the responses I have gotten.”
The library board plans to hold a special election for the
library that presents the voters a proposition that includes
the creation of the special district as well the funding.
Is, Well, Less
a lack of heft to your Times Union this
week? Very astute of you. As the editors of the
leading local daily have written on their blogs
and in their columns, the TU, like practically
every media outlet across the country (including
the one you’re reading right now), is cutting
back costs in the face of a woefully slow economy
and grim first-quarter outlook. Rex Smith, the
editor of the TU, wrote in his column that
many of the changes, though coming under financial
pressures, also were the result of listening to
readers and trying to accommodate their expectations
for content from the dead-tree version of the
County District Attorney David Soares has taken
the unusual step of asking the media to resist
printing the names of the witnesses in the murder
trial of Kathina Thomas, and it seems, so far,
that the local media have agreed. The 10-year-old
Thomas was struck and killed earlier this year
outside her home in West Hill by a bullet that
allegedly was shot from a gun held by 16-year-old
Jermayne Timmons. The young age of many of the
witnesses appears to be playing a major role in
the media’s decision to cooperate with Soares’
office, the Times Union reported Monday.
Along with the TU, four local television
stations have also agreed to omit the names.
a Dalai Lama Fan Boy?
we are reporting online, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings
has endorsed the latest scheme from the region’s
favorite bizarre recluse, Keith Raniere. Founder
of the controversial, multi-million-dollar executive-training
program, NXIVM, Raniere recently founded the World
Ethical Foundations Consortium. According to the
WEFC’s Web site, on Feb. 3, the consortium will
hold an inaugural event right here in Albany,
and its leaders are hoping that the guest of honor
will be none other than his holiness, the Dalai
Lama. The Dalai Lama in Albany? Sound strange?
Sound plausible? Backed by the heirs of the Seagram’s
fortune, and Virgin Group billionaire Sir Richard
Branson, the consortium appears to be serious.
Serious enough to have already reached out to
Jennings, who happily lent his endorsement and
support. Check out our blog, metroland .typepad.com,
to read more.
David Paterson delivered what many are calling a bleak State
of the State address Wednesday, his first since taking office
this spring. Paterson’s short tenure as governor has been
consumed with financial worries, and plans and resolutions
to steer the state through the slow-motion economic collapse
dominated his speech. As the governor spoke to the assembled
media and legislative leaders, activists from across the state
gathered outside the Capitol building to protest Paterson’s
budget, which slashed significantly at programs for the most
vulnerable in our state.
loose ends this week-