People’s State of the City was a vibrant evening of community
The People’s State of the City was a far different evening
from the Albany mayor’s State of the City just a few months
earlier. Mayor Jerry Jennings’ speech was a rose-tinted list
of promises for progress based on his assessment of the accomplishments
of his administration. It read like a campaign speech, full
of bromides and boasts. The People’s State of the City, organized
by Albany Neighborhoods First and held on Tuesday night at
the Albany Public Library, was a heady two-hour community
discussion that offered Albany residents the opportunity to
air their grievances with the management of the city under
the current mayor.
Mayoral candidates Common Councilman Corey Ellis and Council
President Shawn Morris were in attendance, as well as treasurer
candidate Cathy Sheehan, potential auditor candidate Darius
Shahinfar, and council president candidate Carolyn McLaughlin.
No candidate was endorsed on Tuesday night, however. Despite
being a political action committee, Albany Neighborhoods First
so far has said that it won’t be endorsing candidates. Instead,
the PAC wants to see candidates sign on to their position
statement, which can be found online at neighborhoodsfirst.net.
Council members Dominick Calsolaro, Barbara Smith, and Catherine
Fahey were the featured speakers of the evening. Each issue
raised by these speakers painted a picture of Albany as a
mismanaged city, driven by failed policies and political cronyism.
Nowhere is the mismanagement so heartbreakingly obvious than
in the city’s rash of gun violence and soaring poverty, said
Smith. As the anniversary of the murder of Kathina Thomas
approaches, she pointed to the poverty, neglect and failed
social action that creates the “context in which children
can be murdered. The roots of violence,” said Smith, “lie
in economic, social, and racial injustice in the city of Albany.
The lack of resources in our poor communities and, not coincidentally,
our communities of color, also accounts for the violence we
Calsolaro spoke of the city’s increasing debt service, and
the Jennings’ administration’s reliance on bonding to pay
for expenses that should be planned for in the city’s budget,
such as the repairs for the fleet of police cars. Ten years
ago, the debt load was $10 million, he said. Now it is more
than $17 million. “That takes the money away from community
services. That’s money for streets and sidewalks. We don’t
have it. It was stolen to pay debt interest and debt.”
Fahey spoke of the Rapp Road Landfill, and asked, “Why isn’t
the city seeking to use federal stimulus money to build a
state-of-the-art resource-recovery facility? Such a facility
would look at recycling items instead of landfilling them.”
A diverse group of Albany residents followed the council members,
asking questions and venting in monologues, yet their statements
were all based on a single belief: the status quo must be
is a real blessing that we have candidates running for mayor.
We have choices. What would be your ideas for mobilizing an
effort for change?” Aaron Carter, from the 11th Ward, asked
Calsolaro. “How do we get people out to vote for a new mayor?
Cause we desperately need a new mayor.”
new mayor!” a woman shouted.
we need to do is what we are doing here, forums like these,”
Calsolaro said. Every person he had spoken with who had heard
the mayor’s State of the City didn’t recognize the city he
was speaking of. Each of these people needs to do their part,
he said. “They need to get organized. They need to come out.
They need to make their voices heard.” And, he said, all of
those people who voted for the first time last year need to
be mobilized again.
Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) announced Wednesday
that the Senate has secured $4 million in the state budget
to fund Operation SNUG. According to Smith, this money will
be directed toward helping law enforcement and anti-violence
community groups “deploy innovative tactics to steer at-risk
New Yorkers away from the culture of gangs and illegal guns.”
Albany is one of the six cities that wil l benefit from this
funding, receiving $500,000, thanks in large part to the efforts
of Councilwoman Barbara Smith (Ward 4).
story on the dangers of Craigslist ignores the newspaper’s
self-interest in demonizing the popular online marketplace
a young woman offering massage services on Craigslist was
murdered in a Boston hotel room on April 14, and then the
prime suspect, Philip Markoff, turned out to be a UAlbany
graduate, it became a local story. Much of the coverage locally
has focused on Markoff and what people recall of him from
his undergrad days here. But the case also gave the Times
Union an opportunity to shine some light on Craigslist
itself—and a rather harsh light at that.
by Kristi Gustafson, headlined “Craigslist’s seamy side among
the mundane” and published on April 22, essentially slammed
Craigslist as “dangerous” and, through the story’s only quoted
source, Albany County Sheriff’s Department vice-crimes Inspector
John Burke, even warned readers to be wary of shopping on
Craigslist for furniture. Paraphrasing Burke, Gustafson wrote,
“You don’t know the house you’re going to for a kitchen table
really has a table, or if some sicko is trying to lure you
in.” Burke’s story-closing quote summed up the tone of the
article: “There is nothing there for me to say trust Craigslist
whatsoever. . . . One hundred percent of what I do on Craigslist
was no voice in the story to counter Burke’s ominous warnings;
Gustafson wrote that Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish
did not return calls or e-mails (The Boston Globe had
better luck, getting Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster on the
record in a related story). Also, Gustafson, in focusing solely
on Craigslist, made no mention of the fact that there are
lots of Web sites where you can shop for everything from cars
to jobs to relationships. Burke did not say, or at least the
TU did not print, whether it would be equally dangerous
to shop for goods and services in the Times Union’s
or Metroland’s online classified sections.
it be that someone in the TU/Hearst hierarchy saw an
opportunity for a hit job on a hated enemy? The staggering
drop in classified ad revenue at U.S. daily newspapers—from
a peak of $19.6 billion in 2000 to half of that in 2008—is
widely attributed to Craigslist. This is a particularly sore
subject for Hearst in San Francisco, where, from humble beginnings
in 1995, Craig Newmark developed the site into a listings
behemoth that soon was eating the Hearst-owned San Francisco
Chronicle’s lunch. As Craigslist spread from city to
city, print classified ad sales fell from 40 percent of daily
newspapers’ total revenue in 2000 to 26 percent last year.
why the Times Union, and the Chronicle in a
similar story last Sunday (April 26), portrayed Craigslist
as a online world seething with danger? And why didn’t Gustafson’s
story at least acknowledge the devastating effect Craigslist
has had on dailies’ bottom lines? TU editor Rex Smith
declined to comment for this piece, writing in an e-mail,
“I think we’ll let our coverage speak for itself.” We couldn’t
have said it better.
loose ends this week-