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Guns and Buttercream

Two pieces of legislation bring an outraged public to Albany County’s monthly legislative meeting

Heated public comment took an ugly turn Monday night at the Albany County Legislature’s meeting when a young man in a dark blue T-shirt with yellow block lettering that read “TYRANNY RESPONSE TEAM” stood up to speak, began by pointing at gray-haired Coeymans resident Jim Travers and asked, “You sir, who lost your son: Can you tell me a little bit about that? What happened? When was that? Mass murder you said?”

Chairman Charles Houghtaling struck his gavel and shouted, “No questions!” as some in the crowd and legislative body groaned in disgust.

Travers had spoken earlier in the evening in support of the contentious Local Law A, which was responsible for bringing out the Second Amendment supporters who made up almost half of the audience. The law, if passed, would place increased regulations on the purchase of ammunition.

Travers touched on the painful memory of his son’s death: “I don’t know how many of you out there can share my experiences, but my son was killed in a mass murder. . . . The man who committed that took his own life. He was a licensed gun owner.”

Travers was one of the few members of the public to speak in favor of the law. An elderly woman, who also spoke in its favor, was booed.

“If he [Travers’ son] was allowed to have a handgun, it would have been nice,” the young gun-rights supporter egged on Travers. “Your son could have pulled out his gun and shot that dirty bastard.” He then went on to compare the Albany law to the gun laws in Nazi Germany, which preceded and, he argued, set the stage for the Holocaust.

“This is a very simple issue,” said Legislator Phil Steck (D-Loudonville), one of the authors of the legislation. “Penal law already states that you are not supposed to sell ammunition for handguns to anyone but a licensed handgun owner. It was a part of the original gun-control legislation that came back in New York in 1965. This local law is designed to make the penal law enforceable and nothing more.”

“The idea is to have people show their drivers’ license, or similar identification, and state the type of weapon they are buying the ammunition for,” he continued, arguing that this record-keeping requirement hopefully will assist law enforcement in tracking ammunition used in illegal activities.

Opponents of the legislation argued, in part, that it’s not the local government’s job to track and monitor citizens’ purchases.

“They want to transfer it into an ideological battle,” Steck countered. “They see it as an issue of absolute freedom, but these things are a lot more complicated. Ammunition is a highly dangerous item.”

Also on the agenda for the evening was a resolution to alter an equally contentious—and arguably more frustrating—local law: the ban on trans fat.

In 2007, Albany County passed a law to phase out the use of trans fats in “local restaurants and other food- service establishments” this year. It was a law intended to enforce a healthier lifestyle, and one that Legislator Dan McCoy (D-Albany) originally supported, “but I didn’t realize it was going to disadvantage the small mom-and-pop bakeries.”

Which it does, said many bakery owners, who said there currently is no product that can replace the trans-fat-rich shortening used in a commercial environment. And the law is unfair, they said, because it will not impact the large chains, such as Price Chopper and Hannaford, which prepare their food outside of the county but sell the products in their stores.

The resolution being considered was proposed by the Republican minority and would exempt bakeries from the ban. It was moved into the Law Committee for discussion.

Gilbert Ethier (D-Cohoes) sees the value in exempting the bakeries, he said. “I don’t think it is very smart to mess with people’s cookies and cupcakes.”

McCoy pointed out that bakeries can apply for one-year waivers from the ban, which many lawmakers assure are “very easy” to get.

The legislature voted to hold a public hearing on Local Law A May 26, anticipating a vote at the June meeting.

—Chet Hardin

What a Week


Are You Really Running?

Dominick Calsolaro lost his party’s endorsement, ensuring a primary for the Albany councilman this September—or maybe not

It took two votes by Albany’s 1st Ward Democratic Party committee members to settle on the endorsement of Scott Mannarino.

The first vote went to the current Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, an outspoken critic of Mayor Jerry Jennings, by 7 to 6 in a silent ballot. Although the result went uncontested, according to committee members who were at the vote, it was later ruled invalid. According to Albany County Clerk Tom Clingan, all ward votes must be done in a weighted ballot.

Another vote was called for. Calsolaro’s supporters boycotted this second vote, and Mannarino won unanimously.

James Ponds wanted to vote at the second meeting, but was not able due to a paperwork conflict. He said that, had he been able to vote, he would have voted for Mannarino. He called Calsolaro a “good guy,” but added, “You go with the good-old boy thing, or you don’t get anything accomplished if you go against them.”

Mannarino, a first-time candidate for the council, was last registered to vote at 7 Barclay St., which is not in the 1st Ward, said an employee with the Albany County Board of Elections. According to election Commissioner Matthew Clyne, a candidate needs to be registered in his district one year prior to assuming office, or he will open himself up to legal challenge.

Mannarino didn’t respond to calls for comment.

The house at 7 Barclay is owned by Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo. Scavo has a Mannarino campaign poster on his home’s front window, next to a Jennings sign, but refused to comment about his support for Mannarino.

Regardless, this endorsement fiasco might soon be an unpleasant memory. According to a leader in Albany’s Democratic Party, it is likely that this dispute will be settled behind closed doors. Mannarino might be persuaded to not take the nomination, or to drop out of the race.

Maureen O’Brien, a Calsolaro supporter, said that the conflict over the endorsement hasn’t hurt Calsolaro. In fact, she said, it has probably helped him. Putting a candidate like Mannarino, who is seen as a spoiler candidate urged on by Jennings, up against the popular two-term councilman, has only inspired Calsolaro’s backers.

—Chet Hardin

Basking in the Glow

Photo: Chris Shields

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) was treated to a little bit of enlightenment May 6, when he got the chance to sit with the 14th Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader was in Albany at the invitation of the World Ethical Foundations Consortium, an organization co-founded by Sara and Clare Bronfman, heiresses to the Seagram fortune. The WEFC was “conceptually founded” by Keith Raniere, the controversial founder of NXIVM.

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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