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Better Safe, Not Sorry

Despite the Albany Police Department’s newfound willingness to share gun data, the Common Council considers making such transparency law

Albany Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro has seen a drastic change in the city’s police force. Since the retirement of James Tuffey in 2009, it has become a more transparent and community-engaged department. In fact, the leadership of Assistant Chief Steve Krokoff almost makes an ordinance compelling the force to release gun statistics in a quarterly report unnecessary.

Almost.

Tonight, the Public Safety committee will consider the ordinance sponsored by Calsolaro that would require the department to provide a report detailing “the number of illegal weapons confiscated . . . [and] the number of arrests for possession of illegal weapons, the number of arrests for illegal gun trafficking, and a list of gun trafficking charges lodged for gun trafficking offenses.”

This is information, Calsolaro said, that the public has been denied under the city’s former chiefs. Assistant Chief Steve Krokoff, who is effectively running the department while the city searches for a new chief, said that he will gladly hand over any information that the law allows. “The way I look at it is, that’s not my information to keep from anybody; that’s the public’s information,” Krokoff said.

Calsolaro is quick to point out that Krokoff has been easy to work with. And the councilman might even be convinced that there is no need to pass his ordinance, considering the department’s new temperament, except that he has fought for eight years to get this data released, “and every chief that I’ve dealt with has said the same thing, promised the statistics, and then we never get anything.”

And while Krokoff might cooperate now, without the ordinance there is no guarantee that whoever becomes the next chief will be so willing.

“I have to put this in anyway, because Krokoff might not always be there,” Calsolaro said. “I don’t want it to look like I am going after them. This is stuff that I think we need to know, and I have been asking for it for years and years and years. I want to get it done before we hire a new chief.”

“We wouldn’t be offended by the enacting of an ordinance,” said Krokoff, “but I can tell you it won’t take the enacting of an ordinance for this information to be released.”

“In fact,” Krokoff continued, “there are a lot of us in the force who never understood why we played it so close to the vest. There is no reason for the community to have to be clamoring for this information. If they want it, they should have it.”

—Chet Hardin

chardin@metroland.net

The Public Safety committee will meet tonight (Thursday) at 5:30 on the second floor of Albany City Hall.


Stuck in Park

The Troy Democrats just can’t come together on the sale of garage

After months of deliberation, the Troy City Council made no progress in the proposed sale of the Uncle Sam parking garage, deadlocking Tuesday night in a 4-4 vote, with one abstention.

The sale of the garage to Troy developer David Bryce at $2.15 million has raised concerns among Democratic council president Clement Campana, and councilmen Kevin McGrath, Gary Galuski, and Michael LoPorto—all of whom opposed the sale of city property that is a source of revenue. “Purely from a business aspect,” said Campana, “I’m not in favor.”

Republican councilmen Mark McGrath and Dean Bodnar stand on the other side of this issue, with Democratic councilmen Bill Dunne and John Brown.

Democratic Councilman Ken Zalewski wasn’t sold. He wanted to make sure all bases were covered either way, and after many attempts to delay the vote, he abstained.

“I think [Zalewski] tries to analyze too much,” said McGrath. “I would have preferred if he made a decision one way or the other—that’s what we’re elected to do. But I sympathized with him, because I thought he was being bullied.”

What was more unexpected was a comment made by LoPorto, after Bryce claimed he’d have to leave Troy for more promising alternatives.

“Good, pack up and leave,” said LoPorto.

“That was the most insulting thing I have ever seen as councilman,” said McGrath. “I was shocked to hear that. What he just did was send a message to any developer that wants to come to Troy, saying, ‘No, don’t come here.’ I was shocked and embarrassed.”

Since the city was planning to use the proceeds towards the development of the waterfront, Dunne said that he believes the sale of the parking garage would have served as a reinvestment in the community. “One way or another, the money has to come from somewhere,” said Dunne of the money needed for the waterfront redevelopment.

Those in favor of selling the parking garage believe it is a structure that the city of Troy can not maintain on its own. “We are traditionally terrible property owners,” said Brown. The deteriorating state of the more than 25-year-old structure “could eventually be a liability.”

The city now has to find another way to raise the funds needed to secure the $6 million state grant for the riverfront redevelopment, either by using the “rainy day funds” or by bonding.

“Either way, it’s going to be a cost to the taxpayers,” said McGrath. “And I’m sick over it. We had an opportunity to move forward, and we failed to do so.”

—Elizabeth Knapp


High Hopes

The state Senate moves one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana

On Tuesday, the New York State Senate Health Committee passed legislation that would allow for the sale and possession of medical marijuana in the state of New York. Settle down, it’s not a law yet. The bill, S. 4041-B, must still pass the Senate Codes Committee before being put before the Senate. Even then, it won’t necessarily get voted on.

Enter NY Patients First, a new advocacy group for patients who would benefit from the legalization of medicinal marijuana in New York state. The group’s Web site says that because “the Senate has a history and habit of only scheduling bills for a floor vote if they know they are going to pass . . . we must keep on working to convince more Senators that this bill is worthy of them passing into law, or at the very least, to not block it from passing.”

To this end, NYPF held a press conference in the Legislative Office Building shortly after the vote took place. In addition to discussing some of the particular aspects of the bill, NYFC also invited several chronically ill patients to speak about their experience with medical marijuana.

Danny Searles undeniably was in pain. The effort it took him to stand at the podium and plead his case was evident. He has been through three back surgeries, as many back fusions and, in recent years, has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He said that he worries about the effect that years of pharmaceutical painkillers are having on his health. “I prefer to have a choice, rather than messing up my liver.”

Searles claimed that a small amount of marijuana effectively replaces the Percocet pills on which he currently depends and argued that the lack of accessibility can lead potential patients to other, more dangerous street drugs, such as heroin.

Burton Aldrich began advocating the legalization of medical marijuana seven years ago, when he met the patient coordinator of NYPF, Robert Robinson, while in school. Suffering from multiple spinal injuries, Aldrich is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from severe nerve pain and spasms. It is not just about the health benefits of medicinal marijuana for Aldrich; it’s about being able to remain himself. “As of about six months [ago], I’m totally free and clean from pharmaceuticals, and now my body feels alive.”

Aldrich’s home was raided, and he is currently facing charges for being in possession of nine ounces of cannabis that he kept for personal use. Aldrich said that he doesn’t want to be made a criminal for doing something that he feels helps him to “live more fully in society.”

A report recently issued by the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego determined that pot is effective in reducing pain caused by neurological problems or illness and helps to reduce muscle spasms associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

The date has yet to be set for the bill to go before the committee.

—Ali Hibbs


Wanna Buy a Y for $1?

Albany Common Councilman Anton Konev (Ward 11) is frustrated that the Capital District YMCA doesn’t plan to apply for federal funding for the Washington Avenue branch—a sure sign, Konev said, that the Y has given up. Read excerpts from e-mails from Konev’s heated exchange with YMCA CEO David Brown, and learn about Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners’ idea to save the Y, on Metroland’s blog.


Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-



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