for numbers: freshman councilman Freeman.
still falls short in its responsibilities to ensure equality
in hiring practices
At Monday night’s meeting of Albany Common Council’s Human
Resources Committee, Albany Deputy Corporation Counsel Tara
Wells explained that the Human Resources Office is just too
understaffed to meet basic requirements.
At issue was the number of minority members who apply for
positions with the city versus how many get hired. It’s impossible
to know, complained the committee, as the city doesn’t track
this information. According to Wells, once an applicant reaches
the point of taking the prerequisite job examinations, the
city makes a note of ethnicity and gender based on visual
observations. The city doesn’t request that information, however,
in the initial application phase.
you don’t know how many minorities applied for city jobs last
year?” Councilman Lester Freeman (Ward 2) asked Wells. She
told him that she didn’t.
The committee pointed to a consent decree that stems from
a 1995 suit brought by Sebastian Banks against the city. In
that suit, Banks alleged that he was passed over for a job
on the fire department, even though he has scored a competitive
85 on the civil-service test, in what appeared to be a racially
motivated decision. As Metroland reported in 2008,
the court found in his favor, and ordered the city to produce
objective hiring practices. Further, the court ordered that
the city establish a committee to oversee the hiring for the
department, that the fire chief explain his reasoning for
his hires, and that the city must keep track of the ethnicity
and gender of applicants to ensure that it maintains as diverse
a department as possible.
Freeman, who worked in the EEO office for years before being
elected to the council, pressed the issue with Wells. “Obviously
you couldn’t tell me how many blacks applied for fire department
could only tell you how many sat for meetings,” Wells replied.
can we solve the problem if we don’t even know who is applying?”
Wells said that she would like to work on the application.
“It’s not a question of wanting to do it. It’s a question
of just getting staffing where we can do it.” She pointed
out that she appreciated his interest and ideas, and would
have liked to have implemented them before he left the EEO
office to campaign for his current position.
Wells took over the office’s responsibilities after the former
commissioner departed in May 2008.
Councilwoman Barbara Smith (Ward 4) pointed out that the committee
could require this information from the city. “It is clear
that the city has major gaps around its hiring. But it is
up to us to figure out a game plan for how to make that different.”
Council President McLaughlin pointed out that these are questions
that the council has had for a number of years, even when
Freeman was in the office. “We’ve been asking these questions
for over 10 years, and it sounds like at this point there
seems to be a staffing problem that is not keeping you from
doing the work, so even if this committee requests certain
data, it still comes down to, ‘How is it going to get done?’”
This could all be resolved by the mayor hiring a commissioner,
Freeman told Metroland. “He needs to do that ASAP.”
Simply, Wells needs some help.
The committee, at Smith’s suggestion, is issuing a recommendation
that the position of the commissioner be filled as soon as
possible with a qualified “professional in the field.” Freeman
called this a good first step.
city is open to a lawsuit right now,” Freeman said. “It’s
open. All you need is one person. And I am not going to try
to recommend to anybody to do this, but all you need is one
black person who takes the exam and then asks for the list
and then asks for the procedures. Then they could go right
to court, because the city can’t produce, they haven’t taken
any steps toward trying remedying the situation. One easy
step would be to track the application process.”
County makes strides in resolving contract negotiations for
Following two years of repeated delays, the Albany County
Legislature Social Services Committee met Monday to discuss
and vote on contractual agreements between Albany County and
agencies that provide essential preventative services for
youth and families at risk for foster placement. The new contract
agreements, expected to be approved by the legislature this
Monday night, represent a tentative compromise between the
legislature and the Department of Children, Youth and Families,
who have been at odds over the issue since the DCYF commissioner,
Colette Poulin, introduced a new request for proposals process
for potential providers in 2008.
DCYF has said that the new process allows for greater oversight
and flexibility in dealing with providers, as well as setting
more stringent criteria, but several attempts to explain and
clarify the new process for legislators have been futile.
Citing concerns about the effect that the proposed changes
would have on existing providers, the legislature has tabled
the proposed contracts on multiple occasions.
didn’t understand the justification for some of the new approaches
that the department was recommending. . . . We couldn’t understand
what the problem was with respect to some of our long-standing
providers in our county that have had nothing but good success,
a good record of delivering services for many years,” said
legislator Tim Nichols (D-Latham), longtime member of the
Social Services committee, adding that it was Poulin’s job
to explain why such changes were necessary.
The new agreements proposed Monday are the result of negotiations
between DCYF and Social Services Chairwoman Wanda Willingham.
clear that many legislators and service providers were wholly
dissatisfied with the RFP process, the results of that process,
or both. So we think it’s time to hit the reset button,” said
Mary Duryea, a DCYF representative from Breslin’s office.
She also stated that all the current recommendations were
made within the RFP process. As a result of the compromise,
longtime providers who rated poorly under the new process
and were not recommended for funding will continue to receive
county dollars for at least another year.
A major concern of the legislature, according to Nichols,
was the effect that transferring services would have on the
children and families receiving those services. “We made sure
that our providers are still going to be viable enough to
continue to provide the multitude of necessary services for
our families in crisis in our county,” he said, adding that
“there’s enough money to make sure that the providers that
have been providing these services for many years can continue
to provide the services and stay operational so we can meet
the capacity that we have in this county. If you cut off providers
and they go out of business, we lose capacity.”
In truth, the preventative services budget was cut by $1.5
million for 2010. “We need to put together a process that
has a high degree of day-to-day accountability,” said Duryea.
“And we need to do it with much less money to work with.”
Nichols doesn’t like the idea that the new process was meant
to save money. “What’s driving these changes? That’s a legitimate
question. Is it because we’re doing a bad job as a county—which
I don’t think we are—or is it because the county is looking
for ways to save money? And that what this is really all about
is Colette [Poulin], and she mentioned in one of her statements
that we were going to be spending about a million dollars
less a year. OK. Why?”
Central to (and dependent upon) these negotiations is Project
Strive, which has been providing preventative services to
Albany County for more than 30 years and has long-term ties
to the legislature and the local Democratic Party. Under the
recommendations made by DCYF in 2008, funding for the agency
would have been dramatically reduced due to operational concerns
and lack of certification. As a result of negotiations between
the legislature and the department, Project Strive has been
approved to receive nearly $1 million in funding, more than
$600,000 more than had been originally recommended.
Republican Legislators Patrice Lockart and Christine Benedict
voted against the funding increases for Project Strive. Benedict
stated that “Commissioner Poulin had been appointed to do
a job, and I have faith in her to do it.” She added that the
executive director of Project Strive, David Bosworth, has
close ties to the Albany Democratic Party.
Rather than negotiating typical three-year contracts, part
of the agreement has been to contract with the agencies for
just one year and then to evaluate the effectiveness of those
services at the end of the term. “This is really a bridge,”
said Nichols. “This is a one-year contract. We really need
to get a handle on what it is that was originally driving
a lot of these changes, because it’s not quality of care.
Quality of care is fine.”
to blog the content! (l-r) AOA’s Dahlmann and Darcy.
Over Albany turns 2—and still wants to know what you had for
Midtown Tap and Tea Room was packed last Thursday night, with
150 members of the AOA crowd—that is, contributors and readers
of popular local blog, All Over Albany—to celebrate its second
birthday. All Over Albany creators Greg Dahlmann and Mary
Darcy enter their third year of blogging with expectations
to attain new heights.
Two years ago, Dahlmann and Darcy made the transition from
working at WAMC to take on an entirely new media project,
in the hopes of filling a void in Albany’s local news scene.
thought about what was missing,” said Darcy. “And just thought,
‘Wouldn’t it be great to have one place where all this information
existed? Where you could find maps, where you could find interesting
people, where you could find things to do, where you could
find conversations, and community.’ There wasn’t just one
place like that.”
Enter All Over Albany. Containing reviews, price comparisons,
profiles and aggregated local news stories, Dahlmann and Darcy’s
blog intends to make it easy to stay informed on happenings
in the Capital Region. Aiming to make readers feel welcome,
Dahlmann and Darcy draw on their backgrounds in radio for
an informal, conversational blog style.
don’t think we were really all that hung up on being taken
seriously,” said Dahlmann. “Not in the traditional sense.”
just did what we did, and hoped people liked it,” said Darcy.
wanted it to be smart, but fun,” said Dahlmann, “because that
would be something we’d want to read.”
Darcy stressed the way the blog presents content. “It’s stuff
you’d tell your friends, the way you’d tell your friends,”
she said. “We tell people to keep the funny in there. The
funny conversations you have with your friends are still smart.
You don’t have to dumb it down.”
Based on the numbers, AOA seems to have reached its ideal
audience. Eighty-six percent of its readers have a college
degree and 84 percent eat dinner out at least once a week,
they say. Also, they boast that 75 percent have a household
income above $50,000. As stated on All Over Albany’s brochure
for advertisers, “All Over Albany has developed a community
of the region’s most coveted consumers: young, savvy, educated
and high income.”
people think we’re out to reach a particular demographic,
but it’s really just a mindset,” said Darcy.
appeal to curious people,” said Dahlmann.
Initially, Dahlmann and Darcy funded the project on their
own by picking up extra video production work—and have since
reached out to advertisers who now help fuel the site.
though we went into this with a lot of experience creating
content, we didn’t really have experience as small-business
operators,” said Dahlmann. In addition to finding, writing,
editing and organizing content on the blog, Dahlmann and Darcy
have been active in the business aspect of the blog—marketing,
planning events and arranging contractors, lawyers and accountants.
think that’s been the biggest part of the learning curve,”
Dahlmann recalled participating on a panel along with political
journalists who lamented the supposed misuse of social media
sites, as they’d watched users post seemingly trivial information,
like what they had for lunch.
I said, ‘Well at AOA we actually really do care what you had
for lunch,’” said Dahlmann. “And we want to know where you
had it, whether it was good and if you’d go back there again.
Our view of what is news is broader than what a typical media
outlet might consider.”
Having experience in media, Dahlmann and Darcy were confident
in the product itself from day one, but according to Dahlmann,
they “were less certain that enough people would respond to
it in a way to make it sustainable,” said Dahlmann.
Currently reaching approximately 35,000 unique readers per
month, Dahlmann and Darcy have proved their ability to provide
attractive content and are now focusing more on turning their
site into a worthwhile business endeavor. “The first year
was proving that we could create something people would be
interested in, the second year was figuring out if we can
make money doing it, now we’re in the third year and the third
year is putting it all together, and finding out if it is
AOA currently has nine different ads in rotation on the blog,
displayed either along the right side, or across the top.
getting close to being self- sustaining,” said Darcy. “I feel
confident that we’ll see that this year. There are lots of
possibilities. We talk about new ideas every day. This year
is going to tell a lot.”
loose ends this week-