Conners and Mike Breslin come dangerously close to agreeing
on nursing-home expense issue
In what is becoming a regular event, Albany County Comptroller
Mike Conners held a press conference Monday to discuss new
findings in a study of the operations of the Albany County
Nursing Home. This will be the third such study, with the
county executive having commissioned one last year and the
legislature recently approving $25,000 for a study of its
Why did Conners decide to spend about $7,000 to contract this
study with Illinois-based Revere Healthcare?
in October when the legislature said that they were going
to build a nursing home, I said, ‘Uh-oh, I wonder if we’ll
have the revenue to pay the bond.’ So I went out through our
financial advisor,” Conners said. “and basically, I got these
guys to do this analysis.”
The report, which compared operating costs at the ACNH to
other nursing homes, including private, for-profit homes in
the surrounding communities, found that nearly $9 million
annually could be saved in county subsidy. How? By constructing
a new 250-bed nursing home, and wresting the oversight of
the new facility away from the county executive and placing
it with an authority or outside organization.
Establishing this new authority would take legislative action.
The single largest operational cost for the home, the study
found, and the place for most potential savings, was in staffing.
That came as no surprise to the executive’s office, according
to Mary Duryea, the spokeswoman for Executive Michael Breslin.
According to her, 82 percent of all expenses at the nursing
home are staffing costs.
It was an issue that the executive’s office attempted to deal
with during last year’s budget negotiations, she pointed out,
when the executive proposed slashing 74 positions from the
nursing home. The legislature balked at the option, and left
the positions intact.
could be cut that could save money that is not personnel?”
Duryea asked. The subsidy for a 250-bed nursing home in 2015
would be $25 million with the same number of staff, operated
the same way we do today. In 2008, it was $18 million. “Plus,
when you look at the nursing homes in the region, we have
In all other ways, she said, Albany was in line with other
counties in terms of cost.
numbers aren’t inconsistent with Conners’ that we could cut
$9 million of nursing home subsidy. We could cut, and we’ve
tried to cut, but the legislature doesn’t approve positions
being cut,” Duryea said.
easy to say that the biggest problem is labor, but that’s
wrong—it’s the lack of commitment and the lack of management,”
Conners said, that has led to the bloated subsidy. Conners
argued that Breslin long ago abandoned the responsibility
of running a county nursing home, instead opting to begin
a slow, deliberate process to shut it down. This intention,
according to Connors, has led directly to the mismanagement
that has driven the subsidy higher than that of all of Albany’s
It is not that the cost of labor is too high, Conners argued,
it is that the level of revenue is too low.
was Breslin who applied to reduce the bed count before the
Berger Commission came out, and testified in favor of the
report that called for the county to reduce its bed licensing
number by 345,” Conners said. “The Breslin administration
voluntarily gave up 345 bed licenses in the last several years.
That’s why the labor costs are too high. That’s why so many
people are being shipped out of Albany County to other counties.”
of the management of that nursing home we have hundreds of
people that we could have served, and were licensed to serve
that could have been served in Albany County at a lower cost
for the taxpayer and at a better level of service,” Conners
said. “We are a three-star facility versus a one-star facility.”
Conners said that, in addition to constructing a new home,
and establishing an authority to run it, the county should
also “apply for long-term hospital beds,” Conners said. “We
got hundreds of people shipped out of county, and out of state.
We could bring them back and treat them in our nursing home.
And generate revenue at the same time.”
Call for Justice
Common Council passes resolution urging that terrorism trial
Activists marched to Eagle Street in Albany Monday demanding
justice for Muslims that they say were wrongfully accused
and imprisoned—namely Albany residents Mohammed Hossain and
Yassin Aref, who were arrested in 2004 as the result of counterterrorism
Members of the advocacy groups that led the march, including
the Muslim Solidarity Committee and Project SALAM (Support
and Legal Advocacy for Muslims), as well as individual activists
and families of imprisoned Muslims, filed inside City Hall
to support a resolution introduced by Common Councilman Dominick
Calsolaro. The resolution calls for the Justice Department
to reopen and review all convictions of Muslims prosecuted
on terrorism-related charges during the Bush years. The targeting
and entrapment of Muslims that ultimately results in prosecution
is a practice that has been labeled by advocates as “preemptive
The meeting’s public comment period was extended until 9 PM,
to provide time for the numerous speakers, many of whom expressed
personal and emotional pleas to pass the resolution. After
hearing these comments, Calsolaro requested the council vote
on the resolution immediately, rather than in two weeks, as
was scheduled. The resolution was passed by the council in
a 10 to 0 vote, with four of the members voting present.
In 2006, after an intricate setup by an FBI informant, Hossain,
one of the founders of Albany’s Masjid As-Salam mosque, and
Aref, the mosque’s imam, were convicted and sentenced to 15
years in prison for allegedly conspiring with a terrorist
organization to acquire a rocket launcher, as well as money
Lejla Duka, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the men convicted
for conspiring to stage an attack against U.S. military personnel
in Fort Dix, N.J., spoke passionately about how difficult
life has become for her and her family as a result of her
whole case was a lie,” she said.
The 2005 trial of Aref and Hossain was largely affected by
“secret evidence” including wiretapping, according to Kathy
Manley, one of Aref’s attorneys. Manley said that she believes
the judge’s view of the case was clouded by this evidence,
as he later told the jury that there were valid reasons to
why the FBI targeted Aref.
that made the jury afraid to acquit him,” said Manley. “This
would have been an automatic reversal in any other case, but
not this one.”
Manley said that she believes the court did not handle Aref
and Hossain’s case properly or ethically.
was very clear that this warrantless wiretapping program was
used,” she said, “and we believe that if we had seen that
evidence, we believe there would be a lot of things they got
wrong.” Manley cited the prosecution’s mistranslation of the
Kurdish word for “brother,” mistaking it for “commander,”
which is a “huge discrepancy,” she said. Because of that,
she said she assumes there were similar translation and factual
errors made within their evidence.
This was not an uncommon practice during the years following
the 9/11 attacks, and supporters from various parts of the
country spoke to the council, recounting similar stories of
Calsolaro’s resolution was precipitated by a report released
by the inspector general in July 2009 calling for a comprehensive
review of President Bush’s surveillance program.
hope that [the Justice Department] will follow their own inspector
general’s report,” said Manley. “And I think a lot of people
would be found innocent, including Yassin Aref and Mohammed
is the inspector general of the United States of America and
the committee that was formed saying that these cases need
to be reopened,” said Calsolaro, “because the evidence was
not given to the defendants and it was not given to the accused.
This is what America is built on—our justice system, our country
of laws where everyone should be treated equally.”
The council members who voted “present”—Frank Commisso Jr.,
Leah Golby, Daniel Herring, and Joseph Igoe—collectively agreed
that they did so not because they weren’t in support of the
resolution, but because they wanted more time to review and
standardize some of its language.
Councilwoman Catherine Fahey expressed the importance of the
resolution despite its minor structural flaws.
very important for this body to weigh in,” she said. “It’s
very important that we, the people, send a message to our
United States representatives telling them that we see something
truly wrong, and we need to change it.”
not focus on a perfect resolution,” said Councilman Lester
Freeman. “Let’s focus on a perfect society.”
Advocates say that the passing of this resolution is just
the beginning of what needs to be a nationwide effort to bring
justice to wrongly accused Muslims.
just really hoping that the Justice Department will pay attention
to this,” said Manley, “and that other cities will pass resolutions
like this, because there are a lot of cases—including ours—where
we feel like people got treated very unfairly by the courts.”
My Habitat, and It Needs Protection
(Bucky) T. Beaver, the lead spokesmammal for New York state’s
wildlife, made an appearance at the state Capitol Wednesday
to urge members of the state Assembly to “avoid cuts in the
already-beleaguered Environmental Protection Fund.” According
to a statement issued by the We Love New York environmental
campaign, “While the NYS Senate has proposed an Environmental
Protection Fund of $222 million (the same amount approved
last April), the Governor proposed only $143 million and the
Assembly $168 million.”
loose ends this week-