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Arbor Hill in South Africa

Even though President George W. Bush skipped the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on Sustainable Development, citizens of Albany represented U.S. interests in South Africa.

Nathaniel Davis, Rodney Davis and Maryam Mair, representing both the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation and Albany’s W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center, recently returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, after two weeks of action and discussion with environmental justice groups worldwide.

One of the highlights of Mair’s trip was recognizing the increase in attention being paid to environmental justice issues on the global scale.

“Environmental racism is an obstacle to sustainable development,” Mair said. “We talked to people from Pakistan, India, Brazil, and all of them were experiencing the same kind of environmental racism being practiced by transnational corporations.”

Environmental racism can be defined as racial disparities caused by environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Rodney Davis offered an anecdotal explanation of the shared experiences between the residents of Arbor Hill and impoverished communities worldwide. The group from Albany visited a village in South Africa’s Northwest Province where a mining company had heavily polluted a river. Village residents were in the process of discarding the carcasses of dead fish from the river’s banks when Rodney Davis’ tour group, which included a local politician, arrived.

“The villagers were really grilling the politician to clean up the pollution,” Davis said. “But there was no way to certify that the mining company caused the pollution. I understood the crowd’s frustration, but explained to them that they’ve got to have water-quality-monitoring samples to make those accusations. You’ve got to have the facts.”

Rodney Davis went on to explain how AHEJC and WHBEEC work towards collecting their own evidence here in Albany so it can provide proof in similar accusations.

WHBEEC recently received a $400,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to install three water-monitoring stations on the Patroon Creek. The three stations will be strategically placed to monitor pollution as the creek passes by the sites of NL Industries (where depleted uranium was converted to ammunition), mercury-refining company Mereco, and the inlet of the Hudson River with its General Electric PCBs.

In Johannesburg, AHEJC’s water-monitoring program was chosen as a model by the Panamanian government, which is looking to install a similar plan in one of the nation’s impoverished neighborhoods.

“Panama has adopted a plan using Albany, New York, as a worst-case scenario,” Rodney Davis said. “It is big for an urban environmental program like this to be running a water-quality-monitoring program of this magnitude. But the impetus really comes from the community.”




By Our Definition . . .

Stanley Aronowitz, the Green Party candidate for New York state governor, filed a formal complaint last Thursday, Sept. 5, with the New York state Board of Elections against Independence Party gubernatorial hopeful Tom Golisano.

Aronowitz’s campaign and the Green Party charge that Golisano’s television ads, which state that he is the only candidate that is not funded by special-interest money, are misleading and untrue because Aronowitz has not received any special-interest funding either. The groups claim that Golisano, who beat out Gov. George E. Pataki by 900 votes in the Independence primary on Tuesday, violates the Fair Campaign Code under New York state law by making false statements.

“He (Golisano) is not the only one who can make that claim,” said David Lerner, spokesman for the Aronowitz campaign. “That is the point of all this. Either he should pull the ad or he should credit Aronowitz.” Lerner added that the Green party receives all of its money strictly from private donations and fundraisers.

Ernest Baynard, communication director for the Galisano campaign, said that the ads are accurate. “We define special interest,” said Baynard, “as anyone who contributes with the intent to unduly influence a candidate now or when in office. No one else in the field meets that standard, and the only guarantee to make sure a candidate is not influenced by special-interest money is to self-finance. We stand by our statement given that definition of special interest.”

Mark Dunlea, vice chairman for the Green Party of New York state, pointed out the irony that Golisano is in the process of suing Pataki for putting misleading statements in his mailing list.

“It seems to be a double standard,” said Dunlea. “He doesn’t want the governor to pick on him by giving out false information, but he seems quite happy to continue to send out false information in his own ads.”

Dunlea said that a group of Buffalo Greens bombarded local television stations last week with phone calls demanding that the networks stop running the ads. Many also wrote complaints to the Federal Communication Commission claiming that Golisano was airing false information, but no action has been taken to pull the ads so far.

“Our ads are accurate,” said Baynard. “When we apply that definition to the concept that we are talking about, the only candidate in the field that meets that standard is Tom Golisano.”

—Nancy Guerin


Our Name Is in the Pot

No dope—the Marijuana Re- form Party has secured an official ballot line for New York’s 2002 gubernatorial elections.

This is the second time the MRP will have a ballot line in a state gubernatorial election. The party secured a ballot line in the race four years ago; however, its campaign was threatened last week when members of the state Green Party challenged the validity of its petition signatures. The action was never completed, leaving Thomas K. Leighton and Thomas J. Hillgardner with clear path to voting booths on Nov. 5 for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.

“We are competition for [the Green Party’s] votes,” Leighton said. “The reason they began the challenge was so they could get us off the ballot. They’re afraid that votes for another candidate or party are a threat to votes for their candidate and party.”

“Are we threatened? Well, he does take votes away from us,” said Mark Dunlea, vice chairman of the state Green Party. “We know his petitions don’t comply to state law, but to collect that many signatures, he deserves to run. We may not like it, but he has the right to run.”

Chalking it up to the politics of the left as usual, Leighton said he carries no grudge over the challenge and is looking ahead to achieving the MRP’s goal. The party hopes to lobby enough support statewide to receive 50,000 votes, thus registering the MRP as an official political party in New York and ensuring a ballot line over the next four years.

“That line has value to politicians,” Leighton said. “It has tremendous potential, as it gives us something the politicians want. A lot of times a major candidate will come to a minor party and ask for backing. It can help elect people.”

The MRP has a narrow political focus. By pushing for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws and the lawful cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes, Leighton feels he can better portray the MRP’s issues to the people of New York.

“It is not just a matter of smoking pot,” Leighton said. “There are health, freedom, and economic issues here. This is the war on drugs with the Rockefeller drug laws. We’re trying to bring New York state into the drug reforms that are sweeping the nation.”

—Travis Durfee


Winners and Losers

While Andrew Cuomo’s departure from the Democratic gubernatorial race deflated some of the primary-day hype, several races of local significance proved interesting.

In Albany’s Democratic primary for City Judge, William Carter, Cheryl Coleman and Tom Keefe received the most votes, leaving Mayor Jerry Jennings-backed candidate Gary F. Stiglmeier out. Though the elections are still pending, Tuesday’s primary reaffirmed the seats of incumbents Carter and Coleman, while Keefe’s win left egg on the mayor’s face. Jennings, who did not endorse Keefe, failed in his attempt to push through legislation unfavorable to Keefe’s bid at the state level, which would have changed the way judges in Albany are elected.

At press time, Rochester billionaire Thomas B. Golisanio leads Gov. George Pataki in the Independence Party gubernatorial primary. With 98 of the precincts reporting, Golisano leads Pataki 52 to 48 percent. According to the Sept. 11 Times Union, Golisano’s political consultant Roger Stone said this primary shows Pataki’s vulnerbability. “It shows if you can get voters to fairly scrutinize his record, he can be beaten,” Stone told the TU.

In another local race, John McEneny easily handled his competition, Kerry Murphy, for the Assembly slot on the Independence Party line. While McEneny defeated Murphy by a count of more than 2 to 1, he lost the Green Party nomination to Joshua Lieberson—who defeated McEneny by receiving 11 of the 12 votes cast in the primary.

Finally, Republicans in New York’s 23rd Congressional District renominated U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a 10-term GOP congressman who narrowly survived a challenge by David Walrath. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Boehlert holds a lead of just under 1,500 votes.

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