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Frame of Mind

Take a penny, leave a penny. Take a bike, leave a bike.

It’s as simple as that.

At least it will be if the folks of Troy Bike Rescue have their way. The group intends to create a community of public bicycles, “Green Bikes,” that can be used and left by all. This Saturday, the first series of about a dozen of the green machines (they’ll all be painted that color, with a Troy Bike Rescue stencil to make them identifiable) will be launched onto Troy’s downtown streets. The bikes will be left unlocked and are available to anyone, as long as they don’t keep them for their very own.

Seeing cycling as an environmentally friendly means of transport, and a discarded bicycle as a waste of space, Troy Bike Rescue joined forces last spring. They set out to salvage unwanted cycles and restore for them their purpose, initially retrieving roughly 30 bikes, seven of which have been refurbished using collected parts.

The program is something that has been tried in various communities around the country, to varying degrees of success—in the last decade, somewhere between 40 and 50 cities have initiated such programs, all of which seek to legitimatize the pollutionless means of transport as well as recycle unused bicycles. Similar programs have had long-term success in some European cities.

TBR also hopes to include area youngsters who may otherwise be bikeless in an “earn-a-bike” program, and involve them in learning a skill and the importance of recycling. (Kids must devote a certain number of shop hours in order to receive a bike, with a fraction of that time spent actually repairing it. Mentors will oversee this process, learning the strengths and weaknesses of each individual bike-earner.)

TBR hopes to secure funds and a space for a workshop as well as create a method by which bikes are identified as recyclable and sent their way.

The TBR volunteers realize that theft is possible, but see their work as fruitful nonetheless, for their main goal is to keep bikes out of landfills and back on the road, where they were intended to be.

Saturday’s event will take place in the parking lot adjacent to 147 First St. in Troy. Anyone who wishes to get their hands dirty, greasy or paint-covered as the first fleet of Green Bikes is prepared for dispatch is welcome. Bring your Allen keys, wrenches, bike pumps and the like. Food and drinks will be available; donations are accepted. And if you don’t want to get messy, but still want in on the party, just bring one of those old bikes you’ve got kicking around. Check out www.breathingplanet.net/TBR or call Andrew Lynn, 573-7947, for more information.

—Kate Sipher


Joe Putrock

Opening Day

The lengthy construction delays and costly budget overruns were forgotten as the new Rensselaer Amtrak station opened for use on Sunday. The Capital District Transportation Authority, which supervised the construction of the glamorous, palatial structure, didn’t hold the fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony until the following day.


-TRAIL MIX-


Who’s Paying the Pollster?

Speculating on the New York governor’s race at a press conference last week, pollster John Zogby said his client, Independence Party candidate Thomas Golisano, stands a good chance of winning the election. But, critics ask, was he expected to say anything less?

Zogby, president and CEO of the commercial polling firm Zogby International, has been hired as a personal pollster for Golisano’s gubernatorial campaign.

“A person who buys a service will use that to their benefit,” said Gerald Benjamin, dean of liberal arts and sciences at SUNY College at New Paltz. “Zogby is an established pollster, but he is selling his services to Golisano.”

Golisano is not alone in hiring polling services—both H. Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo employed polling firms during the Democratic Primary. But critics contend that, unlike other candidate’s personal pollsters, when Zogby speaks, the media listen.

Zogby International is a widely-used, global polling service with a clientele including The New York Post, Gannett News Services and the United Nations. According to Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, Zogby’s “is the poll people pay attention to.”

“I think Zogby is in a compromised position—in this particular instance, his objectivity is at question,” said Dr. Alan Chartok, professor of communication at the University at Albany. “Is Zogby speaking as an independent pollster, as he always has, or is he speaking as a Golisano pollster and advancing the Golisano line?”

Zogby, whose services have cost Golisano $387,780, according to the state board of elections, doesn’t deny where his paychecks come from.

“I have been polling for Golisano, and that is well-known,” said Zogby. “I wouldn’t do a [poll] for the Times Union and a candidate. It needs to be ethically delineated that I am polling for Golisano.”

Although Zogby openly acknowledges his commitment to Golisano, and was attributed accordingly in a Times Union article published Sept. 18, some say because Zogby’s services receive news coverage, the pollster’s bias must be considered when interpreting his findings.

“Golisano wants to use his credibility,” said Horner. “Such being the case, you’ve got to take [what Zogby says] with a grain of salt. How were the questions asked, and to whom? That would say a lot about the findings.”

Stating that the information is private, Zogby refused to release the findings that he said give the Rochester billionaire a chance at winning the election. He did state that his opinion was based on an “impression of previous polling and polls done by Marist and Quinnepiac.”

Horner said Zogby’s work for Golisano differs from the polling by institutions like Marist and Quinnepiac because of the ends being sought. Horner said that academic institutions are usually trying to determine an answer to a question, where private polling, like Zogby’s, attempts to gauge public opinion for tactical purposes.

Remarks like Zogby’s can be expected from different pollsters right up until election day, said Benjamin. And none should be considered unethical, he said, if there is disclosure as to who is paying whom.

“You need to take a critical posture as to how the info is gathered,” said Benjamin. “Then the informed consumer can make a judgment. Zogby will not do a bad poll technically, but if he sells a service to you, you own it and you will use it as you wish.”

—T.D.



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