groups lay claim to state funding set aside for fathers’ advocacy
Two advocacy groups, both working for better treatment of
fathers in child custody and support hearings, are in a dispute
over state money to be used for the same cause.
In June, New York state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno
(R-C-I-Troy) allotted $10,000 in member-item money—capital
set aside each year from the state budget, which legislators
hand out within their communities—to the Fathers’ Rights Association
of New York State to open a resource center at Hudson Valley
Community College. But according to Randy Dickinson of the
Coalition for Fathers and Families NY Inc., his group is entitled
to the money, as it was the one that petitioned for it back
in the fall of 2001. Now, the money is on hold until the dispute
we are the [original] group,” said Dickinson, former vice
president of FRANYS. “The money was requested for the Capital
District chapter of the Fathers’ Rights Association. And in
February the board voted to affect this name change and refile
as a separate nonprofit. We have the same officers and the
Dickinson explained that he and other former members of FRANYS
petitioned Bruno’s office for the money before deciding to
split from the state organization and form a new organization.
‘rights’ moniker is passé,” said Dickinson. “It is ’70s and
’80s jargon, and that was pointed out to us time and time
again. A lot of the reasons for the media not picking up our
stories was because of the public image given to the ‘rights’
movement. The old fathers’ rights association, although we
implored them to change the name and get a new designation,
they decided not to.”
But George Courtney, member services coordinator for FRANYS,
said the split runs deeper than semantics.
is only one organization, and it has been around for 20 years,”
said Courtney. “You can’t spin around and start a new organization
and hope the money will still be yours.”
Courtney added that Dickinson and the others who formed the
new fathers’ coalition decided to get into “politically legislative
work, and now they are turning into full-fledged lobbyists.”
He said his group is keeping the Fathers’ Rights namesake.
is a brand and it is known,” said Courtney. “We are taking
a cooler-headed, moderate approach, while they are pursuing
the need for change with a vengeance.”
While the groups have significant differences in approach,
both have the same end in mind—building a center to better
the understanding of and services for fathers and their families
in the Capital Region.
want to set up an institute of fathers and families at Hudson
Valley Community College,” said Dickinson. “[The center] would
have staff to answer phones for people in crisis, it would
provide educational materials and legal resources for research,
and documents on the various issues.”
The proposed fatherhood center is based on the already up-and-running
Center for Fathers at the City University of New York’s Medgar
Evers College in Brooklyn.
goes to the concept that fatherhood is a necessary item in
the development of children,” said Courtney. “Fathers are
at least as needed in a child’s emotional and psychological
development as mothers. We’re the most fatherless society
in the history of the world, and anything we can do to promote
the bond of the closeness between a child and his father,
it will have a ripple effect.”
A spokesman for Bruno said the senator’s staff has spoken
with both sides, but does not plan on getting involved in
now the money is on hold until the two sides in the dispute
work out their differences,” said Mark Hansen, a Bruno spokesman.
“Whichever side opens the resource center in Rensselaer County
will get the funds. Having a resource center in Rensselaer
County that would focus on parenting skills or appropriate
counseling and provide a good, nurturing place for parents
to spend time with their kids would be good for the community.
Our concern is not who the money goes to so much as what it
is the money is going for.”
According to Courtney, Bruno’s allocation is an example that
the fathers’ rights movement has been gaining strength recently,
and hopes the bad press spawned by the schism doesn’t deter
from their common cause.
Courtney added that the whole conflict is counterproductive
to the rights of fathers and families, and what he referred
to as “gender biased” news coverage in the Sept. 30 Times
Union didn’t help matters any.
set us back having this depicted as a feud among fathers,”
said Courtney. “It takes away from the moderate and humane
message of the fathers’ rights movement. To call it ‘a custody
dispute’ was a little less than cute and a little less than
intellectually honest. I doubt that if it was a dispute between
two women’s organizations that they would have called it a
custody dispute over money.”
101: Speak Up NY! at U Albany. Photo
by Leif Zurmuhlen.
state elections less than a month away, voter-registration
groups make a last-minute effort
to get out the vote
Abbie Hoffman, one of the more visible political and social
activists of the ’60s and ’70s, once said, “Democracy is not
something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but
it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing
it, democracy crumbles.”
While many consider voting one of the most important entitlements
to citizens of a democracy, statistics suggest that not everyone
feels that way. New York state Board of Elections figures
show that although 10.7 million citizens were registered to
vote in the state’s 1998 gubernatorial elections, fewer than
half actually turned out at the polls. Albany County participated
a bit more than the state as a whole, with a little more than
half of the registered Albanians entering the voting booths.
Furthermore, a great many citizens who would be eligble to
vote simply aren’t registered.
The final date for at-large voters to register for this year’s
elections is tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 11); citizens honorably
discharged from the military or naturalized after that date
can register as late as Oct. 25. Locally, there have been
a few last-minute efforts to get voters enrolled; one of the
most visible statewide groups stopped by the University at
Albany campus on Tuesday.
element is voter registration,” said Jeremie Dufault, communications
director for Speak Up New York! “But another is just getting
young people involved, period. We are trying to get elected
officials to talk to young people rather than about young
Speak Up New York! is a group of volunteers traveling the
state in a 40-foot bus and working with campus chapters of
the New York Public Interest Research Group to encourage young
adults to register to vote and engage in the civic process.
shouldn’t just be about delivering registered voters,” said
Matthew O’Neill, one of the program’s creators and producers.
“We offer positive personal experiences with the political
system, delivering the candidates to the voters and the voters
to the candidates.”
The bus, dubbed the Cybercar, is a production studio on wheels
adorned with a 4½-by-6½-foot television screen where students
are videotaped asking questions of New York’s gubernatorial
candidates. The questions will be broadcast to the candidates,
and each candidate’s responses will be recorded as well. The
result will be a PBS documentary, airing locally on WMHT at
4:30 PM Oct. 30. According to members of Speak Up NY!, all
of the state’s gubernatorial candidates have confirmed appearing
in the documentary except Gov. George Pataki.
has everything to lose,” said O’Neill.
In its first year of existence on the state level (Speak Up
New York! ran a similar program for New York City’s 2001 mayoral
elections), the voter registration drive will make stops in
21 New York cities and estimates it will register some 15,000
While O’Neill and Dufault both agree that elected officials
and government on all levels should make more of an effort
to register voters, Keri Kresler, a local organizer for the
Working Families Party, has an idea on why they do not.
Republicans, elected officials, they would prefer that voters
are not registered,” said Kresler. “Instead of talking to
300 people, they’d have to talk to 1,000. Virtually nothing
has been done by anybody in power to register voters.”
Kresler has been working in the city of Albany’s minority
districts with Albany County Legislator Wanda Willingham (D-Ward
3) to register voters and better their understanding of the
civic process. Kresler said that voter turnout is so poor
in some areas of Albany that politicians do no more than pay
more than lip service to these communities.
turnout in the 1998 gubernatorial election was 11 percent
in some parts of the city,” said Kresler. “It is not because
people don’t care; what happens is that no one pays attention.
If you go out and vote, turn out the numbers, that is when
the elected officials will pay attention.”
While one of the focuses of talking to potential voters is
to register them for the Nov. 5 elections, Kresler’s campaign
also takes on an educational aspect.
are felons that don’t know that once you are off of parole,
your rights are restored,” said Kresler. “I met a guy who
was off parole 10 years ago and told me he didn’t think he
Kresler said that she and Willingham intend to get out another
evening this week for some last-minute registrations.
can’t complain if you don’t take part,” said Kresler. “The
simplest thing to do is vote—that sends a message. If everyone
understood this we’d have a much simpler society.”
Voting-age citizens can register locally at the Albany County
Board of Elections, which is located in Room 38 of the County
Court House at 16 Eagle St. Citizens can also register in
Albany County on the Board of Elections Web site at www.albany
county.com/departments/elections or by phone at 487-5060.
Answer, My Friend
businesses aren’t blowing hot air on alternative energy sources
With many people clamoring about the importance of finding
alternative energy sources to help offset environmental and
consumption concerns, a few Albany businesses have put their
money where their outlets are.
Shades of Green, Daily Grind, United Tenants of Albany Inc.,
and Environmental Advocates have all signed up to participate
in an electricity agreement with Community Energy Inc., a
renewable energy company, and Niagara Mohawk. The program
allows businesses to have all or part of their electricity
bills support power generated from renewable energy sources—in
this case, wind. Although this plan increases business owners’
monthly energy bills, many have said the benefit of investing
in the environment makes it worth the extra expense.
know that this costs more up front,” said Dennis Phayre, owner
of Shades of Green, a vegetarian restaurant on Lark Street,
“but it is up to progressive businesses that already support
environmental causes, as we do, to get it and to take a stance
and be one of the leaders. If more people take initiative,
the cost will come down.”
Phayre adds that although wind prices are more expensive,
it is a much cleaner source of energy that is renewable and
doesn’t damage the environment. Nor, he said, does it feed
into the United States’ dependency on oil.
Roger Markovics, codirector of United Tenants, agrees. He,
like Phayre, signed up for a year contract through Community
Energy Inc. to buy wind-generated energy from NiMo for an
additional charge of two cents per kilowatt. This will raise
his electricity bill by approximately $150 a year.
I think of all the little petty things that I spend money
on,” said Markovics, “like upgrading my computer when the
program that I have is working just fine, this amount really
doesn’t come out to that much.”
Ron Kamen, New York state director of CEI, explained that
consumers, either residential or business, decide how much
of their monthly bill they want to contribute to wind energy.
A person can sign up to have 100 percent of the monthly usage
dedicated or just two blocks of power, which is 200 kilowatts
and costs $5 more per month. NiMo is then required to buy
that percentage of renewable energy from various wind farms,
either in New York state or nationally. That amount of power
is then contributed into the national energy grid, where NiMo
buys energy for all of its customers.
a consumer, I am forcing NiMo to buy wind by signing up for
this program,” said Markovics.
Just signing up, however, doesn’t mean that people receive
renewable energy directly into their homes or businesses;
they are receiving the guarantee that their purchases are
supporting energy generated from a renewable source.
happens is that all the electricity gets mixed together,”
said Kamen. “So which particular electron was generated by
the coal, nuclear or oil plant, no one can ever really say.
But the guarantee is that every individual purchase is going
right to the wind farm, and that wind electricity is going
into the grid on their behalf. It’s forcing more wind energy
into the power grid on the whole.”
Kamen said that his company is just a supplier that does not
sell the energy directly to customers. It merely signs people
up, then notifies NiMo, which confirms the order, purchases
the energy on the customers’ behalf and performs billing.
All purchasers receive a certificate at the end of the year,
with documentation of the exact amount of wind-generated electricity
that was put into the grid on their behalf.
is a legal certificate that they receive, sort of like a stock
certificate,” said Kamen. “Those certificates are all added
up and matched to the purchase Community Energy makes from
the generator, and that is verified by the public service
commission in New York state.”
But critics of the program contend that there is no way to
guarantee that your purchase will actually support a renewable
energy source in New York state, and that many plans don’t
even tell you which wind farm you are supporting.
Kamen said that with Community Energy, you know which wind
farm your purchase has come from, and you know that all of
the purchases done in New York state go directly to wind farms
in New York state.
The project was launched last May when the New York Public
Service Commission approved an agreement that allowed NiMo
customers to buy electric power from wind and biomass generators
through their electric bills. The agreement between renewable
energy companies, environmental groups and NiMo resulted from
the commission’s approval of the merger of NiMo and National
Further, Gov. George E. Pataki signed an executive order in
2001 that set a goal for the state to supply 10 percent of
its energy from renewable sources by 2005.
Currently in New York state, there are three wind farms. Fenner
Wind Power, located outside of Syracuse, had its grand opening
yesterday, making it the largest facility on the East Coast.
is not going to die down,” said Pharye. “It is reusable. It
is less probable to fluctuate with the global market, whereas
petroleum and gas prices drive up with each crisis. At a time
like this, when much of the world’s problems seem to be hinging
on our dependency for oil, what better solution than to support
renewable energy programs?”
By John Whipple.
the Name of Peace
is not the answer,” “Don’t invade Iraq,” “War is the real
enemy of democracy,” and “War is also terrorism,” were just
a few of the many signs protesters were holding last Thursday
during a rally in front of the Washington Avenue Armory in
Albany. Close to 40 concerned citizens turned out to voice
dissent against a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq. Protesters
encouraged passersby to call their congressional representatives
and object to a resolution authorizing President George W.
Bush to use military force against Iraq. The rally was supported
by the Green Party of Albany County, Peace Action Network
and Alliance for Democracy.