well fall: Aaron Mair. Photo:
a judge’s intervention to settle a lawsuit requiring the Albany
County Legislature to create a fourth voting district consisting
of ethnic minorities, the plaintiffs contend that discussions
have broken down.
After meeting earlier that morning with the county legislature’s
legal counsel before U.S. Magistrate Randolph Treece, attorneys
for the Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association
and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People held a press conference Tuesday (Aug. 5) to announce
that attempts to arrive at a mediated settlement had come
to a standstill.
On July 7, U.S. Magistrate Judge David R. Homer issued a recommendation
to a federal judge in Syracuse saying that the county’s legislative
maps had been gerrymandered during the redistricting process
and that population data supported the creation of a fourth
minority-majority voting district. Judge Homer recommended
that the two parties work together on new voting maps, but
the plaintiffs claim this has not happened.
Attorneys Paul DerOhannesian and Cara J. Fineman, with the
Washington D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Under Law, said they were preparing legal papers to ensure
that this fall’s legislative elections were stopped until
the county created four “effective” minority-majority districts.
‘effective’ means is minorities having the ability to elect
the candidates of their choice,” said Aaron Mair, a plaintiff
in the case. “The county continues to divide minority voters
in a way to weaken minority-voting strength and protect white
The county’s new maps create four districts where the number
of minority residents account for between 55.3 percent and
58.5 percent of the voting-age population. But Mair and county
Republicans are endorsing a plan where minorities make up
between 57 and 65 percent of the population over the age of
18 within the four new districts.
Sean Ward (D-Green Island), who chairs the legislature’s redistricting
commission, could not be reached for comment. Albany County
Attorney Michael Lynch, who is representing the legislature
in federal court, did not return messages for comment on this
Despite an alternative proposal presented by the plaintiffs
and supported by the county Republicans, the county’s Democratic
majority has pushed its own maps through the redistricting
commission and county legislature. The legislature voted on
the new maps at its meeting Wednesday night (Aug. 6), after
Metroland went to press.
Action of New York will coordinate an event on Thursday, Aug.
14, to determine the needs of Albany youth, and inform residents
about many community services that are available.
The Walk for Success will begin at 5 PM, with participants
meeting at the 100 Blackmen Technology Center on Clinton Avenue.
After assembling, volunteers will go door-to-door throughout
the Arbor Hill neighborhood, distributing information, registering
residents to vote, and conducting surveys regarding the needs
of area youth.
Shanna Goldman, Capital District organizer for Citizen Action,
explained that the program is intended as a cultural collaboration
of Albany’s various social-action groups. Joining Citizen
Action in this event will be local organizations such as the
Capital District African-American Coalition on AIDS, People
of Color Who Vote, Girls Inc., People Advocating Small Schools,
and the Working Families Party.
Low voter turnout has been a significant problem throughout
many of the areas targeted by the Walk for Success, explained
Goldman. By arranging for local organizations to take an active
role in voter registration, the needs of communities can not
only be expressed, but addressed.
A general survey will be administered to residents during
the event, detailing possible educational concerns for Albany
youth and their families. Information on the availability
of after-school programs, as well as the opportunity to suggest
future programs, will also be provided to residents. The various
groups will then compile the results of these surveys, and
recurring issues will be brought up during upcoming regional
forums organized by Citizen Action.
are programs out there that people aren’t taking advantage
of,” Goldman explained, “and we wanted to find out why.”
spoken here: (l-r) Calsolaro, Sano, Desfosses and Conti.Photo:
to Be a Patriot
a ceremony on the steps of City Hall Wednesday (yesterday)
morning, the Albany Common Council was recognized for its
efforts in passing a recent resolution calling for the repeal
of the USA Patriot Act.
The Albany Bill of Rights Defense Committee (ABORDC) organized
the event, and presented the Freedom Award to Common Council
President Helen Desfosses to commemorate a two-month process
that concluded on May 19 with the resolution’s passage in
a 10-3 vote. Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings has yet to sign the
award will remind us of what it means to be an elected official
in America,” said Desfosses.
During the presentation, resolution cosponsors Alderman James
Sano (Ward 9), Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) and Richard Conti
(Ward 6) affirmed their belief in the resolution, and expressed
their gratitude toward the grassroots movements that inspired
it. Alderwoman Sarah Curry-Cobb (Ward 4), also a cosponsor
of the resolution, was not in attendance.
is as local as it gets,” said Calsolaro, “and we have to let
the legislatures on every level know that the people don’t
The Patriot Act was created by United States Attorney General
John Ashcroft and the Justice Department shortly after the
events of Sept. 11, 2001, in order to provide government personnel
involved in terrorist investigations with a broader range
of investigative abilities. The act has been criticized by
many civil-liberties groups for relying upon questionable
methods of research, including the use of library records
and known participation in protest events.
As previously reported in Metroland [Newsfront, March
13], Alderman Dominick Calsolaro initially presented a resolution
in March requiring local law enforcement organizations to
notify the Common Council before participating in investigations
connected to the Patriot Act. After some opposition, a third
draft of the resolution was passed in May, cosponsored by
Calsolaro, and Albany became one of 139 other municipalities
around the nation that have passed similar resolutions.
resolutions . . . are letting the federal government know
that in order to protect our national security, you don’t
need to remove the basic rights and principles our country
was founded upon,” explained Melanie Trimble, executive director
of the New York Civil Liberties Union and member of the ABORDC.
“We’re very happy that the Albany Common Council has taken
a stand for our Bill of Rights, and the people of Albany should
appreciate that the Common Council has taken a risk like this.”