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A Needed Boost

Things have been hectic for the Troy Booster Club. Since September, its members have hit up fast-food franchises, planned benefit cruises, and applied for grants, all in an attempt to reinstate student activities cut by the school budget crunch [“Trouble, Right Here in River City,” Sept. 18].

The booster club has been all over the city. The group sold snacks at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s annual Communiversity event, collecting almost $800. At a recent Troy High cross-country meet, one booster mom sold $400 worth of refreshments. An impromptu group of Troy School District music faculty, called the Diminished Faculties, will even perform at an RPI tailgate party in November and donate their pay to the booster club.

At last count, the boosters had raised $22,000 toward their $100,000 goal. And thanks to all this work, high-school activities have been steadily returning.

The high-school jazz ensemble was salvaged in early September. Next in line was the musical. After an anonymous $3,000 donation in September was earmarked for the musical, the Edward C. Picken Athletic Hall of Fame gave $500 and on Oct. 18 another $3,000 was raised at the second of three benefit concerts by high-school students. The total was enough for the show to go on.

Earlier this month, the varsity lacrosse team was restored because of $8,000 earned from a benefit golf tournament. The high school’s German club was also reinstated after Troy Germania Hall donated $575 from its bingo money to pay for the club’s faculty advisor’s stipend. Albany’s booster club even sent their Troy comrades $100.

But many clubs and teams, like hockey, remain unfunded. The boosters plan to turn their attention to some of the cut middle-school activities and will appeal to individuals and businesses for donations.

Booster club secretary Sue Steele remains positive, pointing out that the boosters have helped build unity among parents and faculty who otherwise may not have gotten to know each other.

“Eventually the school district will get all of its financial ducks in order, and we’ll be able to go back to being just a regular booster club,” said Steele. “I’m confident that, if nothing else, the board realizes that there needs to be other ways to cut a budget, and you can’t just eliminate entire programs.”

A student classical recital to raise money for the boosters is slated for Nov. 2 at 3 PM in Russell Sage College’s Bush Memorial Auditorium at Congress and First streets.

—Ashley Hahn

Suing for Clean Air: Take 2

Supporters of the Clean Air Act are not all Democratic tree- huggers. President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970. President Reagan and President Bush Sr., though not exactly known as champions of the environment, both strengthened the act.

But George W. Bush has not been following suit. New rules from the Bush Environmental Protection Agency, which went into effect on Monday (Oct. 27), expand the concept of “routine maintenance” for industrial pollution source to include any upgrades that cost less than 20 percent of the replacement cost of the plant. This allows plants to avoid installing new pollution-control technology even when doing major upgrades that increase the amount of pollution released.

And so, on Monday, a coalition of attorneys general from 12 states, the District of Columbia and several local governments filed the second lawsuit in a year charging the EPA with violating Congressional intent. The first suit is challenging a weakening of how emissions are measured.

“It was never envisioned by Congress that the EPA, of all people, would become an agent of allowing higher levels of pollution in the nation’s skies,” said Marc Violette, a spokesman for the New York attorney general’s office, which is participating in the lawsuit. “You have this ironic situation where you have to get a posse of attorneys general to go to Washington to defend the Clean Air Act.”

Violette said the last lawsuit, which was filed by a coalition of eight Northeastern states on Dec. 31, 2002, is still in the “unsexy” stage of “mailing papers back and forth,” and despite a promise from the court to fast track the case, he said it is unsure when hearings and litigation will begin.

Nonprofit organizations including the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense Fund filed a similar but independent lawsuit on Tuesday (Oct. 28). Illinois is also filing its own suit.

Last year’s lawsuit has picked up an additional six state plaintiffs since it was filed, and Violette expects that this one too will end up with further supporters within a month or so. He said it’s important that the states filing the lawsuit have expanded beyond the Northeast (which typically suffers from pollution blowing from the Midwest) to include states like Wisconsin and New Mexico.

The lawsuit coalition is bipartisan, said Violette, because governors are thinking about it in terms of “what’s best for the people in my state who breathe air—which is pretty much everybody.”

—Miriam Axel-Lute

Photo: Joh Whipple

Next Stop, D.C.

On Friday (Oct. 24), the band Rockets and Blue Lights greeted protestors opposing the United States’ occupation of Iraq as they arrived in Townsend Park after marching from the Capitol building in downtown Albany. Many marchers also boarded buses early Saturday morning for a “bring the troops home” rally and march in Washington, D.C., which drew between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

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