appeal to recycle: Fil Topliff of the Honest Weight
Food Co-op. Photo: John Whipple
the CDs Home to Roost
Honest Weight Food Co-op collects AOL disks and marks them
return to sender
Frisbees. Solar reflectors. The number of creative uses people
have found for AOL CDs is a testament to just how ubiquitous
they have become. But still, most of the gigantuan Internet-service
provider’s software-and-sign-up discs still end up in a landfill.
That’s what bothered the employees at Honest Weight Food Co-op
when they found a pile of 50 to 60 CDs in the bin they usually
set out for people who want to dispose of Metroland’s
adult insert. “We try to recycle as much as possible,” said
Jessica Allen, outreach coordinator for HWFC. “The bottom
line for the people at the co-op is the waste. [The CDs are]
Co-op personnel responded by setting out a box specifically
for the CDs, and they plan to mail them back to AOL, “as a
kind of silent protest against filling up landfills with things
people don’t want,” said Fil Topliff, front-end floor manager,
who “jumped through a lot of hoops” to get an address from
AOL where the company said it would accept CDs for recycling.
The box has filled a couple times, but two artists have asked
if they could take the CDs for sculptures, so the co-op hasn’t
actually sent a shipment to AOL yet. The co-op is willing
to take on the cost of shipping, said Topliff, because “it’s
part of our bylaws to be environmentally conscious.”
Frustration with the quantity of unsolicited CDs is widespread
and has inspired others across the country to set up similar
return projects, some of massive scale. In August 2001, after
finding two AOL CDs in a bag with a rented movie, John Lieberman
and Jim McKenna, technology professionals in El Cerrito, Calif.,
launched a campaign to collect 1 million AOL CDs and deposit
them on AOL’s doorstep. To date, with the help of their Web
site NoMoreAOLCDs.com, they have passed the quarter-million
mark, and are storing the collected CDs in Lieberman’s garage.
The pair nick the CDs to prevent AOL from reusing them; part
of AOL’s recycling plan is to resend still-functioning disks.
AOL did not return calls for comment, but company officials
have been quoted in the past as being supportive of the NoMoreAOLCDs.com
campaign, and saying they would welcome and recycle the shipment.
“It just shows us that they are completely missing the point,”
Lieberman told PC World in December 2002.
Meanwhile, Topliff and Allen questioned Metroland’s
participation in the distribution of AOL CDs. “We were surprised
that the Metroland did that, being that it’s an alternative
paper,” said Allen. Metroland included the CDs as inserted
advertising in two individual issues, one in August and one
in December. The placement came through a national advertising
network of alternative weekly papers and was not sold directly
by the paper.
Stephen Leon, Metroland’s editor and publisher, said
the question of a nonrecyclable advertising insert was a new
one for the paper and the complications had not immediately
occurred to him. In general, he said, he doesn’t turn down
advertising based on content. “I stand for the separation
of advertising and editorial,” he said. “Advertising doesn’t
influence editorial, and vice versa.” However, he acknowledged
that “the direct environmental consequences of the AOL disks
are a new wrinkle,” and said he will “certainly give the question
long enough: Councilman Dominick Calsolaro. Photo: John
Task at Hand
A recent wave of deadly incidents leads Albany Common Council
to revive proposal for gun-violence task force
week, Albany’s Common Council revived a year-old proposal
calling for the mayor to reach out to state, federal and local
law-enforcement agencies and create a task force to address
Following the Dec. 23 shooting of Albany Police Lt. John Finn,
who remains hospitalized after being criticallly injured during
a foot chase and shootout with an armed-robbery suspect, Councilman
Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) decided it was time to renew his
push for the council to form a task force to address gun violence.
The rash of violent events throughout the region that followed
strengthened Calsolaro’s resolve.
On Christmas Day, a man killed four people and then himself
in Niskayuna. Four days later, Albany police found a woman
who’d been shot to death buried in a backyard on Teunis Street.
A Lansingburgh man, expected to testify in a drug trial a
few weeks later, was shot and killed in Troy on Dec. 30. The
next day, bystander David Scaringe was shot and killed by
an Albany police officer engaged in a chase in Albany’s Center
perception of Albany as unsafe is so strong out there that
we need to take action to start changing that perception,”
Calsolaro said, adding that since the task-force resolution
passed on Jan. 5, “I received calls from numerous groups and
individuals thanking us and looking forward to working with
Calsolaro said the task force could work on changing the public’s
perception of violence in Albany through better reportage
of crime statistics and by holding gun-related workshops with
various church and neighborhood groups. Calsolaro would also
like to see the city police department involved in partnerships
with other law-enforcement agencies, but Chief Robert Wolfgang
said the department already has a “task-force approach” to
preventing gun violence.
Wolfgang said the department regularly speaks with state police,
the local office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,
and police departments from the surrounding towns and cities.
“We work daily with these agencies,” Wolfgang said. “I’m not
quite sure what any additional interaction between these law-enforcement
agencies is going to do that we’re not doing already.”
department might be doing these things, but we don’t know,
and that’s part of the problem,” Calsolaro said. “Maybe if
we knew more of what they’re doing it would help with the
perception that the city is a violent place.”
Determining whether or not the city deserves such a reputation
is difficult if you turn to the police department for data:
The department does not make updated crime statistics readily
available to the public. Although its Web site, www.apdonline.org/
police/index.htm, contains a “crime info” page that is supposed
to list quarterly statistics on crimes reported throughout
the city, it hasn’t been updated since March 31, 2002.
Last year, Metroland requested statistics from the
department regarding the number of illegal firearms seized
in the city from 2000 to 2003. The figures Metroland
received, stating that only seven firearms were retrieved
by the department in 2001, greatly differed from ones that
appeared in the Times Union on August 8, 2002, stating
that 147 firearms were seized. Department spokesman Detective
James Miller said on Tuesday he’d look into the discrepancy.
Subsequently, Miller did not return multiple calls for comment.
Leonard Morgenbesser, an Albany resident who tracks gun violence
in the Capital Region through media reports, has regularly
testified before the Common Council about gun-related issues
over the past few years. He has counted 119 incidents of gun
violence in the Capital Region from Sept. 19, 2002, through
Jan. 1, 2004, roughly one every four days. Morgenbesser was
thrilled at the prospect of bringing the civic leaders from
around the region together to address what he sees as a public-health
like epidemiological looks at and tracks diseases through
data, I think you need more comprehensive data on gun violence
and more people looking at this for prevention measures,”
he said. “[By] bringing a cross-section of people from throughout
the region including public health, we won’t be overlapping
and taking resources away.”
The creation of a task force like Calsolaro has in mind depends
on the mayor, but Jennings, who did not return calls for this
story, hasn’t exactly embraced the idea with open arms.
don’t have a problem if the council wants to make a task force,”
Jennings said in his address before the Council of Albany
Neighborhood Associations yesterday (Wednesday, Jan. 14).
“I’ll sit down and talk with them, but we have to have a focused
Other council members say the council should be more proactive
and finds ways it can address the issue itself. At the council’s
next meeting, Councilman Glen Casey (Ward 11) will introduce
an ordinance stiffening the penalties for carrying unlawful
loaded firearms in the city. The legislation, which Calsolaro
is cosponsoring, would increase the fine from $150 to $1,000,
and the maximum jail term from 150 days to one year.
Councilman David Torncello (Ward 8), Albany’s longest-tenured
councilman, said that leadership from the Troy, Schenectady
and Albany city councils used to meet informally roughly a
decade ago, and said he thought that reviving such meetings
could be one way to for the council to address gun violence.
put an awful lot of effort into telling other people what
we hope they would do, and I know that’s a part of the job,”
Torncello said, “but we can also do some things on our own.”
Common Council President Helen Desfosses said that the council
hadn’t made any decisions about moving ahead on the gun-violence
task force as of Wednesday.
far as we’re concerned,” she said, “it is in the mayor’s hands,
and we’re waiting to see how he’ll implement it.”
to Push the Envelope
With heightened interest after the
Scaringe shooting, Albanys Citizens Police Review
Board steps up its quest to get answers from the APD
the three-and-a-half years of its existence, the Albany Citizens’
Police Review Board has labored, if not in total obscurity,
then with less citizen attention that many board members might
have hoped. While they have forged relationships with numerous
community organizations and have considered nearly 150 complaints
against the police, there are usually far fewer community
members in attendance at their open meetings than even the
half-dozen who showed up this Monday, the board’s first meeting
since the shooting of David Scaringe [“Death and Disbelief,”
The Scaringe case did not come up explicitly until the comment
period at the end of the meeting, because the board’s ordinance
does not allow it to look into a case unless it receives a
complaint. But the board did vote, unanimously, to step up
its long-standing quest for information from the police department,
and pointedly added requests for the department’s policies
on hot pursuit and use of deadly force, and data on all incidences
of each, to their list of requests. Board members said they
had been waiting for older items on the list, including information
on whether the department has implemented the board’s recommendations
on bias-based policing and strip searches, for nearly three
years, said board chairman Kenneth Cox.
So this time, the board members included a deadline with their
request: They want the information by Feb. 9, or they will
consider going to the Common Council to request subpoena powers
to force Public Safety Commissioner John C. Nielsen to comply.
They also scheduled a public hearing on the shooting for Feb.
Nielsen said on Wednesday that he was waiting for the official
request in writing from the Albany Law School, which provides
staff for the board, and said the department would respond
immediately. “We’re not hiding anything,” he said.
During the comment period, concerned community members urged
the board to take a stronger stand on this issue than it has
in past police shootings, particularly in terms of reviewing
department policy. “We need to do something so this don’t
happen again,” said Samuel Brown. “My people have been being
killed for years. . . . We need some action.”
you can sit there and talk about discourteous police behavior,”
said Dr. Alice Green, director of the Center for Law and Justice,
referring to the complaints the board had ruled on earlier
in the evening, “I don’t know how you can not get involved
when a citizen is killed.”
Green and Erin O’Brien, director of the Women’s Building,
both said they were filing complaints with the board regarding
the Scaringe shooting.
thought the best thing to do would be was to file a complaint,
because that starts the process and opens the door for a possible
independent investigation with the Common Council,” Green
said after the meeting. The board has so far only promised
to review the police department’s investigation and the related
policies. Green has expressed frustration that the board did
not seek similar policy reviews after the shooting of Jason
Mayo in December 2002. At the meeting, she responded strongly
when Commissioner Nielsen suggested that the cases were “worlds
we approach [this issue] in terms of innocent and guilty,
we’ve lost,” she said, saying that all shooting victims are
The members of the board, who are all volunteers, seemed both
unused to, but welcoming of, the new level of interest in
their affairs. Cox said it was a shame that “someone has to
lose their life for us to move forward,” but nonetheless said
he thought the level of response was a “breakthrough,” and
that “we can’t go back to the way it was.” Despite their trouble
getting information from the police department in the past,
he said he believed the department respects the board, but
just isn’t moved to release information “unless there’s a
crisis, unless there’s a groundswell.”
Cox called on those who turned out to talk to people and keep
got the sense that they had some community support there,”
said Green. “The point was made very clear that both the board
and the police department need to listen to the community.”
It’s not going to be easy to change the interactions between
the board and the department, however, said Green, especially
with such a highly charged incident where there is likely
to be a lawsuit. “With this kind of an incident,” she said,
“everyone in the department will be very careful about what
they say and do, so it won’t provide the openness that’s needed.”
In a different vein, Assemblyman Robert Prentiss (R-Colonie)
has proposed “David’s Law,” which would increase the charges
for any drivers involved in a police chase from a traffic
violation to a misdemeanor, and would hold them responsible
for any injuries or deaths that result from such chases.
Up With the Rising Tide
A hundred people turned out to a minimum-wage rally at the
New York State Capitol on Sunday to ask the Legislature (which
has been supportive) and the governor (who has not) to raise
the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.75. Members of the
Working Families Party and other advocates for the working
poor pointed to a report from the Fiscal Policy Institute
that said that the spending power of the minimum wage is approaching
its lowest level in half a century, while the percentage of
low-wage workers in the state has tripled since 1979.
The Dems on Education
staple of the Democratic presidential hopefuls’ campaign rhetoric
is bashing the president for inadequately funding the education
reforms he laid out with 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act.
So what would they do differently?
While all candidates are paying lip service to providing local
school districts with more federal funds to better train teachers,
purchase education technology and pay for construction funds,
their specific education proposals range from the very focused
to the very broad. John Kerry, for example, proposes creating
an Education Trust Fund, which would provide $10,000 tax deductions
to teachers going back to school and $50 billion to help struggling
states avoid education cuts and layoffs. Al Sharpton, however,
thinks the best way to solidify the nation’s commitment to
education would be to enact an Education Amendment to the
Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Wesley Clark and Richard Gephardt
all speak about universal pre-k, or something resembling it.
Gephardt mentions supporting federal funds for it. Clark proposes
access to universal, free pre-k at the age of 4. Kucinich
would offer it by 3. Dean’s plan is a bit more ambitious—it
starts with in-home visits, nutrition assistance and parenting
classes immediately after birth so children are prepared for
learning when they start pre-k at 4. Kucinich proposes trimming
15 percent from the Pentagon’s budget to pay for his $60 billion
program. Dean would pay for his proposals by repealing the
president’s tax cuts.
A few of the candidates have offered concrete proposals to
assist families with children in poorly funded school districts.
John Edwards proposes a $5,000 mortgage tax credit to teachers
willing to buy homes in the communities where they teach.
One of the more radical ideas for education reform comes from
Carol Moseley Braun, who would fix school-funding inequities
by scrapping the nation’s property-tax-based school- funding
formula. Although Braun accurately states that such a formula
unfairly strains limited tax bases in urban centers and rural
areas, the candidate doesn’t offer a concrete alternative
for another funding source.
If the general-education proposals seem scant, that’s because
most candidates have more detailed proposals for higher education.
Joe Lieberman’s education proposals provide a case-in-point:
The senator says we need to think about education in terms
of k-16 rather than dividing education proposals into two
categories, k-12 and higher education. Though he fits into
the vague, I’ll-fund-what-Bush-didn’t camp for general education,
Lieberman proposes a plan to ensure that 90 percent of Americans
are either entering the military or going off to college after
high school by 2020.
Lieberman, along with Gephardt, Dean and Clark, wants to increase
federal grants for higher education. He wants federal Pell
grants increased from their current $4,050-a-year maximum
to $6,150 for the 2004-2005 school year and $7,760 for 2008-2009.
Dean proposes up to $10,000 per student annually in federal
grants depending on income. Clark would provide a universal
college grant of $6,000 a year for the first two years of
college, with the aid going mainly to families earning less
than $100,000 a year.
Then there are the free college proposals. In exchange for
10 hours of work or volunteering during the school year, Edwards
proposes one year of free tuition to a public college or university.
Kerry will offer four free years with the promise of two years
in a national service program. By restructuring the tax system
and repealing tax cuts for high-income taxpayers, Kucinich
would offer students $4,000 per year for state college and