for Lt. John Finn, like the one above, at the corner
of Clinton Avenue and Broadway, have appeared throughout
the city since the beloved officers death last
Thursday. Photo: John Whipple
Death in the Family
Friends and coworkers of slain Albany Police Lt. John Finn
remember an outstanding officer and a terrific human being
with friends and coworkers of John Finn, the Albany Police
lieutenant who died last week after a nearly two-month struggle
for his life, it becomes clear that “hero,” while applicable,
is not the best word to describe the slain officer. In Finn’s
case, using such a phrase would unfairly deify a man whose
best qualities were those that made him a very human being,
those who knew him said.
was this great guy that anyone would’ve loved even if he wasn’t
a police officer,” said Marcia Tolive, owner of El Loco, the
Mexican restaurant where Finn worked in the mid- to late-1980s
while attending the University at Albany. Tolive remembered
it was the wide-eyed enthusiasm, lighthearted sense of humor
and general good nature that Finn brought to the job that
made him one of her favorite employees.
matter what job you’d give him, he’d always care about what
he did and he was always willing to help other people,” Tolive
said. “Even when it would get really crazy [in the restaurant]
. . . he always sort of lightened things up for us. That was
a big part of his job, I think, to keep it fun.”
Tolive also remembered Finn’s interest in police work burgeoning
at the restaurant.
would come in and ask, ‘Hey, Marcia, did you see that episode
of Cops?’ and I’d say, ‘No, John,’” Tolive laughed.
“He became really interested in becoming a police officer,
and it was a great thing for him because he had a wonderful,
wonderful way with people.”
Members of the Albany Police Department who worked with Finn
also remember his way with people and his ability to both
crack jokes and hold serious discussions as some of the qualities
that helped form his stellar reputation.
used to enjoy our conversations because they ran the gamut,”
said Detective James Miller, the department’s spokesman. “From
[discussing] ethical issues to departmental issues to citywide
issues, we’d just have these great conversations whether we
agreed or disagreed. I just cherish those times.”
Finn’s winning personality aside, Miller also noted that Finn’s
police work was such that the department recognized him with
its Officer of the Year award in 2000. He received the honor
working in the department’s juvenile unit, but officers also
remember the strides Finn made for the department in its administrative-services
bureau, creating a computerized crime-mapping system.
developed all types of ways to track our stats and crime mapping
in conjunction with UAlbany. He was a great liaison with the
university,” said Sgt. Fred Aliberti, who shared administrative
duties with Finn. “He was very good at using computers and
making them more easily understood to members of the department.”
Aliberti said that Finn’s work with the community, like volunteering
to run a woodworking club at School 20 in North Albany, also
made him a wonderful asset to the department. “We were lucky
to have him,” Aliberti said.
Finn became an Albany police officer in 1991. He worked his
way through the department’s ranks as a patrolman, a community
outreach officer, a detective in the department’s juvenile
unit and administrative-services bureau before choosing to
return to the streets as a patrol supervisor.
Finn, who died at the age of 38, sustained major internal
injuries during a shoot-out with an armed-robbery suspect,
Keshon Everett, 26, in Albany’s South End on Dec. 23. Finn
was rushed to Albany Medical Center, where he remained on
life support until his death, following complications from
surgery, on Feb. 12.
Everett, who initially was charged with attempted second-degree
murder, will sit next week before a grand jury that will consider
elevating the count to first-degree murder. The amplified
charge would give Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne
the option of pursuing a death sentence for Everett.
Finn, originally from Long Island, leaves a wife, Maura, and
two children, Clara, 9, and Molly, 20 months.
A private funeral was held Monday, and a public memorial service
has been slated for this Saturday [Feb. 21] at the Pepsi Arena
in Albany beginning at 10 AM. Donations can be made to “Friends
of John Finn” and mailed to Key Bank, One Metro Park Drive,
Albany, NY 12205, or dropped off at any Key Bank location.
Tolive will match any donations made to the Finn family that
are dropped off at El Loco.
Durfee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 463-2500 ext. 144.
Times at the Womens Building
Financial troubles have forced a beloved local resource
to lay off staff and reevaluate its vision
Women’s Building in Albany is well-known as a bustling epicenter
of activism in the region, as well as the home of office space,
meeting space, technical assistance and referral programs
for a range of grassroots women’s and girls’ organizations.
But even this fixture in the community (it began in 1974 and
has been at its current location, 79 Central Ave., since 1989)
has not been immune to the economic struggles facing nonprofits
over the past few years [“And No One Profits,” Sept. 18, 2003].
women’s building has always depended on tenants, and we are
low on tenants,” explained Stephanie White, president of the
five-member Women’s Building board. “And memberships,” she
added. “We’re low on both. It’s a combination of circumstances
and these times.” At the end of December, lack of funds forced
them to lay off their only paid staff member, Erin O’Brien
[“Local Heroes,” Dec. 18, 2003].
The building is still open, relying on volunteers for its
administration. “The building is here, the organization is
here,” said White. “Can you ring the doorbell and find someone
in the office? Not every day. Can you leave a message and
someone will call you back? Absolutely. We are going to be
without paid staff for a while. I don’t know how long, for
as short a time as we can possibly manage. A paid staff person
makes a huge difference.”
The tenants are mostly still there, said O’Brien, and “the
building is still serving a meeting function for groups that
could function on their own. But groups that relied on the
women’s building for technical assistance aren’t meeting currently.”
Leaving was sad for O’Brien. “I put a lot into that job, like
80 hours a week,” she said. But she and White remain upbeat
about the future of the organization. “I feel like this is
another phase of the herstory of the Women’s Building,” said
O’Brien. “It wasn’t my organization, it was a lot of people
coming together. It will continue. The people who are involved
now in doing the transition are committed to the vision of
the Women’s Building, [as] a place where all women come together
and socialize across differences. In the future it will still
have the vision and be known for its diversity and the diversity
The future is what White is focusing on. The group needs to
raise money to pay off the mortgage on the building. But White
said the re-visioning process is a lot broader than that.
“We’re using this as an opportunity,” she said. “It’s not
the optimal way for this opportunity to come about, but this
is an opportunity for us to go to the women’s community and
say what do you want—help us build your vision for a women’s
community center. If it’s what it has been, great, if not,
we have input from the community on what people do want. When
people can have a hand in realizing their own vision, they
respond. . . . If you’ve got some dollars to put in, great,
if you’ve got time, if you’ve got ideas, those are all items
that we’re in need of.”
And after just one planning meeting, they’re already starting
to feel that support. “We’ve got a lot of energy coming in,”
said White. “So far no one has said ‘Oh no, we don’t need
a women’s community center in the Capital Region.’ Until we
hear those words from the majority of people, we know we need
to keep the doors open.”
Axel-Lute can be reached at email@example.com
or 463-2500 ext. 141.
you loud and clear: Wal-Mart protestors use T-shirts
to send a message. Photo: John Whipple
Make Us Shop Here
Wal-Marts draw is low pricesbut its success
is based on low wages and unfair competition, say protesters
at new Glenmont store
making a visit to the new Wal-Mart in Glenmont for the President’s
Day sales likely were greeted by a few community members who
aren’t so thrilled about their new neighbor. At noon on Monday,
a group of about 50 activists from various trade and union
groups began leafletting at the store, which opened in late
January, with their message that Wal-Mart is harmful to local
business, unfair to its employees, and damaging to the standard
of living of the community.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union had organized
the protest as part of its Justice @ Wal-Mart campaign. The
campaign’s goals are to organize Wal-Mart employees, improve
their wages and benefits, and make Wal-Mart a responsible
employer in its community.
we see in community after community when Wal-Mart comes to
town, they set a standard that is much lower,” said Andrea
Goldberger, director of communications affairs for UFCW Local
One. “We see a downward trend in the types of jobs offered
in that community. We want to raise awareness in the community
that Wal-Mart is not a good neighbor. We need to make them
accountable to our community.”
According to the UFCW, Wal-Mart workers are paid $2 to $3
an hour less than UFCW members in equivalent jobs, and fewer
than two out of every five Wal-Mart workers participate in
its health insurance program.
After about 20 minutes of protest, store managers told the
group they could not solicit inside and that they had called
the police. Four policemen from the town of Bethlehem, which
encompasses Glenmont, came and informed the protestors they
were allowed inside the store but they could not leaflet or
talk to customers. Then one officer waited outside the store’s
entrance to ensure compliance.
A few protestors moved to the end of the parking lot to leaflet
to passing cars, while others lingered inside. Many shoppers
looked on curiously at the protestors in their bright yellow
T-shirts that read “A Voice for Wal-Mart Workers.” Some customers
approached to ask what was going on. Wal-Mart announced over
the loudspeaker that the protestors were not associated with
Wal-Mart, apologized to customers for any inconvenience, and
informed them that they had called the authorities.
National Wal-Mart spokeswoman Christie Gallagher said the
police were called because the protestors were in violation
of Wal-Mart’s solicitation policy, which requires advance
notification. “Anytime there is a protest with our stores,
our main concern is our customers and our associates. We let
the local authorities take care of any situation that may
be out of our hands and that’s what they did,” she said.
Back in January 2002, the Bethlehem Town Board approved plans
for the new Wal-Mart supercenter and shopping plaza on Route
9W. The President’s Day protest was not the first difficulty
the store had faced. Some members of the community had unsuccessfully
tried to stop the construction plans, forming a loose organization
called Plan 9W. They voiced concerns to the Bethlehem Town
Board over potential costs, and increased traffic.
Michael Trout, a member of Plan 9W, was concerned primarily
for economic reasons. A native of Oklahoma, where Wal-Mart
has been around since the early 1980s, he says he’s seen the
full impact of introducing a Wal-Mart to a local economy.
“I’m afraid this is going to drive the local business out,”
he said, “and we’re going to lose the local flavor and increasingly
the only place to shop will be Wal-Mart.” He says he’s heard
of one local hardware shop suffering already.
The Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, a local organization that
formed one year ago to oppose the war in Iraq, created an
ad hoc committee called the Citizens Coalition for a Better
Bethlehem to address local concerns over the store’s opening.
On its opening day, the coalition, along with the Solidarity
Committee of the Capital District and trade union members,
passed out leaflets advertising a forum that took place in
February at the Bethlehem Town Hall to address these concerns.
The cold temperatures of that day caused the leafletting to
be cut short; it lasted about 30 minutes.
Goldberger hoped to have around 100 protestors at the President’s
Day protest but took the day’s forecast of cold weather into
account. She said didn’t expect workers to respond yet, “because
it’s brand new and they’re new employees and they have a while
to feel the impact of how Wal-Mart treats its employees.”
She stressed that her main goal was to raise awareness in
the community and show the workers there is a place for them
to go. “Wal-Mart does a number on their workers—we want them
to know they have somewhere to go for support.”
Let Me Tell Ya What I’d Like to See Around Here
his opportunity to lay out a vision for this nation a month
ago in the State of the Union address, President George W.
Bush spoke of wars and terror and Mars and gays not being
allowed to marry. With an opportunity to clarify or expand
in a Meet the Press interview a few weeks ago, Bush
pretty much stuck with the “terrorism, bad” line. And people
said his father had trouble with the “vision thing.”
So what do the Democratic presidential hopefuls envision for
Throughout his campaign, John Edwards has pointed out the
existence of “two Americas,” one for the haves and one for
the have-nots. Edwards has positioned himself as the candidate
to fight for the poor and, having grown up poor, states that
he is the candidate in a unique position to do so. This is
unlike his hopeful competitor this fall, George W. Bush, who
grew up in a wealthy, privileged family. That works out nicely,
To change things, Edwards is offering “real solutions for
America,” so states his campaign rhetoric. Some of those solutions
include reforming the tax structure so that the additional
taxes on overtime wages are not higher than those on unearned
incomes, like capital gains. That way a millionaire stockbroker
isn’t paying at a lesser tax rate than a nurse working overtime.
Edwards would also put forth a plan to make health care more
affordable by offering tax credits to low-income families
that purchase private insurance plans. Edwards wants to attack
HMOs, pharmaceutical companies and credit-card companies for
the amounts they spend on marketing and advertising, which
leads one to believe that Edwards is looking forward to nominating
federal judges sympathetic to limiting commercial speech.
Dennis Kucinich has plenty of vision, all right. Kucinich
would like to pare defense spending to provide better education
programs (universal pre-k starting at age 3 and tuition-free
college for public colleges and universities), offer campaign-finance
reform that bans soft money, and create a cabinet-level
position for a Department of Peace. Whew. There is much more
to Kucinich’s vision, but Michael Rice, a local Kucinich supporter,
acknowledged that it is becoming clear that his candidate’s
role, if not stated vision, in this race is to act as the
Democratic Party’s liberal conscience.
wish I had the confidence that if someone other than Kucinich
gets the nomination that they won’t doing the usual game of
rushing into the middle to try to peel off a few soccer moms
or NASCAR dads to vote for them instead of Bush,” Rice said.
“I want [Kucinich’s] platform ideas to inform the way the
Democratic Party will run this race.”
Democratic front-runner John Kerry is hoping to appear as
the true leader among this lot. With years of legislative
experience in Washington and his tours of duty in Vietnam
under his belt, Kerry is trying to position himself as the
only Democrat with the kind of experience to stand up to Bush
If elected, Kerry is promising to further the president’s
homeland security efforts by providing more funds to local
fire departments and police departments for staffing and training.
Kerry also wants to create a $35 billion education trust fund
that would better fund goals set forth by the No Child Left
Behind Act, the essential principles of which Kerry supports.
Kerry would also reinstate a number of environmental protections
the Bush administration has rolled back, while setting forth
a plan to declare the United States independent of Middle
East oil sources by 2014. Kerry would seek to fund many of
these initiatives by rolling back the president’s tax cuts
for the wealthiest Americans.
Al Sharpton, on the other hand, has a more narrow stated reason
for running: To make people more aware of issues that would
otherwise be overlooked, like affirmative action, the death
penalty, and the United States’ African and Caribbean policy.
Though Sharpton’s campaign has been short on specific proposals
for change, the candidate has been sure to state that he is
looking to raise political awareness and activity among voters