teacher: (l-r) Mary and Ava Zwolinski. Photo by: John
My Family to Yours
organization in Rensselaer County launches new program encouraging
volunteers to bring their children
thinking of ways to spend their free time alone, parents also
have to consider what to do with their children. The challenge
of finding something for them to do on their own, or a babysitter
to look after them, can limit plans. One possible solution,
now being explored by a local organization, is to make it
easier for parents doing volunteer work in their spare time
to bring the family.
Linda Feldmann, a member of Literacy Volunteers of America—Greater
Rensselaer County, a volunteer organization that provides
free English tutoring to adults, says she’s seen a big shift
in the way families socialize from when she was a child. “It
used to be a neighborhood was an umbrella network of families.
. . . Now, [socializing] is more structured for particular
age groups in particular settings and it does make it harder
for families to interact in family units,” she said.
She also said that she has noticed a trend over the years
of LVAGRC members dropping out once they have younger children
because of the time demands. She’s organizing a new program
that she hopes will combat this issue called Family to Family,
which pairs English-speaking volunteer families with families
learning to speak English to participate in activities together.
have been doing almost 40 years of one-on-one tutoring, and
what has become clear is that many people have stopped tutoring
because of having small children, whether that means wanting
to stay home with them or the pressure of finding child care.
. . . So by including kids we’re removing that obstacle,”
Feldmann said, adding that adults learning English face the
Barbara Wyman, LVAGRC executive director, proposed the idea
in an effort to get more volunteers in the age bracket of
people with younger children involved. So far, five pairs
of families have signed up, though LVAGRC would like twice
as many. Participating student families come from countries
including Poland, Korea, and Afghanistan. LVAGRC matches the
families based on mutual interests and personalities, and
asks for them to meet for two hours twice a month for at least
one year. What they do during this time is up to the families
to decide, but LVAGRC asks that the activities incorporate
conversation, reading and writing, such as a trip to a museum.
Mary Zwolinski, a folklorist at the Arts Center in Troy and
a former board member of LVAGRC, said she became interested
in the program because she had been looking for an activity
she could do with her daughter. “I had been looking for something
for a while and hadn’t been able to come up with something
we could both do together that would match our different personalities,”
she said. She and 7-year-old Ava have volunteered to be paired
with a student family.
Zwolinski thinks a major advantage that the program provides
is that it teaches English in a social setting that a classroom
cannot provide. “It’s really important when people come here
from a different country,” she said. “To learn English as
a second language, they need to share some of those informal
social situations together. Going to a class to learn English
for two hours is one thing, but they have to be able to go
learn in a social setting too.”
She also hopes that she and Ava can learn something about
the family they’re paired with. “I see it as a good opportunity
for us to share something that we like to do and at the same
time learn something new about them too, so it’s a two-way
street, really,” she said.
A four-hour orientation for teacher families will be held
on Saturday (April 24) at the LVAGRC headquarters in Troy,
where they’ll learn about cultural sensitivity and come up
with ideas on what to do with their new friends. Then the
families have a first opportunity to sit down and meet at
a dinner organized by LVAGRC.
Are They Thinking?
Spitzer and the Senate go for vast anti- terrorism omnibus bill
that civil-liberties advocates firmly oppose
Pataki, Sen. Bruno, your anti-terrorism proposals will not
make New Yorkers safer,” said Udi Ofer, director of the New
York Civil Liberties Union’s Bill of Rights Defense Campaign,
at a press conference he hosted this week. “It’s a response
that is based on an outdated and discredited notion that constitutional
rights and freedoms must be sacrificed in order to protect
sentiment was echoed by civil- and immigrants’-rights activists,
a law professor, and a criminal defense lawyer who joined
Ofer on Monday (April 19) to express opposition to proposed
anti- terrorism legislation for New York state.
comes from an omnibus package of bills jointly advanced by
Gov. George Pataki and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,
who have supported such legislation since 2001. In this year’s
State of the State Address, the governor called the package
“the single most important piece of legislation you will consider
this year.” The Senate passed the package in mid-March, though
the Assembly has not.
criminalize bio-, agri-, and cyber-terrorism, making activities
including money laundering and contaminating public food and
water supplies new terrorist offenses. There is also a provision
permitting roving wiretapping, which Spitzer has been behind
for some time. He believes it will help because “the ability
of law enforcement to track criminals has been outpaced by
technology,” said Mark Violette, a spokesperson for Spitzer’s
office. Roving wiretaps would allow the tapping of all phones
a suspect might use, unlike wiretaps of the past, which were
attached only to a particular phone.
critics agree that greater vigilance against potential terrorist
attacks and improved preparedness are necessary, but don’t
think the omnibus bill is going to achieve those goals. They
say this legislation is too vague and expansive and would
therefore lead to faulty prosecutions, unnecessarily erode
civil rights and liberties, and serve as a distraction from
real measures of prevention, such as securing the safety of
the state’s infrastructure and public health.
intent of the governor’s anti-terrorism package is to deter
acts of terrorism and to secure the public safety, it’s our
view that the proposed law will accomplish neither objective,”
said Robert Perry, NYCLU’s legislative director. He added
that deterrence is not a tactic that will work for terrorists.
“Clearly if they are willing to risk their lives, the penal
code in New York law is not going to deter them from engaging
in terrorist acts.”
the proposed legislation, critics said, crimes redefined as
terrorism are made felonies, police powers are dramatically
expanded, and the burden of proof is lowered for prosecuting
this new category of crimes. This set of provisions, Perry
said, “virtually invites law enforcement to lower their standards.”
Accomplice testimony would no longer be required to add up.
A suspect’s personal or business tax records could be released
if requested by a legal authority for a terrorism investigation.
Previously unwarranted searches and seizures could result
in admissible evidence in court if the officer was acting
in “good faith.” Suspects can also be retried for the same
crime after an acquittal, over and above the constitutional
bulwark of “double jeopardy,” which had previously made such
retrials unthinkable. There is also a provision that would
allow someone to be convicted of aiding a suspect group, even
if a person supports only something like the educational activities
of a group.
is a misguided bill that seems like it’s simply trying to
pander to fear that we see today surrounding terrorism,” said
former prosecutor and Pace University law professor Bennett
effort for the new anti-terrorism package comes at a time
when President George W. Bush is calling for the extension
of the sunsetting provisions of the Patriot Act. Bush was
in Buffalo on Tuesday making a stump speech lauding the Patriot
Act to a closed audience of first responders. He applauded
the convictions of the Lackawanna Six, a local group of Yemeni-Americans
who admitted to briefly attending Al Qaeda training camps,
and said, “The Patriot Act needs to be renewed and the Patriot
Act needs to be enhanced.” Bush is joined by Gov. Pataki on
the campaign trail.
week, Pataki announced more than $103 million in federal Department
of Homeland Security grant money for New York’s counties.
The counties receive funds based on threat assessment, and
the grants to fund preparedness efforts range from $7,500
for Hamilton County to $53 million for New York City.
the timing: Bush is in town,” said Jonathan Gradess, executive
director of the New York State Defenders Association, regarding
the correlation of the legislation’s passage in the Senate,
grants and presidential visit. “I think there’s a lot of it
that’s election-year pandering.”
of grant money could help alleviate what Perry called the
state’s “woefully inadequate” efforts to bolster the state’s
level of preparedness.
in need of a comprehensive plan to protect
our people,” said Gradess. “It can’t simultaneously undermine
the Constitution and protect us.”
by: Leif Zurmuhlen
for Bush staged a thank-you rally outside the
New Karner Road Post Office on tax day (April
15). Members of the ad-hoc satirical theater group
dressed up in formal wear and carried various
signs on the theme of “Taxes Are Not for Everyone.”
“I’ve incorporated my business in the Bahamas,”
said coordinator “Lou Pohlz” (Jon Bartholomew).
“I don’t pay any corporate taxes when all is said
and done, but as a subcontractor for Halliburton,
I make money off of taxes.” The group started
at about a dozen, said Bartholomew, but swelled
to 20 as taxpayers asked if they could join the
On Tuesday (April 20), the billionaires turned
out again, this time to protest proposed “clean
money/clean election” legislation on the state
Capitol building steps. They brought signs such
as “One dollar, one vote” and “Buy your own president,”
and chanted “Big money, united, shall never be
defeated.” Ten clean-election supporters with
mops and brooms later chased the 20 billionaires
off the steps.
Bartholomew said the group plans to continue to
turn out at events such as political fundraisers
and visits from presidential candidates in order
to point out how “the current system is geared
Down to Issues
an Albany County legisla- tive election season that has largely
been dominated by concerns over process, from redistricting
to absentee ballots, there are some third-party candidates
who are hoping their issues will be heard above the clamor.
Of course Norman “Zoe” Zidback’s one issue actually is about
the process of elections. Zidback is running as a candidate
of the Preferential Ballot Party in District 2, and his one
aim is to promote what is commonly known as instant runoff
voting. In IRV, voters rank candidates in order of preference,
and if no candidate gets 50 percent of the first choices,
second choices are added in to the mix, and so on until a
majority is reached. Zidback figures that IRV is the only
way for third parties to get anywhere, and so merits a single-issue
This is the first time Zidback has run for office, and it
was a fairly casual decision. “It was almost an accident,”
he said. “I became aware of the possibility, I went down and
asked how many signatures you needed. . . . It didn’t seem
District 2 is a full ballot, with five candidates, including
a Green Party candidate who also supports IRV. “Yeah [they’re]
in support, but with baggage,” said Zidback. “It’s an afterthought,
something they stuck on.”
agree that voting reform is the only way that we’re going
to win in any consistent way,” responded Albany County Green
Party co-chair Peter Lavenia. “But we’re a political party
and we have a holistic vision. We can’t just run on one issue.”
The Greens are running three candidates in this election:
Steven Segore in District 2 (South End), Megan Keegan in District
5 (West Hill), and Peter Lavenia in District 8 (Pine Hills).
They share a common platform of what Lavenia calls “basic
Green stuff,” including a countywide living wage, funding
for public transportation, cutting down on sprawl, and supporting
tenants’ rights [“Back to the Greenroots,” Newsfront, Sept.
18, 2003]. They are also calling for the legislature to pass
a resolution opposing the Rockefeller drug laws.
Lavenia and Keegan are the only challengers to their respective
incumbents, Nancy Wiley and Fowler Riddick. Neither of the
Green candidates have seen their opponents out campaigning,
and so have some hope that they could pull off a surprise
win. In District 2, where the spoiler charge could be levied,
Lavenia thinks the Green vote is likely to be a protest vote,
but he still feels it’s important to have a candidate there
to gain some name recognition.
think it’s obviously an important place to run,” he said,
“because the Greens are attempting to be a grassroots party
for working people, in a way that Democrats aren’t and the
Working Families, which is basically a front for the Democratic
Party, can’t be.”
You Pick ’Em
the special Albany County legislative election on Tuesday
(April 27), most battles for vacated seats will take place
beyond the city of Albany. Within the city, most incumbent
legislators are Democrats who have a tight grip on their seats
in virtually all of the city’s districts. Republicans within
the city, however, hope to give the incumbents an earnest
run for their money. Meanwhile, beyond the city limits, there
is a lot up for grabs.
Several incumbent Republican legislators did not run in their
suburban districts. In Northern Albany County’s District 20,
John Graziano Jr.’s (R, C, I) seat is up for grabs as Democrat
Timothy Nichols and Republican Scott Paton face off to take
his place. In the 26th, William Melchionni III (R) did not
to run for a second term to represent part of Loudonville
and West Albany; now Democrat Richard Gross and Republican
William Hoblock are running for his seat. Gross is endorsed
by both the Independence Party and the Working Families Party,
while Hoblock is endorsed by the Conservative party.
After three terms representing District 36, Republican Robin
Reed isn’t running again, leaving Democrat Howard Shafer and
Republican Tony Schwartz to go toe-to-toe to represent parts
of Selkirk, Bethlehem and Coeymans. Paul Scaringe (R, C) is
not up for reelection after representing Loudonville and the
Town of Colonie in the 25th district for more than two decades.
Fellow Republican Ann Comella is facing off against Democrat
Alexander McHugh. McHugh is a plaintiff in the lawsuit over
absentee-ballot fraud in the lower wards during the primaries.
In Guilderland’s 30th District, Democrat Allen Maikels’ seat
is being vied for by Republican Dennis Magilton and Democrat
Dennis Feeney. Maikels ran unsuccessfully for county comptroller
Voter turnout is anticipated to be low because April is an
unusual time for elections, but out in the ‘burbs, the lawns
are peppered with signs that show residents are paying attention.