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Choose Your Future

The year 2020 may be a long way off, but some local officials are already thinking about what their towns will look like when they get there.

On Wednesday (Aug. 25), Colonie will hold the first in a series of workshops and meetings aimed at creating a plan for the town’s long-term future. At each event, residents and business owners will be able to comment on various aspects of town growth, including traffic and transportation, open space planning and other issues, to a committee appointed by the Town Board. This information will be compared with the results of a town-wide survey conducted last year, then arranged into a comprehensive plan outlining the upcoming years of development—or lack thereof.

“We want to create a blueprint for where the community will be [in 2020],” explained Philip Pearson, director of planning and economic development for the town of Colonie.

Town residents and lawmakers will be joined at the meetings by locally based planning firm The Saratoga Associates, who were called in as consultants for the project. The firm was also called in to assist the town of Bethlehem, where a similar series of workshops and meetings began in February.

“We’re about halfway through the process,” said Bethlehem Town Supervisor Theresa Egan. “The plan should be ready [for public viewing] by the end of the year.”

According to Egan, once Bethlehem’s plan is assembled, the public will be able to offer input via public hearings in January and February. The Saratoga Associates’ Mike Welti, project manager for both the Colonie and Bethlehem plans, said that Colonie is on a similar timetable and should have a plan ready for the public—and town board—around the end of the year.

Wednesday’s meeting, a “Visioning Workshop” for Colonie residents and business owners, will be held at The Crossings (580 Albany Shaker Road, Loudonville), while a Sept. 2 meeting in the Bethlehem Town Hall auditorium (445 Delaware Ave., Delmar) will continue that town’s planning process.

“It’s been an interesting experience,” said Egan of the planning process and the level of public participation in each phase. “We’re basically saying to people, ‘Here’s the town and here’s a marker—what do you think we should do with it?’”

—Rick Marshall

Loose Ends

After more than four months of bickering and finger-pointing, the New York State Legislature passed the remaining six bills necessary for a state budget on the evening of Aug. 11. Despite criticism that the last-minute, hurried passage of budget bills leaves little time for review [“Pledging My Time,” Newsfront, July 22], legislators took less than an hour to pass the bills, thanks to a “message of necessity” issued by Gov. Pataki, who is expected to veto several aspects of the Legislature’s budget. . . . On Aug. 11 the New York State Assembly voted to override Gov. Pataki’s veto of a bill that would have raised the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.10 by 2007 [“Race to the Bottom,” Newsfront, Aug. 5]. It remains to be seen if the Senate will follow suit. . . . On Aug. 9 the Albany County Legislature unanimously agreed to redraw seven legislative districts in time for the 2007 elections in a way that gives more electoral clout to residents of predominantly racial-minority neighborhoods. After one court win last year, [“Back to the Drawing Board,” Newsfront, June 10, 2003], Aaron Mair and the NAACP had continued to press for a map that was even better than the court-enforced fix. . . . The city of Albany also agreed to put in-car video camera systems in six marked police cruisers by the end of October, an idea proposed by Councilman Michael Brown (Ward 3) in June [“Hear Us Out,” Newsfront, June 10]. After six months the police department and city will evaluate if it is worthwhile to install them in more police cars. . . . Despite international support and last-ditch efforts by people from his neighbors to the Pakistani Embassy’s Deputy Chief, Ansar Mahmood [“Removable Alien,” Newsfront, July 8], was deported with little warning on Aug. 12 after 31 months in detention. . . . Also on Aug. 12, the California Supreme Court invalidated almost 4,000 same-sex marriages solemnized by San Francisco beginning over Valentine’s Day weekend this year [“First Comes Love, Then Comes. . . ,” Apr. 8]. The court ruled that Mayor Gavin Newsom did not have the authority to ignore state law, but they did not touch the issue of whether same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. That question is still weaving its way through the state’s legal channels.

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