Saturday, November 30, 2013

Who will run to replace McNally? (UPDATED)

Now that Rensselaer County District Attorney Rich McNally is headed to the Supreme Court bench, chatter is starting about who will run next November. That, and a commenter asked me if I had heard anything is why I write this.

As near as I can tell, the position of DA goes to the number two in the office, who is now Arthur Glass, until the governor appoints a replacement, which may or may not happen. Regardless of if that happens or not, there will be an election in November 2014 for a full four year term. obviously, the Dems, through McNally, can appoint who they want and then that candidate can run as an incumbent which is a near-automatic advantage in any campaign. 

While there are no solid candidates as of yet, on the Democratic side it appears Carmelo Laquidara is the front runner. He is a well-respected jurist in the City of Rensselaer who narrowly lost a primary for Rensselaer County court to Troy City Court Judge Christopher Maier.

Amy O’Connor was also mentioned as a candidate but she had a mishap involving the Lucas Confectionary wine bar, prescribed pharmaceuticals and parked cars over the summer so running for the county’s top law enforcement officer is a tough go, for a while anyway.

I’ve really heard of no other candidate outside of Glass, but he’s a longshot at best.

On the flip side of things the names who immediately come to mind are attorneys Joe Ahearn (left), Greg Cholakis (Right and Joel Abelove.

Ahearn said he is keeping his options open but I don’t think he’ll run and I feel the same way about a possible Cholakis candidacy. So, I at this early point in time it’s Abelove, who McNally beat by a sizable margin last year.

I know it’s early and we haven’t even celebrated Christmas yet but I’m predicting this race will be hotly contested and fun to watch. The Democrats have had a tough time county-wide yet McNally beat Cholakis in a tight race that went to absentees in 2007 – a race brought into question two years later after voter fraud broke and one of McNally’s most loyal operatives, Bill McInerney, admitted to forging hundreds of absentee ballots.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's all about control of the TPD

One thing we have to remember about the Police Benevolent Association’s decision to file a complaint against Chief John Tedesco for releasing the findings of an Internal Affairs investigation is that it has nothing to do with the fact he sent the letter to the complainant - it has to do with control of the TPD.

It’s all about control of the Police Department when, or if, Commissioner Anthony Magnetto retires early next year. I think a couple commenters on this blog summed up the open questions nicely.

One question is why the PBA waited seven months from when Tedesco issued the letter to Frank Fogarty telling him that Officer Kyle Jones did indeed used excessive force during a Dec. 23, 2012 arrest. Tedesco issued the letter to Fogarty in April and the PBA didn’t file a complaint about it with IA until this month.

As a commenter said:  “Someone (i.e. the PBA) is playing a trump card.”

First, as I mentioned, can you imagine if the report wasn’t released? If a black guy filed a complaint about getting beat up by white cops and the report was buried. Also, the city gave Brian Houle a letter telling him that Jones did not use excessive force when Houle was arrested in June, 2012 and nobody made a stink about that one. As far as I can tell, it is standard operating procedure to release an IA finding to the complainant.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the PBA started making accusations against the chief shortly after Magnetto started telling people he may retire early next year. And that means the PBA, which is a driving force behind getting Magnetto appointed, has to start dirtying up the chief again so Mayor Lou Rosamilia feels obliged to appoint another commissioner.

If you remember the PBA, behind President Bob Fitzgerald (pictured right), started dirtying up the chief the day he was appointed with the absurd allegation that he got the job in return for covering up a drug investigation into the administration of then Mayor Harry Tutunjian.

I don’t think I have to repeat the fact the PBA doesn’t like Tedesco because he is a staunch disciplinarian and initiated all sorts of changes in an effort to make the department run more efficiently. The PBA knew it was coming, didn’t take kindly it when it did as it would just as soon see the status quo and by that I mean overtime.

In addition, Tedesco is threatening to sue the city claiming his constitutional rights were violated by the city imposed gag order and for curtailing of his power and duties. I think everyone hoped Tedesco would just throw up his hands and retire, but obviously that’s not happening anytime soon.

All that may be true, but Rosamilia (pictured left) is well within his right to appoint a police commissioner – yes there is some ambiguity about whether it should be a police commissioner or public safety commissioner but the basic premise is the same. The mayor wants his policies initiated and winning an election gives him that right but the question remains: Who is driving the bus, the mayor or the PBA.

Tedesco’s attorney, Brian Premo (pictured right), has mastered the art of getting at the underlying dirt - God knows, he had enough practice during voter fraud and his representation of others like Rensselaer Chief Rick Fusco - and he is asking a bunch of questions the PBA, the administration and the Council would just not soon answer. Also, he and Tedesco are asking the FBI look into the PBA’s allegations and his decision to release the Fogarty letter. Given the animosity among command staffers, an outside agency taking a look is the only way we will get an unbiased determination on whether the chief acted appropriately or not. And even if the Feds don’t come in, the seed is planted.

The commenter also asks why the PBA is protecting Jones. I think it would do the same if it was Officer Smith – obviously that’s not an indictment of any Officer Smith but a way to say it could be anyone.

In the end, this is a high stakes poker game and the pot is who gets to control the day-to-day operation of the Police Department – The PBA or the chief.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Troy cop at center of controversy previously accused of abuse

The police officer at the center of the controversial release of a report that found he used excessive force was accused of abusing another suspect months earlier.

According to documents, Officer Kyle Jones was found to have used excessive force while arresting Cohoes resident Frank Fogarty on Dec. 23, 2012. He was also accused of using excessive force while arresting Brian Houle, of First Street in Troy, on June 26 of the same year. The second incident was just days after a bizarre Facebook exchange between the two and then a telephone conversation where the two debated the meaning of a hero.

According to the April 18 letter Chief John Tedesco sent Fogarty: “I write today in response to the personnel complaint you initiated by you alleging that Officer Kyle Jones caused you to suffer physical injuries during your arrest on December 23, 2012.

“An investigation into this matter has concluded, and it has been determined that Officer Jones did utilize excessive force against you. Please know that any remaining actions taken on this matter will be administrative in nature.”

I’m not sure what “administrative in nature” means but I’m told it is non-criminal, and can include anything from a written reprimand, to a suspension without pay, to termination.

According to documents, at around 1:30 a.m. Fogarty was arrested for fighting at the intersection of Broadway and the Franklin Street Alley. When Jones tried to place him under arrest, Fogarty resisted; and his wife helped. They allegedly succeeded in their effort to resist, and they were charged because of it. They were also charged with harassment and Frank had a disorderly conduct charge thrown in too. Fogarty filed an official complaint alleging Jones used excessive force and an Internal Affairs investigation determined that to be the case.

Force, of course, is a necessary evil in law enforcement, as police officers are, at times, called upon to put people in handcuffs and take them to jail. Understandably, many would rather not see that happen. I am not going to guess what constitutes an excessive use of necessary force because I’m sure there are a number of variables in any given situation.

I’m not sure those variables include the definition of “hero,” however.

On June 26, 2012 Jones and others arrested Brian Houle for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in front of his First Street home. Four days prior to the arrest, Houle, a freelance photographer, called himself a hero on the social media site Facebook for putting out a car fire in Lansingburgh. Jones took exception using the word hero, questioned whether there was even a fire and after posting his thoughts on Facebook engaged in a lengthy telephone debate with Houle over the definition of hero. Of course, Houle recorded the entire conversation and while Jones may not have directly threatened Houle, he came pretty close. An IA investigation found Jones did not use excessive force but did violate two Code of Conduct provisions, including the one where an officer is required to maintain a degree of impartiality.

I’m still kind of confused as to why Jones decided to arrest Houle (pictured at right shortly after his arrest) in the first place. Houle claims he was targeted because of the earlier not so friendly interactions. Jones claims Houle jumped out in front of his cruiser to provoke the arrest. Witnesses and Houle claim he was beaten by the officers’ flashlights – yes it’s plural because Jones did call in backup. While other witnesses and police claim Houle was beating his head against the cruiser’s windows.    
Anyway, now the Police Benevolent Association is upset with the fact Tedesco released the letter to Fogarty and wants the IA to investigate. The chief says he’s done the same thing scores of times and wants the FBI to investigate the allegations. The chief waived his right to confidentiality and has invited the press to sit in on his IA proceeding. A gutsy move for sure.

The PBA and its president, Bob Fitzgerald, have been quiet as of late because they got their guy, Commissioner Anthony Magnetto, in to oversee Tedesco and the Police Department. But, Magnetto said he might step down early next year and the PBA has to start dirtying up Tedesco again so Mayor Lou Rosamilia appoints another commissioner to keep the chief in check. If you remember, Tedesco, who was appointed chief by then Mayor Harry Tutunjian, tried to shake things up at the TPD by disbanding some tired and ineffective bureaus to make things run more efficiently. He succeeded, but it did irk the PBA which would like nothing but the status quo. (photo above is of Tedesco and Jones during the latter's swearing in.)

This one is not over by a long shot. We have the IA investigation into the chief and Houle and Fogarty are suing the city with Danielle Neroni and Trey Smith representing, respectively. Houle was found not guilty of the criminal charges. It's unclear the disposition of Fogarty's case.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Sorry folks, but some idiots just can't help themselves and get a jolly out bringing up things that have nothing to do with anything what is posted and doing it anonymously.
So, I am forced to moderate comments before they are posted for public consumption.

Jim Franco

Again, phone number is 878-1000 if I can answer any questions.

Troy Council sends a message

I didn’t think the expected rift on the Troy City Council would start until after Jan. 1 but five members sent a message last Thursday when they voted to not re-appoint Geri Fitzgerald to the Board of Assessment and Review.

To understand the significance, we need to back up a bit.

Fitzgerald lives with Michelle DeLair, the former deputy city clerk under then City Clerk Bill McInerney and who is one of the Rensselaer County Democratic Party Chairman Tom Wade’s most loyal supporters. Not allowing Fitzgerald’s appointment to a largely inconsequential position – as proposed by Council President Lynn Kopka at the request of the administration – to come out of the Finance Committee to the floor for a vote is a clear shot at Wade. And for that matter the administration.

The five who voted against her appointment were Council members Kevin McGrath, Bob Doughtery, Rodney Wiltshire, Dean Bodner and Ken Zalewski. Which, of course leave Council members Mark McGrath, Nina Nichols, Gary Galuski and Kopka voting to appoint Fitzgerald.

If you remember, Wiltshire, who will be president come Jan. 1, and Zalewski were in Bob “Rabbit” Riley’s corner in his failed bid to take Wade out as chair last year. Wade has a long memory and, evidently, so does Wiltshire and Zalewski, who will likely be the pro-temp after the organizational meeting. Doughtery and Kopka don’t get along that well so he’ll likely be in the W&Z corner and I’m told newly elected Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, will likely side with them too.

On the other side are party (Wade) people: Kopka, Galuski, who works at the Board of Elections, and newly elected At Large Councilwoman Erin Teta-Sullivan.

That leaves the two Republicans: Bodner in District 3 and Jim Gordon, the newly elected representative in District 1. Bodner has proven himself to be non-political when it comes to policy (though he did vote against Fitzgerald and DeLair happened to run against him earlier this month) and Gordon is the former GOP city chair so he is political. My guess is they break with the W&Z team more often than not on anything controversial.

One may say the rift is just political shenanigans but it does mean real jobs for real people – and more importantly who will get those jobs. The Council controls who is city clerk ($54,800,) deputy city clerk ($40,000,) city auditor ($59,600) bingo inspector, a liason position ($10,000,) and the Council confirms all city marshal (various salaries) recommendations too.

Right now the majority are held by Wade people. Something tells me that won’t be the case come Jan. 1. But, Wade is a shrewd politician and he successfully fought off the coup last year. While some would just as soon he move on, I don’t see it happening unless he wants to.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bring in the FBI

Just a quick note on the battle going on at the Police Department where there are those that feel Chief John Tedesco should not have released an Internal Affairs report to the person who allegedly was beaten by a police officer.

Can you imagine, for example, if a black man in Albany’s Arbor Hill alleged a police officer beat him and the department brass decided to bury the report?

It’s the same thing.

The letter Tedesco sent said the Internal Affairs investigation found the officer did use excessive force by beating the man upside the head after he was already under arrest. He also stated that the case should get turned over to the District Attorney to determine whether or not a crime was committed

Pretty serious stuff. Never mind that the police officer in question is paid for by taxpayers and as such should be accountable to the people who ultimately employ him. How is it any different, to use another example, than the city treasurer or auditor stealing money out of City Hall. Breaking the law is breaking the law. I don’t understand why there are those – both in the department and outside the department – who think any police officer is above that.

I know if a cop beat me up for no reason, which is the allegation, I would want to know the outcome of any investigation and I would want it made public. I would also want the allegations investigated by the proper authorities and not just IA. While I have all the respect in the world for the head of the IA now, Capt. Terry Buchanan, someone as upstanding may not always be in that role and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is skeptical anytime the police are the only ones investigating one of their own.

Along that same vein, Tedesco wants the FBI to come look at the IA report and the city’s response to his decision to release of the letter. I say go for it. Given the animosity between Tedesco and Magnetto and between Tedesco and the administration that appointed Magnetto to oversee the department - and Tedesco - there is no way anything will get resolved without an outside agency taking a look.

Tedesco, at a press conference Friday, said he thinks it's yet another attempt to get rid of him. I believe that, but I also believe he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

DA McNally's curtain call


I supposed I have to weigh in on John Halacy, the Rensselaer guy charged with sexually assaulting two young teenage girls who was sprung from jail because of a procedural error by an assistant in the office of District Attorney Rich McNally.

Some background: A defendant is afforded a right to a speedy trial, which means prosecutors are required to take some sort of action within 90 days unless the defendant waives that right while the two sides try to work out a deal. In Halacy’s case, there was evidently a verbal agreement to waive the provision but it was never formally filed. As such, both felonies were dismissed and they can’t be brought again thanks to double jeopardy. Halacy walked out of jail basically a free man. Yes, he is facing new, but lesser, charges and is looking at a year in jail rather than decades.

It’s not a flattering way for McNally to exit the office he’s held for six years. As you know, he was elected to the Supreme Court and will don the robes on Jan. 1.

A couple things. McNally told The Record it was the first time such an incident has happened and I have no reason to believe the reporter got it wrong so I’m going on the premise McNally said it. But, I know it has happened before and I dare say more than once. To be fair, the exact quote is it’s the first time it has “come up with this particular team in my administration” so technically he might be right, but in reality it’s a misleading statement at best.

He also said the ADA in charge of the case, Laura Kruegler, is a “fairly new” ADA, but I know for a fact she has been there since Patricia DeAngelis’s tenure. Kruegler’s Facebook page says she started in the DA’s office in 2000, a long time for an attorney to work in any DA’s office since private practice is where they make the big bucks.

She has, though, had some health issues to navigate and McNally is correct in saying that the ADA’s are swamped and that he’s been repeatedly denied requested help. That was in response to a letter by the Republican majority on the county Legislature looking for answers regarding what happened in the Halacy case - a legitimate request, and one that is infinitely more substantial than patting the Hoosick Falls volleyball team on the back for coming in third place.

McNally has had a tough go of things as DA, maybe even a tougher than his two Republican predecessors … and that’s saying something.

While nobody suspected it at the time, his 2007 election was brought into question during the 2009 voter fraud scandal. Former City Clerk Bill McInerney testified to forging hundreds of absentee applications and ballots in 2007 and 2009. And McInerney worked for McNally in 2007 when the race went to the absentees.  

Then, once taking office in 2008, he allowed a grand jury hearing evidence regarding political extortion charges against Democratic Party Chairman Tom Wade to expire without finishing the job by issuing an indictment or a no bill. It just expired.

Then, according to court room testimony and his own admission, McNally had a conversation with McInerney (photo to the right) about which attorney the latter should hire after he was charged in the voter fraud scandal. That conversation came after McNally recused himself. It was never pursued but it smacks of a conflict of interest.

Then, McNally failed to recuse himself in a DWI case brought against Wade’s daughter after Wade was instrumental in getting him elected in 2007 and again in 2011. The disposition of the case might not have been out of the norm, but the appearance of impropriety is certainly ugly.

Now, we have a man who skates on charges of sexually assaulting a 13 and a 14-year old girl.

One of the teen’s moms, obviously upset with how things went, said she is out for some street justice. I can’t condone it, but I can’t say I blame her either. She certainly didn’t get any justice here.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nina's decision to step down

I really wanted to weigh in on Nina Nichols decision to not run for an At-Large seat on the Troy City Council this summer and since a couple commenters mentioned her name, I will do so now.

I would have liked to have seen her run. I think she worked hard while on the Council, her heart was in the right place and she tried to do some things she thought was good for the city. I didn’t agree with all of those things – in particular pushing the police commissioner – but I’m not an elected representative either.

Sure, she likely had her eye on becoming mayor one day, but having ambitions is not a bad thing either. Makes you work harder at what you are doing now.

We all know – or think we know – why she decided to step down. Her official statement included something to do with “personal reasons.” Well, whatever they are should remain between herself and her family; especially after she decided not to run. And even if she did run, family stuff is family stuff and should be off limits to any sort of attacks from political opponents or hack columnists. Whatever she did certainly didn’t impact her ability to serve on the council but it was her decision to step down and so be it.

OK … OK … I’ll admit it. I wanted to see her run again because she did shake things up and I got a ton of mileage out of the whole police commissioner thing.


An obligatory missive on the King Street demolition

King Street demo
I’ve been around this town for a while now, and never have I seen anything come close to the debacle that is the demolition on King Street. State law was blatantly skirted, city code ignored, protocol brushed aside and I have never seen anyone, under any circumstance, act with such a complete sense of impunity.

Then Mayor Harry Tutunjian knocking down the old City Hall on New Year’s Eve came close, but at least the city owned the building. It wasn’t a privately held, long-vacant row of buildings that just happened to be standing in the perfect spot for a parking lot.

It’s really no surprise that weeks later plans were submitted to actually build a parking lot on the site. I was at the scene the day the wrecking ball swung and I asked Fire Chief Tom Garrett how many free meals he was getting for clearing the way for a parking lot for Bombers. I asked in jest, but he didn’t respond. He did say something about being glad I wasn’t writing anymore because I did have some fun after he unceremoniously had the old Cinema Art marquis on River Street torn down a few years back.

Garrett, as we all know, was front and center and took full responsibility for the demolition. Of course, he basically said the building was deteriorating at such a rapid rate, and presented such an imminent threat to public health and welfare that it had to be knocked down before the city engineer, Russ Reeves, came back from vacation to give a professional assessment of the situation.

Anyway, three months later, there is all sorts of finger pointing going on. Who is going to pay for it? The city or the building’s owner, Don Boyajian? Did Garrett act on his own or on behalf of someone in City Hall? Will someone get fined or sanctioned for not properly removing the asbestos before the building was knocked down and why were patrons allowed to go in and out of the next door Bombers while the wrecking ball was swinging?

(As an aside, I find it remarkable asbestos abatement was done some three months after the building was actually knocked down.)

Someone should be taken to task because this is an extraordinary debacle, even by Troy standards, and the logical person is Garrett. But, the chief has been around a long time, knows how to play the game and more importantly knows where the skeletons are buried.

Also, he is civil service, like Police Chief John Tedesco, but unlike Tedesco, Garrett is still in a union so he has that layer of protection too. And, by being part of a union, he gets overtime … lots of it. In 2012 he made $35,012 in OT and when coupled with his base pay of $111,650 makes him the highest paid employee in the city. Overtime in the Fire Department has recently become a hot button issue.

As of August, the department had already used up 90 percent of the 2013 allocation of just over $1 million in overtime and asked for another $250,000 be added for overtime in next year’s budget; a request that was denied. Also, there is an undercurrent of grumbling by members of the United Firefighters Association – Garrett is in the Command Officers Association – about how the majority of the OT is going to those with a higher rank rather than the rank and file.

Also, thanks to civil service, it will be impossible to unilaterally get rid of Garrett and thanks to a solid union contract, it will be impossible to get him out of the union even though that is the right thing to do – department heads and managers should not be in a union and should not make OT. Plus, as I said, he knows how to play the game. He did hire Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan’s son as a firefighter even though Ryan Jr. scored an 80 on the Civil Service exam and wasn’t within reach without pulling an archaic clause out of the closet.

Garrett has been quiet as of late, and maybe under some fire but that doesn’t mean he is going anywhere soon. My guess is he outlasts the current administration, and probably the following one too.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jimino's sneaky raise

I read in the Times Union - and no other publication - that Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino is asking for a raise for herself and her deputy, Chris Meyer. Of course it wasn’t made public until after her budget presentation and, coincidentally, after November’s election.

Not that it mattered much in her own campaign because for the third straight election cycle the Democrats failed to find a candidate to run against her. Then why wait? You may ask. Why not just be up front about the whole raise thing if you truly think you deserve it?

Well, it was to protect the Republican legislators, some of whom actually had an opponent and had to run a race. God forbid they have to take a stand on something as controversial as a raise for an elected official while heading into an election.

I’m not going to weigh in on the size of the raises – Jimino’s salary would go from $112,000 to $121,300 while Meyer’s would jump from $87,751 to $98,700 – that’s up to the Legislature to decide. She is asking just like anyone would and the 19-member panel has to decide to grant them the first raise they’ve had in eight years. But, the sneakiness is … well … just, sneaky.

If you remember eight years ago, after the budget presentation and after election, Jimino and the Legislature gave everyone a raise including themselves, County Clerk Frank Merola, the majority spokesman Rich Crist and a slew of others in county government. The minority got a raise too, if for no other reason than to keep them quiet. It worked.

I’m convinced there is a grand conspiracy going on where the GOP get the towns in Rensselaer County and in turn the Democrats get Troy. And the organizational hierarchy of each party directs the machinations to act in line with that unwritten rule. The Republicans mentioned above all make a pretty decent buck and so does city Chair Jim Gordon – who works for the county – and there are a bunch of Democrats who make a decent buck in the city. Why rock the boat when to many people who control too many jobs are making out OK.

It could be a reason not a lot of Republicans made a lot of noise in the city this time around – or for the last few years actually - and Democrats in the towns are all but non-existent. Sure, every once in a while we get a maverick in Troy like former Mayor Harry Tutunjian and Carmella Mantello but by and large the city is Democratic. (As an aside, Tutunjian had four lines and still failed to come in the top six in his bid for the Legislature but it’s difficult to run for anything after serving eight years as mayor.)

Or, I could be over-analyzing the entire thing and it’s just the way the demographics are shaking out with Troy, like most cities, decidedly left of center while the towns maintain their right of center tradition.

Na, it’s more fun to over-analyze and make a conspiracy theory out of it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kopka, the city clerk and Wiltshire UPDATED

I said I would weigh in on the last two years of Lynn Kopka’s tenure as Troy Council president so here it goes.

Let me start by saying it was no surprise when she got the most votes two years ago to become Council president, and it was hers to lose again. But, she had some missteps that resonated with the voters and now she is facing a court challenge by Carmella Mantello for the third At Large seat.

Her problems started right out of the gate with a number of screwed up meeting notifications causing the meetings to be postponed, including the first organizational meeting in 2012. However, there is learning curve with any new endeavor, it really didn’t impact real people and it’s unclear if it was Kopka’s fault or newly appionted City Clerk Karla Guererri’s.

(As an aside it will be interesting so see if Guererri hangs onto her job now that Rodney Wiltshire will be president on Jan. 1. One name being floated to replace Guererri is Emily Rossier, who was a non-campaigning candidate for the Working Families Party in District 6. She and other in the WFP worked hard for Wiltshire.)

Then, in March of this year Kopka penned a letter “on behalf of the citizens of Troy” in favor of Gov. Mario Cuomo’s SAFE Act and sent it to the rest of the Council asking for their signatures. While the Council is elected to represent the people of Troy there was never an official resolution passed in favor of or opposed to the SAFE Act, just the letter. The SAFE Act is a controversial gun control law that certainly has people up in arms, particularly in upstate, but given Troy’s demographic shift to the left, I don’t know how much that hurt her either.

-One thing that hurt in South Troy is her vote to create an adult business district along the waterfront. Personally, I think the entire thing was blown way out of proportion but don’t tell that to the people in South Troy – they’re not known as an open minded, easy going bunch.

The two things I think hurt Kopka the most, however, is what every Trojan can relate to – taxes.

The assessment on her Washington Park home was $250,000 before reassessment, $408,000 after reassessment and then it dropped down to $346,000 without her having to go through a formal grieving process. To be fair, some 1,400 other Trojans followed the same procedure with the majority of them getting their new assessments lowered shortly after GAR – the company that conducted the reassessment – was paid $1 million to assess all the properties at a supposed fair market value.

(Lynn informs me GAR overestimated her property by some 1,200 square feet, which is why her assessment was lowered.)

Also, during the reassessment process the city determined Washington Park should be a taxable property since it is not open for the general public to use. Only those living in the neighborhood have a key to the gated little wonderland so I have to agree with the city on this one. The proposed assessment is nominal and would equal about $2,200 in taxes to be paid by the some 50 households. But, rather than just pay it, the neighbors are fighting it in court. Kopka, of course, is the face of the Washington Park Association.

Let me add, I’ve known Kopka since she worked for then Mayor Mark Pattison and I’ve always liked her spunk and inexorable energy. She does, however, toe the party line and in this case it’s the one drawn by county Chair Tom Wade. Wiltshire does not. And where Kopka tried to keep Council Democrats in a semblance of a cohesive body, I don’t think Wiltshire (pictured above) will care one way or another. Right off the bat I can see the seven-member majority breaking into camps of four and three, respectively. More on that later.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More on Wiltshire and Mantello

This is in response to Patrick McKenna’s request for more information on the Wilson-Pakula and how it hurt Carmella Mantello’s At Large Council bid.

According to state Election Law, a candidate not enrolled in a political party cannot run on that party’s line without the party’s permission. Who gives permission – be it the local or state committee – varies by party.

For example, when Tom Connolly and Bob Mirch took over the Independence and Conservative party committees they changed the bylaws to make endorsements come from the local level so they would have complete control. On the flip side, a few years later, the Working Families Party saw Mirch and company try to take over the party by the same means so they shifted the power to grant a Wilson-Pakula, or power to grant permission to run on the party’s line, to the state level.

Of course it didn’t detour Mirch, Connolly and company for long because all they did is enroll a bunch of people in the party and drove them to the polls to elect shadow candidates they put up to steal the line from the Democrats. Chris Consuello, and his slogan “Pizza before Politics,” is the one I wrote about most often just because it was so damn funny. But candidates have also included the likes of a guy named Billy Gilboe - aka “Soggy but Safe ” for a leap he took off the Green Island bridge a while back and who had no idea he was even running - and the sons, daughters and other relatives of those in the GOP or employees working in GOP controlled jobs.
A fake flyer featuring Chris Consuello
and President Obama

So, how did it hurt Mantello. Well, obviously Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the city so Wiltshire had a leg up to begin with and he had the WFP line too. Traditionally, the C and I line can account for about 15 percent of the vote in any given election, however, and the GOP has used it to their advantage. Ten years ago, Frank LaPosta beat Harry Tutunjian for mayor straight up Democrat to Republican but Tutunjian had the C and I line and it put him over the top. (As someone pointed out Wiltshire having the I line helped him more than it hurt Mantello and Kopka but in a way it's saying the same thing in a different way.)

As I mentioned, there is no way Wiltshire would have gotten the I line without a nod from the GOP. I know some GOP loyalists were even collecting signatures for him. (Even though a candidate has the party’s permission they still have to get enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.) If the GOP were squarely behind Mantello, there is no way they would have allowed Wiltshire to have the I line. No way. Once he did, coupled with the Democrat and WFP lines, the council presidency was his to lose and it did nothing but hurt Mantello; and the current Council President Lynn Kopka too much to the chagrin of those in the Democratic Party proper who would have just as soon seen the status quo continue.

 Obviously, Wiltshire played it right and he is the next president. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does and if he remains as independent as he did through his first two years.  

Hope that clarifies things. Feel free to ask any questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wiltshire is Council president because of the GOP

Beginning Jan. 1 Rodney Wiltshire will be the new Troy Council president, much to the chagrin of the one currently serving in that capacity, Lynn Kopka, and many other Democrats.

Tom Wade, Lynn Kopka, Nina Nichols, Rodney
Wiltshire and Mayor Lou Rosamilia. Wiltshire is even
looking left while his Democratic colleagues are
looking right, and it's not because of any
political ideology.
Wiltshire, in his second term, rode the Independence Party to the presidency getting 405 votes on that line alone. Straight up Democrat to Democrat, Wiltshire got 2,797 to Kopka’s 2,788 and second place finisher Erin Sullivan-Teta’s 2,670. I’m not sure how the absentees broke, but take out t 
he Independence Party line and it’s a horserace. I know it’s not an exact science – in that there is no guarantee all 405 Independence Party votes would have followed the line and not voted for Wiltshire anyway – but without it a factor in the race would have been a lot closer.

There is only one reason Wiltshire got permission – known as a Wilson-Pakula - to run an Independence Party primary; and it’s not because of his independent streak that has infuriated the Democratic Party proper. It’s because the Republicans wanted him to have it. The party’s vice chairman is former Democratic operative Tom Connolly and he is now staunchly aligned with the GOP. True, it may be more complex at the state level, but for at least the last decade, the party has almost exclusively backed Republicans in Rensselaer County races.

One reason, I’m told, Wiltshire got the Wilson-Pakula was to block Carmella Mantello from getting the council presidency to use as a stepping stone to another run for mayor. Mantello, despite being a tireless campaigner, is still not accepted by many in the GOP power structure and they would just as soon not have her take a third run at mayor.

Anyway, Mantello did win the Independence Party primary, and 473 voters filled in the bubble (which doesn’t have nearly the pizazz as saying “flipped the switch” but what can you do.) on that line in the general election. Without it, the third At Large seat would not have been close, instead it went to the absentees and Kopka is now the winner by 65 votes with a pending court challenge by Mantello.

The biggest surprise, in my mind, was Sullivan-Teta, who beat Kopka by some 250 votes and only came in second by 200 votes to Wiltshire. The Democrat also had the Independence Party line but it had nothing to do with political shenanigans like Wiltshire’s Wilson-Pakula. Connolly and Sullivan-Teta’s brother, Mike Sullivan, go way back and I’m guessing it was a favor to an old friend. In addition, Sullivan, a long time aid to former Rep. Mike McNulty, knows what he is doing when it comes to political campaigns and I’m sure he helped his sister out. Also, I’ve never met Sullivan-Teta, but I’m, told she only recently started going by Sullivan-Teta; and when I say recently I mean when she announced her campaign. Never let it be said ethnicity doesn’t play a role in local elections.

Kopka didn’t help herself out too much either. More on that later.

Finally, we’ll have to see if Wiltshire can maintain his independent streak. It’s really no secret he is eyeballing a run for mayor and he is in a tricky spot because the way things have been going it’s impossible to win without a bunch of Democratic votes. To that end, we’ll first have to see if Mayor Lou Rosamilia even runs in in 2015. And if he does, we’ll have to see if Wiltshire primaries him. My guess is he primaries anyone the Democrats put up, including Mayor Lou.