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Record staffers bring you information on the comings and goings of New York's Collar City.

Friday, January 30, 2009

City Hall bids

A total of six bids were received by the city Thursday for the retrofitting of the Verizon building on Sixth Avenue as the temporary new City Hall.

Bids were submitted from the following companies:

Finelli Construction, Inc.

HCP Architects

BCI Construction Inc.

Bast Hatfield Inc.

Al Mugrace

VMJR Companies

Details on the bids were not yet available, but keep watching Troy Talk and The Record for further information.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bruno: The facts will come out in court

Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno met briefly with Record staffers Tuesday to discuss his recent indictment by a federal grand jury and to explain his views on how U.S. Attorneys and FBI officials had concocted the case against him.

The eight count indictment handed up Friday charged New York's former top Republican with carrying out a scheme defraud the state and its citizens of the right to his honest services when he received $3.2 million in private consulting fees for work they say was never done between 1993 and 2006.

Bruno said that he wanted to get the case into open court as soon as possible and that he would be proven innocent of any wrongdoing in the end. He also believed that government officials had rushed to put the indictment together last week, as the federal grand jury was about to be disbanded, because they had been unable to find witnesses or other supporting proof that he had engaged in anything improper throughout their investigation.

In their indictment, U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Coombe and William Pericak alleged that Bruno had exploited his official position by receiving money from individuals and entities who often had business before the state legislature, directly or through his so-called "consulting" companies.

Government officials also said that Bruno did not properly file financial disclosure forms and misrepresented approvals from the Legislative Ethics Committee, which he had allegedly never received.

Bruno said the allegations were nonsense and that he had filed everything he had been required to submit.

Bruno maintained that he had every right to conduct outside business as a part-time legislator and that he had been selectively targeted with this investigation by political enemies who were “trying to make a career out of destroying him.”

If convicted, Bruno faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000 for each of the eight counts of the indictment.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Largest inaugural bash this side of the Hudson

Inauguration parties were held far and wide Tuesday after Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, but organizers of one local bash believed they would have the largest celebration on this side of the river with roughly at least 120 individuals expected.

The party was held from 7-9 p.m. at the 95 Bar and Grill, located at 95 Ferry St., and was put on by the Rensselaer County Young Democrats,, and the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

"We have kind of aligned ourselves with throwing a bash to celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama," said Rodney Wiltshire, president of the Rensselaer County Young Democrats, who noted that the organization's members had done a lot in the past two years to get Democrats elected on both local and nation levels.

"This is really the culmination of our hard work for the past two years and we just want to celebrate and really give people a venue in Rensselaer County where they can go and have a good time."

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Complete salary list for the city

Have you ever wondered how just much city employees were bringing home at the end of the year?

We've got the complete list for gross salaries in 2008.

Just click here, if you have a recent version of Adobe Flash Player installed, and enjoy the reading material.

A list of most department codes can be found here or in the city's 2009 budget.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Six city churches will close

As part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany's "Called to BE Church" initiative, six churches in the city will close.

St. Patrick's will close by July 1, 2010.

St. Peter's will close by May 31, 2009.

St. Paul the Apostle will close by May 31, 2009.

St. Francis de Sales will close by Feb. 25, 2009.

St. Mary's will close by July 1, 2010.

St. William's will close by Feb. 25, 2009.

To read more about closures across the Capital District, click here.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dueling meetings

After reading in The Record that there was a possibility that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development may ask the city to reimburse it's CDBG account with $469,616 by the end of April, City Council President Clement Campana said Wednesday that he had decided to call a special meeting of the City Council to meet with Mayor Harry Tutunjian to discuss the matter next week after a regularly scheduled meeting of the council Finance Committee.

Upon learning about the meeting Campana had scheduled, Tutunjian issued a statement asking for the council to call a separate special meeting to discuss the proposed sale of the River Triangle and Dauchy buildings, which the council compelled the mayor to sign off on in September and is current the subject of litigation.

“Only the members of this City Council would show great concern for $475,000, and totally ignore $8 million,” Tutunjian said. “Their New Year’s resolution must have been to remain consistent, as they continue to govern by ‘gotcha politics’ while showing no regard for my administration and the difficult decisions we make each day.”

Campana said that while the issues did need to be discussed, Tutunjian had only called for the meeting because he had already scheduled one to discuss CDBG spending.

“The meeting is obviously just his reaction to the block grant issue,” said Campana. “There has been no decision on the River Triangle sale and he (Tutunjian) had a chance to veto the legislation and he didn’t. That’s a fact.”

The special meeting to discuss the city's CDBG issues will take place Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
A time and date has not yet been set for the River Triangle meeting.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

County resolutions

The Rensselaer County Legislature approved several resolutions at their Jan. 13 legislative meeting which supported efforts to remove a federally-mandated annual surcharge for those receiving child support payments, called for a strengthening of Buster's Law after the recent murder of a horse in Hoosick, and opposed a wide range of new taxes and fee increases including in the proposed 2009-2010 state budget.

The sponsor of the child support resolution, Legislator Martin Reid, said the surcharge is unfair and discriminatory to those families receiving child support. The resolution was approved unanimously at the legislative meeting.

“The surcharge should be revoked because it is unfair and essentially takes advantage of those families receiving child support. The money belongs to those families and the new president and new Congress should act quickly to end the surcharge,” said Reid.

The fee came about two years ago on the federal level, as part of a proposal to reduce a federal deficit. Under the plan, a $25 annual fee is owed for each family receiving child support payments.

Legislators in support of strengthening Buster's Law suggested that the amendment to the legislation be named "Skye's Amendment," after the horse that was found dead with its throat slit weeks ago.

Along with the murder of Skye, legislators said recent acts of animal abuse demonstrate a need for strengthening the law, including the deliberate starvation of a dog in Troy, and the mutilation deaths of two kittens whose bodies were found in the Troy area.

"The killing of Skye was a shocking instance of cruelty and one that shows the need to strengthen Buster's Law. The number of recent acts of depravity towards animals is of real concern to us," said Legislator Lester Goodermote.

Republican legislators acknowledged the state's fiscal problems but noted there are still hundreds of millions of dollars that can be reduced in the state budget without resulting in new mandates, layoffs or reductions of state services.

"A new round of taxes and fees are not the answer as residents deal with an already tough economy," said Goodermote. "These taxes and fees will take millions out of the pockets of New Yorkers who are already struggling."

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

New year...same issues

In a letter sent to Council President Clement Campana earlier this week, Mayor Harry Tutunjian declared that his administration would ignore future memos from the council president unless they are accompanied by a follow-up phone call for verification.

The move reportedly came as a response to repeated occurrences over the last year of memos being sent to the mayor and other city officials from Campana without the council president's knowledge.

The most recent memo was sent to Corporation Counsel David Mitchell discussing how, in accordance with the City Charter, he had a "legal and ethical obligation to fulfill the duties" of his office when requested to draft legislation by the council. The memo closed by informing Mitchell that failure to abide by his obligation would be noted accordingly.

According to Tutunjian, when he questioned Campana about why the memo was sent, the council president had no idea what he was talking about.

"It is ethically inappropriate and a waste of taxpayer dollars that department heads and my staff must chase down information that you are not even aware you are asking for," wrote Tutunjian in his letter to Campana.

Campana said the situation was more of the same.

"We asked him to prepare legislation for the council majority and no matter what you do, it's too vague," said Campana. "The bottom line is that Mitchell works for the mayor and that's pretty much how it's going to be."

The original request for legislation sent to Mitchell on Dec. 16 was a once sentence request for him to draft a local law consistent with legislation from 1995, which as a whole dealt with several different topics and matters .

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Council forced to delay charter changes

The City Council had planned on introducing local laws to amend the City Charter Thursday so that they could hire independent counsels for both majority and minority members but were unable to do so because of a section of the charter that requires legislation to amend the document be in the hands of council members for a full seven days before it is acted upon.

The council met to discuss the matter Monday night and legislation was not sent to council members until Tuesday.

The local laws would have allowed both political parties to hire their own attorney, if they chose, and also would have amended the corporation counsel's need to act as their legal advisor.

The full story can be found here, which also features a short video of Councilman Mark McGrath, R-District 2, talking about his opposition to hiring a minority attorney (we know it's dark but we're still learning how to do this kind of stuff).

Further background on the issues can also be found here and here.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Library branches to close

The Troy Public Library is planning to close two of its branches and reduce a number of services next month for financial reasons.

The Lansingburgh and Sycaway branches of the library will close by Feb. 2.
The library will also reduce its staff and budget for books, materials, and programming for both children and adults because of a 30 percent increase in expenses in recent years without additional funding.

Library officials had requested an appropriation of $600,000 from the city earlier in the year so that it could maintain its current level of services but only ended up receiving $450,000, the same amount that they had received since 2003.
According to library director Paul Hicok, the library was left with little choice but to cut expenses.

"The staff and Board of Trustees spent many hours reviewing our options for 2009, but the library has little choice and must make the difficult decisions which will allow the library to live within its means," said Hicok.

Hicok also noted that the library has been busier than ever during recent economic times since more people are turning to the library for books, magazines, videos, and other materials.

An attempt to create a special district for the library in November failed after voters decline to approve its proposed $800,000 budget, but officials plan to start the process of applying to create a district once again this year.

Two public meetings will be held concerning the library’s new $669,000 budget and its impact on services to the community.

The first meeting will be held Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the library’s Lansingburgh branch, located at the corner of 114th Street and Fourth Avenue, while the second will be held at the main library, located at 100 Second St., on Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Mayor Harry Tutunjian said his administration was disappointed the library was forced to close its branches and would be looking to see if there is a manner in which the city could assist the library with its situation.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 Budget Online

The city's $62.24 million 2009 budget document has been posted on the city's Web site for residents to view and download at their leisure.

The document can be found here or can be purchased at City Hall for $10.

Mayor Harry Tutunjian said he was pleased that his proposed budget had been left intact by the City Council and that it was a benefit to city residents that Troy was one of few municipalities in the area without a tax increase for 2009.

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