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Minutes for

Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA)

Wednesday, October 7, 1998

Introductions

Harold Rubin moved to accept the September minutes as submitted. Elfrieda Textores seconded. Motion approved.

Albany Public Library news was distributed. For more information on upcoming events call 449-3380.

A flyer announcing available positions with the City and upcoming Civil Service Exams was distributed. For more information call 434-5052.

Howie Stoller announced the CANA web site address is http://home.nycap.rr.com/cana. The site will include neighborhood publications (How to Start a Neighborhood Association and Increasing Participation in Neighborhood Associations), the list of neighborhood association contacts, Charter Revision information, and jokes.

Recent Board of Zoning Appeals decisions were distributed.

Paul Bray, the Founder of Albany Roundtable, is looking for people interested in serving on the Urban Cultural Parks Commission. Mayor has some appointments, Common Council has others. For more info contact Paul at 450-0284 (h) or 455-7527 (w).

The next meeting of the Committee on University and Community Relations will be held on Wednesday, October 14th at 7 p.m. at the Albany Police Department’ Traffic Safety Building at 526 Central Ave. We will receive an update on a proposal by the Student Association of the University at Albany to originate this year’s homecoming parade from the Pine Hills Neighborhood.

Guest Speaker: Superintendent Lonnie Palmer Albany City Schools – Facilities Planning Process

The Albany City School District is planning for necessary improvements to school facilities. A committee of parents, staff and residents initiated a demographic study and hired an architectural firm, Cannon, to review all of the facilities. The architect has developed a long-rang master plan for the district’s facilities. A separate firm, Open System Technology, was hired to provide advice on improving technology in the district. The initial review of all of the existing buildings has been completed and there are proposals for how to proceed.

The average age of the school buildings is 81 years. Many schools are on small lots with inade-quate play areas. Many exhibit difficult safety issues inside and outside the buildings. Many classrooms are too small to accommodate educational programs. Enrollment in grades 9-12 is expected to grow from 2,300 to over 3,000 in the next 10 years. Rising enrollments have forced us to use modular classroom at two of the elementary schools. Few buildings offer access for the disabled. Many buildings lack the wiring, ventilation, heating and other support systems required to function effectively. Many do not have gymnasiums, cafeterias, or auditoriums.

The information that has been compiled is a draft recommendation and the district is looking for input from the community to develop a comprehensive and long-term plan for the facilities.

The cost of this project depends on two factors: state aid and what work is actually completed. Albany City School District receives an extremely low state aid ratio and will be asking the legislature to reexamine the City’s need and special situation (75% property not taxable) to increase the amount of state aid to Albany schools. The district will also be soliciting information from the community about the project, reorganizing some of the schools and implementing the project in phases to address immediate needs and reassess before moving onto larger projects.

 

QUESTION/ANSWER/COMMENT

A concern was raised about the school district’s past performance of not maintaining buildings, deserting neighborhoods, increasing taxes yet no significant improvement in the product of students going through the system. Better buildings are not going to solve the problems of education.

There are 23 buildings in the school system and they are looking at alternative use for many of the buildings because rehabilitating space is more costly then new building and the state requires lots larger then the space that many of the buildings currently occupy.

Comment: Supt. Palmer is dedicated to finding out our needs, wants and abilities to overhaul the entire system citywide.

Q: Custodial services leave a lot to be desired. Are they being looked at?

A: There is an entire reorganization of supervision and cleaning schedules currently underway.

Q: Have the schools looked into authority for bonds?

A: Need to get local legislators to walk through the buildings, as they did with the State Education Department, so that they understand the immediacy of the need

Q: Concern about once it’s in place, how will the plan be implemented and how will they deal with emergency maintenance (roof repair, furnaces, etc.)

A: SED had the same questions – architects are putting together a list of emergency erred maintenance and safety needs that will be addressed immediately.

Q: State consultancy service available free of charge to and walk-thru buildings identify problems.

A: Have used the service. May need to utilize again for buildings that will be vacated.

Q: Why is the school district unable to explain why those not vested in school system (i.e. no kids) should bear burden of additional tax dollars.

A: It has been shown that good quality school system improves property value.

Q: How is the truancy problem being addressed?

A: Police are patrolling and picking up kids not in school. They also follow up with the parents in the evening. Police and school are working with parents. If people see kids where they shouldn’t be during school hours, please call the school.

A retired teacher recommended pre-k-4th grade schools near home and high school would fall into place. Smaller schools provide a better community than larger schools. People will go along with a plan if you give them something to be proud of from the start. Public needs education about associated costs.

Hackett and Philip Livingston are buildings important to the architecture of the city. Work with individual neighborhoods to deal with buildings in their areas so they are not abandoned.

Charter Revision

A description of the proposed changes in the charter for the City of Albany was prepared by Henry M. Madej, Harold Rubin and Todd Swanstrom and distributed to CANA members.

The members of CANA must decided whether to support, reject or take no position on the proposed changes.

Members of the CANA Charter Revision Committee: Cynthia Galivan, Harold Rubin, Donald Dugan, Clare Yates, Keith St. John, Christopher Lindsay, Marggie Skinner, Craig Waltz, Dominic Calsolaro, Henry M. Madej.

Educating the public on the proposed changes is now the priority. Dr. Stephen Schechter distributed a draft of the proposed print materials that will be distributed to voters. There will be media designed to alert voters and audiotape available at the library.

Q: If vote yes, are we stuck with the Charter for another 20 years? What happens if proposed changes are voted down?

A: Any change to the Charter must go before the public in the form of a referendum. Municipal home rule law authorizes charter revision by

a: local law adopted by the legislative body,

b: charter commission established by

1. common council directly

2. common council via referendum;

3. mayor;

4. petition (registered voters = 15% of total votes for gov. in most recent election)

c: citizen petition (registered voters = 10% of total votes for gov. in most recent election.)

 

The Mayor’s charter commission preempts any other commission.

Q: Is proposal an improvement over what we have now or are there deficiencies?

A: Individual sections were voted on and the entire document was voted on for transmission.

Keith St. John commented that there are four questions to ask. Do the proposed changes:

Improve accountability to tax payers (appointed vs. elected)

Establish a system of checks and balances. (oversight of official duties)

Promote separation of powers (insulating public officer powers from outside political pressure – strengthen connection)

Clarify roles and responsibilities of elected officials (does proposed Charter say it all to avoid going to all areas to get answers)

After significant discussion, a motion was put to the floor.

Dominic Calsolaro moved that CANA members reject the proposed charter as is. Keith St John Seconded. 14 yea, 1 nay 9 abstain.

Clare Yates moved and it was seconded that CANA support the proposed charter. 15 no, 9 abstain.

 

Since we take positions when there is a "consensus" (defined as 2/3), neither motion carried sufficient support for CANA action.

Henry M. Madej moved that CANA encourage every neighborhood association to sponsor community forums on the pros and cons of charter and encourage everyone to get out and vote. Seconded by Elfrieda Textores. All in favor. Motion approved.

Meeting adjourned.

Submitted by Sandra Thomas

NOTE: After adjournment, Rick Wassher of Ten Broeck Triangle asked for support with petition drive regarding saving St. Joseph’s Church. A copy of his petition is enclosed. Please feel free to sign it and ask friends and neighbors to sign if you can. This is an important Albany landmark that deserves our support. (MS)

 

Attendance for 10/7/98

Christopher Lindsay, Beverwyck NA

Cynthia Galivan, Manning Blvd. NA

Bettie Riddish, Buckingham Pond NA

Anne Nolen McGuirk, Buckingham Pond NA

Mary Connair, Delaware Area NA

Richard Carroll, Delaware Area NA

Craig R. Waltz, Jr., Helderberg NA

Donald Dugan, Helderberg NA

Betsy Shearer, Park South NA

Andrew Harvey, Park South NA

Rick Wassher, Ten Broeck Triangle Pres. League

Maria Parisella, Mansion NA

Howard Stoller, Melrose NA

G. Mowbray, Hudson Park NA

Elfrieda Textores, South End Concerned Citizens

Clare Yates, Center Square NA

Harold Rubin, Center Square NA

Elizabeth Benjamin, Times Union

Eileen Purcell, Union at Albany Public Library

Don Bulger

Emily L. Grisom, Sheridan Hollow NA

Stephen L. Schechter, Albany Charter Commission

Henry M. Madej, Pine Hills NA

Keith St. John, Historic Pastures HOA

Teresa Novellino, Daily Gazette

Thomas L. Gebhardt, University at Albany

Dominic Calsolaro, Second Ave. NA

Richard Propp, Marion Ave. Assn.

Donald Wardle, United Tenants of Albany

JP Sullivan, Buckingham Pond/Crestwood NA

Gene Solan, Pine Hills NA

Shawn Morris, Delaware Area NA

Tricia Coates, Delaware Area NA

Mimi & John Mounteer, Manning Blvd. NA