Saturday, May 17, 2008

Straight to the Top

Former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko, who represented Schenectady and Montgomery counties for more than two decades, will announce his candidacy for the 21st Congressional District on Tuesday. That's great news for the area and for the local Democratic party.

Tonko is a class act who has been a role model for many elected officials. He's smart, gracious and approachable. Whether it was a black-tie affair at the Capitol or a chicken dinner at a local fire house, Paul was there. And everyone -- from the party bigwig to the nonpartisan senior citizen -- had his attention and interest. A role model, for sure.

Anyway, Paul will enter a crowded Democratic field -- with some candidates more legitimate than others -- but should immediately rise to the top. He has a solid reputation, an experienced organization and a faithful following. It won't be a slam dunk -- Tracy Brooks looks strong -- but Paul Tonko should take on the front-runner mantle right away. I look forward to voting for him.

Of course, all this is happening because Mike McNulty -- who has served the 21st CD with integrity and distinction for more than 20 years -- is retiring. I don't know anyone -- in or out of politics -- who doesn't like Mike and appreciate his many years of service to our community. He has personally been very kind to me on many occasions and he will be missed.

(Paul Tonko will make his official announcement at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Labor Temple, 890 Third Street in Albany.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

What in the World?

Earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes. Tens of thousands dead; many more without homes ... without anything.

And we complain when the price of gas goes up?

The natural disasters of late do put life in perspective. We sometimes think we know it all; have it all under control. But then life -- real life -- intervenes and suddenly the fact we're paying a little more for our pizza and paying even more to drive to the pizza parlor doesn't seem quite as important.


It's something we all have but don't all share. It's the framework for our approach to life and to society. It shapes who we are and explains why. And, yet, for some, it remains undefined.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Short Takes ...

TU shortchanges ... I will always have a soft spot for my former employer, The Times Union. It's rightly been the number one newspaper in the Capital District for some time and it's delivered -- literally and figuratively. But I am troubled by the recent very obvious cutbacks. Television listings and news have been greatly diminished. So has the stock market coverage. Columns such as Bill Dowd's take on beers and spirits -- the type of thing that has traditionally put the TU ahead of its competitors and among the best mid-sized papers in the nation -- has been discontinued. I know newspapers, including the local papers, are losing readers and losing money but with the TU changes, it's starting to hit home. And it's sad. ... With that said ... Today's Times Union editorial about the legitimacy of the Democrats' superdelegate system was right on. I am sick to death of the commentators who criticize the Clinton campaign for embracing that as an end game. Superdelegates have been part of the Democratic nominating process for 20 years. Suddenly, because they're all enthralled with her opponent, they are suggesting the Clintons are breaking the rules. Superdelegates voting the way THEY want to vote is part of the rules. In the long run, it may not matter but, as the TU editorial page pointed out, right now, it's perfectly legitimate. Take that, Tim Russert! ... Reluctant kudos ... I agree with the Daily Gazette's Carl Strock on almost nothing. In fact, as a city councilman, he was the only journalist whose calls I would not return. But his column of last weekend discussing Rev. Art Hudak's efforts to get his life back in order. Art hit bottom last year but, with the help of the Schenectady City Mission, it sounds like he's turning a corner and helping others while he helps himself. I've known Art for a few years -- like me, he's past president of the Paige Elementary PTO and he headed up the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association. And, of course, he led the Woodlawn Reformed Church for many years before alcohol changed his life. But, according to Strock, he's working hard to redeem himself and I wish him all the best. And I thank Strock for sharing that good news with us.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Y Not Downtown?

It's really too bad the original plan at the "Big N Plaza" couldn't come together. But we need to be realistic and work with what we have. Here's the latest on the YMCA project from today's Times Union:

YMCA changes plan for facility
Short of cash for new building, group looks at complex in Schenectady

By Lauren Stanforth
Staff writer
First published: Friday, May 2, 2008
SCHENECTADY -- The YMCA has abandoned its long-standing plans to construct a new building in the city and is instead focusing on a possible relocation to the Center City complex on State Street.

The organization has been unable to raise the money it needs to build from scratch, said David Brown, CEO of the Capital District YMCA. A new building is projected to cost at least $10 million, and the YMCA has raised about $4 million.

The YMCA originally announced plans in 2004 to close its location at 13 State St. and build a new exercise and recreational facility at the former Big N plaza on Nott Street. But that plan had to be scrapped last fall after the Golub Corp. wanted the land for its new Price Chopper headquarters. Since then, the YMCA had been quiet about what it would do next.

"I'm confident once we get a site and a concept, the fundraising will pick up," Brown said Thursday.

Brown said the YMCA is still looking at multiple sites but is particularly interested in Center City's spacious first floor for a possible renovation. Developer Galesi Group recently took over the building at 415-419 State St. from the city, the city's Industrial Development Agency and developer Robert Lupe and is planning a renovation of the 170,000-square-foot property. The building, which was built in 1979 as an ice rink surrounded on upper floors by offices, is used by an indoor soccer league.

The site is on a bus line and has ample parking in the back, Brown said. However, he said he didn't know what amenities could fit in the space yet, including a pool. The YMCA's services for homeless men would be located somewhere else under the agency's current proposal.
David Buicko, chief operating officer for The Galesi Group, said they're discussing the possibility with the YMCA, but that those talks are in their infancy. "We're happy they're considering us," Buicko said.

James Commarto, a contributor to the YMCA project and former property owner downtown, said he'll support the Center City project if it's the only option but said he still wants to see a new building constructed. Commarto hopes that publicity about the lack of funds might jump-start contributions.

Frank Maurizio, a member of the Schenectady YMCA board of managers, said he has mixed feelings about the change. "I was looking forward to building in another area, only because I thought a new YMCA would stabilize another neighborhood," he said. "But it's difficult to argue against another major player being located downtown."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Short Takes ...

Bio-fuelish? ... Some scientists and advocates for the hungry are crossing social justice swords with environmentalists over the issue of biofuels. They've recommended halting the use of the food-based biofuels, such as ethanol, saying it would cut corn and other grain prices by 20 percent during the international food crisis. It's not the first time biofuels -- of the production of them -- have come under fire. But as grains and other crops have grown more scarce -- and expensive -- worldwide, the question is: food or fuel? If nothing else, it shows that the "going green" movement is about much more than unplugging our cellphone chargers and recycling our soda cans. ... Barner barbecue ... Saturday, May 17, is the date for a very worthwhile fundraiser -- the Thomas W. Barner Memorial Fund Barbecue. With a special appearance by The Refrigerators, the fundraiser will raise money to fight melanoma. It's scheduled from noon to 4 pm at the Shaker Road-Loudonville Fire Department on Old Niskayuna Road in Loudonville. The cost is $6 for adults and $5 for kids (5-13). The music is scheduled to go from 12:45-1:30. ... Happy, happy, happy ... Try out Parisi's (11 North Broadway) new Friday Happy Hour. It's from 5-8 p.m., with drink specials and a free buffet that most people would pay for. Lisa Parisi is a class act and runs one of the best eating establishments in the Capital District. ... Must see TV ... Thanks to the wonders of "On Demand" television, I recently caught up with HBO's original series, "John Adams." TV Guide called it "as sumptuous and satisfying as television gets" and that's an understatement. "Adams" -- produced by Tom Hanks -- is a terrific adaption of historian David McCullough's biography of a few years ago and can rightly boast about extraordinary performances from Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. Among the many highlights pf the 7-part series is the depiction of the partnership of equals between John and Abigail Adams. A revolutionary Bill and Hillary, perhaps?