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and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel
Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add
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November 22, 2006
Neighborhoods Work, Part One
In this first report, the blogger rants about the useless and uninformative
part of the conference. In the second report, he glows admiringly
about the useful and informative part.
Last Saturday morning the hall at the First Lutheran Church on Western
Avenue was packed with regular folks, neighborhood activists, politicians
and corporate media, including TV cameras. The occasion was the Seventh
Neighborhoods Work conference, put on by the Neighborhood Resources
Council (NRC) and the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations
Later in the morning, the conference became worthwhile. But at the
beginning we all had to sit through the baloney and doggie droppings.
|Rabito and Three Dingdongs
First up were representatives of Albany Mayor
Re-Capitalize Albany Committee. You may recall that these characters
are the collection of suburban interlopers that are investigating
ways to carve out the City of Albany’s guts and serve the steaming
entrails to corporate and suburbanite looters.
We sat and politely listened to City Commissioner of Planning and
Development Joe Rabito and three dingdongs from the Committee offer
up a pile of worthless generalities and important blather, all very
short on specific solutions to problems. As The Wife said afterwards, “I
couldn’t understand why they didn’t make any sense. I
thought it was me.” “No,” I reassured her, “it
wasn’t you. They were full of crap.”
But we were able to pick out, purely by implication, three goals
that the Re-Capitalize Committee is pursuing: 1) attracting corporations
2) gentrifying low income neighborhoods, and 3) making “charter” schools
plentiful and permanent.
As soon as they were through dissembling, I shot up my hand for
the first question. (I paraphrase here.) “More than half of
the people in the South End, and presumably the rest of the downtown
neighborhoods, do not own or have access to a car. Since it is unlikely
that we are going to see any high tech industries locate in the South
End, it is clear that the key to economic revival of my neighborhood
is mass transportation. What is the committee doing to address this
vital economic issue?”
Joe Rabito, from his high perch on the stage, stared at me flatly
and in a flat voice said, “Our committee has a more narrow
focus. That will be addressed by the master plan.” And that
Several other participants tried to get these clowns to do or say
something useful. Roger Markovics tried to get them interested in
listening to housing advocates from the Housing Trust Fund, which
looks for ways to finance run down or abandoned housing stock in
the City. No, he was told, we already got a bunch of pamphlets from
Joyce Hartwell asked why they weren’t building on the work
of other committees, particularly that of John Poorman and the Capital
District Planning Committee. We welcome input from everybody, was
Former mayoral candidate Archie Goodbee asked the Committee
to consider the idea of land value taxation, the idea of taxing land
instead of buildings, offering Harrisburg Pennsylvania as a model
for successful implementation. “The results have been spectacular,” said
Archie. Well, spectacular or not, the committee had no interest in
investigating this intriguing idea, or any other for that matter.
But suddenly Joe Rabito came alive. Someone suggested that the City
should provide housing downtown for the elderly, particularly for
the growing number of retiring baby boomers. Rabito was all for that. “What
I like about them from
an economic perspective,” he said, meaning the aging baby boomers, “ is that they have lots of money.”
How mother fricking revealing of motives can you get. Yes, we want to
exploit the people of low income neighborhoods like the
South End with privatized “charter” schools.
No, we can’t even consider bringing desperately
needed income into poor neighborhoods by providing mass transportation.
But you’d better believe that the City of Albany is all for
displacing the low income people of the South End with rich retiring
baby boomers. Gentrification is very much on the table.
Okay, that was the baloney part of Neighborhood Works. But guess
what? According to the liars who run the local corporate media, the
Re-Capitalize Panel was the ONLY part of the Neighborhoods Work Conference.
Note, for example, this
wretched report from the corporate-minded suburbanites at Capital
9 TV News. Of course it’s one of those
typical “Isn’t Albany an awful place to live” stories.
But read it carefully. Notice anything missing?
Not one word about how this Conference is put on by the neighborhood
associations. In fact, it gives the distinct impression that the
Conference was put on by Re-Capitalize Albany!
That this TV station would eliminate the existence of the Albany
neighborhood movement from its reports is not to be wondered at.
Capital 9 News is a local outlet for one of the biggest and most
ravenous corporations on this planet, Time Warner. As such, the locals
have to express the political dictates of their corporation.
Time Warner Corporation, which is run in the exact same manner as
North Korea, cannot tolerate initiatives from below. All planning
must originate from the top of the organization, from Dear Leader
and the Politburo. Or the CEO and the Board of Directors, if you
prefer. That's the corporate world-view.
The neighborhood associations are transforming Albany. They are
an increasingly effective mechanism through which we the taxpaying
citizens are taking charge of our City and making the politicians
work for us instead of the other way around. This is the real story
that Capital 9 News desperately wants to suppress.
And then there’s the nasty picture of 4th Ward Common Council
member Barbara Smith that News 9 put on their website. Ms. Smith
is a very dignified lady. You know that the baboons at News 9 did
a stop action search through the videotapes until they found a weird
expression while she was speaking. “There, use that one,” said
the head baboon.
Then there was the pathetic article in the Sunday Hearst
Times Union by content provider Paul Grondahl. It was so bad, I saw
no point in reproducing it.
Next we got to hear about the City’s efforts to put together
a comprehensive plan. This panel consisted entirely of Comprehensive
Plan Director Mike Yevoli, and a repeat performance by Joe Rabito.
A comprehensive plan is a blueprint for the community’s growth
and maintenance. It is not so much a document as a process, a consensual
set of directives for planners and developers. According to Mr. Yevoli,
it should be “a living document, regularly updated and implemented.”
Basically, it is the community at large telling the government what
kind of development it wants, instead of the other way around. This
is exactly why the City has dragged its feet on creating a comprehensive
plan for decades. The City officials have been reluctant to give
up their power to feed pieces of the City to suburban hit and run “developers” and
collect lucrative kickbacks.
The comprehensive planning process is only beginning. It is supposed
to bring input from all sectors of the community, take two years
and cost half a million dollars. Since a plan is required by
the State (and long overdue) there are numerous grants available
to defray costs.
You will recall that this initiative started at the beginning of
this year after CANA called for a citywide plan. Mayor Jennings scrambled
to pre-empt CANA’s plans by organizing a planning process himself.
Mr. Yevoli appears to be committed to the success of the project.
He told us that the participation of the neighborhood associations
is critical, music to our ears. He cited the South End Action Committee
(SEAC) as a model that he hopes to follow, an excellent choice. Even
Rabito seemed to want it to work. “If it’s done well,
he said, “ it will take the politics out of zoning.”
I will say this about Joe Rabito. He worked hard to be as personable
as possible to the public, and still faithfully represent the interests
of his boss, the notably absent Mayor Jennings. He stayed all the
way to the end of the conference, listening to the last comments.
I hope he gives an accurate report to The Boss.
Part Two of this report will be the next post. Soon.
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