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February 27, 2007


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old 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 or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

February 27 , 2007

A Plague Upon The Hearst Rag

How dare the Colonie-based “Albany” Times Union
attack and insult the South End

Here’s an important basic fact to remember. Money flows from the poor to the rich. This is so glaringly obvious that nobody seems to think it’s true. But the world has always worked that way and it probably always will.

If money moved the opposite way, then after a while the rich would become poor and the poor rich. That sure ain’t happening. But the corporate media would like us to believe that it is.

The Sunday, February 25 Hearst-owned Times Union happily spit up all over the South End once again, this time on their front page. Their primary message is the same old “isn’t Albany an awful place to live.” But they took their anti-urban propaganda a big step further this time. Check out this prominent picture caption smack dab in the center of the front page, which they carefully kept off their web site:

Pockets of poverty, such as Alexander Street in Albany's South End, plague sections of Capital Region cities despite the economic growth brought about by investment in Tech Valley.

Excuse me, did the Hearst Corporation declare that my neighborhood plagues the Capital District? Take a look at their picture of Alexander Street that went with their caption:

Hearst Photo of Alexander Street

Now look at my picture, taken without the empty house in the foreground. The street looks much nicer:

My picture, taken without the empty house

Right after I took this picture on Sunday afternoon, a distinguished looking well-dressed lady stood in the middle of Alexander Street to get my attention as I tried to drive away. She had been talking to another woman who was busy hacking through the ice that the City snowplows had pushed up on her sidewalk. (You can see the two of them in the background of my photo if you squint.)

“Excuse me,” she said to me as I pulled up and unrolled my window, “why did you just take a picture of our street?”

She was shocked to hear that her street was being dissed and downgraded prominently on the front page of the Sunday Hearst Times Union. “The Times Union says on their front page that Alexander Street ‘plagues’ the rest of the Capital District.” I told her.

I had to tell her several times before she could believe it. “No! How could they? I guess I’ll go out and buy the paper,” she said, and thanked me. Then she called to the woman hacking ice. “You’ve got to hear this!”

I hope they organize and fight back against the Hearst Rag, maybe lynch an editor or two. I do feel sorry that I helped sell a few papers, though.

I think those bad boys and girls at Hearst got it backwards. Consider this quote from their article:

"There's really no connection between the suburbanite and inner city," said Robert Jones, associate professor of economics and chair of the Economics Department at Skidmore College. Suburbanites "don't shop, except for lunches. In the older days, the big department stores were downtown."

No connection, professor? There most certainly is a connection, but it’s not good for us here in Albany. Who plagues who?

We don’t need suburbanites to give us their lunch money. We need for them to stop robbing our homes and emptying our wallets.

Every single day, a parade of suburbanite automobiles careen into our City, spewing exhaust and running down pedestrians. These suburbanites emerge from their death wagons and waddle into our buildings where they scoop up our money. At the end of the day, this army of outsiders climbs back into their spew-mobiles clutching the cash they’ve collected, and drive at excessive speeds through our neighborhoods back to their suburbs.

Once back in their sprawling, unsustainable “bedroom communities,” the suburbanites spend the cash that they collected in Albany at strip malls and on overpriced mortgages for crap-boxes slapped up on dead end curvilinear streets. And they pay all of their ever upward spiraling taxes exclusively in their own municipalities. Almost nothing “trickles down” to us “welfare queens” here in Albany.

Let’s be crystal clear. You people from the suburbs plague the South End. That’s the connection that the Hearst Rag will never spell out for their content consumers. It’s a wonder our South End community has not become an empty scorched over waste land because of daily suburbanite degradations.

But of course, the suburbanites couldn’t loot our community without assistance from the City of Albany government. To give one current example, note how carefully the City clears snow for the benefit of suburban auto traffic, while at the same time not merely neglecting our pedestrian commuting routes, but actually going out of their way to block sidewalks.

Now, one could perhaps argue that the Hearst Rag was doing a service here, exposing problems in the South End that need to be fixed. They even solicited comments, something they never did back before the internet forced them to give out the illusion that they have become interactive with the content consumers.

You’d almost think that the Hearst editors care. But no, this one dimensional slander is nothing but anti-urban propaganda. This point becomes succinct when you realize that their content provider made not even a passing reference to the South End Action Committee (SEAC.) Nor will any Hearst publication ever explain why SEAC came into being.

The short version of this story is that the people of the South End have been rising up in anger, and the City (read: the Mayor) has had to work to alleviate problems to appease the angry citizens.

The first uprising in 2002 was when we defended Lincoln Park Pool from The Mayor’s privatization plan. He wanted to replace our pool with something a third the size, hand it over to a private concern to run and maintain, and of course there would be a hefty fee for using the new facility.

I went leafletting door to door around my end of the park, spreading the word. This was the first most of my neighbors had heard of the impending loss of our pool, naturally the story had been almost completely censored in the corporate media. Almost everyone I spoke to was shocked and angered by what The Mayor was doing to us.

Lincoln Park Pool House
Lincoln Park Pool House
About 250 people showed up at the Pool House in Lincoln Park in absolutely pouring rain to tell The Mayor what he could do with his privatization plan. Some 50 people got a chance to speak, every single one of whom derided his plan. (But the Hearst Times Union article the next day - the first on the issue - falsely claimed that opinion was evenly divided! Typical corporate media.)

You should have seen the look on The Mayor’s face when he realized that us South End citizens were united against him. This had never happened within living memory. Because we came out to fight, we have our pool today. On hot summer days literally thousands of thankful people jump in it to cool off.

The next uprising in 2003 was when The Mayor tried to locate an asphalt plant next to the Port of Albany. This polluting horror would have maimed and killed hundreds of people and depopulated parts of the South End, Jennings had to face near riot conditions and acts of property vandalism, as I’ve described elsewhere. My biggest contribution to this fight was to write an assessment of the developers behind the plant, a document that was passed virally all over the community via email.

Forced again to concede to reality, the Mayor announced his change of heart at a hastily arranged news conference on the steps of City Hall. I recall that he had the same look on his face as when he was forced to back down over the Pool.

These two uprisings appear to have convinced The Mayor that he had absolutely no friends in the South End. Therefore, Something Had To Be Done. So he launched a sincere effort to address and repair the problems of the South End, problems caused by City policy acting in collusion with systematic suburban looters.

This is the South End Action Committee (SEAC), which has made discernible progress toward identifying the problems of the South End and actually doing something about it. (Problem #1: empty houses in need of repair.) I continue to crash their meetings uninvited, and they all wish that I would just go away. Fortunately, we have a thing called the Open Meetings Law, so they have to put up with me.

But I am happy to continue to report that they are ready to break ground on several key projects this spring. And a lot of work is currently going into a South End Plan that will be eventually integrated into a Citywide comprehensive plan. I’ve been repeatedly asked not to talk (blog) about it, but I will say that overall it is moving in the right direction.

And it all became possible because of angry crowds in The Mayor’s face.

So why didn’t the Hearst Times Union mention SEAC in the article? Why no mention of positive developments? The answer is that the Hearst managers are trying to scare suburbanites away from Albany.

Gas prices are on the rise again, and those run down but solid 100 to 150 year old houses all over the South End are starting to look like a wise investment to more and more suburbanites. Imagine what a suburban exodus to the City would do to already shaky suburban real estate values. Perhaps the editors printed this article in an attempt to keep their own property values high.

In addition, Hearst has a long standing policy of censoring or mis-reporting anything about community or grassroots activism. As a corporation, they cannot acknowledge or even recognize any action or social movement that begins with regular individuals.

To corporatists such as the Hearst editors, all effective action begins at the top and is imposed upon the citizens. It’s the kind of thinking that has made the Soviet Union what it is today. And the Times Union is going to the same place that the Soviets went to.

The Hearst Times Union is a plague upon our community. However, they no longer have much power to hurt us with their lies. Like the suburban municipalities that it represents, the Hearst Rag is unsustainable in the long run and already obsolete. The slanders they heap upon us are their dying groans.

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