Monday, January 5, 2009

Albany's Albatross

Dear Mayor Jerry Jennings,

It's your fault.

It's your fault Albany is plummeting into decay and decline. You have led my city for 15 years. And failed. Miserably.

Whether it's law enforcement, economic policies or quality of life, you have presided over a public policy calamity.

Last year there was a terrible outbreak of violence. A little girl shot and killed in broad daylight while playing with her friends; an innocent University at Albany student shot behind the head to also become one of the city's tragic homicide statistics.

Albany High School is a haven for juvenile delinquents and bureaucratic buffoonery. It has a gang infestation, a detached principal and incompetent security methods. You pretend those problems don't exist. Gangs? What gangs?

Out-of-control Albany High School and the criminality in the city is your fault. You used to be a senior administrator at the school, and you can't exert influence over it. None.

Marauding teenagers ride their bicycles past my State Street apartment after midnight constantly on school nights. How would you like to walk back from a Lark Street market and suddenly get surrounded by six kids on bikes staring at you and deciding if they want to rob you or deliver a beat down just for fun? I can handle one thug. Six is a mismatch.

So what happened to the curfew for children before the Common Council, Mr. Mayor?

It's your fault there's still no curfew. It will be your fault as these underage predators continue to commit crimes when they're supposed to be sleeping.

It's your fault a Keystone Cops operation thrives. Your administration had an unofficial policy of writing fake parking tickets for connected people with special stickers on their cars. What was your response? You denied any knowledge of the scheme. As did your police commissioner James Tuffey. You were both lying.

Public safety and integrity in law enforcement is a low priority for you. You don't have the power to fire cops, and barely care about it. Because of the blue-wall-of-silence goons you kowtow to in the city's police union. I'm tired of reading about the dirty cops that serve under you, and how you've done nothing to reform a broken system that employs them.

It's your fault I can't drive down Central Avenue without bouncing over one huge pothole after another. You're incapable of performing a basic function of government such as fixing the roads.

It's your fault downtown Albany is dilapidated. Have you noticed the eyesore, the complete embarrassment that the Wellington Hotel has been for over a decade? Or noticed the sad, shuttered state of the former Barnaby's Pub, which is next to it? Both are in the shadow of the Capitol.

Your feckless leadership can't keep open businesses a mere two minute walk from the Capitol. It's our state's seat of power, with a natural customer-base of legislators, lobbyists and state, city and county employees a permanent presence. Your city's economy should flourish. Easily.

It's your fault the Empire Plaza skating rink is closed. You have the power to prevent a high profile rink from going under, which costs a pittance to operate given what you waste in your $161 million city budget every year. All you have to do is get on the phone to Governor Paterson and demand the rink not be closed.

I know why you created this ice rink public relations scam. It's the "Washington Monument Strategy." Pick a high profile destination for people and tell them it's closing. Governor Paterson is doing the same thing with our state parks.

You know where the real money is located in your budget, but you decided to concoct an excuse to deliver to the people of Albany to keep your union supporters and other special interests exempt from spending cuts. See, the skating rink in our city had to close, is what you can proclaim. What more do you want from me? Instead, you're now reduced to asking for private donations to keep the rink open because of the loss of state funds to operate it.

It's your fault there has been a population decline of at least 5,000 in the city since you took office. You're not the Mayor of Utica, where there is no monstrous state government bureaucracy to anchor the local economy. You're the Mayor of Albany, and you still can't prevent people from leaving.

And what is your response as Albany confronts crime, abandoned and burned-out buildings along with your inability to carry out simple city responsibilities mayors throughout the country easily execute? You raised property taxes last year.
Congratulations. You're driving more people out of the city. Wait until you see the 2010 Census Bureau figures for Albany. I guarantee you'll see more population flight.

This year you're going to run for a fifth term as an aspiring Erastus Corning mayor-for-life, and you'll win. In the four years of that fifth term there will be more and greater failures. Nearly all of them will be your fault. As usual.