Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SD-46: Carney Makes It "Official"

Announces Intent to Challenge Sen. Breslin in front of Albany County Legislature

And then there were three. Yesterday, Albany resident Tim Carney made a public comment to the members of the Albany County Legislature and citizens in attendance that he will be challenging Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Neil D. Breslin in the 46th district, which encompasses all of Albany County.

During his address, Carney summarized his listening tour of all county municipalities and proposed that school taxes transition from property-based to income-based before stating his intent to run for the seat. This received an objection from one Legislator, sustained by the Chairman only after another Legislator offered an on-the-spot endorsement.

If that's not what you were expecting, then you're in good company. This blogger was expecting something completely different, and in that sense I got exactly what was coming to me. Carney's prepared statement and a full account of the miniature legislative circus it inspired below the fold...
Carney used two online venues to announce his "announcement" last month and last week. First, there was his comment on the TU Local Politics blog that he would be "making a major announcement with many elected officials standing by my side." Second, there was a press release where Carney again informed members of the local press corps (and this blogger) that he “will be making a formal announcement to his intentions for this year's race for New York State Senate,” distributed last week.

When I arrived at the Albany County offices at 112 State Street, I hung around outside to see if anything had been set up. Nothing. So I went inside to find the Legislature preparing for its session. Carney entered as County Comptroller Mike Conners (who ran against Senator Breslin himself in 2004 on the Republican line) was giving his annual Fiscal State of the County address.

Once Conners was finished, I asked Carney if he would be making his announcement outside. He shook his head. It was then I realized, when Chairman of the Legislature Dan McCoy (also Chairman of the Albany County Democratic Party) announced that once a month the Albany County Legislature allows for citizens to sign up for five minutes of public comment on the floor.

At this, my brief conversation with Carney regarding the numbers he crunched after the 2008 primary in the 21st Congressional District ended and he signed up to speak. This was his campaign announcement.

Before I finish my thoughts on this, here is the prepared “bullet-point style” outline Carney used during his public comment, provided to me by the candidate himself:

Lifelong resident of the Capital Area

Moved to Albany 20 years ago

Raised Daughter - Graduated from U-Albany

Mother retired and moved in to downstairs Apt

Volunteer for St James Church/School Bazaar

Co-Founder DANA - 1st President

Ran for Albany County Legislature

City of Albany Charter Reform

Board member of Downtown Merchants Assoc

Helped with the formation of the Downtown BID

NFIB - Intro the Small Business works for America

ACDA - Property Manager - HUD/Home Store -GIS

Worked as Poll Watcher, Election Inspector, Committee Person, Campaign Worker & Manager,

4 years ago Upstate Co-Tom Suozzi for Governor

Last three years running Lester Freeman’s races

Over the past 4 months I have attended all the Board and Council meetings of the 19 Municipalities across

Albany County.
Village of Colonie is concerned about Landfill

Westerlo is buying a new town Hall needs funding

Voorheesville needs a new Fire Truck

Coeymans needs Rt 143 fixed

New Scotland wants to change it’s zoning

Watervliet is going to take a big hit in Tax sharing

This year most of them managed to tighten their belts, however they know there is going to be major budget problems. Change in Census Data and the sales tax distribution from the county worry many board and council members. They can’t raise property taxes any higher, the people don’t have it.

The three main subjects the average people are concerned about are:
Furloughs or layoffs - State Parks

Property Tax Reform

Albany County owned nursing home

Reform of state government
Property Tax reform = School Tax reform

Eliminate the way school taxes are collected through property valuation. All property owners who qualify for the STAR Tax program and their home qualifies for the Homestead provision they would not pay any school taxes. Homeowners and especially seniors would save on average $200-500 dollars every month. Most school taxes are 60% of someone’s monthly tax on their home.

Create an income based system to have a bigger and less intrusive and more fair system. The current system for commercial and land valuation would remain the same the balance of the school budget would be made up of an income tax based system. Similar systems are working in 5 states, including Ohio.
This would also jump start the Real Estate Industry.

I will be having a press conference on this soon with more details.

The city of Albany is not getting their fair share as the Capital of New Your State and in comparison to the other major cities in the state. We need our PILOT money increased or adopt a commuter tax to offset the city for services rendered.

The second biggest topic of discussion with county residents is the Albany County Nursing Home. Everyone see the benefits of a county owned nursing home.

I believe that we need a county owned nursing, however we need to take it a step further. I think we need a new idea like the Albany County Elder Care Center. At the Livingston School on Northern Boulvd is the land and the space needed to build a new Nursing home behind the school. Then build a new Assisted living home next to the nursing home and turn the school building in to a new senior services center. Move all the not for profit agencies that help our seniors into the school to create a one stop for our seniors to apply for benefits.

Emphasis added for readability – SP

After running through these points, Carney brought it all together and stated that, because of these issues, he would be running for State Senate in the 46th district.

At this, things got interesting when County Legislator Bryan Clenahan objected. "Is this the proper forum?" Clenahan asked the Chair. He continued, "This is the only time citizens have to address the Legislature and should not be used for making political statements."

Before Chairman McCoy could sustain the objection, another Legislator stood up. Known for his scruffy hair, blue jeans, and cowboy boots (among other things that make him less than reputable for holding public office), County Legislator Brian Scavo rose in Carney's defense.

"It takes a lot of guts," said Scavo of Carney's comments. Scavo then said he would support Carney's campaign, right there on the floor of the Albany County Legislature. Scavo had arrived to the session late, missing the Fiscal State of the County address, but was strangely just in time for the public comment period...

But Chairman Dan McCoy would have none of it. "Mr. Clenahan, you are correct. This is not the place to do that," said McCoy. The objection was sustained, so I'm assuming Carney's big announcement was stricken from the record. Or something. I asked Carney about this, and he didn't seem to care.

"I don't let that sort of thing bother me," said Carney. "I came to do what I said I would do." He maintained that Clenahan was a Breslin hack in the first place, and also worked for the New York State Senate in the second place, so it was he who was making the inappropriate political remarks.

I entertained that idea at the time, and I could continue to. But perhaps I cannot. I'm actually rather torn by it:

It makes a certain amount of sense to me that a Breslin ally in the Legislature would object to Tim Carney's public comment simply to inflict damage on an opposing candidate. It makes sense to me that the Chairman would sustain the objection because he, too, is a Breslin supporter: As Chairman of the Democratic Party in Albany County, McCoy made headlines last month when he publicly embraced and endorsed Senator Breslin when he made his bid for re-election official. This move came just days after the candidate review committee blew things wide open by not endorsing Breslin or either of his two challengers, the first major news item of the campaign.

Put it all together, and one could argue that the sustained objection to Carney's public comment proves that Albany County is firmly in the Breslin Machine's grasp. Carney didn't receive any such objection when he visited the town, village and city legislative bodies, that's certain. And he continues to make the excellent point that Senator Breslin has never made such rounds in his 15 years in office. But when Carney comes to the county level, suddenly there is resistance from Breslin supporters, who make an attempt to strike his existence from the record.

I do somewhat disagree with the objection on the following principle: that Tim Carney is a resident of Albany County and was commenting about ways to improve the situation in Albany County through his own action as a citizen running for public office.

Yet there is this one problem nagging at me as an Albany County voter and as a blogger. Carney's earlier statements about his planned announcement indicated to me something different than what actually occurred.

Again, his blog comments and amateurish presser told us he would be making a “formal announcement” as if it were an event entirely in and of itself all about him and his campaign...

What Carney actually did was make a public comment at an already scheduled public meeting that is supposed to be about the public.

That, and Carney earlier stated that he would make his big policy proposal "with many elected officials standing by my side" as if these were officials who would attend out of declared support for Carney...

In reality, Carney made his statement standing in front of an entire body of local elected officials who were required to attend for an entirely different reason.

In that sense, the objection does make sense to me. I can't craft any conspiracy theory that Carney's announcement was infiltrated by seedy pro-Breslin forces, because in fact it was Carney who had infiltrated, in a sense, a regularly scheduled session of the Albany County Legislature where many members and the chairman himself have already offered their support to the sitting Senator. So what did he expect?

I suppose Carney is correct in not letting this bother him. It does take guts and thick skin to do something like that.

But something bothers me about Carney leading me to believe I drove across the county to cover a formal campaign announcement and all I had to blog about when I got back home was a public comment period. If Legislator Clenahan hadn't objected and an accused sexual stalker hadn't objected to the objection, I wouldn't have had anything fun to write about, nor would there be any pertinent material to cover that took away from the substantive issues Carney raised.

The whole ordeal made it very difficult to focus on Carney's proposal, which I actually do like. Two years ago, Congressional candidate Darius Shahinfar proposed to stop using property taxes to pay for public education, instead using a Federal income tax to implement the federal education mandate. It's a proposal that I think really ought to be considered, and Carney does make excellent points about New York State's notoriously high property taxes. As Carney mentions, it seems to be working in Ohio, another large northeastern state...

...but it was still difficult to take seriously. And now that I think of it, his proposal regarding the Albany County Nursing Home is a county issue, not a state concern. And last I checked, Tim Carney was announcing his candidacy for State Senate, not for County Legislature...

...and when I last checked my materials to leave to cover the event, I was on my way to a formal campaign announcement, not a public comment period where I myself could have declared my candidacy for dog catcher. There was no media in attendance for the announcement, but, given this circumstance, how can one fault them?

I do respect Carney for having the guts to challenge a Senator whom I consider to have outstayed his welcome by underperforming for his district; I do think that looking for new solutions to the state and school fiscal crises is a worthy and timely endeavor; and I do think that a politician is still a citizen and therefore should be able to make a public comment unchallenged...

...but I'm starting to have second thoughts about Tim Carney as a serious candidate for the office of New York State Senate. Considering he's challenging one of the most entrenched names in the district, last night was probably a mistake in practice if not in principle.

Still, if he continues to run, I feel obligated to cover both challengers to Neil Breslin as this three-way primary develops.

I just reserve the right to make my own public comments about all three candidates’ remarks.

If anybody objects to these, then head on over to the challengers' websites

Tim Carney
Luke Martland

Otherwise...stay tuned for more news, commentary, and surprises in this fascinating race.

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