Monthly Archives: June 2011

NYS Passes Marriage Equality!


With a vote of 33-29, the NYS Senate approves Marriage Equality bill after adding religious exemptions. The bill was already passed by NYS Assembly on June 16, 2011 with a vote of 80-63. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill just before midnight June 24, 2011, making the effective date of the law July 25, 2011. Republican Senators Steve Saland from Poughkeepsie and Mark Grisanti, Republican from Buffalo who were previously undecided, voted yes for the bill, breaking an anticipated 31-31 tie vote.

This makes NYS the sixth and largest State in the US to legalize same-sex marriage.

Thank you Governor Cuomo, Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign and Troy City Councilman Ken Zalewski for your relentless efforts to get this bill passed. Special thanks to Congressman Paul D. Tonko for his support!

What a great way to celebrate LGBT Pride month!

We have come a long way!

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Categories: Law, Politics

The Tonko Letter


Today I received a response from Congressman Paul D. Tonko supporting Marriage Equality and LGBT rights.

The original response can be downloaded here: Tonko Letter

June 23, 2011

Dear Mr. Skrocki,

Thank you for contacting me with your support for same-sex marriage. Your correspondence is highly valuable, and I appreciate your sentiments.

Currently, same-sex marriages may be performed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia. New York, Rhode Island and Maryland have laws recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. I believe marriage is a civil right and it is wrong to deny gay and lesbian couples this right. A marriage conveys hundreds of legal rights and privileges that unmarried couples cannot exercise, from inheritance to hospital visitation. Denying same-sex couples these rights is equivalent to not guaranteeing them equal protection under the law.

While marriage is an issue left to the states to decide, I hope that every state will one day provide same-sex couples with full marriage rights. Every individual should have the right to marry whomever he or she loves and to have that marriage officially recognized. It is important to recognize that this is not a religious issue; a marriage is a contract in the eyes of the law, and it is not right to deny same-sex couples the right to enter into these contracts. As you may know, the Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for state regulation of marriage. You will be happy to know that I am an original cosponsor of this important piece of legislation. I remain a strong advocate for recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry and have also cosponsored legislation to recognize committed same-sex partnerships similarly to marriage for immigration purposes.

In late February 2011, the Obama Administration announced that it no longer deems the Defense of Marriage Act constitutional and is directing the Justice Department to stop defending the law in federal court. This decision follows two lawsuits filed in November 2010 by individuals who claim the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by denying them various federal benefits.

In addition to the fight for marriage rights, we must work together to wipe out discrimination of all kinds based on sexual orientation and gender identity. For this reason, I am a strong supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which establishes a comprehensive Federal prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. By extending the existing federal ban on discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity, we ensure that American businesses hire and retain the very best and brightest employees to keep our economy strong and competitive on a global scale. I have also supported legislation to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and to expand hate crimes legislation to cover crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

These and other pieces of LGBT legislation make a strong statement affirming American values of justice and personal freedom. Please be assured that I will continue to fight on behalf of our LGBT community for equal treatment under the law.

For up-to-date news and information about our district, please visit my website at http://tonko.house.gov and sign up for my E-Newsletter. Additionally, please consider using my social media tools: http://www.facebook.com/reppaultonko, http://twitter.com/paultonko,and http://www.youtube.com/reppaultonko.

Sincerely,
Paul D. Tonko
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Categories: Law, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Bullying


Ken Zalewski, Troy City Councilman and his partner Mike Oliver. -photo by Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign

For the past few weeks I watched the battle for Marriage Equality in New York transform from an educated discussion on the real issue, to an all out assault on the gay population. It seems the further one gets from a metropolitan city, the more bigoted the local populace’s opinion becomes. This was never more clear to me than when I lobbied Amsterdam’s Common Council to produce a consent resolution supporting Marriage Equality as the City of Troy had done. Ken Zalewski, Troy City Councilman District 5 was successful in getting the City of Troy to send a resolution in support of Marriage Equality to the NYS Legislature. When I unsuccessfully attempted the same, I got the support of Alderman Bill Wills but the resolution never made it to a vote. The rest of the Council was not willing to support the measure or Amsterdam’s gay population, out of fear and political repercussions. Three members of The Family Bible Church came to the City Council meeting and spoke, denouncing not only Marriage Equality, but the entire gay population in the name of their god. This type of bigotry by a religious organization induces hate and fear, the cause of bullying in our schools. Hearing this religious organization’s hate speech brought back memories from my childhood when I was the victim of bullying and I had to leave the Council Chamber. Kids learn this behavior from their parents and carry it on to the next generation. The increasing number of suicides in teens and young adults has been directly associated with bullying.

In response to this crisis, the It Gets Better campaign started using video to send a positive message to vulnerable Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered teens. Here are a couple of examples:

I realize change cannot occur overnight. It took years of set up this deep-rooted bigotry in the general population and it will take time to undo. The New York State Legislature passed a plan for the State Education System to address this issue through our public schools by introducing curriculum that both educates and protects students from bullying. The language includes age specific education about sexual orientation and gender identity among others. Passed last year, the Dignity for All Students Law goes into Effect July 1, 2012.

EDN/ Title 1/ Article 2/ Dignity for All Students

* § 10. Legislative intent. The legislature finds that students’ ability to learn and to meet high academic standards, and a school’s ability to educate its students, are compromised by incidents of discrimination or harassment including bullying, taunting or intimidation. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state to afford all students in public schools an environment free of discrimination and harassment. The purpose of this article is to foster civility in public schools and to prevent and prohibit conduct which is inconsistent with a school’s educational mission.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

* § 11. Definitions. For the purposes of this article, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
1.”School property” shall mean in or within any building, structure, athletic playing field, playground, parking lot, or land contained within the real property boundary line of a public elementary or secondary school; or in or on a school bus, as defined in section one hundred forty-two of the vehicle and traffic law.
2.”School function” shall mean a school-sponsored extra-curricular event or activity.
3.”Disability” shall mean disability as defined in subdivision twenty-one of section two hundred ninety-two of the executive law.
4.”Employee” shall mean employee as defined in subdivision three of section eleven hundred twenty-five of this title.
5.”Sexual orientation” shall mean actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.
6. “Gender” shall mean actual or perceived sex and shall include a person’s gender identity or expression.
7.”Harassment” shall mean the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or by verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being; or conduct, verbal threats,intimidation or abuse that reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety; such conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse includes but is not limited to conduct, verbal threats,intimidation or abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

§ 12. Discrimination and harassment prohibited.
1. No student shall be subjected to harassment by employees or students on school property or at a school function; nor shall any student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by school employees or students on school property or at a school function. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit a denial of admission into, or exclusion from, a course of instruction based on a person’s gender that would be permissible under section thirty-two hundred one-a or paragraph (a) of subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty-four of this chapter and title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. section 1681, et. seq.), or to prohibit, as discrimination based on disability, actions that would be permissible under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
2. An age-appropriate version of the policy outlined in subdivision one of this section, written in plain-language, shall be included in the code of conduct adopted by boards of education and the trustees or sole trustee pursuant to section twenty-eight hundred one of this chapter and a summary of such policy shall be included in any summaries required by such section twenty-eight hundred one.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

* §13. Policies and guidelines. The board of education and the trustees or sole trustee of every school district shall create policies and guidelines that shall include, but not be limited to:
1. Policies intended to create a school environment that is free from discrimination or harassment;
2. Guidelines to be used in school training programs to discourage the development of discrimination or harassment and that are designed:
a. to raise the awareness and sensitivity of school employees to potential discrimination or harassment, and
b. to enable employees to prevent and respond to discrimination or harassment; and
3. Guidelines relating to the development of nondiscriminatory instructional and counseling methods, and requiring that at least one staff member at every school be thoroughly trained to handle human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, and sex.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

* § 14.Commissioner’s responsibilities. The commissioner shall:
1. Provide direction, which may include development of model policies and, to the extent possible, direct services, to school districts related to preventing discrimination and harassment and to fostering an environment in every school where all children can learn free of manifestations of bias;
2. Provide grants, from funds appropriated for such purpose, to local school districts to assist them in implementing the guidelines set forth in this section; and
3. Promulgate regulations to assist school districts in implementing this article including, but not limited to, regulations to assist school districts in developing measured, balanced, and age-appropriate responses to violations of this policy, with remedies and procedures focusing on intervention and education.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

* § 15. Reporting by commissioner. The commissioner shall create a procedure under which material incidents of discrimination and harassment on school grounds or at a school function are reported to the department at least on an annual basis. Such procedure shall provide that such reports shall, wherever possible, also delineate the specific nature of such incidents of discrimination or harassment, provided that the commissioner may comply with the requirements of this section through use of the existing uniform violent incident reporting system. In addition the department may conduct research or undertake studies to determine compliance throughout the state with the provisions of this article.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

§ 16. Protection of people who report discrimination or harassment. Any person having reasonable cause to suspect that a student has been subjected to discrimination or harassment by an employee or student, on school grounds or at a school function, who, acting reasonably and in good faith, either reports such information to school officials, to the commissioner, or to law enforcement authorities or otherwise initiates, testifies, participates or assists in any formal or informal proceedings under this article, shall have immunity from any civil liability that may arise from the making of such report or from initiating, testifying, participating or assisting in such formal or informal proceedings, and no school district or employee shall take, request or cause a retaliatory action against any such person who, acting reasonably and in good faith, either makes such a report or initiates, testifies, participates or assists in such formal or informal proceedings.
NB Effective July 1, 2012

* § 17. Application. Nothing in this article shall:
1.  Apply to private, religious or denominational educational institutions; or                                                                                                                                         2. Preclude or limit any right or cause of action provided under any local, state or federal ordinance, law or regulation including but not limited to any remedies or rights available under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

NB Effective July 1, 2012

* § 18. Severability and construction. The provisions of this article shall be severable, and if any court of competent jurisdiction declares any phrase, clause, sentence or provision of this article to be invalid, or its applicability to any government agency, person or circumstance is declared invalid, the remainder of this article and its relevant applicability shall not be affected. The provisions of this article shall be liberally construed to give effect to the purposes thereof.
* NB Effective July 1, 2012

I met a newcomer to Amsterdam who recently bought a house here. He happens to be gay and wondered where all the gay people were. Moving from a larger downstate City, he was experiencing some culture shock!  I had to tell him they are here in numbers but most are closeted. They are teachers and doctors, lawyers and politicians as well as business owners who are afraid to come out of the closet because there is no support in Amsterdam. When President Obama proclaimed June of 2011 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month our City did not respond. Even my hometown of Hudson with a population of less than seven thousand, had a Family Pride Weekend, celebrating with an inclusive parade and cruise on the Hudson River for gay and straight families.

City of Hudson's Family Pride Celebration. -photo by Tom Froese

The Dignity for All Students Act can not come soon enough!

Categories: Law, Media, Politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

I Ain’t Afraid


I dedicate this post to the New York State Senate and the Pastor of the Family Bible Church at 449 Thayer Road, Amsterdam, NY 12010.

I Ain’t Afraid

A song by Holly Near

Chorus
I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh
I ain’t afraid of your Allah
I ain’t afraid of your Jesus
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

I ain’t afraid of your churches
I ain’t afraid of your temples
I ain’t afraid of your praying
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

Verse
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you

Chorus

Verse
Rise up, and see a higher story
Free up from the gods of war and glory
Watch out for the threats of purgatory
The spirit of the wind wont make a killing off of sin and satan

I aint afraid of your Bible
I aint afraid of your Torah
I aint afraid of your Koran
Dont let the letter of the law
Obscure the spirit of your love it’s killing us

I aint afraid of your money
I aint afraid of your borders
I aint afraid of your choices

I aint afraid of your Sunday
I aint afraid of your Sabbath
I aint afraid of your teachers

I aint afraid of your dances
I aint afraid of your music
I aint afraid of your children
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

Categories: Law, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Code Enforcement!


Photos taken June 18, 2011

Photos taken May 13, 2011

Photo taken May 12, 2010

This rental property on 78 Grove Street and the adjacent double lot 80-82 Grove Street have been a constant source of code violations (and other problems) that are not being corrected.  These properties belong to Janusz Bronski, 25 Jay Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010. The mounds of trash and abandoned furniture was dumped in front of the building on Friday, June 17, 2011, and scheduled trash pick up is not until Tuesday, June 21, 2011. I don’t know when or who will pick up the large abandoned items. In the meantime the heat, animals and kids will rip into the bags and we will have trash strewn about the street. The unimproved lot next to the building has been a used car lot for a month now. Today I called the Police Department again and reported the abandoned vehicles with no plates (blue vehicle and gray vehicle parked behind it.)

I first reported the code violations last month to Assistant Chief Victor Hugo and Codes Department. On May 13, 2011, it was a red vehicle with no plates (wheelchair in photo taken from closed Park Hill Adult Home).

What ever happened to Nuisance Ordinance and the point system our City Council came up with to track problem rental properties and fine property owners? The Amsterdam Policemen I talked with tell me they don’t keep track.

Someone needs to keep track!

Categories: Amsterdam, Law

Co-Conspirator


It was revealed today on The Show With No Name that Democratic candidate for 3rd Ward Alderman, Thom Georgia conspired with Roberto Millan to create the fake joeemanuele.com website discussed in my previous blog entry. The former confidential aide to Mayor Ann Thane who now works as a library aide, can say goodbye to any political aspirations as his credibility is shot to hell.

To the self-proclaimed Minister of Propaganda:

Deceit and dishonesty never get you very far in this world.

Thom Georgia

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

joeemanuele2012@gmail.com


I also received this unsolicited email viciously attacking Mayoral candidate Joe Emanuele that has been discussed on the Kraebel blog. The blogger is none other than Roberto Millan, author of that disgusting blog Judge Errant where he attacks Bob Going, Mike Chiara and Diane Hatzenbuhler. He even took a swing at me erroneously suggesting I was discussing him on The Show With No Name.  In Roberto’s Errant blog, he makes these wild allegations and then responds to them himself, as if he actually had fans. The only real people who responded to that hateful blog were Karin Hetrick who couldn’t resist agreeing with the character assassination of Bob Going and Mayor Ann Thane who has stated she does not respond to blogs.

These are their responses from the Judge Errant blog:

Now Roberto’s new blog joeemanuele.com is following the same style with the fake comments designed to lure people into the discussion. Roberto is also the only person that has sent me this type of unsolicited email.

When that Karin Hetrick/Tony Leggiero thing blew up on my blog, Karin called Roberto and asked him to call Ray Halgas to inquire if Tony Leggiero was blogging while at work. Millan identified himself as a lawyer before asking questions even though he has no license to practice law in New York State.  Halgas told him he was not.

Roberto then called me and told me what had occurred with Karin, his conversation with Ray Halgas and was about to ask me to take down the offending posts when I informed him they were already down. He stated he was a lawyer but only had license to practice in Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington DC. He admitted to me that he was the person who posted on the Venner Vox as female lawyer Tatum Stevens.  He denied knowing Ann Thane, he denied being Congressman Paul Tonko’s friend, stating he never met the man. How can you trust a straight answer from someone caught up in so much deceit?

On the June 10, 2011, edition of The Show With No Name, Bob Going revealed that he saw Mayor Ann Thane dining  at the former Windmill Diner with (who he hinted at as being) both Roberto Millan and Bethany Schuman McGhee. Could they have planned this attack on Joe Emanuele? Many of the items from the blog were taken directly from the Democratic response to Emanuele’s Mayoral announcement.

Roberto (he prefers Rob) Millan, where is your pride?

Roberto Millan (seated with headache)

Categories: Amsterdam, Media, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Park Hill Adult Home for Sale


Sadly, another historic property on Grove Street has been abandoned and is now set for public auction on June 27, 2011. The Park Hill Adult Home on 52 Grove Street was in operation for forty-four years as a 15 bed nursing home. The locally owned business was successful for many years, but sold to Amsterdam Park Properties in 2004 for $1,125,000. Three years later it sold again to B&H Realty Properties LLC for $3,200,00. After some management difficulty, the business was taken over by a State appointed overseer who apparently could not see a profitable future for the business, closing the doors on May 1, 2011. The property was foreclosed by Sterling Bank.

As far back as I can research, the original house and property was owned by J. McClumpha Sr. according to an Amsterdam 1868 map.

In 1905, the property was owned by James Voorhees.

On March 3, 1919, James Voorhees sold the building to The Roman Catholic Church to be used as a convent for the Sisters of St Josephs Parish. In June of 1919 Monsignor Brown purchased the adjacent property on 46 Grove Street where some expansion was done and the properties merged. On November 1, 1922, James Schuyler sold his property on 58 Grove Street to build St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church and rectory that since 2010, has been owned by the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization. At some point the Roman Catholic Church sold the convent and The Park Hill Adult Home was founded in 1967 (from the sign in front of the building).

It is sad to see these once glorious, well maintained properties go to ruin and neglect. The Amsterdam police have responded to people breaking in Park Hill a few times since its closure. ALthough the WPHO made a valiant initial effort converting the former St Michaels into the Goddess of Mercy Temple, there has been very little activity and virtually no property maintenance since.

This is how the properties appear today (iPhone photos):





Here is an overview of the properties:

If you want to own a piece of Amsterdam’s history, show up at the Montgomery County Office Building in Fonda, NY on June 27, 2011, at 1:00PM. Be prepared to pay $1,165,976.30 plus interest, attorney fees and costs.

It would make a great bed & breakfast!

Categories: Amsterdam

Grove Street Fire


Just as the sounds of train whistles are commonplace for those that live near the Mohawk River, the sounds of sirens emanating from police cars, fire engines and ambulances are often dismissed by the residents as Grove Street is routinely used as an emergency response route.

This morning around 9am was different as the traffic backed up and motorists began turning around going back the wrong way down this one way street.  That is what alerted me to the early morning fire at 76 Grove Street, a deteriorating Victorian  that was once the location of a popular florist.  A boarded up greenhouse flanking the main residence is all that is left of the old business. The locals watched from the street as the Amsterdam Fire Department responded with a ladder truck to the 2nd floor of the building. There was no evidence of flames or smoke, so I assume it was a small fire that was quickly contained. GVAC stood by waiting for any victims needing medical attention and from what I could tell, there were none.  Although the Amsterdam Police responded to the scene, they just watched the firefighters instead of directing traffic as the entire street was blocked with emergency vehicles. A greater tragedy could have occurred if one of the many vehicles that decided to turn around and illegally travel the wrong way down the one way street caused an accident.

Gazette reporter Ed Munger, Jr. was on the scene and will have more details of the structure fire. I recorded the following images of the fire.


This overview from Montgomery County Image Mate online service shows the other buildings of this once former nursery and greenhouse property at 76 Grove Street.

Categories: Amsterdam | Tags: , , , ,

Queen Ann Makes Another Appearance


I know she means well, but you would think after nearly four years in office, Mayor Ann Thane would know the job by now. Today’s article in The Recorder proved that she does not, stating she would veto the two resolutions that she proposed (as a member of the Common Council) that were not passed. There is also discussion going on about this on Kraebel’s blog.  The issues at hand are the $45,000. parking lot expenditure discussed in my previous thread and a contract to produce more plastic banners for the City.

The Mayor’s veto power only extends to legislation approved by the Common Council and presented for signature as described in Amsterdam’s City Charter:

§ C-32. Mayoral veto.

A.   Except as may be otherwise provided by Charter or by law, every local law, ordinance and resolution, except a resolution relating to the government of the Common Council or to the appointment of officers, shall, within three working days following enactment of adoption by the Common Council be certified by the Clerk and presented to the Mayor for approval or veto.

B.   The Mayor shall, within fifteen calendar days following certification of a local law, ordinance or resolution enacted or adopted by the Council, affix his signature of approval or veto upon enactment. If the Mayor shall fail to act within fifteen calendar days, the enactment shall be deemed to have been approved by the Mayor.

C.  If the Mayor shall veto an action of the Common Council, he shall return the proposed enactment to the City Clerk for transmittal to the Council together with a statement of reasons for Mayoral disapproval. At any meeting of the Council within 15 days after receipt of the Mayor’s veto, the Council, by a majority plus one vote of the authorized number of Alderman, may override the veto.

[Amended by L.L. No. 11-1989, ref. date 11-7-1989]

When the Mayor acts in this way, she is acting more like a monarch than an elected official in a democratic society.  So once again I dub her Queen Ann of Amsterdam. Before I get any more hate mail from Dan Weaver, this is political satire with no malice intended. Mayor Thane has a copy of this image presented to her by one of her constituents and even she found it funny. Sorry Mr. Bookhound, but it looks like you are lacking a sense of humor.

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

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