Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Myth America
 News & Features
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
   Listen Here
   Art Murmur
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad
Broadcast blues: Alderman Michael O’Brien. Photo: Joe Putrock

Wanted: People Who Don’t Care

Mayor Jennings’ committee appointed to negotiate new cable contract excludes those most interested in the issue

Despite months of discussion with the members of the Albany Common Council and repeated attempts to inform Mayor Jerry Jennings of their interests, citizens advocating better public-access television for the city have been shut out of the process.

Last week, Jennings created a committee to represent the public as the city renegotiates the contract with its cable- television provider, Time Warner. Jennings made his decision days before a scheduled meeting of the Common Council’s Public Authorities Committee, which was going to appoint its own commission.

“You know this is just business as usual in Jerry’s Albany,” said Alderman Michael O’Brien (Ward 12), who cochairs the council’s Public Authorities Committee. “For months we’ve had people express interest in forming a citizen’s advisory commission, and none of these people are on Jerry’s board.”

The move infuriated members of the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations, the Capital District Area Labor Federation and private citizens who, since April, have met with the Public Authorities Committee to lobby for better use of the funds available to the city for public-access television.

“The fact of the matter is that this is not a committee that is representative of the public of Albany,” said Aimee Allaud, a CANA member representing the Melrose Neighborhood Association. “There are elected representatives [on the mayor’s committee] that may speak for the people of Albany, but is certainly is not a committee that represents the citizens of Albany.”

At issue, Allaud says, is whether or not the city will make better use of funds available to it through cable contract negotiations. According to state law, municipalities can charge a franchise fee of up to 5 percent of the cable companies’ annual revenues in exchange for an exclusive cable contract and access rights to the city’s public spaces. Albany took full advantage of the law when negotiating its cable contract with Time Warner in 1994, and required the cable company to pay the full 5 percent.

But over the past 10 years, Allaud says, the city spent only a fraction of what it received on public-access television: $100,000 on a media-education program at the College of Saint Rose that is open to Albany High School students, but not the public. The city spent an additional $150,000 provided by Time Warner on computers with Internet access for city schools.

Allaud and others would like more of that money spent on technology and a facility for Albany citizens to create their own homegrown programming that could include locally produced documentaries and talk shows, or broadcasts of CANA and school board meetings.

The mayor appointed to his committee Bill Pettit, president of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association; Ann DiSarro, executive director of Senior Services in Albany; city comptroller Tom Nitido and corporation counsel Gary Stiglmeier; and Common Council members David Torncello (Ward 8), who is the chair of the Common Council’s Public Authorities Committee, Sarah Curry-Cobb (Ward 4), James Scalzo (Ward 9) and Sandra Fox (Ward 15).

“The mayor says his committee has two representatives from the public; well, Anne DiSarro lives in Schenectady,” Allaud said. “[Bill Pettit], and this is not to denigrate him, he has not had anything to do with this issue, yet he gets appointed to this committee. Go figure that one out.”

Jennings could not speak to Metroland Wednesday afternoon, but his office did issue a prepared statement characterizing the committee consisted of “highly qualified individuals, who represent a diverse interest in our community.”

“Hopefully it was just an oversight that the mayor’s committee does not include any representatives from labor, though we have expressed interest in the issue,” said Fred Pfeiffer, vice president of the Capital District Area Labor Federation. “We will be approaching Mayor Jennings to ask him to remedy that.”

The city’s cable contract is up with Time Warner in October 2004, and the mayor’s committee will hold public meetings between now and then to help shape the issue. But O’Brien expressed a bit of cynicism on the notion of public opinion at this point in the game.

“If it is his committee, they never have to meet and he can just sign off on whatever they come up with,” O’Brien said. “[The mayor] just doesn’t want to have to answer to people.”

—Travis Durfee

Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
In Association with
columbia house DVD 120X90
Pick7_120x60 120x60
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 4 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.