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Albany 'State Of The City' Preceded By Chaos

Members of Dontay Ivy’s Family, Faith Leaders and #BlackLivesMatter Community Activists rallied before and during Albany Mayor Sheehan’s State of the City Address.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan gave her third State of the City address last night. This year's speech began with a false start.

Demonstrators swarmed the rotunda at city hall prior to the address, which began 15 minutes late, stalled when, for safety reasons, additional activists were not allowed inside. Protesters chanted  "Let Them In"

Within minutes after she finally began speaking, the mayor of the capital city of New York was drowned out.   The mayor pressed on, interrupted again when demonstrators broke into song. Sheehan tried to appeal to and then attempted to appease the crowd — so engaged in their social action they barely noticed. One demonstrator told WAMC "we're in control." Banners reading "State of Denial"  and  "Justice For Dontay" were unfurled behind the podium, a reference to the Albany man who died after being tased by police, later cleared, last April. After 22 minutes, the interlopers relinquished control and filed out the door without police action. As they pulled back, Sheehan remarked:  "I respect what they had to say, and I share in their pain."

With the majority of hecklers gone, the mayor turned back to page one. . "...so good evening again..." And it was down to city business.  "The highlight of my year was attending the Medal of Honor ceremony for Sgt. Henry Johnsonfor his conspicuous gallantry during World War I."

The first-term Democrat mentioned city safety, police-citizen trust and community involvement, youth opportunities, programs and initiatives, challenges associated with poverty, getting people help instead of putting them in jail,  and a rollout of implicit bias training that the Albany Police Department will receive so officers can nip unconscious bias in the bud.  "As the department continues to reduce crime, it must also strive to reduce the fear of crime, while increasing the amount of public trust the community has in the department. The training focuses on police legitimacy through implementing procedural justice and building trust."

While Sheehan acknowledged the presence of protestors called to action by Ivy’s death, she stands behind Chief Brendan Cox and the officers involved in the incident, and has no intention of dismissing them or asking them to resign. She seemingly alluded to past administrations and police chiefs when she said:  "I will hold myself and our command staff accountable for learning from hindsight. And for making sure that we are providing our officers with the tools that they need and the skills that they need to police fairly in our city, to build trust and to FINALLY shake the legacy of racism that we have, that was earned, and that was reprehensible."

As the mayor praised economic development, the Capital 2020 Plan, investment in Park South, and the Capital Convention Center, a couple of activists re-entered city hall, peppering the mayor's address with taunts.   "And all of that is important, because it drives jobs, and jobs are incredibly important here in our community. But it's also about creating strong neighborhoods. In order for us to have strong neighborhoods, we need to ensure that we continue to invest. And we are investing. We've invested in the Albany County Landbank, and we have projects that are under way. We're seeing affordable housing in Sheridan Hollow that includes not only affordable rental units, but home ownership opportunities as well."

There was talk of affordable high-speed broadband-for-all, of Albany's becoming a "Google eCity," the "digital divide" and moving city development along. Sheehan also spoke of her desire to make Albany a "city of choice" for millennials.   "Let's continue to build on what we are doing. Stay the path. Work hard. Work together. And help unleash the incredible potential of the city of Albany. Thank you." [Applause]

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan's 2016 State of the City Address. (Joined in progress following opening greeting and acknowledgements).

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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