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Albany's Populist Electronic Tin Cup Is LIVE

With the city’s budget’s in limbo, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan has launched a social media campaign to shore up a $12.5 million dollar deficit and find a permanent solution to end the annual funding crisis.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo didn't earmark any funding for Albany in his 30-day budget amendments, Mayor Sheehan immediately turned up pressure on the state over the $12.5 million in aid the city is seeking to close its budget gap. Sheehan enacted a hiring freeze while threatening to make cuts in city programs and services if the funding doesn't appear in the state budget due April 1st.

Apparently not content to wait, Sheehan rallied fellow Democrats, who joined her Thursday at City Hall, presenting a united front to push for involvement in a drive for Capital City funding. "It's unfair not to fill that hole of 12.5 million," said Breslin.

State Senator Neil Breslin appeared with Assembly members Pat Fahy and John McDonald, in a show of support for Mayor Sheehan, who implored all city residents, state workers and politicians to blitz state lawmakers in a fund drive of epic proportions to not only land the $12.5 million to plug the hole in Albany's budget, but also fix funding formulas so the mayor never needs to pick the tin cup again.   "We have to ensure that our message is simple and that it's clear, and that we're demonstrating that this isn't something extra for Albany. This is about getting us to a more equitable position," said Sheehan.

As the mayor has pointed out many times before, other upstate cities get much more funding, a problem exacerbated by the fact that a majority of property in Albany is tax-exempt. McDonald, Fahy and Breslin each took a turn building up the mayor's position.

McDonald noted that "There are a lotta people that live in the Capital Region that work for state government. But they don't all live in the city of Albany. If they lived in the city of Albany, the city of Albany would not be enjoying a poverty rate of over 23 percent."

Fahy said  "I often say the core of this region must stay strong, because we know what happens when the core rots. And we have so much, so many good things going on here, we need to make sure that the core remains strong so that the region remains strong."

Breslin added: "John and Pat and myself are on a team and we totally agree with the mayor. And I believe the governor's office is also on the team. He's the head of the team. And I think if we follow through with our due dilligence, making sure you make those phone calls, those letter writings..."

Which may keep folks busy but may not move the "head of team." Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi continues to affirm:  "We've been in constant contact with Mayor Sheehan's office, and we anticipate reaching a final budget agreement that will benefit the residents of the city of Albany and New York state as a whole."

In any event, the mayor's chosen engine for the mass public appeal campaign is social media: targeted website, Twitter and Facebook pages designed to inspire people to get involved. Sheehan's effort harnesses the power of community organizing.   "We want those phones to ring. We want you to send letters. We're going to have a calendar of events that are going to be happening across the city where people can come in, sign letters and demonstrate their support. You can sign up for email updates. We are also launching a facebook page, again that's fairshare4albany on facebook. And we have a Twitter account.

  • You can access the fairshare4Albany websites at the bottom of this article

And if you have a gathering that's occurring, if you have an event that is happening, and you want us to come and get people to write letters and get people to advocate, post to us on facebook, send us your event and we'll get it posted. This is an opportunity for us to really come together to really come together as a community and as a region for Albany's fair share."
Sheehan closed the press conference with this summation of her case:    "This is sorta taking that national angst that people may have, and really bringing it down to the local level, and saying 'Here is something you can do today, this week, over the next three weeks, and truly make a difference in our community. And it will make a difference in our community.’"

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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