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Meeting Virtually, Albany Common Council Frustrated By Technology

Albany Common Councilors meet via Zoom, August 3, 2020
Albany Common Councilors meet via Zoom, August 3, 2020

We've all been tested by the coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. Many of us have endured the technical difficulties associated with working remotely. That extended to the Albany Common Council meeting Monday, as frustrations boiled over.
"We are the capital of New York. This is quite frankly unacceptable," said Owusu Anane.

"Yes, you said it three times," said Corey Ellis.

"And I will say it again."

"Thank You."

10th ward Councilor Owusu Anane aired his frustration over public comments not being read to president Corey Ellis during a Zoom meeting of the Common Council that was plagued with technical difficulties.

Anane: "If this is another country, OK I understand. If this is another state, I understand."

Ellis: "Mr. Anane, nobody's rights were taken away."

Anane: "Mr. President, I just want to say this. My constituents were not able to express their public comments. Yes or No?"

Ellis: "I understand that."

Anane: "My constituents are emailing me, they're calling me."

Ellis: "I understand."

Anane: "And for a decision to be made like that, it's unacceptable. We work for the people. And it's time that some of my council colleagues realize that. This is not just a video conference or having meetings just with council members. The public wanna have a say in decisions that are being made by city hall."

Anane wasn't alone. 13th ward and 15th ward councilors Ginnie Farrell and Tom Hoey joined a chorus of colleagues who sounded anxious for in-person sessions to resume soon.

"It's not the way we usually operate or the way any of us like to operate to not give people a heads up when their comments aren't being read in the meeting."

"I tried to talk and I kept getting a message 'the host is not allowing you to talk.' Now during a regular council meeting if I had a point of information or a point of procedure I would be able to speak up and ask that."

Ellis tells WAMC despite the technical problems the panel was able to conduct business.

"We didn't pass any legislation last night. We were just introducing three legislations into the record to be taken up by the Public Safety Committee."

Ellis says one was an ordinance regarding surveillance technology. Another was a resolution addressing an environmental review for a project on Second Avenue and the third involved legislation already passed that needed a technicality corrected. He didn't have an exact date but Ellis noted the next Public Safety Committee meeting "is coming up very soon."

"When our public safety chair schedules a meeting, those questions and issues are asked and answered during those meetings. And also those public safety meetings are, you know, any committee meeting is open to the public and like any committee meeting we've been doiung since COVID hit will be, you know, on Facebook live and people can sign up and make public comments during those commmitte meetings. That's how we deal with them. Council meetings are just a formality of what we've talked about throughout the week. It's really about passing the legislation that is in front of us, if there is legislation to be passed."

You can watch Monday night's Albany Common Council meeting HERE.

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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