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Albany city treasurer latest to oppose Local Law C

Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar
Dave Lucas
Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar

The Albany Common Council is holding a meeting at this hour on Local Law C, which is now drawing the attention of the City Treasurer.

In a letter obtained by WAMC, Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar wrote to common councilors this week to express his opposition to the measure.

“I'm not necessarily opposed to legislation, but it has not been developed in any way, shape, manner or form," said Shahinfar. "This legislation is creating a brand new bureaucracy at the city, and has no method or mention of how it's going to be funded. We don't know how much it will cost. Based on the municipality it could cost several hundred thousand dollars, could cost millions of dollars, we don't know. “

15th ward Councilor Tom Hoey, a fellow Democrat, says the language and scope of the proposed law, which establishes a nine-member Public Safety Commission, is far from being settled.

“Five will be from the Council, four from the mayor. And they're going to be the ones to determine what the right method of public safety can be," said Hoey. "And one of the examples is, instead of having armed police, maybe we'd have public safety officers for events like parades, the Tulip Festival, stuff like that where you don't need armed policemen there but you want to have some kind of security.”

Shahinfar says he met with Mayor Kathy Sheehan and police officials Wednesday about the law, and learned that no input from either the police or city hall had been sought in developing the legislation. He emailed his concerns Wednesday evening.

"Corporation Counsel in the city who handles legislation for the council and for our city was not provided this legislation before was introduced. That can happen," Shahinfar said. "But if you're going to move forward on a piece of legislation, you have to work with your partners in governance. If you don't, you're not going to have a piece of legislation that is based on consensus. So without input from the mayor's office, and without input from the Albany Police Department, this legislation should not move forward.”

Shahinfar also says the legislation has a major transparency problem in that it was not listed on the Common Council website and was not included with a meeting notice that was sent out.

Hoey says his original plan entailed fully explaining Local Law C, the impact it will have and the problems it will solve.

“Unfortunately, the meeting, it was put out, the notice, that there would be no public comment," said Hoey. "But then when we got the virtual extension till April 15th from the governor, I decided I would rather do it virtually. Because when we do virtual meetings, we get much more participation, we get more people involved. And it's much easier, in my mind, to hold the meeting. So when they did the virtual meeting notice they left public comment in. So what I'm going to do tonight, as the chair is I'm going to ask people to hold off on the public comment until we can go over exactly what the law means, what it does, and then open it up to the public."

Shahinfar says discretion will be needed if the bill advances. He says he'll be participating in tonight's meeting and keeping close watch as events unfurl.

Hoey expects to hold as many as 10 meetings, with many opportunities for public comment.

“We need to talk about it," said Hoey. 'And talking about it, sending emails back and forth is not a good way in my mind to, to answer questions. The best way is face to face conversations, whether it's via Zoom or a live meeting. And that's what we plan to start doing tonight. And I think it's going to be an exciting time, and I hope people will tune in.”

Hoey expects the measure to pass through meetings, committees and a council vote and end up on the November ballot as a referendum.

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.