City of Albany ballot includes local, statewide questions
A community coalition is working to get the word out about a ballot proposal in the city of Albany.
Proposal 7, on the ballot now during early voting and on Election Day November 2nd, would give the Albany Community Police Review Board the ability to launch independent investigations into complaints filed against police officers. Former board chair Ivy Morris: "But the thing with the prop seven is that, all the folks that were watching during the virtual meetings and seeing the common council conversations, know that it is Local Law J, but when they go to the polls, they're not going to see Local Law J. So we thought, as a group of activists and community leaders, that it was really important to get the word out and start a campaign to educate folks on what they would see on the ballot, where it's located, and what it entails."
Outgoing Sixth Ward Common Councilor Richard Conti says the CPRB traces its root back to a task force that was created in 2000. He believes Prop 7 would give the board teeth. "It's a body that reviews the work of Internal Affairs Department in the police department, and has limited authority to really conduct its own investigations or reviews, something I think is important and sponsors think is important as far as establishing the credibility of the CPRB as an independent body. What we have done in the proposal that's on the ballot really would give the CPRB additional authority to act as an independent body to investigate complaints or allegations of police abuse, to conduct their own investigations, to hire their own staff, including legal counsel. It would guarantee them a minimum budget. And it would allow them to look at policies and procedures as well and make recommendations, all of which are important, I think, to give the board credibility with the public, as a body that is really independent oversight body over the police department,"said Conti.
Conti dismisses concerns that the proposal would put police officers' personal information at risk, noting that it "makes no changes to existing confidentiality protections." He adds that most of the confidentiality protections are part of state law and cannot be overridden locally.
The measure was previously approved by the common council and Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who is running for a third term.
Write-in mayoral candidate Valerie Faust, also a Democrat, supports Prop 7. "It's not against the policemen. It's for them and for the people who complain, to get fairness out of it. So they needed this. They needed peace added to their jobs so that they can do a better job for both sides. So I am definitely for it. I think it needs a little tweaking but it's somewhere we can start," Faust said.
Republican mayoral candidate Alicia Purdy calls Proposal 7 an overreach and claims it’s a tactic to defund the police. "It presents a union violation that's going to get caught up in the court system and ultimately cost more money. It's going to punish residents because police will abandon Albany as we've already seen with nearly a hundred people gone in 2021."
Independence Party candidate Greg Aidala's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Conti says It’s been 21 years since the Common Council conducted a thorough review of independent oversight of the APD. Proposal 7 was adopted after a number of meetings of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, with public input.
Morris advises Albany voters not to overlook any of the seven proposals appearing on the ballot, including five statewide ballot questions. "If you're going to vote, make sure that when once you vote for your candidates, flip the ballot, make sure you go on to the back because there are proposals back there, and our proposal is proposal number seven."
Prop Six would amend the city charter to require common councilors to live within their wards for at least a year before taking office and during their term.