The Venner Vox

September 9, 2010

Switching homes

Filed under: Blogging about blogging — Charlie Kraebel @ 10:31 pm

OK, I figured out how to get all of the posts (and comments) up to the new home of The Venner Vox, so therefore this site will shut down within a few days.

The new site is www.vennervox.com. Hope to see you all over there.

I wasn’t able to get all the videos to move like I wanted, so I apologize for that. Everything else is at the new site.

September 8, 2010

We’re moving

Filed under: Blogging about blogging,The Recorder — Charlie Kraebel @ 10:34 pm

Tonight will be the final night of fresh posts on this site, as The Venner Vox is moving to a site directly powered by the Recorder.
Starting Thursday, new VV posts will be made and can be found at http://www.vennervox.com or by clicking HERE.
I’ll leave the comments threads open so some conversations can continue and so people can read back blog posts (unfortunately I was having trouble exporting everything to the new site), but anything new will be posted there.
Happy blogging.

Denied

Filed under: Amsterdam — Charlie Kraebel @ 12:40 am

Amsterdam’s Common Council decided Tuesday to not allow members of the World Peace and Health Organization who bid on 48 properties at a city auction to transfer the titles to the non-profit Buddhist group.
The council decided it would actually be cheaper for the organization to do it later, although more concerns were raised about whether the properties would remain on the tax rolls. The council did, as pointed out by 3rd Ward Alderwoman Gina DeRossi, already allow one bidder to transfer two titles to a limited liability corporation she set up.
Quick take: Ugh. I know this seems to be a hot topic in the community, but when will it ever end? Maybe it’s time to wait and see how it’s going to play out, especially since no other bidders at city auctions are subject to this kind of scrutiny. Frankly, unless the group does something completely off-the-wall, this is probably going to be the last blog posting about the WPHO for awhile.

September 7, 2010

Second chance

Filed under: Amsterdam,Public Safety — Charlie Kraebel @ 5:39 pm

Shown above is in-car police footage of the December 2007 alleged beating and kicking of drunken driving suspect Donald Randolph in a McDonald’s parking lot on Union Street in Schenectady. The video is embedded from the Times Union website.
One of the officers involved, Gregory Hafensteiner, eventually resigned from the Schenectady Police Department for his involvement instead of being fired. He recently was hired by the Amsterdam Police Department. In the video, Hafensteiner is the officer who opens the passenger side door of the vehicle, appearing to kick Randolph three times, connecting twice.
Amsterdam Police Chief Thomas Brownell said the officer’s past was taken into consideration during the interview process, and Hafensteiner was the most qualified for the job.
Quick take: Brownell says you really can’t condemn a guy for making one mistake, and that the officer doesn’t have a history of brutality and that Hafensteiner comes highly recommended. It looks like he got caught up in a recent wave where Schenectady basically cleaned house. Seems like he deserves another chance.

September 5, 2010

Released

Filed under: Amsterdam — Charlie Kraebel @ 5:09 pm

Sports is rarely a topic of conversation on this blog, but former Amsterdam Rugged Rams’ standout Josh Beekman has been released by the Chicago Bears.
Beekman was a one-time starter for the Bears. He fell under the axe because Chicago wanted to move forward with younger players.
Quick take: It’s pretty awesome that Amsterdam High School churned out an NFL-worthy player, a league where only the best of the best can make it. Unfortunately, Beekman wasn’t a part of the Bears’ future plans, but he’s only 27, and hopefully he’ll land with another team (host’s note: hopefully the Buffalo Bills! 🙂 ).

To market, to market

Filed under: Amsterdam City Hall — Charlie Kraebel @ 11:31 am

Today’s Recorder editorial again raises the question of whether the Amsterdam mayor’s office should be responsible for marketing the city to economic developers.
The problem in the city is that different political agendas are hindering the actual marketing, which the editorial says should be handed to an outside agency.
It also suggest that an entity such as the Metroplex in Schenectady be set up to handle marketing duties so the mayor’s office can focus on actually administering the day-to-day operations of city government. The last thing the city needs is an office biting off more than it can chew.
Quick take: One thing I’ve never really understood is when the words “marketing,” “downtown development” or “economic development” are mention, the Montgomery County Chamber if Commerce is rarely mentioned. Shouldn’t officials be getting the chamber more involved in efforts like this?
Also other nearby cities have had limited, but more, success in development when city hall isn’t directly involved. Gloversville has a Business Improvement District for a specifically defined area of its downtown, and frankly, Stump City’s downtown is much more thriving than what you’ll find in the Rug City. Maybe something like that could be tried in Amsterdam.

September 4, 2010

Changing titles

Filed under: Amsterdam — Charlie Kraebel @ 1:20 pm

The World Peace and Health Organization is asking Amsterdam city officials to change the titles on properties recently bought by individual members of the group at a city auction. The WPHO now wants to be listed as the actual owners of the properties.
City officials are making it clear, however, that just because the group wants its name on the title, it still doesn’t mean the properties will automatically qualify for tax-exempt status. The homes bought are residences, and if the WPHO intends to use them for anything else, they group has to get a zoning change from the city. Members can’t just move in and say “we’re not paying taxes because we belong to the WPHO.”
Quick take: The group’s move to Amsterdam, and the reaction, has been nothing short of fascinating.

September 2, 2010

Filling in the spots

Filed under: Amsterdam,Amsterdam City Hall — Charlie Kraebel @ 7:07 pm

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane sent out a general update e-mail this evening that y’all might find interesting, especially since some of the information has been discussed here several times.
Here’s the text of Thane’s e-mail:

“All,
This is to inform you that after several interviews, a candidate has been identified to take the City Engineer position. He will work full-time and relocate from Syracuse to Amsterdam. We are doing a background check, calling references, conducting drug/alcohol testing and processing his paperwork. I will call a committee meeting of the whole when I get back from vacation so that you may meet the gentleman in person before the appointment is blessed by resolution.
The Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Senecal has started work this week. He will be tackling vegetation/garbage complaints in order to familiarize himself with our operations, Amsterdam’s layout and to start to manage the overwhelming number of complaints we have received in this regard. I will remind you that this now brings the codes department back up to staffing levels that did not work in the past. Hopefully, you will consider the hiring of a part-time employee to address exterior complaints and Jeff may move to structural/health & safety concerns as well as building permitting.
It is my understanding that the Senior Accountant vacancy has also been filled. Heather may update you as to the particulars.
Bridge Street reconstruction will start on Tuesday, September 7th.
I am away from the 5th until the 12th. If you have an emergency, please do not hesitate to call me on my cell. I am available here at the office tomorrow.

Cheers, A.”

Good thing the mayor informed the council about the hirings, because it avoided a meeting 4th Ward Alderman (and announced mayoral candidate) Bill Wills was trying to schedule. Here’s an e-mail he sent out on Wednesday:

“I am requesting a joint meeting of the Personel and DPW Committees to go over the list of applicants for City Engineer, establish interviews, and then appoint per the Charter a new City Engineer. We need to do this ASAP due to the projects currently underway and those coming. Also, you can see what happens when three people act in that capacity, some things don’t get done.”

The message was sent to the members of the council and to members of the local media who cover the city. However, the message was not sent to Thane. It also appears, based on a few other back and forths, that the meeting was to take place before Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, when the mayor is on vacation.
The mayor found out about Wills’ request, and sent the following to council members today:

All,
I was surprised to receive the following correspondence regarding the business of the council from a third party. I do not understand why I would not have been part of this discourse as I serve as head of the Council and am acting CEO for the City. To not have been included in this conversation is disappointing at best and a disservice to our constituents.
Mr. Wills is again inaccurate in stating that things are not getting done. We were required to advertise, waited for replies, review resumes and hold interviews. After research and discussion, we are confident that the Council will find the chosen candidate to be a great addition to staff. I contacted several of you yesterday in person to tell you of our decision and was under the impression that you were comfortable with this course of action.
In the future, please have the courtesy to include me in all correspondence concerning city business. This is supposed to be a team effort. We must work together to achieve what is best for our community.
Thanks, A.

Quick take: It’s good to see that some movement is being made on some very important issues facing Amsterdam. As far as the Wills-Thane stuff goes, the Democratic primary for mayor is Sept. 13, 2011, so expect another one year and 11 days of this.

Combining their efforts

Filed under: Fulton County,Montgomery County — Charlie Kraebel @ 10:10 am

Supervisors in Fulton and Montgomery counties are looking to hire legal counsel to study the idea of creating a regional business park that could bring property tax revenues to both counties.
The crux of the plan is the expansion of the Johnstown Industrial Park on Route 30A, meaning the city of Johnstown would annex more than 350 acres in the Montgomery County town of Mohawk. Obviously, there are a lot of details that need to be ironed out before this idea can move forward.
Quick take: In government, you hear the phrase “thinking outside the box” a lot. This idea certainly falls under that. The counties need to take their time on this, however.
Quick take 2: Listening to the local squawk boxes this morning, you’d get the impression that this is something that’s new and just coming to light now. This idea was first reported in the Recorder several months ago. The last story on this was published on July 16.

Federal help

Filed under: Amsterdam,Public Safety — Charlie Kraebel @ 9:08 am

Amsterdam Fire Chief Richard Liberti is lobbying the Common Council too apply for a federal grant that could add staff to the fire department.
The grant would fund an additional firefighter for two years, but the city would be required to fund the postion for at least one year after that.
Quick take: These grants always seem good at first, but the city should make sure it can continue to pay for it after the grant runs out. Still it’s worth taking a look at.

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