Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Albany Beat

When laws don’t matter
When Police Chief James Younger refuses to enforce laws including red-light violations, littering and jaywalking, is he violating his oath of office? That's what some disgusted Albany Journal readers are asking after the newspaper reported last week that the Albany Police Department apparently does not write tickets for running red lights unless the violation causes an accident. “How in the world can you protect the citizens if you do not enforce the laws? At what point do we say that speeding is not worth enforcing?” Great questions, we think. Too bad the police chief and his boss, City Manager Alfred Lott, won’t provide the answers or the associated public records – even when state law compels them to. (Younger is still refusing the Journal access to red light tickets his officers have written.) The Journal received considerable feedback about this story – fully supportive except for an anonymous assertion without documentation that Albany police do write some red-light tickets when accidents aren’t involved. If that’s the case, our story was incomplete because of the police chief's and city manager's failure to do their jobs; that is, to produce public records or otherwise answer our inquiry. Still, if the story contained an inaccuracy, we want to correct it. So, Younger and Lott, we again ask you, “How many red-light tickets did the city write during 2005, 2006 and 2007?” The answer is a matter of public record; let us see it.

Congressman from Albany ailing
Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, an Albany native, is recovering at home after a successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from a salivary gland. “I am very blessed because, although rare, this cancer was determined to be localized,” the 61-year-old Chicago Democrat said in a statement Sunday. The surgery was performed at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Rush was born in Albany and left as a youngster when his family moved to Chicago . A former Black Panther, Rush has represented Illinois ’ First District since 1993, having once defeated a young Congressional challenger named Barack Obama.

Fighting school vouchers
State Sen. Michael Meyer Von Bremen is standing admirably against the notion of allowing parents to bail their children from sinking public schools by issuing them vouchers to attend another school – even a private institution. The Albany Democrat says student with higher test scores would be the most likely to leave failing schools. “These schools will go into a rut they will never get out of,” he said. Meyer Von Bremen lost his argument: The measure passed the Senate 32-21.

Columbus without baseball?
Tim Heller is trying to sell the professional baseball team that made a brief touch down in Albany before moving to Columbus . Heller’s sale of the Columbus Catfish, formerly the South Georgia Waves, must be approved by the South Atlantic League and Minor League Baseball. If the sale is approved, the team may move to a new ballpark in Bowling Green , Ky. The South Coast League of Professional Baseball, which owns the South Georgia Peanuts and three other teams, has its eyes on putting a team in Columbus if Heller’s sale is consummated. The Waves played in Albany in 2003.

Jackson: Water fight over

Bainbridge water-rights activist Dr. Oscar Jackson, whose advocacy positive impacted watershed stretching to Dougherty County and beyond, say he’s hanging up his hat because he’s tired and his health is bad. The popular-yet-tenacious 81-year-old retired dentist recently lost a battle to convince the city of Bainbridge not to hire Albany ’s William G. “Jerry” Usry, who has been busted for ethics violations, as a state lobbyist at a rate of $6,000 per month for four months. “Many will think the recent differences I had with the City of Bainbridge for hiring the individual they did as a lobbyist was the main reason for my termination in the water matter. It was not," Jackson told the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight newspaper. "The mayor assured me he (Usry) would not be doing this kind of activity regarding water resources.”