albany democrats fill legislature seats fast

Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Friday, October 12, 2007

Albany County legislators - the majority Democrats that is - waste no time in filling seats on the 39-member body.

Earlier this year when Ann Comella , a Loudonville Republican, died of injuries suffered in a car crash, the Democrats appointed one of their own, Ryan Horstmyer , to fill her seat. But Horstmyer has to battle to keep his seat. He is running for a full four-year term in November - all seats are up for election on Nov. 6 - and his opponent is none other than Joe Comella, Ann's widower. This week, lawmakers had another opportunity to fill a vacancy and appointed Democrat Donald Rahm to represent the city of Albany's 9th Legislative District.

He fills the seat left by attorney Paul Collins , who stepped down last month after 24 years to take a job at the state Board of Elections. As the board's special deputy litigation counsel, Collins cannot hold political office.

Rahm, business manager and financial secretary for the 1,400-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 236, will represent Pine Hills and parts of the New Scotland Avenue and Helderberg neighborhoods.

For Rahm, this appointment is sweet. Collins had no Republican opponent for re-election, and that benefit now passes to Rahm. He is assured of winning in the heavily Democratic city.

Rahm, an Albany native and Vietnam-era veteran, is a member of the board of directors of the Albany Police Athletic League and used to coach kids in the Central Babe Ruth and National Little Leagues.

By the way, County Executive Mike Breslin 's proposed 2008 budget, unveiled Wednesday, bumps the legislators' annual salary to $20,911, up from $20,298.

Candidates slam coverage

Guilderland GOP Town Board candidates Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich want ink. And they don't feel like the messenger is listening.

They claim that one of their Democratic opponents not only won't debate them, but also that one got a sweetheart deal on his home assessment. The Republican challengers also want to get the word out on their "whistle-blower report" about another candidate (and his wife) making too much money as heads of a local nonprofit.

Gripes like these are common during an election season, but that doesn't make them news.

Redlich and Grimm disagree with that journalistic assessment, which they insist is evidence of bias. So they're attacking the messenger.

Here are some choice tidbits from e-mails they've sent to this newspaper's Guilderland reporter.

Grimm, a former television newsman, was relatively polite. He wrote that refusing to cover his criticism of what he contends is a conflict of interest by an incumbent seeking re-election was a "disservice to your readers and yet another hurdle to reforming the way politicians behave."

The message from Redlich, who is an attorney, was vitriolic. He complained that he was not asked to comment in a story on Guilderland's preliminary budget.

"I can't decide whether you're an incompetent journalist, or a biased one. Maybe both," Redlich wrote. "I won't bother sending you any information in the future. It's obviously a waste of time. I used to think reporters were underpaid. At least now I know one who is overpaid."

Camera cooperation It isn't the creation of a countywide police department or a centralized dispatch, but Schenectady officials were digging deep this week to tout intergovernmental cooperation.

Mayor Brian Stratton and County Legislator Gary Hughes, both Democrats running for re-election in November, were on Van Vranken Avenue Thursday to show off a new camera to search the sewers for blockages. The county bought the camera and is leasing it to the city, a move the duo lauded as the latest effort to share services.

County and city officials for years suggested major mergers -- former Mayor Al Jurczynski once suggested the city and county could merge -- but such efforts have been hard to achieve.

Few big ideas like the creation of a countywide police department have ever gotten off the drawing board and other proposals like a centralized dispatch have been discussed for years without any formal plan put forward. Staff writers Carol DeMare, Scott Waldman and Mike Goodwin contributed to this week's column.