Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Friday, April 3, 2009

If Colonie Republicans were dismayed when Democrats took their jobs in 2007 -- they probably won't be thrilled to hear that the in-laws are moving in.

Albany County Democratic Committee Chairman Dan McCoy tells Inside Politics that the erstwhile suburban GOP stronghold will host two major Democratic gatherings -- the spring nomination meeting and the Democratic picnic this summer.

McCoy said the massing of the county's 600-plus committee members on May 27 will move from the Polish Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension -- its home for decades -- to Michael's Banquet House in Latham.

McCoy visited the town committee's nomination meeting on Tuesday night to make the announcement.

The chairman said he believes it's the first time the gathering -- where committee members nominate countywide candidates and otherwise revel in the glow of being the dominant party -- has been held outside the community center since it opened in 1973.

Before that, the meetings were at the old Polish club on Sheridan Avenue.

McCoy said the switch will be a good way to energize the party going into the election season and reward Colonie Democrats for gains they've made in traditionally Republican territory. Supervisor Paula Mahan -- the first Democrat to hold the post since the Great Depression -- is up for re-election this year.

The move may also be a way for McCoy to maintain a fragile balance between the suburban and city factions, for whom he was a compromise candidate for party leader after a short-lived power-sharing experiment.

In recent years, the stature of the big meeting, which once drew legions of impeccably dressed Democrats, has declined with attendance and the growing rift between the towns and cities that has eroded the party's clout and cache.

In the old days, "you had to be there and you had to make sure Mayor Corning saw you were there," Colonie Committeeman Dick Barrett said.

Asked what he thought the reaction might be to moving the gathering out of the city, McCoy acknowledged: "It's going to spin some heads, but in the end, it's all good."

And if some of the party faithful are loathe to see the committee meeting leave the city, they'll likely be relieved to see the annual party picnic returning to Albany County.

After its cancellation in 2006, the leadership resurrected the picnic in 2007 but moved it from Altamont to Krause's Grove in Halfmoon, a Saratoga County GOP stronghold -- which caused consternation among some longtime party members.

But the summer fundraiser will jump back across the Mohawk on July 18 to Lanthier's Grove, also in Latham.

You might recall that Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners rented a school bus in 2007 for Democratic revelers who didn't feel inclined to trek to southern Saratoga County.

An issue with focus

All the media attention garnered by the recent Albany Common Council investigation into no-fine parking tickets has caused a stir among some council members who feel closed-in by the crush of cameras and chattering observers the hearings have drawn.

Councilman John Rosenzweig, who represents the Eighth Ward, sits at approximately Ground Zero for the camera encampment on the right side of the chamber, which affords photographers a clear shot of the council members deemed most likely to make a show of questioning city officials under oath.

As a result, he said, he's been bumped and hemmed in by cables.

"It's distracting when individuals are talking and sending text messages throughout the course of the meeting," Rosenzweig told fellow lawmakers at their Wednesday caucus.

Council President Shawn Morris on Monday night sternly reminded the camera crews clustered in aisles and partially blocking exits that their presence inside the bar is at the council's discretion (this after one cameraman groused about being asked to move).

Rosenzweig also mentioned the issue of cameras not affiliated with media outlets, seemingly a reference to Albany Community Television, a citizen-led effort to record and broadcast meetings in the lack of public access television. It's a sensitive issue.

Rosenzweig is chairman of a council committee working on the cable contract that could bring the public-access TV. Negotiations, he said, started a week ago.

Perhaps sensing the minefield inherent in parsing who is (or is not) a media outlet in the digital age, Morris moved quickly to suggest compromises. She is also in a delicate position on the matter as a candidate for mayor.

ACT founder Elise Van Allen has said she strives to be a C-SPAN-like impartial voice and reminded Rosenzweig she wouldn't need to be there if the city had public access, which prompted a sharp response from the councilman.

He later said he's not trying to limit access and acknowledges that ACT is providing "a valuable service" but added he's concerned about ulterior motives.

Inside Politics is a companion to the Local Politics blog ---- -- and compiled by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.