Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Friday, June 26, 2009

Downtown Albany residents got a step closer to easing their parking pains this week with the help, believe it or not, of a suburban Schenectady County Republican. He voted in the majority on the Assembly's passage of an Albany residential-parking bill, which would let the city impose permit-only parking on neighborhood streets within a mile of the Empire State Plaza.

The legislation contains concessions the city hoped this time would mollify state workers' unions, whose members, in theory, might find a permit system more burdensome and expensive. It last passed the Assembly in 2006, and once passed the Senate in 1994 when Albany County's then-Sen. Michael Hoblock was in the GOP majority. That's where one of the many delicious (torturous?) ironies of the state Senate's dysfunction this month comes in.

Until the June 8 coup in which Republicans claim to have seized control, Albany County Sen. Neil Breslin was part of the slim Democratic majority and city officials held out hope the parking bill might have a shot this year.

"The mayor was more optimistic," acknowledged Bob Van Amburgh, a senior aide to Mayor Jerry Jennings, "but again, he's also a realist."

Breslin blamed the bill's past failures on the Republican majority's willingness to listen to the unions' objections but said he expects that the bill will pass, if not this session, then next year.

"There's a glimmer of hope that it might pass before we leave Albany this year," the senator said. "Hope springs eternal."

Here's a list of how local Assembly members voted. It's worth noting that those who voted no represent communities in commuting distance of Albany.

Joining Albany Assemblyman Jack McEneny, the sponsor, voting yes were Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, who represents a piece of the city, and Republicans George Amedore of Rotterdam and Tony Jordan of Jackson, Washington County.

Amedore said it was a difficult decision, but after talking to Jennings and McEneny, he decided the city's efforts at compromise -- with a two-year sunset clause -- are good first steps to a fair solution.

As a developer and builder, Amedore said he understands the mayor's frustration in trying to market the city amid what is a well-known parking shortage.

"I can't separate myself from representing people in my district who have to go to work and drive into Albany," Amedore said. "I also hope that there will be more adequate parking or a way for state workers to find parking that is either reasonable or free or very close to their place of work."

What about the potential union backlash?

"Do I like them breathing down my neck?" he said. "I think that I am a friend of labor, but also, in this situation here, what about the residents of Albany? What about the mayor's concerns about building a vibrant residential community and business community that we need?"

Tim Gordon, I-Bethlehem; James Tedisco, R-Glenville; and Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, voted no.

The official tally was 99-42.

The whiff of expansion

Call it a David vs. Goliath battle.

In this case, David would be the village of Colonie and Goliath Albany's giant ... heap of garbage, also known as the Rapp Road landfill.

Colonie Mayor Frank Leak has fought against the dump's expansion, he said, because its odors that waft into his village of 8,500 are too much to take.

So when the city announced this week that it fully expects to receive the state's blessing to expand the dump in the Pine Bush, Leak met the news with the measured tone that comes with eight decades on earth.

He said he didn't expect to win the battle but frets that embarrassing smells will cast a pall on evening concerts at pristine Cook Park, and he worries about older villagers who don't have air conditioning and open their windows when it's warm.

Asked about speculation of a lawsuit against the city of Albany, Leak, who's already spent $15,000 on the fight, said, "I haven't got that kind of money and I'm not going to get anybody else to support me."

Guilderland Supervisor Ken Runion told Inside Politics he opposes the expansion into the Pine Bush, even though his town sends its trash there.

Save the Pine Bush rarely finds itself constrained by the cost of legal intervention, but volunteer Lynn Jackson declined to say if her group planned action this time.

"What do you think we're going to do?" she said.

Stratton has a say

Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton has been picked for the candidate selection committee of the New York Conference of Mayors.

From that post Stratton will help select candidates for the slate of officers elected at NYCOM's 100th annual meeting next week in Saratoga Springs.

Stratton was chosen by the group's president, fellow Democrat Mayor John T. McDonald III. of Cohoes.

Inside Politics is a companion to the Local Politics blog ---- http://blogs.timesunion.com/localpolitics -- and compiled by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.