How the Common Council and You Can Keep Kids Safe

In light of the council’s recent canard concern with the safety of kids as a priority legislative issue, I wanted to offer some ideas to the Council given their overwhelming concern on how to keep kids safe:
1) Invest in public education : the Council must approach the GASD on developing new programs and garner necessary public support for the tax increase to support programs to keep kids safe. Let’s see more money for programs to increase academic performance and extracurricular activities which clearly show that they reduce risks to youth in terms of adverse behaviors such as drug use and crime.
2) Invest in capital improvements at the parks: the Council must invest in capital projects to improve the appearance and amenities at the parks, many of which appear in disrepair. The Council must be resolute against the voices of those who bemoan beautification as worthless and unworthy of taxpayer dollars. Personally, I am delighted to see the Council embrace beautification of the parks for kids as a priority and look forward to taxpayer dollars being allocated for beautification purposes.
3) Get older drivers off the road: to keep kids safe, the Council must pass some form of legislation to keep older adults from getting behind the wheel. If you drive around the city, you don’t need any statistics at all to know the biggest danger to kids, well anybody really, is older drivers. The empirical evidence is pretty strong that you and your kids are much safer playing basketball on the street from where you can run to the curb versus dodging older drivers from a myriad of driving errors. I am sure the Council will do the right thing here.
4) Be consistent and ban kids from the streets completely: I see kids playing football in the street and even worse, riding their bikes in the street. I don’t think that’s safe at all. I think the Council needs to ban these activities as well as they hardly seem safe to me. As the Council loves protecting taxpayers, I think a fine of $500 and confiscation of the bike for riding your bike in the street would add some much needed revenue to the city. After all, police departments confiscate property under the provisions of asset forfeiture via the drug laws and really, isn’t a kid riding their bike just as much a public health threat than dealing smack? Even more troubling, playing basketball is indeed a hair’s breadth away from blue meth.
5) Get new city leadership and get involved: for kids, there is no greater threat to your quality of life than the adults in charge of city affairs. The reason that kids get short-changed in the city year after year is largely due to the adults in charge and the adults, mostly parents,  who fail to get involved to drive changes. Let’s face it: kids don’t factor into most decisions because they don’t vote. In many cases, that is the fault of the parents who either fail to vote or who remain apathetic to the affairs of the city. So kids and parents, if you want to see some changes in the quality of life for your kids, you know what to do.

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22 Responses

  1. diane says:

    Obviously I whole heartedly agree with your first two comments. This council is already working on ideas for the parks and making them better and cleaner. Frankly there is no excuse for them not to be maintained, as the recreation director has the funds or can request funds thru the budgeting process. The extensive capital project that is being requested can probably be addressed more economically thru smaller projects more routinely… changing out the boards at Shircha park when they are damaged etc. They should be freshly painted annually which will help to preserve the wood. The parks should be spruced up every spring and any necessary parts should be ordered to fix any damage. All over grown vegetation should be cut back……None of this was done at Shircha prior to all of the hullabaloo over the state of affairs down there. What is more concerning, was not attempting to correct the situation when it was known by the mayor, DPW and Recreation. It should have been on the top of the list for last fall, or early this spring. It was not, but will now be addressed. In addition, we will be requesting additional cameras for all the parks, as it has become necessary in order to maintain them. Say what you will, but people have to learn to use the trash cans provided to keep the parks clean.
    As for the other items I agree that everyone should be involved in the process and I encourage people to do so. Even in the state of Fla elderly drivers are not banned from the streets. Parents do need to take a closer look at what their children are doing outside. I see little ones riding bikes across the street without ever looking. They just dart out and do not look and it is very unfortunate. Because we have so many side streets, does not mean there is no traffic on them. And because you personally do not have problems with the hoops in the streets, does not mean that others do not. We want to make our parks and streets safe for both the young and old and this is just another tool to due so.
    Thank you, Diane

  2. wildthane says:

    Diane, You continue to talk about things you do not know.
    In fact, we were there for several years past cutting back vegetation and “sprucing up” Sirchia Park. We cut vegetation back there every year. I replaced the ancient playground equipment with the play structure that is there now and Liberty painted the mural to match it. We’ve put cameras in parks and around the city when our budget allowed. We built out Riverlink Park (which has a lovely playground, performance area, party tent, and terrific cafe.) We put in the basketball hoops and softball field at Vets (and are building out a soccer field now) and rehabilitated the pool house and grounds. We have brought ice skating back to City Hall and have built the new fishing/ice skating area and warming huts at Shuttleworth. We put in a walking path along the Chuctanunda at Shuttleworth and made repairs to the tennis courts there, not to mention all of the improvements made at the stadium (that turf is atracting more play at the park than ever!) We host summer camp at the new Bacon Recreation Center, hold classes of all kinds at the Arts Center, started a community garden and 4H club there, and give out free breakfast and lunches at both centers. We bus kids from the East End to the pool for free. We host countless events including the hugely successful Spring Fling, Parkfest and Homecoming. We work with kids on public art projects like the beautiful CCAC mosaic and several murals. We have kicked off our “Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” health and wellnss initiative by partnering with GASD, SMH, Centro Civico, Catholic Charities and others. We facilitate most league sports around the city.
    And here’s a fact: before I took office, most of this was not even a thought.
    We continue to do everything we can to meet the needs of this community, even though your council just cut the recreation budget.
    Your constant denigration of the effort we’ve put into serving youth and families in this city is neither helpful or healthy. Demoralizing our Recreation Director that has done such a stellar job is deplorable. That you have most recently stumbled onto the condition of some of these smaller parks because of a few FB comments and blundered with the basketball hoop legislation is good. Now, you and the other aldermen can allocate the funding we need to make these pocket parks flourish.
    PLEASE, stop attacking the efforts of my administration and staff and start putting money where your mouth is.

  3. diane says:

    While the vegetation in years past at Sircha has been done, it was not done in a timely manner this year which started all of the hullaballoo. You and others knew a year ago about the undermining at the park but it was never addressed. This new council only found out about it after all the pics and stories on FB and we went to take a look. The recreation director said he always budgets for what he needs and certainly should have in this case……..this council cut 1% from a 400,000.00 rec budget and 1 % for all the depts. Instead of trying to spend money we do not have, and do not know the balance of, try to fix something in a manner to give it two years, so we can adjust without spending thousands on capital projects. The boards had not been maintained on those benches no matter what you say, I was there and took pictures. With the exception of RiverLink and Shuttleworth all the other parks are being ignored, to some degree. One gentleman responded the new nets at Vets only came recently. When I asked about the pile of fill at Vets, I was told they were going to put in a soccer field but since the organization pulled out, they did not know what they were going to do………
    The nets were missing from all the hoops from everything I read, but it was July 4th before they were replaced. Well into the summer season. Oh, and the state coming in and shutting down the pool two weeks ago because the chemicals were out of balance? A friend was telling me how she went to Riverlink and ended up pulling the weeds. What happened to the rec person that was there taking care of it everyday?? And until two years ago we did not have many of these programs, but we do now as the result of a tragic event.
    As for putting money into things when we do not know what we have, we will not be doing it unless it is an emergency. I am glad you are getting a group together for Sassy Park…….I am only sorry that the public has to something that their tax dollars already are paying for 🙂

    • wildthane says:

      Diane, so an anonymous person told your the soccer group pulled out? Did Rob? Why don’t you talk directly to staff about this instead of your “sources?” You’d then know that a pump failed at the pool which wasn’t detected until the state tested the chemicals and it was repaired that day. I don’t know why the woman was pulling weeds at Riverlink because we do have a park attendant ant the grounds, elevator and bathrooms are beautiful, as many testify to on the Captain website, a voting site for boaters. I can tell you it’s beautiful from personal experience because I actually go there. You ought to give it a try. You cut $4,000 out of Rob’s equipment line but expect him to perform to a higher level (although Ron Barone had no problem making Rob buy weed eaters to take Workforce Dolution Isn’t that a bit crazy?

      • wildthane says:

        Continued: (although Ron Barone had no problem making Rob buy weed eaters to take Workforce Solution hires to work at the Golf Course.) You’ve only given Rob two seaonal hires to manage overgrown weeds and vegetation at parks, memorials, public places and dilapidated properties. Isn’t that a bit crazy to expect more for less the way weeds grow this season? Joe Isabel put ten people on when he was on the council, even though six were asked for. He looked at the budget, judged the job that needed to be done, talked to Rob, and then moved to have the allocation upped during budget talks. Evidently, you didn’t see any need to clean up this city or its small parks, or you would have offered to allocate more than less in this last budget.
        When you look at all of the wonderful things accomplished over the past six years listed in my post, all you can do is bash. I feel sorry for you. It must terrible going through life looking askance at your surroundings and the people that are changing the face of this community, especially Rob Spagnola who is about as humble and hardworking as a saint.

  4. Fabrizia Rodriguez says:

    I COMPLETLY agree with all 5 points. I don’t expect council members to be well versed in all 5 areas outlined here, but I do expect them to do their homework before they take actions like they did with basketball. There are so many other ways keeping children safe can be done. Talk to teachers, coaches, local organizations who work with these kids and families on a daily basis. Find the underlining root cause to problems residents raise with children. Don’t just act without any science behind your thought process. If that is too much work for you to do then step down and let someone else raise up to the obligations. This goes for everything not just issues with Amsterdam kids.
    And you all need to wake up and smell the coffee…Amsterdam is now a small city, and a very diverse city of all cultures and social economic backgrounds. Average income is $36,000, graduation rate 61%, 25% of our population are under 18, only 15% are over 65. Only 15% have bachelors degrees….that’s awful. These are numbers similar to large impoverished cities. Stop being narrow minded and realize the decisions you make have an effect on everyone. Put yourself in their shoes how will they be effected. If you can’t do that, then put your sneakers on and walk the streets of your ward and ask the people themselves how they feel.
    I’ve been asked by president if fmcc and director of chamber of commerce why doesn’t young people like myself stay and raise their families here. The answer is because of council members like this who do not consider the long term challenges they are creating for me to raise my family.

  5. diane says:

    Actually it was Rob that told me they pulled out 🙂

  6. diane says:

    Mayor, I have put myself out there once again. For 10 days I have been working with two awesome 17 year olds at the 5 corners. We have cleaned up the fence line so people can see thru it and around it, removed the weeds, brush and will be cutting down dead trees this coming week. I am thankful that Ron Barone made the call to Rec. The gentlemen brought us two weed whackers and loppers to use for the duration of kids’ stay. They did spend time at the course with Ron while he trimmed the hedges, they cleaned up. They also weed whacked the front curb line and other areas, as it turns out they have no landscaping maintenance up there. (course maintenance yes) Wow, it made a great improvement ! If we get rain one day, they will clean the cart sheds. These kids are not paid by the city, but thru a Federal program, which I last used when I cleaned Church St and in front of city hall. And before you became mayor, I coordinated two small city wide clean ups. I have done other clean up projects, but nothing matters except you and your administration. Everything you are doing and have done was outlined in the Master Plan, a committee that I served on, you have followed it to a T. Even the neighborhood watches and associations were recommended in there.!! So please stop acting like this city and its struggles have all been solved by your administration. They have not and will not be. And by the way, I told Rob to hire more seasonals as I knew the council would approve it. I even suggested a second shift from 3-7 because he said he had no vehicles, and then he said he did not hire the vegetation crew until real late since he did not have the vehicles………so what is the real story ?
    I listen to my residents and vote in the best interests of all. The issue with the hoops has been going on for years and getting worse. I even came before the council and begged them to consider the legislation in the past. It was part of my campaign to make our streets safer for our drivers and kids. The kids do not belong in the streets. The resolution passed…….you signed it into law on Thursday, July 3rd, and Susan had the Recorder publish it as fact. It was not until someone from Centro Civico sent a letter to all of us over the weekend that you changed your mind ! You yourself know it is a problem, but decided you had better not upset CC. On Monday you came into the City Clerks office and pulled the resolution, you had decided to veto it. Frankly, I have had people tell me that is not legal……….you signed it, it was in the paper. So now you go on and on how the council is attacking the poorest of poor………..mayor 90% of this city is poor, so what difference does that make ? It should make none ! We are here to represent our constituents, all of them, not just one segment, and that is what the council chose to do. It is a start. I will continue to clean up my ward and others as time permits providing I have my helpers. I want this city to survive, I want it to be the best it can be and I want it safe for everyone, including the kids and drivers. To that end, hoops do not belong in the street or on the sidewalk………use the driveway or a park 🙂

    • wildthane says:

      No, Diane, I mistakenly signed the ordinance in the pile of other resolutions that were on my desk and when I realized it, immediately went to the clerks office to retrieve it and tear it up. That doesn’t even matter. It was not scanned or sent to anyone as signed or I would have not been within the law to do what I did.
      As far as the Comprehensive Plan, I am proud that we, my amazing staff and volunteers, have progressed it’s goals aggressively, as it sat on a shelf during the prior administration, untouched. I am also proud that we’ve gone well beyond its contents as is evidenced not only by the lengthy list above but also on many, many other fronts, from infrastructure improvements and public safety initiatives to a growing network of partnerships and presence in the Capital Region to innovative generation of new revenues.
      Again, I feel sorry for you that you cannot admit that we’ve done a great job and that you must continue to pitch yourself in a stance of opposition. This city needs cooperation, informed action and integrity from it’s elected officials. I welcomed you all with open arms from the start, lauded you publicly for your promise of cooperation, and you have done nothing but mire us in controversy, power struggle and matters of little import. Golf contracts, court, turf wars, power grabs, demoralization of staff and basketball hoops. What a resume! It’s been a sad seven months for this city.

      • Rogo says:

        It has been a terrible almost 7 years. Foreclosures??? Absentee landlords receiving rent money!! Finances (fund balance)???? Mounting long term debt??? Contracts with mohawks and riverlink with no payments to city!!!!!!!!! Successful golf course now in debt!!

    • Sorry, Diane, but I have to call a foul on this statement:
      “We are here to represent our constituents, all of them, not just one segment, and that is what the council chose to do.”
      So passing a law that targets poor people and homes with no driveways is looking out for all of your constituents? This isn’t a law protecting “public safety.” In other cities, big and small, kids bring portable hoops to the curbs and play basketball all the time, and you don’t hear about the problems you and your band of local talk radio rumor-mongers claim exist in Amsterdam.
      I would also like to see you back up your claim that 90 percent of Amsterdam is poor. What studies or surveys have you read that prove that statement. You are no longer a gadfly and radio regular, you are an elected official and should therefore provide facts to back up your claims.

      • Dylon says:

        For those of you who want to believe that this law is only in Amsterdam or if you think or want to think that its a targetted law, please put on your glasses and read some “free legal advise” Note: it’s dated 2011, yes over
        3 yrs. old, why because this issue is not new. Amsterdam is behind the times still and again its an issue because there are less safe play grounds w/hoops today then in yrs. past in Amsterdam. The law of blocking the street i.e. portable hoops existed before the Amsterdam law and yes Mayor your correct on that but the act of people physically blocking the street while playing basketball was added to give teeth in order to remediate the issue at hand.
        Besides the council themselves do not violate people w/this law nor can they order someone so how can they be held responsible if and when the Mayor orders an enforcement officer to cite someone who happens to be in one of our poor neighborhoods. The Mayor issues gag orders on city employees so threatening them of losing their job if they don’t follow her orders is not uncommon for her. That is more realistic then the other as the Mayor is the Executive and the council the legislators. And
        Charlie I didn’t read in the law were certain people or neighborhoods are to be targetted ? Other than you and the Mayor and others assuming the police will be targeting people, why don’t you explain yourself on this because the police have been very clear on how they will address this issue so why imply otherwise?

  7. Dylon, it’s a matter of common sense and math. The law doesn’t state that specific people or neighborhoods are being targeted, but it will have the greatest impact in poorer neighborhoods because many of the homes on those streets do not have driveways for people to put hoops up.
    Unless Amsterdam’s nicer neighborhoods are being overrun with youths playing basketball in the streets (hint: they’re not), it only stands to reason that this law targets specific people and areas.

    • Rob Millan says:

      ‘The Mayor issues gag orders on city employees so threatening them of losing their job if they don’t follow her orders is not uncommon for her.’
      You’d better be willing to back that statement up in a court of law, including any specific instances you can cite where you’ve been witness to this having actually happened.

    • Dylon says:

      Charlie, whether someone has a driveway or not is irrelevant and/or what neighborhood they’re in because if you don’t move out of the way when cars come whether your in a better or so called worse neighborhood the action of those blocking the road is the reason action maybe taken, its not the neighborhood or how poor you perceive it to be but the attitude of the violator that will bring action.
      It seems to me that those few that think this law is targeting, are without question bring up issues that are not an issue but could be if an enforcement officer thinks like you’ll.
      I guarantee you there will be many a portable hoops thru-out the city in a years time, so all this fighting over a common law is nothing less than bad air.

      • Dylon says:

        Rob, go take you meaningless threats to someone who scares easily and go back and read Recorder news stories to this fact. Have a nice day.

      • Rob Millan says:

        Except, Dylon, that’s typically not how it works. Any ‘reasonable person’ could interpret this to actually be an ordinance that allows for an unfair target of people in low-income neighborhoods, and could actually lay the foundation for the Common Council in being negligent. It doesn’t matter if you agree with this or not.

      • Dylon, you must be joking.
        If a house has a driveway (typically in higher-income areas with more single-family homes), there’s no need to put a portable hoop in the street.
        If a house doesn’t have a driveway (typically in lower-income areas with multiple-family housing units), that’s where you’ll most likely find portable hoops in the street. You know, like all the dead-end streets along East Main or on portions of James Street.

  8. Dylon says:

    Rob, you make a little sense but you fail to realize “anyone” cannot enforce this law and our police are very competent officers and someone’s misunderstanding of the law doesn’t make a case that you were harmed if your not cited by someone of authority.
    I will agree anybody can make a basless lawsuit but that doesn’t make it right.

    • Dylon says:

      Charlie, I understand what your saying but the majority of driveways are pitched or hilled and cannot be used for Basketball first of all. Plus a majority of the remaining driveways owners will not allow basketball to be played there because cars park in driveways in order to get them off the street since we know what vandals do there. So I don’t see your view that its just a rich kid poor kid type of law.

      • Rob Millan says:

        “… the majority of driveways are pitched or hilled and cannot be used for Basketball first of all. Plus a majority of the remaining driveways owners will not allow basketball to be played there…”
        Citation please.

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