Drama continues in the state Senate, NYCLU sues Troy over "Virtual Jihadi," FBI raids downtown Saratoga office

The new leadership of the state Senate says it will go into session this afternoon -- whether it has access to the Senate chamber or not. Democrats have literally locked the chamber and are holding the keys. Possibly-new majority leader Dean Skelos says there's nothing that requires the Senate to meet in its chamber -- and the body could go into session in a park if need be . [TU] [NYT] [NYDN]

Democrats say Pedro Espada -- one of the two Dems who are now caucusing with the Republicans -- switched because the leadership denied him almost $2 million in pork for two new, possibly shady, non-profits. They're also focusing attention on accusations that Espada's been involved with campaign finance mishaps -- and may not live in his district. Espada says Democrats are engaging in "character assassination." [TU] [NYDN]

Republicans are reportedly trying to recruit more Democrats to their coalition, including the sponsor of the Senate's version of the same-sex marriage bill. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to get Hiram Monserrate -- one of the two switchers -- to flip back by threatening to primary him. [NYT] [Daily Politics]

When/if the Senate goes into session, Skelos says there is "going to be a new way of governing." Good government groups say the reforms already presented by the coalition are a step in the right direction. [Fox23] [CapNews9]

And in non-Senate news...

The New York Civil Liberties Union has sued the City of Troy and its public works commissioner, Bob Mirch, for using code enforcement to shut down the Sanctuary for Independent Media last year during the exhibition of Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi." The NYCLU alleges that the enforcement action violated the gallery's free speech rights. Mirch oversees code enforcement for the city -- and also led a protest of the exhibit in front of the center. [TU] [Troy Record]

The FBI raided the downtown Saratoga offices of David Silipingo yesterday. Silipingo has already had plenty of trouble with the feds -- he pleaded guilty to felony mortgage fraud in 2003. More recently he's been involved with a shopping club that's drawn accusations of being a pyramid scheme. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

Now that the Luther Forest chip fab project is officially moving forward, economic development officials say they expect of a group of companies to pop up around project. [Post-Star]

Albany County spent $19 million on nursing home care last year -- about 30 percent of its budget. The county is currently looking to develop a long-term plan for its elder care system. [TU]

Kirsten Gillibrand says she's working on legislation that will help expand nurse training programs. Even though there aren't enough nurses to fill available jobs, nursing schools are apparently turning down applicants because of lack of space and faculty. [Daily Gazette]

The Saratoga Springs Board of Education says it's re-evaluating it's no-biking-to-school policy. [Saratogian]

Saratoga Springs has about 50 surveillance cameras on city property, including Congress Park. And it's looking at adding them to locations such as Caroline Street. [Post-Star]

The owner of the Placid Baker says he hopes to have his new Troy location open by the end of the month. [Troy Record]

Comments

I love how oblivious Bob Mirch is to everything he's ended up involved with. NYCLU can't press charges against RPI because they're a private university with the power to remove anybody they're not comfortable with (a fact that made protesting the action difficult, as I recall.)

@Pete: The NYCLU isn't pressing charges against RPI, but against the city of Troy for the dubiously "legal" shutdown of the Sanctuary of Independent Media because they decided to show Virtual Jihadi once RPI caved to a few screaming voices about how it was offensive.

It's actually a frightening precedent that was set by this. A municipality could, in theory, shut down the lawful right to free speech if they decided they disagreed with what was said. The FBI had already investigated the piece and deemed that it wasn't a credible threat to the president, or the office of the president. The same people that protested the show at RPI called the city of Troy when it was moved to the Sanctuary to complain. Since the Sanctuary didn't pull the show, the city pulled it for them.

@Ellie: Oh, I know. My comment was in response to Mirch's quote in the TU questioning why RPI wasn't named in the lawsuit.

I was one of the more, er, outspoken RPI students when the decision was made on our campus. Outside of chastising the administration for pulling the plug on the exhibit without any student input on the matter, there was really nothing we could do. They're a private university that is fully entitled to curtail the exercise of free speech on campus whenever they see fit.

Troy, on the other hand (and more specifically, Bob Mirch) was clearly suppressing free speech by deciding the Sanctuary's doors weren't up to code, a week after they were deemed to be adequate. Mirch obviously didn't see anything wrong with the abuse of his authority, and now this is where we are.

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