Friday, February 13, 2009

Mayor's callers have tickets on their minds

Mayor’s callers have tickets on their minds
February 13, 2009 at 1:09 pm by Tim O'Brien, Staff writer
Mayor Jerry Jennings heard from callers to his radio show this morning about the “ghost” parking tickets.

One caller, named Brian, worried that cars on South Allen were ticketed the other day because police wanted to generate revenue to counter the coverage of the no-fine parking tickets. “I felt this was an ambush on our street,” the caller told Jennings.

“I don’t like the term ‘ambushed,’ ” the mayor replied. He said parking enforcement officers may have been responding to a complaint. “It’s got nothing to do with ghost tickets. It’s about enforcement.”
Another caller, named Bill, made fun of last night’s Common Council meeting, where the council decided to get testimony under oath. The mayor — who was not present – called the session ‘entertaining.’
Still, you could sense some nervousness in his voice over his re-election prospects.

“I hope people look at the whole record, how things were in 1994 and how they are today,” he said. “Hopefully the media will be objective in this race.”

The subject was raised again by Tim Carney, a regular caller. When he referred to the ticket issue as a ’scandal,’ the mayor argued.
“Don’t use the word scandal,” he said. Of the 299 people on the VIP list, the mayor claimed all but 1.6 percent were assigned to law enforcement.

According to my colleague Brendan J. Lyons, those numbers conflict with what the department has released. Of the 299, 208 belonged to Albany Police Department cars and 23 to cars from other local police departments. Chief James Tuffey has said more than 250 of the vehicles belonged to law enforcement cars. But 5 belonged to employees of the Downtown Business Improvement District. Others were for cars owned by a former corporation counsel and at least two were for retired police officers. At least two were driven by state officials whose law enforcement role wouldn’t require having to find parking in a hurry. There were also a smattering of private citizens whom the police chief is still working to determine how they were put on the list. He said it’s possible some inherited former police department plate numbers through DMV.

A city-owned Chrysler that was used by the mayor was also on the list.
The bull’s eye stickers given out by the Albany Police Officers Union have had a much bigger impact, resulting in tens of thousands of tickets not paid.

Jennings seemed to consider the council’s efforts to find out how so many people were able to avoid parking fines as a personal affront.
“This administration is going to continue to be successful, despite some people who don’t want us to be,” he said.

He also defended city treasurer Betty Barnette. Some council members have complained she has not provided information they asked for since the ghost ticket issue was first reported in November.
“She had nothing to do with the ‘ghost’ tickets,” Jennings said. “We’re going to do the right thing to get the information out.”

The council isn’t the only one Barnette hasn’t responded to. She didn’t answer calls for comment from the TU when the story broke.

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