Looking back on my favorite stories of year there are two very clear themes–women in leadership and my return to subjects I covered as a young journalist.
Early in my career at Metroland I received a press release that an upstart Democratic candidate was vying to replace then-Republican Rep. John Sweeney. Sweeney was a fixture in the community but also had a reputation about him. I ended up trading an assignment with another reporter to go cover the Gillibrand campaign. Sweeney’s reputation would play out during the campaign giving Gillibrand the edge she needed to win the seat–despite the naysaying saying of local prognosticators like WAMC’s Alan Chartock. I covered Gillibrand stumping with Eliot Spitzer as he ran for Governor. I detailed her second campaign that took place just after she had given birth. It was apparent then, she was still finding herself as a politician but at the same time she knew her policy and was adapting quickly. It was an interesting place to find myself at the start of 2017–again speaking to Gillibrand about the ills of a Republican Presidency. Now, Senator Gillibrand was making all the right moves publically to garner the attention of disaffected liberals. That streak continued later in the year as she called on President Donald Trump to resign due to the multiple accusations of sexual harassment he faces.
I admit it, I grew up a major fan of The Smashing Pumpkins and Hole. Auf der Maur played bass for both bands at different points in her career. I also happen to have been born in Hudson. I recall responding to a contest in The Register Star asking children for their ideas about how to use one major vacant building or another in the city. My mother would take me on monthly trips to the Natural History Museum to see dinosaur skeletons so my proposal was to make this building a history museum. What Auf der Maur and her team have done to the old factory in Hudson is beyond my wildest dreams. It was a real treat to speak in depth with Auf der Maur about her development as an artist and the decision making that goes into booking one of the area’s most-interesting artistic festivals.
Albany District Attorney David Soares is another politician I covered early on in my career as a journalist. When he was first elected Soares ran against the Albany Democratic Machine and his boss who held the DA’s office. Soares ran on reforming drug laws and alternative sentencing. I admittedly had a great amount of respect for Soares given his life story and work trying to stay connected to Albany’s poorest neighborhoods. But as I worked in State Government I began to hear from reformers that Soares was no longer so keen on cutting people slack. I was very interested to speak to the man when I returned to covering the Capital Region for The Alt. I didn’t expect I’d be doing while Soares recovered from a heart procedure. The interviews with Soares and his critics we’re very raw and emotional. The issues discussed complex.
Marquis Dixon was raised up by activists and The Times Union’s columnist Chris Churchill as the face of the Raise the Age movement. They said he was unfairly sentenced to a 9 years after attempting to steal sneakers in a McDonald’s parking lot. Albany County DA David Soares insisted Dixon was more dangerous than the crime let on. Appellate District Judge Karen Peters overturned his sentence last year making Dixon a free man. When I caught rumors that Dixon had quickly gotten in trouble again I reached out to his mother and asked for her OK to visit him in Albany County Jail to speak to him. I had yet to see anyone actually talk to Dixon and get his point of view. Dixon told me he couldn’t take parole and he expected to be back in jail. He thanked the advocates for pushing for him but also said he wanted out of the spotlight. He wanted time to live his life without everyone paying attention. He was released again and as he predicted later that year he had violated parole and was back in custody.
Gillibrand’s office drops hammer on IDCAn intersection of two of my former beats–I asked Gillibrand’s office for the Senator’s stance on the rebel group of Democrats in the NY Senate known as the Independent Democratic Conference. The group had come under fire for empowering Republicans even after Trump took office. Gillibrand’s office quickly replied as if they had been waiting to be asked: “Senator Gillibrand believes it’s vital to have Democratic control of the State Senate and it should be led by the Democratic Majority that wants to get things done for New Yorkers, not a breakaway faction. The status quo is not just unacceptable, it’s wrong.” Her stance put more pressure on the IDC to rejoin the mainline Democrats but the situation still remains unresolved.