Occupiers of Albany get deal from city

I must say it’s a jolly situation we have between the city fathers of Albany and the demonstrators w

I must say it’s a jolly situation we have between the city fathers of Albany and the demonstrators who have occupied a park across the street from City Hall under the rubric of Occupy Albany.

Very jolly indeed.

The municipal fathers have not only agreed to ignore the standard 11 p.m. curfew for parks, they have also agreed to countenance a tent city equipped with portable toilets and a generator.

“So far the city administration has dealt with this in a way that is very rational and thoughtful and respectful of freedom of speech,” said Mark Mishler, an activist lawyer who is not exactly representing the demonstrators — they are too anarchic for any such formality — but is sort of advising them and also serving as their liaison to the grown-up world of municipal government.

It was he who was given the “memorandum of understanding” by city officials that spelled out what the city would tolerate, even though there was not actually any understanding with the leaderless crowd in Academy Park.

That was to come last night if at all, though it was highly doubtful, as Mishler told me earlier, that anyone would sign on the dotted line provided at the bottom of the three-page document for “Occupy Albany.” Who could do it? there being no chairman or president or comandante.

Much of the memorandum was concerned with the city’s protecting itself against any liability it might incur by allowing people to take up residence on parkland.

“Occupy Albany agrees to save the City harmless from any and all claims for injury or damage to persons or property,” the memorandum said hopefully. “Occupy Albany agrees to assume any and all risks,” etc.

Just in case a tree branch falls on some anti-capitalist’s head and the anti-capitalist gets it into what remains of said head to sue the city.

Much of the rest is concerned with protecting basic health and safety.

Yes, Occupy Albany may have up to two space heaters, but not in tents. They must be kept at least 10 feet from any combustible material.

“There shall be no cooking or open flames on the Premises at any time.”

Portable toilets are to be emptied at least twice a week.

They can have a small generator to recharge their laptops and cellphones, essential to any revolution, but fuel cans must be kept at least 20 feet away from the generator and from the space heaters, and the generator is not to run after 11 p.m.

No permanent or semi-permanent structures will be allowed, just in case anyone gets an idea to put up a Mongolian yurt covered with yak skins.

A maximum of 30 tents will be allowed. (The last time I counted there were 40, so I’m not sure how that’s going to play out.)

“There shall be no keeping of animals on the Premises.”

The two times I visited there were about half a dozen dogs, leashed and under control.

No selling of food and no serving of food to the general public will be permitted. Also, food to be kept in containers “to prevent varmint infestation,” which I enjoy, there being little enough concern with varmint infestation these days.

This is all to deal with the potluck-style food dishes that are arrayed on a table and made available to anyone who desires.

As written, the memorandum only holds for seven days, the idea apparently being to keep the demonstrators on a short leash by having to renew it every week, but even at that, it’s very civilized, and I think the administration of

Mayor Jennings is to be commended, especially when you look at what has happened in Atlanta and Oakland and New York City.

Of course the occupiers are also to be commended. Unlike their counterparts in other cities, they have not thrown rocks through store windows, taunted cops or engaged in round-the-clock drumming.

It’s been a peaceful demonstration, and it’s been peacefully received.

Whether it will accomplish anything is of course another question and one that I won’t attempt to answer.

for selective voting

I will repeat here the advice I have offered on previous Election Days, and that is, if you don’t know anything about the candidates or the issues, do yourself and your community a favor and don’t vote. Stay home today and resist all temptation to exercise the franchise, despite any exhortations you might hear from misguided civic groups.

I don’t know where the idea comes from that we have a civic obligation to vote. We have a civic obligation to inform ourselves, I would argue, but what possible good can it do to vote for someone you know nothing about? To check a box just because a candidate represents a certain party or because his name is familiar from roadside signs?

My own policy is to vote in those races where I have enough familiarity that I could explain my vote to someone who inquired and to leave the rest of the ballot blank. I recommend it to those who wish to sleep with a clear conscience.

Categories: Opinion

Leave a Reply