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What you need to know for 04/23/2017

Schenectady talks fireworks repeal, affirmative action

Schenectady talks fireworks repeal, affirmative action

Council urges county to ban fireworks again
Schenectady talks fireworks repeal, affirmative action
Fireworks tower over rooftops of homes on Schenectady Street in Hamilton Hill on July 4, 2016.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY -- At its bi-weekly committee meeting Monday, City Council discussed immigration, reaffirmed its prior stance on legalized fireworks and heard from the city's Affirmative Action Advisory Board.

The immigration debate resulted in the majority of council members pushing forward a resolution calling on the federal government to enact immigration reform, frustrating some council members who felt the city should have more explicitly incorporated comments from residents.

Here's a look at how the other two topics played out:

CITY TO CHIME IN ON FIREWORKS REPEAL

The City Council will once again submit a resolution calling on the county to repeal a law legalizing small fireworks. This time, the county is considering the issue.

The council's first resolution, passed in July, was unsuccessful. But the county Legislature is now reconsidering the issue, and council members said Monday they will resubmit a resolution calling for the law to be repealed.

A state law that took effect in 2015 gives individual counties the option to legalize the sale of small, ground-based or handheld fireworks and sparklers around the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day. Forty counties outside New York City passed the law, including Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie and Albany counties.

No other county has rescinded its approval, but a wave of complaints has Schenectady officials rethinking their stance. The issue, some have said, is that the use of larger, illegal fireworks has become more prevalent since smaller ones were legalized.

The county has set a public hearing on repealing the law for May 1. A few City Council members said Monday they would likely speak at the hearing in support of repeal.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BOARD GIVES ANNUAL REPORT

Schenectady’s Affirmative Action Advisory Board reported Monday that it made little progress in 2016 toward improving equity in the city.

In its annual report to City Council, the board said it lacked the time and staff support to make significant progress on its goals last year. Board members Kanema Haynes and Ellie Pepper expressed optimism about the board’s future, despite the recent obstacles.

The board voiced excitement over the addition of a new full-time affirmative action officer, which was included in the 2017 budget. Ron Gardner, a Schenectady resident, began in that position about a month ago and is tasked with diversifying the city workforce and creating more opportunities for minority residents.

The board is hopeful Gardner’s presence will allow it to achieve its three major goals for 2017, which are as follows:

  • Review the city’s employment process and develop recommendations for how to increase the number of qualified minority candidates
  • Review the city’s procurement process (outreach, bidding, selection and contracting) and develop recommendations on how to increase involvement by minority- and women-owned businesses
  • Review the city’s discrimination and harassment policies and develop recommendations for how to make them more accessible and clear.

The city established an Affirmative Action Advisory Board in 1986, but the body went through an extended period of inactivity before being revitalized in July 2014. Since then, it has struggled to secure resources to complete its mission, according to board members. In recent years, the city shared an affirmative action officer with the county.

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