Lingering Questions

Having an unexpected chance at a last-minute final column for Metroland, is a blessing and a curse. No pressure, after an almost-12-year run. At first I scrambled to try to assemble a column on one of the topics I hadn’t gotten to, wanting to just continue as I had been, but over the holidays and it being a big topic, I couldn’t pull it together properly.

Instead, I will leave you with a distinctly non-exhaustive spattering of some questions I didn’t get to, or that I (and plenty others) have written about but remain important and unanswered, some rhetorical, some deeply not. Though Metroland was one important place we could have conversations like these, it needn’t be the only one.

Why has nothing changed since Dontay Ivy’s killing by Albany police officers, and when will the mayor step up to address it?

Who could possibly think that buying local police departments riot gear to handle upset family and supporters of people murdered by cops was a feel-good charitable donation (Dunkin’ Donuts, ahem)?

If the Albany County DA is willing to divert more people who have committed crimes away from prison (he is), who is going to step up and provide the alternative programs, mental health services, and community accountability work those folks need?

How do we have the above conversation at the same time as the conversation about how many people in our country are being stopped, arrested, set up, and extra-judicially punished/killed when they have done nothing wrong? Can we have this conversation without talking about race, fear, and a history of law enforcement being used as a means of control, not protection? (I’ll answer that one: no.)

Can the movement against domestic violence and sexual assault and the movement against mass incarceration unite instead of working at cross purposes? (Hint: some really great work is being done on this topic right here via Holding Our Own.)

How do we get justice for suburbs’ fiscal leeching off of our core cities? When will the state start treating Albany as a city fairlystart treating Albany as a city fairly in terms of revenue sharing?

How exactly does a Hunger Games approach to distributing mortgage settlement money among upstate cities help anyone? Have the governor’s regional economic development councils actually been an improvement over previous forms of funding distribution? Why are we still talking about attracting foreign companies with tax breaks when others are realizing that strong infrastructure and quality of life are what attract companies that will stay, and home grown companies do a lot more for the economy?

How in the world do we expect teachers to help children get competitive test scores when their students are hungry, cold, traumatized, and subject to racially-biased discipline? Why is the research about the dangers of over-academic pre-school and kindergarten, the problems with too much homework in elementary school, and the absolute necessity of recess being ignored in so many schools? What extra level of support staff or other resources would it take to make recess, and sufficient time to eat, consistently accessible?

How is it ok that are there for-profit companies getting tax breaks because they are located on a university campus while Albany residents and small property owners struggle to foot the bill for running the city that university and those companies rely upon?

How can we align our resources to support more people purchasing and fixing up vacant properties from the Albany County Land Bank? What sorts of changes to code enforcement, permitting, etc. would actually support people who are trying to do right and make their lives easier, while punishing actual bad actors?

How will the Key Bank–First Niagara merger affect the region, in terms of banking services, and in terms of philanthropic presence?

In a world of farmers’ markets, organic sections in the local supermarkets, and places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, how will the Honest Weight Food Co-op continue to find its unique niche? What does it mean to be embodying an alternative economic model, rather than merely selling a particular set of goods?

Will we know if the oil trains running through downtown switch from explosive Bakken crude to heavier-than-water, river-destroying Canadian tar sands oil? Will it make a difference?

Is it meaningful to ban fracking in New York state and then not care about pipelines of fracked gas criss-crossing the state’s fragile waterways and agricultural lands? Are we going to kick ourselves so hard (if we’re still around) if a gas explosion near Indian Point renders the Hudson Valley uninhabitable? Will we do what it takes to wean ourselves off fossil fuels so that we’re not adding to that demand, knowing that it would in fact be possible with a collective will?

There’s so much more. Keep asking. Keep trying out answers. Keep taking care of each other. Happy New Year.

(This column was originally published in Metroland, the Capital Region of New York’s former alt-weekly, on Dec. 31, 2015.)


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