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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 27, 2006

After nation-wide raid
Illegal workers in limbo, higher-ups nabbed

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Five of the nine men arrested in last week’s nation-wide raid for illegally hiring immigrants came out of Guilderland’s Northeast Industrial Park. The 14-month investigation by the Department of Homeland Security began in Guilderland after workers at the industrial park were seen ripping up their W-2 tax forms, according to a government affidavit.

IFCO Systems North America, a German-based pallet service company, was raided last Wednesday in sites across the country because the company hired thousands of illegal immigrants, authorities say. While the alleged architects of the scheme have been arrested, many of the workers remain in limbo — unable to find jobs, waiting to see if they will be deported or sent to detention centers.

A score of the illegal immigrants working at the industrial park’s IFCO plant live in two separate houses in Guilderland — on Western Avenue and Route 155.

"We want to get back working, that’s why we’re here," a 23-year-old man from Honduras told The Enterprise, through a translator. "Our families back home depend on our money.

"It’s hard right now because we have to pay for rent and food," he said. "Other people probably don’t want to give us work since this happened."

The man has been living with nine of his co-workers in a two-family Victorian home in Guilderland Center. The ten men living at the house walked to work at the industrial park each day, he said. It is located just behind the house on Route 155.

They earned 30 cents for each wooden pallet they rebuilt, he said.

He also said that he was unsure of who owned the house he was living in, but that IFCO took $50 out of his check each week.

"The company takes money out of our paycheck every week; we don’t know what the total amount for the rent is," he said.

"The more we worked, the more we made"We’ve been working hard, we’re used to that," he said. Continuing, he said that all the men there are waiting for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to tell them what is to happen next.

The raid

The Guilderland workers were among 1,187 illegal IFCO employees at more than 40 IFCO plants throughout 26 different states affected by the raids, according to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The apprehended immigrants were brought up on administrative immigration charges.

The nine managing IFCO employees arrested are charged with "conspiring to transport, harbor, encourage and induce illegal aliens to reside in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain." The charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each alien, according to a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security.

At a press conference held in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, Chertoff said IFCO is also accused of systematically manipulating the income-tax records of the immigrants by having them add dependents to tax forms, which allowed IFCO to pay fewer federal withholding taxes. Chertoff also said IFCO is accused of harboring immigrants for illegal advantage and accused of two incidences of committing document fraud.

The five local men arrested for conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants at the IFCO plant in the Guilderland Center industrial park are:

— Robert Belvin, 43, of Clifton Park, the former general manager;

— Scott Dodge, 43, of Amsterdam, a former foreman;

— Dario Salzano, 36, of Amsterdam, the assistant general manager;

— Vincente Araus-Rivera, 44, an employee; and

— Ovidio Umana, 28, an employee.

David Buicko, chief operating officer of the Northeastern Industrial Park, which is owned by the Galesi Group, told The Enterprise this week that the arrests "had nothing to do with us," he said. "It is an issue with one of our tenants."

When asked if this has ever happened before, Buicko said not to his knowledge. He would not comment on IFCO Systems, saying, "We don’t give out personal information on tenants."

Workers speak out

When asked what took place last Wednesday, the 23-year-old worker from Honduras told The Enterprise that federal agents came to his work place and took him and his roommates away. He didn’t see what happened to his bosses, he said.

"We were at work; it was a nation-wide raid; all the factories were raided"They took me to an immigration center. I don’t know the area, so I don’t know where it was," he said. "We were treated well; no one resisted and everyone was treated good"We don’t know how long we have to wait but we have to wait until the factory lets us back."

The men were released by the government, but must remain in contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

"If they send me home, they send me home. I’d rather be home than detained," said the 23-year-old Honduras native.

According to a government affidavit filed in the Northern District of New York, the Department of Homeland Security began an investigation in February of 2005. The investigation was prompted, the affidavit says, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents received information that IFCO workers in Guilderland were "witnessed ripping up their W-2 tax forms and that an IFCO assistant general manager had explained that these workers were illegal aliens, had fake Social Security cards and did not intend to file tax returns."

When asked if his bosses wanted paperwork proving he was legal, the Honduras man told The Enterprise, "We were asked, but didn’t have them." He added, they were still allowed to work at the IFCO plant.

Salzano’s attorney, Kevin Luibrand, told The Enterprise this week that his client checked everyone’s paperwork and only allowed legal workers into his company.

"[Salzano] knew everyone had to have proper papers in order to work there," said Luibrand. "They had to have proof that they could work"If they didn’t have proof, they weren’t hired."

Luibrand said that the IFCO officers are charged on a complaint, not an indictment, and that Salzano, who is listed as the assistant general manager of the IFCO plant in Guilderland Center, has been placed "on paid leave until this is resolved." There were allegedly four or five illegal immigrants found at Salzano’s workplace, said Luibrand, and the papers they provided were "apparently forgeries."

"I don’t expect the case to go to trial for a substantial period of time," said Luibrand.

In a released statement, IFCO Systems acknowledged that a number of employees were detained last Wednesday. The company pledges to cooperate with the investigation, the release says, stating, "It is our policy to comply with all federal and state employee requirements."

The German-based IFCO Systems North America has a main plant in Houston, Texas, and describes itself as the leading pallet services company in the United States. The company focuses on the recycling of millions of wooden platforms used to stack and move all types of goods. IFCO operates about five dozen facilities around the country and is rapidly expanding, according to the company’s website.

"It’s very simple, because the initiative is very clear. Those who comply with the law in the way they employ others have nothing to worry about. They’re in a perfectly safe place," said Chertoff during Thursday’s press conference. "Those who violate the law are going to feel a tough sanction"We will enforce the law."

Living in America

The group of young men living in the Guilderland Center house stopped their impromptu soccer game in the backyard to talk to The Enterprise.

The men said they came to America from different parts of South America and Central America including Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

"We crossed through Mexico"I refer to Mexico as ‘the bridge,’ from Latin American to the United States," said the 23-year-old Honduras man. He explained that he took freight trains through Mexico and then walked across the border into Texas. Friends told him about the IFCO job in Guilderland, he said.

All of the men have families back in their native countries, they said, and they all send home money to help support them. The men live normal lives here in America, they said, much like their American counterparts: They go shopping, do laundry, enjoy playing various sports, and visit with friends.

"We would love to have our families come here"It’s very tough to have your wife and kids follow you, though," said the Honduras man. "Yes, we miss home, but we only plan to work for enough time to make some money for our families back home."

Asked if he had tried to become a citizen, the Honduras man said, "It’s very hard to do," and that he did not apply.

When dealing with the language barrier in the United States, the Honduras man, who speaks Spanish, said, "It’s difficult. You just have to learn some key words to get by"People seem to realize that we can’t speak the language"We use sign language or pointing to products to get our message across."

When it comes to American food, the men say it’s an adjustment.

"Our home meals are mostly beans, rice, and eggs. Here we have pizzas and hamburgers. It takes some getting use to"We buy food together, but everyone has their own personal tastes," said the Honduras man. "We don’t go out that often, only on certain occasions. I’ll take the home cooking!"

The men told The Enterprise, that, when it comes to medical attention, preventative measures are their main course of action.

"Thank God no one’s really gotten hurt," said the Honduras native. "If you get a cold or something, it might slow us down at work"We know if we get hurt, we won’t get paid. We try to stay pretty safe when we’re at our jobs."

ZBA says
No advertising signs allowed for Guilderland business

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — The zoning board said no to advertising signs in town during last Wednesday’s meeting. The board unanimously denied Nick St. Louis’s application for a changeable sign at his Nextel store on the corner of Route 155 and Western Avenue.

Zoning Board Chairman Peter Barber cited the "Free Camera Phone" logo on St. Louis’s proposed new sign as the reason for the denial, saying it constituted advertising.

"Are you saying I can’t have a changeable sign"" St. Louis asked the board.

"I believe our codes say"changeable signs are prohibited," Barber responded.

According to Barber, the board only allows signs that display business names. It does not allow signs promoting products which the company may sell or endorse.

"If it is commercial advertising it is prohibited," said Barber.

The town’s zoning code states, "No billboard or commercial advertising sign shall be permitted."

The town’s sign regulations have recently come under attack from some small-business owners in town who have formed an organization called the Coalition for Guilderland Small Businesses. The group, founded by Techniconsult President James B. Ryer, meets monthly to discuss, among other things, what members call "anti-business" sign regulations.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion told The Enterprise this week that the Coalition for Guilderland Small Businesses has never been in contact with him to voice concerns.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, Barber said the zoning board’s purpose is not to enforce or amend town codes and regulations.

"You’re already saying that I can’t have it"" St. Louis asked the board.

Barber told St. Louis that, if he disagreed with town-sign codes, he should petition the town board to change the law.

"To get something amended would be pretty tough to do in the town of Guilderland," St. Louis said.

"This is not an issue the town board would look upon favorably," Runion told The Enterprise yesterday.

Runion said that businesses frequently complain about the town’s sign regulation, but that they are in place for a reason.

"People look to use their signs as advertising spaces," said Runion. "If everyone used their signs this way, it would become clutter." Runion added, "People seem to think that their signs should be billboards."

St. Louis pointed out that fire departments are allowed to have changeable signs, and asked Barber why businesses could not do the same.

Barber explained that under New York State Town Law, fire departments, schools, and churches are exempt from regulation by zoning boards in such matters. Also, he said, if zoning regulations are enacted after an existing business is already established, then the business is protected under "grandfather clauses." However, if a business were to put up new signs or dramatically alter its structure, then it would have to come before the zoning board.

Barber told St. Louis that, if he allowed him a changeable sign, then "everybody would want a changeable sign."

"Everyone already does," St. Louis responded.

Explaining to St. Louis that existing signs are an enforcement issue, not a zoning board issue, Barber said there are constant enforcement issues throughout Guilderland. He concluded, "We allow business signs"not advertising."

"I already had the sign made"There’s nothing I can do about it" Thanks," said St. Louis before walking out of the board meeting.

Just after St. Louis left, the board, with little discussion, unanimously denied a sign application for FiFi’s Frocks & Frills at 2460 Western Ave., Altamont, because the sign constituted commercial advertising.

Other business

In other business, the zoning board unanimously:

— Approved a variance for James and Penny Jackson’s canopy-covered carport at their 3649 East Lydius St., home. When asked by the board if any neighbors objected to the canopy structure, Mr. Jackson said, "The neighbor on the one side said it looked very nice"If someone was going to complain, he would be the one. He’s very meticulous."

Board member Charles Klaer said he was "reluctantly in favor" of the variance. "I’m a little concerned the car was purchased knowing it was too large for the garage," Klaer said, and he called the neighborhood "a variance haven for vehicles and vehicle storage;" and

— approved an area variance for James and Ellen Box for a single-story addition, which will expand their living room and create a two-car garage, at their 2 Victor Dr. home. The town’s planning board had no objections to the proposed addition and two neighbors spoke at the public hearing in support for the Boxes’ addition.

Library proposes $2.66 million budget for next year

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The trustees for the Guilderland Public Library, by unanimous vote, have proposed a $2.66 million budget for next year, up about $238,000 or 9.85 percent from this year.

If voters in the Guilderland School District approve the budget on May 16, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value for Guilderland residents is estimated at 86 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, up from 80 cents this year.

So, if the budget passes, someone living in a $160,000 home who paid $128.35 in library taxes this year would pay an estimated $137.31 next year.

"The library is a community center, for information and intellectual inquiry," said Barbara Nichols Randall, the director of the Guilderland Public Library. "We feel people in Guilderland appreciate what we do and deserve the best."

In the last year for which the library has figures, 2004-05, Nichols Randall said, "people walked through our doors" 331,636 times.

This past year, circulation increased by over 6 percent to 518,555. And, the collection size increased by 7.8 percent to 160,429 items and included access to 24 on-line databases and 2,263 downloadable audiobooks or e-books.

About the electronic books, Nichols Randall said, "We’re reaching people who thought maybe they didn’t need a library anymore." Patrons can download books from home onto their MP3 players, and the library offers programs to show them how.

The increases in next year’s budget, said Nichols Randall, "are for things that are leading us to the future."

Four years ago, a community committee set goals in a strategic plan for the library. "We’ve been able to meet a majority of those objectives," she said. "It involves a shift in emphasis as technology and the world around us changes."

Some of the new initiatives, supported by the budget proposal, include new computers; added programs to support learning for all ages, including a genealogy and local-history program; a librarian designated to reach out to older patrons and to strengthen the library’s homebound program; added cultural programs; and studying future needs of the 14-year-old library building.

"We’ve been blessed with budgets that keep us stocked with what the community wants," said Nichols Randall. "We have very few empty shelves in our building." There needs to be "discussion with the community," she said, on whether expansion is needed, now that the library has acquired adjacent property.

A public hearing will be held May 11 on the 2006-07 budget proposal. It will begin at 7 p.m. in the library’s Helderberg Room.

On May 16, besides deciding on the spending plan, voters will choose among four candidates to elect three library trustees. (See related story.)


The biggest increase in spending at Guilderland’s library, as with most schools and libraries, is for salaries and benefits — up 7 percent or about $161,000 to $1.8 million.

The increase is responsible for more than half the budget hike.

This accounts for 57 workers — an increase of three over this year — about half of whom are part-time, said Nichols Randall.

All but six administrative employees are unionized.

The board negotiated a four-year contract with the CSEA to replace a contract that expired at the end of last June.

"As part of the contract, this year’s salary has had an adjustment so we are closer to compatible with other libraries in the county," said Nichols Randall. Last year, she had said that, compared to other similar libraries, Guilderland salaries were low.

Now, the starting annual salary for a librarian at Guilderland is $40,000, she said; all librarians have master’s as well as bachelor’s degrees.

Costs for programming and planning have gone up from $15,500 to $24,450.

"We did have a lot of programs last year," said Nichols Randall; 23,231 people attended 1,063 programs.

"One of the things our long-range planning showed is that the community wanted more cultural programs," said Nichols Randall. "We wanted to increase the kind of programs we offer." This will include such things as dance and academic lecturers, she said, as well as such staples as story hour.

The library has been a partner with the Guilderland schools for a Reading Connection program and with other groups like the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, Literacy Volunteers of America, and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

New collaborations include those with Bellevue Women’s Hospital, for portable mammography; with Karner Psychological Associates for programs on attention deficit disorder, both in youth and adults; and with the University at Albany Department of Information Studies, where Nichols Randall is an adjunct professor.

A partnership with Seton Health systems allows two Guilderland librarians trained in consumer-health services to access databases "a public library could never afford," said Nichols Randall, "but a medical library needs for doctors."

She said the library’s consumer-health services were much used and well appreciated.

Budget increases in human resources, equipment, and professional services are consistent with cost-of-living increases.

The physical-plant costs are up substantially, from $146,375 to $192,425, largely because of increases in energy expenses, Nichols Randall said.

Library operations costs are increasing from $73,500 to $84,850, mostly because the library plans to produce five, rather than four, newsletters next year, with one devoted primarily to the budget.

The final substantial hike is in technology and communications, which is budgeted to increase from $29,325 this year to $42,665 next year. A wireless network was installed in parts of the library this year and will be installed in the rest next year, including in the courtyard outdoors. Outdated computers will be replaced and two new computers will be installed in the teen area.

"The teens are embarrassed to do their homework in the little kids’ chairs, and they don’t really fit in them," said Nichols Randall.

There is one decrease in expenses, for properties, which is being reduced from $69,315 this year to $43,585 next year. The library acquired Western Avenue property, which now has a Victorian house, adjacent to its parking lot. The $69,315 includes funds to dismantle the house, said Nichols Randall, which is slated to happen this spring.


The lion’s share of library funding comes from the local tax levy — $2.3 million for next year.

Other sources for the $2,658,109 spending plan include investment income at $21,000; gifts and donations at $10,000; and state aid at $8,890.

"A budget is an estimate," stressed Nichols Randall.

The estimate for investment income is up by $5,000 because interest rates are up, she said.

Miscellaneous income, which includes fines for overdue books, up nearly $10,000, is estimated at $84,690.

"You could end up with no fines, if everyone brought their books back," said Nichols Randall, emphasizing the fickleness of estimation. She added, though, "That’s not likely, given human nature."

The budget estimates that gifts and donations will hold steady, along with state aid.

Although the state aid may be as much as $3,000 more, Nichols Randall said, "You really can’t count your chickens before they hatch."

She went on, "The increase will be based on a per-capita formula." In the past, the 1990 census has been used to figure this and now the 2000 census will be used.

If Guilderland does receive an additional $3,000, that money will go into the general fund, Nichols Randall said.

"I think the library provides a valuable service to the community," she concluded. "We try to listen to concerns and have something for everybody."

Four candidates vie for three seats on library board

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — For the first time in years, there’s a race for the library’s board of trustees.

Four candidates — three of them incumbents — are vying for three seats.

In recent years, the board has had to rely on write-in candidates to fill out its ranks. But this year, four candidates filed petitions in time for last week’s deadline.

Treasurer James Denn, President Robert Ganz, Trustee Diane Rosenbaum-Weisz, and newcomer Carroll Valachovic will square off at the polls on May 16.

The top two vote-getters in the at-large election will each serve a five-year term; the candidate coming in third will serve a one-year term.

The board is made up of 11 unpaid members.

The Enterprise asked the four candidates about their backgrounds and goals, why they are running, and what is their favorite book.

The candidates were also asked their views on three issues:

— The budget: The library board has proposed a $2.66 million budget for next year, up about $238,000 or 9.85 percent from this year.

— Labeling books: Last year, a trustee proposed labeling books for young readers that contained sexually explicit material. The notion was rejected by the board after a large turn-out at a public meeting on the matter.

— Long-range planning: A five-year plan was developed, with community input, four years ago. The candidates were asked if the plan’s goals have been met and, if a new plan is needed, what should be included.

James Denn

"I’m sure all of the candidates are well qualified," said James Denn. "I welcome the opportunity to participate. I bring to the board a long history in the community...My children use the library. I recognize its value and seek to help it grow."

Denn has been on the library board since 2001 and served as its treasurer for three years. As treasurer, he said, he heads the finance committee and "works closely with the library’s director on day-to-day finances."

During his tenure, he said, "We’ve seen the library grow in its collections, its prestige, and its importance to the community."

Denn, who is 45, has watched the library’s progress for a long time.

His family has lived in the Guilderland School District since 1950, he said. He graduated from Guilderland High School in 1978, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York College at Oneonta, and a master’s degree in public administration from Rockefeller College at the University at Albany.

He has worked for six years as the deputy executive director of the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research.

He and his wife, Jil, have two children who are regular library users — Daniel, 17, and Aimee, 12.

Denn is currently in the midst of reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. He enjoys reading about history and Tuchman’s book, centered on August of 1914, focuses on World War I and "a critical time in our history," said Denn, when Europe was heading to war.

On the library budget proposal, Denn said, "As treasurer, I took special pains, as did the entire board, to make sure the budget is both fair and helps attain the goals the community wants."

He is particularly excited about a new program on genealogy and local history, funded in the budget for the upcoming year.

"That’s important to show folks we’re not just a bedroom community but we have a long presence," said Denn.

On the trustee’s proposal to label books, Denn said, as a father of young readers, "I was one of the few board members who understood where John Daly was coming from. My challenge to the professional staff was, when they add to the collection, they work to ensure it is quality writing.

"I don’t want books labeled or censored, but I want books of redeeming value in our collection."

On planning, Denn said, "The library is poised to expand its role in the community, reaching even more people, particularly the elderly. That’s a very important group for the library to reach."

Denn said it is also important to "continue to serve the young people, to make sure they remain engaged in reading and learning; that’s critical for their future."

He went on, "As we go into the future, I believe the library will be of even greater importance to the community, to serve not only as a place where information is exchanged, but as a meeting place."

Robert Ganz

"I’ve always been involved in charitable and community-service organizations," said Robert Ganz. "I don’t think, in 30 years of doing that, I’ve had a more satisfying experience than serving the public library."

He went on, "It’s an important community institution, beyond books." This involves services ranging from "outreach on health information" to "inculcating a love of reading during story hours" for children, he said.

"We’re blessed in Guilderland to have a wonderful, wonderful library; its a joy to be part of it," said Ganz, who said he puts in about 20 hours a week as the board’s president.

Ganz said his wife, Dorothy, "single-handedly keeps up circulation at the library" because she’s such an avid reader. His three children and two stepchildren are "all grown and gone," he said.

His favorite book of recent years, Ganz said, is The Kite Runner, a novel by Khaled Hosseini, set in Afghanistan. Ganz said it "deals with issues of class, race, friendship, betrayal, second chances, and so much more."

Ganz, 55, grew up in Trenton, N.J. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester and a law degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He practices business law with the Albany firm of Ganz, Wolkenbreit, and Friedman.

Ganz was appointed to the library board in 2000 and elected in 2001. He named several accomplishments he is proud of in his six years on the board.

"I was the initiator of the Guilderland Library Foundation, which has been successful in getting grants," he said.

Also, four years ago, Ganz chaired the committee that involved the community in coming up with a "strategic long-range vision" for the library, he said.

"During the last year, I was able to lead the library through acquiring a piece of property that ensured our future," Ganz said, referring to property adjacent to the library on Western Avenue.

Finally, he said, "Last year, during the debate about labeling books, I was able as president to lead us through that difficult process....The community got to talk about something pretty important and we came to a clear community understanding."

Asked his own views on labeling books, Ganz said, "I’m very supportive of the concept of the freedom to read. We have to trust in our young people and trust in their parents. That’s the job of the parents — to supervise. The library is there to provide a wealth of information."

Ganz said that the upcoming budget is "very important." He went on, "We have a lot of things we offer — not just fluff, core important services. And people are not always fully informed of them."

For this reason, he said, one of the two most important additions to the budget is a part-time position for communication, which will help with links to the school community and town government.

The other fundamental new position, Ganz said, is one that will focus on adult outreach. "The more intellectually active our seniors are, the better their health is," he said. "We, in Guilderland, don’t believe in artificial lines."

Long-time Guilderland residents who have moved to nearby retirement communities like Beverwyck or Daughters of Sarah, which are outside of the school-district boundaries served by the library, will still be included, he said.

"We’re going to serve those communities...We need to reach out," he said.

Referring to the labor contract, Ganz also said that the library’s agreement with the union was "fair and equitable." He said, "It gives us peace and stability for four years."

He concluded, "I’m very comfortable the community will support the budget."

On planning, Ganz said, the initial study involved a random scientific telephone survey which found "even the people who did not use the library felt it was a valuable community service."

He went on, "The long-range plan is a document that has to be revised...We’ve not met every one of the specific goals and objectives. But in four years, nothing is off-base on priorities. It will be revised in moderate ways.

"The big issue for planning," he said, "will be gauging community interest on the costs of expansion."

The library is often crowded and space limits curtail some activities, Ganz said. "We need to start a process to think through expansion and how affordable it would be. No one wants to build a palace," he said.

Some ideas that might be considered, he said, would be a special room, with proper temperature controls, for local-history collections, or a gathering place for cultural performances.

When the Civil War Roundtable or NASCAR fans or Little League planners meet at the library, "circulation goes up," Ganz said. "These things go hand in hand."

Diane Rosenbaum-Weisz

"When I was a child and the bookmobile came to the neighborhood, it was the greatest joy," said Diane Rosenbaum-Weisz. From her perspective as a girl on Long Island, who could only visit a library if her parents drove her, she remembers the bookmobile as "a huge van with an enormous selection of books."

As a trustee now for the Guilderland Public Library, Rosenbaum-Weisz said she thinks beyond bricks and mortar. She’d like to bring the library into the community, she said.

She points to the outreach programs already underway at both ends of the age spectrum — Guilderland librarians read stories to children at Crossgates Mall and books are delivered to the homebound elderly.

But, Rosenbaum-Weisz says she’d like to see the library do more; for example, sponsor book-discussion groups at senior residence complexes.

Rosenbaum-Weisz, 51, was appointed to the library board last October, after coming in second the year before in a write-in campaign.

"I very much enjoy being on the board," she said. "The library plays such an important role in our community, beyond just having books as when I was a child. Now we’ve expanded with technology; it’s exciting to be part of making that happen."

In her time on the library board, she said, she has been an active member of the policies and procedures subcommitte, and she recently helped select speakers for a retreat on the role of trustees.

Rosenbaum-Weisz has a wide-ranging background. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, creating her own major — in consumer economics and business. She went on to earn a law degree at Albany Law School, and then practiced law for 10 years. She had a general practice with a focus on personal-injury work, on the plaintiffs’ side.

She then went back to school, earning a master’s degree in social work in 1993 at the University at Albany School of Social Welfare. She has since worked at Parsons Child and Family Center and is now director of its guidance clinic.

She is married to Richard Weisz, a lawyer who is a member of the Guilderland School Board, currently seeking re-election. They have two children: Jessica Weisz, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, and Joshua Weisz, a freshman at the University of Maryland.

About the proposed spending plan for next year, Rosenbaum-Weisz supports the budget, and said, "It reflects both reality — in terms of salaries and expenses — and it’s a reflection of where we want to go — money is built in for technology and the purchase of new materials."

Asked her views on labeling books, Rosenbaum-Weisz said, "I do not support labeling. Parents need to be involved in what their children can read."

She went on, "Labeling is so subjective." She quoted a United States Supreme Court judge who famously said, "I know pornography when I see it."

Rosenbaum-Weisz said, "To label is taking everyone off the hook. I’m not prepared to do that. Families need to be involved."

She also said that, as someone who works with children, she believes a label on a book denoting sexually explicit material would serve teens as "an indication to take it of the shelf."

About long-range planning, Rosenbaum-Weisz said, "I come from an environment where we’re always working on treatment goals and objectives. I see a long-range plan as a living document...It’s an evolutionary document; we always need to have it out. We should always be looking at the next step, at what we need to achieve and accomplish."

Asked about her own preference for long-range goals, Rosenbaum-Weisz said, "I see the library as an institution that works cooperatively with other organizations....Because bricks and mortar cost a lot, I’m always going to look at partnering."

Rosenbaum-Weisz said she reads "a lot" and is currently gripped by Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, written about the post-revolutionary days of the Islamic Republic.

"The premise," explained Rosenbaum-Weisz, "is a professor at the university has had to step out of her position and she is meeting with her former students to discuss literature," an act that could lead to her imprisonment.

"This speaks to a society where the ability to pick up a book of any kind is limited, especially for women," said Rosenbaum-Weisz. "We’re lucky we don’t live in that kind of world. Man, woman, or child — we can pick out any book we want and read it."

Carroll Valachovic

"I have financial expertise that I think would be valuable to the board," said Carroll Valachovic, who is a certified public accountant.

She’s making her first run for library trustee because she wants to give back to the community where she was raised.

Valachovic, 32, grew up in Guilderland, graduating from Guilderland High School in 1991. Four years later, she graduated from Siena College with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

She is now a certified public accountant, working for a local accounting firm in Latham.

Valachovic worked in New York City for a while, which she considered "a fun thing," but was happy to return to her hometown a-year-and-a-half ago.

"I was looking around for something to do community-wise," said Valachovic. "Then I got a newsletter with a blurb that the library was looking for trustees."

Growing up in Guilderland, she said, "I used the library extensively." Valachovic, who is single, said she still uses the library regularly. "My mother’s there constantly," she said.

Valachovic spends a lot of time reading CPA journals, she said, but likes to intersperse that with reading fiction. Right now, she’s reading Honeymoon, one of a series of novels by James Patterson.

On the proposed library budget, which she has reviewed, Valachovic said, "I hate to see taxes go up, but where it’s going is an area that’s very hard to cut — it’s to pay people’s salaries....The only way to save would be to cut positions or give smaller raises. That puts you between a rock and a hard place," she said.

On labeling books, Valachovic said, "We find labeling a lot in society today, whether it’s video games or music. What you have to ask yourself is whose opinion is it that the material is not appropriate."

Valachovic said that, during the time she was a student in the Guilderland school system, some of the books that were required reading caused people to ask, "They made you read it""

"Sometimes, it gets taken out of context," Valachovic said of passages in books that are considered inappropriate.

She concluded, "Parents need to step in and be responsible for what their children are reading."

On planning, Valachovic said, "You always have to look ahead constantly."

As a CPA, she said, "For all my clients, I look at where they are today, how they got there, and where they want to be."

She said she doesn’t have any specific goals in mind for the Guilderland library.

"I’m not running on any sort of platform," concluded Valachovic. "I want to be part of the board to lend my financial perspective to whatever it is they want to do."

Carriage House artists create quality work

By Matt Cook

ALBANY — Though the artists who work at the Carriage House Arts Center all have disabilities, it’s not to be thought of as a center for art therapy, said its director.

"This is about creating quality work, just like any other artists’ studio," said Anne Murphy.

The teachers are professionals, the students are serious about their creations, and the materials are the best quality, Murphy said.

"You won’t find any crayons or chalk here," she said.

Called, by its teachers, the region’s "graduate school" for artists with disabilities, the Carriage House Arts Center is a program of Guilderland’s Living Resources, a non-profit organization that provides services to people with disabilities. The arts center has about 175 students and a waiting list at its main location and three satellites.

The students have a wide range of disabilities, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, and visual impairment.

Art is crammed everywhere in the studio, on the walls and counters, piled on the floor, even on the shelves in the bathroom. The students each work on their own projects, following their own interests. As she led The Enterprise through the building, Murphy, an artist herself, stopped often to pull a painting or a drawing out of some nook or cranny.

Murphy insisted on a little renovation when Fred Erlich, Living Resources’ chief executive officer, first brought her to the 1920’s-era carriage house on Cuyler Avenue in Albany, she said.

"I said, ‘This wall has to come down. This wall has to come down...’" Murphy said. "We opened the whole thing up."

The building is divided into two studios on two floors. This Monday, while The Enterprise visited, students downstairs worked on painting, drawing, and jewelry making while students upstairs worked in the videography studio.

The video students, under the direction of teacher Marcus Anderson, showed off one of their latest pieces, a clever story about a day in the life of a family of pencils, done with stop-motion animation. It will debut in May at the Opalka Gallery at Sage College of Albany.

Later, the students were out in the driveway, shooting live footage for their next movie.

Artists first

The Carriage House started in 1997 with two part-time teachers. Now, it employs 14, some full-time, all professional artists, plus a number of volunteers. They teach a wide range of skills. Among the latest are weaving and photography.

"We try to be innovative," Murphy said. "We’re moving ahead of all artists’ studios."

Next, Murphy said, the Carriage House is moving into the performing arts. It already offers some music instruction. Murphy showed pictures of a trip some of the students took to a farm in Voorheesville where they harvested gourds, dried them, and crafted them into drums suitable for peformance.

As for the students themselves, Murphy said, they are artists first and then people with disabilities. Some of their pieces sell for hundreds of dollars and Carriage House artists have won several awards, competing against artists without disabilities.

Most recently, James Keneally, an autistic man, was selected as the guest artist for a holiday gathering at the Governor’s Mansion. He was asked to present an original piece of art, and his painting of the mansion now hangs there. An exhibit of Keneally’s work is now at 124 Jay Street in Schenectady.

For her sculpture, young Carriage House artist Jennifer Grey won first place in the third-grade division of the Horsing Around with the Arts Contest from the National Museum of Racing.

The jewelry made at the Carriage House, which has been certified as museum-quality, is sold at the Albany Institute of History and Art and the Albany Visitors’ Center.

"Our artists just get so inspired," Murphy said.

Working with them, said teacher Rebecca Rents, is "wonderful." She described "the intensity with which they create a work and the joy they get from doing art."

"Don’t get her started, she’ll go on and on," joked one of the students, Matt Layton, looking up briefly from his calligraphy.

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