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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 2, 2007

American Dream comes true for spa partners

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Orsini Park is going to get all dressed up.

The neighboring salon, Spa Li Ve, will host a fashion show in the park on Aug. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. to celebrate its reopening.

"Hair stylists are all about having fun," said Manolo Munoz of the decision to host the show. Munoz and his wife, Maureen, will now be running the shop with its founder, Liberty Livecchi and her husband, Vincent.

The new couple, both hair stylists, have brought with them the Paul Mitchell line of products, making Spa Li Ve the only Paul Mitchell focus salon in upstate New York, Munoz said.

Before beauty school, Munoz was in the Army. "Three weeks after high school, I was in boot camp," he said.

"I was a bit of a rebel," he said of his time in the service. Munoz would break the rules and keep his hair longer than regulations allowed. "I used Paul Mitchell sculpting gel to keep it down and realized what the right products can do," he said.

Owning a salon is his American Dream, said Munoz, who moved here from Mexico in the second grade. He and his wife were looking for a place to open up shop when they saw a posting by Livecchi, who was looking for a new direction for her business, he said.

"It’s the perfect marriage," Munoz said of the partnership. "We walked into the salon and it was the same color scheme we were using in our house."

They have scheduled the reopening of the salon for Aug. 10. It will include the fashion show as well as a wine and cheese party in the shop after words.

"We’re just everyday people having fun, living the dream," said Munoz. "Life is good."

O’Connor wins award for pre-K advocacy

By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND — Jenn O’Connor has won a national award for her work advocating pre-kindergarten schooling.

"We would love to see universal pre-K," she said on Friday.

O’Connor, who recently moved to Guilderland from Washington, D.C., works as a senior policy associate for the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy in Albany. The not-for-profit organization, she said, is dedicated to improving the economics and health of low- to moderate-income people and is one of four conveners of "Winning Beginning New York," a statewide coalition that has proposed legislation to improve early education.

Winning Beginning New York was given the national "Pre-K Champion" award for successfully advocating expansion of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs.

The award was presented by Pre-K Now, a national group, in the Capitol Building.

"We secured $146 million in the governor’s budget for universal pre-K," said O’Connor.

"There are 700-odd school districts in the state. Any that want to start a pre-K program are eligible for that money," she said, explaining it will be awarded on a per-child basis, according to a formula that takes into account a school district’s wealth. "We would like to see every school district offer this," said O’Connor.

Right now, she said, the allocation is for a two-and-a-half-hour day, which makes it hard for parents, especially working parents, to arrange.

"We would like to see full-day [programs] for 4-year-olds and phase in the 3-year-olds as well," said O’Connor.

She went on, "Sixty percent of New York State pre-kindergarten takes place in child-care centers. We believe in ramping those up to be sure they’re providing quality environments."

Ready to Learn Act

While in Washington, O’Connor spoke briefly with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and at length with Clinton’s staff. Two weeks ago, Clinton, with Senator Kit Bond, a Republican from Missouri, introduced the Ready to Learn Act, which would create a grant program under the Department of Education that would fund early childhood programs to promote school readiness.

While some business lobbies and teachers’ unions have backed pre-K education, social conservatives have opposed the movement, stating children are best cared for at home. Others have balked at the expense, and last year, a universal pre-school initiative in California was defeated at the polls.

"Investing in voluntary universal pre-kindergarten education allows our children to arrive at school ready to learn and saves money in the long run," said Clinton in a statement. "For every one dollar we spend on early childhood education, we reap seven dollars as a society," said Clinton, adding such support should be a top national priority.

O’Connor said Clinton’s reference to one dollar now saving seven later is a well-accepted formulation.

She cited a report prepared by Clive R. Belfield of Columbia University’s Teachers College for the Center for Early Care and Education, a collaboration of the Schuyler Center and Child Care, Inc.

Belfield estimates conservatively that "medium-term benefits" of early childhood education — reducing the incidence of special education, preventing grade repetition, improving educational productivity, and enhancing children’s well being — save the state from $2,591 to $9,547 per child.

"For each age cohort," he writes, "there will be present value cost-savings of between $555 million and $828 million over the period K-12."

Long-term benefits for the child include a higher likelihood of high-school graduation and college enrollment, higher wages and employment probability, and lower rates of teen pregnancy and delinquency, Belfield states.

The long-term benefits for the society and the economy, Belfield writes, include increased income-tax revenues, lower welfare dependence, and reductions in crime.

"Broadly, we can think of these benefits as ones that should be created by equipping citizens with a ‘sound basic education,’ " writes Belfield, referring to a phrase New York’s highest court used in interpreting what the state’s constitution requires. "Such an education not only improves the economic well-being of the individual child, but it has broader impacts for citizens across the state.

"Individuals may participate more in civic and social activities (e.g. voting or joining volunteer groups); and these may enhance the quality of life in the community."

"An efficient way"

O’Connor, who was raised in Syracuse, attended nursery school 30 years ago at age 4.

"Much of brain development takes place before age 5," she said. "So the sooner you can get kids into quality programs, the better."

Asked if a home environment couldn’t be equally beneficial for young children, O’Connor said, "We certainly believe nothing replaces the family, and education begins at home."

But, she went on to say, so many parents work outside the home now that quality pre-kindergarten programs are needed. She said an ideal program would be like New York’s kindergarten is now, where schools offer it but parents have a choice about whether or not their children attend.

"We believe very strongly in parental choice," she said.

"We’ll be cautious this year," she concluded. "We’ll be talking to the governor’s office and the legislature...We want to make sure it’s implemented in an efficient way."

Redlich run, Ricard sues
Former friends now foes as GOP flounders

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — "Hold on a second; apparently Mike Ricard has just sued us," Warren Redlich told The Enterprise in the middle of a telephone interview yesterday afternoon about his recent candidacy for town board.

He was served papers at around 2 p.m.

Redlich, a maverick political contender in Guilderland for the past 10 years, practices law locally and says he is running with Republican Mark Grimm on the GOP line against the all-Democrat town board.

He was substituted for a candidate who backed out.

Ricard is the longest-serving member on the Guilderland Town Board with 10 largely uncontroversial years.

Once political colleagues, Ricard and Redlich have now become political combatants.

After decades of Republican rule, the town party was left in tatters after a recent series of election defeats and a shift in suburban voter enrollment.

Councilman Ricard said yesterday that he is not trying to "block a political candidate" but has serious and legitimate concerns that Redlich did not follow proper procedure in his substitute nomination.

"It’s not just a technicality," Ricard countered Redlich’s charges of using a "dirty trick."

"I liken it to a ‘bait and switch tactic,’" Ricard said.

Ricard said petitions were circulated for another candidate, Barbara Davis, and, when she declined the nomination, Redlich ran in her stead.

Redlich said he was helping Republican candidates gather signatures for the fall election, and, when one of the candidates dropped out, he was asked to fill in and he accepted the nomination "with honor."

He said he properly filled out his paperwork with the Albany County Board of Elections.

Ricard said his nomination challenge and accompanying lawsuit are "not personal." Redlich countered by saying, "The gloves are off"What Ricard did was a cheap, underhanded trick and he owes the people of Guilderland an apology. Mike Ricard has to go."

Continuing, Redlich asked, "Why does Mike Ricard want to take the choice away from the people of Guilderland""

Responding through The Enterprise, Ricard said, "I absolutely do not, but to get on the ballot, you have to do it legitimately"He should know as a lawyer how this works."

Republican woes

The Republican Party has been trying to gain momentum in recent months to run a partial slate against the Democratic board this fall — but lacks a supervisor candidate.

The party had hoped Tyler Brandt would run against Supervisor Kenneth Runion but he has declined the party’s nomination and it is expected Runion will run unopposed for his fourth two-year term.

Runion, formerly a Republican, left the party to run on the Democratic ticket for supervisor. He bested GOP candidates in his first two terms and was unopposed in the last election.

Lee Carman, the Fort Hunter Albany County legislator, is currently the Republican Party chairman for Guilderland. Before Carman took over, the Republican party appeared all but dead in town, following former chairman Antonio Cortes’s resignation.

Cortes was arrested for driving while intoxicated by Colonie Police shortly before stepping down as chair. He told The Enterprise in June that he has "gotten out" of the town’s Republican organization. Before Carman became chair, no official chairman and no town committee members could be found to comment on Cortes’s departure.

Carman could not be reached for comment yesterday on Redlich’s nomination.

Ricard, like Runion, was once a Republican.

Saying he did not know why Republicans couldn’t maintain a viable committee in town, despite nearly a third of Guilderland residents being enrolled in the party, Ricard said, "They don’t have the committee members"I can’t tell you why.

"But I can say that it is a lot of work to be in a committee," Ricard said. "You don’t get paid doing it and you have to be dedicated"maybe they got burned out."

Grimm was the first Republican candidate to announce he was running for town board in June, and he told The Enterprise then that Barbara Davis would be his running mate for town board. Grimm, a political strategist who runs a media business, said yesterday that Tyler Brandt was originally considering running against Runion, but that he, too, has dropped out of the race.

Grimm said that, although Republicans probably won’t put up a candidate against Runion, he is excited to run with Redlich for the two open seats on the town’s board.

"It’s time for a change," he said.

If Redlich is allowed to run, he and Grimm will run against incumbent Democrats, Councilman Ricard and Councilman David Bosworth. Aside from his position on the town board, Bosworth is also the town’s Democratic chair and Albany County’s Democratic co-chair.

Technicality or ballot block"

Ricard objects to Redlich’s substitution nomination because the documents filed by Redlich with the county’s board of elections do not certify that the Albany County Republican Committee is authorized to fill the vacancy; they fail to specify the date and location of the committee meeting; and they fail to certify that committee members were properly notified of a meeting to nominate Redlich in Davis’s place.

"He was put in as a substitute candidate. I don’t think the committee to fill vacancies actually met," Ricard said. "It’s hard to get a committee together on such short notice"You sort of look at it [the documents] and say, ‘Wait a second.’"

In return, Redlich has filed papers with the county board, citing Election Law, saying Ricard’s "specific objections are invalid."

In a letter to the county board, Redlich wrote, ""Mr. Ricard is not a member of the Republican Party. He has no standing under Election Law 6-154 (2) to make such objection."

Redlich said Ricard is "trying to keep a legitimate candidate off the ballot."

Ricard’s suit names Redlich, Davis, Grimm, Albany County Republican Chairman Peter Kermani, Albany County Legislator Christine Benedict, Attorney Harry J. D’Agostino, the Albany County Republican Committee, and the Albany County Board of Elections.

"I guess he didn’t want to leave anyone out," Albany County Republican Commissioner John Graziano said yesterday about the show-cause order, the first step in a suit. "We got served by a lawsuit today. The suit will supersede any decision from us on the matter. Now it goes to the state’s Supreme Court."

Redlich said he thought it was "odd" that Grimm, his potential running mate, was named on the suit as an "involved party," but that Ricard’s running mate and Democratic leader, David Bosworth, was not.

Graziano said he was in a meeting discussing the Ricard-Redlich dispute when he learned of Ricard’s lawsuit. He said the matter must now be handled by the courts, but added that Redlich is legally allowed to campaign in the meantime.

"If I were the candidate, I would campaign," Graziano said. "If Ricard wins the suit, then Redlich just won’t be on the ballot"The campaign should go on as scheduled."

Redlich said that New York Election Law is "designed to keep people off the ballot."

"The law is very, very complicated," he said of the hyper-technical and famously complex state law. "Fifty percent of election cases in the United States are in New York," he said. "If I were to run for state legislature, I would campaign against New York Election Law"Too many people are playing the ‘hyper-technical game.’"

Assessing the situation

Redlich is making an election issue of property assessment in town, particularly of Ricard’s Furbeck Road home, assessed at $196,300.

Redlich claims Ricard has "one of the sweetest tax assessments in town"at only $80 per square foot"The average home in Guilderland is at $110 or $120, and many homes are assessed near $130 per square foot."

Running on a platform of town assessment reform, better quality-of-life services, and a more open government, Redlich said his number-one complaint as a life-long Guilderland resident are the town’s assessment practices.

"On Grievance Day in 2005, the assessments were not fair; particularly for homeowners," Redlich said. "Ricard’s not the only one with a low assessment, but he’s the worst one."

Ricard told The Enterprise that Redlich is completely wrong and "obviously doesn’t know how assessments work."

"I have had absolutely no breaks," Ricard said of Redlich’s accusations. "My assessment doubled last year and I didn’t contest them"I was one of the people hit hardest."

Redlich said he was able to get his own property assessment "knocked down" after contesting it, but said it is still extremely high." Part of Redlich’s practice includes zoning and municipal law, but, he said, most people don’t know how to contest their assessments.

"It’s something that affects everyone who lives in town and I know a lot of people are still burned from the 2005 assessments," he said of the townwide property revaluation. "I don’t think they did a good job at the assessor’s office," Redlich said.

According to the town’s assessor, Carol Wysomski, assessments vary from location to location in town and houses are assessed by comparing similar homes, using reviewed New York State formulas.

She listed Ricard’s Furbeck Road home as being 2,468-square-feet and assessed at $196,300. Ricard has no sewer or municipal water hookups to his two-story Colonial house, she said, and it was built in 1900 in the Schalmont School District.

"You can’t compare his house to the newer $400,000 or $500,000 homes," Wysomski told The Enterprise yesterday. "We use the Office of Real Property Services of New York State for our assessments. Every town uses this program, it’s not just a system we use."

According to the town’s records on-line; Redlick’s Suzanne Court property is assessed at $242,660 and his house was built in 1999.

When it comes to assessment in town, Wysomski attributed cost disparities to the old real-estate adage, "Location, location, location."

"If people want, they can come down here to the office and look for themselves," she concluded. "There are no games. Not under my realm; that’s not how I do things; that’s not what’s going on here."

Redlich said he remains skeptical and that, if elected, he will work to improve town assessments and help the homeowners. He cited several area commercial lots that are "under-assessed" and mentioned other board members having "low assessments."

Voters should look at the assessments town-wide to "see for themselves," he said.

Running in ’07

Redlich has run several individualist political campaigns and has been viewed as an "underdog candidate" in his last few races, which include two landslide losses to current Democratic Congressman Michael McNulty in 2004 and 2006 and unsuccessful town races in 1998 and 2001.

"I ran against Mike McNulty twice and he never challenged my nominations," Redlich said. "He understands that this is a democracy and you let the voters decide. Mike Ricard has lost that. He has forgotten what a democracy means."

Redlich said he didn’t run against McNulty, but that he ran on certain issues and that the races were "very cordial."

These ranged from a proposal to build a monorail from Albany to Saratoga to removing all United States troops from oversea posts.

For town board, however, Redlich said, "I’m running against Mike Ricard," and that, win or lose, he hopes the long-standing Democratic councilman will be ousted by either himself or Grimm.

Ricard said he is "very comfortable" with this year’s upcoming election, and said his long tenure is proof that voters believe in him.

He said he would debate Redlich "anyplace, anywhere, on any topic," if he stays on the ballot.

Ricard cited the expansion of town parks, acquiring the town’s golf course, the creation and implementation of the town’s comprehensive plan, and bringing water to the town’s west end as accomplishments during his time on the town’s board.

"I think we’ve done a really good job," Ricard said. "We work together as a team and we don’t argue."

Ricard added that the board’s current political makeup does not lead to any so-called "backroom deals," and that all of its meetings are televised.

"We’re all individuals; there’s no deals, no secret meetings," Ricard said. "We are all independent thinkers. When we first took office, we opened up that Town Hall."

Redlich said he doesn’t buy that view, and that he and Grimm are running together as the "watchdogs of Town Hall."

Redlich concluded of the five-member board, "If you love the Democrats and you want them to have the majority and we win, you will still have the majority, but then you would be able to check up on them, too."

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