Dominick Calsolaro

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Official seeks anti-gun team

Councilman wants to keep task force's recommendations alive

Published on 12/28/2008 by the Times Union written by TIM O'BRIEN, Staff writer, Times Union

ALBANY — The Common Council is being asked to create a team to help implement the recommendations of the Gun Violence Task Force.

With the task force's work just completed, Council member Dominick Calsolaro does not want their recommendations to get lost. Among other steps, the task force recommended the city hire a full-time violence prevention coordinator; start a crisis team to respond to shootings to prevent further violence; and create a team of former gang members and inmates who would work in troubled neighborhoods to steer youths from violence.

"We need to have an official group set up to follow these things through," the First Ward council member said.

Calsolaro originally proposed the gun violence task force, and he now wants a seven-member Gun Violence Prevention Implementation Team to make sure their recommendations become reality. One member would be appointed each by the Albany County district attorney, the city police department and the Albany city school district. The other four members would be named by the council.

Calsolaro's proposal, which will be introduced at the January 5 council meeting, does not call for Mayor Jerry Jennings to make any of the appointments.

"I contacted the mayor's office three weeks ago to see if he wanted to have a joint proposal, and I never heard back," Calsolaro said.

He decided he'd place the legislation on the Jan. 5 agenda, and the mayor could still seek to give his input on the idea. It took Calsolaro two years to get the mayor to agree to form the task force in the first place.

The Rev. Edward Smart, the vice chairman of the task force, said it is important their work gets implemented. Jennings has assured him he supports the recommendations and will work to get them done, he said.

"We would want to make certain the people of Albany are served well and after a year's work, that all the ideas we brought to the Common Council would be brought to fruition," said Smart, pastor of Albany's AME Zion Church. "We don't believe the work of the Gun Violence Task Force should just go by the wayside. Most of us are committed to seeing that doesn't happen anyway."

The city's residents must insist the steps are taken, Smart said.

"It depends on the people who live in Albany," he said. "When we decide we are not going to put up with guns and violence in the street, changes are going to happen."

The task force had 13 members, with Jennings naming six and the council seven.

"I thought the 13 members of the task force ended up being too many," Calsolaro said.

Under the proposed legislation, the implementation team members would be volunteers and would have to live in the city of Albany. The members could not spend any city funds unless approved by the council. The body could call for public hearings, seek testimony or request documents.

Calsolaro said an ad hoc group of local leaders has been meeting with officials from the University at Albany's School of Public Health to discuss issues of crime and poverty. They have talked about implementing a program similar to Chicago's Ceasefire program, which uses former gang members and inmates to work the streets to deter crime.
But Calsolaro said a formal process is needed to make sure the task force's recommendations are implemented. "I don't want to see what they did over the year go to waste," he said.

Tim O'Brien can be reached at 454-5092 or by e-mail at tobrien@ timesunion.com.