Dominick Calsolaro

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More join Albany gun panel

Common Council's three appointments buoy hope that action can start

Published on 9/11/2009 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer

ALBANY -- The team charged with making the ideas of the city's Gun Violence Task Force happen is finally taking shape.

Nine months after the task force's final report, the Common Council Thursday night appointed its three nominees for the nine-member team that will take the task force's recommendations for reducing gun violence in the city and make them reality.

They were State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt, city gang prevention specialist Ron "Cook" Barrett and John Cutro, who specializes in restorative justice, which often involves bringing victims and offenders together.

Corbitt, former head of safety in the city schools, is not joining the team in his capacity as the leader of the State Police but instead, he said, as a private citizen with an interest in stopping youth violence.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jerry Jennings told the Times Union Thursday he will appoint Charlie Mueller, pastor of Victory Christian Church and head of a local gun buy-back program; Edward B. Smart, the task force's vice chair and pastor of First Israel AME Church; and Marilyn Hammond, a member of the of the Citizens' Police Review Board and former volunteer with the city's now-defunct Weed & Seed program.

Smart is also a member of the police review board.

The appointments come amid a recent spate of gun violence in the city, including four deaths. Some on the council have criticized the city for not moving more quickly on the task force's recommendations since the January release of the final report.

Jennings, however, noted that the council itself had yet to formally pick its representatives until Thursday.

The recommendations call for initiatives like expanded gang-prevention programming, intervention teams to stop retaliation and a greater focus on gun violence as a public health problem like disease.

The three remaining spots on the team are held by the Albany County District Attorney David Soares' office, city school district and police department. Soares' office is nominating Chief Investigator Chris D'Alessandro to its slot, said spokeswoman Heather Orth.

Ron Lesko, a schools spokesman, said the district hasn't yet made a selection. The police department's choice was also not immediately known.

At one point this summer, the council was forced to put its candidate interview process on hold for about a month while it waited for one prospective team member to return from out of town.

In March, the mayor moved to unilaterally appoint a seven-member implementation team, including Smart -- a move that drew criticism from some council members who felt they were being left out of a crucial part of the process.

Councilman Dominick Calsolaro first proposed the task force in 2002, but it languished until 2007.

Calsolaro said he's eager to see the team get to work, even if "it took a little longer" than many wanted. "Sometimes it comes out better in the end," he said.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.