Today is the Troy City Council’s monthly Finance Meeting. Last week, the agendas for both the regular finance meeting and a special meeting were posted. They contained over four hundred pages of text. We would understand if you missed Ordinance 38. We almost missed it ourselves.
That is until Jeffrey Belschwinder, a.k.a. Sidewinder (Albany Proper recently published a story
on him), tipped off a community member about the potential ramifications of Ordinance 38. When they and Belschwinder arrived before others on the scene of a recent fire, Belschwinder initially asked if the community member was with the Red Cross. Then upon realizing they must have found out about the fire from the police scanner, he warned them that the whole police scanner system was about to be fully encrypted. The implications of this are that the public will no longer have access to what goes over the police radios.
Belschwinder has maintained a public feed of the Troy Police & Fire Department and Rensselaer County Fire & EMS, which relies on access to unencrypted radio signals, so he has some authority on this matter. At the scene of the fire, he told the community member that the City of Troy is doing this because of “all the protests and riots from the summer last year. Total lockdown to the public.” He said the same at a separate fire a week later with a City Council candidate present as well.
We reached out to several City Council members. All know nothing about this legislation. So why does Jeffrey Belschwinder have prior knowledge about the potential impact of this legislation? Why is there potentially more early-warning transparency from someone to Belschwinder and not the City Council or City of Troy residents?
While this may seem like meandering to the point, it provides important context. We write this now not fully knowing what the intentions of Ordinance 38 are. And we need you to pay attention, ask questions, help us shed some light on it.
Ordinance 38 tells us that in September 2020, Troy was awarded a grant from NYS Homeland Security, in order to implement changes related to “anti-terrorism.” The agenda then provides the breakdown of a budget to implement the grant, a small fund amounting to $130,271. The budget gives no real details except a breakdown that the monies will be used for computer hardware and software, communication equipment, records management, information technology, and training costs.
We need to identify what these funds are earmarked for and encourage our City Council members to ask clarifying questions during tomorrow’s Finance Meeting. Sign up to speak by 3pm, and/or email your rep.