Saturday, May 2, 2009

Here's Your Stimulus...Right Here

Bulldozer at construction site of the Arbor Hill/West Hill Public Library

on Henry Johnson Boulevard, Albany, NY

Everyone is talking about the giant stimulus bill signed into law on February 17 - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - the stimulus gives big tax breaks and ships hundreds of billions of dollars to the states. Yet the work you see being done in these pictures didn't come via Washington D.C. ...nope. It came via the taxpayers of the City of Albany who voted in February 2007 to float a historic $29.1 million bond to renovate or build 5 branch libraries spread among several neighborhoods in Albany.

Crane moving earth at John J. Bach Public Library construction site
at New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY

The economy is in a serious recession. Working people are getting their wages cut and some are losing their jobs. Yet in Albany we've got proof for the adage that for every dark cloud there is a silver lining. For the past ten months while the economy has been sinking, the Albany Public Library has been going to market for bids on Branch Improvement Plan construction projects. The resulting construction bids have come in under budget. These competitive bids are like a double bonus... local trades and local contractors are keeping local people working - AND - staying under budget keeps Albany taxpayers happy due to a small or no increase to the annual Library tax levy.

Cleaning the facade of the John A. Howe Public Library in Albany, NY

Not only will the people of Albany soon have new or renovated branch libraries in their neighborhoods, but in the midst one of the most serious recessions in decades there are several on-going construction projects employing local people and paying good wages.

Workers moving form pieces at the Delaware Ave Public Library in Albany, NY

So watch for renovated branches to open during the end of 2009 and new branches to open in mid 2010. If you have questions about the Branch Improvement Plan, please feel free to contact me at 489-2393 or

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thank you

While we did not win a Trustee seat (10th place out of 17) we made many new friends, learned a lot, and gained a new appreciation for the Albany Public Library and the Friends of the APL.

Many thanks to all those who voted for me, signed my petition, carried my petition and encouraged me to run.

I had a great time and of course I will continue my involvement with APL issues and other community matters in the City of Albany. Congratulations to those four who were elected and also congratulations to all the others on the ballot.

Many, many thanks to my GOTV crew: Eileen, Anne, Leora and Brandon and to all the many family, friends and supporters who assisted me throughout the campaign. The unofficial canvas by the school district is:

School Budget

Yes 2345

No 2699


Dennis Gaffney 1828 Trustee Elect

Mary Ellen O'Connor 1718 Trustee Elect

Leonard Ricchiuti 1423 Trustee Elect

James Gallagher 1368 Trustee Elect

Andrew O'Toole 1063

Linda Mallory-Mitchell 999

Deborah Williams - M 798

Lois Parsons 793

Alexandra Streznewski 788

Andrew Bechard 732

Patricia Polan 719

Ethel Silverberg 699

Gene Solan 622

William Newman 587

Jose Lopez 527

Anton Konev 426

Thomas Preston 365

Building Blocks of Equity

Why is the Branch Improvement Plan so important?


There is a U.S. census statistic that doesn’t get talked about very much in Albany.

It’s not a good statistic.

Almost 30% of Albany’s school age children (5-18 years) live in poverty. That means for every three kids you see in Albany, one of them is struggling.

How wonderful is it that a neighborhood kid can walk three to five blocks to an Albany branch library and ask the librarian questions, get internet access, browse hundreds of books, magazines and newspapers – ALL FOR FREE.

Internet access, books, magazines and newspapers are luxuries that are just not in the household budget for many of Albany’s poorest families.

I’ve talked to dozens of professionals who came from meager means and I always ask them about the secrets to their success. Very often I would hear a story about a special librarian or a special teacher who opened their eyes to books and reading. I would hear a story about a neighborhood school or a neighborhood library that became a special place. It was a place close by that they could walk to, or ride their bike. In that special place a whole world was opened up – and a child was inspired to dream big and study hard.

Some in Albany are quick to point out that the Albany City Schools have a troubling graduation rate. The Branch Improvement Plan will help every child in the district. The plan will help give our neighborhood kids bigger, better and nicer places to go when school ends for the day.

Working together, the Library and the school district can close the achievement gaps and improve the graduation rate. I believe the Plan is integral to Albany’s success.

Neighborhood libraries are more than just buildings – they are building blocks of equity – they can raise people up and give them a foundation to stand on.
Please feel free to contact me at 489-2393 or

Please vote Tuesday, May 15. Polls are open from 7 AM to 9 PM.

I am asking for your vote

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Making Time to Read to your Children - Andrew Bechard for Library Board

Parents can have endless demands on their time. There is a long list of tasks to attend to: shopping for groceries, preparing nourishing meals, trying to scale ‘laundry mountain’, checking to make sure everyone’s homework is done.

All the daily chores can make it hard to find time to read with a child. We want to spend time reading, but so many things demand our attention.

Reading to a child is a gift we give both to ourselves and to our kids. Kids who are familiar with books and like to read are better prepared to succeed in school and to entertain themselves rather than be entertained by TV and video games. Adults who read with a child are building shared memories and bolstering their child’s reading skills. But where can we find the time?
Here are some thoughts:

• Is there an older child who plays little league baseball or Albany Youth Soccer? Is it a challenge to keep a younger one entertained while you wait in the stands or on the field? Maybe “sports time” for the older child becomes that special “reading time” for the younger one.

• Do you ride the CDTA bus together every morning? Commute time can be story time. Do you drive instead of take the bus? Maybe a tape/CD book becomes a treat you both can look forward to.

• Do you have two or more children to guide through the bedtime routine? Although they might not admit it, the older one might enjoy listening to a picture book along with the younger one. And a younger child may enjoy listening to a book picked out by the older child as you read it
to both of them. A child’s listening skills are generally stronger than their reading skills until about eighth grade, so continue to read aloud.

• Is everyone in your house an early bird? Maybe breakfast time is story/reading time.

• Make every Tuesday or Thursday afternoon your regular visit to the library. New books can add big excitement to your regular reading time.

Whatever time you decide on, try to make it a regular and predictable event. Kids thrive on a regular schedule and look forward to their story time with you.

I was a very fortunate child as I always had adults reading to me. The regular reading time made me an early reader and I have loved books ever since.

There is no magic formula for making time to read. Try things, and then keep doing what works for your child and discard what doesn’t.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Making Time to Read - Andrew Bechard for Albany Public Library Trustee

My name is Andrew Bechard and I’m running for Albany Public Library Board of Trustees, if you’d like to know more about me and why I’m running for Trustee you can read my profile on the right side of the blog screen or scroll down to my April 21st post which is a couple of posts below. This post is about the importance of making time to read.

If you are leading a busy life, finding time to read can sometime seem impossible. I’ve listed some tips below that will allow you to make more time to read.

BRING YOUR READING WITH YOU. Always keep reading material with you. If you have to sit in a waiting room for 30 minutes, if you have to stand in a line for 10 or 15 minutes, don't waste that time – use the time to read. If you have a book or article with you (or one that's on your Personal Digital Assistant / Palm Pilot) you’ve just created more time to read. I always try to bring a small book or article with me wherever I go – you never know where you’ll get the opportunity to read.

MAKE IT A HABIT. Everybody has different reading habits. Mine is to try to read ten to thirty pages every night before I go to sleep. Others get up early and read in the morning quiet. Some read during their lunch break at work. Some read while commuting on the bus. Whatever your habit is – you’ve made time to read.

TAKE A READING VACATION / RETREAT. Some people can't get reading done at home or work. Their lives are just too busy. I’ve been there. I recommend taking a reading ‘vacation’ every month or quarter where you give yourself some quiet time and try to cruise through 1 to 3 books over a couple of days.

The above tips are some that have worked for me. Some others tips are: join/start a book club; keep a short reading list so you don’t find yourself trying to read 10-15 books at the same time; make reading time an unbreakable appointment on your calendar.

There is no magic formula for making time to read. Try things, and then keep doing what works for you and discard what doesn’t.

My next post will be tips on making time to read to your children.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Books on my Nightstand - Andrew Bechard for Albany Public Library Trustee

My name is Andrew Bechard and I’m running for Albany Public Library Board of Trustees. If you would like to know more about me and why I’m running for Trustee you can read my profile on the right side of the blog screen or scroll down to my April 21st post immediately below. This particular post is about the books on my nightstand.

The Albany Public Library has a wonderful selection of sources and media. Library members can get free internet access, and borrow CD’s and DVD’s. Members with computer savvy can download audio-books and e-books to their MP3 player, personal computer or PDA.

What about just plain old-fashioned books? I have several on my nightstand:

Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnston

Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing by Norm Stamper.

Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I’m one of those people who have several books going at the same time. Sometimes you can hit a bit of a rough patch with a book and before you can pick it up again you have to read something a little different, maybe a little lighter. Of course my nightstand can also become stacked with magazines and newspaper articles that I’ve put aside for when I have more time to read them.

Finding time to read can often be a problem. My next blog post will include some tips for making time to read.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Andrew Bechard for Albany Public Library Trustee

My name is Andrew Bechard. I am an attorney and a community advocate - I've worked with several community groups in Albany in an effort to improve neighborhoods and reduce poverty and homelessness.

I am running for the Library Board because I believe I can make a real difference.

The Albany Public Library is starting a $29.1 million dollar Branch Improvement Plan. That's a lot of money and Albany library taxes will increase by about 40% to carry the debt service for the acquisition/design/construction/renovation. While it is a significant percentage increase - I believe the new investment is fully justified. I am a supporter of the Branch Improvement Plan and I firmly believe the new schools and new libraries in Albany will help make our city the best in the region.

When you put the increase in dollar terms - if you own a $100,000 house you now pay about $111 in taxes to support the Albany Public Libraries - when you factor in the debt service, you'll pay about $161 per year.

The excellent work of the library staff and the library trustees make the Albany Public Library a real community treasure. The Friends of the Albany Public Library group is a tremendous resource and Albany is fortunate to have so many involved and committed volunteer supporters.

A library trustee will need construction and procurement experience to assist the Albany Public Library with implementing the Branch Improvement Plan. A plan with this many steps, phases and projects has the potential for delays, confusion and missed budget targets. When timetables are missed costs begin to go up resulting in the need to do new borrowing. As a Library Trustee I would bring over a dozen years of legal experience on several multi-million dollar public projects to the table. I will ask the right questions and I have the management skills to ensure Albany taxpayers get maximum return for the tax dollars spent on the Branch Improvement Plan.
The Library Trustees have made an excellent choice in contracting with the New York State Dormitory Authority to manage the plan, but the Trustees still have substantial responsibilities in overseeing the acquisition/design/construction/renovation. My skills and experience can bring real value to the Board of Trustees and can help the plan move forward in an efficient and economical fashion.

I thank you for taking the time to read this blog and I am asking you for your vote on May 15.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at or 489-2393.