Greeted with Warmth in Albany

June 13th, 2008

Earlier this week I took the train up to Albany. It was my first official visit to my “hometown” since I became Thirteen’s President & CEO. I grew up just outside Albany in the town of Delmar, and in my mind I can still see the downtown area as it was. But so much has changed, from new office buildings to beautiful parks and other improvements. On my drive from the train station, I went past the building where I had my first job — at age 16, as a disc jockey at a country/western radio station.

It must have been the hottest day in Albany so far this year. The high ceilings of the state Capitol trap lots of hot air (I am avoiding easy political jokes here), so the Capitol building felt like an oven. Efforts were underway to conserve energy: no air conditioning in the hallways, lights were dimmed everywhere, and all escalators were stationary.

Despite the heat, or maybe because of it, the Capitol and Legislative Office Buildings were teeming with people. Throngs of folks of all ages, persuasions and interests were trekking the halls of both the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building: tour groups of school children, constituents pressing their cases for or against pending bills, legislators and staffers hurrying to and from one meeting or another … and me.

Public television stations in New York State are educational institutions chartered by the New York State Board of Regents, and as such, we are also the recipients of State funding in the annual budget.

As one of the newest “kids on the block,” I went to Albany to introduce myself and spend a few minutes meeting some members of the Legislature and several of Governor David Patterson’s key staff. The reception I received, I am happy to say, was as warm as the weather!

First up was a meeting with Charles O’Byrne, Secretary to the Governor, and reputed to be one of the new Governor’s most trusted advisors. He was gracious and a great fan of public television. I took the opportunity to extend an invitation for the Governor to do a call-in program or town meeting that we would broadcast live in prime time on all nine of New York’s public television stations. I hope the Governor agrees to do it, I think he’s a natural for television.

Next up was a short visit with Deputy Secretary to the Governor Carl Andrews. He is a former State Senator from Brooklyn, and I was again impressed by how much he knew about Thirteen and public television. I reiterated my invitation to the Governor to do a live call-in.

I also spent some time with Long Island Assemblyman Bob Sweeney and Commissioner “Pete” Grannis of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation — both ardent environmentalists. We talked about telling the State’s conservation and restoration stories on public television.

I ended the day with a quick visit to Assemblyman Dick Gottfried. Thirteen’s broadcast offices are in the Assemblyman’s district and the Assemblyman, who also chairs the Assembly’s Health Committee, has always been a great supporter of the station.

My recent foray up to Albany is likely to be first of many in the months and years ahead. I just hope the next time I hop a train to the Capitol, the reception up there is just as warm, but the temperature isn’t!