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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 12, 2006

Photography exhibit
Celebrating women who live quietly and beautifully

By Rachel Dutil

The last four years of Nancy Bruno’s life have been devoted to documenting beautiful women.

She has photographed 35 women – most are from the Capital Region, most were complete strangers to Bruno.

The idea started four years ago, on a beach in Italy. Bruno was admiring women on the beach, and she noticed how comfortable they were in their own skin, and she was envious, she told The Enterprise.

Her inspiration for the project was born on that beach. She decided to seek out women whose life journey had brought with it a comfort in themselves.

The Beautiful Women Project is "a celebration of women who live quietly and beautifully," Bruno said.

One of the women featured in the project is 63-year-old Joan Storey of Guilderland.

"There was a little something different in my journey," Storey told The Enterprise.

Storey lived for seven years in Sparkill as a Dominican nun. The Dominican sisters live according to four values: community life, common prayer, study, and service.

"I wanted to make a difference in the world," Storey said.

She realized that being herself was a way of making a difference, she said.

Storey, after leaving the convent, was a teacher for a number of years. She went on to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

She now works as a psycho-therapist, dealing specifically with grief and loss therapy.

"This, actually, is the happiest time of my life," she said. "I think life is really about an unfolding of who we are."

On tour

The project will be on exhibit this weekend in Saratoga Springs at the Saratoga Hotel and Conference Center. It is free and open to the public.

In addition to the photographs, Bruno has written a short biography on each woman, which will accompany each photograph. Her own biography is varied. Bruno grew up in Clifton Park. She went on to study in Montreal and then moved to London for four years. She has been a documentary photographer for 10 years.

Bruno has also produced a companion book on the project.

The book will be sold at each of the exhibit shows, which Bruno hopes will travel around the region. Proceeds from this weekend’s book sales will be donated to "To Life!" a breast cancer support and services organization based in Delmar.

The exhibit will move to the Business and Professional Women’s Fall Conference next weekend, also in Saratoga Springs.

With each new location, the proceeds from the book sales will be donated to a different not-for-profit organization, Bruno told The Enterprise.

More information about the project is available on-line at beautifulwomenproject.org.

"Completely invisible"

All of the 35 women, says Bruno, are wonderful role models.

In the women, Bruno said, "I saw my past self, my present self, and my future self."

"I learned so much about myself," she said.

Bruno doesn’t start shooting with her 35 mm Canon until she has spent a lot of time with her subjects, she said.

"What I really like to do is become completely invisible to my subjects," she said. And to do that, she must first allow her subject to become comfortable with her.

Bruno tries to remain in contact with all of the women, she said. "I keep my finger on all of them in some way," she said.

Race for chair goes to state court

By Jarrett Carroll

ALBANY COUNTY — Democratic leadership in the county is now being challenged in court. Suburban Democrats are requesting a new and "proper election."

The first-ever vote for county chair saw a sharp division between city and suburban representatives. Frank Commisso, with city backing, bested Guilderland’s David Bosworth in a 253-to-219 vote that has been called into question.

Before his election, Commisso told The Enterprise he was going to retire from his job as manager at the Port of Albany so he could work as chair "24/7."

This week, he said, he won’t retire until the case is decided. Commisso will remain the county chair until the election is determined.

"Of course, with a lawsuit it may change; you never know how these things work out," Commisso said of party leadership.

Bosworth, Guilderland’s town board member and Democratic chair, challenged Commisso, an Albany ward leader and the majority leader for the county legislature, for the seat in September.

"Quite honestly, I did not lead this lawsuit. It was a group action of other town chairmen and committee members," Bosworth told The Enterprise this week. "Jack Cunningham is actually listed as the plaintiff. He signed the papers."

Cunningham ran on Bosworth’s slate as the second vice chair. Currently, he is Bethlehem’s first vice chair and has been serving in the county legislature since 2004.

Bethlehem and Guilderland, long-time Republican strongholds, are typical of the Democratic shift in recent years from city to suburb; both towns now have Democratic supervisors.

"The vote was done in accordance with the rules of Albany County. I will not comment on it while it’s under litigation," Commisso responded to the lawsuit this week through The Enterprise.

Commisso won by a standing vote at the Polish Community Center in Albany, called for by the chairwoman at the time and current Albany city treasurer, Betty Barnette.

The lawsuit claims that, in accordance with New York State Election Law, a weighted vote, which the litigants say favors towns four-to-one over urban committee-member votes, should have been used.

"Commisso deferred to Barnette, saying it was her choice"Our argument is that it’s required by state law," Bosworth said. "When there is a contest, it has to be used, but in our 85 years, there’s never been a contest."

Commisso claims that Barnette followed the county’s bylaws in her decision for a standing vote in which only committee members who are physically present stand when their candidate is called.

That’s where Democrats disagree.

"The election law provides that the vote of committee members has to be in a weighted vote," said L. Michael Mackey, the Democratic chairman of New Scotland, who is handling the case.

"We haven’t requested temporary relief of Mr. Commisso because we do realize that the party has to function while this is in litigation," Mackey told The Enterprise. "The litigation requests that ultimately we conduct a proper election."

A Nov. 9 court date has been set at the state’s Supreme Court, the lowest court in a three-tiered system; the case will be heard by Judge George B. Ceresia.

"We also requested that a court-appointed referee conduct the election," said Mackey.

Call for change

Last week, two letters to the Enterprise editor urged Bosworth to challenge the election in court, and there has been another call for a re-vote this week. (See letters to the editor.)

This week, Dick Barrett, a committee person for the 41st District in Colonie, said enrollment numbers have nothing to do with weighted voting.

He responded to last week’s Enterprise coverage, which charted the Democrats in each of the county’s municipalities, by calling the city of Albany enrollment numbers "fallacious" and "excessively inflated."

"I’m very happy with the lawsuit," Barrett said. "You can’t steal an election and expect to unite the party."

Barrett said that weighted votes are based on the last gubernatorial election, unless there has been redistricting, then an assembly election is used.

Redistricting has occurred since the last governor’s race, so, in the election of James Clancy over Karen Shea for commissioner of the county’s board of elections, the numbers from the assembly race were used.

Barrett and other Democrats claim this was the first suburban win over an Albany Democrat for a county position, and marks the beginning of a shift in power in what some see as a suburban-urban rift in the party.

Mike Burns, who chaired the party before Barnette, lived in suburban New Scotland but worked in Albany and had the backing of Albany’s labor unions. Barnette took over as chair after Burns death four years ago.

Barrett told The Enterprise that suburban Democrats currently outnumber urban ones by nearly 4-to-1 despite current enrollment figures.

The problem, according to Mackey, is that typically two committee members come from each legislative district but that Albany has both wards and the legislative districts.

This gives Albany more committee members, said Mackey.

With weighted voting, Mackey said, the balance swings to the suburbs.

To demonstrate weighted voting, Mackey gave the example of the last state assembly election of Albany’s Ward 2, District 4, having 32 votes while New Scotland’s District 1 had 420 votes.

The legislative districts in areas outside of the city are much larger, said Mackey, therefore they represent more Democrats.

Rensselaer County recently elected its county chairman with weighted voting, because, said Mackey, "They followed the election law."

Mackey and Bosworth say they both tried unsuccessfully to contact Barnette and the party’s attorney to discuss how the meeting was to be conducted.

"We went in there blind to how the process worked," said Bosworth. Mackey’s attempts were no better.

"A number of people attempted to contact her and people on the slate," said Mackey. "They wouldn’t discuss it with us."

Barnette did not return calls from The Enterprise.

At one time during the election meeting, according to Bosworth, his chosen vice chair, Jack McNulty from Green Island, walked up to Barnette and handed her a written point of order to stop the meeting and call for a weighted vote.

"She would not accept it," Bosworth told The Enterprise.

Bosworth says the lawsuit questions the voting process, not Commisso’s ability to lead Democrats.

"I don’t know that it was a personal conflict between Mr. Commisso and myself"It was the process in how it was done," said Bosworth. "It was like taking a vote on a New York City subway during Friday-night rush hour."

In the meantime

As the current chair, Commisso told The Enterprise that he and his slate of officers are very busy, preparing for what they see as Democratic victories in both state and national elections in November.

"We’ve been pretty busy with our elected officers. We are now moving forward," Commisso said. "We have to form several committees and our Oct. 27 fund-raiser is coming up, so we are busy setting people up with those events"I think we should be very successful in New York State and nationally."

But, warns Commisso, Democrats still need to vote.

"Voters shouldn’t take that to mean they shouldn’t vote," he said. "We want them all to come out and vote."

As for the recent tensions between urban and suburban leaders stemming from the chair election, Commisso said all Democrats are still working together.

"I have no problem with any committee member or any of my suburban colleagues," Commisso said. "That’s why I got into this campaign, to pull people together, not to drive them apart."

Commisso and Bosworth did agree that there are no hard feelings.

"I’ve been reaching out to suburban leaders and have been talking with them. We are setting up some meetings to discuss some things," said Commisso, adding, "I’ve talked to David Bosworth and I attended his fundraiser and spoke there."

Bosworth said Commisso’s reception at a fund-raiser was well-received. Bosworth was "pleasantly surprised" to be awarded the Virginia Haran Community Service Award by his fellow Democrats, he said. The award is named after the first-ever Democrat elected in Guilderland, and Bosworth’s usually involved in naming a recipient, but was busy running against Commisso this year.

"It was a very pleasant evening," said Bosworth, stating that Commisso "spoke at length and gave a very positive message about unity." He added that over 100 people attended the event.

The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court earlier that same day.

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