When Unshackle Upstate launched in March 2006, Gannett News Service Bureau Chief, Jay Gallagher, covered our first trip to Albany.

He knew what we were up against.

Jay reported on Albany politics and government for a quarter century, and wrote a weekly column on state government since the late 1980s. He passed away Monday night, after a nearly year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

His columns took issue with “the Albany process” – in which issues with a profound impact on the lives of New Yorkers are debated, voted upon, rejected or enacted into law via a system charged with partisan politics and esoteric internal rules and procedure. 

A month before our first Unshackle Upstate trip to Albany, Jay was a guest speaker at an event the Buffalo Niagara Partnership hosted in Buffalo. We brought him to town to discuss his book, The Politics of Decline: A Chronicle of New York’s Descent and What You Can Do To Save Your State. It was the outgrowth of his volume of columns.

In his remarks, Jay seemed sincerely concerned that most citizens pay so little attention to what happens in their state capitol that decisions made there hurt them.

Even after decades of watching Albany in action, and knowing what Unshackle Upstate would face as it took on the capitol, he still gave us a fair shake – and somehow maintained some optimism, especially when discussing Unshackle Upstate’s chances with our younger staffers.

Jay’s columns helped average New Yorkers pay better attention to the capitol. And in many ways inspired our coalition.   We thank him for that.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.