Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Great Day in Auburn

First let me heap praise on the people of Auburn, NY for their Founder's Day celebration held under sunny skies on Saturday June 6, 2009.
The parades, speeches, and much more paid tribute to former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State William Seward who in 1867 arranged the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.
Enter Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who attended the gala to complete the historical tie between this Central New York city and the 49th state.
Gov. Palin read a proclamation and delivered a little political red meat to enthusiastic supporters, many of whom were urging her to run for the Presidency in 2012.
I signed up for the photo shoot and posed with the Governor and her husband, Alaska's "First Dude", Todd Palin. They were both gracious and seemed to be enjoying their sojourn through upstate New York history.
From Auburn, the Palin's left for events downstate, leaving memories of a wonderful first-ever Founders Day in Auburn.


On The Road

Headed out on the road to Auburn to see Governor Palin and enjoy the Founders Day activities there. Full report later.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Palin in Upstate New York

Governor Sarah Palin is in New York's Finger Lakes region today touring historic spots like the Harriet Tubman House and Seneca Falls, home of the women's equality movement.
She will be attending events in Auburn tomorrow including a reception at the Seward House, where I will proudly be in attendance along with Joe Brosk of Carthage.
In this era of identity politics, let me say I identify with Governor Palin....not just because both of us have served as mayor but because she has lived a life of staggering averageness (if that's a word).
Yet despite being a working person, small business owner, daughter of middle class folk, and non-attender of Ivy League schools, she went on to become Governor of her state and a national figure. All of this while tending to a succesful marriage and family.
The media likes to tell us of the wonderful life stories of Barack Obama and Sonja Sotomayor. because in the world of identity politics an ethnic label can be attached to these people.
Sure, they are accomplished people. So is Sarah Palin.
I just don't like the dismissive tone I get from the conventional thinkers when I mention I am going to see her.
"Your are ?" "You're kiddling..?" "What for ?"
I have heard she is one of those people who has a presence upon entering a Bill Clinton and I guess like Barack Obama. A friend of mine who met her this morning said that's how it was. I will see tomorrow.
In the meantime, I don't feel the need to conform to conventional thinking and cut her down.
Governor, welcome to New York !


Can They Do That ?

In the national spotlight, could a handful of GOP loyalists committed to returning control of the NYS Senate to their party actually convince Senator Darrel Aubertine (D-48th District) to run for Congress and then throw the House race, create a Senate vacancy and win the seat back in a special election.
In the end, the decision to run is Aubertine's and he may run because after all, how many of the little guys....guys like us....get to go from the barn to the Capitol in a few short years.
But as I said in the previous post, if he runs, a lot of Albany insiders would make the Faustian bargain of losing the Congressional seat to get a shot at winning back the 48th.
Now that may not sit well with the national GOP who want to begin mounting a comeback in not just nation , but also the Northeast.
Big money players like Assemblyman Barclay, Senator Griffo, millionaire banker Mathew Doheny could all mount strong GOP challenges, but if they are not able to get the usual minor party cross endorsements, they would be crippled.
New York's three minor parties, at least those who run them, are far more oriented to Albany's politics than national politics. Control of the State Senate is a tangible, achievable goal......One more or less seat in Congress is kind of a "who cares ?" proposition in the halls of the state Capitol.
It will be an interesting summer.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Congressman Darrel Aubertine

It's been said that in politics, if you don't like what's happening, just wait a minute and it will all change.
In the past few hours it has.
It now appears, John McHugh will be ratified next week as Secretary of the Army, creating an immediate vacancy in his congressional seat.
A reading of election law by top lawyers in Albany says the normal petition process will take effect for any vacancy prior to July 9. That means no special election and the filling of the seat will be on November 3, along with the other races for this year.
Sources say Senator Darrel Aubertine will circulate petitions with the tacit support of the Obama White House, meaning other candidates will likely not compete. A White House operative is personally working the race.
Republicans will roll over in November because an Aubertine win opens the seat in the 48th Senate District. Republicans feel they can win the seat back with a candidate like Dierdre Scozzafava, and that will give the GOP one of the two seats it needs to take control of the Senate.
It is thought, top Dems in the state like Speaker Silver and likely gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo could care less about the State Senate and will look the other way.
It is possible no one runs as a Republican in the 23rd, or if someone circulates they will get no help from state GOP leaders. In short they give up the House seat to regain the state senate seat.
The amazing story of Darrel Aubertine's journey from dairy farmer to Washington may soon become a reality.


Millionaires Club

There are 535 House and Senate seats in a nation of over 300,000,000 people.

Scarcity means these pretigious seats have value for those not living paycheck to paycheck. The uber-wealthy, like NYC Michael Bloomberg, see high office as the last challenge after finances were no longer an issue in their lives.
That is why talk in the soon to vacate 23rd Congressional District centers around the monied class.
Democrats may well run lawyer Dan French, a child of the old money crowd of Thousand Islands Park on Wellesley Island, in New York's Thousand Islands region.
Word is he works part time for a Syracuse law firm and is ardent in his desire to be a Member of Congress. By marrying into the Pillsbury fortune, he is indeed a Dough Boy.
That's what it will take to win a quick six week campaign in the sprawling eleven county district.
For Republicans, it's a case of old money as Assemblyman Will Barclay of Pulaski is touted as the next John McHugh. The prep school educated Barclay was labled the "Barclay lad" by Democrats when he ran and lost the race for the 48th Senate seat. Class warfare worked for opponent Darrel Aubertine, as long as the Cape Vincent farmer had party money to match Barclay dollar for dollar in a nasty 2008 race.
Now I hear a Deutchebank millionaire with a house on Watertown's Paddock Street is promising to spend $5 million on the Congressional race.
Heck, I am the mayor and didn't know there was so much money so close in search of a mission. Frankly I would rather the guy spend his money on fixing roads, but , alas, no such luck.
Before you sit at the table to talk to the parties about their nomination, you had best bring a strong balance sheet.
That's why I chuckled when a Times reporter was sent calling local pols to see who was throwing the proverbial hat in the proverbial ring.
If I took all the money earned in a lifetime to the table,it would not be enough to be taken seriously.......
The days of the local boy made good like John McHugh are over. This race will be among two wealthy lawyers......We just have to decide which wealthy lawyer gets the prize.


Two Elections ? Because we can....

North Country voters will soon get a chance to elect a person to fill out the Congressional term of Rep. John M McHugh, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to his new post of Secretary of the Army.
Today is June 4th. By the time Mr. McHugh is approved it would make sense to have voters fill the remainder of the term in the general election on November 3rd. After all, everything is set up that day for other races on the ballot, and the Congressional race would likely help turnout for local races.
What makes sense is not always what happens.
Democrats are heady over recent special election wins in the 20th CD and the 48th senate district (Aubertine). They think a special election called by the Governor allows them to control the timing of the campaign and control the turnout models.
Only downside, it's expensive and inconvenient to have a whole separate election in hundreds of election districts across eleven counties.
But it's the Democrats who control the process and my sources say they want the election earlier than November 3rd for strategic reasons.
Is the extra expense worth it just to give one party a perceived edge. ?....Probably not, but look for an extra election because the strategists want it.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Congressman Who ?

For what it's worth, my limited insight into official Albany says the likely GOP candidate will either be Sen. Joe Griffo of Rome, NY or Assemblyman Will Barclay of Pulaski.
On the Democratic side, I don't see Sen. Aubertine running as the Dems don't want to lose his current seat on the eve of redistricting. Redistricting that could ensure a permanent Democratic majority in the Senate.
This former U.S. Attorney, Dan French, has been chattered about for years and he has family ties to the Clayton-LaFargeville area. A well-connected lawyer with ties to the money networks of the Clintons could overcome the fact nobody other than those attending a Mike Schell cocktail party could tell you what he looks like.
Got to remember, in the eleven counties of the 23rd there is no one who really is well known.

What's for sure is that after years of a Congressman who we all knew like a neighbor, we will likely get someone far more distant.


Smaller District Needed ?

The pending departure of Rep. John McHugh brings into focus an issue I have cringed over.
The 23rd Congressional District has long been the North Country district taking in a large area in order to get the requisite 620,000 people.
The district meanders from Oswego to Plattsburgh covering a lot of empty space and oh so many small communities. Watertown is the largest city in the district, but it is hardly the center of gravity since so much of the district is far away and reads and hears media not enthralled with whether the Public Square fountain is or is not functioning.
As long as Mr. McHugh was our Congressman, that was fine.
He is a Watertown native and a Fort Drum advocate, so we could all rest easy we were the first among equals in the sprawling district. Now if I was mayor of say, Plattsburgh, I might like the Congressman, but let's face it, I would much rather have one of our own in that office.
Same thing if I lived in Johnstown or Madison County or anywhere else but Watertown/Fort Drum.
We could end up with a representitive from a couple hundred miles away. For the provincial thinkers among us, that is not the end of life as we know it, but it's close.
I will fly in the face of North Country political thought and suggest this large district of people with no sense of community may not be all that good a thing, unless we can find another McHugh lurking around Watertown.
When the lines are redrawn after the 2010 census, this district as we know it will be gone. Why not link our area to the central New York area we are part of. After all, Jefferson County will always be important to any Member of Congress by virtue of Fort Drum's presence.
I know how little I know or care about Clinton County or it's fate (nothing personal). So I just figure someone from there will feel the same way about us too. That's why while I am sure the mayor of Plattsburgh is a very capable guy, I want one of our own to replace Mr. McHugh.
I don't care much if it's DeDe, Darrel, Addie or Will.......Just so long as I can drive to their residence in less than half an hour.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Capital Tonight

Had a great time at Time Warner being interviewed by Brian Taffe for the Capital Tonight program.
Went to the cable office on Eastern Blvd. where they set you up to the live link to Albany.
Hope I did OK...

Congratulations to Rep. McHugh

State Senate, Member of Congress, Secretary of the Army.....sounds like a solid career in big- time politics....
But for John M McHugh, his start actually came as assistant to city manager Ronald Forbes at Watertown's city hall. As a former city employee and native, Rep. McHugh looked out for us and as many will say, he was a steadfast support of Fort Drum.
His ascension to the Army post is good news for the Army and Fort Drum, as Mr. McHugh knows much about the service through his years on the House Armed Services Committee.
Now let the scramble begin to fill the seat.
Ironically, the district may be not be long for this world, and John McHugh knew that redistricting would likely dead-end his Congressional career in 2012.
So who will run....that will give me much to blog about, but let the speculating begin tonight (Tuesday) at 8PM when I appear on Time Warner's "Capital Tonight."
Before the orgy of a special election begins, let me offer a hearty "CONGRATULATIONS !" to John McHugh from all his home-town friends.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Council Meeting

It took about three hours this evening for Watertown's premier deliberative body to adopt a budget, muse about crumbling sidewalks, refuse the continued requests by Mr. Sub for a second driveway and decide that there will be work sessions throughout the summer.
City Council was unanimous in adopting the spending plan with its 3% tax hike. Little was changed from the original spending plan proposed by the city manager six weeks ago.
Councilman Jeff Smith continued to advocate for the local Hockey Association, although the skaters themselves have never come to council meetings to make their case for a new arena and lower ice time charges.
Councilman Peter Clough kicked off his tenure as a lame duck. Peter leaves the council December 31 after 12 years service.
Councilman Joe Butler talked about sidewalks and led the lawmakers in a 3-1 vote to repudiate a $165,000 state grant for trails and fences at the Marble Street Park.
Zoning changes were approved including one for the new Hospice building on Gotham St.
The only announced candidate for this years city council election was not present. Steve Bradley announced his bid yesterday.
Meanwhile the Times reporter tweeted today about a coffee shop owner possibly running. That would create a brouhaha to be sure.
As for me, I just enjoyed the evening and tried to keep a long agenda on track.


Sunday, May 31, 2009


Today we learned former City Council member Steve Bradley will venture back into politics. We wish him well. He is a regular follower of city affairs and will ad to the campaign.

Incumbent Councilman Jeff Smith is seeking reelection and is a formidable opponent.

Since there are only 2 seats open, Bradley and Smith are the early Vegas favorites.

There has been a little chatter about other candidates, including a pair of city business persons.

Let all the flowers bloom !

This Saturday, radio talker Joe Brosk and I will travel to Auburn NY in hopes of meeting our political patron saint, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Governor Palin is appearing at a Founders Day Parade and a fundraiser for the Seward House.

It's all in honor of Secretary of State James Seward who in 1867 arranged for the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7 million. It was called "Seward's Folly" but today we know that without the purchase we would all being seeing Russia from our back porch.

Looking forward to the trip !
May 31, 2009