Saturday, February 6, 2010

Toyota Mess an Opening for Astute Dealers

I am sure no one who sells Toyotas for a living was pleased with staring at a lot full of their best sellers and being unable to sell them because of the gas pedal SNAFU that has damaged the brand and no doubt sent customers to other similar brands like Kia, Hyundai, Nissan, Honda.....or maybe even to an American brand.
Having spent some time in the auto business, I know first hand the power of the Toyota brand. People respect it and sooner or later things had to come back to earth. The recent series of recalls is doing that.
A couple of notes...First of all, these cars are essentially all the same....Same parts, same features, similar pricing. Even the styling blurs together. There is some difference in price, incentives , warranties and the like...That's what drives the sale, because as I said, levels of quality are very similar.
Second, this is a tremendous marketing opportunity for Toyota and its dealers. Assuming they correct the problem, the process of all those Toyota owners coming to the showroom for repairs and hopefully being treated extra special....Well that sells cars. There are salesmen who make a point of hanging out near the service counter to catch people ready to make a change.
Some dealers are keeping service bays open late at night to get the rush handled. In the end the brand will bounce back.
Just don't let stuff like this happen too often, and if it does don't make it sound like motorists don't know how to use a floor mat.
Special Message from
Waite Toyota-Scion...

The Snuggling Governor

The story I heard from a GOP operative with ties to the State Police was a little more spicy than Liz' account of the Governor snuggling in a closet at the Executive Mansion.....
But Ms. Benjamin writes a family blog, so I understand the more sanitized version.
In any event, its time to stop writing about the Governor's "eye" for the ladies, unless of course like the lunch in New Jersey, there are pictures.
Protecting Paterson

WDT:Henderson suing over Galloo OK

Let the lawsuits begin as the Town of Henderson , which didn't get any PILOT money is disputing the environmental reviews of the Galloo Wind Farm. Doesn't matter, the State wants these built and reviews will be perfunctory.
Remember when the same New York State got bent out of shape because some Genny-sipping guys from Henderson when out to Galloo to kill some birds....They were made into public enemy number one....Now all the birds are dead and its anything goes on Galloo.
Henderson vs DEC.....Case dismissed....after a few hundred billable hours !
Watertown Daily Times | Henderson suing over Galloo OK

Friday, February 5, 2010

TGIF

-Was at Sam's Club today for the aftermath of a pre Super Bowl weekend crime spree. Seems a couple of lads grabbed televisions and ran out the door put them in what turned out to be their mom's car and drove off...Too bad somebody got the plate numnber and the Sheriff's posse showed up at their house.....
Maybe they were planning to return them after the game...
-Gotta spend some time this weekend on those annual reviews for the manager and clerk....Actually already did the clerk's. I have to type them now that Newzjunky posts the darn things....Transparency is a pain in the ass.
-Sold a Wrangler in absentia today.
-Today (Friday) was Wear Red for Women Day to draw attention to heart disease in women....Had a nice proclamation ceremony at City Hall....
-Saturday is Chili day at State Office Building...Planning on being there at noon. This is a sign of the pending Spring.

Take the Pledge !

Will Barclay wants candidates for the GOP Congressional nomination to sign a unity pledge....No kidding, the pledge was part of a press release issued today...
Barclay's people want to make a big deal of opponent Doug Hoffman's cocky assertion that only he can carry the banners of both the GOP and the Conservative Party.
Maybe they can make Doug and Doheny come to Dougleston Manor, learn the secret handshake and sign the pledge in blood...Skull and Bones style.

Drunk, carrying gun would be illegal in NY

So Mayor Bloomberg doesn't want us getting liquored up before we take our guns out and start shooting people.....Why do we need more laws on guns....well it makes for good copy in the liberal media and serves to incrementally repeal the Second Amendment.
Fact is common sense says you don't take your Glock with you to the Super Bowl party at the Hitch. Those inclined to shoot people generally are not concerned with the Mayor's law since they don't have a permit to begin with.
For the record let me say you shouldn't go shooting while drunk....Do we need a law so that we can have sobriety check points at the local Sportsman's club ? I don't think so.
The Press Republican - Article: Drunk, carrying gun would be illegal in NY

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Plummer Honored as Shapiro Award Winner

When Mike Plummer was named Shapiro award winner a few weeks ago, my first response was to think was he already a winner. After all he had done so much over the years....But alas this was his year to be honored and he was warmly praised and received tonight at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner at Watertown's Ramada Inn.
The retired Army Colonel and city resident is best known for his creation of the innovative "adopt a platoon" program that has provided home town outreach to over 150,000 GI's serving in the most remote reaches of the world.
Plummer says he created it as a foil to his days in the VietNam era Army when the home front was hostile too many times for returning soldiers.
I always found Col. Plummer to be a straight forward, always looking to help type of person.
His acceptance remarks were humble, humorous and well-received by the packed house that included current Fort Drum CO, Maj. General James Terry.
For the Plummers it was an honor earned, and a life of service appreciated by the rest of us.

Thursday Stuff

-A moratorium on Wind Pilots was proposed today after the JCIDA ratified the controversial tax abatements for the Galloo Island wind farm. The four to two vote gets the issue out of their hair for now.
-Retired Col. Mike Plummer will be presented the Shapiro Award for Citizenship at tonight's Chamber dinner.
-The event marks the return of Dave Mance to Watertown High Society.

NY taxes: headed for a new high - NYPOST.com

While we continue to hope tax exemptions can save us from ourselves, the evidence mounts that taxes in the Empire State are headed even higher....In fact last year's Millionaires Tax is not producing what the tax the rich crowd had promised and the state's current deficit is rising.....Scary times ahead.
NY taxes: headed for a new high - NYPOST.com

Blogger Links Owens to Soros....That's a Stretch

This is an interesting piece from What's UP NY23....A broadside on Rep.Bill Owens about some group I never heard of. This sounds like a Glenn Beck at the blackboard diatribe and I doubt it will be an issue.
If Mr. Owens falls it will be because someone credible dissects his support for liberal positions that a majority don't agree with. So far there is no opponent publicly making the intellectual case for a more conservative representitive. That will involve a discussion of cap & trade, health care, bailouts, nationalization of industry , etc.
This election needs to turn on economic issues.....not the nonsensical claims about creating green jobs for the 21st Century....but the real economic issues about the proper role of the national government in shaping what should be a free market, private sector economy.
This J-Street group and George Soros won't hurt Mr. Owens.
Whats Up NY-23?

What About that Transmission Line ?

I don't claim to be an expert in power grids, but the proposal to route the Galloo power to the substation on Coffeen Street and then hook up with the grid along the I-81 corridor seems to make some sense. It would lessen the use of eminent domain and force the improvement of lines in this corridor and that's good for future growth.
An underwater line all the way to Oswego provides no vehicle for growth and a line through Henderson seems like more hassle than its worth.
It would be interesting to hear other comments on this matter.

WDT: Legislature Failed

No surprise here...The WDT has lambasted the County Legislature for Tuesday's PILOT vote and these words will only perpetuate the resentment of the JCIDA towards Times publisher John Johnson, Jr. who they routinely gripe about.
Now let's say it up front. The Times is not without sin. They hired the Syracuse law firm specializing in corporate shirt changes to receive benefits under the widely discredited Empire Zone program. In doing so the Times skated out of a lot of property taxes back in the days when the State of New York was being duped into paying local tax bills on behalf of business owners who maneuvered their way into the program.
Maybe they have first hand knowledge of the bastardization of the goals of economic development by lawyers who are always doing their job...creating ways to gain an edge for their client.
Thought I would point out the Times' sins for those who like to think of Mr. Johnson, Mr Gray and I as some sinister troika of skunks at the JCIDA picnic.
Todays editorial raises valid points about the final deal on Galloo and this $3.5 million community fund. Who's money is it.....Who get's it...How is it doled out....and I might add a question.
Why is the planned donation of monies to charity even part of an agreement with government on taxation ?
Another valid question is where does this take us in the future as similar benefits will have to be given to anyone else making similar requests.
There will be much griping about Mr. Johnson's views in some quarters and with the declining influence of newspapers maybe editorials can be ignored. This one will be.
What I would like to see from media is a thorough and dispassionate look-see at all the inducements given out over time and their approximate value. The Galloo project got a lot of attention due to its size, but the discussion should happen over the practices of economic development.
If it's any consolation, this is a field of endeavor always mired in controversy and scandal. and that's why there is a push in Albany to regulate these bodies. It is the inevitable result of a process where people can get something for free.
Watertown Daily Times | Wind PILOT Approval doesn't answer questions

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Getting Out of the House for the Super Bowl ? Come on Over to Pearl Street !

Where will you enjoy the Super Bowl on Sunday ?
Well, let me do some economic development for Pearl Street and suggest Fort Pearl might just be the spot.
Three large HI DEF televisions allow for convenient viewing and you can grab some wings or pizza while enjoying drinks at great prices.
Fort Pearl has your favorite lottery games, and is the hassle free spot to enjoy your big Sunday.
Fort Pearl is located at 557 Pearl Street in Watertown. 786-3333.
See You Sunday !

LaHood says regulators are investigating Toyota Prius brakes - latimes.com

Do these idiots realize there are people who work for these dealerships ?
You have neighbors who work for Toyota dealerships in Watertown and Potsdam who have been reeling of late as they see their best-selling brands not for sale anymore until a gas pedal problem is fixed. Then the Secretary of Transportation says don't drive Toyotas and later recants the statement.
Earth to Obama Administration....You don't have to save all of us from ourselves.
Maybe the President will try to villify local dealers like he has bankers and Wall Street.....
LaHood says regulators are investigating Toyota Prius brakes - latimes.com

NY gov says budget deficit is growing | recordonline.com

No wonder Albany just kept all those cigarette licensing fees even though a judge ordered otherwise. This state is careening out of control...
NY gov says budget deficit is growing | recordonline.com

Barclay Calls Hoffman's Comments 'Arrogant'

Doug Hoffman tries to express confidence and Will Barclay calls it "arrogance." Game on as the scramble begins for the GOP nomination for Congress in NY 23. I have to say I would advise a candidate not to speculate what they would do if they lost a primary. It shows weakness and indecision.
Barclay Calls Hoffman's Comments 'Arrogant'

Against A Background of Cutting, We Enter the Post Galloo Era

The reason municipal officials are deeply concerned with the tax-exempting actions of the County is not because we are anti-labor...or anti wind....
The reason is local government has grown well beyond the means of paying for it through the property tax......and the other taxes....sales and mortgage among others, now comprise the lion's share of municipal revenue streams.
Trying to explain that to starry-eyed Sackets residents at last nights meeting was not something I was successful doing. So the focus now has to remain on cutting budgets.
At city hall, the mananger is meeting with department heads in advance of her latest round of mid-year corrections in the budget. Several vacated positions are still vacant and may remain so. Purchases are being put off and the easy cuts are fewer in number....
The challenge will be to maintain services and still treat employees in a manner consistent with the need to get more done with fewer resources.
Remember this also...sales tax was raised six years ago to ease a local budget crunch and there are proposals now to raise utility taxes, sin taxes and mortgage taxes, as well as collect more in fees and fines...All from the general public.
That's why when some get to do a corporate shirt change and get an exemption....or sign a lease/buyback and get an exemption.....or tell us to give them more or they go elsewhere....Well, some of us just throw up our hands and say enough is enough. I understand those playing the game and those making a living off the game feel differently. I understand the game will likely not change. So the rest of us do what is necessary and that is to begin the job of cutting and hope the exemption crowd are right in their theories about economic expansion.
Watertown Daily Times | City manager has plan to cut budget

Drinkers still drink, but pay less - The Boston Globe

Meanwhile Everyone Else Drinks Cheaper Booze....
Drinkers still drink, but pay less - The Boston Globe

Post Vote Musings on the Biggest Vote in Years at the County Legislature

Keep your eye on the ball....That's how any game is won and that is how proponents of the wind PILOT got their eight votes.
No time was spent on folks like the Florist who was against it from the beginning. In fact, Mr. Gray says he never even met the man who at meetings from a few feet away kept his coalition of votes together and in the end flipped the one vote needed for victory.
That would be Big Wind attorney Robert Bergdorf, the bookish-looking behind the scenes Svengali who delivered tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to his client.
The tick tock of this deal may have to be repeated if the NYS Power Authority's goal of hundreds of wind mills on Lake Ontario is to be acheived.
Meanwhile there is joy in Sackets Harbor with the promise of lower property taxes and more money for the Town of Hounsfield and the local school district.
The prospect of local firms landing contracts for Galloo has excitement in the air and labor leaders were especially happy, as it was them who really provided the push that gave lawmakers the rationale for approving a controversial plan.
One proponent was telling me how full the bars and restaurants in Sackets will be during the construction. That was a great way to win my heart.
You see this issue is the same as all the others. Those who saw a gain for themselves liked the deal...Those who didn't either disliked it or didn't care.
There was little lingering resentment at Pete's as lawmakers gobbled their pizza and wings as they would any Tuesday evening. One opponent was razzing another lawmaker for being the "cabana boy" for IDA and Big Wind attornies. But other than that nothing too raucous, although this debate will have an effect on how elected leaders view workings of economic development agencies for some time to come.....and it should.
From my view, its just the sausage making of the legislative process and those who choose to partake will enjoy eating the sausage more than they enjoyed seeing it made.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WIND PILOT PASSES 8-7

FLASH.....The Jefferson County Board of Legislators has just voted eight to seven in favor of a tax abatement deal designed to lure a $500 million wind farm to remote Galloo Island near Sackets Harbor.
The vote comes after a two hour public hearing and weeks of debate about whether the Upstate Energy Corporation was paying its fair share on the land.
In the end, it was Sackets area residents and organized labor who led the charge along with the County's Industrial Development Agency.
Opponents charged the deal was too fuzzy on the issue of the transmission line and by exempting Big Wind from sales tax, the deal took a chunk out of the hide of all towns, villages and the City of Watertown.
Relations were raw with many and some old friends were no more as a result of the debate.
The debate also raised serious questions of IDA policies and their so called lease/buy back deals designed solely to circumvent taxes which largely go to fund local government.
Big Wind will have to complete a portion of the project by years end to qualify for massive subsidies from Washington equal to 30% of the cost of the project.

Asking for a Break Without the Indignity of Asking

The interesting thing about this PILOT debate is how the developer used the locals to accomplish his ends.
Never once have I seen on TV or elsewhere a CEO of Big Wind asking for the assistance of the community. It was all done very quietly in the boardroom and not in the living room.
Even in the televised debate on PBS, those promoting the PILOT and other tax breaks were absent and Chairman Blankenbush was dispatched to carry the water for a developer receiving a couple of hundred million dollars in federal state and local subsidy.
The process was antiseptic...None of the messy stuff of asking for assistance.
We make people go through more to get food stamps.
Those who prevailed....Big Wind...their able attorney Mr. Burgdorf, Mr. Alexander...the unions....and others who donned the green T Shirts....never had to ask for us all to pay a little more in taxes....
Congratulations to the winners...And I am sure this battle will be joined again.
But as an old school type....I accept the results...salute smartly and move on...

Big Wind Claims Victory With Single Flip to Give Them 8-7 Edge

Supporters of the Galloo Island PILOT and Big Wind are already taking their victory lap after learning last night they had flipped the one vote needed to give them an 8-7 win at tonight's meeting of the Jefferson County Legislature.
Legislator Robert Thomas (R-District 2) informed the Florist last night of his change and his intent to support the massive package of inducements to the firm planning to build 84 wind mills on the 2200 acre island near Sackets Harbor.
While lobbying is likely to continue till the last moment, the change is a setback for those hoping to halt the giveaway while more discussion occurs on the concerns over use of so called lease-buy back contracts to circumvent millions of dollars in sales and mortgage taxes, much of which would go to localities in Jefferson County.
Proponents are pushing opponents to come to the winning side, but why politically would anyone vote yes unless they have to.
Legislator Thomas was a key player in the 2004 negotiations that led to a new sales tax distribution agreement, so immense pressure must have been brought to bear on him to ratify this arrangement, which serves to undermine the premise of the use of sales and mortgage tax as a funding stream for towns, villages and cities.
The biggest single loser is the State of New York, which because of the actions of the county is losing an eight figure number of dollars.
The issue of Galloo has been among the most divisive the Legislature has faced with a large number of influential people in opposition.
Proponents have branded opponents a "vocal minority", a claim they made but never proved.
A big victory as well for Big Wind's attorney Robert Bergdorf who held the hand of skittish lawmakers throughout and kept the bare minimum in line long enough to be successful for his client.
A large crowd is still expected at tonight's Legislature meeting in hopes of changing a mind or two on the board.
As Yogi says...."Its not over til Its over...."

Gingrich: Quick Dede, Get Under the Bus

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has withdrawn his endorsement of Diedre Scozzafava from last year's NY23 race. At the time Gingrich was trying to be the big tent Republican and not the Sarah Palin idealogue type.....Now Newt feels obliged to recant when none of it matters. Guess DeDe cannot count on the Speaker in her 122 reelection bid, but she won't need it.
All of this lays bare the absurdity of these national endorsements by people who have at best a cursory knowledge of who they are embracing.
Gingrich: I was wrong to endorse Scozzafava - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Monday, February 1, 2010

New and Improved Hoffman Put on Display at Conservative Conclave

Any doubt of a Doug Hoffman candidacy for Congress was dispelled today when the Lake Placid CPA sported a makeover in telling Conservative activists he will seek the office of Congressman in NY23. Mr. Hoffman has name recognition, money and the devotion of conservatives.......With a bit of coaching on his speech and presentation, Hoffman stands as a formidable foe. He is going to have to deliver on issues this time and will not get a free pass on living outside NY23......
Hoffman, back, thanks his base - Capitol Confidential - New York Politics - timesunion.com - Albany NY

Council Highlights....Sweat Furnace is a Go

City Council unanimously okayed the locating of an aluminum smelting operation in the former Black Clawson building on Pearl Street across from Shooties.
After a rigorous questioning during a public hearing, lawmakers seemed convinced the business would be a plus and would not intrude on the neighborhood.
Council also approved the sidewalk program for another rate keeping the rate the same and instructing staff to work on sidewalks on Thompson Blvd. near the Synagogue.
Council okayed an employee assistance program and set a work session for next week to discuss a proposed hotel on the city's west side.

Owens nominates 17 students to service academies (3:16 pm, 02/01)

Ah to be the incumbent !
Representitive Bill Owens gets to nominate local folks to the service academies....gets to hand out some pork.....gets to build his street cred across NNY....All while the GOP spirals towards a divisive and contentious primary....
Mr. Owens is running against the national tide which is trending GOP, but locally he may be able to make the friends and project the image needed to win again in a district that should go the other way.
Time will tell.
Owens nominates 17 students to service academies (3:16 pm, 02/01)

Tiger's Maple City Lass Nabbed for DWI

A North Country native gets a DWI....Hardly news, except when the arrestee is our very own link to the Tiger Woods scandal.....
Ogdensburg's Mindy Lawton...the red-haired waitress who claims to have had a Tiger in her tank....has been arrested on a months old DWI. Seems her notoriety in the tabloids brought the man down on here.....You think my good friend Chuck Kelly would land the interview for the Journal, now that they are on line.
Tiger Woods: Woman linked to Tiger Woods in court next month - OrlandoSentinel.com

Florist: Defeat PILOT on Tuesday

County Legislator Scott Gray has made his last pitch for defeat of the wind PILOT in a letter to the WDT printed today.
Watertown Daily Times | Setting the terms of a better wind PILOT

Sheriff Turns 50

Word spread yesterday that Sheriff John Burns has turned 50. Note the spelling of sheriff on this link.
THE NORTH COUNTRY DEMOCRAT

Public Debate is Generating New Ideas

This fuss over buy/leaseback arrangements with the Jefferson County IDA is not without a solution that would preserve the currently used method of providing a tax break while still providing some share of the economic activity to remain with those entities who by statute should be compensated.
Currently, on deals with no PILOT, the IDA will execute an ownership transfer to allow the actual owner to avoid sales and mortgage tax. It's a ruse, but one we are told is common practice and considered OK.
The mortgage tax could be on something as simple as a refinancing. Anyone who owns a home knows the drill. The mortgage tax is one of the annoying "closing costs" we all love. Normally it is split between the municipality and the state.
Sales tax on construction materials amounts to 7.75% of which 4 points are the state's and the 3.75 points are local and are split according to a formula agreed to in 2004.
On non-property tax abatement deals the IDA charges a fee equal to 25% of what the tax would have been. So the developer is actually paying a tax, just not as much.
That 25% can stay local, while the state gets none of their normal share, as I understand it.
There is some logic in dividing the 25% fee according to the existing sales tax formula, thus the developer gets the break some argue is needed to compete in a hostile state and municipalities and the county get a significant portion of what they normally get off these taxes.
As for payment in lieu of tax deals on property tax, they should be approved by the relevant taxing jurisdictions.
Simple. Power remains with the people, Developers get relief from a hostile business envirnment, jobs are created and the county agency charged with the task serves as the facilitator.
This was suggested to me yesterday. I merely pass along.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Time for Detached Citizenship

Just finished watching the 7AM replay of the Wind Debate on Public TV. It was pretty informative and I think Ken Blankenbush and I both got across many of the points we wanted to thanks to a splendid moderator in TV 7's Jeff Cole.
Too bad there is not a weekly public affairs show like this to put newsmakers on the record, which in turn could be reported in other media. Used to be TV stations actually had somebody in charge of public service programming. Only Ted Ford and I remember those days.
On the topic at hand.
The latest gust of wind from proponents is that if the PILOT is not approved and concurrent sales and mortgage tax breaks not given, then the developer will sue the County because they were promised them.....By who ?
The worst thing you can do is acquiesce because of such threats. Granted a township in the Mohawk Valley was sued after residents got cold feet, but lawmakers should not be swayed by such threats, if they are really being made.
I urge all interested persons to make a little civic time for themselves on Tuesday evening and attend the 7PM meeting in the historic old County Court House, now used to house the Legislature.
See what its all about.