Finished the First Signed Copy of Zephyr's Book

Finished the First Signed Copy of Zephyr's Book
I Think I am Smarter for Reading It

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What's News...By the Numbers

Most viewed story here is still February 10th tome about the Mayor of Alexandria Bay and his "bad bikers" with 11186 pageviews...
A distant second is last October's breaking news about Bill Clinton coming to Watertown. (5127 views)
Third is the December 29 post about the Lewis County dog felled by a chocolate scare.(4258)

Buffalo News: Exiled Carthage Superintendent Brings Closed Meetings to Western New York

The former and controversial superintendent of the Carthage Central School District is one of several western NY supers engaging in improper executive sessions to discuss possible staff cuts.. Carl Milatello is superintendent of the Niagara-Wheatfield District, a district the Buffalo News reports the school board excluded the public and the media from deliberations.
So called "executive sessions" are frequently flouted by local governments with contrived reasons. While the employment history of a particular employee is a possible subject for executive session under the Open Meetings Law, a discussion of staffing and budgets is not. Districts are also using the excuse of discussing "potential litigation", a frequent and specious catch-all used by municipal or school district attornies in justifying the illegal sessions.
Few people challenge these illegal sessions and there is no real sanction other than a prickly story or editorial in the local MSM.
Mr. Milatello tells the BN he plans another closed budget workshop for early April.
Niagara districts flout law on meetings - Niagara County - The Buffalo News

Why Exempt Visiting Shoppers from Paying Taxes ?

A proposal for Jefferson County to follow the state's lead and exempt clothing from the local share of sales tax (3.75%) is ill advised policy.
While wanting to give a break to "working families" has its obvious appeal, the clothing exemption takes one product that different people buy in varying degrees and makes it exempt, while other essentials like gasoline are fully taxed.
The other reason is the geographic anomaly that Jefferson County enjoys and that is the proximity to Canadian shoppers...Many of those shoppers buy clothing and the exemption obviates much of the benefits of cross border trade we now enjoy.
The latest estimates for February continue to show sales tax performing at six to eight percent above projections. This is money that flows into the coffers of every municipality in the County due to a sales tax distribution agreement between the County and the City of Watertown.
The sales tax is providing a much broader base of funding local government than the property tax which is heavily skewed by assesment differences and huge use of exemptions....
The better course for the county (they control the issue) would either be lower the overall rate on all products, or give the money back in the form of significantly lower property taxes.
As you know I have proposed the City do just that in conjunction with our continued efforts to reduce the city's debt load by paying cash for smaller capital projects.
Exemptions create inherent inequities, although I realize that under the statutes that is the only product that can be made exempt.
Broader based tax relief is the way to go and our unique ability to gain from cross border activity should make us think twice about exempting people who don't even live here.

Russell and Blankenbush Accused of Promoting Jim Crow

Thanks to Brian Amarel from the WDT for finding this op/ed accusing our two Members of Assembly of a racist attempt to resurrect the old Jim Crow laws...The issue is where prison inmates are counted in the Census, and last summer the Legislature passed a law instructing the Cnesus Bureau to count inmates in the community of their last address before sentencing...In most cases that means NYC.
So even though there are a couple or more thousand of the darlings living in our area they are counted elsewhere for the purpose of drawing legislative boundaries....that means a subtle shifting of voting power to downstate.
The op/ed opines that NNY is 95% white and the prison population is 87% non white, therefore Ken Blankenbush and Addie Russell are racists.
This is the kind of radical, leftist thinking that AG Eric Schneiderman subscribes to, as he was the prime mover for the prison legislation last year when he was still a member of the Senate representing a district in Manhattan.
Assemblywoman Russell has said the inmates should have thought about residency when they committed their crime...I am sure they didn't and there are few inmates who spend much time musing about the nuances of redistricting...The inmates are just pawns in other peoples games.
OpEdNews - Article: Rural New York Legislators Propose Resurrecting Jim Crow

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pols Swarm at Petes

It was so political at Pete's tonight...I was invited to dine with Matt Doheny and his friend Mary...Then Assistant City Court Judge Eugene Renzi stopped by and said he while he is running for City Judge, he would rather I not mention it on the blog...So I won't. I suspect an official announcement is being held till the more traditional time frame of April or May. Democrat Keith Caughlin is already campaigning for the seat.
Then it was Assemblyman Blankenbush, who told me about a "baby tax" being pushed by Assembly Democrats...Seems they want a 4% levy on the bill for delivering your little bundle of joy.
And all I wanted was a quiet dinner.

Obama picks UConn to win 3rd straight women's basketball national championship - Yahoo! News

Forget about Libya and Japanese nukes...President Obama has now weighed in on the women's NCAA basketball playoffs...POTUS says the Lady Huskies from the University of Connecticut will prevail.....Earlier the President had gone on ESPN to offer his bracketology for the men's contest.
We need a President conversant in such culturally iconic events as the Final Four.
Oh, Mr. Obama has cancelled a speech in Rio...But I am told by a former Congressional candidate that the President so far has done very well on his Final Four picks....so maybe I am being too critical.
Obama picks UConn to win 3rd straight women's basketball national championship - Yahoo! News

Owens Never Sees Complimentary Hustler

This is a funny piece courtesy of Jude Seymour...For decades Hustler publisher Larry Flynt has sent complimentary copies of his magazine to Members of Congress....Flynt is a First Amendment advocate in addition to his salacious interests and has certainly paid a high price having been shot and confined to a wheelchair.
Anyway, Jude called the office of Rep. Bill Owens to see what they do with their complimentary Hustler...Funny watching staffers dance over such a question.
Not Every Piece of Mail Is Read Front to Back WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

POTUS Walks on March Madness...What is He Thinking ?

CBS had to run a split screen today to keep carrying the NCAA game and show President Obama's remarks on Libya....
First, the fact the President is speaking during March Madness is an affront to hoopsters everywhere...Maybe his bracket went south because he didn't pick Moorehead State, but that doesn't mean there are not others interested in the playoffs.
What he had to say about Libya wasn't worth the airtime...."Our cause is just.".....Like we haven't heard that bromide before.

I Acquiesced

I bowed to the wishes of Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York today and filed my sales tax electronically, including the fund transfer...I figured out the process and will see how long it takes to suck the money out....
Up until a couple years ago, you could send your check in on the 20th and count on about ten days float....They have tightened that up....
We will see...maybe they will make periodic withdrawals whenever Andy needs some extra cash.

Superintendents Ratchet Up the Rhetoric

One capital district school superintendent says Governor Andrew Cuomo is making statements that are "absolutely obscene." Wow, that's strong language, and it's typical of the increasing rancor between the state's Chief Executive and the 700+ superintendents who are waging a war of words over state aid to their districts. Of course, what's acceptable for elected officials in terms of political speech may not be appropriate for appointed administrators who like to decry "politics" when it suits their interests.......Once you get into the briar patch of political invective its not so easy to extricate oneself.
Whether the Governor is guilty of obscenity is a matter of semantics, but one wonders what the long term damage is to this orgy of hyperbole going on. Certainly teachers and their union are increasingly polarizing figures and the Governor is alienating his core constituencies, although really....where else do the public unions have to go to...Carl Paladino ?
Cuts testing school districts - Times Union

Other Things Are Going On, Believe it or Not

Meanwhile, in the rest of the World, the UN Security Council has given a thumbs up to a no-fly zone over Libya as troopers loyal to Qaddafy (Khaddafy or Gaddafy) ready for an assault on the rebel redoubt in Benghazi.
Sarah Palin heads to India today for a speech, then on to Israel to meet the Prime Minister and then on to Naples Florida for a little politics. Maybe she is planning to run in 2012. Why else go to Israel ?
President Obama is off to Rio for the weekend, now that his brackets are chosen for the NCAA Playoffs.
And Japan has asked for US help on those pesky reactors.
Oh, and former City Councilman Steve Bradley is renovating upper floors on his Court Street property into ten upscale apartments to be rented at market rates. Thanks to Steve and Joyce for their investment in Downtown Watertown.

District: Keystroke Error Sends Media a Secret Memo

It's been a long time since I was in the MSM, but let me try to exercise some news judgment about yesterday's "leaked" memo about school cuts.
We are told that the Superintendent's memo about job cuts was supposed to be sent only to school board members but accidentally was sent to the media....
The memo details job cuts and came only hours after the district hosted a rally at Case Middle School to protest the Governor's proposed state aid numbers, which districts say will result in job cuts.
Does the MSM feel used ?
Of course, the memo is not proprietary and could have been foiled or released by any school board member. Or there could have been a press conference to announce the findings.
The purported secret nature of the memo gave it more urgency in the media. That's a tactic, not a mistake.
Thursday: Watertown Slashes Staff, Programs In Budget Proposal WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

TV 7: Addie's Voice Quivvers Talking About Her School Districts

Earlier this year, Assemblywoman Addie Russell said the Governor's proposed budget would hold and be enacted as proposed. Now Ms. Russell has found the sheer joy of speaking at education rallies where the applause lines are easy to craft and according to Jude, she has added an emotional quivver to her her voice when talking about the children and the teachers.
She also blasted other local elected officials for not decrying the Governor's plans, which she says will cost the area $25M and leave the area's youth disadvataged for generations to come.
Two or three percentage point decreases in state aid to area schools have the chattering class in a tizzie, but the Governor continues to insist the small cuts are needed to balance the budget and end New York's tendency to call reductions in the rate of increase a "cut."
Those quivvering over all this have latched onto a "millionaire's tax" as the easy fix...You know, we can have all we want and make those millionaires pay for it...All eight of them in Jefferson County, according to numbers provided by our Members of Assembly.
There is an elasticity to school district finances....The districts have the ability to increase property taxes to pay for things their communities really want. That is true in this case. There is no cap in place yet.
The rhetoric is getting white hot, and the momentum is with the Governor, who is talking tough....Democratic lawmakers should stand with the man they sought to elect.
For Assemblywoman, School Aid Fight Gets Emotional WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

WDT: Let's All Run in This Direction

Here we go again. A selective exemption on one product because it makes for a good sound bite.
"We are providng much needed relief to our working families." It rolls off the lips.
A sales tax exemption on clothing items under $55 is something the state is doing, even though on the other hand they are crying poverty. Now Jefferson County lawmakers say they may do the same, but not until 2012.
Consider this, the run up in gasoline prices is a windfall to government. What about those working families who depend on gasoline to get to their job or take the children to a soccer game ?
Why no exemption on that ?
Why not decrease property taxes ? Why not decrease the overall sales tax by a quarter point ?
The schizophrenia that government is sends conflicting signals.
Because of the different buying habits of different citizens, an exemption on one product is by no means fair, but it is good politics and the local paper consistantly editorializes in favor of it.That doesn't make it a good idea and the County Legislature should look for other ways to provide tax relief.
Watertown Daily Times County may lift clothing sales tax in 2012

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NYSUT Rallies Its Troops

And NYSUT also has its public relations team in action.
State of Politics Blog

Schools: Take That Cuomo

What can you say ? If the money is not there, then you cut positions. I remember when the City did it back in 1991 and there have been small ebbs and flows since then....Private sector businesses do it too.
If the community wants to have no layoffs, they can lobby the Board of Education to raise the tax levy by the amount necessary..There is currently no tax cap.....Meanwhile the back and forth for the hearts and minds of the taxpayers and voting public continues...
Superintendents have tremendous public relations skills and have the ability to make the Governor look heartless and anti-kid....The Governor is already villifying the Superintendents as salary bloated heads of fiefdoms unwillling to change.
Dueling rallies and soundbites. Look at it this way...just follow the news from Japan and Libya and our travails don't seem so bad or important.....It's not like we are talking about something really important like redistricting.
Thursday: Watertown Slashes Staff, Programs In Budget Proposal WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

Cuomo: School Districts Playing A ‘Game’

And if you need more evidence of the PR offensive....Governor Cuomo today said school districts are playing a "game" by appearing to be poor...This is a high stakes game and unusual for a politician to so boldly and publicly challenge convention wisdom about education being a "third rail" issue.
Look for more rallies and more invective as the April 1 budget deadline nears.
Cuomo: School Districts Playing A ‘Game’

DiNapoli: Most Schools Have Enough Reserve Cash

The PR war continues between the Cuomo Administration and education cabal.....Today Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report saying school districts are sitting on enough cash to mitigate the effects of cuts if they choose....Meanwhile rallies like the one in Watertown last night paint a different picture....
DiNapoli: Most Schools Have Enough Reserve Cash

WDT: Dems Confirm O'Neill Departure

Turns out my window into Democratic Party politics was correct and finally word trickles out through the MSM that longtime party activist and 'warrior' June O'Neill is out of party roles at the local and state level.
The resident of Morley, near Canton, had become a force in statewide party politics but is said to want to spend more time at home. Ms. O'Neill had once sought elected office and lost, but instead directed her efforts behind the scenes and is largely responsible for the election of a Democratic Member of Congress from the North Country. June made St. Lawrence County the key behind the victories of Rep. Bill Owens and she brokered the deal to get Republican Congressional candidate Diedre Scozzafava to fold in the 2009 special and endorse the Democrat.
June O'Neill is the most formidable operative to come out of NNY and Dems will miss her acumen.
Watertown Daily Times June O'Neill out at state Dems

WDT: City Plans to Save $$$ Through Lower Interest Rates

A plan to refinance certain parts of the City's long term debt should result in a six figure savings as current lower interest rates make the move possible. The $8M+ in bonds are past a ten year point that allows the move and an analysis says the interest rate disparity is worth the expense of recasting the debt.
City Hall has been borrowing a lot less in recent years, instead paying cash for smaller capital projects. At one time the City had gotten into the bad habit of incurring debt for recurring purchases like police cars.
The policy of paying for smaller capital projects has resulted in the aggregate of general fund debt dropping from $35M to $30M since 2005.
This has been sound policy and there should continue to be a gradual raising of the threshold at which the City resorts to long term debt. For instance, it is anticipated this bond refinance will allow the City to avoid bonding for last year's Riggs Avenue project.
Council may also consider the bonding of the JB Wise project later this spring, although a decision on "buying down debt" should be part of overall budget deliberations in May, as there is a debate about whether tax relief should also be part of City plans for a growing fund balance.
Watertown Daily Times City mulling loan payoffs

Newzjunky - Hundreds Speak Out Against Proposed $1.5B in Education Cuts During Rally at Case Middle School in Watertown

Albany style protests against the Governor's proposed budget made their way to Watertown on Wenesday night as several hundred rallied at Case Junior High School to protest what they see as cuts that imperil education.
While the Governor says what he wants to cut could be made up largely through greater efficiencies in the education system, the protestors want to hear none of that.
Whatever the folks protesting want can be made up through a higher property tax levy as all school boards have that option as a means of raising dollars. Over the years, as so much of the cost of school districts is paid for through state aid, school boards have been relieved of the obligation to actually fund the local schools.
Since this is a teachable moment on the matter of economics, the protestors should be making the case to the public for higher taxes as a means of providing quality education. After all, where does state aid come from ?
Newzjunky - Hundreds Speak Out Against Proposed $1.5B in Education Cuts During Rally at Case Middle School in Watertown

Exposing Unspoken Truths is What This Blogger Does...Check Out the SLC Watchdog

Its always good to see someone else taking up the cause of speaking truth to power....The St. Lawrence County Watchdog keeps track of the Big County and a fellow named Russ Finley is the author......
Give it a read...some good stuff there.
WATCHDOG

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday: Small Earthquake Felt In St. Lawrence County

Just a teeny weeny earthquake was felt in parts of NNY today....A town of Rutland man texted me and said he felt the mild temblor centered near Montreal......Seismic activity is common in this area, although not severe...
Wednesday: Small Earthquake Felt In St. lawrence County WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

CNN: Hillary Clinton Has Had Just About Enough | New York Daily News

Hill's had her fill of "public service."
The former First Lady, Senator and now Secretary of State says she doesn't want anything to do with any of those jobs or anything else after the first term of President Obama is over with...Don't blame her....
Who need's the hassle of representing the Country around the world while the President spends his time studying NCAA "bracketology" for ESPN.
CNN: Hillary Clinton Has Had Just About Enough New York Daily News

Bloomberg Disses Buffalo

Mayor Bloomberg's popularity has been waning in the Big Apple and now he will be disliked at the other end of the state....Mayor Mike has insulted Carl Country, saying the City of Buffalo basicly is a cipher...a zero...a great big nothing.
Bloomberg Disses Buffalo

Local Nukes are Quake Friendly

Our nuclear neighbors are low on the list of earthquake risks...The plants near Oswego rank near the bottom of the list released by MSNBC. Everybody is fanning the flames of debate on nuclear plants since last week's Japanese quake that left one plant in shambles and leaking what so far are low levels but still alarming levels of radiation.
Meanwhile on this side of the pond, there is a run on potassium iodide pills as low level panic spreads. Can you get those at Kinney's ?
US nuke plants ranked by quake risk - World news - Asia-Pacific - msnbc.com##

State Senate GOPers eye legalization of ultimate fighting to fix budget woes, but Dems may oppose

Forget WIGS, now here's a way to restore funding to schools...Human cockfighting...an activity sure to contribute to the raising of a better next generation of New Yorkers....Patty, are you really in favor of this ?
State Senate GOPers eye legalization of ultimate fighting to fix budget woes, but Dems may oppose

NYDN: Crazy Carl Flips Out Again

Is there something in the water in Buffalo ?
Carl Paladino Rages Again New York Daily News

High-paid school officials get stipends - Schools - The Buffalo News

Meanwhile in Buffalo, administrators have taken a page from Albany lawmakers by granting themselves additional "stipends" for extra duties they do...like teaching and training....
This is a great way to increase a pension too as the stipends count towards highest year earnings. While many of us think being paid $160K is sufficient compensation, obviously if an administrator is going to be asked to participate in the training of principals...well they need to be paid more than what they already are paid for, right ?
High-paid school officials get stipends - Schools - The Buffalo News

WDT: Ted Ford To Pay Higher School Taxes

The tiny LaFargeville School District is proposing a hefty 17% increase in the property tax levy. Surely my friend Ted Ford and other residents of the rural district will pay to keep the local school chugging along since there have recently been building improvements to keep such a fine facility located in the sparsely populated hamlet located just off exit 49 on the Interstate.
Watertown Daily Times LaFargeville looks at hiking levy by 17%

TV 7: Library Wants Expanded Hours

Everybody loves the Flower Memorial Library and recent improvements to the building and the programs inside have led to a request for staffing to open the facility seven days a week.
I like the initiative on the part of the Library Board to allow this important institution to better serve local residents. Also, intellectual pursuits are something to be encouraged.
The issue of course is money, because the Library competes for dollars against other city functions ranging from roads to police to fire to recreation.....
The Library has requested appropriation for three additional positions and City Council will have to weigh that request against other priorities....
The obvious question is just what is needed to open the extra hours. What level of service is needed on a Sunday versus weekdays ? What is needed to ensure those using the spacious building are not just served but safe ? What other sources of revenue are there, as the Library Board administers a variety of funds that for years have been independent of the City's normal finances.
There are a lot of things to discuss, and I am glad the Library Board and its President have chosen to engage Council on the matter. As close as the Library is geographically to City Hall, we need to be better acquianted beyond just stopping in every four years for the swearing in ceremonies held in the Rotunda.
Feedback: Library Seeks Money For 7 Day Operation WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where In NY Is Governor Cuomo?

Governor Cuomo was in Saranac Lake today....spotted pumping gas into the black Chevy Suburban he was driving....No sign of a security detail....
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise grabbed the gassing photo and says it will reveal in the AM what the Governor was doing in the Adirondacks, as his office declined to say....His daughters are thought to have been skiiing, but its not known if Sandra was there.
Where In NY Is Governor Cuomo?

See Ya !......Rupp Canned But Hopes to Return in January

A reliable source called today to say that newly minted SLC Clerk Gavin Regan wasted not time in sacking his political rival, acting clerk Mary Lou Rupp...
Regan took the oath today and Ms Rupp....a long time protege of former clerk and now Senator Patty Ritchie....is said to be gone from the office. Of course that is to be expected as the Clerk appoints the deputy.
Ms. Rupp will be running against Mr. Regan in the fall.
Regan is a financial planner from Potsdam.
My guess is he has a hard time in November as Mrs. Ritchie spent a lot of time last year promoting the job her office had done and that good press accrues to Ms. Rupp. Also most people don't understand that in appointed patronage jobs, you get canned when this happens....Ms. Rupp will get sympathy.
And I hate to say it, but many people think a clerk job is for women....That's old thinking, but its one of those conventional wisdoms that is in many psyches.

Yolanda Vega Brings Joy and Cash to Watertown

It was all smiles this afternoon at the Nice n Easy on Bradley Street as a 43 year old maintenance worker at Knowlton Technologies was introduced as winner of a million dollars on the NY Lottery 'Lucky Tables' game.
Bill Trayner was flanked by longtime Lottery spokesperson Yolonda Vega who smiled and smiled through a long series of questions from the local news media.
Mr. Trayner bought a Lucky Tables ticket and scratched the winner in his car.
He plans to stay on the job at Knowlton.
A bevy of Lottery officials were on hand for the event.

Cuomo Mails ?

The Cuomo Administration (we assume he is behind the 'Committee to Save NY) is sending out campaign style, full color mail pieces blasting school superintendents and making it clear the Governor is making our Supers his metaphor for whats wrong in education spending. The Governor has already been using left over campaign money on broadcast ads, although this mail piece does not specifically link to Mr. Cuomo or the Democratic Party.
The piece raps administrators for their high salaries, in most cases higher than the Governor himself.
Mr. Cuomo has sought to place on cap on superintendent salaries and that has been fought by school board and editorial boards who say it upsets the sanctity of the market place.
Check your mailbox !

Who Know's What to Believe About Those Pesky Nukes

You read one headline that says radiation is at normal levels and there is no threat to humans....Then you hear a news story about this being a six on a scale of seven in terms of nuclear disaster. Ten times the normal average....or a thousand times...pick your coverage. The troubled reactors in Japan make for great 'FOX News Alerts".
It sounds like a serious incident but its clear coverage is tailored to individual agendas and the natural desire of the MSM to want to make the event more interesting.
The angst closer to the fire is real as people in Japan likely don't no whether to run or stay put. Store shelves are cleared and the consolation is that people there are so well mannered, there seem to be few problems.
Officials: Spent fuel rods may have burned in blaze at nuclear plant - CNN.com

WDT: Some Villages Hold Elections Today

Once upon a time, long, long ago, all villages in NY held their municpal elections in March...Many have changed to November to be concurrent with normal elections. They all should. But there are some stragglers in NNY still holding them today. If you live there, please take the time to vote.
Watertown Daily Times Jefferson County villages holding elections today

WDT: Governor Appoints SLC Clerk...Race On

Governor Cuomo has appointed a man as St. Lawrence County Clerk....His name is Gavin Regan and he is from Potsdam...He will face acting clerk MaryLou Rupp in the fall election....Obviously Mary Lou won't be acting very long, so the fall election is about who gets to be employed for four years.
Senator Patty Ritchie will pull out the stops in trying to get her friend elected and that's a big plus for Ms. Rupp.
Mr. Regan gets to run in a Democrat leaning county, but its not clear that party edge stretches to local races like this.
Also, will Mr. Regan continue a Ritchie policy of processing NYC registrations which had become a source of revenue to SLC ?
Watertown Daily Times BREAKING: Cuomo appoints Regan to St. Lawrence County clerk

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not an Aviary Any More....But Structure Has Found a New Purpose

City Council unanimously backed a Thompson Park Conservancy proposal to save the Aviary building and make it into a classroom/indoor gathering area for the Zoo.
The renovation to the nearly 30 year old structure would save what for many was a distinctive and signature structure at the Zoo after a proposal surfaced last year to demolish it because housing birds there was not practicle.
Lawmakers wanted to save the building which was a pet project of Mayor Karl Burns when he was trying to save the flagging City zoo in the 1980s.
The roughly $300K project will be funded through the City's tourism promotion fund augmented by private donations. Already two Council members have said they will make significant contributions.
Lawmakers Monday night also agreed to sell water to the Town of Hounsfield and asked for more data on what it would take to keep the Flower Library open seven days a week as requested by the Library Board of Trustees.
Council also was briefed on a plan to recast certain long term debt at a six figure savings for taxpayers.
All in all, we had a good night.

State Tax Site a Pain in the Neck

In a spirit of comity with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, I gave another try to their on line filing of sales tax prior to the March 21 due date...A previous effort was fruitless...Today I got signed in after calling the assistance number...
While I had the lady on the line I asked her how to do sales tax, in case I had queries...She told me she only did sign ons and I had to call someone else for taxes....Oh...
I tried to do it on my own and when I hit calculate, the tax was twice what if should be...Now unless Scott Gray raised sales tax to 15% there was something wrong. I zeroed out the numbers as I didn't want some crazy bill coming and then it wouldn't let be re enter the data...
I gave up....If that means Andrew's jackbooted thugs come after me, so be it...I am being a Luddite and going to file the paper form....the trusty old ST-100 I have filed for years. At least I can calculate.

Noisy Car Stereos Again Cropping Up

A noise issue of a different sort is percolating on Arsenal Street as an automobile sound store is butting heads with neighbors on adjoining Casey Street who feel the testing of car systems interupts their quiet enjoyment of their property.
It's all the classic problems...what annoyance to some is music to other's ears...What is someone's time to do business is the time others enjoy an afternoon nap.....the noise is intermittent so hard to document.....
I visited both properties today to meet the businessmen and the neighbors as this is something surely to be raised at City Council.
The guys selling the stereos seem nice enough and I urged them to reach out to the neighbors and seek an accomodation...Sometimes that approach works to resolve what is largely a civil issue between neighbors.
The neighbors thought it an auspicious time to raise their complaints with recent efforts to pass a law to regulate car noise.
Also at City Council tonight, we will talk about the Zoo Aviary with the new Thompson Park Zoo director. The Town of Hounsfield will also be stopping by with a request to buy water.
Stop by the Council work session tonight at 7.

P/S: Keeping the Money Flowing Out the Back Door An Albany Specialty

So much of the budget debates we all get to participate in revolve around the simple notion that budgets are about appropriating money in an open manner....That's not how it works according to this Post Standard report.....
Many of those member items and special grants that lawmakers announce are the result of backdoor borrowing through many of those shadowy state agencies like Empire State Development or the State Dormitory Authority. These agencies operate outside the budget process we all follow and can authorize borrowing through their own boards of directors accountable to no one.
That's why the Legislature can be talking about a cut in school aid, while an Assemblyman somewhere is announcing a grant to a school for a new science lab or more likely something politically popular like a turf field or new athletic track.
The Governor is trying to grab this money for things he wants to do...No one is trying to eliminate the practice.
When the going got tough, New York's lawmakers kept the slush fund going syracuse.com

State Spending Mandates Unchanged by Cuomo Panel - NYTimes.com

While the Governor is trying to change some things, mandates are not among them...In fact the NY Times says the Cuomo budget actually increases the number of mandates on local governments, while the much heralded mandate study group produced no recommendations for change other than vague language about doing better in the future.
The head of the panel says its not easy to undo fifty years of mandates...That's true, as most of the most onerous have to do with how localities have to deal with labor and bargaining issues....Each mandate has a constituency and therein lies the rub.
State Spending Mandates Unchanged by Cuomo Panel - NYTimes.com

Cuomo To Use Paterson Tactic But Only Once

If the state budget is not adopted by April 1st, a lawmaker told me there will be only one extender bill and it will impose the terms of the Governor's proposed budget....It's a tactic developed by Governor David Paterson, who put actual changes in each extender, knowing the alternative is a shutdown of many state services.
It's called forcing the budget as when only presented those two choices, lawmakers are almost certain to fold. Recently lawmakers have been talking about higher taxes and just about anything to be able to spend more money on their pet projects like NYSUT.
Governor Cuomo is trying to close a $10B budget gap and says he wants to end the dysfunctional budget process in Albany....He will never end it, but he can diminish it and in this stop that's an accomplishment.


Cuomo talks tough toward legislative leaders - NYPOST.com

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Time Stopped on 12/29/10 for the Gouverneur Times

Since in this area, media never reports on other media, let me make note of the much heralded Gouverneur Times...an on-line newspaper less than two years ago touted as the Second Coming in NNY journalism.
While its site is still up, the news stories are all from December 29, 2010....apparently the last time the site was updated....
The GT had an interesting and readable format but apparently never got any further in its efforts.....
Front Page News

Those Slated to Pay 8.97% to NYS Number Under 10 in Jefferson County

I don't know how they figure it up so quickly, but I was told today that there are only like seven people locally who have annual taxable income of $1 million dollars or more, and thus would be subject to the proposed compromise "millionaire's tax" now being pushed in Albany....Last year's millionaires started at $200K.
Let's get the list of those seven people and subject them to public scorn and ridicule for not being willing to make up the difference in our school aid.
The takers want some of the makers moolah and they want it now....
It's interesting that Taxation and Finance runs those numbers so quickly for lawmakers so they can go back home and tell people like me how few people will be affected, knowing I will repeat it here.

Parade Politics

- www.graham4mayor2011.blogspot.com/
-Our two Members of Assembly and Sheriff John Burns joined me in the St. Patrick's Parade on Washington Street . Assemblywoman Russell didn't repeat last year's faux pas of wearing orange with her green...
-Both Ms. Russell and Ken Blankenbush seem to have a very cordial working relationship and talked about pending matters...It was refreshing, although Mr. B repeated his belief it's a "success" tax while Ms. Russell said her collegue would enjoy spending the extra $200M the "millionaire's tax" would provide.
-Local attorney Keith Caughlin is drawing first blood in the City Court race to succeed retiring Judge James Harberson. Mr. Caughlin had a posse of sign toting supporters in the parade...No sign yet of likely opponent Eugene Renzi, who is now the assistant city judge.
-Democrats are trying to talk Sheriff Burns into running against Senator Patty Ritchie next year. They are said to be leaning hard on him, but I suspect he won't take the bait. Dems only won that seat when they had Darrel Aubertine and even then, the photogenic farmer barely won. Ms. Ritchie is a sure bet for reelection.
-Congressional aide Steve Hunt was reveling in his award for best beard.
-In a sign everything else must be going well, a human megaphone on the parade route was shouting that the parade should be on State Street. He continued the shouting indoors at the bar....Hard to imagine its an issue to get that excited about.

It's Dodge City without Wyatt Earp - NYPOST.com

This NY Post piece is a must read in order to understand the corrupt underpinnings of Albany. It details the way former Sen. Pedro Espada manipulated public office, the political parties (both), and so called "not for profits" that are at the center of so many official misdeeds.
Pedro Espada, Carl Kruger, Vito Lopez....and the list goes on.
GOP attornies even advised their clients not to mail their financial disclosure forms to the BOE for hear of violating federal mail fraud statutes.
It's the venue and climate we expect change to come out of but it looks like that's not in the cards.
It's Dodge City without Wyatt Earp - NYPOST.com

We Love Us Dinner in DC Takes Minds Off World's Woes

Official Washington and it's media followers melded again last night in the annual Gridiron dinner...just another of those 1950s style,backslapping, skit-laden, amalgams of Republicans and Democrats that is entertaining to those in attendance but of little value to the rest of us who consider the attendees the joke.
The President was there...so was Katie Couric....Gov. Mitch Daniels was the GOP speaker......
No where is the fraternal nature of the Capital more on display than at these dinners.
Obama, Daniels score laughs at Gridiron Dinner - NATASHA LENNARD POLITICO CLICK

NYP: Nuclear Threat Dominates Quake News

The nuclear plant problems vary depending on which accounts you read...Some say the reactor containment vessel is secure and only a "tiny" amount of radiation was released....Others continue to suggest more dire scenarios....The prospect of a meltdown makes for a more interesting story so as long as there is a chance of something worse happening, look for coverage...
And of course a picture is worth a thousand words and the Reuter's image everywhere is that of the little child being scanned for radiation is the image that now defines the story.
On our side of the pond, the usual Congressional critics of nukes now have a news hook...But while they may complain about nuclear they still oppose drilling for oil at ANWAR and the Gulf.
Meanwhile death tolls from the quake and tsunami are estimated to be in five figures. An enormous human tragedy is unfolding.
Nuclear threat looms in quake-ravaged Japan - NYPOST.com

WDT: Regional School Administration Suggested in Survey

So there are 17 school districts in St. Lawrence County (plus one from Lewis County) and somebody wants to see that reduced to four....Wouldn't that elimminate 14 superintendents ? And 14 labor contracts...14 attornies......14 bus systems....14 of so many things. Lot of jobs threatened and we need jobs in NNY...So no thanks...We will keep our 17 districts in the Big County.
There will never be the will to change as long as people believe that their local school taxes pay for what they are getting....Some districts are up to 95% dependent on Albany for their budgets.....
As long as the present system is funded by the state in this manner, there will be no spontaneous calls for change locally...That's human nature.
Then there is the argument that more local control (to the extent there really is control) is better and worth paying for.
State lawmakers are most interested in clamoring to protect aid to what one local lawmakers calls "my school districts."
The consultants doing this survey will find people like their districts..loathe taxes and want some shared services but are not sure exactly what.
Don't get me wrong...the dialogue is appreciated, but few people see a need for changing what they grew up with...
Watertown Daily Times Regional school idea floated in survey