Newspaper Endorses Funiciello....

Newspaper Endorses Funiciello....
Grateful Dead and the Walking Dead Endorse Him Too

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Nice Lady Who Petted My Dog in Thompson Park

Only two women have been nominated to run for national office and we lost one of them today....the admiration society for the two is mutually exclusive, except for some of us who like and respect both...
I met Geraldine Ferraro in the late 90s when she was running for US Senate and came to Watertown's Thompson Park to work the crowd at the summer performance of the Syracuse Symphony.
Ms. Ferraro was charming and gracious. She took the time to fuss over my dog who was with me.
Geraldine Ferraro was a trailblazer in 1984 when Walter Mondale chose her as his running mate...The two of them went on to lose 49 states,but her impact on politics was clear. She got beat up due to her husband's dealings....That was still a time when women were judged by their spouse...Things have changed somewhat, but there are still many who want nothing to do with a woman as President...
None of that diminishes Ms. Ferraro's efforts and her passing today saddens us all.

Can We Outlaw Stupidity ? No But We Keep Trying

The notion that you should slow down and move to the other lane when there is an accident or a car pulled over seems pretty obvious...But in NY, we need a law...and news stories about tough penalties...
At what point do we wonder how we can legislate or enforce our way to common sense ? I can't count the number of times I have talked to a new generation type and been amazed that they get a ticket and ignore it and then are amazed their license is revoked a year later....
It's like the signs that tell you to yield to the blind because its the law...How about yielding to a white cane because its basic human decency ?
We live in stupid times...Yesterday I was at an eaterie and people were coming into respond to a help wanted ad....They had all sorts of piercings and giant ear rings...And these were guys...And that's overlooking the baggy pants and slovenly attitude...Like I would hire any of them...
There was a tragedy on the Thruway this weekend when a cop was killed when struck while writing a ticket....Accidents happen, but if you think passing a law requiring people to use common sense and slow down will work...well...think again.....
Sorry for the cynicism, but there is ample reason...
It's the law: Move over - City & Region - The Buffalo News

Seven State Workers Get to Pay the Millionaire's Tax !

In a an interesting bit of irony, seven public employees of the NYS Department of Housing and Community Renewal will get to pay the 8.97% "millionaire's tax." They are the ones splitting up a $319M MegaMillions jackpot which if they take the current cash value is $205M or about $29M each.......Of course they all could take the payout over 20 years in hopes the Legislature lets the tax expire.
The nation's sole winning ticket was sold at a store near the Capitol and the seven are said to be regular players.
Public employee unions have been clamoring for the extension of the "millionaire's tax" as a means of mitigating cuts to state funding.
This is a good chunk of revenue to NYS and I am sure lawmakers are already computing what they can restore.
Seven state workers win $319 million jackpot - NYPOST.com

Saturday Musings

-The first ever woman on a national ticket has died. Geraldine Ferraro died today at age 75. The former Member of Congress was running mate for Walter Mondale in the 1984 election. Ms. Ferraro more recently had been a commentator.
-In news that's important 30 miles away but we are oblivious to, a no confidence vote in the Canadian Parliament has toppled the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. New elections are likely in May.
-Anchors away...Reports are Katie Couric is done in June.
-Remember that six dollars a customer disputed on his credit card...Well he came in last night and gave me the six dollars, because as I said the anticipated tip gets reconciled by the credit card processor in a couple of days.....I had given him the six bucks rather than argue.

WDT: Burto Writes Letter to Times....oops...to Senator

West Carthage (home of the Wicked Wench) Mayor Scott Burto has sent a letter to Senator Patty Ritchie decrying her support for the property tax cap and praising her for supporting the Tug Hill Commission. The letter was concurrently sent to the MSM, suggesting Mr. Burto has more in mind than just sharing his views with the Senator....
Anyway, Mayor Burto said he wrote the letter after repeatedly trying to communicate his views to Mrs Ritchie.....I didn't have that problem...When I was in Albany a couple weeks ago, Mrs. Ritchie was very cordial and met with me and I told her my views on lots of things, from sales tax to WIGS.
If I didn't know better, I would speculate that Mayor Burto...now a Democrat...may be looking at running against Ms. Ritchie...or at the very least he wants to soften her up with criticism for whomever does run.
UPDATE: Mayor Burto says he has no intention of running against Senator Ritchie.
Watertown Daily Times Burto fires off letter to Ritchie

TV 7:Schell Exits Politics (sort of) for his old Craft

Mike Schell is back to being a lawyer...but in his new incarnation....he is a well connected lawyer..Mr. Schell has joined a ritzy Syracuse law firm following an interesting and high powered career in politics stretching as high as advisor for Governors Spitzer and Paterson.
Mr. Schell percolated up through Watertown area politics, but always kept his eye on the bigger prizes as he helped form a consortium of upstate pols that allowed the Democratic Party to be viable in large swaths of the state it previously was not.
I saw Mike in the bank the other day as he was leaving the Congressman's office...So I assume he is still a player.
Mike always knew how to function in politics without getting splatterred by the nastiness and invective.
The first time I ran, Mike gave me a hundred dollar bill and then said "now give me a dollar." That kept the donation under the limit where his name would appear on a finance report. Always thinking...Something I do too...but not always.
Schell Awaits New Challenges In Old Career WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

Who Says There is No Money in Albany ? Mega Winner Down the Street from the Capitol

Maybe Albany has found a way to spend more....the winning MegaMillions lottery ticket for $319M ($202M current cash value) was sold at a variety store just blocks from the Capitol.
Could it be a legislator ? A lobbyist ? or even the Governor himself ?
Mega is a multi state drawing with large jackpots....Such a prize in NY will bring tax dollars to the Empire State and if I were a Senator in pander mode, I would start saying things like this tax windfall needs to go towards restoring school aid....
And if I were a Member of Assembly from say, Theresa, I would be saying, get that Millionaire's tax in there now so we can get some of this lottery cash for the children....
If I were the winner, I'd get the cash and get out of Albany before the spenders get their mitts on you.
Winning Mega Millions ticket worth $319M sold in Albany - NYPOST.com

Merging of Dairy and Booze Raises Specter of Having Too Much Fun

Alcohol laced whip cream is in Jefferson County, although the sale of it is limited to Fort Drum at the class 6 store.
The aerosol delight comes in a variety of flavors like cherry, amaretto, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry and more...It's said to be 30 proof.
The brand name is Whip-a-Hol.
A friend says it is a popular product.....
Since it is not legal to purchase alcohol for resale except from state approved monopolies, the sale of product bought on post is strictly forbidden and any use of a Whip-a-Hol in our communities should be immediately reported to the authorities.
Use of this product could result in "binge licking", a practice that makes beer pong and funneling seem tame by comparison.

McGrath to Host Big Pig Luau 2.0

Lewis County native Brian McGrath announced today another fundraising luau for this summer at his Martinsburg home....Mr. McGrath clearly is trying to build a down home image after last year's unsuccessful Assembly run in which he garnered 45% of the vote against winner Ken Blankenbush.
Mr. McGrath had built a successful NYC law career and came back to run, but it's widely thought his recent arrival may have hurt his prospects.
Whatever his goals, McGrath does not want to be seen as an interloper who only came home to run .
As a relatively young candidate, McGrath can even wait out a couple cycles and take aim at the seat later.
McGrath to Host Big Pig Luau 2.0 WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

Friday, March 25, 2011

Budget Not There Yet as Legislators Try to Spend

That "conceptual" agreement on the budget didn't quite happen today as Governor Cuomo acknowledged progress but said he is preparing budget extender bills just in case...Those bills would enact his spending plan by forcing lawmakers to choose between change and a government shutdown.
The medical/malpractive proposals and prisons are sticking points...Other items like mandate relief, rent control and tax caps have been put off till later.
State of Politics Blog

Kubis Lands TV 7 Weather Job

Channel 7 opted for the in house candidate for weatherman....an Evans Mills native who for years was understudy to longtime weather czar Rick DeFranco.
Congrats to John Kubis on his appointment as chief weathercaster. Insiders had said they wanted the local candidate to land the gig.
Like many at TV7 John is a regular communicant at BJs Tavern on Mill Street.
John Kubis Named 7 News Chief Weathercaster WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

Cuomo on Verge of Getting His Budget

While some who voted for him no longer like him....others who didn't vote for him love him...Andrew Cuomo is on the verge of getting the budget he wants and early to boot.
Even Speaker Silver calls Mr. Cuomo "incredibly strong and powerful."
'Incredibly strong and powerful' Gov. Cuomo on brink of budget victory

Supers: Higher Taxes Coming

A survey shows 85% of the state's 700 plus school superintendents intend to raise property taxes as part of their response to the Governor'sproposed budget. Larger class sizes and elimination of popular sports and extracurricular programs are also listed as actions to be taken.
The superintendents are not proposing structural changes in the manner education is delivered and this survey shows no interest in reducing the size or scope of administrative expenses.
Districts are also planning some layoffs.
Most school districts planning layoffs, larger classes Albany Watch

President Obama's NCAA bracket still looks good - PATRICK GAVIN | POLITICO CLICK

Even though he missed last night's loss by Duke, President Obama still has one of the nation's best brackets, proving he can pick hoop while sightseeing and starting a third Mideast war. A true multi-tasker.
I think the MSM would call him a "transformational" figure.
President Obama's NCAA bracket still looks good - PATRICK GAVIN POLITICO CLICK

WDT: Sewer Upgrades a Forward Thinking Move....Or as the Wags Call if, "Vision"

While a diversion line in the Town of Watertown has for the time being alleciated west side sewer woes, I thing the City still has to be foresighted in following through with plans to upgrade service through the Gaffney Drive/Stateway Plaza corridor.
Getting west end sewer woes on the the fast track was a big push over the past three years, and it included securing funding as well as getting City Council to make it the top construction priority.
Concurrent efforts to get the Town to divert its Arsenal Street flows to Coffeen Street were successful, but I don't want to lose the initiative to improve the Gaffney Drive infrastructure.
Watertown Daily Times City ponders sewage upgrade

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Michele Bachmann bid could shake up GOP field - Jonathan Martin - POLITICO.com

As an Iowa native, a Tea Party favorite, a prodigious fund raiser and a woman with a flair for getting known, Rep. Michelle Bachmann could cause a stir in the coming caucus and primary season for the GOP Presidential nomination....Now, she is still very much a long shot and likely too polarizing to beat President Obama....but in a field of wooden candidates for her party's nod, she could do some damage...
Ms. Bachmann has been all over Iowa playing up her roots in Waterloo. She raised over $13M in her Congressional race last year, most of it from individual donors and only 3% from PACS.
With the race nearly upon us and T-Paw the only announced candidate, a lot could happen....And I don't think the President's performance in this Libya mess has helped his chances, although Mr. Obama still must be considered a favorite for reelection.
I would pay a king's ransom to see the look on Middle Class Mike's and Danny F.'s faces if she was taking the oath in 2013.
Michele Bachmann bid could shake up GOP field - Jonathan Martin - POLITICO.com

NNY Congressional Seat Likely Won't Change Much...Insiders Pour Over Census Data

An analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group shows the two Congressional seats the state will lose should come from downstate...although since one boundary change pushes other districts in different directions its hard to say...and that doesn't take into account gerrymandering and the nuances of the Voting Rights Act.
Our state legislative districts will change up here but likely not too much. Our Congressional seat will see its borders change but with three sides facing lakes and a foreign country, it shouldn't change too much. That means an Owens-Doheny rematch is likely as long as Doug Hoffman stays out....Insiders say if the GOP doesn't knock Mr. Owens out this time, he will be in for as long as he wants.
I don't know if local municipality numbers are out yet...
NYPIRG: Two Lost Congressional Seats Should Be Downstate WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

Cuomo Mum On Legislature’s Conceptual Deal

The alleged budget deal to be unveiled tomorrow does not address tax caps, rent control, mandate relief and likely some other things that will have to wait...But the three men in a room say they have a conceptual deal...which of course means the devil is in the details..
Governor Cuomo has pushed the Legislature further than predecessors and one longtime Albany wag says this is reminiscent of Governor Pataki's first year before he was worn down by the special interests....
Any, the deal is just one more reason to watch the gala Friday night edition of Capital Tonight !
Cuomo Mum On Legislature’s Conceptual Deal

2010 Census: St. Lawrence Gains 13 People in A Decade | WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY | North Country Politics

Jefferson County had a modest four percent increase in population over the past decade, but that was good enough for 14th place among NY's 62 counties...Jefferson logged in at a little over 116,000.
2010 Census: St. Lawrence Gains 13 People in A Decade WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

Juvenile, Simplistic Arguments Mar Debate Over Serious Issues

Democrats have turned the tables on the GOP and are now claiming they are the ones who want to go after those downstate millionaires and make them pay for our turf fields and teachers...

Today's mail brought a piece from the "Strong Economy for All Coalition." It tells us to tell Senator Patty Ritchie to put the children ahead of millionaires...

These kind of juvenile arguments and insults speak poorly of people calling themselves educators....

But If the Senator really is breaking into this kid's piggy bank....I am going to call Graham Wise and give him a piece of my mind.

Today We Find Out How Many of Us There Are

Today it looks like we found out how we did in the 2010 Census....Stay tuned !
Census 2010 figures for NY state to be released - WSJ.com

Budget Votes Loom...But Most Will Pass

School budgets are coming out and some contain tax levy increases...My guess is that voters (to the extent anyone votes) will approve them.
The argument from the marchers and those talking about "pain" is that we have to be willing to commit dollars to support education. All this talk of cuts in state aid masks the fact that the arena to argue for more spending is perhaps where it should be....at the local level where you can say, quality costs and it's time to man up and pay up...
These budgets will pass, as they do every year.
The Journal MWSD BudgetRaises Taxes

TV 7: Cuomo Takes Tough Talk Straight To The People

I got an email from the Governor last night containing his video message about passing his budget by next week or else....These days everyone is using technology to reach voters and taxpayers outside the normal channels of the MSM....That's because the mainstream media spends a lot of time framing the issues in a way to support the status quo....When they use healines containing "pain" and "off the cliff" you know what the premise will be.....
I think the Governor is the son of a liberal icon and is himself a liberal, so what he is proposing is not the stuff of mean-spirited, tea bagging nuts who are shilling for the seven millionaires in Jefferson County......
Andrew Cuomo is just trying to keep the train on the rails and if that is considered tough talk, it's only because we live in a society where saying no is a civil rights violation.
Cuomo Takes Tough Talk Straight To The People WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

WDT: Hug a teacher today

Yesterday's march by teachers through a chilly downtown Watertown provided the writer of this op/ed the chance to run outdoors and do lots of hugging and that's fine....Nobody is against hugs as teachers everyday do deal with the challenge of educating people against a more complicated backdrop of rules, pop culture, ambivalent parents, and now a management hierarchy so intent on preserving the status quo they have created a sky-is-falling panic.
How many times does Governor Cuomo or anyone else have to say it ? Its about a conversation on the fact the current system is unsustainable. It's not about wanting to punish people...or villify people...or deny people a birth right.
The system is fighting change and otherwise intelligent people are reduced to walking in the cold mouthing bromides about taxing the millionaires on the premise doing so will allow all to stay as it is.
Even Mr White in this op/ed concedes loving teachers doesn't commit all of us to supporting zero contributions to health plans and a retirement system that is getting more expensive to sustain everyday. You can hug a teacher and still question a county with eleven superintendents...eleven fleets of busses...eleven collective bargaining agreements written by eleven different teams of lawyers...you can question all these things (as Mr. White's boss does in a separate op/ed) and still hug all you want.
So please....hug a teacher....but don't let your genuine affections cloud your ability to add and subract.
Watertown Daily Times Hug a teacher today

Apple's Gay App Pulled - Keeping Our Thoughts In Line

Another cell phone "app" has been pulled under pressure from the left...This one lists events to help gay people find events that will help them "grow into heterosexuality." This, of course, contradicts one of the left's orthodoxies and that is the lifestyle is OK and a result of forces beyond human control.
Of course, such a viewpoint is common but pressuring suppliers like Apple to ban from the market other viewpoints is typical of the intellectual hegemony that is being imposed under the guise of political correctness.
The afforementioned cell phone app on DWI checkpoints has apparently been pulled as well.
Apple's Gay App Pulled - Tech Daily Dose

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TV 7: Teachers Chant "tax the Millionaires" While Marching in the Cold

A crowd approaching 200 braved a biting cold to march from Public Square to the State Office Building today in protest of Governor Cuomo's proposed budget allocations for schools.
In an area with a relative low per capita income, I don't know how many people are worried about whether NYSUT members continue to pay zero for health benefits, but since many people are related to a teacher there is probably some sympathy for them.
They were chanting "tax the millionaires", as if taxing the eight people in the county with that income will make much difference...You'd think educated people would be a little better with math.
Education Cuts Prompt Protest In Watertown WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

A Cell Phone App that Tells You There Are Cops Ahead...Sounds Like a Handy Device

Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer are upset that Apple, Google and Blackberry are selling an "app" that supposedly allows drivers to know the location of DWI checkpoints......I don't know how that would work, but it would seem the awareness of enforcement efforts would discourage many from driving...Of course the chronic offenders don't really care...
It seems some of these Senators are always upset at something....especially when it compromises government's ability to be Big Brother. These kind of things are like stings of various kinds...a cat and mouse game...
It's like having radar detectors..or flashing lights at oncoming motorists to warn of a speed trap....It just galls some when the Man misses the chance to play "gotcha."
Senators Miffed Over Drunk Driver Apps - Tech Daily Dose
Standing in Arcade with Duff....Very few at teachers rally...but it is very cold outside

Whose Prisons Will It Be ?

A GOP prison closing plan ? Are there enough Upstate prisons in Democratic held Senate districts or will select GOP Senators be asked to fall on their sword back home....Time will tell...
Also, will any plans to close facilities in NYC pass muster ?
There is still a good chance actual closings will not be known until after a budget is approved...That's likely what the Governor wants. Keep em guessing till its too late.
If one were purely political, one would choose prisons in a district unlikely to flip under any circumstances...I am not sure Senator Ritchie is that safe a seat yet.
NY Senate to propose prison closing plan - State Wire - The Buffalo News

Teachers Rally Today in Downtown Watertown

Amanda from YNN was just over interviewing me about the Zoo and she told me there is a teachers rally on Public Square at 4PM today.....
Can you go watch even if you support Governor Cuomo's efforts to trim spending by 2.7%, or do you have to get weepy eyed for the cameras ?...
I support good education, but I also support delivery of government services in a more efficient and rational way. Is there a rally being held anywhere for people who feel that way ?

Hollywood Icon Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79 - ABC News

A giant in the film world has died....Actress Liz Taylor passed today at age 79. What are your thoughts ?
Hollywood Icon Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79 - ABC News

Queens, Get Ready For The Ed Koch Bridge | New York Daily News

Ed Koch may or may not see his dream of reforming Albany come true, but he is getting closer to having a bridge named after him...Despite protests, the Queensboro Bridge appears to be headed for a name change at the request of current mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Most people like Mr. Koch but are unsure they want the bridge connecting their borough to Manhattan to be know as the Ed Koch Bridge.
They could call it the "How Am I Doing ?" bridge after the Mayor's oft used phrase.
Queens, Get Ready For The Ed Koch Bridge New York Daily News

Newzjunky: Audio Arsenal Owner Responds to Neighbor's Noise Complaint

The owner of an Arsenal Street audio shop says his business does make noise, but is trying to accommodate neighbors who say they are disturbed by the throbbing bass felt when car stereos are installed and tested. The work is done inside, but very low frequency sound waves travel much further than mid or high range sounds. These new stereos are famous for their massive sub-woofers and muscular amplification.
Having met the owners of Audio Arsenal, I believe they are trying to be neighborly but the neighbors came to City Council Monday asking for relief. It's a classic case of the gradual process of commercial encroachment on what had been a residential side street.
While City Council has been considering one noise ordinance proposal, there has been concern over enforceability. It's a problem many communities grapple with and discussions are continuing on whether there is a legislative means of dealing with these kind of disputes.
Audio Arsenal Owner Responds to Neighbor's Noise Complaint

WDT: Group wants to explore caves below city

At the urging of a city resident, a western NY cave exploring group will ask City Hall for permission to take a peek at the much fabled caves beneath the City of Watertown.
There are lots of urban legends about a network of caves connecting downtown buildings...It would be interesting to learn more about this forgotten part of our local history...
I look forward to the presentation.
Watertown Daily Times Group wants to explore caves below city

Cuomo due at Syracuse University This Morning

Governor Cuomo makes good on his rain check to visit Syracuse University today for one of his budget meetings. Mr. Cuomo was snowed out earlier this month, and todays inch or two won't stop Mr. Cuomo.
The Governor is readying for the April 1 budget showdown and is expected to use budget extender bills to enact his spending plan if lawmakers do not adopt his budget in time.
Meanwhile, protests continue in the Capital, although no one I know is protesting anything...Who are the people who have the time to go to these things ?
Cuomo due at Syracuse University Wednesday morning syracuse.com

Windermere Mayor Knocked Down At Town Hall - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando

We have our differences at City Hall, but it hasn't come to this yet. In fact I can't remember a time when anybody came close to hitting someone at a Council meeting.
Obviously this is a mayor who can't take a punch...
(Windermere is also the town where Tiger Woods made his famous SUV trip after his wife chased him with a golf club)
Windermere Mayor Knocked Down At Town Hall - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Those With the $$$, Get the Message

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hitting the airwaves with his own budget message in self funded commercials...Hizzoner has always been able to get his message out, as in his bid for a third term when he spent over $100M of his own money on his own campaign.
Governor Cuomo is able to use Democratic Party money to advance his message on the airwaves and of course the special interestes are all over TV....
The people not heard from ? That would be us.
Bloomberg Hits Airwaves With Budget Ad

Zoos, LIbraries, and More All Part of a Day's Work

I spent a lot of time in the office today as the next couple days the painters make their way to my end of the Third Floor at City Hall.
Today I went up to the Zoo to meet the new director, John Wright and we talked about a variety of issues including the Aviary project. Last year there was some, shall we say, chafing over the issue and we both think its important to restore the good relations that have always existed between City Hall and the Thompson Park Conservancy.
Spent some time talking with Councilman Butler about noise laws and getting the Library staffed seven days a week. Chatted with Councilwoman Burns about the same things.
Had some talks with the city manager and city engineer as well...
Now I can head to Pete's before going to work tonight at the gin mill.

Newzjunky - Booming Bass Breathes Life into Noise Law

The nearly dead efforts by City Councilman Joe Butler Jr. to pass a noise ordinance were revived last night by an unlikely pair of allies....While Mr. Butler wants to outlaw loud automobiles already regulated by the state, two octengenarians on the city's west side came to City Hall last night to complain not about autos but about the people who install those high volume, lots of bass entertainment systems.
Michael and Jean Ryan live on Casey Street, one of many side streets off what is now a very commercial Arsenal Street. They say the audio shop next door rocks their world when testing and tuning new stereos.
It's one of those type of businesses not anticipated when original zoning was put in place and the Ryan's complaints may fuel renewed interest in a revised law that skirts legal concerns that the city was attempted to regulate autos which are already covered under the state's motor vehicle law.
Newzjunky - Neighbor Upset by Level of Noise from Car Audio Business

TV 7: Ritchie Aide Claims Tug Hill Back in Play

A spokesman for Senator Patty Ritchie says the Tug Hill Commission could remain despite being targeted for extinction in Governor Cuomo's proposed budget....The obscure agency has for a quarter century advised and assisted a swath of rural towns and villages on planning and regulatory issues.
There are no rallies in favor of keeping the Commission as there are in favor of increased aid to schools and few people really know what theTug Hill Commission is. It would be interesting to know the trade off used to get Assembly inclusion of this body in their budget.
In all the Tug Hill Commission spends about one million dollars a year.
Ritchie Spokesman Says Tug Hill Back In Play WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY North Country Politics

Reports from the Tropics Show Politicians Out

Florist Scott Gray reports his annual trip to Aruba has been puncuated by a couple of upstate mayors....Ogdensburg's Bill Nelson and Albany's Gerry Jennings are staying in the same hotel as Scott.
For Jennings ,a trip to the tropics is not necessary as he has the best perpetual tan in the state capital. Mayor Nelson needs his rest too...He faces reelection this year and is due to take over as President of the NY Conference of Mayors later this year.

US Army 'kill team' in Afghanistan posed for photos of murdered civilians | World news | The Guardian

Its too easy to take pictures and distribute them these days and the US Army is finding that out as a rogue unit's actions in staging execution photos in Afghanistan is about to lead to image problems akin to the Abu Gharab Prison photos in Iraq.
The US wanted the photos kept secret but they are out...and there are 4000 of them....
US Army 'kill team' in Afghanistan posed for photos of murdered civilians World news The Guardian

Monday, March 21, 2011

Council Spends $1.1 M on Debt Reduction

City Council voted to spend some of its fund balance to pay down debt as part of a refinancing of previous bond issues.
I felt the discussion should occur as part of the budget process and there is a need for appropriating fund balance for tax relief in addition to debt reduction....
In fact the City has reduced its debt load by five million dollars in the past five years by getting away from bonding for small items.
The City's fund balance is five to six million dollars above accepted guidelines for such matters. I have proposed $1.8 M be put towards tax relief...
Lawmakers also voted three to two to put off plans for west end sewer improvements even though the City had received county IDA and federal dollars to do the project....A sewer diversion line in the Town of Watertown has reduced west side sewer woes, but I thing the long term goal should be to upgrade the Gaffney Drive collector system....Real lack of foresight in scrapping this project.
Council took the next step in the rehab of the Thompson Park Aviary by agreeing to hire an engineer to draw up specific plans for the plan to turn the bird house into a classroom and activity center.
It was an interesting meeting as political positioning was obvious to all but most naive of observers.

Report: Owens Antsy About Libya War

Rep. Bill Owens isn't the only one with concerns about the US aggression in Libya....It's a bad move precipitated by media drumbeat over saving the plucky freedom fighters and right wind ranting about overthrowing Col. Khadafy (one of man acceptable spellings).
President Obama has equivocated about this and fell prey to the hawks in his administration...including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
We don't need another war and this is not our fight...Barack Obama has become like what those who voted for him were tired of...interventionism to the hilt....
It's too late now...pride prohibits backing out....so let's get on with the killing and get Khadafy out of there as soon as possible.
Owens has concerns about Libya intervention - Election Inbox by Nathan Brown's political blog - AdirondackDailyEnterprise.com News, Sports, Jobs, Saranac Lake region — Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Urban Mission to City Hall: Hey, We Do Good Things Too !

Had a nice visit today from the Watertown Urban Mission's new executive director Erika Flynn and Mission board member and former Mayor Tom Walker.
Needless to say the subject of money came up since the faith-based mission does a lot for the needy in the city as they operate a food pantry and thrift store.
It was also a chance to meet Ms. Flynn who recently took over direction of the Mission from Mary Morgan.
It is my hope the Mission can host a visit by City Council at their Factory Street location later this spring.
I do know the Mission is a very busy place as I drive by several times a day.

NY Post: Cuomo Raps Shelly as Impediment to Change

With all the talk of restoring state spending in NNY, local people may be looking to an oft villified character for help....Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The Cuomo Administration is charging that Mr. Silver's desire to spend more is threatening a shutdown of the state operations on April 1.
Those who rally for more money for schools or commissions may find a friend in Shelly, who is all about a caring state delivering services and not about reform or "good government."
Silver's $$ demands threaten shutdown - NYPOST.com

WDT: Baby Steps Are Great, But You Won't Travel Great Distances

There is a whistling past the graveyard quality to talk of a "pay freeze" for teachers.
This is not really a freeze as there are still step increases and with the employer paying all or nearly all of health premiums, the increases in that area still represent hikes in compensation for employees. If you are contributing 3% towards health care, the employer absorbs 97% of the premium increase, creating an increase in compensation even when the headlines read that pay is "frozen."
So there is no freeze.
Also the "freeze" creates false expectations about future raises and there is the implicit promise that no COLA this year will "save jobs".
While I am not suggesting this is an appropriate or fair approach here, a few years back a local broadcaster imposed a $25% salary cut in order to stay afloat. No one quit.
My point is that nibbling around the edges approaches being proposed will not deliver as promised for those who want schools to stay as they are.
The people in charge are paid well, but often serve as advocates for the status quo rather than agents of change..They are not visionaries and have little or no experience outside a cloistered world. And in their defense, the systems and laws in place are so daunting that often there is little that can be done.
And of course there is also the argument that if things are fine and the service provided is of value, then hiking school property taxes is OK. Quit hiding the true cost by funding so much of the budgets with state aid.
There are a lot of big issue but little gets discussed when the discussion is about such little items.
Watertown Daily Times Salary freezes asked of teachers

Sunday, March 20, 2011

WDT: Chuck Kelly Is Not Happy

I am sorry if Chuck Kelly is upset, but he better than anyone should know why a Democrat was named to the vacant county clerk job and why the new Democratic clerk fired the deputy who has already announced her candidacy for November.
Chuck believes in the parties...in a world where one's very being is defined by elephants and donkeys.....
When a constitutional office like sheriff, DA, clerk or treasurer is vacated, the Governor gets to appoint....and the Governor will always appoint someone of his own party as that is what the system demands...Surely the local Democratic hierarchy expected to get one of their own in this spot....
Deputy Clerk Mary Lou Rupp was in an appointed job under Patty Ritchie...Patronage if you will...As such she was always vulnerable should Ms. Ritchie leave and she was especially vulnerable as she is the announced candidate for the GOP to run for clerk.
Mr. Kelly is a respected journalist who has covered and written about politics for years. He knows its not about whether Ms. Rupp is a nice person or a long time dedicated employee. It's about partisan control and rewarding your own and not the opposition.
If you believe in a two party system, and I believe Mr. Kelly does, then you have to acknowledge Ms. Rupp had to go and that Governor Cuomo had to appoint a Democrat.
I think the outrage over her firing and the sympathy it engenders likely helps her in the fall. As long as we understand the outrage is feigned, it's OK to be upset.
Good to see Chuck in the game following his retirement.
Watertown Daily Times Chuck Kelly is not happy

Cuomo on Track to Win NY Budget Fight | NBC New York

This analysis suggests despite all the talk about "pain" and the need to raises taxes in order to restore spending, Governor Cuomo will prevail because he will essentially impose his spending plan on April 2nd even if the Legislature cannot reach an agreement....New, more aggressive budget protocols out the Governor's office were developed and used by former Governor David Paterson, including forcing changes into extender bills and leaving the lawmakers only choice that of cutting off spending altogether......A 2.7% cut in spending is Heaven compared to no spending in the eyes of legislators.
So as the final week before April 1 approaches, the new Governor looks to be in charge and the chatterboxes in the Legislature seem ill prepared to do much about it.
Cuomo on Track to Win NY Budget Fight NBC New York

WDT: Big Labor Launches Surgical Air Strike on Patty Ritchie

It used to be NNY lawmakers had a cozy relationship with Big Labor, frequently getting the hugs from the Ron McDougalls and Ernie LaBaffs of the world.....
No more....here's the Communication Workers of America launching a radio ad ripping Sen. Patty Ritchie for allegedly wanting to cut taxes on millionaires and not wanting to make downstaters pay their share.
Sometimes you judge a person by their foes and not their friends. The tenor of these increasingly frantic ads paid for by those with more money than you and I just makes me want to shout 'you go girl' when I see the Senator...Of course I wouldn't say that, as it isn't very respectful...But I would think it.
Watertown Daily Times CWA to Patty Ritchie: "You gotta be kidding me!"

Another War...The Folks are Getting Tired

Despite his stated desire to offer "change we can believe in" here is President Barack Obama lauching a shock and awe attack on a Muslim country while stating "our cause is just." It is Mr. Obama's first war to start and puts the USA in its third Mideast conflict, although the President repeatedly has insisted no US troops will land on Libyan soil.
I talked to a variety of folks while working yesterday, ranging from Army soldiers just back or on their way to the region and local working folks who know the meaning of the phrase "deja vu."
There is no rah-rah feeling on this. No desire to help the plucky freedom fighters rising up against Muamar Khadaffy, whom the US had made its peace with in a Faustian bargain to go along and get along in this oil-rich region.
The opening salvo had 114 cruise missiles launched...What are they a million bucks each ? Where is that money coming from ? How many more of these excursions can we afford ?
As one teacher sipping a Captain Morgan and Coke said. "I am becoming more of an isolationist every day." For a lot of Americans this action is not about "supporting the troops"....it's about pulling the covers over your head and hoping the morning brings better news.
NationalJournal.com - Obama's First New War - Saturday, March 19, 2011