Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Most Touching Story of the Day

     Two year old Indigo Mullin worked the crowd well, running around the Bistro 108 on Court street, posing for pictures and coming out of the shell that a brutal dog attack weeks ago left him in.
    A fundraiser for the youngster was well attended and I stopped and met his parents, who seemed like good people....Little Indigo sure looks better than in the hospital photos that were just plain hard to look at....
     Its hard not to read more into his mannerisms than you should...He looked sad in the photo I shot in his dad's arms. (His parents gave permission to photograph him and use the photo).
     Later the lad was quite expressive and active.
     We all wish him the best on his recovery and he seems to have a great support group.

Yeah...I Went to Meet Occupy Watertown...You Got a Problem With That ?

     Conventional political wisdom is when the "occupy Watertown" crowd comes to Public Square....stay may offend the establishment...
     That's not part of my DNA...
     I want to experience other viewpoints...I want to talk to Planned Parenthood and the RTL crowd....I believe in private sector capitalism, but I understand there's a rage against money.
     Sometimes I get in trouble listening to other viewpoints or associating with those who have views not suited for noon Rotary....
     But , I have found there's a diverse community...and while my policies reflect my ideology, I am not dismissive of other views....
    That's why I was glad to be the only local pol to visit 'occupy Watertown."   And I don't apologize for doing it.

Nice Stash....But You Can't Take It With You

With a fortune estimated at 200 billion dollars, you'd think Moammar Kadafi would have just retired to the French Riviera with his playboy sons and cadre of female body guards....But he tried to hang on and look where it got him. Killed by a kid wearing a Yankee hat and dragged through the dusty streets of his hometown....Maybe if Libya had a "billionaire's" tax, he could have spread the wealth enough to hang on.
As Libya takes stock, Moammar Kadafi's hidden riches astound -

Assemblywoman Russell Touts Millionaire's Tax Extension

With "Occupy Watertown" slated to happen today, Assemblywoman Addie Russell has used the occasion to again signal her support for the an extension of the "Millionaire's Tax" set to expire in December.
The tax on higher incomes is set to be a big issue in Albany as the Governor and the GOP have opposed the extension of a tax passed in the Paterson Administration as a temporary measure to bridge a budget gap.
Opponents say it penalizes success and drives the makers out of state, leaving just the takers left.
Occupy Watertown is expected on Public Square today, but we will have to wait and see what kind of crowd shows up.
Assemblywoman Russell Touts Millionaire's Tax Extension

WDT: Sheriff Candidate Will Still Campaign But Steps Aside from Department Job

Unsuccessful Lewis County Sheriff candidate (he is still campaigning on a minor party line) Devere Rumble has retired fromt he Sheriff's Department, sparing the new sheriff having to deal with a political foe still in the ranks.
Mr. Rumble did the right thing after getting thumped in the GOP primary and seeing the Democratic Party also endorse opponent Michael Carpinelli int he race to replace retiring Sheriff Michel Tabolt.
Mr. Rumble is still competing on the Independence Party line and as is said, it's not over till it's over....But in this case, its just about over and Lewis County will soon have a new Sheriff.
Watertown Daily Times Lewis sheriff candidate retires, citing need for more campaigning time

Dog Victim Event Today in Watertown

   A fundraiser is being held today for the two year old boy mauled by a dog this fall at the Farmer's Market in downtown Watertown.
   Indigo Mullin will be recognized at the Bistro 108 on Court Street with a spaghetti dinner today.
   The youngster's medical bills will be profound and surely there will be litigation and/or insurance settlements. But for now the young boy and his family need some help and support.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Potsdam Readies to Decide on Its Own Existence

     Potsdam voters will decide in two weeks whether to even have a village anymore...A dissolution vote is being held in the quaint college town....
     Under a new state law,  village residents can opt to end their government and allow the village to become a part of the Town of Potsdam....Of course that means certain services are lost or made part of the Town budget.
      Insiders expect the dissolution effort to fail, however the equally quaint Village of Seneca Falls voted to dissolve last year....

WDT: Occupying Watertown

There are only 18 millionaires in Jefferson who do we get mad at ?
Watertown Daily Times Occupying Watertown

Mercy Celebration

They paid the taxes and got their name off the State Health Department's "s" list. The quality of care at Mercy is up to a level to be taken off the watch list in Albany. Samaritan has successfully fixed the operational issues and that's good.....
With the tax issue settled the focus of discussions will change a little, but the future of the facility has been the subject of a couple task forces and our state, county and city reps have been talking for some time about the long term future. (even though you never did read that here.).
It's going to have to be a cooperative effort and there are many on board.
In the meantime, its good to see those living there enjoying improved conditions.
Mercy Celebration

Occupy Utica camp of tents grows in first week - Utica, NY

"Occupy" Movements Cropping Up in Upstate Cities...But None in Watertown Yet
Occupy Utica camp of tents grows in first week - Utica, NY - The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York

Newzjunky: Flower Library More Than Books on a Shelf

One of the reasons I have been an ardent supporter of the Flower Memorial Library is not merely the unique building its located in. The Library is a place for many community activities, especially for kids, can be held in an atmosphere that promotes intellectual development.
Such is the case with the upcoming trick or treat event....It's fun, safe and gets kids into a Library.
On many issues, two long time lawmakers like my opponent and I have a record that is similar.
Not so with the Library, as I have supported the Library Board of Trustees on key initiatives from the physical plant to staffing.
I also support an emerging strategy to empoyer that Board to make key decisions on how resources are spent.
The Library Board needs to devise ways to achieve seven day a week operations, but as the primary funding source, the City must understand the costs to doing that.
The Library and the development of the mind is at the core of a successful society and community. While technologies are changing the mode of operation, nothing in today's world dimnishes the need for libraries.
I am a strong supporter....Have been and will continue to be.
First Annual Trick-or-Treat at Your Library a "Safe Alternative"

WDT: The Balancing Act on Crime

When a spate of arrests are made, it makes news. But does that mean the incidence of the crime is higher or that the police are doing a good job solving the crimes that are there.
Murders, bank robberies and the like are quantifiable crimes. Most crimes are not....They are only crimes if someone is caught or if someone complains. That's true of simple things like traffic infractions or more serious matters including drugs.
The latter is a problem because of the human costs and the pathologies it brings to neighborhoods.
The city now works with other police agencies on a joint effort to keep a lid on drugs, which are a big problem. That seems a successful and prudent approach and if the police chief ask for additional resources that will get fair consideration. Both mayoral candidates have supported the same budgets over the years and voted for the same collective bargaining agreements.
There is little to be learned from the "record" on this issue.
Watertown Daily Times Mayoral candidates Jeff Graham, Jeff Smith offer differing visions on crime

What About That House in Jersey

Moammar won't be needing his nice house in Englewood, NJ. It is unknown what will happen to the stone house known as "Thunder Rock." You know Gaddafy had some serious cash if he could afford New Jersey property taxes.
Moammar Gadhafi Killed - What Happens to Libya's Englewood, New Jersey Mansion - Metropolis - WSJ

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi dead: Dictator begged for his life before being summarily executed | Mail Online

As usual the Mail Online has the best tick-tock on the final hours of Moammar Gaddafi. It didn't end well for him, but considering the misery he has caused, a just demise.
Gaddafi dead: Dictator begged for his life before being summarily executed Mail Online

WDT: Wanna Say Something Provocative Just Before the Election ?

Neither one of us took the bait....that is to do a mid-term, off the cuff assessment of the city manager for the benefit of the MSM......And just days before the election to boot....
No thanks....
The manager gets an annual assessment per the Charter, unless there is so something so egregious that it prompts an immediate jettison from City Hall.
My job is to lead the Council and interact with the manager. That doesn't leave time for intrigue and plotting. That's not to say that stuff doesn't occur. I try to steer clear of it as I don't need any of that Maple City Mayhem to clutter my days.
Watertown Daily Times Mayoral candidates weigh in on city manager

WDT: Cops Roust Another Druggie and That's a Good Thing

Another drug bust...this one on Mill Street as the local drug task force continues to crack down on dealers and try to limit the pathologies that drug houses cause in our neighborhood.
I know they did a good job clearing up a situation on my block last year, as when a "crack house" opens it creates all sorts of bad traffic.
Drugs as recreation and escapism are part of life...but when they become central to a person's life, if causes lots of problems.
Neighbors working with police need to keep this moveable feast from putting down roots...It's a bad scene.
Watertown Daily Times Local News, Sports, Features, and Community Information for Jefferson County, St. Lawrence County, and Lewis County in Northern New York

Girl Scouts Unveil New Badges for Good Credit & Finance Achievements | News + Advice

Girl Scouts are offering badges for good credit and money management....That's a good idea...So many people grow up with no idea about money..or how to handle it...
Once again scouting is at the forefront for building better citizens !
Girl Scouts Unveil New Badges for Good Credit & Finance Achievements News + Advice

Animals All Dead

Khadaffy is dead and all the Ohio animals are either dead or captured....The World is a safer place !
The demise of the Libyan strongman came two months after the capital of Tripoli fell...he hid out for a while in Sirte until cornered at which time he died an especially violent death.
Meanwhile all the animals in Ohio are accounted for...Officials say they believe a missing monkey was eaten by one of the large cats that escaped.....
Ohio Sheriff: Monkey Possibly Eaten By Cat « CBS Pittsburgh

Another Ogdensburg House Is Under Investigation as Maple City Awaits Report

The report on the handling of properties in Ogdensburg is due out tomorrow and for better or worse, the campaign of Mayor Bill Nelson likely hinges on the findings....If they are highly critical of the city manager, then Nelson's call for the departure of Art Sciorra may catch on.
That will force his challenger Jack McGrath to take a stand on the matter....or will it ?
In this race, it's the challenger who can pretty much run the Rose Garden campaign and its seldom events in the final two weeks make a big difference. The report on Mr. Sciorra could be a "game changer", but it will also depend on how each candidate handles the results.
Another Ogdensburg House Is Under Investigation WWNY TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports for Watertown, NY Local News

DiNapoli: Tax shortfall ahead...That Means Millionaire's Tax on Table

New York State tax revenue is trailing expectations and that means the Governor is being prudent in his dealings with state workers and their contracts. It also means there will be no new spending spree this spring when lawmakers and the governor put together a budget.
New York will have to depend on its private sector economy, but the desire to spend will lead to a debate this fall and winter over extending the "millionaire's tax". A report out yesterday says there are 18 such people in Jefferson County, although how you define a millionaire is open to debate.
Taxing those 18 people has little political downside and the 'occupy Wall Street' festivities have now framed the issue for the tax and spending debate the coming year.
DiNapoli: Tax shortfall ahead - Times Union

Newzjunky - Owens Visits City Firm to Talk Jobs

Even though the local Watertown economy is stronger than many parts of the Nation, jobs are always an issue and it's nice to have the area's Member of Congress draw attention to one of the economic success stories of the past decade, and that is Stream Global Services located downtown.
Rep. Bill Owens stopped by and also talked about the President's jobs bill, which will be an issue in next year's race for Congress and for the Presidency. There are honest differences over whether the country can afford more job creation legislation and in fact whether it works.
It should be a great exchange of ideas in 2012, but until then thanks to Mr. Owens for drawing attention to Stream which has turned out to be a performer for the city's economy.
Newzjunky - Owens Talks Job Creation at Stream

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why I Like Watertown

   So I was on the Square today and decided to buy some shoes...I went to Avon Shoes as I just enjoy totally buying shoes from Ren Martini.....You get to talk shoes, politics...whatever you want...
    And I was at the Chamber Business After Hours where I saw lots of nice people, including a very pretty lady from Watertown Savings Bank who tried to get me to switch banks from HSBC.  It was so much more convincing from her than if Lavarnway had hit me up.
    Had a good time today visiting with plumber Pat Fields who worked on my restroom rehab at Fort Pearl.
     I just like living in Watertown...It's such a nice city with so many nice people.
Thank you for letting me be your mayor !

WDT: Back Taxes Paid at Mercy

The payment of an overdue tax bill for the Mercy Healthcare property on Stone Street is a good thing as it clears up the obligations to the people of the City who had eaten the costs up till now.
Samaritan Medical Center paid the taxes on behalf of the owners of the Mercy property which faces an uncertain future when the nursing home operation ends by 2013.
The property had been in the process of tax sale and its ownership future was uncertain, with the possibility of city ownership if nothing had been done.
The payment came after many discussions about the tax sale process and what could happen. As SMC officials learned more about the situation they stepped up and made the city and its residents whole. That's a good thing.
There are challenges with the property in the future, but for now the taxes and back water bills are paid.
Watertown Daily Times Mayor: Samaritan pays Mercy's overdue tax bill

48 Dead in Ohio

The killing of 48 wild animals set loose from a private zoo is one of the most bizarre stories I have heard in a while...That includes 18 Tigers and 17 Lions.
The nut who owned the menagerie had set the animals free before killing himself.
What's the reason for having your own zoo ?
News from The Associated Press

Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Las Vegas -

Last night's GOP debate got downright feisty as the effort continues to topple Mitt Romney from his position as default nominee....Rick Perry went after him and everybody also sought to bring pizza man Herman Cain down to reality by debunking his 9-9-9 tax plan.
While Romney had a rough night, it's still hard to imagine anyone other than him getting the nod....
Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Las Vegas -

Newzjunky: City Councilwoman Macaluso Endorses Graham for Mayor

Last night, City Councilwoman Teresa Macaluso sent a statement to the local media offering her endorsement of my candidacy for reelection as Mayor of Watertown. Ms. Macaluso knows that on a five person body, taking sides is something to be done carefully as the relationships on a small body like Council need to be maintained.
However for the reasons stated, Councilwoman Macaluso decided the fence was not the place to be on this issue, even though she sits literally between my opponent and I at the Council meetings.
I appreciate her remarks and am honored to have her support.
Ms. Macaluso and I share many life experiences by both running small retail businesses. Everyday we both talk to a variety of people and are grounded in the everyday life of Watertown.
I value her opinions and her support in the final days of this campaign.
City Councilwoman Macaluso Endorses Graham for Mayor

MTV ‘Real World’ Wants to Cast Occupy Wall Street Protesters | TPM Idea Lab

The side show that occupy Wall Street has become has caught the interest of the entertainment with MTV trying to cast protestors for it's "Real World" reality program. America loves a show.
While these demonstrations have not come to Watertown yet, I did get word there is a Facebook page touting an effort to organize such a demonstration on Public Square.....Don't worry, I doubt such an endeavor will get off the ground here but even if a dozen people show up, it will get covered.
Another reason there likely will not be a protest is people are not that unhappy with the economy. There are individuals who face challenges, but in the aggregate, there doesn't seem enough angst over the 1% versus the 99%.
MTV ‘Real World’ Wants to Cast Occupy Wall Street Protesters TPM Idea Lab

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rest Rooms of Note on This Tuesday

   Today was more about running errands than campaigning, but I did do a little bit of that too.....
    Today was the beginning of a public works project of sorts...We are fixing up the bathrooms at Fort Pearl...Tomorrow Watertown's favorite plumber Pat Fields (licensed too I might add) will be over to put new valves on the urinals and fix some drain line problems....We are also doing cosmetic work and my friends at Abbey Carpet will be in later this month to tear up some old floors and put in a new one.
     Diana helped out with painting today and we look forward to the end result....Rest rooms are important no matter where they are located....
     Speaking of rest rooms, I see the work is starting on building the pavillion in the JB Wise lot downtown...Some of you were confused that we were just building a rest room in the middle of parking lot...Not so...the plans all along have called for an adjacent event pavillion.  In fact, that was the reason the state approved the grant for the project.
      It looks like it will be erected by the first week of November.

Insiders in Maple City Race Say Nelson is Making Lemonaide Out of Lemons

     I try to keep an ear to the tick tock in the Ogdensburg elections and a news person I was chatting with seems to think after a bumpy few weeks, the incumbent mayor is finding some footing with his opposition to the city manager and his calls for Art Sciorra to resign...
   Mayor Bill Nelson is fending off a challenge by independent candidate and retired executive Jack McGrath.
   Mr. McGrath is the defacto Democratic candidate and is up on the air with television spots, so his challenge is formidable.
   Mr. Nelson's opposition to Mr. Sciorra...perhaps later than many would have liked....has left Democrats in the position of defending the embattled city manager, at least until after the election.
   In the end, Sciorra may go, but since he has a contract he will not resign, but would prefer dismissal without cause as he would get a six month severance.
    In a voter pool of less than three thousand, the ground game and personal contact is important. Its hard to guage that from here.
     It does appear the race is on and the current mayor has rallied his troops and will make it a battle to the end.
     Nelson is the nominee of the Republican and Conservative parties, while his opponent is on an independent line at the bottom of the ballot. That could be a slight factor as well as there are still many automatic votes a party nominee gets.
     However, I think Dick Lockwood won his first race as an independent, so anything is possible.
     This is a very competitive race.

WDT: I-98 Not Likely to Be a Regional Priority

As the Governor's North Country Regional Council grapples to come up with a plan for how public monies will be doled out across seven counties, the matter of a "rooftop" Interstate highway will leave advocates in St. Lawrence County disappointed.
The staggering cost of the I-98 proposal would make it almost impossible to accomplish without making it the singular focus of years of lobbying.
Incremental improvements to existing roads is a more likely path, even though in St. Lawrence County the narrative is that the spotty economy there is the result of poor transportation.
The two hubs in the region are Watertown and Plattsburgh. Neither community harbors an interest in I-98.
Watertown's economic nexus is oriented north-south with more of a tie to Syracuse and Canada. In Plattsburgh the focus is I-87 and connections to Montreal. There is no economic imperative to connect Watertown and Plattsburgh with a superhighway.
The Regional Council gathered input during a meeting in Potsdam yesterday. The full Council meets this Friday.
Watertown Daily Times I-98 at heart of north country’s regional council discussion

WDT: Sales Tax Continues to Perform Well

With sales tax continuing to perform above expectations, local governments should be able to continue to provide property tax stability with a rightsizing of debt loads that had grown too large over the decades.
The robust sales tax take runs contrary to many places where economies are flagging. Our area's Fort Drum edge and strong Canadian market contribute to the phenomenon.
Setting up lower debt and adequate fund balances may be needed in 2013 when it is project the Army will be deploying up to 93% of Fort Drum soldiers at one time. However in 2012, all the troops are to be here, so there is time for local governments to plan for the almost certain downturn in retail trade.
Sales tax has become the primary source of funds for the City of Watertown, eclipsing property taxes by a better than two to one margin. Under a distribution agreement with the County, the City of Watertown receives 24% of the local share of all sales tax collecting in the county.
Watertown Daily Times Jefferson County continues strong sales tax revenue in 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Old Friend Votes .....For the Last Time

         Dave Mance travelled to the County building today and cast his absentee vote for the coming election...It will be his last vote in a city election as the sale of his Thompson Blvd home is due to close on November 11, three days after the election.
Dave has been a part of the community for decades as a businessman, volunteer and supporter of charities. His only real sin in life is sending a hoax wedding photo to the newspaper.
       I assume Dave will register at his Florida winter home so he can influence the awarding of the Sunshine State's electoral votes next year.
       After voting, Dave and his buddy Jim Nicholson invited me to lunch with noted local attorney Lee Hector.
      I said sure, why not...and ask Dave where I should meet him....He said the Kilt and I gasp as going there would reenforce the talking points.  But, hey the Tilted Kilt is owned by a prominent businesswoman, Zoo board president and sure to be a future Athena Award with the imprimatur of establishment secure, I went and had a salad and two Miller Lite drafts.
       The only notice of the waitresses was Hector wondering why women these days have so many tattoos.

Newzjunky - Benefit Planned for Child Attacked by Dog at Farmers Market

Two year old Indigo Mullin will have a learn journey ahead trying to recover from the dog mauling at the Farmer's Market and those who want to help him out can attend a fundraiser this Saturday at Bistro 108 on Court Street. Dave and Robyn Bartlett are hosting the event starting at 1 pm.
Newzjunky - Benefit Planned for Child Attacked by Dog at Farmers Market

Sunday, October 16, 2011

PEF Reaches Tentative Agreement With State (Updated)

A little reshuffling of this and that and the state's other big union seems poised to approve a contract...PEF members had defeated the agreement reached with Governor Cuomo, who had been threatening layoffs...Now, no layoffs....
PEF Reaches Tentative Agreement With State (Updated)

WDT: Parks and Recreation Solutions Taking Shape

The reorganization of Parks and Recreation, the creation of newly defined job descriptions and the pending hiring of a new management team is actually how a city council should function in a council/manager form of government.
It was troubling for all five Council members to learn of the billing and accounting issues and the first step was last spring's independent audit followed by all five members contributing to a mandate for change. The Council was involved in formulating the policies that are leading to a solution but not involved in the day to day management and supervision.
The overlay of an election year in some ways provided the impetus for getting things done right but also created the challenge of too much public posturing.
The ideas of all five members were a part of the solution and with many challenges ahead, I look forward to supporting the new management as they try to build on the good work done over the years while also correcting problems and making the newly reconstituted department a success.
Watertown Daily Times New management team may bring Watertown parks department into new era

WDT: For the Maple City Elections are About Just One Issue

I am surprised no one brought this up earlier, as it's clearly the reason the Ogdensburg city manager was not going to just quit a job that pays just shy of six figures. Like most administrators serving at the pleasure of a board, Art Sciorra has a contract with a severance provision. In this case its six months pay. That imposes a political cost if lawmakers decide to dump a manager mid way through the term of the contract.
It places the higher standard of finding cause or malfeasance to fire on the spot and avoid the severance.
So Mr. Sciorra...while clearly on the bubble....should not resign as he gives up a contractual right. If the Council wants him gone they either have to try and sustain a firing through proving cause...Not all that easy to do....Or just pay the severance and move on, something unlikely to happen two weeks before an election.
In the Maple City the process has played out in an ugly and public way, leaving the manager in a tenuous position with Council members publicly calling for his departure, but a majority of the body unwilling to act right away.
I really don't know enough about Mr. Sciorra to judge but it is clear a situation has gotten out of hand. Voters will sort that out and candidates for city office should make clear what their intentions are with Mr. Sciorra when November comes and goes.
Waiting for a report from the city attorney and hoping for a clear smoking gun seems to be the approach. However life is never that easy and it will come down to the seven person Council making a qualitative decision one way or the other.
Normally, I am not a fan of hinging city elections on manager firings, but in this egregious case, that is the only issue on the minds of Maple City voters and surely will drive their selections on November 8.

Watertown Daily Times Ogdensburg councilors debate the cost of firing city manager