"A government big enough to give you everything you want,
is big enough to take away everything you have"
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
14. (a) No statewide elected official, state officer or employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee may participate in any decision to hire, promote, discipline or discharge a relative for any compensated position at, for or within any state agency, public authority or the legislature.
18. In addition to any penalty contained in any other provision of law, any person who knowingly and intentionally violates the provisions of subdivisions two through five, seven, eight, twelve or fourteen through seventeen of this section shall be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed forty thousand dollars and the value of any gift, compensation or benefit received in connection with such violation. Assessment of a civil penalty hereunder shall be made by the state oversight body with jurisdiction over such person. A state oversight body acting pursuant to its jurisdiction, may, in lieu of a civil penalty, with respect to a violation of subdivisions two through five, seven or eight of this section, refer a violation of any such subdivision to the appropriate prosecutor and upon such conviction such violation shall be punishable as a class A misdemeanor.
Malcolm Smith, The Senate Minority Leader, stated today that Darrel Aubertine did not hire his sister, had the Senator not seen his sister in the office? Regardless of who hired her, she was a hire of Senator Darrel Aubertine.
In addition, word from Albany is a violation of the Public Officer's Law, which prohibits nepotism, carries a $40,000 penalty.
Richie, who earlier this year said she was not interested in running for the Assembly in a special election but is said to be very interested in running in a general election. A current St. Lawrence County Clerk, Richie has very high approval ratings from the public in that county and she remains well known in Jefferson County from her initial race against Darrel Aubertine in 2002 which she only lost by a small margin.
Patty Richie is widely thought to have the best chance to win the 118th Assembly district for the GOP and those thoughts are supported by polling data according to sources. With the start of May tomorrow, it is time for candidates to begin organizing and announcing.
Senator Darrel Aubertine reads a letter on behalf of Governor Paterson
Lift from and to watch the entire event
Steve Weed Productions
Fellow blogger Northern New York follies writes an interesting piece on Darrel Aubertine's latest blunder of hiring his sister. What he tacitly pointed out is that from the press release Northern New York has possibly a co-senator when it said "we" became aware of the potential conflict. There is no "we" it should be; when the Senator became aware.
Even in the wake of high gas prices, several counties have dropped their cap on sales tax that was set at the $2 per gallon limit.
Initially 15 counties joined the state in capping the tax, the number has dwindled down to seven including
The tax cap on gasoline is assumed to be a savings, it has yet to be proven that there is any effect in providing a price reduction at the pump for consumers, and proving that point could be difficult as several factors come into play in such a volatile market.
It would be well worth
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
It was quite a week locally with traditional news of events and atypical news of a pursuit. The week began in similar fashion as any other typical week in Northern New York and ended with a political BANG!
It was a week that continued to highlight the DEC's decision to close roads, trails or whatever they are to the ATV riders. Although, this week added a twist, while Senator Aubertine has been silent on this issue, the public got a first glance at a possible reason why; one of his hires was the DEC Regional Director's husband.
The week quickly changed to one which unexpectedly focused on this blog and the identity of the author. The Watertown Daily Times put the blog in the spotlight for the week placing it on the top fold of their local section, picture and all, and of course, the blog is grateful for the attention. Three postings on the blog made it to Newzjunky.com, that always results in a huge boost of readership.
The state continued their play at the Monopoly game table, with the swiping of funds from special user accounts to fund their spending habits, this included a raid on the local snowmobile club's money.
The Governor continues to make impressive moves such as requiring all state agencies to reduce their spending by 3.35%. Although the state is not too serious yet, the pork spending by the Governor and Legislature remains in tact at $200 million in pure pork and $700 million in capital pork. The Governor wants the legislative leaders to reconvene with him and find ways to cut the budget, it has finally hit home that they spent too much in this budget.
Senate Republican's want a "gas tax holiday" from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it will end up costing taxpayer's something, that is the only way the horse trading with the Assembly Speaker Silver (no longer the Assembly Democrats, the house is only run by a single member, Silver) will allow the gas tax relief to pass.
Clinton swept Obama off his feet in the Pennsylvania primary by a 10 point margin. The bruising primary continues onto North Carolina and the "tie breaking" state of Indiana.
THE BIG NEWS
This blog broke news from an Albany source late Friday that Former Senator James Wright was reconsidering his departure from the Senate and in discussion with people locally and at the state level about a possible run this fall.
Friday, April 25, 2008
UPDATED: The Daily Politics blog is quoting James Wright.
Brett Favre left the door open recently for a return to the line up of the Green Bay Packers if the organization, players, and fans needed him.
GOP leaders throughout the state are seeking his candidacy and hopeful of a return to the New York State Senate while Wright is reported not to have declined at this point; to the contrary, friends are saying he is seriously considering it. This would make for an exciting Senate match up between Aubertine and the former Senator. This blog has learned of a possible poll taken after he left office that shows Wright with a 75% approval rating in the 48th Senate district and him winning the general election match up against Aubertine by an overwhelming margin. This would be a great race!
Apparently the speculation of the comeback is being driven by a number of factors; a surprise in the results of the special election, the district’s treatment in the last budget, and the capital projects that were included in this year’s budget that was essentially work accomplished by Wright before he left office but Aubertine gladly accepting credit.
The ATV / DEC issue is no less of a contributing factor with representatives apparently contacting
The Wright / Aubertine match up would prove to be one of the most exciting races in years in the
RUN, RUN, RUN!
Always willing to offer up a congratulations and best wishes to folks on either side of the aisle.
Joanne and Graham Wise,
proud new parents of Elizabeth Graham Wise
Oh and yes, congratulations to Samaritan Medical Center on the ground breaking for their new facility.
Does this eliminate Graham Wise as a possible author?
Typically, this blog is not written in the first person grammatical form, but it may deviate from that style in this post, it is written to be a political commentary and as a forum to opine on various political and governmental
Such is the case today with the article in the
First, the post on Deputy Dog; this blog had no way of knowing what was in the “full report.” The post did state the amount of the grant and then proceeded to raise several questions that seeme
This blog extends a thank you to Ted Ford, a.k.a. Danger Democrat, for the compliment on the writing. Political IV respects his opinion on his blog and believes he may respect opinions and commentary on this blog, while at the same time agreeing or disagreeing with each other on certain subjects. The email to the
This blog is a solo, (IV is a reference to medical IV, and not Roman numeral 4), non-professional writer, who is not in the media currently or never has been in the media. There is no comment from this blog on the names mentioned in the paper or obviously some local political action figures that were not mentioned in the article.
And for the record
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The DEC administratively executed a blanket closure of roads almost a week ago, precisely one day after the SNIRT ride that attracted 1400 riders to this area from a variety of states in the northeast. The economic impact of that ride was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for area businesses. The length of stay in the area for the riders surveyed averaged approximately 2 days. The exposure of the outdoor activity in this region was tremendous and riders were said to be enthusiastic about a return visit, but the calls have been flooding representatives since the closure and people are not likely to return soon.
One of the top ten priorities by
The DEC is claiming that the use of these truck trails or “administrative roads” by ATVs is a violation (key word) of the V & T law thus their basis for closure. If that is the case, then the DEC will have to consider these roads as public highways and maintain them as such, by either the DEC or more likely the DOT, to certain standards. The other big question is; if they are public roads who owns the roads, DEC or local towns, and this will determine who has the right to open or close them under the law.
Section 2405 (1) reads:
- Highways. Except with respect to interstate highways or controlled access highways, the department of transportation with respect to state highways, maintained by the state and any other governmental agency with to highways, thereof as open for travel by ATVs when in the determination of the governmental agency concerned, it is otherwise impossible for ATVs to gain access to areas or trails adjacent to the highway. Such designations by a state agency shall be by rule or regulation, and such designations by any municipality other than a state agency shall be by local law or ordinance. including bridge and culvert crossings, under its jurisdiction may designate and post any such public highway or portion
If the DEC wants to avoid considering them as public roads and continue to call them “administrative access roads” that is their choice, BUT closure is NOT due a violation of the V & T law. This section of the V & T law simply allows DEC to make that decision and it leaves the decision strictly up to DEC and for them to accept the responsibility with no one to blame.
- Public lands other than highways. A governmental agency other than a municipality, by regulation or order, and a municipality, by ordinance or local law, may designate any appropriate public lands, waters and properties other than highways under its jurisdiction as a place open for travel by ATVs upon written request for such designation by any person, and may impose restrictions and conditions for the regulation and safe operation of ATVs on such public property, such as travel on designated trails and hours of operation. In addition, thereto, such agency or municipality may not require the operator of an ATV to possess a motor vehicle operator's license. A municipality may charge a fee for use of ATVs on such public lands.
The DEC Regional Director was reportedly upset about a meeting with area trail coordinators being reported in the Watertown Daily Times. The DEC needs full disclosure for the correct basis of their decision and needs to accept responsibility for the actions.
Governor Paterson has the right idea, and it could be considered a challenge to Bruno.
Paterson wants to re-open the budget and make cuts. This is partly an admission that the first budget was a bad budget and partly due to the digression of projected revenues with the economy.
"There are some political dynamics, it’s an election year, there’s a contest for the leadership of the Senate." Paterson said.
"My point is, if it’s an election year, the first one who tells the public that they are willing to do this, and says it behind closed doors in addition to the public, will win those elections," he said.
That is most certainly a challenge for the Majority Leader to step forward. Bruno should take him up on the offer immediately and show a willingness to control spending.
This would further savings to consumer's from the current $2.00 gas cap that was enact last year by the state and Jefferson County.
Fellow blogger DD (although this blog was a slight burr in his saddle this week, but he will calm down) was in favor of a measure like this earlier in the year and while he would probably prefer a lengthier time frame for the elimination, he should certainly support this measure. But, as PotH states there is no word whether the Assembly Democratic majority would support this measure and by the sounds of remarks from Governor Paterson, he appears to be somewhat reluctant.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The New York State Legislature during the budget process approved the sweep by the Division of Budget for approximately $150 million from various accounts in order to balance this year's budget. This money is generated in some cases by specific user fees.
Where they did not break the bank is on their own discretionary spending, pork or member items. They have essentially two cookie jars of money where they can put their hands into so they can ensure their re-election, discretionary funds or member items, which is $200 million annually and capital funds, which is $700 million. So, while the various state agencies go about doing some overdue clipping in their spending under a directive of Governor Paterson, the legislature’s appetite for spending is not being curtailed.
What seems even more inane is the amount of money being rolled over in the member item’s account; $340 million in unspent funds have been exempted by the lawmakers from being used to balance the budget according to a report today in the Albany Times Union.
When a politician hands out any member item money this year, the recipients of that money should acknowledge and thank such people as anyone who snowmobiles, because they fronted their registration money for the recipient.
Maybe the elected official will rightly have the snowmobilers present the check!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Obama is bracing for a loss in the Keystone state as Obama is off to the Hoosier state according to Political Wire. Although, according to DRUDGE early exit polls show Clinton is only hanging onto a slight lead. The key to the race is where the turnout is heavy, Philadelphia bodes well for Obama.
It is worth a look at a couple of the new hires and make some mild observations, because his office is only as good as his staff.
The Senator's next hire raises more eyebrows and concerns given the recent moves of the DEC, D. Lee Willbanks is the husband of Region 6 DEC Director Judy Drabicki. This will likely position the Senator's office for an amicable relationship with the DEC and more importantly a reluctance to represent the people and challenge any of the DEC's decisions, such as the recent road closings that impacts ATV use in
Another interesting observation of this hire is that Drabicki was right in the middle of the wind farm issue prior to becoming the DEC director and the DEC is right in the middle of the issue also, and so is the Senator as he has signed a contract to host a turbine or two on his property.
Congratulations to the new hires!
Monday, April 21, 2008
The day before the Pennsylvania primary and the polls are all over the board with Clinton leading in some polls by as much as 10 points. Not so fast though, Obama has run an intelligent campaign and one pollster, Public Policy Polling, says turnout in Delaware Valley is the key factor.
Turnout is everything and Philadelphia is Obama's chance, where he has reportedly registered many new voters.
In the Casey-Rendell gubernatorial primary race Casey lead 57 out of the 67 counties in PA, but Rendell was able to pull off the victory with a massive voter turnout in the Delaware Valley. Obama has a large lead in the Delaware Valley section of the state, as shown in the poll, and if his ground campaign can turnout the vote in that area then he could win the primary.
Negative advertising will also play a factor, a negative campaign has a tendency to suppress voter turnout. Clinton has very high negatives also (reason why GOP wants her to win), and she is driving her negatives higher with her own advertising, negative campaigning becomes a game of attrition. This is likely to cause people to stay home where she needs the turnout.
The bottom line here is that no one will walk away with any great gains in the pledged delegate category. Obama claims victory and possibly the nomination if he wins, and Clinton clings to political life, claiming she is the only one with the ability to win big states, if she wins.
The primary will likely continue its same course after tomorrow with no meaningful change occurring Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
To: Agency Commissioners
From: Governor David A. Paterson
Re: State Budget
Date: April 21, 2008
When I took office, it was clear New York needed to get its fiscal house in order. That is why, in my first act as governor, I called for an $800 million across-the-board reduction in State spending.
With economic storm clouds gathering on the horizon, I knew that this was the only prudent choice. Accordingly, the Enacted Budget requires all State agencies to manage a 3.35 percent reduction in projected spending. Both the State’s Financial Plan and the public demand that we meet our savings target to help ensure a balanced budget.
The Budget does not dictate what actions each Commissioner must take in order to implement this reduction. Instead, I believed it was a better course of action to draw on your expertise, as well as that of your staff, in determining how to improve our government’s efficiency. As such, by May 16, 2008, each agency must submit a detailed plan of action to the Division of the Budget, identifying how it will realize its required share of these savings.
The reductions you propose must be achievable, recurring, and serious. Your plan must reflect the creativity needed to provide the services the public expects at a lower cost.
Above all, you must rethink your hiring practices. Only job openings absolutely essential to your agency’s operations and protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers are to be filled. Positions that do not fit this criterion must be left vacant.
I have faith that each of you will be able to find ways to cut costs and achieve these goals. If, however, I deem that your proposal will not produce the required savings assumed in our State Financial Plan, there are several corrective actions that I am prepared to take. These include withholding an amount of budgeted funding needed to hit your savings target or implementing a hard hiring freeze at your agency. I sincerely hope and expect such measures will not be necessary.
After your plans are submitted and approved, we need to immediately turn our attention to next year’s budget, which promises to be constructed in an even bleaker economic climate. You must use the development of these savings initiatives as an opportunity to fundamentally reevaluate your agency’s operations from top to bottom. I have an ambitious vision for our State’s finances, and these reductions are only the beginning.
In the current environment, complacency is unacceptable. We must change the way the State does business, and start leading the nation as an example of what is right in government. Together, we must rebuild New York into what it once was and can be again – the Empire State. And that starts with a better, more fiscally responsible State budget.
I look forward to your cooperation as we seek to achieve this common goal.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Endangered Species? Picture of extinction?
In a related post below, A Subservient North Country, it was shown where the interests of the North Country are not being represented and some of the actions being taken are not in the North Country's best interest.
And it is reported to have happened again. Another measure by the Governor and legislature that will have a negative effect on the North Country. Perhaps the North Country is becoming the poor stepchild who should just go to their room and lose all their privileges.
The state Division of Budget swept excess funds from various accounts in order to balance the budget this year. Some of these accounts are generated by user fees and designated specifically for certain areas such as the Snowmobile Trail Development & Maintenance account, which lost $1 million in the sweep according to an article in the Albany Times Union.
Here is an excerpt from the article in the Albany Times Union;
The fees -- $45 for members of snowmobile clubs and $100 for all other owners -- rose in 2004 under Gov. George Pataki to make sure trails remain open and in good shape. The 65,000-member New York Snowmobile Association supported the increased fees with the understanding the money would be used to reimburse snowmobile clubs that tend the trails and purchase grooming equipment, fuel, signs, bridges, culverts and insurance.
But in less than four years after increasing the fee in 2004, the fund had more money than the state was spending.
Michael Fischer, president of the state association, said "to take money from that dedicated fund, we think is a major issue, and is inappropriate." He wrote a letter to Gov. David Paterson last week, complaining there won't be enough money in the fund to meet current trail maintenance and liability insurance costs.
The "raid," he said, could cause clubs to shut down and the 10,000 miles of trails to close because of the timing of registration fees.When will these actions end? Where is Senator Aubertine and could he possibly even have supported something this detrimental to the North Country?
Earlier this week there was an attempt by the Democratic majority in the Assembly to limit your rights of the use of firearms, this undoubtedly would have a significant impact on recreation in our area if these bills were to pass both houses and signed into law by the Governor.
Also this week, actions were taken by the DEC, whose commissioner is former Democratic Assemblyman Pete Grannis, to close all state forest and easement roads in
This closure came with what appeared to be little notice, while these roads have been used for years. The immediate action covered every road in the region under the DEC without regard to whether they connected or provided access to trails, even though that is permissible by law. This decision is purely a cold bureaucratic move by a state agency that could have been executed better.
"I just hope they allow each region to meet with their local clubs to justify the opening of truck trails to connect trails where needed," he said. "Local clubs have worked hard to develop trails"
"You're taking away our summer economy," said C. Lee Hinkleman, president of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. "It will cost
According to Ms. Drabicki, DEC region 6 director, it is possible to seek a change in state law. If that is the case, then where is Senator Aubertine? Has he prepared legislation to be introduced that will protect our economy and jobs? Does he have any influence on his Democratic colleagues such as Pete Grannis or Governor Paterson? What is next on the state’s agenda for restricting the
This is just another example of the state with two hands, one helping and one picking our pockets and a region with no voice to stop these actions. The state passed as part of the budget a $700 million upstate economic development package but on the other hand, they rip money from hardworking
NO ATVs, which will will make it more difficult to get around hunting camps and if they have their way there will be NO GUNS for hunting camps either!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
At issue is the seating of the Michigan and Florida delegation and The Credentials Committee will render a decision on this matter. There are 186 members of the committee and 161 members for the committee are chosen from the states based on primary and caucus results. Since, neither Clinton or Obama will control enough support of the 161 members, the 25 appointed by Dean come into play as the decision makers.
The seating of the Florida and Michigan delegates is extremely important to Clinton and is probably her only remaining chance to win the nomination. If the Credentials Committee turns the convention on its head, it could be costly to Dean.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Like it or not, the path to the 118th Assembly seat for a Republican leads through Watertown and this holds especially true for a Jefferson County Republican; they should be prepared.
The St. Lawrence County portion of the 118th Assembly District consistently has more votes cast than
A good sound St. Lawrence County Republican, such as Ritchie, can possibly neutralize or even eliminate that threat in St. Lawrence County, but then must do battle in the City of Watertown in order to win. A city of
A Jefferson County Republican in the same scenario will likely lose to a Democrat from either county in the St. Lawrence portion of the district, therefore, the Jefferson County Republican must win big in
A Jefferson County Republican must win in this county by a substantial margin in any given scenario, and that cannot be done without
A candidate for the 118th Assembly seat will be met in the political alley called the City of
Gov Schwarzenegger is proposing a redistricting plan called Voter's First. The current restricting process in
The Voter's First initiative creates a 14-member commission of citizens balanced by political affiliation to draw districts in an open process free from self-conflict.
This is a much needed reform in New York as well, Mayor Bloomberg a centrist reform minded politician even contributed $250k to the process in California. Governor Paterson should pay close attention to how it unfolds in
A more competitive election would energize the electorate. If you were looking for evidence, it is the Democratic primary, which is drawing a huge voter turnout in every state. There is excitement in states where they have not seen a contested primary this late in the process.
LATER ADD: California Voters FIRST Initiative Website
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Here are some excerpts of a press release from the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc.
The State Assembly’s yearly "gun control day" took place earlier this week. It’s that magical day of the year on which the Assembly takes leave of its senses and tries to limit our Second Amendment rights in the name of "safety" and "security" by passing gun control bills based on false premises such as:
citizens. (Even politicians busy pandering to anti-gun lobbyists know better.)
• If we keep “bad” guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens then criminals and terrorists will not be able to obtain them. (If you believe that then we have a bridge in Brooklyn that we would like to sell you.)
A-3447, introduced by State Assemblyman David Koon (D-135). Bans the sale or possession of frangible ammunition including common hunting rounds.
A-3451, introduced by State Assemblyman David Koon (D-135). Asks for a blank check to expand the COBIS database of fired cartridge cases. COBIS has existed for seven years, has spent $28 million, and has collected close to 200,000 shell casings. So far as we know it has yet to help solve a crime. Under "Fiscal Implications" the bill states "At this time the amount of funding necessary is unknown." Why would anyone want to expand this boondoggle?
The damage has been done in the Assembly. The bills just passed will unnecessarily limit the rights of law-abiding citizens, and will have no effect on criminal activity. The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association urges New York’s gun owners to contact their State senators to ask them to vote against these measures – and any others that may come up – when the Senate has its Gun Control Day. Call (518)455-2800 and ask to be connected to your State senator.
If you are an area hunter, you should be concerned.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
"One of the least influential offices in state government — a Republican seat in the Assembly" the Buffalo News reported the other day.
Does that mean Republican candidates should fold up their tents and go home, of course not? If everyone possessed that sort of irresponsible attitude toward elections, our government would be more of a run away train wreck than it is currently. Jim Tedisco, minority leader of the Assembly has done a fine job leading that conference of Republicans and has been one of the best leaders the Republican Minority has seen in the last several years. An effective leader furthering their agenda Tedisco was one of the first to call it as he saw it with Spitzer in
Down deep what this really means is the responsibility for financing a GOP campaign is primarily the candidate's for an Assembly race. The majority party of either the Assembly or Senate raises more money and therefore, they have more to spend on defending their seats or going after seats, especially if seats are put "in play" like the 118th district or the 122nd seat, if Dede ran for Senate. You can safely guarantee the Democratic candidate will have more money to spend on a race than a Republican Assembly candidate who will have to raise or spend more of their own money.
Likewise, the Republicans will have more money available to spend going after the 48th Senate seat compared to the Democrats whose contribution will be considerably diluted during a general election as opposed to the past special election.
What kind of money will a Republican be looking to spend to win the 118th Assembly? If it is anything like the 142nd district, a dominant GOP contender there is willing to commit $250,000 to $500,000 for a primary and general election while the defending GOP member is raising $100,000.
A Republican candidate will have to buck up big time, the Democrats will be willing to spend that much here, and more, especially with the State Democratic Party Chair June O'Neill, she will not want to lose in her own backyard.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
His retirement allowance is reported at $8 million from 2001, while the other two living former presidents have a combined expense of $9.5 million during the same period.
Despite earning more than $100 million dollars since leaving the White House, his office expenses and staffing cost continue to be paid by taxpayers. His office operations, in the high rent market of Manhattan, have cost the taxpayer $3.6 million dollars since 2001 which comes close to out pacing that of Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush who combined spent approximately $4.3 million during the same time period.
Presidential perks include; pension, office staff and their benefits, travel cost, mailing privileges and other miscellaneous supplies. Clinton's penthouse office is nearly twice as large as the offices of Carter or Bush and cost almost five times as much in rent.
"Clinton’s rent would have been less if his office were on a lower floor, according to a 2001 GAO report, which said the rent per square foot for Clinton’s office is about 4 percent higher than that of a Social Security office located on a lower floor in the same building. But the lower office doesn’t have the same view of Central Park, the George Washington Bridge and most of Manhattan as that reportedly offered by Clinton’s suite."
Many of the former Presidents decline some parts of the package or perks, not Clinton though, he accepts everything.
The state frequently appears to be extending a helping hand to local municipalities and counties. However, the state has quick hands, when they have a helping hand extended; they are picking your pocket with the other hand.
Case in point, the state has offered assistance of their Oneida Correctional Facility’s
On the other hand, the state government is enacting a cost shift from state funding to greater county funding. The shift cuts funding for county programs, both mandated and optional, with education, Medicaid and other entitlement programs. The state is woefully inadequate in estimating the cost to local taxpayers by stating a $21.6 impact for counties, that figure is only a one year figure for 2009 and does not include the balance of 2008 or any year beyond 2009.
So the next time a politician from the state level says, Hi, I am from the state and we are here to help you, hold on to your wallets
Monday, April 14, 2008
The North Country Welcomes Governor Paterson and certainly hopes he takes ample time while visiting to speak with local people and gain an important perspective for rural life in upstate New York State. Our state is very diverse, New York City and even Albany are quite different from Northern New York. It is important, as the Governor makes critical decisions regarding our work and lives, that he has a full understanding of each and every part of New York. To know New York inside and out and every corner of the state would be to represent it well.
The North Country and Fort Drum community should greet the Governor with opens arms.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for Friday, April 25th.
The excuses chiefly center around Spitzer's witlessness.
At the very top of the list is our infamous former Governor Spitzer who decided that high priced hookers on trains to Washington, D.C. would send our fragile government into more of a tail (no pun intended) spin for a more than a week. Spitzer exits stage right.
Then enter Paterson stage left, and he attempts to pick up the pieces, however, before the important business of working on our budget that state and local governments and school districts depend on, he decides to run his hotel habits by the media and public and let them chew on it for a week. Then, he takes the process to the back room, where he lacks the fortitude to take a stand against Bruno and Silver, but promises next year is the year.
So, once again, New York State budget process ended up a secret, as tight as Eliot's black socks, with 3 men in a room and not a committee of rank and file lawmakers in sight.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause witnessed the Albany budget process for the first time and offered this assessment, "I knew things were messy in Albany, but I'm truly taken aback at how completely non responsive the system is to the concerns of New Yorkers."
A sloppy bloated budget, produced 8 days late, the latest in 4 years, and all done behind closed doors. All of this is acknowledged by the three men; Bruno, Silver and Paterson, when, like repentant children, they are all promising to do better next year.
They did not hit a single mark this year, what can be acceptable for an excuse?
The exquisite evening will begin with a reception at Congressman John McHugh's house, followed by hors d'oeuvres and dinner at the elegant Manor House. Portions of the evening's sustenance are provided to the guest by various local dignitaries including one of the Governor's men, Mike Schell and his wife Jacki, who will provide hors d'oeuvres and then conclude with Congressional Chicken by Congressman John McHugh.
The bipartisan team of McHugh and Schell demonstrate their shared values and ability to work well with each other for the benefit of local organizations.
There was no mention of Congressional Candidates Mike Oot or Danny Francis.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Jefferson County John Burns got the nod from the General Services Committee to move forward for a bomb sniffing dog, bringing the department's total of patrol pooches to three.
Also, Jefferson County continues to discuss jail house expansion, only now they are discussing it under the existing conditions of actually in boarding other county inmates. This is an issue that will be followed; is there a need, will they spend millions of taxpayer's dollars to expand and how will they do it.
City of Watertown unveiled their budget with both a levy and a property tax rate increase, due in part to softening sales tax collections and rising fuel cost. The mayor is usually opposed to increases of this nature.
Jefferson Community College was excluded from this year's capital projects budget in Albany, which halts many needed upgrades at the campus. Another further developing issue, whether they will get in next year or have to wait 5 years.
The state finally passed a budget, at least for now. It is a bloated budget, increasing spending 4.9%, and there is serious doubt whether they can make it through the year without adjusting spending downward or raising taxes. Don't be looking for this to happen quickly, the lawmakers will not take any action until after the election. It has a record increase in education aid $1.75 billion dollars, but that will not stop the schools from raising levies or taxes as many are seeing locally.
Albany lawmakers maximized their label of "dysfunction" all the budget process was completed behind closed doors, with few if any committee meetings. The congestion pricing issue provided a perfect illustration of this "dysfunction" with Speaker Silver nixing it in the backroom with only select lawmakers present.
The Democrats continue to wound each other or themselves in the protracted battle for the nomination. Hillary started the week poorly with the Penn issue and ended it well by pouncing on a gaffe by Obama.
Obama went into a skid at the end of this week big time by referring to Pennsylvanians as "bitter". This will be a scar that will not go away, the Republicans will pick this scab every chance. Their new description of him is "elitist" and it will stick.
The oncoming traffic for the week will continue to review of the impacts of the state budget especially on the counties and how will Obama escape this mess.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
This year brought a retirement or two, to different careers.
Brett Favre's illustrious career as an NFL quarterback officially ended with a March 4th announcement. The league's only three-time MVP retired after 17 years of chewing up defenses with his razor sharp passing skills. A tenacious competitor, Favre worked out tirelessly both on and off season in order to stay in shape. The man had a great love for his team, fans and the game and he served loyally for all 17 years.
Closer to home, the North Country saw the career of a good faithful public servant, Senator James W. Wright, end when he retired with little fanfare in January.
Anyone who observes politics saw a Senator who had the skills and style similar to that of a quarterback in football. Similar to a quarterback hitting a receiver down field, he saw problems or an organization in distress and with laser concentration, like a passer, he methodically worked through the issues for resolutions.
Like a good quarterback, scrambling to get a play off, he worked his way through the morass of legislation and politics in Albany to sponsor legislation that would benefit the residents of the North Country.
If you were his opponent, he was cordial, respectful, his opponents respected a tenacious competitor, and like Thomas P "Tip" O’Neill, he believes everyone is a friend, after 6:00 pm. However, if you ventured a cheap shot at the people he served, he would humble you like a team down 40 to 0 at the 2-minute warning. Just ask Senator Parker.
Senator Wright worked hard while the legislature was in session and he was just as diligent when he was back home in the district. Whether you are on the right and loathe the spending in Albany or on the left and think government needs to play Robin Hood more, the Senator always made sure the North Country received their fair share and without the appearance of being gluttonous. If you were a constituent group and excluded from the budget, he took as much time with you as a organization included in the budget, there was no pretense for serving.
If Darrel Aubertine is re-elected to the Senate and remains in the minority, representation of the North Country will be Favre less than it was; if he wins this next election and the Democrats happen to be in the majority, he has big cleats to fill.
Jim Wright, whether or not you liked his style, he was direct, decisive, and he delivered. People who worked with him say that you were a part of the solution or move out of the way. His favorite saying was reported as, “all politics is local”, and he truly admired the people he served.
Much like the season ticket holders in Green Bay, when they pay for their tickets this year many will want Brett Favre back in the line up and as many pay their season ticket to the state on April 15th many will want their quarterback of the North Country to return.
Just ask JCC President McCoy who looked like a receiver without a quarterback after the state passed the budget this week, she knows what it is like to have Favre less in Northern New York now.
Friday, April 11, 2008
It states given the rate of inflation compounded the budget should be at $67 billion versus $121 billion.
Here are some clips, but to read the full article; Budgeting in Albany in Hard Times
"Some people have trouble understanding why, when times are hard, Albany’s notion of tightening its belt is to expand its ample waist."
"So how did lawmakers economize? They added 2,000 bodies to the state payroll. Naturally, they also made sure to set aside $700 million to be showered later on the politically blessed in their districts."
From the left, Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal research group; Trudi Renwick
“To maintain the same level of services, the state government has needed to spend more than the increase in the C.P.I.,” For her, a better measurement is Albany’s spending as a percentage of total personal income in the state. By that standard, the budget is “not really growing out of control,” she said. In fact, “by that measure, it’s below where it was in 1990.”
From the right, Manhattan Institute, Empire Center Executive Director, a conservative research group; E. J. McMahon
Far from being irrelevant, he said, the price index is “the closest measure we have for the overall cost of living” and for “what a dollar means to the taxpayer.”
Mr. McMahon said, where is it written that “the overall cost of government should be growing as fast or even faster than the economy that’s supporting it”? To assert that “government must always be some fixed share of total wealth,” he said, “takes a lot of pressure off government to run more efficiently.”
Where do you view the budget from, the left or right?
The Democratic Party and their candidates are showing signs of anguish and the polls prove the point. This protracted battle is never what they expected or wanted, opposed to their public comments to the contrary, this is much to their chagrin.
The Democratic candidates continue their assault on each other while McCain is now in a statistical dead heat with both Obama and Clinton in national polls. This is sure to get worse before it gets better, eventually there will be a loser and the party has a major load of work ahead just to bring everyone back to understand who is the opponent. If Obama loses, his supporters may not come back for years.
From AP-Ipsos poll:
Obama 46, Clinton 43 (unchanged from February).
Obama 45, McCain 45
Clinton 48, McCain 45
Dates conducted: April 7-9. Error margin: 3.1 points.
Regarding Congressional races; Clinton's presence on the ticket could make it harder for Democrats in tight races, suggested Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The New York State budget is generally like looking through your grandparent's attic, you never know what you will uncover.
For instance, this year's budget borrows some of the greatest amounts ever, $8 billion dollars. This will be for your children to pay off!
Previously mentioned here, the state aid to public schools is $21 billion, a record increase of $1.75 billion or 8.9%, projected inflation rate for the state is 2.6%. The kids are getting the money here, but if they choose to live in New York State later in life they will have to pay off our borrowings.
Deal or No Deal?
The good side:
The limits on the Wicks Law, which requires multiple contracts on school and other projects, have been increased to a $500,000 ceiling for upstate.
The State did not enact millions of dollars in cost shifts to the counties for public assistance and youth detention programs.
Lurking out there in the final budget is another proposed cost shift by Governor Paterson, which will shift of millions of dollars of cost to counties and community-based organizations, funded by counties that deliver state-mandated programs and services to under-represented New Yorkers.
At issue is a 2 percent cut in direct aid to counties, which forces them to more state-mandated public-health, social-service and criminal-justice programs.
Take a political press release for what they are worth sometimes: unless they are making a specific new announcement, they generally are for taking collateral credit.
The SUNY Oswego and
Another point worth making in the press release is the use of the term "upper house"; did Darrel not call this a lateral move when he was deciding to run? There is arrogance in the term "upper house" that could be done away with in the future.
The school aid portion of the press release looks like an after thought and given a historic increase in school aid, it should not be in there, no specific person could take credit for that kind of funding with a month of service.
Finally, the press release does not mention
You should not attempt to take credit for the good without acknowledging there are faults in this budget that you would like to see improved, speak candidly, it is less transparent.
South Jefferson Increase $2,029, 969 a 12.07% increase
Alexandria $522,458, 14.14%
Indian River $2,487,473, 7.15%
General Brown $1,033,656, 9.6%
Thousand Islands $603,400, 8.59%
Belleville-Henderson $140,582, 4%
Sackets Harbor $194,566, 6.34%
Lyme $406,888, 16.02%
LaFargeville $529,535, 11.55%
Watertown $4,047,090, 12.61%
Carthage $2,433,520, 8.91%
County Total Increase $14,429,137
Copenhagen $645,020 11.36%
Harrisville $607,728 14.53%
Lowville $1,621,226 13.6%
South Lewis $1,027,655 8.79%
Beaver River $857,353 10.99%
County Total Increase $4,758,982
Ogdensburg $562,599 2.8%
Heuvelton $253,227 3.68%
Potsdam $1,014,094 8.81%
Massena $2,552,881 12.90%
Canton $551,024 4.07%
Gouverneur $1,837,355 9.07%
(not all St. Lawrence County Schools Listed)
County Total Increase $12,908,607
This budget was a boon for education, with an historic $1.75 billion increase in aid which, advocates claim will help more students perform better in the neediest schools.
Money always seems to save the day, so don't look for school tax levies to decrease either. Take Carthage for an example, a 9.9% tax levy increase and a 20% drop out rate, the formula is working well.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Governor Paterson is having an epiphany about the budget and New York State spending, rightfully so, as lawmakers are about to settle in and vote on this year’s budget. These events seem to occur more frequently as responsibility for actions increase and people become more of the decision makers, such as the case with New York State Comptroller DiNapoli with his remark about being a “reformed sinner”.
Recent remarks made by Governor Paterson, consistently broadcast themes for the next budget that include a need to “tighten our belts”, cutting spending and not rely on new taxes on the millionaires or middle class, the need to change their inability to manage effectively and being more fiscally sound.
Governor Paterson said, “What this state is going to need to reverse its spending binge is strong leadership from the executive levels.”
The Governor wants a reincarnation as a good honest, fiscally prudent steward of the taxpayer’s money, then he can begin with one of New York State’s illustrious leaders, Sheldon Silver.
Sheldon Silver, alone in 2006-07, bankrolled projects in his one single Assembly district to the tune of $7,384,500. It is safe to say that is more than the 118th and 122nd Assembly districts and 48th Senate district combined.
If every Assembly person received an equal share of the pork, it would be approximately a $566,666 per member, or 0.66% of the total, Silver’s take equaled 8.6% of the total pot of money, 13x what he should have received. Silver has control of the $85 million in Assembly pork and he abuses it to his advantage.
Can people in New York (outside his district) possibly believe this is fair? Governor Paterson should correct this immediately and show people he is serious about his tenets.
Details of the budget forthcoming as soon as available, they are still secretive.
A recent post, IDA Successor, brought to light the possibility that the community might not be following through with the utilization of the developed individuals.
A couple of suggestions to the Chamber, which they might already be doing, but if not, they may want to think about it doing.
First, the chamber probably maintains a list of participants from the past classes; distribute the names of these individuals to various organizations throughout the community for consideration on their boards. Organizations such as; the Zoo, the YMCA, United Way, Samaritan Medical Center, DPAO, The Watertown Teen Center and so many more are always looking for people to take up their cause. Along with these organizations, the City of Watertown and Jefferson County make several appointments to various boards each year and they are always looking for people to participate and join community boards. A list of participants would serve as a potential pool to draw needed individuals from.
Secondly, graduates of the Jefferson Leadership Institute should advance their own desires. Request information from the Chamber on various boards in the community, find out what your desire and passion for serving the community is and then send a letter to the organizations that meet your desires, do not wait to be asked. There is a broad range of community boards that can fulfill your desires, even local political parties especially if you have a desire to run for public office.
If you want to serve your community, your help should be welcomed.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Danger Democrat Cross Pollination
Interestingly enough though, the way Danger Dem speaks of McHugh's status on "very prestigious ranking member status on the whole House Armed Services Committee"
Sounds like you are proud of John and endorsing him for that position in his next term.
Nod and a Wink!!
The issue was discussed in the back room, behind closed doors and there was no vote on the floor of the Assembly.
Speaker Silver is quoted yesterday as saying; “many of them (Democratic members of the Assembly) just don’t believe in the concept”, ok, let the members of the Assembly speak for themselves through a vote.
Speaker Silver and his staff are reported to have given the brush off to Bloomberg’s staff, which is standard operating procedure for the Assembly leadership. My way or the highway mentality, no discussion.
Snippets of Mayor Bloomberg's press release;
"It takes true leadership and courage to embrace new concepts and ideas and to be willing to try something. Unfortunately, both are lacking in the Assembly today."
“If that wasn’t shameful enough, it takes a special type of cowardice for elected officials to refuse to stand up and vote their conscience– on an issue that has been debated, and amended significantly to resolve many outstanding issues, for more than a year.”
Silver says no vote, no hearing, no nothing including no democracy in this state.
An issue as important as congestion pricing is; it never made it to the floor for vote. A single man in Albany should never have this much power and control, that is essence of the problem in Albany.
Further, Democrats on the Senate side were shut out, no access to bills that were to be voted on.
Is this anyway to run New York State government, it is an embarrassment.
The fire department appears well equipped; at least the Chief drives a nice new vehicle every year.
The police department could use a little bit more especially in the troubled areas of town, a get tough on crime stance, but a stance like that is not your preference.
What really needs your attention are the streets of Watertown. They are deplorable! Forget about charging people for sidewalk replacements, they are city owned and should be replaced with street reconstruction. The city should set in place an aggressive plan to refurbish the streets and the sidewalks. People enjoy being able to walk down a nice well maintain street and sidewalk and it puts pride in the community.
The city property taxes are certainly much higher than the neighboring Town of Watertown; make sure residents are getting value for their tax dollars.
Mayor and City Council, it is time to step it up
Monday, April 7, 2008
E.J. McMahon, an intelligent analyst of the New York State Budget and Director of the Empire Center writes an interesting op-ed piece in today's edition of the NY Post.
Here are some highlights of his analysis along with further comments.
Lawmakers have violated a provision of the budget reform law from 2007 by voting on pieces of the budget prior to a finalized balanced budget plan. The provision of that law requires a comprehensive cumulative report of the changes in the budget from the Governor's proposed budget.
The lawmakers are filling the revenue gap with plenty of tricks, including borrowing $250 million for a racino construction project at Aqueduct, yet making the operator front the money, providing the state with money to fund other spending and driving the taxpayer further into debt.
The piece aptly points out New York State government is spending faster than the growth of personal income and the rate of inflation.
As remarked on this blog previously, it is believed lawmakers will be back this year, after the elections of course, to cut spending when revenues fail to meet projections. McMahon points out if they do not fix it this year, then the following year's budget gap will be larger, possibly $5 million or more.
He advises taxpayers to hold onto their wallets, smart advice.
Watch for Comptroller DiNapoli, a former Assemblyman, to sign off on the budget, but pay close attention to his remarks in doing so, this will signal the strength, or lack there of, on this budget.
The Sheriff is expected to request another canine for the department, bringing the total to 3 dogs. The department is said to have a $50,000 grant from the Office of Homeland Security, which will cover the upfront cost. Logical questions the legislators should be asking. How much are the other 2 dogs being utilized? Will this increase staffing requirements with an additional patrol above and beyond the patrols on any current shift? Define what the $50,000 will specifically cover of the cost associated with this program, such as the handler and dog training, retro-fitting a patrol vehicle or new vehicle? Further, why is the Office of Homeland Security not funding a federal agency like the Border Patrol for a canine unit?
A situation like this always creates a pause to follow up on the performance of prior similar requests by departments. The Sheriff claimed there would be a significant increase in retention of seized drug money by the department as a result of the obtaining the first dog, has that occurred?
Provided there is justification of the need, performance by the existing units and no, or even minimal, cost to the taxpayer, then this would be an asset. Legislators will need to sort between wants and needs as with any request from a department and proceed to spend taxpayer's money prudently.
If there is a significant burden to the taxpayer, caution should be exercised. How much safer are you and do you feel now that the department has two dogs compared to before they had them?
Sunday, April 6, 2008
- Jefferson County Industrial Development Executive Director, Jim Fayle, resigns. The board of directors and county officials would be wise to review local talent and not just resign themselves to the fact that a replacement needs to come from a national search.
- The County and Towns appear to be tussling over the wind power money. Whatever decision they arrive at, they should remember a couple of things; this will set a precedent for other developments in other towns and position the county to be amenable to negotiating with any town for a tax deal each time a development comes along. Also, each turbine or tower constructed is the equivalent of building a 2-3 million dollar home, which would pay conservatively estimating $75,000 annually in property taxes, the developers are requesting to pay less than $17,000 per tower. That is less than 25% of their obligation.
- Mike Oot debuts his website, absence of any formal announcement or press conference, we have to assume he is a candidate for the 23rd Congressional district. His website and lack of any structured announcement makes you wonder if he is serious or not.
- We await word from local candidates in the 118th and 112nd Assembly districts as well as the 48th Senate district. The illustrious leader of the state GOP runs at the mouth and leaves open a lot of speculation on who will run or not run.
- The budget is late, a surprise there, and the people's business that has been done so far, is all being accomplished privately. At this point, there is no need for a message of necessity from the Governor on the budget bills, this will only further the appearance that lawmakers are hiding something. They are. A budget that spends more than the taxpayers can afford and lawmakers will be back later in the year to trim spending.
- Troopergate continues to make Albany and associated investigators look like the Keystone Cops
- Along with the budget, there will be no special election in the 118th Assembly district.
- The Democrats continue to appear like a skydiver without a parachute. "Obama can't win" says Hillary. She can't manage money, while Barack, should be called BaRake, the campaign cash he is raking in is astonishing and twice that of Hillary. Hillary can't manage a campaign message either and she won't leave the race, further dividing a party heading for a convention nightmare.
- Meanwhile, McCain is yelling to the media at every stop. Hey, look at me, I am in this race also you know!
- Jefferson County Sheriff is poised to request another canine to accompany the current 2 dogs, Bullet and Liberty.
- Maybe State leaders will settle the congestion pricing and the education piece and come forward with a budget this week.
- Clinton comedy continues and the campaign introduces a new theme song by "Weird Al" Yankovic, "You Don't Love Me Anymore"