Thursday, December 29, 2005

End-of-the-Year Type of Post

The biggest current event story in the last week of the year always seems to involve reflecting back on events that are no longer current. Somehow the irony escapes everyone involved. Sorry if I just spoiled the mood by pointing it out.

For 2005, local TV newscasts are talking about how, for the 2nd straight year, the Fast Ferry was the top local news story. I've heard them say it just barely beat out the city Mayor's election. How do they figure this kind of stuff out? Some kind of poll, or do they actually look at the time used to cover the story? Either way, what's the point? Maybe it's just me, but I find this kind of navel-gazing fruitless and uninteresting. First, the idea that there is any kind of significance in a top news story of the year is kind of wishful thinking. Are we honestly to believe that when we look back at 2005, we're going to say to ourselves, "Ah yes... the second year of the Fast Ferry", as we look off in the distance with a thoughtfully wistful expression?

Seriously, this kind of pre-judging of history just looks silly in the long run. It's like being in 1977 and saying, "You know, I really think disco will never die."

So yeah. Let me allow all that to preface what I think was the biggest news story of 2005. Yes, I know what I just got done saying. If you haven't figured it out yet, I have no qualms concerning my role as a public fool. Consider it a service, and one that you get at a premium I might add. Instead of directing attention on the biggest news story, which could really be anything, the local news agencies should consider focusing on the news event of the year.

Let me tell you what that would be.

The biggest story of 2005 was the University of Rochester surpassing Eastman Kodak as the largest employer of the area. It's a significant milestone in a couple of ways. First, how long has this community ruminated over the fact that Kodak will someday be gone? And whatever are we to do when it leaves? Guess what. That day has come, my friends, and somehow we are still standing. I'm not trying to make it sound like there aren't rough roads ahead, because there are. My point is that 2005 marks a year that the transition from the 20th Century economy to the 21st started leaving some marks. Rochester has, for years, been hooked on the easy money from a Fortune 500 conglomerate. Weening ourselves off that gravy train and back into the hustle and flow of cultivating and growing businesses is what will turn things around for this area.

The fact that it's the U of R that is carrying the water for the local economy is a good sign. The increasing investment into the high-tech and bio-tech sectors will spill over into other aspects of economy and hopefully begin to buoy it. The real trick is capturing the intellectual property from U of R and RIT for local development. If the region can develop these start-ups and help foster an environment where they can get their legs, Rochester's chances of transitioning to a 21st Century economy begins to look a lot brighter.


At least that's how I see it.

Oh yeah... and disco will never die. Happy New Year.

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All My Prayers...

Hilton soldier, 21, killed in Afghanistan

I'm from Hilton. Although I don't know the Hasenauers, I know the village. I understand the pain that his family, friends, school mates, and the fire department must be dealing with.

Please give thoughts and prayers to his fiancee and 4 week old daughter.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I have a problem with New York State and Monroe County GoP Chairman Steve Minarik. That isn't news. When people in his own party have a problem with him, then that's news.

A LEADING national Republican, citing sweeping losses in last Tuesdays elections, has declared the New York GOP a disaster area and says shell close her enormous checkbook to the party next year.
"There was no investment in New York in developing future party talent, no investment made in building the partys future," added Mosbacher, the Manhattan-based CEO of Borghese, an international cosmetics firm.
"Who is responsible for this? You hold Gov. Pataki, [former state GOP Chairman] Sandy Treadwell, [current Chairman] Steve Minarik, all of them, responsible."
Asked if she planned to contribute to New York Republican candidates in 2006, Mosbacher responded, "Contribute to what? Im always ready to step up when theres something I believe in and see is worthwhile."
I'm looking forward to seeing Minarik on Need To Know going on about how encouraged he is by this year and how the GoP will sweep elections next year.... in Fantasyland.

City Newspaper Does an Election Postmortem

City Paper posted Krestia Degorge's write-up concerning the fallout from the Monroe County elections. There is a strong emphasis on the Democrats reactions and very little in terms of Republicans. I think I have something I can post concerning the New York Republican fallout in a little bit.

I highly recommend it to anyone that is even remotely interested in party politics. Degorge does a great job covering multiple facets in the story.

Check out the article here.

Revisiting Medicaid

On Tuesday, State Assemblyman Dave Koon (D- Perinton, Penfield, Webster) was on the 1370 Connection on WXXI just taking calls concerning the election and general what-not. I built up a little nerve in the parking lot outside of Burlington Coat Factory in Henrietta and called in. I was the last caller taken.

I thanked the host, Bob Smith for taking my call and then directed my question to the Assemblyman. It was about Medicaid. My question was something like, "New York is number one with a bullet when it comes to state expenditures on Medicaid. We spend 33% more on the program than the next state, California, which has the 8th largest economy in the world. I'd like to know what the Assembly is doing, or what the Democrats are planning to do in order to rein these costs in?"

The Assemblyman didn't really evade the question or hemmed and hewed around it. He didn't really address it either. His answer concerned two things: the problem needs to be examined very closely, and they need to make changes without reducing the level of benefits. Host Bob Smith added to my question by addressing the potential that around 20% of state Medicaid expenditures are due to fraud. Again, the response was, it's something that needs to be looked at.

I'm not getting the impression that this is a real priority in Albany.

First, legislators need to start looking at the problem and finding ways to make sure that benefits are granted to those who need them. They shouldn't shy away from denying benefits to those who do not require assistance. By stating that we don't want to reduce benefits before even doing any serious accounting for where the cost centers are, is like tying our hands before we start bailing water out of our sinking boat. New York State is spends more than any other state. Why are we so out of alignment with states our size with similar demographics? This requires benchmarks. Ideally, we want to be right there in the middle of the pack.

Spending more than California should be a major wakeup call to everyone. Instead it's just not sinking in. The Rochester-based Rump Group has a great position paper concerning steps that can be taken to bring New York back in line with where it should be. The Democrat and Chronicle also runs special reports concerning Medicaid which they archive in one place. I highly encourage both social progressions and fiscal conservatives to examine these resources. This is a case where New York State can be doing more with less.

Furthermore, the allegations of fraud in the Medicaid system falls squarely to the State Attorney General to investigate and take action upon. Let it never be said I go easy on Democrats. Elliot Spitzer needs to tackle Medicaid fraud squarely in the next year or I will find it very hard to take him as a genuine advocate for the people of New York. I will not diminish the things he did on Wall Street, but if he isn't addressing the potential of fraud costing the tax payers of this state in the ballpark of $8 billion, I'm not sure what his motivations for seeking the Governorship are. I will tell you this, Golisano will be addressing Medicaid (he is a member of the previously mentioned Rump Group), Bill Weld will be addressing Medicaid (Massachusetts had sky-rocketing Medicaid costs before Weld reined them in. Now Massachusetts is considered one of the states New York should benchmark itself against.), and they will both look to Spitzer and ask why he hasn't done more to address the fraud in the system. It infuriates me to see Spitzer allowing such a huge opening for which his two major opponents will be able to directly flank him and hit him on a major issue.

What's more important though, is that the problem gets fixed. If Spitzer isn't willing to do it, he should sit down and get out of the way of people that are willing to. If that means I vote for someone else for Governor next year, than I'll do so happily.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Firefox versus Internet Explorer

I use both IE and Firefox. Mostly I use IE at home because it's what my wife likes, and I like her to be happy. On my antiquated laptop, I've got Firefox and Opera because I'm doing the linux-using-rebel thing there.

Let me tell you, this blog and many other sites are rendered much better in Firefox. I was actually getting upset with how the site was layed out in IE and was considering changing some things, when I surfed over to it in Firefox. The left hand column is a more managable size, the links look and behave better, and the body content just reads better. That sounds kind of strange.... Yeah, I think reading my stuff in Firefox makes it better, which means Firefox makes me a better writer. It also makes me taller and better looking. Nevermind all that. Now I'm being silly.

If you haven't surfed using Firefox I highly recommend it. Surf over to and download it. You really won't be sorry. I even replaced Outlook Express with their e-mail application, Thunderbird.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Back from the Dead

Real life got in the way of this blog at the most inopportune time, keeping me away from giving my insight and commentary during one of the more interesting local elections in a very long time. That isn't really true though. I don't consider myself one of the liberal illuminati, one who electronically downloads what you should think directly into your soul by way of a Pentium chip. No, I'm probably a lot like you. I surf around, read some articles, and then respond to it. No ulterior motives other than I like to write. That's it.

That should be quite enough about me. I have better things to write about, and I insist that you must have better things you could be reading.

So let's get to the interesting stuff, shall we?

Over at The Political Notebook, Mike Caputo pens this article which takes stock in how things shook out following the election, and the fallout in the wake of Irondequoit supervisor upset. Democratic challenger Mary Ellen Heyman beat incumbent Republican David Schantz in what was likely the big upset of this year. Mike starts down an interesting path with this:

The County Legislature is still in the hands of the GOP, but they have a lot of new faces in the mix. Perhaps they will still have a common interest with County Executive Maggie Brooks' administration and they will let her take the lead. But maybe, if the budget situation remains bumpy, they will start breaking away.
But doesn't take it to its next logical step. With the tobacco settlement money gone, which I wrote of here, it will be increasingly more difficult to hold property taxes constant and continue to balance the county budget. This presents a real opportunity for competent democratic candidates to make inroads in the County Legislature. I think that is the greatest pitfall facing the Monroe County GoP, considering how much they've banked on their ability to keep property taxes low (or more accurately, their growth in check).

Caputo also teases at the fallout within the County Democrats ranks with the election of Duffy as Mayor.
It's progress. But Democrats still have to craft a message that will work in places outside the city. And the mayor's race picked at the scab of dissention among Democratic leaders. Should internal division linger over the next few years, and should the Duffy administration stagger out of the gate, well, that would make things far more difficult for the party in the coming years.
It could come to pass that if the county budget should start to give under its own weight, the message could craft itself. But there is some time before that happens.

Nico penned some results from around the 'Cuse and all of western NY that involved party changes like we got in Irondequoit. Also you can read the Prop 1 postmortem here.

Krestia Degorge still hasn't posted anything over at City Paper yet. When he does, I'll be sure to link to it.

What do I think about the elections? I'm flattered you asked. I think people made the right choices. Ultimately, with the exception of Irondequoit, people voted in favor of keeping things in the same hands as they were previously. Mayor-elect Duffy is the logical extension of the Johnson administration (which voters largely agreed with, Duffy being the only candidate that thought the city was on the right track), the county legislature stayed in Republican hands, and most towns continued dancing with the dates that brought them. This also indicated something else. Despite the spate of violence, Kodak's layoffs, and Delphi on life support, there hasn't been anything in the community that has really changed the dynamic of power. If anything, that should be a good sign that life in The Flower City is not as perilous as we sometimes think it is. Hopefully, things will improve. Whether they do or not, I promise I'll be around to say something about it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Shunned" or Just Not a Credible Candidate?

According to this WXXI article by Alex Crichton, Chris Maj, the Red White and Blue candidate for Rochester mayor, claims he was "shunned by the leadership of the Rochester Rotary Club" by not being invited to participate in the Mayoral debate.

At the risk of sounding like a political elitist, I'm going to say some politically elite things.

There are times when non-viable candidates add value to the race. This is not one of those times. I admire Mr. Maj for his dedication and fortitude in his campaign for the mayor's office. I think it is important to realize, just as anyone can seek public office, you can't force everyone to sit there and entertain your ideas as if they have merit. Because, sadly in Mr. Maj's case, many of them don't.

Let's see what his website says. Some of these things aren't in the capacity of the mayor to accomplish. Hell, kings have had trouble accomplishing this much!

  • Develop a School of Agriculture to teach children how to grow their own food so we can make ourselves more self-sufficient. Use abandoned skyscrapers to grow food as hydroponic vertical gardens.

  • Increase student representation on the school board. Consider a completely student run school board as a complement to mayoral control of the schools.

  • Increase student representation on the school board. Consider a completely student run school board as a complement to mayoral control of the schools.

  • Create a 25% tax on all marijuana transactions. Require reasonably priced annual licenses for all marijuana producers. Only arrest those who fail to pay the fees or sell to children.

  • Make every roof a green one: plant a small garden on top of each building to prolong the life of the roof and create a beautiful skyline. Additionally, roofs with plants can reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer.

  • Seize all residential property not occupied by the owner within one year of the discovery of lead paint on the property, raze the building, and then turn it into a public vegetable garden. The use of eminent domain to seize delinquent landlord property is justified in the case of lead paint because of the proven harm it causes to children.

He has some fresh ideas, I guess you can say. Not sure what exactly this all accomplishes. If we make Rochester look like some Utopia-in-the-works, as if it were plucked out of some first-season episode of Star Trek (the original, because these ideas would so fit right in with Shatner's acting), would that really attract jobs to Western New York? Or would everyone hold their breath and wait for the mess that the student-run school board makes of things?

This one really stuck out for me:
Instruct city police officers to actively oppose federal or state interference by following new city ordinances that put non-violent drug possession crimes at the lowest level of enforcement priority. Allow for dumping of small amounts of drugs by the police. As of August, the California Highway Patrol has ordered its officers to stop confiscating medical marijuana during routine traffic stops, so an alternate strategy is legally possible. And if necessary, organize militias of city residents for protection from federal or state interference.

Uh, did he just say what I think he said? We are to.... wait for it... take up arms against state and federal officials? I think that's what he means. If not he should consider clarifying that. I mean, I have a degree in English and I'm a pretty good reader and all, but I hope I misread that.

Makes you wonder why he was shunned by The Rochester Rotary Club.

However, I am a silver lining kind of guy. I did like this:
Replace all city computer systems running Microsoft Windows and other proprietary operating systems with free and open source alternatives like the Free/Net/OpenBSD and GNU/Linux operating systems. Draft students from area universities to first assist city government officials in the process, and then keep them in the loop as the changes are rolled out to city schools. Provide them with housing incentives to stay and work in the city upon graduation.
Well, the market should be able to provide the housing incentives. But what I liked was deployment of opensource software. I suspect that there are real savings to be had by moving away from Microsoft related products and relying more on opensource and Linux based packages. I've switched over to in most of my home office uses and I'm very happy. My old laptop that could barely run Windows 98 is cruising wirelessly using Damn Small Linux, so he makes some sense here.

Not enough to get him an invitation to a debate, but still, good enough to get a nod from me. Which is nice.

Friday, October 28, 2005

What is Proposition One?

With election day coming up, I haven't yet touched on Proposition 1 in a way I'm satisfied with. Let's take a swipe at this. Essentially, what Prop 1 is attempting to change is the budgeting process in a way that will both steer budget negotiations to conclusion while minimizing the economic impact of such a budget coming in late.

It slices, it dices...

NYPIRG supports Proposition 1 and they write a little about it here:

The vote on the budget reform amendment is less than two months away. NYPIRG, joined by our colleagues at Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, are urging the public to support the budget reform amendment (Proposal 1) and other proposals that are part of the package because it improves the state's budget process in three important areas:
•  Transparency. The proposal requires greater openness in the development of the Governor's executive budget.
•  Accountability. The proposal creates and independent budget office that will provide bipartisan fiscal analyses(sic).
•  Certainty. The proposal creates a “contingency budget” (essentially the previous year's budget with some exceptions). The contingency budget kicks in when there is no budget agreement by the beginning of the fiscal year. This provision guarantees that a budget will be in place if there is no agreement on a new budget by the beginning of the fiscal year.
It is the third issue listed above that has generated the most controversy. The proposal has been criticized as a “power grab” by the legislature at the expense of the executive branch and been derided as inevitably leading to “runaway spending” by irresponsible legislators.

It doesn't sound too bad. They go on to say that New York is out of alignment with 46 other states in the Union whose budgeting process is more concentrated in the Legislature. At heart, Proposition 1 really wants to do good. However, it seems like you need to take a lot of bad the good here.

The most obvious problem I have with this is, if there is a “contingency budget” in place, that kicks in during the event of a late budget, what on Earth is the motivation for lawmakers to get the budget in on time? That's just one flaw with the concept. It gets uglier.

From we get The Runaway Spending Amendment Homepage. You can go over there and cruise around it at you leisure. Marvel at their attempt to compile all the editorials that have come out against this proposition. Here's a nice summation of some points:
Does this sound like Budget Reform to you?
  • It does not require that the Legislature pass an on-time budget.

  • It gets rid of the requirement that lawmakers lose their paychecks when the budget is late.

  • And if the Legislature fails to pass an on-time budget, the Assembly and the Senate take control of the budget-writing process.

  • The Legislature has already added $12 billion to the budget in just 10 years. More budget power for the Legislature means more spending, which means more taxes. Is that what New York needs?

Which leads me to the one benefit of having the state executive ultimately responsible for the budget: you can blame him or her for it. Pissed at Albany overspending? Write the Governor. If it was the Senate and the Assembly? Good luck finding the guilty party. This kind of set-up gives those in the Legislature political cover for overspending. I can't fathom this will lead to lower spending and lowering the tax rate. I have a feeling that this concept will be going back to the drawing board after the election this November.

Additionally, I'd like to add how much I like NYPIRG. I think the organization and especially its members (politically active college kids) do some great things. We are just on different sides of an issue this time.

On the same subject, but in a lighter vein, WXXI has a good article concerning the Proposition 1 mascot, Porky.

No, it isn't the same guy from those movies in the '80s.

How Do They Know What Jesus Looks Like?

We made national news, even being mentioned on my beloved Countdown on MSNBC. Why? Because people have seen Jesus's face in a maple tree on North Clinton Ave.

I think it's fortunate that it wasn't Elvis's face in that tree. Then everyone would think we were weird.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Fast Ferry Report Card

The 6 month report on the CAT, or Fast Ferry, is out. The numbers are worse than originally projected. For those of you who are either not from Rochester, or have managed to avoid listening to the news since.... oh, about forever here's a Democrat and Chronicle primer.

I just want to react to some things in the article.

The high-speed ferry between Rochester and Toronto lost $4.2 million through August, a progress report released Wednesday shows far surpassing initial projections of a $725,000 deficit in its first year.

The operating shortfall alone erases half of the $8 million cushion set aside for anticipated deficits in the first three years. What remains of the cushion, and what is needed long term, might not be sorted out until the ferry board releases its 2006 plan in December.

"We're actually within budget on expenses," said City Councilman and ferry board President Benjamin Douglas. "So it becomes a revenue issue."

The loss is not so much of the blow to the operation. Given a late start for the ferry, a lack of tour promotions because of the uncertainty of the start-up, the high price of fuel, and still paying piloting fees, the revenue shortfall isn't such a terrible thing. Oh, it is terrible though. It's terrible because it is so much greater than the original projection, and that it consumes so much of the fund set aside to finance future shortfalls. Given this information, I can't fathom that the Ferry can avoid requiring more cash from public sources in the near future. The indications here are that someone didn't get their numbers right. Unfortunate, but not impossible to understand. There are a lot of unknowns in getting this thing up and running, and the sooner that is understood, the less these choppy waves will cause us trouble.

Our esteemed Dean of the Simon School of Business, Mark Zupan, was able to weigh in on the report:
An important number, not included in the 13-page report, is the operating profit or loss in August, said Mark Zupan, dean of the University of Rochester's William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration.

Zupan said operators must define their plan to hedge future energy costs.

Which makes a lot of sense. I'm curious as to what kind of hedging Bay Ferries has in place for its fuel costs, and whether the Rochester CAT is part of that hedge, or if the city is responsible for any fuel hedges. A hedge is essentially financial insurance constructed with marketderivativess, notes, eyes of newt, and other icons of monetary witchcraft. In this case, you want to buy something that will keep the price of fuel from going too high. You'd rather pay for some insurance you don't use than expose yourself to the risk of increasing fuel costs. I;d be very interested to see what the hedge they had in place was, and what they intend to do about it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I want WHO Living Next Door?

Don't get me wrong. I want Senate candidate Pirro to have a respectful performance come November 2006. I firmly believe that if she gets at least 30% of the vote, she should consider it a personal victory of the highest order. I also think it is in her capacity to make it happen.

However, not when she says stuff like this:

During a speech to Chemung County Republicans on Tuesday night, Pirro continued her criticism of the Democratic-controlled state Assembly for its refusal to adopt legislation that would civilly confine violent sex offenders after their prison sentences end.
"That's a difference between Democrats and Republicans _ we don't want them next door molesting children and murdering women," said the Westchester County prosecutor, according to Wednesday's Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper.

Yeah, that's the difference. I'm glad she highlighted that so elegantly. That example should be used in High School Civics Classes. Well done Madam.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Runaway Spending Amendment

I haven't written about this at all but I need to in the next month. On the list of Top Ten Bad Ideas for New York State, this is number one with a bullet. Here is a great description of the Runaway Spending Amendment courtesy of Let Upstate Be Upstate or, whichever rolls better off your tongue.

For latecomers to the issue, some background: The Runaway Spending Amendment is a proposed constitutional amendment that will be put before New York's voters on Election Day next month. It is being touted by state legislators as "budget reform," but most fiscal-policy experts, think tanks, past state budget directors, current, past, and wannabe governors, editorial pages, and academic authorities on New York State government are condemning it with a wide range of objections. Our September study on the proposal concluded that it would virtually guarantee late budgets every year, make big budget gaps more frequent, and lead to even higher taxes and debt.

I would link to the whole write-up, they don't quite support permalinks yet. Write them and tell them they should.

The RSA is a BIG mistake. I hope that voters realize it.

Looking Back on the Democratic Primary

I've been putting off touching on Krestia Degeorge's City paper article concerning the Democratic Mayoral primary for a while, mostly because I couldn't hammer down what I wanted to say about. The reason I had trouble is that Degorge manages to do some pretty thorough reporting and there isn't much left to say about it.

The political reporting in the The City is usually pretty good. Reading it is a good way to come by some information that you may not get through mainstream sources. This article is no exception and is a must read if you want to get a feel for how the local Democratic party is doing.

I heard about the Norwood t-shirts with the cautionary "Don't Sell Out", but the article comes with other details:

Speaking to the Democrat and Chronicle in the aftermath of his protage Wade Norwood's defeat, Assemblymember David Gantt cited race as the deciding factor. And that's true --- to a point. The districts Norwood took are majority black districts, just as those Duffy carried tend to be mainly white. But a closer look at the numbers shows that Duffy made inroads into predominantly minority communities; Norwood's margin of victory in the three districts he carried was less the Duffy's in many of his districts.

And race wouldn't be as huge an issue for the recuperating party if it hadn't been actively used in the campaign.

City Councilman Adam McFadden drew heavy criticism for creating Norwood shirts bearing the slogan "Don't sell out." They were widely viewed as being targeted at African Americans considering voting for Duffy. The comments section of WHAM radio talk-show host Bob Lonsberry's website sprouted racist attacks on Norwood. That in turn prompted the Norwood campaign to criticize Duffy for not distancing himself from Lonsberry. And Norwood received the last-minute blessing of civil-rights activist Al Sharpton. (Whether this helped or hurt is unclear; in New York City, which is big enough to have regular polls on this kind of thing, Sharpton's eleventh-hour endorsement of Fernando Ferrer appears to have hurt him more among whites than it helped him among blacks.)

We want race problems to go away so much that sometimes we put blinders on to it. Maybe we need to talk about it more. However, in this case, I find it hard to think that race was a major factor. Duffy wouldn't have been able to cobble together much of a win without cross-over appeal. I don't care much about color myself. In this case, it has more to do with who is aligned with Gannt and McFadden. I support Mayor Johnson, and, last time I checked, he was black. No big deal.

That would look good on a t-shirt: Skin Color? No Big Deal.

Back to the article though. I don't think this will be much of a blow to Morelle. As has been discussed on these pages, the slate of candidates were already in place before Morelle took control of the party. Understandably, he still hails from the faction of Gannt and company, so just because I don't think he'll hang for the primary results, he still could hang for something else.

Regardless of that, Morelle has done a good job with outreach and fund raising. The website is still a mess though, but that'll have to change soon. That party will get through this and will likely be stronger for it. However, I don't foresee the kind of lockstep automation that exists in the GOP.

Speaking of websites and the GOP check out their opening flash animation on their homepage. I won't link to it, for the same reason I don't touch dead rats, because of filth and disease. But go to and check out where they put their emphasis with that animation.

.22 caliber minds living in a .357 world

When Democrats Attack....Poorly

So Tom Golisano has switched parties and is now a registered Republican. He hasn't announced his run for Governor yet, but he hasn't denied it yet either. None of this is shocking.

What I find shocking is the immediate response by the New York State Democratic party. The state party, the their infinite depth and sagely wisdom, attacked Mr. Golisano right out of the gates, pointing out the chasm that has existed in the past between Golisano and the power holders of the state GOP. Here's a few nuggets of political hackery:

· In 2002, the Golisano campaign derided the State Republican Party as a “special interest slush fund” of Pataki. (Golisano Campaign Press Release, 10/26/02)

· During the 1998 Governor’s race, Golisano called Pataki's fiscal policies “insane” and said Pataki was “operating the state government like a compulsive credit card user.” (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/5/98; AP, 10/28/98)

· “I will not stand by and let Pataki, with his irresponsible borrowing, put New York State at financial risk while he tries to buy the election with taxpayer dollars and lays the groundwork for his own future, including a possible presidential run,” said Tom Golisano (Buffalo News, 10/1/98)

· Golisano accused Governor Pataki for increasing the debt, saying, “While the U.S. economy was robust, the Pataki administration increased its spending and increased the State’s debt… Now, with the world financial community nervous about its future and many economies on the downturn, is New York State in a position to weather a possible storm?” (PR Newswire, 10/7/98)

· During the 1998 gubernatorial election, Golisano criticized Pataki for ruining the state’s fiscal situation, saying Pataki’s “financial irresponsibility” was catching up with the state and had given New York “the second-worst bond rating in the nation.” (PR Newswire, 10/22/98)

· Golisano accused Gov. Pataki of opposing medical marijuana “because the governor’s campaign and the state GOP have taken over $220,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, which Golisano said could lose money in the sale of painkilling drugs if marijuana were legalized for medical use.” (Buffalo News, 10/17/02) Golisano said the governor’s opposition was “because he is in the pocket of the big drug companies who stand to lose money if medical marijuana is made available.” (New York Times, 10/17/02)

Talk about a huge miscalculation and a big mistake. First, I agree with most of what Golisano is saying. I understand State Democratic party Chair Herman Farrell is trying to illustrate the differences that Golisano has with his new party, but at the same time, that press release suddenly gives Golisano a lot of cross-over appeal to moderate Democrats, especially western New Yorkers with whom Golisano will be incredibly strong. This press release gave Golisano an opening to claim having political outsider status, outside special interests, and not being beholden to his parties power elite. This kind of thing will resonate given the dissatisfaction that most New Yorkers feel about Albany.

Furthermore, releasing this laundry list aimed at Golisano, before the heat of the Republican primary can even be felt, gives all the other GOP candidates cover to use this stuff during the primary. People keep track of who goes negative and begins throwing the mud. Now, everytime a GOP candidate brings the stuff on this list up, they can say "The New York State Democratic party pointed out...." They can tar and feather Golisano at will and mention the word "Democrat" in every attack. Image counts for a lot, especially concerning how a party handles a primary. By firing first, the Democrats may end up wearing the Black Hat that smore ofhave been worn by one or moreof the GOP contenders.

Additionally this looks absolutely embarrassing and petty. Let me explain more clearly. Going negative first in a campaign is a sign of weakness and lack of vision. I don't care if anyone thinks I'm a political romantic, candidates and their organizations should be so busy describing why they're running for office, they don't have time to waste talking about the other people running. To me, this says that the Democrats are scared of Golisano. And by attackinginadvertentlyly, they may have inadvertaaggravateswered him.

What agrivates me even more about this is how the Dems just dumped it out in the media as soon as Golisano switched signed up with the GOP. I understand they wanted to get their stuff in on the same news cycle as the party change. I'm sure someone at Dem Headquarters thought their laundry list of Golisano transgressions would be repeated in the media. Instead what they got for their efforts is a sentence or two concerning Democrats "attacked" Golisano.

Democrats attacked somebody for switching parties? Good job. That's a lovely image. I cringe when I see the words Democrats and attack in the same sentence. Too often it makes me think of fights involving hair-pulling and open-handed slapping.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Golisano Updates Webpage. Important or Just a Slow News Day?

Several local news sources such as this article in the Democrat and Chronicle are indicating that Tom Golisano has updated his webpage from his past run for Governor. Tea leaves are being read right now that indicate this is a signal that he'll be announcing in the coming days that he'll run for Governor as a Republican.

It must be a slow news day. It seems to me that this is practically a sure thing, and to attempt to inject this "edge of your seat" kind of suspense into almost crosses over into melodrama. Writing about whether there are signals out of the Golisano camp about a run is really a "bury the lead" kind of story. I like Mr. Golisano. He's done great things in Rochester. I'm not quite there with him on the whole Down-With-Windmills thing, as the arguments I've heard against it are somewhat short-sighted. But, on the whole, he's a good man who is concerned with the community.

I can write him a love letter later, though. What I want to talk about, and what the D&C should be reporting on is the fact that Golisano is a bit of an upstart to the current NY Republican establishment. To make that story even more interesting, the State GOP chair is our own local Chair Steve Minarik, a man who is always fun at parties. Minarik is one of those politicos that publicly states he doesn't like primaries and has spoken publicly about his enthusiasm for a Weld candidacy.

Furthermore, Tom Golisano did little to ingratiate himself with the state GOP power-elite with is numerous runs for Governor as a third party candidate. I will expect him to draw considerable fire from longtime state Republicans as a "Johnny-Come-Lately". Honestly, if Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox seeks the Governor nomination instead of the Senate nomination, I see no way Golisano can win the primary. Cox will consolidate the Conservative wing of the party, Weld will tap into the power-brokers who enticed him over from Massachusetts, and Golisano will be left with very little support, while I imagine, campaigning on more substance than any of them.

Seems like a like a lot of trouble to go through just to get creamed by Elliot Spitzer.

Regardless, I promise to try my absolute best to refrain from making any Don Quixote jokes when writing about Mr. Golisano and his crusade against the windmills errr.... his quest to win the Republican nomination for Governor.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

30 Rochester soldiers come home today

Welcome home!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Incoming Irony Attempt: Tools Needed to Take Down the Store

All Chase-Pitkins will close in 2006.

“The industry is dominated by a small number of very large national players with thousands of stores, and Chase-Pitkin is simply not big enough to compete successfully and grow the business,” Chairman Robert B. Wegman said in a printed statement released today.

Kind of sad, but not unexpected. There was no way that the local hardware-store chain could compete, even in its own backyard. Chase-Pitkin has always been good for swinging by to grab something to finish a project late on the weekend. You knew you could get in, and then get out without any friction. Not so much at those other big chains.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Primary Fight for Slaughter?

I do not have a subscription to the Capital Hill news magazine, Roll Call. Doing so would seriously damage my credibility as an "outside-looking-in beltway-outsider who is a double-secret-outsider" kind of guy.

However, since I don't have access, I have to do this the hard way and quote a quote from a second-hand source. It appears Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of the NY-28th has a primary challenger from Buffalo.

From Roll Call (subscription required)

And in the 28th district, which extends from Buffalo to Rochester, Buffalo City Councilman Antoine Thompson (D) is expected to challenge Rep. Louise Slaughter in the Democratic primary.(...)
At 35, Thompson is less than half the Congresswoman's age; Slaughter turned 76 last month.

Thompson also is preparing to run at a time when black politicians in Buffalo are ascendant; state Sen. Byron Brown (D) is the frontrunner to become the city's first black mayor in November's open-seat race.

"I think we're in for a very spirited contest," said Joe Illuzzi, publisher of, a Web site and monthly magazine on politics in Western New York. "Louise will have her hands full. There's no question about it."

In a phone interview this week, Thompson would not confirm that he is running.

"We're thinking about it," he said. "We'll give it some careful consideration."

But sources said Thompson is putting together fundraisers for a Congressional run and is telling acquaintances that he plans to raise $500,000 for the primary. He is scheduled to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's legislative conference in Washington, D.C., later this week, where he is expected to huddle with party leaders.

Eric Burns, a spokesman for Slaughter, said the Congresswoman is focusing on her official duties these days.

"We've certainly heard the rumor [about Thompson], but it's way too early to speculate about who's running and who isn't," he said. "The one thing we know is Rep. Slaughter is running for re-election and that she is going to be re-elected."

Slaughter, ranking member of the Rules Committee, was sitting on $390,000 in her campaign account as of June 30.

But while she has the advantages of 10 terms in Congress, Slaughter's base has always been Rochester, and she's still not terribly well known in the Buffalo portion of her district, which she picked up after redistricting in 2002. What's more, minorities make up 38 percent of the district and probably an even bigger share of the Democratic primary vote.

Whether Thompson is trying to gain a leg up on other potential successors to Slaughter is hard to say. Slaughter shows no signs of slowing down, and it is widely expected that she will seek to stay in office at least until the next round of redistricting, when the Buffalo area could lose one of its three House seats.

I'm not surprised. Ms. Slaughter has served for years and must be considering retirement. I believe (and I have NO inside information on this) that this will be her last election. For a few months I've been looking at the field trying to see what could be bubbling up. I was even planning a post that fingered Joe Morelle as positioning himself to run for the seat, a move that I could enthusiastically support. However, like someone looking so far ahead they don't see what they're about to step into, I overlooked someone running against her now to get a jump on name recognition.

That's because name recognition will be key for this seat. That's why I figured Assemblyman Morelle was eyeing the seat when he took double duty as the Monroe County Chair. You've got Rochester and Buffalo that will be going head-to-head for this seat. It's going to make the Amo Houghton primary in the NY-29th look like a Junior Varsity affair. I have heard a whisper or two that it is half-expected that Rochester will lose this seat to Buffalo. I don't know about that. Buffalo has its own problems, and two years is a long time. As it stands, the only two Rochesterians I can see having a shot for this seat is Assemblyman Morelle and Mayor Johnson.

Then again, I'm not really in the know, am I?

I'd be interested to hear what you all think.

One thing is for certain. I will miss Congresswoman Slaughter. She has represented the region well and has done us a service for a very long time. I imagine there is a stretch of road somewhere that will get named after her. Too bad she wasn't an astronaut. Then we could name a school after her.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Monroe Republicans Prove They Are Republicans

In an attempt to solidify their ties to their national party, Monroe County Republicans distributed obfuscatory campaign material that downplayed the fiscal trouble of the county while insinuating that the budget had been balance without raising the tax rate.

The Democrat and Chronicle article can be found here does not really dig too deeply into the charges that Monroe Democrats have weighed against the Republicans. In fact, the Dems don't do much else about it on their Monroe County Democratic Committee homepage. I think they missed an opportunity to frame this with a press release that can really cut through the murky kind of coverage that the D&C gave it. As much fun as beating a dead horse is, I'm getting tired of pointing out the Monroe Democrats would be well served by starting up an official blog in order to put a voice on the local party.

All that is beside the point. This brochure is generally misleading while being fundamentally true. You may recall the tobacco settlement money? Yes, I'm referring to the $142.6 million that went up in smoke, as one may quip.

The D&C article concerning the campaign brochure contains this passage:

For new Republican candidates in this year's contests, the campaign handout includes a statement by County Executive Maggie Brooks that says, "I am proud that we are balancing the Monroe County budget without raising property taxes."

However, I find that statement to be misleading when contrasted with this quote from the latter tobacco settlement article:
But other projects that officials initially designated for tobacco money funding — a juvenile justice center, a soccer complex and a major expansion of the Seneca Park Zoo — were shelved in the face of the county's financial difficulties.

And $35.9 million of tobacco funds initially slated for projects were rerouted in 2003 to plug a gap in the county budget.

The point that Republicans are trying to make here is that they're responsible with the budget and found a way to make ends meet without hitting the voters up for more cash. And that is kind of true. True enough where they want credit for it that they can take to the bank and get votes out of it. However, they don't fill you in on the reality. They did a one-time deal. They cannot do it again, because they tapped that well dry. By balancing the budget with limited funds, they produced a golden egg by killing the goose without telling anyone that was the last one. This is like going out on a first date with a rented sports car, a hand tailored suit bought on credit, eating at restaurantnt you can never afford again; all done to position yourself for a second date. Nevermind the fact you completely fabricated who you are in order to get that second date. In this case, and for most of Steve Minarik's party, it is about fooling the voters and giving them half of the truth.

I don't know about Maggie Brooks and Steve Minarik, but my mom taught me that half a truth is still a lie.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rochester's Nightlife

I can't believe I missed this article.

USA Today did a write-up on Rochester nightlife on the 15th. I liked it. I can't be the only one that has noticed that lifetime Rochesterians are the ones who more often overlook the unique and interesting things our city offers. I hope this gets included in the material that gets circulated when recruiting young people to area businesses.

Over $40 Billion

New York is number One with a bullet, when it comes to Medicaid expenditures among states. $40 billion is nothing to sneeze at. The second highest state is California with a little over $30 billion. We win by close to a quarter spread... Kind of hard to get your mind around that.

So, according to a Democrat & Chronicle editorial in today's paper, our legislators in Albany are taking it on in their usual manner. Namely, they rail the other party for whatever they can tacitly blame them for and do nothing to solve the problem.

I've blogged this before here, and I'm sure I will again in the future. In order to solve the problem, you need to identify the problem. That does not mean raking anyone over hot coals. So, no. These people, Democrats or Rebublicans, are not doing anything to reduce what we have to pay in our taxes in a healthcare system crippled by bloat.

I'm not too sure if anyone else blogs about the Medicaid problem in this state. One Western NY blogger can't do it. But maybe as I do it, I can get The Buffalo Pundit, NYCO, and Democracy in Albany talking about it more. And if our blogs start buzzing about it, maybe The Daily Gotham might pick up the torch. Who knows? Suddenly, NY conservative bloggers realize the progressive blogs are all talking about reducing a major state budget item that would profoundly reduce our tax rate, and they get in on the action. Then we have a watershed moment where people put aside their party in order to fix a major freaking problem that is killing the state economy.

Yeah. It's a pipe dream. Some say I'm a dreamer. I hope I'm not the only one.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mayor's Race: What did it mean?

The dust is settling now. After a contentious primary, that always had more lurking beneath the surface than anyone really let on, as certainly as the sun will rise tomorrow, Bob Duffy will be the next Mayor of Rochester. John Paranello is more likely to don a cape and tights and stalk the streets at night, than beat Duffy in the general election. That isn't what I want to address here though. I want to get back to talking about what lurks beneath the surface.

Last month I had written concerning a City paper article which touched on factions in the Monroe County Democratic Party. The post can be found here if you want to check out my writing via Professor Peabody's Way-Back Machine.

Here's the gist if you don't want to take the jaunt at the link:

I want to focus on the city budget and the race for Rochester's Mayor.
Take this other article from the Democrat and Chronicle. The first part of the article begins by playing the "Pin the Tail on Albany" game, which I love by the way. However, we then get to this gem and a quote from Mayor Bill Johnson:

However, Johnson this week leveled accusations that the money was deliberately held up after the intervention of some City Council members.

"People are paying higher taxes for what may have been a political decision," Johnson said. "It's tragic that someone thought that by holding up this money, they thought they could take political advantage for one of the (mayoral) candidates."

That is quite a charge to level. And where does it come from? Well, mayoral candidate Wade Norwood comes from the political circle of Assemblyman David Gantt, who was the point legislator for this additional money. What could Norwood gain by getting Gantt to slow the state money's delivery into city coffers? Maybe to create an opportunity for Norwood by timing the delivery of the money? Or is this more about throwing mud on the Mayor? There is this from WHEC on the back and forth between Gantt and Mayor Johnson:
Assemblyman David Gantt said not getting the money from the state is the mayor's fault. Gantt says the mayor took too long to request the spin-up money. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, the mayor blamed Gantt, saying he needed to push a harder.

And I had this in there, too...
  • Former Monroe County Democratic Chairperson Molly Clifford was a major supporter of Mayor Johnson.

  • Councilman Wade Norwood is State Assemblyman David Gantt's former Chief of Staff.

  • Clifford stepped down from the Chair role after alleged problems with Assemblyman Gantt.

  • Clifford is currently running Bob Duffy's campaign. Assemblyman Joseph Morelle has since replaced her as Party Chairperson after stepping down as Wade Norwood's campaign chairperson.

    • What we saw yesterday, and indeed the entire primary race, is symptomatic of a party with significant divides. The question is: over what? And that question shouldn't go unanswered. Since Mayor Johnson won the Mayoral primary back in 1993, the defragmentation of the Democratic Party has not abated. I would say, given the rumored reasons for Molly Clifford's sudden departure from the Monroe County Democrat Chairperson position, those fault lines still exist and are as agitated as ever, despite Wade Norwood's indication otherwise during the campaign. Indeed, the outcome of that entire fiasco puts former Norwood campaign chairperson Joe Morelle in charge of the County party, while the departing Clifford will likely follow Duffy to City Hall.

      What the heck is going on?

      As far as I can tell the significant camps derive from Gantt and Johnson. Gantt as the old guard, and Johnson as the upstarts. I don't find myself particularly alarmed by any of this to tell the truth. You'll always find yourself dealing with conflicts within any party system. Especially when the party in question deals more with what action to take, instead of what things shouldn't be done.

      The real problem here is that the new party chair has indicated on more than one occasion that he does not want to see party primaries. Look, Joe Morelle is a good Assemblyman, a profound , and probably an excellent leader for the party. The problem is that he shouldn't ever try to be a king maker, or so blatantly try to set certain handpicked candidates above others. All members of the party have a say in this, and if we want to primary, then, by damn, we will.

      Monday, September 12, 2005

      Rochester Mayoral Race Will End the Moment it Begins

      The City paper has a crib sheet here for the Democratic primary for mayor tomorrow. The City paper write up is a little too simple for my tastes and falls into a "Quality A is bad for this reason, but good for this reason" kind of rhythm, but it does raise a few points worth some discussion. First and foremost, I think they have Councilman Norwood pegged down well. I have no personal issues with Norwood and I think he has served honorably. I hope he continues to seek office regardless of the outcome tomorrow. However, I cannot find support for him as Mayor. The truth is that I find his career-long association with Assemblyman Gantt problematic. Things that I've heard about Gantt have always made me question whether he operates with his constituents' interests at heart. I don't know. But the recent dust-up between Mayor Johnson and him when finalizing the city budget gave me little reason to change my mind.

      I don't know if I have the right to make any kind of endorsement for Mayor. I doubt it matters. If I could choose one person to run the show at City Hall for the next four years, I would have to choose the man that is there right now without giving any pause for consideration. Mayor Johnson has faced some difficult times, made tough decisions, and weathered some sharp criticism. Good leaders often face that. Under Johnson's stewardship, Rochester has seen some significant changes to its economic climate as well as its demographic make-up. Understanding the challenges that the future will bring, Mayor Johnson worked to develop a plan for the future with the 2010 Plan, create in-roads to area businesses by working with the Rump Group, and create a more hospitable political climate by partnering with County Executive Brooks. He has been a capable and accountable Mayor. Rochester was lucky to have him.

      Now, as surely as Johnson will leave office, the winner of tomorrow's Democratic primary will win the November election for Mayor. None of the candidates appear to be able to fill Mayor Johnson's shoes, but one must be hopeful that what we don't know about these men, may surprise us.

      It is my hope that Bob Duffy wins tomorrow's primary election. His executive experience, his ability to speak out, and his willingness to reach across all aspects of a community make him the most suitable candidate for the office.

      Chris Maj: Some say he's a dreamer...

      While I think it is great that young people are running for office, I wish Mr. Maj had a little more understanding of what he's running for. He's clearly an idealist. I won't knock him for that. I wish I could more idealistic. He may, possibly, be a visionary. It's debatable, and I'm not inclined to agree with that assesment, but I'll leave that out there because I'm sure someone will believe he is.

      What's the point?

      Mr. Maj needs to understand that by running for Mayor he is asking people to follow his lead. As a leader people want maturity, understanding, and sound judgment. I haven't seen this to a great degree in his campaign. I hope in later years, we see Mr. Maj again, and he displays more of these qualities.

      Tuesday, August 16, 2005

      Back From the Dead...

      I haven't been particularly faithful to the handful of people that wander through these parts. The long and the short of it is that after a disgusting performance on a Market Research midterm, I've been focusing all of my time on school and my mildly pregnant wife.

      But fear not, for I bring good news.

      My finals are over after Saturday the 20th, so I'll be back with daily updates, as well as a new and improved Friday Night Thing.

      The unannounced hiatus is over. Round two begins with some bouts of shameless self-promotion!

      Friday, August 05, 2005

      Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

      Monday, July 18, 2005

      Mods, Ratings, and Video Games

      This is not Rochester related at all. So if that's all you like, feel free to leave and come back for a Rochester related post later in the day. Right now I want to talk about Hot Coffee.

      I used to be a hard-core video game player. If I had the time, I'd likely still be one. Time gets short, things take priority, and now my XBox sees more DVDs than games, my PC's video card drivers are outdates, and my Dreamcast lies in the basement, unpowered and unloved.

      Still, things like this "Hot Coffee" mod for the new Grand Theft Auto game gets me upset. I'm not going to argue back and forth on who needs to be responsible for this mess. To be honest, in this case it depends on a lot of things. If "Hot Coffee" is merely some code that unlocked hidden content, I believe Rockstar (the games developer) should get hogtied, tarred, and feathered. For two reasons: this is a game that is fairly risque in the first place. We're talking about killing cops, selling drugs, and beating women. When you are being controversial, the last thing you want to do is hide more controversial things in your code.

      It's one thing to create a game that is risque, present it for a rating, get a rating, and go on your happy way. That turns bad when later people find things that could alter your rating even more. It becomes a trust issue. As a parent, I want to know that the rating on the package is significant. In this case, Rockstar might have compromised that trust.

      However, if this is a mod, then parents just have to know what their kid is doing. Well, parents need to know what their kid is doing anyway. And if you're letting your child play any Grand Theft Auto game, I'd seriously consider that poor parenting. These games, while well crafted, are horribly corrupt things, without any redeeming characters. They make the Godfather look like a Disney movie.

      So the bottom line for me is that this is really about the Game Ratings System. Someone isn't doing their job when it comes to controlling access to these games. Whether it is deceiving the raters, or not paying attention to what your kid has, the bottom line is that this problem won't go away until people care enough to know more about the problem.

      Also I'd like to add that The Christian Science Monitor is one of the best sources of news available in the United States. Don't let the name fool you. There isn't any kind of religion in their reporting. They also have some fantastic international coverage. The article linked to above is probably one of the most fair I've read on a subject that most journalists use to play on the fears of the parents.

      Friday, July 15, 2005

      Rump Group Issues Mayoral Candidates a Final Exam

      It sounds much more absurd than it really is. While the Rump Group calls this document which has been issued to the candidates a "survey", it really comes across as an exam to measure whether the candidates are in agreement with Rump Group position papers. That may sound strange to some people, as it did to me. Stranger still, I think it's a good idea. Yes, if one is familiar with the Rump Group and their position papers, you can see this merely is a barometer to measure how in agreement the candidates are with the group. However, the survey provides voters some salient details without spin. Some of these questions require answers I'd like to see, such as:

      1. Do you support providing a single point of contact for businesses in Rochester to work with in matters of permitting, zoning and other city government issues? (yes or no)

      2. Business investments, expansions and relocation decisions often involve city permits and other applications. The amount of processing time to approve these projects greatly affects the cityÂ’s business climate. As Mayor, would you be willing to benchmark against comparable cities and implement an approval process which guarantees approval for city permits and other applications within
      30 days or less? (yes or no)

      3. Do you support special tax incentives to stimulate retailing in the central business district, such as suspension of sales taxes or the establishment of a Business Improvement District? (yes or no)

      4. a. Do you think the establishment of a casino in downtown Rochester should be strongly considered as part of our economic development strategy? (yes or no)
      b. Should we strongly consider the establishment of a casino elsewhere in the five-county area? (yes or no)

      5. If current city revenues from the sale of water will be maintained, do you support the merger of City and county water authorities in Monroe County? (yes or no)

      6. What single economic development project is your top priority — either a new or existing project? (No more than 10 words)

      No more than 10 words? Is there a time limit? Does the survey require using a Number 2 pencil? What happens if they don't use a Number 2 pencil?

      These are practical questions that lend themselves to practical answers. If the candidate merely dances through these questions, it'll be easy to spot. But if the candidate has some vision, this is an opportunity for it to shine through. It can also be an opportunity for a candidate to make some waves by coming out squarely opposite to some Rump Group view. I'm not advocating that strategy mind you. I find myself thinking the Rump Group are on the right track 90% of the time. Just the same, if your campaign is spinning its tires, sometimes swinging for the fences can get you farther than just hoping for a base hit. I think I just fulfilled my quota for bad cliche's right there...

      The two questions that come near the end are the ones I'm most eager to read the results of:
      20. If the city received an incremental revenue increase of $5 million, what would be your first priority for using the money? (specify tax reduction, a “rainy day fund” reserve, or a specific program or department you would fund -- no more than 10 words)

      21. If the city received an incremental revenue decrease of $5 million, what would be your first priority for dealing with the shortfall? (specify tax increase, borrowing,or a specific program or department you would cut -- no more than 10 words)

      What are the safe answers here? Are there any? I can imagine, given recent events public safety will figure into the first question. Throwing money at a problem is as old as politics itself, but the second question raises my eyebrow. What is there left to triage? The ferry? After all we've been through with that? Given the emphasis being put on developing waterfront areas, I think such an answer would be horribly short sighted. We'll see.

      Only a few days until the surveys are due. Pencils down on July 18th. I'll stay on top of this and link to the results.

      Tuesday, July 12, 2005

      Really Steve?

      He's a doofus.:

      "State GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik fired back that Clinton should stop running for president and instead help New Yorkers. 'Maybe Hillary Clinton should focus on her own job, rather than trying to get someone else's job.' "

      That's rich. Meanwhile, the NYS GOP bench is so enemic, the Spencerport Young Democrats could wipe them in a statewide election. Seriously, Minarik. Stop talking like you've got an "A-Game" when you can't even get third-tier candidates to step up to run against Clinton and Spitzer. Even the Govenor is scared. Can anyone name the poor sap you ran against Schumer?
      Minarik and the Finger Lakes windmills should get together and make something useful out of all that hot air.

      Friday, July 08, 2005

      My Regular Friday Night Thing...

      Looking for something to do this weekend? clicky!

      No matter what your religious affiliation is, The Hill Cumorah Pageant is a fantastic production for no entrance fee. Also, when I went I wasn't beset by any kind of religious zealotry either. Enjoyable if you can tolerate beliefs that may run slightly counter to your own.

      Beer is not sold at the event, however.

      A Cash Starved County

      If you're the type of person that frequents this blog, I can only assume that you are the type of person that is also keenly aware of the financial distress that is common amongst the municipalities of Western New York. Erie County is a few short weeks away from denigrating into something akin to The Road Warrior sans Australian accents. Other counties are having an equally difficult time and there doesn't look to be much relief on the horizon. What can be done to bridge all these budget gaps?

      Did you say spend tobacco settlement money? Sorry. Apparently that ship has sailed for good.

      Monroe County has spent all of its $142.6 million. More than half of this money was used to pay off some existing debt, but a chunk also helped finance the expansion of the Monroe County Jail and another chunk was used to fill a budget gap.

      There are those that believe the settlement money should have gone into increased promotion of smoking cessation and prevention programs. There is some logic to this. By reducing the number of people that smoke, you reduce future costs to Medicaid by those smokers. See? It all adds up.

      But it doesn't really. See, I'm of the school of thought that believes there aren't any smokers out there that are somehow missing the fact that cigarettes will kill you. Education and promotion will do little, in my opinion. I firmly believe that ending smoking in bars was the single most effective step in inducing people to stop smoking. Hell, it's how I was able to stop smoking. By decoupling the relation between bars and cigs, I was able to finally break the habit.

      So, then, what do you spend the settlement cash on? Well, you invest it. Not in the stock market or some other thing. No, a community should invest it in itself. Sometimes these projects are straight forward, the local government builds or creates some resource that, in turn supplies the region with ongoing returns on that investment. It bays for itself as well as increases the overall wealth of the area. Unfortunately, projects like that do not always just drop in on you and announce themselves. Additionally, they are not always without some amount of risk on their return. Some current projects that fall into this category are the Paetec Soccer Stadium and Fast Ferry. See what I mean? Not so sure if those projects will payoff, do you? So yeah. That's the high-rolling game of public sector capital investing.

      Building a jail? I'd say there isn't too much return on that investment. Sure, we needed it. That's fine. It should have been paid for out of the budget. Let me put it this way. You're running the county and you've got your budget projected out for a couple of years. You've got some infrastructure projects that need to be taken care of and things are kind of tight because your spending is almost entirely on consumption. Suddenly, a big sack of money lands in your lap. You could say to yourself, this is an opportunity to engage in some projects that will help open up more revenue streams. Or you could say to yourself, we can build a jail. See what I mean? It's all so damned shortsighted.

      I'm not alone in this:
      ...other projects that officials initially designated for tobacco money funding — a juvenile justice center, a soccer complex and a major expansion of the Seneca Park Zoo — were shelved in the face of the county's financial difficulties.
      Taxes. Taxes should be considered. We're already overtaxed and it is very hard to disagree that raising taxes to build a new wing on the jail would have been bad. It became about focusing on the here and new. I agree with this next part from the article.
      But Legislator H. Todd Bullard, D-Rochester, disagrees. He faults the county for focusing too much on the immediate and not enough on the county's long-term needs.

      "We used the money for quick fixes and we didn't come up with a long-term strategy that had a community buy-in from many sectors," Bullard said.
      It's just mismanagement. The county didn't ask the question, "How can we use this money to bring business to Rochester? How can we deploy this so jobs are created?" They had an opportunity and they blew it. I'm glad the County Executive who was running that train wreck has moved on. But sometimes I wonder whether he's been replaced with anyone with a better vision of what the region can become.

      Tuesday, July 05, 2005

      Democracy for America

      I'm back from a weekend away. Let's get into it.

      I want to say a few things concerning my blog-post about the Monroe Democratic Party and Rochester's progressive organizations. First, I'm glad one of my posts elicited such a strong reaction as it did for the members of Rochester's chapter of Democracy for America. I wouldn't be honest unless I said I'm glad this page got so many sets of eyes across it. However, I want to point out that my goal wasn't to impugn DFA. I've had a link to the Rochester DFA site up since this blog's inception. I was reacting to the City Paper article and specifically a quote from a Democratic Party "insider". I can see from the strong reaction I got from the DFA, that the point alleged in the article wasn't exactly accurate. I'm glad they pointed that out and I hope they follow up and contact the City Paper and ask for an opportunity to respond to the article. I also hope that the members of DFA continue to check out this blog and comment on things. What I want to know is, where is their blog?

      Secondly, there is a write up on Governor Dean in this past Sunday's Washington Post Magazine. They give him a fair shake, but revisit all the incidents that have made his media exposure more about the style than the substance. All this doesn't matter. Howard Dean will be judged upon how the Democratic party does in the 2006 elections. And with that, I think he'll finally shut his detractors up.

      Friday, July 01, 2005

      My Regular Friday Night Thing

      Reel Big Fish are in town and I'm not.
      Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

      It's ON

      This is going to be an ugly ordeal.

      Thursday, June 30, 2005

      Blog Survey for those who are brave enough!

      Take the MIT Weblog Survey

      The Plight of Monroe Democrats

      If it comes as a surprise to you that the New York Republican Party, and by extension, the Monroe County chapter of that party, is in some serious trouble, you should probably get caught up on events not happening in Fantasy Land.

      The irony of the situation is that Monroe Democrats aren't exactly sitting pretty either. If anything, while they succeed due to their numbers, they fail because of their lack of organization. Take the revolving door on the county party Chair's office, the relatively empty money coffers, and the sheer volume of fringe groups attempting to weigh in on the balance of power. Whether the county Democratic Party is a microcosm of the state of the national party, it certainly proves that old Will Rogers quote, "I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"

      The current issue of City Newspaper sums things up reasonably well in this article by Krestia Degeorge. The line that stuck out in my mind that illustrates the factional divisions that local Democrats face is here, when discussing the local chapter of Democracy for America:

      "They're 15 strong, and they've got everyone intimidated, because that's 10 more than any other faction," says one party insider speaking on condition of anonymity."Everyone's trying to curry favor with them."

      10 more than any other faction? I hope he's overstating that factions are typically made up of around five people. It seems to me, that if you can't get up there into the double digits for your pet project, you really shouldn't be out there pimping your faction. Your cause would likely be better served by forming factional alliances. All these little groups are out there sucking up all the air. Money, volunteers, and time are all commodities and if these local factions are so bound and determined to champion their pet project while the overall progressive infrastructure that is the Monroe County Democratic Party suffocates, then so be it. While I am a confessed progressive that has an interest in all this, I'm also fairly Darwinist when it comes to the ebbs and flows of power concentrations.

      So whose fault is it? Well, I can say everybody. Hell, it's my fault. Why do people gravitate to these little factional groups? Maybe because so many of the other factions are inaccessible. And when I say inaccessible I mean, they aren't doing anything to raise their profile and build up membership. What is the local Democratic Party doing to get people involved? What kind of efforts are they putting into recruitment? Sure you can go to their site and sign up to volunteer. That's good. I mean it. Volunteering is one of the best things a person can do with their time. I should do it more often. I'm sure you should too.

      But the problem is bigger than that. This isn't about putting in five hours at your church's rummage sale. This is about getting engaged in you community. This is about bringing people on board for your cause, because it is their cause too! Look at the webpage for the Monroe Democrats. They've got news on the party. The selections from their convention. Even a letter from Joe Morelle from when he became chair last month. They're letting people know what they're doing. There is no vision, no news, nothing to engage someone into being drawn into the party. Why should I volunteer? I don't know these people. They aren't speaking to me. They aren't reaching out to me. I don't understand why they choose the candidates they choose. Why shouldn't I primary against one of their appointees for a nomination? At least I know what I stand for, and maybe I can voice it better than they are.

      And that's the problem all these groups have. They're all too concerned with speaking to potential volunteers and voters without ever pausing to listen; without stopping to answer some questions. Joe Morelle is new on the job and he's trying to form some solidarity quickly. So he's being heavy handed with the primary stuff, and I can excuse that if he does something else in its place. If the only way for new ideas to percolate up in the party is through primaries, then we have a larger issue.

      Both the local progressive factions and the local Democrats have a problem. The solution is hard to figure, but I would start with some outreach. I'd start with some discussion. The Dems should start a blog on their site. At the very least, it would provide for some amount of interaction. A narrative that people can get to know. Blogging in the political arena has shown to be able to appeal to a broad number of people and speak to them personally where they are more apt to give up their time and money. Having some voice that people can become familiar with will lead to higher turnout for events and fund raisers.

      Local progressives need to form a more coherent alliance. Look, some progressives will likely be at odds with each other. However, I can't fathom why members of Sierra Club, NOW, and NYPIRG can't all mobilize to support an event staged by Metro Justice. Building a network of support between progressive groups increases the likelihood that they'll all succeed. Setting up some kind of meta-blog would reduce the factional barriers between them all and help cross-promotion of their issues. Using something like Scoop to construct the blog would allow a reasonably good flow of ideas.

      Clearly what you can take away from all this is the top down structure and my-issue-first mentality is going to squelch any progress possible by progressive people and their groups. All politics are local, and it doesn't look like many people are talking to each other back home.

      Tuesday, June 28, 2005

      What is up with all the good news?

      From a local perspective, I'm pleasantly surprised by the on-going barrage of hopeful business news regarding the region.

      All these things, by themselves, seem small. They are. They're all merely footsteps in a long race, but they add up when you look at them in their entirety. Sometimes you hear so much from the crowds of people that love to point out that the area is in decline, that when you see information that indicates the opposite is true, you don't quite believe what you're seeing!

      Well, the reports of Rochester's death have been greatly exaggerated.

      And the negative attitude of these people stop at nothing to drown out the results of the hardwork of area leaders. This week, expect to read endless Letters to the Editor on how the relaunch of the Fast Ferry is already a disaster. Why do some people crave some schadenfreude at the expense of their hometown? What is the point? These people think the extent of government investment in the community should begin and end with filling in potholes. If they wanted to do something about it, they could always form a club of "Surly Rochesterians" and volunteer to help out. They could even get a little sign with their name on it.

      I went off a little there, but I think you still get my initial point.

      Something good is starting to happen here.

      Sunday, June 26, 2005

      When the Oil Runs Dry, I'd Rather Be In Rochester

      I came across a great write up of why Syracuse is the place to be if (and when) Peak Oil hits. Steve Balogh, of Baloghblog wrote this number up and it's a quick and easy read. By no means is it a scientific study on the subject, but it raises good points that hold true for Rochester as well as Syracuse.

      If you don't know about the idea of Peak Oil, you should check it out at Life After the Oil Crash. As presented at that site, it's pretty dire stuff. The writer is very "bearish" on the subject, but who knows what the effect of the ramping down in oil production will be? Give it a read, give it consideration, and then move on with your life.

      However, I wouldn't write it off if I were you.

      Friday, June 24, 2005

      My Regular Friday Night Thing...

      You just might see me out there.

      Back From a Busy Week...

      I am back. Working 6am to 2pm everyday, with a Grad School nightcap every night from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, plays Hell with my nascent ability to post on a blog regularly. Let's hope I make a better showing next time my time gets tight.

      With that cleared up, let's get into it.

      First, I wanted to touch on the aforementioned city budget tussle. Actually, I wanted to go into great detail about it, but the articles I intended to cite from The Democrat and Chronicle are either too difficult to find after 7 days using the antiquated search option, or they're available for purchase only. Purchase only? At a rate of $2.95 an article? I'm all for capitalism, but I cannot fathom anyone paying nearly 6 times the cost of a paper for one old article.

      I digress. I want to focus on the city budget and the race for Rochester's Mayor.

      So what we have is a case where state funds haven't been delivered as they were expected, which has caused a city property tax increase of 4.3% as opposed to 1.5% with the funds. These things happen, right? We are talking about Albany, which if made analogous to automobiles, would be as well designed and implemented as a Yugo. Just by associating something with Albany, you're forced to lower the bar a little bit. In this case though, there is something else happening. Something a little more elusive.

      Take this other article from the Democrat and Chronicle. The first part of the article begins by playing the "Pin the Tail on Albany" game, which I love by the way. However, we then get to this gem and a quote from Mayor Bill Johnson:

      However, Johnson this week leveled accusations that the money was deliberately held up after the intervention of some City Council members.

      "People are paying higher taxes for what may have been a political decision," Johnson said. "It's tragic that someone thought that by holding up this money, they thought they could take political advantage for one of the (mayoral) candidates."
      That is quite a charge to level. And where does it come from? Well, mayoral candidate Wade Norwood comes from the political circle of Assemblyman David Gantt, who was the point legislator for this additional money. What could Norwood gain by getting Gantt to slow the state money's delivery into city coffers? Maybe to create an opportunity for Norwood by timing the delivery of the money? Or is this more about throwing mud on the Mayor? There is this from WHEC on the back and forth between Gantt and Mayor Johnson:
      Assemblyman David Gantt said not getting the money from the state is the mayor's fault. Gantt says the mayor took too long to request the spin-up money. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, the mayor blamed Gantt, saying he needed to push a harder.
      What this could be about is an attempt to diminish the Mayor for some reason. If Mayor Johnson was tacitly supporting former Police commissioner Bob Duffy's campaign for Mayor, that could explain the legislative hardball. If you follow the fault lines in the local Democratic party you can see that things are problematic and fractured. Let me connect some dots:

      • Former Monroe County Democratic Chairperson Molly Clifford was a major supporter of Mayor Johnson.

      • Councilman Wade Norwood is State Assemblyman David Gantt's former Chief of Staff.

      • Clifford stepped down from the Chair role after alleged problems with Assemblyman Gantt.

      • Clifford is currently running Bob Duffy's campaign. Assemblyman Joseph Morelle has since replaced her as Party Chairperson after stepping down as Wade Norwood's campaign chairperson.

      So it could be to the political advantage of the Norwood supporters to hold up state money and try to cause Mayor Johnson (and Bob Duffy, by proxy) some political damage, all the while charging the cost to the property owners bill. I hope that isn't the case, but someone screwed up and caused a higher than needed property tax hike. In this case, the person who seems to have had something to do from it also had a little bit to gain from it.

      Is this fearful symmetry? Not really. There are a limited number of players in local politics, so one shouldn't be surprised when a big player turns out to be an understudy for another big player. But what we are seeing is some back and forth between certain factions in the party. Do the Republicans have the same problems Democrats do? Who knows. They don't seem to have their fights out on the front lawn in broad daylight as the Dems do.

      Morelle claims that he is working on uniting the party by reducing the number of people that want to primary. Is this getting people to come together or is it stronghanding people into party line? That depends on the motivation he's using.

      If this strikes you as kind of "conspiracy theory" tin-foil hat kind of stuff, check out this little article from The City Paper. And make sure your tin-foil hat is tightly in place when you do. I'm not touching this one.

      Monday, June 20, 2005

      Will 2005 Be Remembered as the Year of Reform for Albany?

      Today's Op-Ed in the D&C nails it.

      Friday, June 17, 2005

      My Regular Friday Night Thing

      Maybe I'll see you out there.

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      Zuba 2 Posted by Hello

      Steve Minarik Versus Everyone

      Before I begin my tirade concerning Monroe County/New York State Republican Chairman Steve Minarik, I want to be clear on the nature of my politics and the role they play in this blog. I'm a Democrat. There, I've said it. And now, I hope with some of you, the healing can now begin.

      However, this blog will attempt to stay away from partisan talking points that we regularly see in so many blogs that are out and about today. I like to focus on what I see that helps New Yorkers, specifically Rochester. I will comment on things that Democrats do wrong, just as often as I do Republicans. I am watching the current city property tax squabble and as soon as I can make some sense out of it, I'm going to talk about. Right now, I'm not too sure those involved even understand what they're doing. So I want to be fair. I've even appointed an ombudsman, SR-71, who is a staunch independent, to keep watch over me and keep me in line. Maybe I can persuade him to post sometime...

      But for now, Steve Minarik has decided to tap-dance into my crossfire. Mr. Minarik has made some comments in the past concerning the Democratic party that haven't been completely true. And you know what? That's fine. The party chairman's job is to raise a ruckus, get the troops fired up, and make the party some money. In so far as this is true, there is very little difference between Minarik and Howard Dean. Which is why I get a kick out of Minarik when he takes on Dean. It's like he's chasing his tail. A little cute, and a little pathetic.

      But then he has to go and do it at the expense of New Yorkers. Minarik decided to make political hay when NYS AG Eliot Spitzer lost a case against Theodore Sihpol III, a former Bank of America broker. Minarik says:

      "This jury of New Yorkers exposes Spitzer as a politician whose ambition has steamrolled too many hardworking men and women of our state," Gov. George Pataki's hand-picked party leader added. "Looks like the so-called Sheriff of Wall Street had a gun full of blanks."

      the article continues,
      According to an earlier missive from the GOP leader, Spitzer's "reckless efforts to land himself on the front page" are "making it harder to do business and create jobs in New York."

      Which on the whole is such crap. Spitzer has received numerous settlements and guilty pleas since he began his enforcement of laws upon Wall Street. The very thought that enforcing the law hurts business in this state is only true if you are hoping that your state can attract more criminals. In many national magazines that focus on business, Spitzer is lauded for enforcing the rules and keeping people honest. Remember, there are a vast number of business on Wall Street that are honest and are put at a disadvantage when dishonest firms break the rules. That isn't how you run an efficient market. An efficient market has rules, and those rules require enforcement. It is also important to note that in this case, Spitzer might have done some good regardless of not getting a conviction.
      Spitzer contended in Sihpol's case that buying or selling after hours, known as late trading, was a crime because it diluted the return of fund members who were not granted the same advantage.

      Sihpol's lawyers argued that late trading was legal and that their client never intended to commit a crime.

      Regardless of the court cases outcome, I'm fairly certain the participants in that mutual fund weren't too happy with what was going on. Those fees on his transactions end up coming out of the pockets of the fund members as a whole, and the kind of activity Sihpol was going through would normally get you blacklisted from a fund.

      Anyway, back to Steve Minarik. I don't care about him trying to get into the headlines to help his party out. That's fine. But lambasting Spitzer for a loss after all the great results he's had, is a lot like bashing Tom Brady for throwing a bad pass in last years Superbowl. My advice to Minarik? Put New York before your party. Spitzer is bound to lose a few cases. By trying to beat Spitzer up, Minarik ends up looking like an hyper-critical idiot for demeaning someone who has achieved something greater than he ever could.