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.