Monday, October 23, 2006

Hevesi Should Resign

The D&C has the story here.

"The Commission concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe
that Mr. Hevesi knowingly and intentionally used his position as New
York State Comptroller to secure unwarranted privileges for himself and
his wife, and in doing so, pursued a course of conduct that raises
suspicion among the public that he likely engaged in acts that violated
the public trust,” the panel said in a report released today.
This can't be tolerated.  This isn't a question of party or how close to an election it is.  The little R and D disappear when malfeasance is suspected.  Hevesi is in a position that requires significant public trust.  His office, more than any other, needs to be above reproach

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Monday, October 16, 2006

NY-29th: Interesting segment from The News Hour

Here's something that ran a few weeks ago on PBS concerning the Mass/Kuhl race. It's a good piece. Both candidates come across well.

However, about 9 minutes in, they discuss a whisper campaign attacking Massa for only making rank of Commander after being in the service for 24 years. They even manage to a get one attendee of the Cheney fundraiser to comment candidly on it. It's worth watching for that.

See Massa took a medical leave at one point and would have likely achieved a higher rank if it wasn't for that. Instead, he had a higher priority: he was beating a terminal diagnosis of cancer.

Eric Massa for Congress

Shotgun Randy becomes Crazy Kuhl

Okay. I've been thinking of coming out of retirement given the current election, but this little clip kind of pushed into the light again.

While going for the drama can sometimes give you a little political gravitas, this kind of "scare the crap out of the voter" tactic is just old. After Kuhl finishes his little "Going to kill all of you!" he gives a little dirty look to someone in the front row. Someone, I can only speculate, is just as tired of this crap as I am.

New York 29th needs an independent voice in Washington. That's why I support Eric Massa.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Labor and NYS Reform: Must They Be At Odds?

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has an article today concerning the state AFL-CIO running attack ads against Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, and Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit. The ads are in response to the two lawmakers introducing a bill which is intended to reduce the high workers' compensation cost, a cost that is constantly credited by employers as one of the barriers to business in the Empire State. The problem could also be easily addressed if there was significant political will to do so.

The ad, while having the virtue of brevity, also has the shortcomings of being simple and... well, I guess incredibly stupid:

"Did you know that your state Senator James Alesi introduced a bill in Albany this year that would benefit the insurance industry at the expense of injured workers and retirees?" says one ad, paid for by the state AFL-CIO and scheduled on Rochester radio stations. Another ad substitutes Morelle's name.

Okay. Well, it isn't particularly accurate that the "benefit" described going to the insurers equates to an "expense" of the injured and retired. Some people will end up getting less under this reform. That's true. The ad fails to mention that New Yorkers will be saddled with less of a tax burden as well, and new businesses will be more likely to consider New York as a place to set up shop and create jobs. Creating jobs is something I'm very much for, in case anyone was wondering.

The problem I have is that unions, like the AFL-CIO and the like, too often work counter to job creation and growth in order to protect what they currently have. If I can relate things to Nursery rhymes (which I'm going to become more prone to do in the next few years), modern unions are the sort of people that kill the goose to get all the golden eggs. Very often, they structure their agendas to increase their own membership or political clout. Rarely does their behavior show any forward thought in that reducing their friction on the economy, could help fill out their ranks.

Believe me, I don't always think that passing laws that benefit business is a good idea. We should always be skeptical of what could be construed as corporate welfare. However, with a business climate in New York State that is so horribly geared against attracting and maintaining jobs, the needs of the business community need to be addressed.

This bill isn't a handout to business, it's food for the starving. The New York economy, specifically upstate's needs this, and much more.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rochester VoA Faces Shortage

Hey everyone. Just a heads up. The Volunteers of America in Rochester is trying to weather a severe downtick in donations right now. The D&C ran this article on Tuesday so you might have missed it.

Typically, the VOA sees a surge in donations the final two weeks of the year, mainly from people seeking last-minute tax write-offs, said Catherine Yeomans, community relations manager for Rochester's VOA.

That didn't happen in 2005, she surmises, because many people had already donated to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and either had nothing left to give or had tax write-offs already in hand.

"Sending to Katrina is a wonderful thing, but now we're really lacking here in Rochester," Yeomans said. "Our warehouse is empty. Our stores are sparse. And our stores help fund our programs."

The VOA, which provides emergency shelter, drug rehabilitation, food and child care to those in need, is strangely alone in its plight. The two other agencies that run large-scale thrift stores, the Salvation Army and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester Inc., are flush with clothing and seasonal items, although officials were quick to add that donations are always welcome.

So if you're thinking of getting around to some spring cleaning or getting that old couch out of the garage, doing it this weekend and giving to the VoA could make some big differences in quite a few peoples lives.

Cities, Funds, and Money: Is it getting that grim?

I don't know what to be more shocked at. The fact that the Rochester delegation in Albany is coming head to head with the delegation from Buffalo over funds, or Senator Joe Robach getting all, "Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry", right there at a panel hearing.

Check out the D&C story here.

The action centered on Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, who quarreled with Democrats on a panel convened to parcel out the local aid portion of the state budget.

Robach even debated a bit with the Republican panel leader, Sen. Hugh Farley.

And at one point, Robach reached for the microphone and Farley refused to give it up, saying: "Joe, calm down."

At issue was the Rochester delegation's long-standing demand to receive aid at a rate more comparable to Buffalo's. Rochester gets about $271 per resident compared with $433 for Buffalo, $415 for Yonkers and $368 for Syracuse. As part of the 2006-07 state budget, the two houses are talking about boosting aid to municipalities across New York by roughly 18 percent. Lawmakers are attempting to adopt a state budget April 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Robach contended that rather than spread the increase evenly, lawmakers should give Rochester a bigger boost "to address the inequities."
Now, Robach is a former Democratic assemblyman who switched parties and ran for Senate when his district was going to gerrymandered away. So with that and the regional bickering included, I don't see this as a partisian thing at all. That doesn't make it any better either.

This is a mess, and this altercation is actually a bad thing. Buffalo is in terrible shape. Surf over to BuffaloPundit sometime and marvel at the crap they're going through over there with their County Executive and the State Control Board. Do they need money. Hell yes. Does Rochester? Hell yes.

The heart of the issue here is that the level of funding to Rochester is out of line with the level of funding to Buffalo, Syracuse, and Yonkers.
At issue was the Rochester delegation's long-standing demand to receive aid at a rate more comparable to Buffalo's. Rochester gets about $271 per resident compared with $433 for Buffalo, $415 for Yonkers and $368 for Syracuse. As part of the 2006-07 state budget, the two houses are talking about boosting aid to municipalities across New York by roughly 18 percent. Lawmakers are attempting to adopt a state budget April 1, the start of the fiscal year.
What the article doesn't make very clear is why this is about Rochester and Buffalo, and doesn't really involve Syracuse and Yonkers. I haven't fully grasped why this is about lowering aid to Buffalo and increasing aid to Rochester. Buffalo is hurt really bad and they need scratch. If funds have to come from somewhere, why there? Why not other places? Setting Rochester against Buffalo seems to be the worst kind of situation we could hope for politically.

Here's the real low-down dirty shame of this whole endevour: we are begging and scraping for state funds. Western New York should be unified in its approach in Albany to bring about reforms that will, possibly, let us have a competitive economy. Instead, we're pitched against each other, looking for scraps at the table of Albany. That's a pretty sad predictament to be in. Not to mention it should say a lot about how low we are sinking when it all comes down to this.

Begging for funds won't solve our problems. I have a great deal of respect for Senator Robach, as well as most of the representitives we have in Albany. However, state hand-outs only get us so far. We need fiscal reforms in order to lower taxes and the cost of doing business. We need them now and we're going to need the delegation from Buffalo to get it done. We're going to need all the help we can get.

And it has to happen soon. Before all of upstate needs a control board.

A Breakdown of Irish Bars in Rochester

Here's a post from Senator Shamrock at the Rochester-based blog, It Seems to Me. I'm very fond of blog posts that have to do with with the social aspects of the area, so if you know a blog that isn't linked to in the right hand side, e-mail me a link.

For now, check out this great post:
It Seems To Me...: Lack Of Irish Pubs Haunts Rochester

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just Because I Like Bluegrass Doesn't Mean I Live in Appalachia

The Democrat and Chronicle ran a good piece on Eliot Spitzer's comments that upstate's problems are akin to that of Appalachia. Maybe the comment is extreme. Maybe it isn't. Elmira certainly has its issues, as well as Binghamton, so maybe the southern tier fits the AG's characterization. But if your going to cut hairs, you can do that here. However, there are better hairs to cut, and the D and C? They cut right to it. Essentially, they call Spitzer on his “I feel your pain” statement for not backing it up with any kind of solutions. As they should. If you're going to sympathize with our plight and you are running for office, you'd better be ready to tell us what you're going to do.

We know we have problems, thank you very much. What, prey tell, are you going to do to help us?

Of course, Spitzer is short on details. I'm not excusing it, but I do expect it. When you are the heir apparent to the Governorship, the less you promise when you run, the more latitude you have when you win. It's the kind of thing I'd expect a politician to pull, but the kind of tactic a real leader would avoid.

Despite the inevitability of Governor Spitzer, I still love a good scrap so I'm hoping that Tom Suozzi brings some substance to the Democratic primary. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised by his candor that he's essentially running against Albany. It's a smart tactic because if you're a kamikaze candidate, it’s the best way to get a connection to the disenfranchised people of New York State. Suozzi is young and tenacious with a solid track record in his county. I get a kick out of the fact that the guy who has essentially, without saying it, has pitched himself as the upstate candidate, is a county executive from Long Island. How do I get to that conclusion? I can’t count the sheer number of Suozzi ads I saw while watching Syracuse play the last two weeks. Sure it was always the same ad, seemingly directed by someone who makes trial lawyer advertisements with an MTV over-edited edge. Despite the snark and the cynicism, they are effective and his approach has put him on people’s radar.

New York needs several reforms and I'm glad there is someone with the guts to say it. Given the fractured state of the GoP field, I'm a little surprised that none of their candidates have really struck the “reform Albany” chord as resoundingly as Suozzi has right out of the box. In a lot of the ways the matter, Suozzi gets this election. Sure, Spitzer has already won, unless he wakes up with a dead hooker in his bed. And the Spitzer inevitability automatically frees all the other candidates to put forth some serious debates on the issues.

I’m serious. If this thing is already decided, which it is, why not force the debate out of the safe realms of public policy and talk about things like growing entitlements with a shrinking tax base, school vouchers, and political reform?

Don't just be another guy in a suit running for office. Why not swing for the fences? Why not try t do something that may matter despite winning or losing? A real leader would use this election as an opportunity to raise the profile of some issues. Maybe, just maybe, that's what Suozzi is doing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Area Bloggers Form Meta-Blog. Large Scale Blogging to Ensue

Just a quick plug here. Rottenchester, of the blog with the same name, has put together a metablog in conjunction with Rocwiki. Myself and some others will be posting there over the course of the next month to see what kind of response we get. It's a test run for now, in the same vein as the kind of meta-blogs that are becoming more and more common these days.

Surf over to Rochester Writers and check things out. Feel free to comment as well. Writers love comments.

No, I'm not prowling for comments with that statement. Just click the link and stop psycho-analyzing me.

Big Bully Spitzer sues HR Block

The "Big Bully" NYS AG Eliot Spitzer, and likely future governor, has taken suit against HR Block for offering retirement accounts tailored for low and middle income families that... apparently, weren't intended to help them save money.

The civil complaint filed today in State Supreme Court in Manhattan cites internal documents showing that H&R Block’s senior management knew that many of its customers were losing money on their Express IRAs. For example, in a 2002 email to Mark Ernst, the company CEO, a district manager complained about the impact of these accounts on customers:

“I really don’t think maintenance fees should exceed the amount of interest that we are paying on these accounts. Clients won’t be happy seeing [their] investments decreasing … .”

What we see here is the AG working to defend investors from what appears predatoryditory behavior from financial institutions. This is part of market discipline, where the outcome is keeping investors confident that those that will look to cheat them, will be held accountable. As a result, they can have confidence in who handles their money. Without this kind of accountability, confidence erodeerrode overtime and the capital market would suffer for it.

Although it pains me to have to point out that prosecuting criminal behavior is a good thing, it seems necessary. Too many Republicans seem to espouse the talking point that enforcing the law is bad for New York's economy.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Zubalove family is doing well

I wanted to thank everyone for their kind words of support and congratulations. Our home has never been happier (and my wife and I have never been more tired!). As things get back to normal, I will begin posting on a more regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule with random weekend posts.

It has been a fantastic couple of weeks, and I'm grateful that people still checked back here for news. I'm looking forward to relaunching this blog with a greater focus on content. Thanks!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I <3 Steve Minarik

Just when I think I'm going to get out of blogging, he pulls me back in.

New York State Republican Chairman and defacto Monroe County GOP boss, Steve Minarik railed against popular Democratic figures last week by calling them "mean-spirited" and Attorney General Elliot Spitzer "a big bully".

State GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik has a new line about the statewide Democratic ticket: "The All-Mean Team."

"They are mean-spirited downstaters," Minarik, also head of the Monroe County GOP, said recently. "Eliot Spitzer is a big bully. There's no question he has an attitude."

With Republican candidates far behind the Democratic ticket in statewide polls, Minarik is seemingly following the strategy of national Republicans who have tried to label Democrats as nasty. The goal, experts say, is to try to portray Democrats as unstable, to suggest that their gripes with Republicans are driven more by personality than policy.
The mind boggles over this. Of course, the Republicans are going after the Dems over personality, because they've already lost the fight over issues. They have nothing else to do besides swing for the fences in hoping they don't loose both the state house and the senate this year. King-of-Mean Minarik also opens himself up to this wonderful line:
But Democrats fired back that the tough-talking Minarik's comments may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

"Anyone who has followed Monroe County politics will know that being called mean by Mr. Minarik is like being called ugly by a toad," said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton adviser.
Yes, I'm being cravenly partisan in all this. I think I'm entitled. I have no trouble with Republicans, per se. I happen to think reasonably more of Senator Joe Robach than I think of Assemblyman Gantt. So no, I'm not a kool-aid drinking partisan gunslinger.

However, when a guy like Minarik, a man who went a great deal out of his way in a fraudulent attempt to link the Democratic Party with a terrorist sympathizer, says some stupid things, I'm going to call him a stupid man.

Steve Minarik is a small man who is coming to grips with the harsh reality that the New York Republican party is in massive decline, and it is doing so under his stewardship. It's one thing to lose some seats over the course of a few elections, it's a whole other thing to drive your state party off a cliff. You don't get a nice cushy job on the national level for accomplishing that feat. No, you get banished from the public eye and have people that you used to call friends deny ever knowing you. It's a harsh reality that certainly must be a burden on Mr. Minarik's mind right now.

And honestly, with outbursts like this one, it seems like Minarik is losing his grip, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Zubababy has arrived!

I really am not dead. I've actually never been better. Last week, my wife and I had a little girl. So I've just had things going on that have kept me away from blogging.

I plan on beginning to post more frequently this week.

Here's a picture of Zubababy as she soaks in some UV rays at the hospital. The UV helped clear out a problem she had with high bilirubin levels. Mom and baby are now resting comfortably at home.

Dad is not resting comfortably because he realizes this perfect little angel will someday start bringing home boyfriends. I need to figure out how to keep them away.... Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 13, 2006

I am not Dead

I swear to God that I will be posting something in the next 24 hours. Life has been a little crazy lately. Midterm exams were last week and this week I expect to become a father, so.... you know, I've had to move some things around in my schedule.

I will now do the cheapest of all blog entries: Recapping other blogs' posts, linking to them, and somehow passing it all off as an entry that is worth your time. I do nothing but cover my own banality with the hard work and dedication of others.

The talented NYCO cracks wise concerning the Olympic's opening ceremonies and what they would look like were they to return to Lake Placid in this post.

Jesse at York Staters adds a little local flavor to things by writing about the grape pies of Ontario County generally and Naples specifically. I've got relations in Naples who own a vineyard. If you aren't up on the Naples Grapefest, or if you are still drinking foofy European wines, you need to check out the Finger Lakes Region. For the record, Heron Hill's Game Bird Red is the official red wine of The Greater Rochester Weblog. To really experience my writing, consume this wine liberally.

The Political Notebook
continues to report on the increasing fractures and faultlines within the New York GoP. In this article, the notion is raised that the current ebbing in the party could break the moderates' hold on the party and give rise to a much more conservative movement. I can see this happening as long as those conservatives had supporters that were at home sitting on their hands waiting to vote for conservative candidates.

And following hot on the heals of his appearance in Rochester (which wasn't too widely reported), Gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi (aka the guy primarying against Spitzer) gets a nod in the D&C editorial section today.

I'll be back with a real post later.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Catching Up on The Political Notebook

If you don't swing by The Political Notebook every couple of days to check out the work Mike Caputo is doing, you're not only missing some interesting writing about Rochester and New York politics, you're also missing an opportunity to get involved in the discussion.

Between Mr Caputo and Curt Smith, Rochester has access to political commentary and analysis that is based on some unique experience. Regardless if you agree with any of the opinions they draw from their different sides of the political arena, I believe they are worth listening to.

Anyway, let's get into the details.

Caputo has had two noteworthy posts in the past week that deal with the process of electing judges. The first post goes into some detail concerning a state court ruling on the ways that the parties select their judicial candidates. The ruling, which can be read here, details incidents where political parties, at the local level, essentially stack things in favor of the slate of judges they want to run. In other words, if you want to run for State Supreme Court, without the party boss backing you, you aren’t going anywhere. Caputo shoves it all nicely into this nutshell:

Confused? Don't be. Simply understand this – delegates have the power to pick party candidates. Delegates are often people close to the county party apparatus. Delegate elections are obscure, and so those named by the party are rarely challenged.
That means, when it comes to state Supreme Court, there are no primary challenges in the traditional sense. Outside challengers must convince the delegates to accept you. The thing is - the party leadership always has a favorite candidate by the time these conventions convene. So an outsider has virtually no shot of changing minds at these conventions. And they can't run delegates because the process is so cumbersome (imagine trying to run a slate of your own delegates across the eight counties of our own seventh judicial district)
It really is a good piece that deserves some attention, mainly for the fact that it discusses something that doesn’t really get a whole heck of a lot of attention: the election of judges. Caputo also retells a local story in the ruling of Rochester City Court Judge John Regan and the troubles he faced when he attempted to run despite the efforts of the party leaders to stop him. Probably, this is the more fascinating part of the article. Just go read it.

The whole thing got me wondering, and I mean this in the most honest and innocent way: is the election of judges the best and most effective way to place competent people on the bench? I’ve often thought to myself on Election Day that decision I had to make on judges was the most uninformed vote that I’m asked to cast. I’m not saying they should be appointed, although I’m also not saying they shouldn’t be. In this one rare instance, I’m completely open to any arguments on how to improve the process.

Caputo sees the opportunity for greater discussion and continues it in this post.
This line of thinking reminds me of the arguments a few years back when the topic was whether judicial candidates should adhere to a code of conduct that keeps them from speaking about their views, their beliefs.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct, a state organization that enforces ethical standards on New York's judiciary, mandates that judicial candidates aren't to campaign in a partisan and political manner - only set out their qualifications to be a judge.
That’s where the problems starts. How do you illustrate the differences between the two candidates? Clearly, it won’t ever be as simple as: Judge Apple is for lifting the oppressive Lawn Jart Ban and Judge Baker is not. No. It’s always commercials that show them reading and writing, as if that’s not something anyone else ever does, while telling us how nice they are as a person. It’s never “Vote for Judge Charlie, he’s a hanging judge!” Which is to say, that is probably a good thing.

So what do all of you think? Is the system as it currently stands the best we can really do? Or does appointment make more sense? Or should we “unshackle” the candidates, as Mr. Caputo says in his second post? This area isn’t something that requires any immediate reform, but I think some discussion would be nice. Feel free to sound off.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Required Reading for a New York Mindset

In most communities, there are some groups who are agitating --- more importantly, just by raising your voice. I'm always surprised when I hear legislators say they get 15 or 20 calls on an issue and that's a lot. It doesn't take that many citizens who are outspoken and in contact with their legislators to make a difference. I'd say: pay attention; be informed about what's going on. And if you don't like it, then give your elected representatives an earful. That's what they're there for.

The above is taken from an interview Krestia Degorge did with Gannett News Service's Albany bureau chief, Jay Gallagher. The interview ran in last weeks City paper and can be read following this link. Gallagher has just released a book, "The Politics of Decline", which examines the dysfunction of The Empire State and things that can be done to turn things around.

I've already ordered my copy.

There is a lack of focus on upstate from leaders and policy makers. AG Spitzer just announced a downstater as his running-mate in yet another snub to the interests of our area. The increasing chasm between the economy of a world-class metropolitan area and the milder and volatile rust belt characteristics of upstate becomes more and more difficult to negotiate every year. This regional problem transcends political party, because neither group seems incredibly willing to stand up and make the necessary changes to the financial barriers of this state. As long as downstate hums along, it doesn't faze any of the leaders in Albany that the cost of doing business in this state is astronomical and the tax rate is oppressive.

Are they aware that not all of us can commute to Manhattan to work?

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Medicaid Petition on the Monroe County Website

Those that have followed this blog for a while are aware of how concerned I am of New York State's burdensome Medicaid costs. I believe that the cost of this system, bared both by the state and the counties, is one of the reasons New York taxes are so outrageous, which leads to a high cost of doing business in this state. Oh, there are other factors there too, and they should be addressed. But, as I've stated before in other blog entries, Medicaid is so far out of alignment with where it should be, it's the obvious first place to start.

So I'm researching a post concerning Governor Pataki's budget, the Governor's race, and County Executive Brook's secret plan to plug the budget gap which is due in 90 days. My focus is on how Medicaid costs play into all this. While surfing around, I find a petition on the County Website concerning Medicaid reform.

One point shall now be awarded to Ms. Brooks. Bravo.

It's pretty simple. It briefly touches on things that you could read about in the aforementioned links above and then offers this:

There are solutions to the challenges presented by Medicaid, but there must be the political will in Albany to debate and enact such solutions. The New York Association of Counties, and others, have presented options they believe can lead us out of this crisis.

I believe that the following options are all worthy of consideration and enactment:

1. Capping counties share of Medicaid costs at 2001 Levels, alleviating county taxpayers from the responsibility of the program’s rapidly escalating costs.

2. Giving New York State the revenue from one percent of the sales tax currently levied by counties in return for eliminating counties’ Medicaid responsibilities.

3. Complete funding of Medicaid by the State immediately removing the burden for the program from counties. 48 states do not mandate that their counties pay for a significant portion of Medicaid. Only New York and North Carolina place such a burden on their counties.

It's never easy to make these kinds of changes, and I doubt that the solutions will be very easy either. However, I feel it is incumbent on us all to remain active and continue to push against the line that says we are powerless to change things.

Voicing our displeasure through any possible means will be the only way we get policy makers in Albany to understand that spending is too high and taxes are too high.

I encourage you all to go to the petition link and sign it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ferry Fatigued, a Hovercraft, and the Monorail Episode from the Simpsons

I'm having trouble getting myself to revisit the whole Fast Ferry situation. It isn't that I don't think it's news worthy, because given the amount of money and time that has been focused on it, this isn't something that should be swept under the rug. However, I also don't want this thing to consume us. There are larger and more pressing things out there. There are projects, like Renaissance Square, that will be forced to live in the shadow of the Spirit of Ontario's collapse. It's important to keep things in their proper perspective or else we run the risk of believing that nothing we do can improve our community. That simply is not true. The reality is that the Fast Ferry project had good intentions at its start, but quickly became about something else: pride. In this case, we proved the cliche Pride goeth before a fall completely true. Mayor Duffy brought the thing to end before things got even further off the tracks.

Many people, including myself, would have liked the ferry to get a fair shot at a full season, but in the business world there are no fair shots. The likelihood that it would have made a difference was small. The business plan should probably have anticipated losses for the first few years of operation. At least it would have had the virtue of being realistic.

Moving on, here's two related things.

Zinnfan, over at Zinnian Democracy, should have gotten an award for this post. I've waited, half-expecting and half-dreading, someone to mention the Simpsons episode where the town gets bamboozaled, "Music Man" style, into building a monorail. The similarities between Springfeild and Rochester were always somewhat alarming. As long as Rochester resists the urge to build an "escalator to nowhere".

Finally, at the end of it, we arrive at the idea of the Rochester to Toronto Fast-Hovercraft. That's when I know I'm fatigued with this whole business. Honestly, if the market will support it as a private venture, nothing would make me happier and it may just give this community some kind of positive closure. It's an interesting proposition that has only received some light reporting in this WROC news article with companion video.

Chapell, of East Rochester, proposes a hovercraft. It's a cross between an airplane and a boat, and can travel up to 80 m.p.h. Chapell says it would use 80 percent less fuel than the ferry, tickets would cost about $10 less, and it would get to Toronto in little more than an hour - twice as fast as the ferry.

"It's going to carry about 100 to 140 people, 10 to 12 cars and do it in an hour," Chapell said.

Perhaps the best selling point in a ferry-weary city is that the $10 million hovercraft would be privately-funded. Chapell says HTS has lined up half of the financing it needs.

"The business model is hands down better than the fast ferry," Chapell said. "Ours is the true fast ferry."

Chapell says HTS would need the city to commit to modest infrastructure improvements at the terminal and the port.

I'd be curious to know what kind of changes need to be made at the Port of Rochester and whether it would have a different environmental impact than the Ferry, but I'm skeptical. Given all that we've seen with this thing, don't show up on the scene and say, "I've got a better business model." We've heard it all before. Navigating the red-tape in these deals is more treacherous than any nautical dangers. Want to level with us? Recognize that fact right up front. But like I said, if you'd like to do it as a private venture? Nothing would make me happier that to see it work.

I've sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook and by gum it put them on the map!

Warming to the Weather

It's a little more gray today than it was yesterday, but you won't hear me complaining. An excellent day for a hike on the more finished trails at Highland Park and Genesee Valley Park. Given the fantastic tropical heatwave we've got going right now, breaking us from any potential cabin fever, I thought it would be a good chance to break from politics, economics, and all that other stuff and mention something a bit more universally positive: the Monroe County Parks.

Visit the Monroe County Park system homepage and check out the map here.

If you're a city dweller, don't feel left out. Rochester has a great page that tracks a list of all the metropolitian parks as well as trails.

Although the weather should chill considerably this weekend, it's being said that we could see a return to warm temperatures next week. No complaining about 9 months of snow this year. Get out there and enjoy this! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On the Rocks

The city of Rochester is now out of the ferry business. This is a good thing. From the beginning I've been consistant one the fact that a government should focus on governing, not managing a venture better suited to the private sector. However, this is not how I was hoping it would play out. Some did. Some people in the city and county desired and anticipated the endevours failure. I can only imagine these are the same people that watch NASCAR for the crashes, get upset when the TV cameras avoid showing fights at NFL games, and complain about 5 months of snow in Rochester or a lack of snow, whichever position is counter to reality.

These people are going to have a very good day today.

Last night, Mayor Duffy ended the funding of the fast ferry from Rochester to Toronto. The decision, while painful for many, was the right one and easily justified. Simply put, the project had defied all estimates and projections when it came to things involving red ink, and the cost of maintaining it, of one more chances, was taking funding away from other projects that could be more successful. Simply put, it cost more than it was worth.

I understand some folks are going to be concerned with the question,"why approve a $9 million loan when another million would give the ferry another season?" The reasoning here is that $9 million is what it costs to put this boat down for the last time. Effectively, given one more season that fails, you've only deferred that cost as well as racked up another $10 million in additional debt. One way to look at it, is that Mayor Duffy had to decided between a loan to end the ferry of $9 million or a loan to end the ferry after one more season for $19 million (there are additional costs that would make this number higher than $19 million after 1 year, but we should keep this simple).

People will also likely decry that the ferry deserved a full season to show its value. I agree. There was a missed opportunity not having this boat running during the spring. However, if we want to track missed opportunities, weren' there many that we should consider? Pilotage fees on the order of $5000 a day were never resolved. How many riders a day paid money to cover that cost alone? It was wasteful. I'm not saying that it wasn't neccessary or that they weren't working to resolve it. What I'm saying is that the reality of this project wasn't planned for. The complexity of costs, rider demand, and the price structure wasn't realized by those that moved this project forward. Its a sad fact. A mistake I wish wasn't made. But one that will impact many municiple projects for years to come.

More on this later.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Rep. Slaughter to give national Radio Address this weekend

I focus this blog squarely on New York state and Rochester related items. From the outset, I decided that because everyone there were so many blogs dealing with national politics, I wanted to go for the underserviced local route.

I also decided that I would cover an item at the federal level if it involved Rochester or the state. Well, I think this is the first time I'm employing that special privilege.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter will be giving the Democratic Radio address this weekend and she'll be speaking about the current Republican ethics scandal.

From her post at The Daily Kos:

Hi folks. Again, please only recommend this diary if you think others should see the information I'm posting.

I wanted to let you know that the Democratic leadership requested me to give our party's response to this weekend's (Saturday January 7, 2006) radio address of President Bush. While local radio stations do not carry this speech, the cable network channel C-Span will carry both starting at 2:50 p.m. You will also be able to listen and read my speech at the national Democratic Committee's web site.

The topic of my address is going to be what else - the Republican culture of corruption. Speaking of which, I am posting below a backgrounder I distributed to the national media on Jack and his Republican pals in Washington, making it clear - THIS IS A REPUBLICAN SCANDAL. Keep repeating this over, and over, and over again.

So, again please tune in this Saturday. Let me know what you think by posting your comments here.

Thank you again for making me so welcome to your wonderful community. -LMS


The Jack Abramoff scandal is a bipartisan scandal.


The Abramoff scandal reveals the scope and depth of the corrupt Republican power structure that dominates Congress and Washington today:

Jack Abramoff personifies the Republican culture of corruption through cozy relationships (going well beyond giving out campaign contributions) between Republican Congressional lawmakers, various high level administration officials from government agencies, and the powerful lobbying interests in Washington's K Street. His central role in the numerous, inter-related scandals weave a web of corruption that exemplifies the dangers of one party rule, and one that is truly unique in its scope, nature and impact to the Republican Conference which runs both houses of Congress.

*Abramoff was a Bush "Pioneer," raising more than $100,000 for the President's reelection in '04.
*Tom DeLay once called Abramoff one of his "closest and dearest friends"
*Abramoff was a major part of the Republican's "K Street Project"
*All four lawmakers said to be under Justice Department investigation for the Abramoff scandal are Republicans (Ney, Burns, Doolittle, and DeLay)
*Nearly 2/3rd of contributions from Abramoff's tribal clients, Abramoff himself, his lobbying team, and their spouses from 1999-2004 went to Republicans.
*64 of the 72 skybox fundraising events held by Abramoff between 1999 and 2003, were put on for Republicans, many of them members of the House leadership, and many of them undisclosed.


HE AND HIS WIFE ONLY DONATED TO REPUBLICANS AND CONSERVATIVE PACS:From 1992-2004, Jack Abramoff and his wife personally donated $189,003 to Republican candidates, and $111,735 to Republican and conservative PACs. They donated no money to Democrats. []

A BUSH "PIONEER":Abramoff was a Bush "Pioneer," raising more than $100,000 for his reelection in '04. [R. Jeffrey Smith, "A High-Powered Lobbyist's Swift Fall From Grace," Washington Post, 8/12/05.]

MEMBER OF BUSH'S PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION TEAM:Abramoff was a member of Bush's Presidential Transition Team, "advising the administration on policy and hiring at the Interior Department, which oversees Native American Issues." [Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey, "Oil Dilemma," Newsweek Web-Exclusive Commentary, 4/21/05.]

TOM DELAY'S "CLOSEST AND DEAREST" FRIEND: Tom DeLay once called Abramoff one of his "closest and dearest friends." [Jeff Shields, "GOP's best friend could be its nightmare," Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/7/05]

CHAIRMAN OF THE COLLEGE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Abramoff was chairman of the College Republican National Committee in the early 80's, where he met his longtime associates Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. [Michael Crowley, "A Lobbyist in Full," New York Times, 5/1/05]

MAJOR PART OF THE REPUBLICAN'S "THE K STREET PROJECT": Abramoff was a major part of "The K Street Project," in which lobbying firms were pressured to hire and donate to Republicans. ''It was my role to push the Republicans on K Street to be more helpful to the conservative movement.'' [Michael Crowley, "A Lobbyist in Full," New York Times, 5/1/05]

NEARLY 2/3RD OF CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ABRAMOFF'S TRIBAL CLIENTS, ABRAMOFF HIMSELF, HIS LOBBYING TEAM, AND THEIR SPOUSES FROM 1999-2004 WENT TO REPUBLICANS: Of the $5,355,039 in contributions from Abramoff's tribal clients, Abramoff himself, his lobbying team, and their spouses from 1999-2004, 63.7% of it went to Republicans. [Derek Willis and Laura Stanton, "How Abramoff Spread the Wealth," Washington Post, 12/12/05]

ALL FOUR LAWMAKERS KNOWN TO BE UNDER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATION FOR THE ABRAMOFF SCANDAL ARE REPUBLICANS: All four lawmakers known to be under Justice Department investigation for the Abramoff scandal are Republicans (Ney, Burns, Doolittle, and DeLay). A former Bush Administration official has also been charged in the case. [Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi, "Lawmakers Under Scrutiny in Probe of Lobbyist," Washington Post, 11/26/05]

64 OF HIS 72 SKYBOX FUNDRAISING EVENTS BETWEEN 1999 AND 2003 WERE PUT ON FOR REPUBLICANS: Of the 72 skybox fundraising events held by Abramoff between 1999 and 2003, 64 were put on for Republicans, many of them members of the House leadership, and many of them undisclosed. [Susan Schmidt and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "Tribal Money Linked to GOP Fundraising," Washington Post, 12/26/04]

ACCORDING TO THE HILL, BIGGEST FIGURES IN THE ABRAMOFF SCANDALS ARE ALL REPUBLICANS: In a December '05 article, The Hill listed the 17 biggest figures in the Abramoff scandal. All were Republican lawmakers, officials, and aides save one, a business partner of Abramoff's with ties to the mob. [Josephine Hearn, "High-stakes players who gambled at the table with Casino Jack," 12/7/05]

Rep. Slaughter has been an outspoken critic of House Republican ethics abuses for quite a while now. It's good to see our local representative gain some national prominence.

A Great Fast Ferry Piece

Mike Caputo launched his newly re-minted Political Notebook site last month with little fanfare from this blog, which wasn't very sporting of me. However, I'm going to make sure to keep a close eye on the great material that Mike puts out and will steer you all over there accordingly. Which is to say, you should be surfing over there frequently.

Not waiting long to hit his digital stride on his new typepad home, Mike has already posted an interesting three part piece looking into how the Fast Ferry company is structured and the reasons why the City Council constructed the organization in that way. Mike Caputo is an accomplished journalist, having once worked at the Democrat and Chronicle, and is currently the News and Public Affairs Director at WXXI. He also hosts WXXI's Need to Know, and does columns for the Messenger-Post Newspaper.

If you only follow one Rochester-based blog, it is his you should be reading.

His Fast Ferry features are linked below:
Rochester Ferry Chronicles pt. 1
Rochester Ferry Chronicles pt. 2
Rochester Ferry Chronicles pt. 3

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pataki's Final State of the State Address

Yesterday, New Yorkers saw Governor George Pataki give his final State of the State address. These addresses are usually fairly innocuous. After their delivery, most consideration deals with sifting through them to find anything that is remotely noteworthy. They are, generally speaking, wishful and hopeful. Two qualities that all our lives could use more of. However, they are fairly divorced from reality. I'm not coming down on the Governor for what was an optimistic speech. This speech was built on optimism. I'm only pointing out that both his perception of New York over the last 11 years and his vision for his last year do not track with reality.

First, I believe the Governor will run for President in 2008 and that he will also lose the race for the nomination quickly and without contention. The first he is already planning for, the second he needs to consider. Yesterday’s speech does little to further his ambition. I disagree with Assemblywoman Susan John who said:

"He is offering few new programs to revitalize our economy. To me, this seemed more like a speech aimed at the citizens of Iowa."

I don't see what that speech held in it for the people of Iowa or New Hampshire. Let's face it. Those folks want to see what we want to see: results. And the bottom line is that the Governor has done very little to improve things in New York. And the things that he did accomplish, notably Albany reforms, came much too late in his term to warrant him any special credit. No, it would seem that Governor Pataki did what he had to do at that point in order to satiate voters. He didn't lead us to the reforms, he was taken there kicking and screaming. So did the rest of the representatives in Albany. Both sides of the party lacked solid leadership in this achievement. It was an achievement in spite of itself.

And so that is the reality from where we sit in Rochester. The optimism is wonderful though. Optimism can be a powerful thing, because it can surge like breaking tide and carry us over rocks of disappointment that could break us apart. Considering it now, a positive pragmatism seems to be in very short supply here in western New York. Too often are we left to ponder the latest closings of businesses that have either migrated away or burned out. Everyday, we see the fallout from closing a budget gap, or another night of violence. These things hover about us like spirits while obscuring our vision of where the future leads us.

These are hard times in western New York. We do not feel like we live in "a stronger, safer, cleaner, more prosperous state than it's been in generations".

Given that, I do not fault the Governor for his optimism. I don't think I ever have. I find fault with him that he has never pursued his vision with enough vigor to see it carried out. It is not his vision, it was his execution. The hard times we face in western New York require big men* who sense that large problems require brave, bold solutions. Pataki was never willing to put too much of his own reputation on the line to solve these problems. This is why he won’t be regarded as much of anything in the long run, I’m sorry to say.

Let's hope our next Governor, whoever it may be, will not only have an ambitious vision for New York, but the courage and conviction to make it a reality.

*"big men" was used for its cadence. Don't get all up in my face about it please.