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.