Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cuomo Has Kept a Low National Profile

















Until the past few days, anyway:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made flurry of media appearances over before, during and after Hurricane Sandy slammed in to New York and the east coast.

The governor traditionally sticks to a handful of in-state media outlets and rarely does a television interview (his first sit-down TV appearance since he was elected governor was on Capital Tonight with Liz back in June).

[. . .]

Cuomo, up until last night, hasn’t done any national television appearances, even in the aftermath of the same-sex marriage vote in 2011.

That changed after Hurricane Sandy. The governor sat down for interviews with Brian Williams of NBC (the former employer of the governor’s incoming Communications Director Allison Gollust) and Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

Cuomo, unlike his more bombastic colleagues in other states, has sought to keep a low profile in the national press, in part because he doesn’t raise expectations that he’s running for president in 2016.
If he really wanted to score some national political points, you would have seen Andy's smiling mug all over the national press after the gay marriage bill was passed. But Cuomo has stuck to the high road. Maybe this is why people on both sides of the aisle seem to like him. Despite being from one of the best-connected political families in the state, he doesn't behave like a typical politician.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

“I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested"



The above headline is a quote from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on whether he will at any time soon be appearing with Mitt Romney, as the latter flails around looking for a photo op that will make him seem useful.

Christie did, however, have a few things to say about the president during his appearance on Fox News:
In an interview on NBC, Christie called Obama “outstanding” for expediting relief efforts. He also told MSNBC that Obama “deserves great credit.”

“He gave me his number at the White House and told me to call him if I needed anything,” Christie said.

The New Jersey governor even took his message to Fox News, saying that Obama had helped “tremendously.”

“I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” he explained. “He called me for the last time at midnight last night asking what he could do. I said, if you can expedite designating New Jersey as a major disaster area that that would help us to get federal money and resources in here as quickly as possible to help clean up the damage here.”

“The president was great last night,” Christie continued. “He said he would get it done. At 2 a.m., I got a call from FEMA to answer a couple of final questions and then he signed the declaration this morning. So I have to give the president great credit. He’s been on the phone with me three times in the last 24 hours. He’s been very attentive, and anything that I’ve asked for, he’s gotten to me. So, I thank the president publicly for that. He’s done — as far as I’m concerned — a great job for New Jersey.”
Competent leadership makes a big difference during a crisis. Even GOP governors think so.

The Best-Laid Plans

A reader sent along this video of the ribbon-cutting of RUPCO's Buttermilk Falls development in Ellenville:



This was the grand opening back in August of 2009. Apparently, they've sold only three units. Too bad. It's an attractive development. I'm guessing location is a big issue for potential buyers.

Schreibman Has the Momentum, Within Five Points

And Chris Gibson continues to sweat:
A new Siena College poll shows that Democrat Julian Schreibman has narrowed the lead of U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson to 5 points in the new 19th Congressional District.

Gibson had a 52-36 percent lead in September, but that edge has shrunk to 48-43 percent, according to the Siena Research Institute.

Schreibman had trailed Gibson by 16 points among independent voters six weeks ago, but now has pulled within two points with that bloc.

Gibson, of Kinderhook, has a 25-point lead in the counties surrounding Albany, which is down from 35 points.

Schreibman now leads in the Ulster and Dutchess County portion of the district by seven points, where he previously trailed by two points.
This comes fresh on the heels of the news that Schreibman is a better fundraiser than Gibson:
Democratic challenger Julian Schreibman turned the fundraising tide since July 1, outraising incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, by nearly $125,000.

Individual contributions were even more one-sided over that period, with 65 percent of the money going to Schreibman.

“This will ensure we can continue to make our message heard,” Schreibman said.
A number of people have said they think this race will be a blowout for Gibson. They're wrong, of course, but there's no convincing them otherwise. I think the reason for this is, many of these folks were big Hinchey supporters, and Hinchey had one of the best progressive records in Congress. So, Schreibman has some very big shoes to fill and people are concerned that he may not be live up to the standard set by Hinchey. Fair enough.

But, if you are one of these folks, ask yourself who is more likely to listen to progressive constituents, and who is more likely to educate himself about these issues: the open-minded Julian Schreibman, who, though unproven, has actually said he will support progressive planks like choice, protecting Social Security and Medicare, etc; or, the autocratic Chris Gibson, who has continually voted with the most radical members of the GOP who want to turn this nation into a feudal state (and who doesn't like people telling him he's wrong, apparently, if you watch Gibson's testy, impatient debate performances)? The choice really couldn't be any clearer.

Be sure to remember this next Tuesday.

Poll details below, for those who may be interested.

19th CD October 2012 Poll Release 2 -- FINAL

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gallo's (Career-Ending?) Gaffe

This is a whopper. According to a commenter, Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo posted this message on his Facebook page today:
"Hi everyone. I have been out of the area on vacation since Wednesday, and won't be returning until November 5, so I am not Facebooking, emailing or anything like that. See you when I return!"
Uh, Mr. Mayor, you have a significant crisis on your hands. You should return from vacation immediately. This is what a responsible leader would do. I've criticized Gallo over policy and politics, but this goes well beyond that and raises questions of whether Gallo has the character to hold this office. Unbelievable. If I manage to obtain a screenshot, I'll post it.

Why Are We Still Paying for Skate Time?

I don't have high hopes when it comes to O'Halloran and the IDA board getting off their keesters and holding the Bernardos accountable for their mendacious claims about jobs:
Industrial Development Agency Chairman David O’Halloran said it’s important to hold businesses accountable for their promises in order to protect the credibility of the agency with the communities that are asked to accept lower property tax payments.

O’Halloran said the board will decide whether to seek a voluntarily reduction in the PILOT deal from Skate Time 209 at its November board meeting.

The question of whether Skate Time was living up to its job creation predictions first was raised in 2008, when Len Bernardo and Michael Hein vied to become Ulster County’s first county executive, but nothing ever came of those concerns.
Well, it appears something is coming from it now. And let's see whether this "voluntary reduction" actually makes sense mathematically. The Bernardos are enjoying a tax subsidy that amounts to two-thirds of this annual expense, according to the article. Again, why are we paying for this when the majority of the patrons of Skate Time already live in the community? How is this a tourist attraction? The Bernardos can try to re-frame this debate all they want, but it doesn't change the fact that their job estimates were either wildly optimistic or downright dishonest.

UC DA Carnwright Addresses Taggard Questions

This is good, because there were enough holes in this story to strain spaghetti:
Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright has said, for the first time, that former Town of Ulster Police Chief Matthew Taggard was suspected of engaging in “criminal conduct” while working with a youth program affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America a decade ago.

Those allegations prompted an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office which culminated Monday, Oct. 22 when the decorated former lawman pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of official misconduct inSaugerties Village Court.
So, it was Taggard himself who was engaging in sex with underage boys in the Explorers program (this program is now coed, I'm told, but was exclusively for boys during Taggard's tenure).

So, why haven't the DA and the FBI throw the book at this sex offender? Statutes of limitation, apparently:
According to Carnright, the offenses alleged in the 2002 investigation fell outside the statute of limitations in New York State (seven years for most felonies). Thus, the renewed inquiry was focused on turning up evidence of more recent crimes. According to Carnright, the investigation was under way in June when he received news that prompted him to end the undercover portion of the probe and immediately bring the misdemeanor charge against Taggard.
If I'm reading this correctly the only charges on which the county and state could nail Taggard is the one about not reporting a sex crime, when in fact Taggard was the one committing these crimes. They busted him for not turning himself in, essentially. Better than nothing, I suppose.

But what about the community that now has to live with this guy? Well, he's not out of the woods, not by a long shot:
Carnright, meanwhile, declined to detail any allegations against Taggard or whether the alleged sex crimes that the former chief supposedly knew of and did not report had ever been investigated or prosecuted. Carnright did say that his office had cooperated with the FBI during the course of the investigation. Federal law significantly extends, and in some cases eliminates entirely, the statute of limitations on a number of crimes against children. According to Carnright, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York were aware of the investigation. Albany-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe acknowledged that the office was aware of the case but declined to say whether any action had been taken.

“We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation,” said Coombe.
So, federal charges are still possible here, as the statute of limitations may not have expired on the federal level.

But the question remains whether Taggard acted alone. It appears that this may be the case, but I wouldn't bet on anything at this point -- except that Taggard must be sweating some serious bullet right about now. If the feds can bring a case, he's probably going to spend a very long time in federal prison, most likely in isolation given that he's a former cop and (would be) a convicted pedophile.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Better to be Prepared

















Big storm bearing down on us if you haven't heard. Now would be a good time to test your flashlights, stock up on a few jugs of water, etc.

Predictions? How About Disclosure?

Ridiculous piece in this week's Shawangunk Journal. In it, author Terrence Ward interviews UC Independence Party boss Len Bernardo in relation to latter's ownership of Skate Time 209 and the county tax subsidies he receives (that's money you and I give to the Bernardos to keep Skate Time afloat):
Len Bernardo, owner of SkateTime 209 in Accord, told the Ulster County Development Agency that his plan to hire twenty-six people for the roller rink was a prediction, not a promise. Bernardo appeared with his attorney at the IDA's October 24 meeting in order to address whether or not his business has been underperforming on promises made to get property tax breaks.

The question of underperformance for SkateTime 209 was raised once before, in 2008 when Bernardo, whose wife Terry is currently serving as chair of the Ulster County Legislature, was a candidate for County Executive. The application for tax breaks stated that there would be twenty-six jobs, but there are in fact only nine full-time equivalents, or FTEs, employed there. However, Bernardo maintains that the only promises made were in the contract with the IDA, not the application, and have been fulfilled: that the vacant land was bought, and the building erected and outfitted with all the necessary equipment. The venture was self-financed; the IDA did not loan any money.
Well, no one has been talking about loans. We've been talking about tax breaks. And the Bernardos have received $160,000 of such breaks since 2005, and are slated to receive another $35,000 between now and 2016. So, yes, Bernardo is right. They didn't receive loans. Instead, what they received are essentially grants. And grants don't have to be repaid. We're just giving this money to the Bernardos for free. This is somehow better than if we had loaned them the money?

But we've been over all of this, haven't we? What I find troubling about this piece is that the author appears to be the same Terrence Ward who ran unsuccessfully for the New Paltz town board as a Republican last election cycle. And guess what? Ward also received the Independence Party endorsement from -- drum roll, please -- Len Bernardo, the subject of his superficial piece. Shouldn't this newspaper, at the very least, disclose the fact that Ward has a political relationship with the Bernardos? Maybe? Better editors, please.

UPDATE: One of our Town of Rochester GOP friends reminds me that it was in fact county legislature Ward ran for, not town board. Thank you, Manuela, for the heads-up.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The President Admits He's From Kenya



Got to hand it to Donald Trump. He finally got the president to admit what the birthers have been saying all along. Now why isn't the lame-stream media covering this shocking revelation?

The Amedore Deception

Some Hudson Valley media outlets have picked up this story, but it's worth highlighting:
Governor Andrew Cuomo is not running for office this year but his face and name are still appearing in election mailers in many New York homes. State lawmakers from both parties running for re-election are using the popular governor’s image in their campaign literature.

George Amedore, an assemblyman who is seeking to fill the newly created 63rd Senate seat in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys, has sent a full color flyer to homes in the district, prominently featuring Amedore clasping hands with a smiling Governor Cuomo.
The above image, sorry about the low quality, is one of the mailers in question. Please note the stunning hypocrisy of a GOP elected official (Amedore is currently an assemblyman) cozying-up to a popular Democratic governor in order to hoodwink voters who don't pay close attention into thinking that he's a Democrat. Shameful.

It really gets my blood boiling that these people can't seem to demonstrate the courage of their convictions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Caravan of Corruption Tour

This came over the transom a couple of days ago and will be of interest to a few of you:
Albany, NY - On Wednesday, October 24th, two legs of the Caravan of Corruption will converge on Albany to highlight the need for publicly financed Fair Elections as a solution for New York’s scandal-scarred Legislature. The Caravan will make nine stops across the state.

Themed as a traveling sideshow, 15 state-level elected officials (including 4 Senate Democrats, 4 Senate Republicans, 6 Assembly Democrats, and 1 State Comptroller) who have been convicted on corruption-related charges in the past decade will be presented as life-sized cartoonish caricatures. The legislators will be used as examples of a corrupt culture that has consumed Albany, where money talks and the people’s voice is squelched.

The Caravan will feature two legs. One will start from Long Island, with stops in Hempstead and Manhattan on October 23rd, and then Mt. Kisco and Kingston on Wednesday, October 24th. The other leg will leave from Western New York, with stops in Buffalo, Rochester, and Binghamton on October 23rd, and Utica on October 24th. Both legs will converge in Albany on the afternoon of October 24th. Details and more info can be found at www.caravanofcorruption.org.
Corruption, local cronyism in particular, is one of this blog's pet peeves. And NY State is one of the most corrupt in the country, so these folks will have their hands full picking targets. Unfortunately, I learned about this a bit too late to alert you guys to the event in Kingston earlier today (I should, perhaps, read my email more carefully when it arrives), but I have no doubt this is just an opening salvo in a continuing campaign to "highlight need for publicly financed fair elections to change culture in Albany" as the group puts it. Here's a bit of background from the website:
For decades, New York has been home to some of the nation’s most crooked, conniving and corrupt politicians.

They’ve accepted favors, dodged taxes, and lined their pockets with taxpayers’ cash.

While plenty – a majority – of our state’s elected leaders are honest and play by the rules, the fact is – the rules need to change. The money-hungry culture of Albany needs to change. We need to put people first in our democracy.

From Buffalo to Brooklyn, and everywhere in between, we’re taking our creepshow on the road to show what happens when we don’t hold greedy politicians accountable for their actions.

Step right up and learn about this collection of crooks as they:

Siphon money from community programs to buy Yankees tickets
Spend over $20,000 of taxpayers’ dollars on sushi
Dodge hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes
Buy luxury apartments with public money

New York must once again be the leading progressive state in the nation.

Join us as we demand publicly financed Fair Elections for New York and put people first!
I couldn't agree more. Money is the ultimate in corrosive influences. The sooner we can get money out of politics and finance our elections is an egalitarian manner, the better it will be for American democracy. Go check out the website.

Credit Where it's Due



















This isn't exactly what I would call major news, but it's a good thing for the taxpayers:
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein is pleased to announce that Standard & Poor’s has affirmed Ulster County’s AA- bond rating. According to Standard & Poor’s, the AA- bond rating reflects the County’s continued solid financial position, strong fund balances, low overall debt profile and a manageable capital plan.

“This is proof positive that the actions we are taking on behalf of the Ulster County Taxpayers are working. My administration has worked hard to maintain this extremely important bond rating while continuing to deliver essential services and protect taxpayers,” said County Executive Mike Hein.
Our "low overall debt profile" might surprise a lot of conservatives. They like to point to "wasteful spending" without ever identifying the policies they would like to change. Kind of like Paul Ryan's budget, which calls for a 20-percent, across-the-board tax cut -- and then magic faeries appear and balance the budget.

Given our low debt burden, isn't now the time for us to invest? I know there are plenty of bridges that need major repairs. And I'm sure there are tons of other projects that will improve the lives of Ulster County residents and help boost the local economy -- and we can finance all of this very cheaply, with interest rates as low as they are right now. Rates are very likely to climb in the coming years; we should strike while the iron is hot.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taggard Pleads Guilty, FBI Probe Ongoing

Former Town of Ulster Police Chief Matthew Taggard got his slap on the wrist yesterday:
Former town of Ulster Police Chief Matthew Taggard admitted he believed sex crimes were being committed in a neighboring community and failed to take any steps to prevent them, the Ulster County district attorney said Tuesday.

Taggard, who was suspended in June and retired in September, pleaded guilty Monday night before Saugerties Village Justice Robert Rightmyer to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. He was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $205 crime victims service fee and a $50 DNA collection fee.

Taggard also was given a one-year conditional discharge of any jail sentence, meaning if he violates the terms of his sentence, he could be brought back to court and sentenced to up to a year in the Ulster County Jail, according to District Attorney Holley Carnright.
But, if anyone thinks this puts a close to the Taggard portion of this saga, he or she has another thing coming. We can glean from the above paragraphs, for example, the fact that others are under investigation. Taggard was aware that someone else was committing sex crimes during his tenure with the Explorers program (it's a police cadet camp, essentially). Who was this other person or persons? We don't know yet.

And then we get to the part that must have them sweating just a bit:
Taggard has run the Ulster County Police Academy and a cadet Explorer program for teens. He also has worked in the town of Ulster police dog division, has been an instructor for the Ulster County Law Enforcement Group and the Citizens’ Police Academy and has been a member of the Ulster County Emergency Response Team.

Carnright said his office coordinated its investigation with the FBI and that Taggard’s guilty plea will not bar federal prosecution should the FBI develop sufficient information to support federal charges.

Carnright said he no longer is investigating the case.
So, the FBI is working to develop federal charges and Carnwright is no longer involved. You will also note that Taggard has not been charged federally, at least not yet. Thus it's safe to assume that he is cooperating with the feds in regard to this case. And he would be wise to do so. The feds don't mess around. Best to come clean and do whatever they ask. And the odds are very strong that Taggard has been advised to do just this.

So, when will the other shoe drop? Who were the others Taggard was covering for? Are any of them now prominent officials? Just how big is this coverup?

Stay tuned, folks. It appears there is a lot more to come on this one.

It's About Preventing Liberals From Voting




















There have been quite a few attempts by the GOP in recent years to impose various barriers to voting. But the fact is, after years of caterwauling about systemic Democratic voter fraud, they have been unable to find any examples of such. In fact, one of the best pieces of journalism on this subject was published in the last several days:
True the Vote, which was founded in 2009 and is based in Houston, describes itself as a nonprofit organization, created “by citizens for citizens,” that aims to protect “the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party.” Although the group has a spontaneous grassroots aura, it was founded by a local Tea Party activist, Catherine Engelbrecht, and from the start it has received guidance from intensely partisan election lawyers and political operatives, who have spent years stoking fear about election fraud. This cohort—which Roll Call has called the “voter fraud brain trust”—has filed lawsuits, released studies, testified before Congress, and written op-ed columns and books. Since 2011, the effort has spurred legislative initiatives in thirty-seven states to require photo identification to vote.

Engelbrecht has received especially valuable counsel from one member of the group: Hans von Spakovsky. A Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, he is now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. “Hans is very, very helpful,” Engelbrecht said. “He’s one of the senior advisers on our advisory council.” Von Spakovsky, who frequently appears on Fox News, is the co-author, with the columnist John Fund, of the recent book “Who’s Counting?,” which argues that America is facing an electoral-security crisis. “Election fraud, whether it’s phony voter registrations, illegal absentee ballots, vote-buying, shady recounts, or old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing, can be found in every part of the United States,” they write. The book connects these modern threats with sordid episodes from the American past: crooked inner-city machines, corrupt black bosses in the Deep South. Von Spakovsky and Fund conclude that electoral fraud is a “spreading” danger, and declare that True the Vote serves “an obvious need.”

Mainstream election experts say that Spakovsky has had an improbably large impact. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, and the author of a recent book, “The Voting Wars,” says, “Before 2000, there were some rumblings about Democratic voter fraud, but it really wasn’t part of the main discourse. But thanks to von Spakovsky and the flame-fanning of a few others, the myth that Democratic voter fraud is common, and that it helps Democrats win elections, has become part of the Republican orthodoxy.” In December, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, “Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.” Hasen believes that Democrats, for their part, have made exaggerated claims about the number of voters who may be disenfranchised by Republican election-security measures. But he regards the conservative alarmists as more successful. “Their job is really done,” Hasen says. “It’s common now to assert that there is a need for voter I.D.s, even without any evidence.”
The whole thing is well worth your time. It exposes in meticulous detail the GOP myth-making, and the rash of anti-democracy laws that have been sponsored and passed (though many of these have been struck-down by the courts for being unconstitutional). The article is very eye-opening.

Monday, October 22, 2012

RIP, Senator















You were one of the good ones:
George S. McGovern, the three-term senator from South Dakota who carried the Democratic Party’s liberal banner in the Vietnam War era, launched a star-crossed bid for the presidency in 1972, and energized many of the leading Democrats of the past generation, died Sunday at a hospice in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90.
I think most people will remember him for his strong anti-war position when he was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972, a position that caused a lot of turncoat Democrats to support Nixon. But I think his exemplary military service is the thing that really stands out, and it informs his subsequent anti-war feelings. Those who have seen the horrors of war first-hand are often the ones who loath it the most.

Last Century's Eyesores

It's hard to believe places like this are still in operation:
Residents concerned about fuel leaks and other environmental hazards at Buck’s Recycling Center at Route 213 and Mountain Road asked the Town Board to turn down a special use permit application for the Eddyville junk yard.

The comments were made during a Town Board public hearing Thursday, when concerns about the 10-acre facility included state findings that vehicles have been leaking fluids.

Buck’s Recycling Center owner Don Mackenzie was at the hearing but declined to comment.

“We have what appears to be an eyesore and a trash heap in our neighborhood,” resident Nancy Ebel said.
Agreed. And it's one of the things that prevents any kind of redevelopment from taking place, which is especially true a mile or so further to the north. If you got rid of all of the junkyards and other industrial businesses along the Rondout, and replaced these with an attractive waterfront suitable for pedestrians, people would go there in droves to spend money. Instead, we're left with this:
A March 25, 2010, investigation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation resulted in citations for hazardous waste violations for failing to maintain records; not having a contingency plan for fires, spills, release of vehicle fluids; receiving unauthorized materials; improper fluid draining, removal and collection; and not properly storing or marking fluid storage containers.

The state report included finding tires and debris in a wetland area as well as noting that items such as “mercury switches” had not been removed from vehicles.
I would guess that this business was at one time vital to the local economy. But this kind of wrecking yard is really a holdover from a bygone era. It should be shut down.

And even if the Town of Ulster were to close this facility tomorrow, the town will likely be dealing with problems associated with the site for many years, perhaps even decades, to come. All of those toxins will eventually bite the community on the ass.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Romney Bounce is Over















The above graph comes from Nate Silver at the NY Times. I expect this gap to widen after Obama mops the floor with Romney in the third debate.

Myers Already Wants a Raise


Seriously, why did you elect this person, Saugerties?:
Town officials are trying to further cut expenses for the coming year, the supervisor said.

“We’re faced with very significant budget demands this year,” Kelly Myers said during a Town Board meeting Wednesday. She said the town has drafted a tentative budget and is using that as a worksheet to create a spending plan for 2013.

[. . .]

Myers said town leaders will continue to meet with department heads and their liaisons to try to further cut anticipated expenses for the coming year. She said the Town Board could cancel the second public hearing regarding the tax cap if it can reduce expenses enough in the proposed budget.

Included in the tentative budget is a $15,000 raise for the town supervisor, increasing that salary line from $35,000 to $50,000, and a $10,000 raise for the town’s highway superintendent, increasing that salary line from $53,258 to $63,258. (emphasis mine)
The headline of the Freeman piece, in case you didn't click through,is 'Saugerties Officials Aim to Control 2013 Spending.' This 'spending control' includes a raise for Myers of $1300 per month. How can she keep a straight face? I'm beginning to think that Myers is actually related to Terry Bernardo.

Watch the above video and tell me if you think Myers inspires confidence in her leadership. And, if you live in Saugerties, make a note of the public hearing on the budget that will take place on Wednesday, Novbember 7, at 8 p.m. Be sure to let fiscally responsible Myers know how you feel about her 'money-saving' raise.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Conservative Judge Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Art

















The Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional yet again, this time thanks to one of this nation's most conservative federal judges:
A federal appeals court in Manhattan today struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, becoming the second such court to do so and making it that much more likely that the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court sooner than later.
Nice to see that there is at least one conservative judge who isn't a full-blown ideologue.

Here is the main point of the ruling:
[W]e conclude that review of Section 3 of DOMA requires heightened scrutiny. The Supreme Court uses certain factors to decide whether a new classification qualifies as a quasi-suspect class. They include: A) whether the class has been historically “subjected to discrimination,”; B) whether the class has a defining characteristic that “frequently bears [a] relation to ability to perform or contribute to society,” C) whether the class exhibits “obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group;” and D) whether the class is “a minority or politically powerless.” Immutability and lack of political power are not strictly necessary factors to identify a suspect class. Nevertheless, immutability and political power are indicative, and we consider them here. In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny: A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.
This language is a really big deal, according to Ian Millhiser over at Think Progress:
This is a really big deal. Jacobs is not simply saying that DOMA imposes unique and unconstitutional burdens on gay couples, he is saying that any attempt by government to discriminate against gay people must have an “exceedingly persuasive” justification. This is the same very skeptical standard afforded to laws that discriminate against women. If Jacobs’ reasoning is adopted by the Supreme Court, it will be a sweeping victory for gay rights, likely causing state discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be virtually eliminated. And the fact that this decision came from such a conservative judge makes it all the more likely that DOMA will ultimately be struck down by the Supreme Court.
It won't be too many decades before gay marriage is treated the same as all other marriages. The current generation of 20-somethings don't give a shit about sexual orientation, race, etc. The world we be a much better place when people of this generation mature and come to power.

Gibson's Appalling Record on Choice

I'm sorry to keep hammering away at this, but I don't think it can be stated often enough: Congressman Chris Gibson has a horrible record on choice, and Schreibman needs to go after him in the final debate. Why do I think this? Choice is the most important issue in this election when broken down by gender:
Women in the 12 key swing states have starkly different responses from men when asked in an open-ended format to name the most important issues for their gender in the 2012 election. A plurality of female registered voters offered abortion (39%) as the most important issue for women, followed by jobs, healthcare, the economy, and equal rights. In contrast, men see jobs (38%) and the economy (37%) as the two most important issues facing men.
And who has the worst record on choice in New York's congressional delegation? Chris Gibson (he's tied for last place).

Tell me again that no one cares about women's health issues. Schreibman needs to do everything he can to ensure that Gibson's appalling record on choice is the headline after the third debate.

Be Sure to Bring Your iPad

Newsweak Newsweek to quit publishing its print edition at the end of this year:
We are announcing this morning an important development at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Newsweek will transition to an all-digital format in early 2013. As part of this transition, the last print edition in the United States will be our Dec. 31 issue.
No word yet on whether any dentists' offices will be issuing a statement.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Which Parts of Obamacare Would Gibson Repeal?

This is a legitimate question. The parts that have been enacted thus far (the mandate doesn't kick in for another year-plus) are things people actually seem to like:
Elements of the controversial law, often called “Obamacare,” include prohibiting people from being denied medical coverage because of pre-existing conditions, banning lifetime coverage caps, allowing parents to keep children on their insurance plans until age 26, requiring everyone to have health insurance in an effort to cut down on uninsured people using emergency rooms, creating nonprofit collectives to try to lower costs through competition, and limiting how much insurers can spend on marketing and administration.
I'm sure a few of you who are reading this have a child who now has health coverage because of the under-26 rule. And maybe there are a few of you who discovered that your insurance company can no longer deny you coverage for preexisting conditions. And then there's the healthcare rebate checks a lot of people received this year because insurance companies now must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on healthcare (as opposed to marketing and administrative costs); since many insurance companies didn't meet that threshold, they were required by law to return these excess premiums to consumers. The checks went out this August. People like getting check unexpectedly. I know I do.

We have no idea how well the other stuff will work because it hasn't taken effect yet. So, which of the above is Gibson going to repeal? All? Some? Maybe some intrepid reporter should ask him directly which of these provisions are bad and need to go away?

Angry Mitt


They Write Letters

This is what happen when people go off half-cocked and don't do their homework. Myers's grandstanding in refusing to sign the resolution authorizing the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes for The Birches senior housing complex in Saugerties now looks even more ill-advised. The company sent the Saugerties Times a letter to the editor that was published a couple of days ago. In it, they lay out exactly why this is an incredibly stupid move by Myers. You need to read the whole thing if you want the full perspective, but there is one section I'd like to highlight:
The new valuation would bring the per-unit payment to $95.50 a dwelling, which in our formal request we increased to $100. This is the same per-unit PILOT that the towns of Esopus and Ulster agreed to for Birchez senior housing. Sometime in June of this year, the town attorney communicated to our attorney that the town was prepared to amend the PILOT, which would allow us to pay $200 a year per unit, with a two percent per unit annual increase retroactive to 2008, regardless of whether or not we receive any increases in rent.

In the interest of moving forward, we agreed.
If I'm reading this correctly, The Birches, under current housing law, should be assessed at under $100 per unit. But the company agreed to pay more than double this amount, and four out of the five board members -- everyone but the addled Myers -- agreed to this new arrangement. So, how is what Myers is doing looking out for the interests of the taxpayers?

I'm increasingly baffled by this one, folks.

The GOP Destroys Jobs

Take a look at the above chart. What it shows is that every Republican administration since WWII has undermined American manufacturing:
State-level manufacturing job growth has varied across the 16 presidential administrations since 1948, with significant gains in most states across the seven Democratic terms and significant losses under the nine Republican, according to The Manufacturing Jobs Score, 1949-2011, a new analysis of official government data by the Keystone Research Center (KRC) and Iowa Policy Project (IPP). The Democratic administrations have added an average of between 160,000 and 250,000 manufacturing jobs each year, while Republican ones have lost manufacturing jobs at about the same rate.
And it's not even close. Even Eisenhower, who was a member of a now-extinct species known as "moderate Republicans," hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs. It's pretty startling to see it all laid out in black and white.

So, what we really need is another Republican administration, right? Especially when the guy at the top of the ticket is one of those who led the way when it comes to intentionally shipping jobs overseas. That ought to work out just swell.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ryan Barges into Charity for Bogus Photo

















He is absolutely shameless:
The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”
He was there for a total of 15 minutes. Paul Ryan's version of helping out the disadvantaged.

Romney's Tax Plan


















Finally! GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a detailed tax plan today. Click through for for more information.

Are You Sure it'll be Artists' Housing?

The latest piece from Michael Novinson regarding the renovation of the old lace curtain factory in Kingston is a bit superficial. Novinson's piece is primarily an overview of the plans RUPCO has for the site:
A nonprofit developer is converting a hulking eyesore in Midtown into a hipster haven.

The Rural Ulster Preservation Co. plans to create 55 residential artist lofts in a 56,470-square-foot brick manufacturing building that has sat dormant for decades.

"Artists are a leading indicator of economic revival," said Guy Kempe, RUPCO's director of community development.

The $16-million project will be financed through low-income housing and historic preservation tax credits.

Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2013, and the Lace Factory lofts are slated for a spring 2014 opening.
And I have to admit that this project sounds great. So, what's the downside according to Novinson?:
At least 85 percent of the units will be rent-subsidized. That worries Mike Piazza, who owns 135,000 square feet of mostly market-rate artists housing in Kingston. He's not happy about the influx of cheap housing for artists, which he says will depress the market and erode profit margins.

"It's like David and Goliath," Piazza said. "I can't compete with a company with full-time employees who write grants and (tax) credits."
Yes, adding subisdized housing to a community could have an impact on local market rates, no doubt. But are there any other concerns with this project? How about I outline a couple obvious ones?

First, how many empty units is RUPCO currently sitting on? The reason I ask this is that I don't know. I do know that I keep reading stories about how the agency seems to be having problems filling/selling existing units in Kingston, Woodstock and Ellenville. So why are they taking on another project? Under these circumstances, I think a newspaper conducting a brief survey of RUPCO's housing stock would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Secondly, the argument presented in the article is tautological. This is a fancy way of saying the logic is circular. Artists are typically attracted to rundown urban areas because you can get a lot of space cheaply. But for artists used to East Village rents, this entire area is cheap. This is why we've seen explosions of arts communities in towns all over the Ulster County. The lace curtain project might be able to attract a few of these folks, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they'll be able to bring in the kind of tenants they say they want. It's a bit like saying, "If I build a bank I'll be rich, because banks are where they keep all the money." You need depositors, no?

Thirdly, and not least, what if non-artists submit applications? What about single moms with no artistic background? Are you going to turn them away? No, because you can't. Federal housing law doesn't allow for this kind of discrimination -- unless the city planning board added this as a provision. In other words, If I understand the law correctly, it would be legal for the planning board to designate the project as "artist housing," but I've read absolutely nothing that suggests they did so when approval was granted. This should be looked into.

This project is going to cost a lot of money. While its goals are noble, and the idea of restoring the old factory is a grand one, there needs to be more careful, critical analysis from the press on this stuff. Get cracking, Michael.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bain Capitol Dismantling Another Good Company



And a certain presidential candidate stands to directly benefit:
If you are hearing about a company names Sensata, here is the story. Right now this company is moving equipment out of a factory in Freeport, Il. and shipping it to China. They are making the workers there train their Chinese replacements. And the end of the year they are laying off the American workers.

[. . .]

Bain Capital purchased a sensor manufacturer that makes key components for our automobile supply chain, and named it Sensata. They immediately announced they closing a factory in Freeport, Ill., and sending the manufacturing and jobs to China to save money.
But it gets worse -- the workers who are losing their jobs in a couple of months are being forced to train their 99-cents-per-hour replacements:
Bain/Sensata brought in Chinese workers and made the Freeport workers train them. Bain/Sensata is moving the equipment out of the Freeport factory and shipping it to China right now. The Freeport employees have set up a camp outside the factory that they call Bainport and are trying to stop the Bain trucks that are moving the equipment out for shipment to China. Supporters were arrested this week, trying to stop those trucks.
But, hey. All Romney is doing is cutting out the deadwood, weeding out the weaklings, removing the chaff from the grain, right? Nope. Sensata makes some of the best automotive sensors in the world, and made record profits last year.

The only reason to dismantle this company is to make Mitt Romney and his pals even more money. Watch the video above. This is Mitt Romney's America. Simply disgusting.

Friday, October 12, 2012

AFSCME to Spend Six-Figures in NY-19



How close is the race in NY-19? Close enough that AFSCME has committed to a huge ad buy for Schreibman:
AFSCME is launching when it’s describing as a six-figure ad purchase starting next week in the 19th Congressional district race, knocking incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson for siding with GOP lawmakers like Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann.

The independent expenditure ad is just one of many that’s been blanketing the airwaves in closely watched House races across the state.
Unions, who don't have anywhere near the resources of corporations, don't spend big bucks on races they know they can't win. Yet another sign that Gibson is in deep trouble.

Listening to Our Elected Officials

That didn't take long. If you're interested, you can now listen to the audio recordings of Ulster County Legislature committee meetings online by visiting this webpage. If all efforts at government transparency went so smoothly, we'd be living in a democratic utopia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Gibson Lied About

Here's Schreibman's response to Gibson's mendacity about his record:
Top-10 Facts Congressman Gibson Got Wrong in Last Night's Debate
(Kingston, NY) Yesterday, Hudson Valley/Catskills Congressional candidate Julian Schreibman and Congressman Chris Gibson faced off in their first of three debates. Julian promised to defend the middle class and protect Medicare, while Congressman Gibson spent the entire debate trying to whitewash his voting record. Here are the top-10 facts he got wrong on his record:
  1. Congressman Gibson claimed he did not vote to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare.
    Here’s the proof that Congressman Gibson voted to raise the eligibility age for Medicare when he voted for the Ryan budget in 2011. Seemingly forgetting that he has already voted for this, his campaign recently doubled-down on this desire when it said he would “seriously consider” raising the age of eligibility for Medicare.
  2. Congressman Gibson said he doesn’t want to build a new nuclear plant on the Hudson. To prove that, he recommended you “Google it.”
    Here are five stories found after doing just that: one, two, three, four, five
  3. Congressman Gibson said he supports Pell grants.
    Here’s the proof that Congressman Gibson voted to cut $26 billion from the Pell grant program, which would hurt our ability to create jobs and businesses in the future. The Pell grant cuts would make it so 1.7 million students who currently receive funds would not anymore.
  4. Congressman Gibson praised the tax reform principals of Cooper-LaTourette.
    Here’s the proof that Cooper-LaTourette would actually raise taxes by $2 trillion.
  5. Congressman Gibson claimed he has a strong record on education.
    Congressman Gibson called both the Department of Education unnecessary.
  6. Congressman Gibson said he voted for the Ryan budget just “as a concept to get the conversation started.”
    Then why did just last year Congressman Gibson call Congressman Ryan’s plan “my plan?"
  7. Congressman Gibson claimed that he does not work for Grover Norquist.
    Then why did Congressman Gibson sign Grover Norquist’s pledge that he will, “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing taxes.” 
  8. Congressman Gibson said he doesn’t support fracking.
    But he supported Governor Cuomo’s plan before he was against it
  9. Congressman Gibson claimed he voted for the Ryan budget in order to save Medicare.
    However, his vote for the Ryan budget will cause the Medicare Trust fund to turn insolvent by 2016 – eight years earlier than if he did nothing.
  10. Last night, Congressman Gibson said he was bipartisan over 20 times.
    Congressman Gibson claimed he was bipartisan over 20 times in the debate last night.  However, Congressman Gibson was not independent when it mattered most.  He voted for the Ryan budget, to cut Pell grants, and to defund Planned Parenthood.  The Congressman has also publicly supported eliminating the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.
Gibson can run, but he cannot hide.

It's My Party

















So, Robin Yess and several other GOP folks in the Town of Rochester make it official: the group has left the GOP and is now a part of the Independence Party:
Well, you folks called for it – or most of you did – and after much thought and consideration, after Election Day, November 6th, I will be a registered member of the Independence Party. Today, Jon Dogar-Marinesco – illustrator extraordinaire and blogger at Rochester Smoke Out – delivered five Change of Party Affiliation forms, including mine, to the Ulster County Board of Elections. Several others have changed their registration to Independence Party over the last month.
I will admit to being one of the folks in Robin's poll who chose the IP as the party in which she could make the most impact. Of course, the local leadership is deeply in the hip pocket of the Bonacic/Chapman/Bernardo axis, so she'll be swimming upstream for a while. Time to hit the phones, Robin. Maybe by next election cycle you can start to make some headway. You know all of this, of course, but please indulge me as I offer my unvarnished opinion.

One of the other things in Robin's announcement also caught my eye -- her statement on the utterly corrupt nature of the local IP is an evisceration worthy of a surgeon:
For those who pay attention, on the local level we know that the Independence Party has stood for nothing other than furthering political aspirations of Party “leadership,” making political deals for friends and family, threatening Legislators to push through particular agendas and conducted phony candidate interviews of those seeking the Independence Party endorsement. The Independence Party leadership has made a mockery of Legislators in both the Republican and Democrat parties, creating an environment at the County level that stresses doing it “our way or no IND endorsement.”
Very well put. One quibble, though. It's the "Democratic" Party, Robin. "Democrat" Party is a pejorative term cooked up by Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay. It's meant to be insulting and you should stop using it if you plan to extend a hand across the aisle. Food for thought.

Anyway, get in there and kick some Chapman ass, guys! I'm already making the popcorn.

Schreibman-Gibson Debate



Video streaming by UstreamIf you didn't get a chance to watch it live, here's a replay courtesy of the Freeman.

UPDATE: One of our regular commenters who posts under the pseudonym "One Who Knows" left a comment to this post, but it's hidden behind the new Disqus system. I still don't know why this is happening, as he/she should be seeing the new Disqus comment box and not the old one. If you wouldn't mind doing so, One Who Knows, try clearing your browser cache to see if that brings up the new Disqus system in your browser (browsers sometimes get stuck). You can also try updating to a newer browser like Chrome or Firefox. Just wanted you to know that it's the system, not me, that ate your comment.

For the record, One Who Knows said that Gibson mopped the floor with Schreibman. That's not how I saw it at all. I thought Gibson seemed aloof and impatient, and that Schreibman was better prepared, clearly knows his policy, and scored big points on Medicare.

If hyperbole and bluster ever won an election, however, Gibson would be a shoe-in.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

GOP Pulls Dishonest Schreibman Ad

Giving them credit for doing the right thing is like thanking someone for apologizing after they intentionally punch you in the nose:
The National Republican Congressional Committee has taken down an ad attacking congressional candidate Julian Schreibman for his connections to a man acquitted of defrauding clients just a day after it hit the airwaves.

The NRCC asked Tuesday that the Albany broadcast stations involved in the ad buy stop showing the spot.

The 30-second commercial was also made private on the NRCC YouTube page. The NRCC is a political committee devoted to electing Republicans to the U.S. House.
Related Stories

NRCC spokesman Nat Sillin wouldn't provide a specific reason for these decisions.
So, they lie about Schreibman, and then they lie about why they lied. Terrific.

RIP, Mongo



Karras was a household name when I was growing up. Hard to believe he was 77. His boyish looks belied his years:
Alex Karras, a fierce and relentless All-Pro lineman for the Detroit Lions whose irrepressible character placed him frequently at odds with football’s authorities but led to a second career as an actor on television and in the movies, died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 77.
And the world moves on.

GOP Hypocrisy on "Family Values"

The Tea Party sure knows how to pick 'em:
A pro-life, family-values congressman who worked as a doctor before winning election as a Tea Party-backed Republican had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion, according to a phone call transcript obtained by The Huffington Post.

The congressman, Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, was trying to save his marriage at the time, according to his remarks on the call, made in September of 2000. And, according to three independent sources familiar with the call and the recording, he made the tape himself.

DesJarlais, who was provided a copy of the transcript by HuffPost, did not deny its contents, but in a statement released through his campaign characterized it as just another sordid detail dredged up by the opposition. "Desperate personal attacks do not solve our nation's problems, yet it appears my opponents are choosing to once again engage in the same gutter politics that CBS news called the dirtiest in the nation just 2 years ago."

[. . .]

That race featured charges culled from DesJarlais' divorce from Susan DesJarlais, which was finalized in 2001. The filing included allegations that he held a gun in his own mouth for hours in one instance and that he "dry fired" a gun outside his wife's bedroom in another.

DesJarlais' campaign vigorously denied those charges in his 2010 race against Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis, saying they were hauled out of history for political purposes and had not been deemed credible at the time.

But the new transcript and other revelations from court documents paint a more damning picture of a man who was a serial philanderer willing to push one of his lovers -- whom he met as a patient with a foot problem -- to terminate a pregnancy, even when he suspected he was the father.

"You told me you'd have an abortion, and now we're getting too far along without one," DesJarlais tells the woman at one point in the call while negotiating with her over whether he'll reveal her identity to his wife. They then discuss whether he will accompany her to a procedure to end the sort of life the congressman now describes as "sacred."
Yes, according to his website, Congressman DesJarlais is big on the sanctity of life:
Abortion – All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life.
Maybe Anthony Weiner should resign again.

Audio Isn't Enough
















According to Robin Yess over at the Liberty Coalition, UC Legislator Tracey Bartels has introduced a draft resolution that would make audio recordings of committee meetings available online:
Kudos to Legislator Tracey Bartels for introducing Draft Resolution 250 for this month’s legislative session, which calls for the posting of audio recordings from Legislative Committee meetings within twenty-four hours of the meeting.
Indeed, Bartels is certainly one of the more enlightened members of the legislature, thus I'm not surprised by her efforts to improve government transparency.

But I do have one problem with this solution. How many of us know our legislator's name? Not too many, I would imagine. And here's another question: How many of us would know our legislator if we bumped into him or her at the post office? Can you, right now, identify your legislator by sight alone? Most of us have no idea what these folks look like.

The reason I bring this up is because those listening to an audio recording online will have no way of identifying who is speaking. An audio recording alone, without any accompanying visual cues, will make these recordings difficult for the public to sift through. If most of us don't know our legislator's name or face, we're very unlikely to be able to identify his or her voice. Now, formally, a speaker will be recognized by whomever is chairing the committee, but there is also quite a bit of back and forth banter that happens. Anyway, you see my point, I'm sure.

The simplest solution is to record these sessions with video. And there are so many low-cost solutions out there, that I find it hard to understand why this hasn't happened. Indifference? Ineptitude? Both, probably.

But don't get me wrong. I love this idea, as it's a big step in the right direction -- and it's better than what we have now, which is zilch. So let's make sure our legislators know that we support Bartels's resolution, but also that it's just a first step toward bringing county government transparency into the 21st century.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Houskeeping

Just a note on the comments. As I mentioned before, I went ahead and switched over to Disqus for comments. Disqus is a commenting system that works on virtually any blogging/web platform, so you can create a single user ID and then comment on any Disqus-enabled site through a single log-in. It's a very handy thing not to have to log in to a bunch of different platforms in order to comment. Log in once, then forget about it. You can also create an avatar and provide a link back to your own blog, which might help drive traffic to your own site. Also, the Freeman uses Disqus, so your user name from over there will now work on the Cloakroom.

The reason I bring this up, is because there are still people who are somehow making comments under the old in-house commenting system blogger uses by default. These comments show up when I look at the comments section of the dashboard, but they don't appear on the post itself, likely because they're hidden behind the Disqus applet (which commandeers the space formerly occupied by the blogger comment system). I don't know why this is happening. My only guess is that the commenters are still seeing the old format. You can probably fix this by clearing your browser cache, or by upgrading to a more recent browser.

I would also like point out that you can still post anonymously on the Cloakroom, so the new system hasn't changed anything in that regard. I also wanted to let know those commenters whose responses haven't appeared that I'm not shit-canning them. They're somehow being eaten. Sorry about the inconvenience.

p.s. I recommend a pseudonym, myself. That way, when you make a comment, people know who they are engaging with -- even if they don't know who the real person is. Doing it this way creates better dialogue. Give it some thought, folks. Of course, if you want total anonymity, you can always download the Tor Browser.

Schreibman Down by Two Points, Maloney Now in Lead

Some very good polling numbers coming out today for two local Democratic campaigns. According to Mid-hudson News, Schreibman is now down to Gibson by just two points, and Maloney has pulled ahead Hayworth by the same margin:
In the 19th District, a survey conducted by Grove Insight, commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, found that Democrat Julian Schreibman polled 41 percent of the vote to incumbent Republican Christopher Gibson’s 43 percent. Sixteen percent are undecided.

The poll found that 44 percent are more likely to give Gibson negative reviews while 36 percent give him a positive evaluation.
Take a look at Gibson's positive and negative numbers, folks, because that's where this race has turned around. A few months ago, Gibson was seen as a squeaky-clean-war-hero-man-of-honor. And he has an excellent record as a soldier. Hell, if I were looking for someone local to organize a perimeter defense of Kingston in, say, the fall of of 1777, Gibson would be tops on my list.

But his record in congress is awful. As I've highlighted before, his record on women's health issues is just about as backwards as you can get. Gibson scores "zero" on NARAL's voting records list. Gibson also voted in lock-step with the Tea Party -- until he was forced to moderate some of his votes out of political panic. Gibson clearly saw the writing on the wall and attempted to pander to liberals. Well, it hasn't worked. And he's polling at just 43 percent, which is a long way from 50-percent-plus-one. Panic time.

Maloney, too, has done a good job of defining his opponent, another Tea Party darling who now wants to run away from her record. This too is not working:
In the 18th District, a poll commissioned by the campaign of Democrat Sean Maloney shows if the election was held today, he would receive 44 percent of the likely voters to incumbent Republican Nan Hayworth’s 42 percent.

The poll by Global Strategy Group found that 35 percent of voters rate Hayworth’s performance as positive, while 51 percent rate her performance negatively.
Again, a huge flip in the negative perception of Hayworth. Her campaign has to be in panic mode as well.

Both Gibson and Hayworth are poised to lose. The reason? The message is finally getting out there that these two are totally out-of-touch with Hudson Valley voters. While there's still a long way to go, both campaigns are in very deep trouble.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Schreibman Raises More $$ Than Gibson

Oh, yee of little faith. Looks like Julian's fundraising machine is doing a good job:
Julian Schreibman, a Kingston attorney running to unseat Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, has raised more money than the incumbent, according to figures the campaigns will formally disclose next week.

Schreibman’s campaign took in around $535,000, according to his chief fundraiser Jamie Patton. That’s almost double the amount of money Schreibman’s campaign reported in its bank account in mid July.
Of course, the fact that they still trail Gibson in the money department means that they have essentially no cash-on-hand, but it's nonetheless a sign that Schreibman has real legs in this race.

Gibson, of course, as the incumbent, has had two year in which to fundraise, so his people have to be sweating just a bit if Schreibman has eclipsed them:
Gibson will report raising around $410,000, leaving $775,000 in his war chest, according to his spokeswoman, Stephanie Valle. He’s been on air for several weeks. Fueled by political action committees, Gibson outraised Schreibman in the last several weeks of June, and reported $1.2 million in his account.
And if you can spare a few bucks for the Schreibman campaign, all you need to do is click on the Act Blue logo on the right. It's secure, and you can pay by credit card or through Paypal.

Myers Keeps Digging

Kelly Myers's bizarre bit of grandstanding continues. She is still refusing to sign a PILOT agreement with The Birches senior housing complex, despite a 4-1 vote by the town board and a fiduciary obligation carry out her duties as Saugerties town supervisor:
The issue of an amended payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the Birches at Saugerties housing complex has become the focus a Town Board discussion again.

During a board meeting Wednesday, Councilman Bruce Leighton read a prepared statement that touched on Supervisor Kelly Myers’ refusal to sign the amended payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement even though it had been approved in a 4-1 vote of the board. Myers cast the lone “no” vote.

In his statement, Leighton said Myers, during a meeting on Sept. 12, should have discussed her concerns with the board from her seat rather than addressing council members from the podium generally used by the public.

“I personally don’t need to be lectured to,” Leighton said, adding that he didn’t know if Myers’ actions were political grandstanding or arrogance.
Perhaps both, Bruce? And I'd throw-in ignorance. And isn't it noteworthy that every time we see this kind of political theater, the road leads directly through the Bernardo/Independence Party camp?

And there are a number of commenters over at the Freeman who are simply too ignorant for words. Birchez filed an Article 7 with the town because a wee event occurred that undermined the U.S. real estate market. Let me see if I can remember what it was. Of yeah! The freakin' housing market collapsed.

As a result of this collapse, property owners have been left with assessments that do not reflect the actual current value of the property. If you buy a house for $200,000 you pay property taxes based upon that (or something close to that) assessment. If the market collapses and your home loses a big chunk of its value, for argument's sake let's say down to $100,000, you're still paying taxes at the original rate -- despite the fact that your home is worth half of what it was when you bought it.

So, what to do? Well, there is a provision in NY State municipal law that allows property owners to challenge their assessment. This process is known as "assessment review," and towns normally have a board that meets every spring. And towns these days are quite busy with such requests, most of which are resolved through a negotiation process. The vast majority never get to court because both sides sit down and hammer out a compromise (like the aforementioned PILOT). It really stinks for the towns involved, because that tax revenue is essentially lost for good and has to be made up somehow. But it's the system we have in place, like it or not. In addition, assessment review is really a fundamental right. I would never buy a property if I wasn't allowed to challenge my tax assessment in court, would you? The people who are criticizing Birchez over this need to have their heads examined. And if the taxes are so high that the facility is losing money, where will the seniors go if it goes into foreclosure?

But there is a bigger issue at stake here for the residents of the Town of Saugerties. What if the situation were reversed? What if it was Democratic town supervisor refusing to sign a PILOT with a big developer with ties to the GOP? Can you imagine the bloody murder that we would hear? And what if a town supervisor simply decided that he or she didn't like a local law? What then? Does anyone really think it's okay for paid town officials to simply ignore the will of the town board? This is very dangerous territory.

Myers is in over her head, and will end up looking like even more of a fool if she keeps this up. And why do I get the sense that she isn't receiving good legal counsel? I can't imagine town attorney John Greco advising her not to sign the agreement. I wonder where she might have gotten the idea to stage this stunt?

And, as a commenter earlier this year noted in another post about Myers, she is a Bernardo Kool-Aid drinker, so don't expect this to end well. Thankfully, town supervisor is just a two-year term, so Myers can be replaced with someone who understands his or her role in town government.

And I think Birchez should call Myers's bluff and take the Town of Saugerties to court on this assessment. From what the Freeman article says, the company has an excellent case and a good chance of winning an even lower assessment. Then Myers can explain her money-costing actions to the voters of Saugerties.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cronies R Us

Well, at least one local patronage job has bitten the dust:
A former city alderman and Ulster County legislator who worked on Mayor Shayne Gallo’s campaign and then was hired as a rehabilitation housing specialist for the city has been fired for, among other thing things, shoddy work on a handicapped-accessible ramp built at another Gallo supporter’s home.

Gallo said he fired Michael Madsen last week from his $30,000-plus job in the Kingston Office for Community Development for “insubordination” and “incompetence” in connection with work Madsen performed at the home of Janai McDonough, the 2011 Working Families Party candidate for the Common Council’s Fifth Ward seat.

Gallo said his firing of Madsen, a fellow Democrat, illustrates that “no matter what my relationship is to a city employee, I will take action” when it is necessary.”

Gallo referred to Madsen as an “alleged carpenter.”
Michael Madsen, you may remember, was a hanger-on with the Gallo campaign who maneuvered himself into the job of code enforcement officer in the City of Kingston. The only problem was that Madsen had zero credentials, a battery of which are required for the job (because, you know, people's lives are at stake, etc).

Well, a bunch of people, including this blog, asked questions about this. Lo and behold, Madsen decides at the eleventh hour to "step aside," and was instead rewarded with the Community Development job. But even that, apparently, was beyond Madsen's administrative skills. Gallo is using words like "incompetence" and "insubordination," and describes Madsen as an "alleged carpenter." He's royally PO'ed, it appears. Are you listening Terry and Len?

But the person with whom Gallo should be most angry stares at him in the mirror every morning. Patronage jobs, particularly when the person receiving the work isn't actually qualified for the position, usually end up badly. So, a lesson for Gallo to take the high road when it comes to appointing appropriate people.

And is the Independence Party line really worth the aggravation of having to deal with a phalanx of incompetent Bernardo flunkies who have their hands out? Maybe you can campaign harder instead of getting into bed with with these political parasites? Perhaps?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Van Blarcum Inserts His Foot

Perhaps it would be a good idea for the Ulster County Sheriff to hire someone to handle PR, because he's doing a really awful job:
Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach’s decision to freeze about $200,000 seized by the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team forces police to use taxpayer dollars to run the program instead of cash seized from drug dealers, county Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum said Tuesday.

Money seized by the team, known as URGENT, pays for such expenses as overtime, equipment and confidential parts of the operation, Van Blarcum said.

“At the end of the day, it’s screwing the citizens of Ulster County,” said the sheriff, who, like Auerbach, is a Democrat. “Now we have to use taxpayer money to continue our fight against drugs and gangs instead of drug dealer money.”
Van Blarcum's statement is patently absurd. The department budget, which includes the administering of the county jail, is a little over $21 million. Thus, Auerbach's temporary freeze amounts to less than one tenth of one percent of the overall budget. We're not talking chump change, mind you, but were also not talking about something that will have any noticeable effect on anyone's property taxes -- especially when you consider that the audit should leave the taxpayers in a better position in that we'll know how the money has been, and will be, spent. How is this "screwing the taxpayers"?

Van Blarcum, who up until a few days ago seemed like a well-meaning guy, is acting like a man who knows he has something to hide. If there's nothing going on here, he needs to dial down the rhetoric and cooperate with the comptroller. All he's doing with this hyperbole is piquing everyone's curiosity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

URGENT Audit Urgency

Just to follow up on yesterday's announcement, Elliott Auerbach conducting a full forensic audit of the assets seized by URGENT is long overdue. This in fact should have been done as a matter of course after the Matthews incident:
Auerbach said it is possible the poor accounting could have enabled former Kingston police Detective Lt. Timothy Matthews to steal money from URGENT and the county.

In pleading guilty in Janaury to two felony counts of grand larceny, Matthews admitted stealing more than $50,000 from the city (for which he headed the city police department’s Detective Division) between Jan. 1, 2001, and Feb. 3, 2011; and more than $50,000 from the county (for which he headed URGENT) between March 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2010, the District Attorney’s Office said at the time. Matthews was sentenced to 3 to 9 years in prison and ordered to pay $212,000 in restitution.
Personally, I would be shocked if it turned out that Matthews was the only one with his hand in the cookie jar. Unfettered piles of cash are a huge temptation for even the most stalwart public servant, so careful regulation eliminates any potential for wrongdoing.

And I'll go you one further: why doesn't all the money go into the general fund? Why should law enforcement keep some of it? Sure, it's an added incentive to provide good police service. But shouldn't the police provide good service as a matter of course? And the county and local municipalities are broke. Shouldn't elected officials be deciding how to appropriate these funds as part of an ongoing democratic process? Allowing the cops to keep part of it seems silly, especially when they usually get bumped to the front of the line at budget time.

All proceeds from these raids should go the the county/municipality and be applied to the general fund, maybe even property tax relief.

Keep digging, Elliott. What else might you find?