Friday, September 30, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Here is how Republicans in the state Senate talk about redrawing district lines when they think no one is paying attention:
They loosely refer to black and Latino communities on Long Island as "politically undesirable areas."
They strategize about the best way to "strengthen the Long Island delegation" of nine Republicans.
They angle to create low-population or "light" districts upstate to maximize the number of GOP senators.
And their decision about creating a particular district comes down to a judgment about whether it will be "a Republican pickup."
These crassly political statements were not overheard on a wiretap. They weren't loose talk over beers. No, they come straight out of an internal memo, written on government letterhead by a government employee intimately involved in the nitty-gritty of redistricting.
The little-noticed document was written in 2001 and became public in 2003. But Senate Democrats are circulating it now because it's obvious that nothing has changed since then.
First, memo author Mark Burgeson still works as a "demographic research analyst" for the Senate side of the Legislative Task Force on Reapportionment.
Second, the man Burgeson wrote it to - Sen. Dean Skelos, then the task force co-chairman - has since moved up the ladder to majority leader.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
New York: Adding stipends
James Tedisco's stint from November 2005 to April 2009 as Republican leader in the New York State Assembly has proved to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Tedisco not only improved his $79,500 legislative pay by taking on the role of minority leader with its $114,000 salary, but he ensured that his legislative pension will be based on the higher salary.
If he were to retire this year, Tedisco would get an $82,080 pension, state records indicate.
A pension based only on the standard legislative salary would pay Tedisco $57,240 -- nearly $25,000 less per year.
Most states pay stipends to a handful of legislative leaders. In New York, 164 of 212 legislators received stipends last year, costing taxpayers $2.5 million.
Taxpayers will pay again when the legislators retire because all 164 of them, like Tedisco, will get richer pensions because of the stipends they are receiving now.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts
Congressmen Paul Tonko, Maurice Hinchey and William Owens, all of New York, Wednesday night tonight made the following statement after voting against a Continuing Resolution to fund government operations through Nov. 18.
Included is $3.65 billion in disaster relief funding, which is about half as much as the nearly $7 billion in disaster relief approved by the U.S. Senate. The House measure was defeated, 195-230.
Owens represents Madison and Oswego counties.
“We voted against this continuing resolution because after three weeks of inaction by the Republican leadership, they have presented a package that falls far short of what is needed.
"It does not provide enough resources to help families rebuild their homes, and it blatantly excludes disaster relief programs at USDA that our farmers and rural communities need so desperately to recover. It kicks the can down the road to another, lingering fight.
“We are again calling on House leadership to schedule an immediate vote on legislation passed by the U.S. Senate that provides more resources for our families and farmers. And we will be working together on new legislation that would provide additional disaster funding for our farmers through the USDA.
“We will fight for every dollar of much-needed disaster relief funding we can get, but at the end of the day, this bill simply does not hold the breadth and depth of aid we require. It is a slap in the face to families, farmers, and small businesses in our area who have lost everything.”
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
The announcement, which came during the Legislature’s meeting on Thursday, was the second time Kunzwiler has brought up the topic since the beginning of the saga with Info Quick Solutions (IQS), one of the companies vying for a contract with the county.
On May 4, three companies appeared in front of the county Legislature’s Consumer and Community Affairs Committee, pitching their products and fielding questions from county officials in an attempt to earn a contract for the text and image management system used in the clerk’s office. A contract with the Liverpool-based company IQS was among those bidders. The contract with IQS expired with the county at the end of 2010.
After the meeting, Williams and Deputy Clerk of Operations Matthew Bacon went to a Fulton restaurant and had drinks with IQS owner Bernie Owens, who Williams has said he has known on a personal level for more than 30 years. Aside from a brief conversation regarding pistol permits at that restaurant, Williams has insisted that the conversations were not work related, and mostly consisted of “friendship-like conversation,” he said.
“It is our obligation to the taxpayers,” he said.
During a full Legislature meeting in June, Kunzwiler called for Williams to resign after the clerk sent a letter to members of the Republican caucus detailing issues Williams has said he has endured within his department over the past year. The letter further listed names of people within his department who have allegedly been the source of those accusations, and cited a Fulton-area newspaper as the mouthpiece for those employees.
“Not once since this saga began has the reporter (of that newspaper), or story teller, called me to get my side of the story,” Williams wrote. “(The reporter) depended on the cast of characters … for her half truths, unfounded accusations and incomplete sub-stories to what really happened.”
Friday, September 16, 2011
Oswego Republican County Legislators Vote to Deny Study on Wind Economic Development in Oswego County
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Power of NY Act of 2011 — dubbed Article X by opponents of the bill — which is intended to increase power production and lead to new investment in New York.
The Cuomo administration has asserted that the measure has the capacity to create thousands of jobs and result in reliable, cleaner energy while strengthening environmental protections. The program allows homeowners and business owners to take out low-interest loans from New York for energy efficiency improvements, which can then be paid back through utility bills.
“I would like to have some of our state representatives come in and answer some of our questions so we can really give (the legislation) the time it deserves, not a … five-minute meeting that took place before this meeting,” the legislator said, referencing a 6:40 p.m. legislative committee meeting that passed the resolution in opposition to the Power of NY Act, which allowed the measure to be handled during the full Legislature meeting, which began at 7 p.m.
Kunzwiler’s request was denied, as a roll call vote of the legislative body regarding the resolution to table the measure received a vote of 21-4 against, with legislators Kunzwiler, Doug Malone, D-Oswego Town; Jake Mulcahey, D-Oswego; and Amy Tresidder, D-Oswego, the voters in favor.
“Really?” Malone said incredulously after the vote.
The legislator brought up the Legislature’s refutation last year of the New York Power Authority’s Great Lakes Offshore Wind farm project, pitched for development in Lake Ontario waters that border the county. The project would have resulted in the possible placement of between 40 and 150 wind turbines in Lake Ontario. The county passed a resolution opposing that project, which was a decision questioned by the Democratic caucus of the Legislature, which collectively expressed that the body was moving too fast and there was insufficient information gathered to refute the project outright.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans – without adding a dime to the deficit.Americans – without adding a dime to the deficit.
The President is proposing immediate incentives for small businesses to hire and grow from now into 2012.
The President is proposing investments that would prevent layoffs of as many as 280,000 teachers, provide opportunities for long-term unemployed veterans, and put Americans to work rebuilding roads, railways, bridges, and schools in need of repair.
Drawing on the best ideas of both parties and the most innovative states, the President is proposing the most sweeping reforms to the unemployment insurance system in 40 years to help those without jobs transition to the workplace.
The President's plan will expand the payroll tax cut, cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year.
The President will release a detailed deficit reduction plan in the coming days that will pay for every penny of the American Jobs Act and include additional deficit reduction sufficient to stabilize our debt as a share of our economy.
Monday, September 12, 2011
During an organizational meeting Tuesday, several county officials spoke in regard to the issue.
There is the potential for a significant cost savings should the legislature reduce its numbers. Along with the savings in salary, state retirement and benefits paid to legislators, county Election Commissioner Donald Wart said district reduction would save the taxpayers thousands of dollars.
There are currently a half-dozen small election districts because of the way the lines were drawn, Wart noted.”If you eliminated those districts you’d be saving $9,000 a year,” he said.
Each election district costs the county between $1,000 and $1,500, Wart said, adding that some of the costs include inspectors and training.
Legislator Amy Tresidder, a member of the Democrat caucus, recently presented research that showed Oswego County has more legislators per capita than other counties with similar populations.
Legislator Dan Chalifoux, who serves as chairman of the redistricting committee, asked Tresidder to share her findings with the other committee members and interested legislators.
According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the county’s population has not changed much since 2000, however, some of the county’s legislative districts have shifted, resulting in several districts that are more than five percent above the average and others that are more than five percent below this average.
The population of each district is at an average of 4,884. The district exceeding in population are in Mexico, Palermo, Central Square, Phoenix and the Town of Oswego.
"I do not know how much I've saved over 10 years but I'm sure it is several million dollars -- probably in excess of $10 million," said Egerman, founder of a medical transcription company called eScription.
And what, HuffPost asked, have you done with all that cash?
"I've kept it," he said. "I have not done anything with that money."
Egerman is part of a gang of self-described Patriotic Millionaires who wish the federal government would help itself to more of their money to address its big budget deficits. Nearly 200 millionaires have signed a letter asking congressional Republicans to consider healing budget gaps with increased revenue -- in particular, higher taxes on millionaires -- instead of just reduced spending.
The group is coordinated by the Agenda Project, a New York think tank, and Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business leaders and wealthy people that promotes "fair and adequate taxation" to support the economy.
Other millionaires on a conference call Monday morning said they had more fun with their extra money than Egerman did.
"I probably traveled a little bit more than I otherwise would have," said Frank Patitucci, CEO of NuCompass Mobility Services, a company that offers relocation management services.
"I got a bigger boat than I used to have," said Dennis Mehiel, the founder and chairman of cardboard box manufacturer U.S. Corrugated, Inc. He lamented that the construction of his 150-foot sloop didn't create any jobs for American workers. "The problem is, it was built in Italy."
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Republicans love tax breaks and consider them a pillar of their philosophy, but conservatives never much liked the one-year payroll tax "holiday" for employees when it was enacted in 2010.
At the time, the cut in payroll taxes was part of a deal to extend the tax breaks for the wealthy first approved under President George W. Bush. It was added to lure Democrats' votes, but conservatives argued that it would cost more than it was worth.
Because the current payroll tax holiday expires at the end of the year, it has a potent political force. If Congress fails to extend the cut, virtually all workers will see a tax increase come Jan. 1 that would average $1,000. That not only could be politically unpopular, but might create a drag on the economy.
"Pretty hard for Republicans to vote against that," said veteran Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho. "At this time, do you really want to raise taxes?"
Saturday, September 10, 2011
"The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working," stated the president in his address in front of a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening. Calling for tax incentives for small businesses and $1500 tax cuts for working Americans, he pushed for job creation in many industries while providing additional tax credits for those companies that hire the long-term unemployed. But perhaps most noteworthy from his speech was the tone that this president set; it was firm, to the point, conciliatory and yet forceful all at the same time. It was, in effect, brilliant. Although the devil will be in the details that are scheduled to be released a week from this Monday, the president has literally checkmated John Boehner.
The first stop on Obama’s jobs-or-bust road tour on Friday took him barely outside the Beltway, to Richmond, within shouting distance of Washington Republicans. He descended into the district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, his sharpest congressional critic, who lost no time in reasserting himself and his party in his own speech just 10 miles away.
Obama’s twin goals in Richmond and elsewhere: Convince Republicans he’s not only relevant, but still a dangerous political enemy, while selling the jaded Democratic base on his progressive credentials and political toughness.
“I want you to call, I want you to email, I want you to tweet, I want you to fax, I want you to visit, I want you to Facebook, send a carrier pigeon,” Obama shouted to an adoring crowd of 9,000 at the University of Richmond in Cantor’s district, echoing lines he used during the debt ceiling debate that prompted a flood of responses to congressional switchboards and in-boxes.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Morality drives policy. Too often, progressives have tried it the other way around, then looked on in dismay as conservatives led with their moral view and won one policy fight after another, even when polling showed most Americans disagreed with conservative policies!
On Thursday night, President Obama didn't make this mistake. Instead, he spoke to our better angels, confidently, forcefully and inclusively. He seized the moral authority with his grammar and demeanor: "Pass this jobs bill" is an imperative sentence; it attributes authority to the speaker. The repetition is a reminder of moral authority.
The speech was remarkable in many ways. It was plainspoken, Trumanesque. It focused on the progressive moral worldview that has from the beginning been the life force of American democracy. In virtually every sentence, it was a call for cooperative joint action for the benefit of all.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Thousands of New York prisoners are being set free – from being counted in upstate Republicans’ state Senate districts.
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice has just approved counting inmates in their hometowns – not where they’re locked up – for the purposes of political redistricting.
The decision is a blow to lawmakers who have been counting on the captive audience to bolster their population counts – even while those behind bars can’t cast a vote.
Democratic state Board of Elections co-chairman Douglas Kellner says the decision means the prisoners will no longer be “inflating the census count for upstate prison localities….It’s another dent in what people are calling the ‘prison-industrial complex.’”
“This topic is the subject of a lawsuit filed by several Republican state senators who believe that the change imposed by Democrats violates the state constitution,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the state Senate GOP majority.
“We’re confident that the courts will rule in our favor.”
Upstaters aren’t the only one who have benefitted from counting captives: For example, the late state Sen. Guy Velella’s district was redrawn to include Rikers Island – the same lockup where the Bronx Republican spent time after getting busted for corruption.
J.C. Polanco, GOP president of the city Board of Elections, says the Justice Department’s decision “will prove to be disastrous for Republicans upstate.”
“When you have tens of thousands of [people] that are now going to be counted in their home district, in the very rural areas, it will impact the look of the district.
“It will be very hard for districts to thrive in the Republican column.”
That’s just one example that “shows you how gerrymandering affects the ultimate result,” Kellner said. Overall, “If you counted up the number of votes for Democratic candidates in the state Senate, number was almost 60%, and yet the Republicans have a majority” because of how the districts are drawn.
(The state Assembly has long been dominated by Democrats.)
Along with ethics reform, a property tax cap and same-sex marriage, redistricting and prisons have been blazing-hot topics in the state Capitol this year.
Gov. Cuomo, in his State of the State address, said incarceration is not a form of economic development, and he now has the authority to eliminate 3,700 beds from the prison system.
That is likely to cost jobs in several upstate regions peppered with prisons.
But how redistricting will be accomplished remains up in the air.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Oswego County Legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee Held Illegal Executive Session...?
Legislator Terry Wilbur, who serves as chairman of the committee, asked for a motion to enter executive session.Legislator Doug Malone objected, asking why the committee was entering executive session.
“What’s this about?” he asked.
Robert Freeman, who serves as the executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said the committee cannot enter into executive session under the presumption that someone is going to have a legal question.
Mitchell said the executive session was so that legislators could ask legal questions and to provide a synopsis of the laws that apply to RFP’s and answer any questions in regard to the same.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Some of the same voices demanding cuts in exchange for relief today balked at applying such fiscal restraints in the past. That list includes the most vocal champion of offsetting the costs of repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Irene, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who recently said that "just like any family would operate when it's struck with disaster," Congress would "have to make sure there are savings elsewhere" to pay for the aftermath of the storm.
Yet a bemused Democratic source notes that in October 2004, Cantor voted against an amendment to an emergency supplemental bill for disaster aid that would have "fully offset" the cost of that supplemental with "a proportional reduction of FY05 discretionary funding" elsewhere. Funding for defense, homeland security, and veterans was exempted from the proposed cuts. But the amendment, introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), would do precisely what Republican leadership is proposing to do now.