Tag Archives: state government

What a Bullsh*t State this Is

17 Feb
Shhhh.  Their brains are sleeping.

Shhhh. Their brains are sleeping.

The premier statewide liberal political blog highlights the fact that assemblyman and congressional candidate Jim Tedisco cost the taxpayers about $40,000 in free cars to himself and staffers. On what planet – under what circumstance – does an assemblyman or state legislator of any sort need or deserve a free car? Do what those of us in the dreaded private sector do, and get reimbursed for the mileage on your personal vehicle when traveling on state business.

To make it even more bizarre, Tedisco’s commute from home to Albany is 20 minutes, and he’s billed $21k in gas and oil reimbursements.

There’s also a report that Governor Paterson gave staffers a super-secret raise in the midst of a hiring and pay freeze and epic state fiscal imbalance.

The entire system is set up for cronyism, waste, unfairness, and appears to be backed up by a sense of greatness and entitlement that the ignorant and incompetent in Albany seem to have.

Legislative work in the state of New York is not supposed to be a glamor profession. It’s not supposed to be a ticket to the high life. It’s not an invitation to pair stupidity with arrogance and fleece the ailing taxpayers day in, day out.

A million taxpayer march. That’s what we ought to organize – taxpayers from around the state marching on Albany, expressing their outrage at the secretive, byzantine thing that passes for state government in New York. If you’re not wicked pissed, you’re not paying attention.

Syracuse = WNY

9 Feb

There is one word to describe this story by frequent commenter RaChaCha – astonishing. From an email he sent this morning:

Coming on the heels of denying WNY Senator Stachowski his promised position as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, the new state senate majority is again brusquely snubbing NY’s second-largest city — and third-largest, to boot — by refusing to hold one of their public hearings on senate reform/rules changes anywhere west of Syracuse.

I was in Syracuse Friday afternoon — this year I was pulled into a budget project for Onondaga County, and have been commuting to Syracuse daily — so I took the opportunity to speak at the senate public hearing held at Syracuse city hall. This month, there will also be hearings in Manhattan, Albany, and Long Island — but *nothing* west of Syracuse. Thursday and Friday, I spoke with the chief staff organizer of the public meetings, Andrew Stengel, about the possibility of also holding a hearing in WNY. I mentioned the very strong coverage by the Buffalo News on state government reform, and that Buffalo’s new media outlets such as Buffalo Pundit and Buffalo Rising would help get the word out about a session held in WNY — but he was having none of it. “This IS the Western New York hearing,” he told me. He said Syracuse was picked to be “convenient” to folks from Rochester and Buffalo, as well as Central New Yorkers.

How did that work out–? Well, of the 15 speakers, NOT ONE was from west of Rochester — and the one other speaker from Rochester was someone I’ve never heard of or met, representing a good government group I’ve never heard of, who was handing out homemade business cards without an e-mail address or phone number. Clearly, the two of us together couldn’t possibly do justice to the ideas, experience, and passion for state government reform held collectively by all the residents of the state west of Onondaga County.

Also in Syracuse was WGRZ reporter Kristin Donnelly — not to speak but to ask the committee co-chair about holding a hearing in WNY. Although they were slightly nicer to her, she got the same answer as I did (http://www.wgrz.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=63996&catid=37).

Staffer Andrew Stengel (whose two phone numbers both have NYC area codes) admitted to me that he had never ventured as far upstate as Syracuse before Friday. I don’t question his good-government credentials (until hired this year by the state senate he was on the staff at the Brennan Center), but regardless, this seems to be yet another case of WNY — like all of upstate — getting short shrift from our Manhattan-centric state leadership. In fact, the senate reform committee has but 3 of 9 members from upstate: two Republican (minority) members, and one Democrat who hardly seems old enough to shave. The Brennan Center crowed on their blog (http://reformny.blogspot.com/) about the makeup of the reform committee, despite that 5 of 9 members hail from the Big Apple, and not a *single* member is from west of Onondaga County.

I think we can and should do better. It’s perhaps over-optimistic, but if we make a collective fuss, we might be able to embarrass the state senate into getting out their maps and finding their way west of Syracuse — to hold a hearing on state senate reform and rules changes that WNY’ers can really participate in. I’m doing my part by drafting an article for Buffalo Rising about the situation.

Personally, I think it’s an outrage. It’s approximately 150 miles from Buffalo – Syracuse. A 300-mile round-trip is supposed to be convenient to Buffalonians? On a Friday? For a hearing that takes place in the afternoon?

Here’s a tip for Mr. Stengel. Believe it or not, people west of the Hudson and north of Poughkeepsie still do have jobs, in spite of Albany’s best efforts.

To have someone affiliated with the Brennan Center so ignorant about basic fucking New York geography is as disconcerting as it is insulting to hold the WNY hearing in Syracuse. Hey, how about we hold a hearing about New York City policy in Binghamton? That’s about the same distance as Buffalo is to Syracuse.

If they did deign to hold a hearing in Buffalo, I’d definitely promote it and attend it, and I’m sure WNYMedia.net would cover and record it. But we’ll not have that opportunity, because no one could make it 300 miles round trip halfway across the damn state to make this event.

Lobbying Albany

3 Feb

Those are two words that should make you shiver with fear. Lobbying is the only way anything gets done in our money-grubbing little state capitol.

County Executive Chris Collins has hired a lobbying firm to twist arms in Albany at a cost of $30,000 of our tax dollars. Collins’ three legislative priorities?

1- Erie County’s Capital Borrowing

All road and bridge projects are held up right now because of an impasse with the control board. The Assembly and Senate passed legislation allowing Erie County to borrow money last year, but the Governor vetoed it. Collins believes a lobbyist could have helped.

2- Economic Development/Regionally Significant Projects

This legislation would allow the county to put big projects in a kind of empire zone.

3- Foreclosures

Collins wants Erie County to be able to add foreclosure costs to its tax liens. Right now, the county loses that money. Collins says this legislation passed the Senate and the Assembly in back to back years, but never both in the same year, because of lack of coordination. He says, if this passes, it this will pay for the lobbying firm four times over every year.

In the current environment, $30,000 is arguably money with which the county should not part for a purpose such as this. After all, don’t we have a WNY delegation to do this stuff already? What do we pay them for?

To add comedy to controversy, the lobbying firm being hired boasts former Assemblyman Paul Tokasz as a partner. (As well as former Spitzer communications director, Darren Dopp). Dopp left state government in 2007. Tokasz left state government in 2006 after almost 20 years in the Assembly.

As with indictee Joe Bruno, that’s the career trajectory for most Albany pols. Serve, then lobby. It’s the way to make up for all those years of five-figure salaries. Congressmen are barred from lobbying their former colleagues for 1 year. I have no idea what the rule is for New York pols, but influence and clout routinely trump competence and merit.

New York. If it was a mall, it’d be the Main Place.

Cuomo Goes After the Nonsense

11 Dec

Thank God, it’s about time.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has unveiled his plan to consolidate New York state’s local government structure, which counts more than 6,000 special districts.

Cuomo’s office has been studying the state’s bloated bureaucracy for more than a year and says with New York facing billions of dollars in deficits, consolidation or dissolution may be necessary.

“Simply put, our system of local government is broken. It has been outpaced by globalization, regionalization, and an ever changing marketplace,” he said. “The density of local government in New York is astounding. There are 10,521 overlapping government units, providing duplicative services creating needless, wasteful bureaucracies.”

In Erie County, the AG’s office counted 939 special town districts, including 427 for lighting, 143 for water, 119 for sewer plus 29 school districts.

Last year, the County Comptroller determined that the county can save $2 – 4 million by consolidating a lot of overlapping nonsense that amounts to little more than a hackerama full employment act.

Cuomo is pursuing a change in state law focusing on three components:

• The law is inconsistent regarding consolidation of local governmental entities. Under current law, there are differing rules for various types of governments.

• The law is filled with anachronisms. More disturbing is that the law contains provisions that are relics of the past that conjure up images of “poll taxes.” In some cases, an individual may vote to dissolve or consolidate governments, such as special districts, only if they own taxable real property in the area.

• The law contains many legal barriers, noting town boards are powerless to consolidate or dissolve certain types of special districts, while citizens are powerless to initiate certain types of consolidation or dissolution of special districts.

This could very well be an Earth-shatteringly positive change for New York.