Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Voter Poll Indicates Change Wanted in Albany

In an article in today's Journal News, there was a story from their Albany bureau stating that New York voters want to vote all state elected officials out of office, according to a new poll.We know that this will never happen. I'm not sure what criteria poll takers use in the questioning and the answers they seek, but it will never happen! For some obscure, unknown and irrational reason, when voters, particularly Democrats, get to the polling station, they overwhelmingly vote for and re-elect the incumbents!

A total of 48 percent of voters polled said they believe all state officials should be voted out so "new officials can start with a clean slate," a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed. So, even though people are telling pollsters they want change, they have been so ingrained to remain "party faithful", they won't even entertain a candidate from another party, i.e., a Republican. Can you hear the gasps? "Me, a Democrat, vote for a Republican? No way!" Their stereotypical reasons get tiring after awhile. Sometimes you have to go against the grain to get real change. Sometimes you need to do something different.

Conversely, 34 percent said they believe current officials are capable of cleaning up corruption in Albany. I don't believe that politician in Albany has any interest in cleaning up anything in Albany. If they were truely interested in doing so, they would start by offering a bill for Term Limits. The public would then be able to see who is serious about changing Albany or not. Actions speak louder than words.

"Can the people we elect to state government clean up the mess in Albany? Voters don't think so," Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carroll said in a statement. "They want to clean out the Albany crowd."

 The same poll showed 50 percent of voters believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature will not take the steps to create ethics reform in state government, while 38 percent believe they will.
Eighty-six percent of New York voters say that government corruption is either a very serious problem or a somewhat serious problem.

"Overwhelmingly, New Yorker's think corruption is a serious Albany problem," Carroll said. "People in all sections of the state worry about corruption." But again, typically, they will not do anything about it.
The poll also showed that 48 percent of voters think that Cuomo is a part of the problem of corrupt government, while 39 percent say the Democratic governor is a part of the solution. Those who believe Cuomo is part of the solution are probably easily swayed by bright, shiny objects. Seriously, Cuomo is masking the issues and not correcting them. He's mailing out tax rebates as we approach an election. He wants to "overhaul" the STAR program and so on. What he needs to do is start reducing taxes and regulations in NY to make our state business competitive. Otherwise the exodus will continue as jobs, seniors and Millenials move away.
The state of New York is not good. We can delude ourselves all we want. The issues that plague our state are system and start in Albany. It has to change. Otherwise, New York will no longer be the Empire State. Rather, it will be the Welfare State - only if someone wants to stay and overpay for everything.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Seceeding May Have Merit

Upstate is dying a slow death and secession may be a solution worth investing in as phony concern from professional politicians do nothing to aid those they've promised to help but do nothing but pad their own pockets. A new article from an upstate newspaper espouses a new proposal from upstate residents to secede from New York State and become a part of Pennsylvania. A bold move that has the conventional media, liberals and politicians circling the wagons to make these citizens appear to be kooks and flakes. I believe they are not.

Secession advocate Aaron Price wants a split between Upstate and Downstate. Claiming a litany of lost liberty and economic opportunity, advocates of upstate secession called for a permanent separation of upstate from downstate. The approximate dividing line would be the Poughkeepsie area. In a news conference held in Binghamton, Aaron Price listed a number of grievances including the inability to develop their own land for hydro-fracking, the NY State Safe Act and more. I believe the underlying reasons for the exodus from NY is the incredibly high and oft-times hidden taxes, over regulation, disproportionate spending in hand-picked areas throughout the state, welfare benefits for anyone who applies for them, including illegals, member-spending monies allocated by politicians only interested in lining their own pockets and, well, the list is never-ending.

Wednesday’s news conference was held in advance of a pro-secession rally from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at General Clinton Park in Bainbridge. Speakers listed on a flier announcing the rally include representatives of Landowner Advocates of New York, Tri-County Tea Party and Divide NYS Caucus. Advocates believe secession is a real goal, not simply a means to bring attention to specific issues. They insisted their vision includes a chicken in every pot, as well as a drilling pad on every plot — or at least on those whose owners want one.“The problem is at one point in upstate New York, we had pockets of poverty, but it’s spread all around the cities,” Price said. “New York City is still doing well. Our region is not, and no one wants to confront the real issues.”
The amount of people throughout the state and in fact upstate supporting secession is not clear at this point, although polling indicates the top issues the secessionists see as evidence of government intrusion enjoy at least some level of support. I'm sure when this plan becomes viable, we'll hear Governor Cuomo yelling into some microphone saying he is unfazed by a small group of extremists, yada yada yada and dismiss their concerns as frivolous. They are not. These issues are real and need to be addressed - and soon. Once I pay off my mortgage, I'm packing my bags and heading to a less regulated, less taxed and more attractive to live in state. See ya!

Friday, May 9, 2014

HUD Practices Its Own Discrimination

Schoolyard bullies pick on other kids. We recognize that as adults in the workplace the same thing happens. Still, we teach that bullying is wrong and try to discourage it. Why? Well, of course we recognize because its wrong and someone should stand up for the little guy, yet it goes on and on at all levels. On the schoolyard playground, it teaches you a number of measures to cope with it such as avoidance, fighting, verbal sparring, tolerance and of course humiliation and defeat. Whether it has worked or not is still being learned.

From the playground bully to local, County, State and Federal government, we still see and experience bullying. You can choose to keep your opinions to yourself or you can stand for your principles and be attacked. This time however the attacks go beyond verbal abusivness. Its costing us money as County Executive Rob Astorino has stood up to the HUD "schoolyard bully" by refusing to bow to this new adult version of the bullying.

In 2009 when then-County Executive Andy Spano signed the HUD settlement, agreeing to a number of "easy solutions" designed to get the County "out from under" the HUD debacle. He admitted he said to the County's legal department to, "how can we make this go away?" Being good soldiers, as well as attorneys, they took the easy way out and Spano agreed, signing the settlement. Many Republicans running for office at the time objected, claiming this was nothing more than partisan politics. Whether this exercise was partisan politics or not remains unknown, but now it seems to have become that and the schoolyard fight continues between the little guy, Westchester County, and the "school yard" bully, HUD.

CE Astorino has claimed that we have complied to the stipulations in the contract and are being coerced into doing more at the whims of the HUD monitor. Astorino has been standing up to him on the grounds that the County has complied and is in fact ahead of schedule with the settlement's requirements. Mike Kaplowitz, the County Chairman, is trying to do the usual Democratic end run and find a way to acquiesce to the bully and get back to starting the financial gravy train of HUD's millions of dollars. Why? The legislators all rely on this money for what's called "member items". Member items, conveniently named something innocuous so as to not indicate it is a cash cow the legislators can tap into to bribe various groups into supporting and ultimately voting for them. The County's legislators are losing votes and by gosh this must stop!

While CE Astorino tries to make a name for himself in Westchester with his laid back, Richie Cunningham style, he is succeeding in spite of his opposition by not only lowering taxes, but holding the financial line with no tax increases for each year he has been in office. So much so that his good buddy Republican Chair Ed Cox, son-in-law to former President Richard Nixon, tapped CE Astorino to become the gubernatorial candidate to run against Governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming election. There's nothing wrong with having good buddies pushing your career, even though he has no money to effectively run a campaign against Cuomo. But the Republicans will put their best financial foot forward and do what they can. They will also probably tap John Rogers, who the Republicans moved to Albany. Rogers, a great Republican foot soldier, ran Astorino's comeback campaign when he won the County Executive race against Spano.

What does it all mean? The County Legislators continue bickering over what's in it for them, not the constituent. The Democrats sue the County Executive when they don't like something he does. Why wouldn't they all just sit down and formulate a plan? That will probably never happen. Its not because everyone of them are bad people, its just that they all have their own agendas, and it doesn't really include us. They write about the willfully ignorant voters on another site, where they discuss the illegal actions by the Greenburgh Supervisor and Town Board. But the constituents ignorance must change if we are to get better government.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Friday, August 24, 2012

More Laws, More Lawsuits, Less Substance

Every day we witness people taking other people to court. Recently, there was a settlement to the family of a young boy, a Little League pitcher, who was severely injured when he was struck by a line-drive baseball to his chest. Ultimately, he became brain damaged after he went into cardiac arrest as there was a lack of oxygen to his brain. It’s very sad. And yet, his parent’s next step? A lawsuit! They sued Louisville Slugger, the bat manufacturer, Sports Authority, the retailer that sold the bat, and the Little League Baseball Association for damages. I’m not sure why they didn’t sue the baseball manufacturer, or the family of the boy who hit the ball, or the coach who taught the pitcher how to pitch? While the family’s suffering is substantial and will remain forever, this was a freak occurrence that is an inherent risk of the game.

In fact, with the exception of board games, most physical games assume some type of risk and of course, the extreme result may be permanent injury and even death. But everybody settled this suit for $14 million to make this go away. Do you think this is acceptable? Does it really “go away?” It doesn’t seem so. It isn’t the bat’s fault, or the retailers fault for selling the bat, and even Little League’s fault for sponsoring the game, is it? It’s a freak accident. Unfortunately it happened. As we all know, stuff happens! Does it really warrant a lawsuit? Regardless, these three victims felt it would be easier to settle than to possibly lose what, a $50 million settlement down the line?

Whenever a politician wants (needs?) publicity, they will announce a law they have either sponsored or co-sponsored. Usually it is for something inane or so specific, it will never “fly”. Invaribly, we could probably do without it with no negative impact. Case in point, NYS Assemblywoman Amy Paulin’s recent law allowing bicyclists a three foot safety berth when an automobile/truck passes a biker. It’s a terrific feel-good law and that’s it. In another example, NYS Senators David Carlucci and NYS Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announced their support for a bill to ban smoking at playgrounds. While we don't think adults, parents or care-givers should be smoking at playgrounds, its another feel-good law. It can’t be enforced by police, in fact, unless we post cops to monitor playgrounds, why bother? Because it feels good. And, what will the fine be? We all know that smokers smoke and most never stop. We also know that discouraging and disgusting pictures of smoking patients, higher prices, taxes, etc., don’t work to force smokers to quit. So what makes these two legislators believe this law will stop smoking in playgrounds? Just like the three-foot berth Paulin’s law provides bikers, it’ll never be enforced. In the end, they got your publicity.

There are laws on the books for campaign finance money and how often the candidates must file financial reports for a candidate’s campaign. It’s an incredible tedious, time consuming and non-productive tasks for a campaign finance officer or treasurer. Most candidates honestly try to keep up with the demands saddled onto them through legal requirements. These laws were designed to “protect” the public from the abuses that have been perpetrated upon them by previous candidates and politicians. In fact, the way campaign finance money can be spent is also very regulated. The days of old, where the candidates would use up their money by paying themselves and others for “services” rendered are now history. Or so you’d think! Good people donate their hard earned money to try to get their candidate in and the candidate’s abuse of those funds is how they’re thanked. Then there are those who donate for what they can get out of the candidate. And it seems like this type of corruption is happening more frequently. Simply, it all stinks!

Another daily paper’s front page, above the fold story, has the headline, “Judge rejects MTA payroll tax”. To most of you, it doesn’t mean anything. But to the countless businesses located in Westchester, and twelve other counties and municipalities), this tax of 34¢ for every $100 of payroll paid out to employees has illegally garnered over $1.2 billion for them! It’s bad enough that the MTA raises ticket prices every year to those who use their antiquated and poorly performing systems, but to start taxing people outside of the area because their track goes into a town or county is absurd. It’s the embodiment of taxation without representation.

At every turn, it seems our elected officials forget why the ran for office and for whom they work for. Here’s a clue, to represent us, not you! It has to change, but probably won't. As long as the populace remains lazy, uninvolved and cavalier about who they blindly pull the lever for, we will continue to get what we deserve.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

David & Goliath: Astorino Fights Back

If you follow the local lamestream media, and for that matter a select few of the “big guys”, you've seen the anti-Astorino barrage of opininorials and pro-HUD, pro-affordable housing and pro-big government intrusion into our lives regarding any and all affordable housing. Specifically, with the ill-settled federal housing settlement the County agreed to before County Executive Andrew Spano left office.

The misnomer of “affordable” housing is just that. It’s a ploy that was developed by those in the not-for-profit housing game to garner support for their well paid businesses and employees under the guise of a struggling “little guy”. The reality is that it is nothing so noble and just subsidized housing, formerly called welfare housing. Examples of a few of these known companies might be Westhab and Habitat For Humanity (although HFH has a bit of a different angle). What they do is mask their real purpose: developers hiding behind the not-for-profit moniker to pretend to be a caring and helping organization. The reality is they are developers who have found a loophole that would put the brakes on anybody else’s projects and exploited it for their own benefit. Notice I didn’t say exploited for their own profit? That’s the only difference. They will make sure their books show a break-even point and not a profit – all while paying their management and employees very nice salaries. Not for profit indeed!

The federal housing monitor tried to flex his federal muscles to intimidate Westchester into complying with mandates that simply weren’t part of the agreement former County Executive Andrew Spano caved in to. When I ran for County Legislator, I publicly stated I was against this agreement for several reasons, as did others. If you reviewed the 37 pages settlement agreement when it was proposed, the vagueness of the document should have precluded any agreement. We should have gone to court to fight it. However, for those who profess in a belief system that the law is the law and appointments to the bench have no consequence, again because the law is the law, watch out! Electing liberal judges also means no matter how solid your case, if the cause is one of the social agendas of that particular judge you are before, you’ll lose. Could this have been why the County Legislature, cohabiting in lock step with Spano, conceded to his agreement? Probably.

Astorino, has repeatedly stood up to and stared down the mighty federal mediator each time the Goliath tried to force a new change into the settlement equation. I have never agreed that Westchester is racist, biased or discriminatory. That said, I do agree that you can certainly find bigots, mental-midgets, and frankly a few idiots that exhibit parochial and racist thinking when it comes to anyone that is different than themselves. They are not representative of the majority of Westchester residents. In fact, I think the people of Westchester are more tolerant than people I’ve met in other parts of our country.

The feds claim that the County isn’t doing enough to change the law in Westchester regarding proof of income for HUD and/or Section 8 housing. It’s not necessary. The settlement has a provision in it stating the same thing. So if they agreed to it as part of the settlement, they’re just insisting on legal duplicity. Creating and passing a law for this would remove the landlords ability to refuse anyone a rental. Without knowing the proof of income of either, if a Section 8 housing recipient and a Non-Section 8 person applies for an apartment, and if the landlord offers the apartment to the Non-Section 8 person, they can be sued by the Section 8 recipient for proof of income discrimination. If they give it to the Section 8 recipient, he can be sued by the Non-Section 8 person for discrimination, although they can’t easily prove discrimination. It creates a lopsided equation for the small landlords that they simply can’t win.

How should we proceed? I believe CE Astorino is on the right track. By standing up to the federal administrator of this lousy HUD agreement on principle and continuing to meet or exceed the timelines in place, he has set the stage for compliance. By doing so he keeps the feds at bay. How much longer he can do this also depends on the various communities who must participate in this debacle. Good luck Rob!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Let’s See How Much Better We Can Do!

For the second year in a row, the Westchester County Legislature submitted their version of the County’s budget to County Executive (CE) Astorino. After three heavily attended rounds of public hearings around the county, the representative public clamored “no!” when it came to CE Astorino’s proposed cuts. And with the County Legislature’s 12 Democrats and 5 Republicans on the board, the vote appeared it would once again be a partisan split, as it was during last year’s budget vote. The balance of the Legislature will change on January 1st, when two more Republicans get sworn in. Still, Legislator Jim Maisano’s public wish to not be the minority leader still seems elusive for him.

CE Astorino rejected $10 million in spending after the county board approved a $1.69 billion budget. This included $1.9 million for neighborhood health centers, $990,000 for Cornell Cooperative Extension, $378,000 for Invest-in-Kids programs, $4.3 million in day-care subsidies, $100,000 for ethnic festivals and restoration of the Route 76 bus line between Rye and White Plains. No doubt we could use scrutiny with some of these dollars. I continue to find it interesting that CE Astorino would cut one bus route while touting another bus route with the Tappan Zee Bridge proposal that I’m convinced comes as an Obama reelection/Cuomo presidential campaign ploy. If we can’t afford a small bus route between Rye and White Plains, how will we be able to afford a much larger one from Rockland to Westchester? The same can be said about last year’s proposed cutting and then saved Bee Line Express Bus Route to NYC.

Republicans and Democrats agreed on a few areas, in particular, money for Cornell Cooperative Extension; $49,000 for Greenburgh Nature Center; $59,790 for business training; $42,500 for the Jewish Council and four positions with the Board of Elections.

I agree with CE Astorino’ goal of reductions to the budget. There seems to be an awful lot of excess in certain places. However, it seems like both years he’s gone after the same cuts for the same reasons. And the legislature restores the same cuts he proposes. Is this what our government representatives see as good government? It appears to be their preordained deadlock. I and others are amazed at comments like the one County Legislature Leader Ken Jenkins made when he said, “The budget is done. The problem is not with the legislature. The majority of things we do, we do unanimously.” With about 15,000 budget items, Jenkins said most were supported by both the board and executive branch and that they disagreed on only 27 items, with 40 overrides, including some not directly tied to the budget. Of the 27 budget vetoes, 19 were overridden along party lines. Was it just something they did because they could or are these items of real value to the county? We can’t really know the accuracy of what each side says because each side blames the other, abandoning the public at the sidelines. This type of partisanship has to stop.

There are four legislators not returning this January either because they are simply stepping down or lost in the last election. These are all democratic Legislators, Jose Alvarado, John Nonna, Bill Burton and Marty Rogowsky. I have had dealings with the last three and know them to be concerned, involved and responsive public servants. But they too, have played the partisanship game that I believe the public is so weary of. The last election will increase the Republicans numbers but not enough to put this ship back on an even keel. We need to have better balance, new and different ideas, with better ways of operating our County government. The old ways are failing us. We must have relief from the state induced mandates if Westchester and New York wish to return to any competitive markets again, yet we see no action from them.

Astorino said he expected many of the overrides to his vetoes but it was important to “take principled stands on items” that he thought were detrimental to taxpayers and effective government. Imagine what might happen if the two sides sat down and tried to work together, forging solutions to the budget before it was due? Imagine if, instead of campaigning for their “sides”, they brokered a balanced, effective and realistic solutions that didn’t provide broad-brush sweeping cuts that pit one neighbor against another? Imagine if, instead of playing the partisan games of one-upmanship sound bites in the media, all the representatives actually represented us and created a budget that held or reduced the dollars taken from the County’s beleaguered and abused tax payers? Imagine how much better off everyone might be?

CE Astorino may be on the right track. He wanted to have a one percent tax reduction last year when he proposed his first budget. The County Legislature trumped him and offered a two percent reduction and kept all the positions he sought to eliminate. This year was almost an exact duplication of his efforts with the similar actions taken by his presumed “adversaries”. Imagine if he and his people had worked closely with the legislature before the budget was introduced? That would have caused everyone to take notice of a sharply honed representative government in action! If the CE can only offer cuts of one nature, and the legislature can only offer to override them, how much longer before the public says enough? The CE and the Board of Legislators may respectively have some good ideas. But until we see true collaboration, an honest joining of forces, we are destined for a repeat of the same antics every year. The public is frustrated with these games. I look forward to this new year with local politicians acting and working differently. Let’s see how much better we can do.