Saturday, February 28, 2009


One of the biggest burdens for corporations and municipalities alike, is the cost of Health care. So much of what we do in our fiscal budgets is based on how much is left after the mandatory expense of contracted health programs, both for current and retired workers.

With the economy in the slump that it's in, Americans suddenly seem willing to consider sensible ideas that other developed countries have done to solve problems. Problems that have baffled us for generations.

It looks like we are going to have a temporary Nationalization of our major banks. Many feel this is far more prudent than handing over billions of dollars greedy bastards who wrecked the financial system in the first place.

Privatizing Social Security is history. Who knew just a few years ago the push from the White House for privatization would be so evidently wrong. Even a money guru like Alan Greenspan, just shakes his head and wonders where they went so wrong.

So President Obama has convened his "Fiscal Responsibility Summit". What was in it surprised many on both sides of the issue; A cognitive plan to deal with the swelling price of health care for the retiring generation of baby boomers and its effect on Medicare and Medicaid. This is considered to be the biggest threat to America's future solvency.

The rate of cost increase per beneficiary combined with the sheer numbers of the Boomer Generation is what threatens the system. I found this article to be most helpful by Ezra Klein on the American Prospect website on February 23.

After the abuse of tax shelters by the super-rich, and the absurd rip-offs by military contractors, the biggest money is in the health sector. The collusion between the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry have not only drained our individual pockets, but have devastated our municipal budgets.

Here is a chance for a new direction bringing reform to the way we finance and deliver medicine. This is central to the Obama Administration's fiscal plan. He's looking to other countries that provide quality care to all of their citizens, spending less than half what we do and achieving better outcomes.

Those countries have shifted their focus on funding their resources into energy and education programs while we try to keep our hospitals open. We witnessed the long struggle to merge Benedictine and Kingston Hospitals only to be saddled with the higher bills anyway.

I realize that change will come slowly. Its human nature to resist change, especially for those of us in the Boomer population. You'll agree that the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies don't want this reform any more than the oil companies want alternative energy development. But I look forward to the day when our private and municipal pockets are less burdened with the rising costs of healthcare. Americans are more open to these progressive alternatives.

Most of every tax increase we experience in Kingston and Ulster County is a result of the these untouchable entitlements, so when the method of healthcare shifts to a more manageable and less expensive program, I expect the masses to rejoice.

So, as I wade through the hours of cable news and witness the banter on this issue, I can only hope the Obama Healthcare Plan succeeds against the entrenched "Party of NO" and that the legislation has teeth.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Above, the first look at the just-released final renderings for the World Trade Center site—specifically, the towers that will stand alongside the Freedom Tower.

At first glance, none of the designs have changed radically from when we first met Freedom's Friends, but the new renderings offer an unbelievable new level of detail on the architecture, especially at street level.

The buzz in the world of building design is the new elevators.

On opening in 2013, it will have the five fastest elevators in the Western Hemisphere, according to the company that will make them.

According to the New York Times: These express cars, serving the restaurant and observatory, will reach a top speed of 2,000 feet a minute, meaning that a trip to the top of the city’s tallest building will take less than three-quarters of a minute.

To put that speed in perspective, it is 25 percent faster than the express elevators that served the twin towers — which seemed plenty quick enough, once you had negotiated the long waiting line.

Imagine hopping on the new High Speed Rail here in Kingston and visiting the WTC site while it's being built.
You know I'm kidding.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


A classic rock musical film by British director Alan Parker based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album,

The Wall, with a screenplay by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. Guitar by world renown David Gilmour.We just lost Richard Wright this past fall. R I P Richard.

Show starts at 7:30pm Get there early! Tix are only $5

This event is sponsored by Kevin & Brian Ginty, CFP and the Kingston Daily Freeman.


I caught this cute article in the papers about a coffee shop in Maine that features a little extra skin while serving it's customers.

The Grand View Coffee Shop in Vassalboro, Maine has gone topless. Yep, that's their answer to the economic downturn. I understand their business has jumped.

The article itself had a great catch line: "Cup size has more than one meaning at a new central Maine coffeehouse". Good one right?

So the servers are topless at the Grand View, which opened its doors Monday on a busy road in Vassalboro. A sign outside says, "Over 18 only." Another says, "No cameras, no touching, cash only." Both male and female employees are topless. I expect they are all in terrific shape.

The patrons are as diverse as in any coffee shop, however they tend to linger a bit more. The source of the story says the Planning Board passed the business proposal and it meets the letter of the law.

Here's where the issue gets local. You may have noticed that Muddy Cup has shut down on Broadway in Kingston. What do you say we petition the "Grand View" owners to become a franchise and resume sales right here on Grand Street.

Sales tax is sales tax. Might even offer a bigger crowds for karaoke night.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The Federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes $950,000 for the Walkway Over the Hudson!

an extra push from Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, this chunk of change will better prepare the historic Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge into the world's longest elevated pedestrian walkways. Just in time for this years 400 year celebration.

If this funding survives the vetting process both on the floor of the Senate and House, then the fast track
to the crossing is a sure thing.

Schumer quoted in the AP: “The Walkway Bridge is poised to become one of the greatest tourist attractions in New York, and its opening will be the culminating event of the Quadricentennial Celebration, we are taking a landmark piece of the Hudson Valley’s industrial past and turning it into something that will draw visitors from every corner of the state and beyond—providing terrific opportunities for our local businesses and delivering a shot-in-the-arm to the Hudson Valley economy.”

Senator Gillibrand said: “These federal dollars will go a long way in helping local business make the Hudson Valley a destination for families and businesses. I will continue to work with Senator Schumer to ensure that New York receives its fair share.”

State Assemblyman Frank Skartados heaped praise on our two DC reps and expressed continued support for the project in any way possible. Noting that this is the opportunity for tourism economic growth to really accelerate in the midhudson region. The 100th AD includes both Poughkeepsie and Lloyd.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


With much speculation these past few weeks, the news is out there.
Ulster County Court Judge J. Michael Bruhn will step down from the bench effective April 30th.

According to the Times Herald-Record, Bruhn stated t
hat he wanted to avoid bumping up against the state’s mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges.

Serving as the City Court Judge from 82 to 94 and then Ulster County Court Judge from 94 to today, I'd say he has served the people of this community steadily and faithfully.

Im guessing either the other judges fill in for him for the time remaining or the Governor appoints a temporary Judge until elections are held in November.

No matter the protocol, Bruhn leaves big shoes to fill and thus changes the scope of the election landscape here in Ulster County. Could be quite exciting since the Dems were poised to endorse Nina Postupack this year. But one never knows who will challenge whom until the dust settles.

A sincere offering of thank you for time served on the bench Sir.


Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona Governor was tapped by the Obama Administration to manage the Department of Homeland Security. She, like many other Department heads, is looking for an influx of money from the stimulus package.

We will hear the President speak on a wide range of issues tonight in his Address to the Congress. Illegal Immigration is expected to be a topic.

While serving as governor of the border state for nearly two terms, she enacted laws that focused on halting illegal immigration inside Arizona by enacting very strict penalties for businesses that hire illegal aliens. Her goal now, is to nationalize this program.

In an interview with NPR last week, Janet said: "We are going to…focus on the employers and make sure that they are subject to criminal penalties for violating the law,”

She also stipulated that her organization would focus on human traffickers, the men who profit from guiding illegal aliens across the border, and in many cases people who take advantage of a desperate situation.

Napolitano referred to an array of sensors, radars and cameras balanced on poles at the border. You'll remember an older post about the company that got the contract was also a major player in the last administration. Well, to repeat myself, they had a faulty product, the government knew it but we purchased it anyway.

Janet is finding that so far, this technology, known as SBInet, has been more of a funding headache than a well performing virtual network and at the sum of $393 million for 2007 & 2008, a waste of money.

How about that fence? The Government Accountability Office (GAO), refers to the fence as “tactical infrastructure,”costing about $2 million per mile. Napolitano thinks the money would have been better spent finishing the fence.

However the best tool to fight illegal immigration is to deal with the supply side of the issue. She said: "Reducing the demand for illegal immigrants in the US will lower incentive for them to risk their lives to cross in increasingly inhospitable areas, like the Sonoran desert in Arizona".

ICE arrested some 250,000 illegal immigrants and deported some 130,000.. Even with nearly 700 miles of fence in place, immigrants continue to enter the US every day, risking their lives to do so. People from all over the world make the journey to Mexico to take advantage of the largely unprotected southern border.

Janet said: "Deportation may be a necessary component of a comprehensive illegal immigration plan, but as the numbers show, it is a zero-sum end game. So long as employers are willing to offer jobs without a background check and ID, the drive to enter the US will continue to tempt the continued crossing"

Obama's speech tonight is likely to touch on the issue of border security and what to do with the estimated 12 - 20 million people who havent bothered to check in. When the economy in the US is forcing citizens to get on line at the food pantries [many for the first time] the issue of jobs and healthcare bring the painful issue of illegal immigration back to the conversation.

I'll be paying attention.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Sunday, February 22, 2009


For how long have city taxpayers been asking the Council to do something about the tremendous cost of running the Fire Department?
Sure there are mini
mum staffing requirements dictated by the State, but the perception on the street is that our paid fire-fighters are in abundance and an extreme cost to the city.

You'll notice that Mayor Sottile has revealed his offering to the press regarding retirement buyouts. We knew this was coming and knew it was a good idea, but had to be hashed out with our Departments. There are contract issues that had to be reviewed as well.

Sottile's proposal would allow city employees who are eligible for retirement to receive about $12,000 buyout. Doesn't sound bad on the surface right? That's because the money offered the retiring employee would be taken out of the proposed salary of that employee had they continued serving.
Point is, the position would not be filled after the employee left.

Jim quoted in the Freeman: “This is going to create more in the way of overtime, but there will be a larger savings in salaries and benefits.”

In these tough economic times, the temptation of a buyout might push a few employees to jump at retiring, but the reverse is true too. These trying times may cause eligible employees to work a few more years to build a bigger "nest egg". So these numbers could go either way.

I would be concerned if there were a rush to retire in the Police Department. It's pretty thin on the streets now and the
officers are already above average on overtime. I would also note...crime isn't going to decrease anytime soon.

This isn't much different than what most of the larger private corporations have done in the past. However that was the past. In these times, those same companies are plainly chopping personnel without regard for the employees. The City of Kingston is more like a big family and would never do anything so rash. Sometimes to a fault.

Thank you Mr Mayor, we will be anxiously awaiting your proposal in committee and expect countless hours of reassurance that this is the course that's best for the city.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I know, you think I'm crazy. But I'm not making this up.

One of the AP sources I follow, says George Pataki met with John Cornyn, the head of the Senate Republican campaign committee about possibly running for the Senate in 2010.

First approached by national Republicans, George has been rumoured to be testing the waters for a challenge to Gillibrand in 2010.

Keep in mind, the AP has no proof of a Senate run in the conversation, but why else would they meet?

I understand that with the leadership positions all but consumed with Democrats from Dog Catcher to President, the Republicans need a big name to set their come-back in motion. Is Pataki the one to do it?

Close friend and former Representative Tom Reynolds told the Gannett News: "Pataki is enjoying the private sector and spending time with his family, I just don’t know that George Pataki wants to pursue a senatorial race.”

Granted, we have time to watch the many possible candidates formulate their strategies, but you can count on Pataki visiting Kingston if this were the goal. Our own Mayor Jim Sottile bent over backwards to endorse and campaign for Pataki in 2002[right on the steps of City Hall]

The outcome of the Governor's race in 2010 between Giuliani and Cuomo will give George a good indication of what to expect from a Senatorial race in 2012.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


My heart pains me to think about the sad news in the Teetsel family.

My sincerest condolences to the family on the lost of their son, Dwight. Having lost a previous son not long ago, I can only imagine what affect this can have to such a close and loving family.

Like so many of us throughout the City, I offer my warmest thoughts and support to the Teetsel Family in these days.

Wake and Funeral arangements will be posted in the Freeman.


I'm taking the train downtown!

Everyone in Kingston has heard the news that this City is one of three finalists to be chosen to demonstrate a new rail system. Not to be confused with the High Speed Rail that's included in the "stimulus" package.

Well, the news went out the other day that our Sr. Senator Chuck Schumer has written the head of Kawasaki to use Kingston as the site for a test of the company’s new battery-powered trolley. I say bravo!

According to the AP: Senator Schumer made a personal call to Akira Hattori, the CEO of Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc. last week urging the company to choose the city of Kingston for their pilot program that will test a battery-powered light rail trolley.

Much of the needed track is already refurbished and the remaining link to E Chester St could be the focus in 2009. The new light rail will provide clean, reliable public transportation in Kingston and serve to boost tourism. (If we ever get back in the business of promoting tourism)

Chuck was quoted: “The City of Kingston is the perfect spot for Kawasaki to test a battery powered light rail system." Mayor Sottile alerted me to this development weeks ago, since he knows I'm a big train enthusiast.

There are 1.5 miles of tracks from the trolley museum to Kingston Point Park and an additional mile cutting through the Avenues and over the 9W Bypass. Folks from Foxhall to Mary's Avenue could walk to the rail station behind Rondout Savings and catch a ride to the Hoolie!

It would be just one more attribute for the Main St Manager to promote for the City of Kingston come next year.

Personally, I'd like to see the City reopen the Canfield Street Tunnel and link the light rail from the Rondout to the Plaza. Talk about a "stimulus" plan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



I managed to get through most of the Blago scandal without wasting any space on the Blog. However...

This gross display of negligence on the part of our Senatorial Review team and the appointment of Roland Burris from Illinois, has me pissed. Why?

There are too many issues for our representative in DC to be focused on, rather than the back room dealings between the Governor and the open Senate seat. We are finding out more about Burris as the weeks go by and as the number of interviews increase, so do the number of flaws in his testimony before the panel.

The recently appointed senator from Illinois, Roland Burris, asked us to look beyond the Blagojevich scandal and judge him independently. Many people did. Turns out we probably shouldn't have.

The Democratic Majority pushed this process along in the hopes of putting this whole mess behind them, but it's not going away. It's no-ones fault but their own.

Like many of us in the Hudson Valley, we only get to see what's on TV or through a web search. I don't like anything I've discovered about the man. The amount of time they spend on this crap does nothing for the economy or my wallet.

Right now, Burris is a distraction and an embarrasment to the new leadership. Commits purgery during every speech! You've got to realize he has no business being in this position.

Get with it people. You've got control of all three branches of Government, a chance to do the people's business as you've been ordered, and you're going to piss it all away through scandals!

Will they ever learn?

Monday, February 16, 2009


Larry Delarose and
I had the privilege to join Malcolm Smith this past Saturday afternoon with 200 of his closest friends at the new Majority Leader's advancement Reception.

Both Larry and I got to speak to Malcolm Smith a
bout plans for future runs for Senate and the significance of Gillibrand, a voice from "Upstate" serving as a US Senator.

He's a charming man and seems to have surrounded himself with cheerful, energetic people. In this room anyway. I know the workings of the Senate are quite different than the celebratory atmosphere we were exposed to.

Kirsten Gillibrand was in the building and made a quick appearance before the crowd. Thunderous applause caused minutes to pass before she could address the crowd. She did hit on the issues regarding the President's stimulous package and the possible funding for New York. High speed Rail being one of the projects.

After her moment in the light, I uttered a quick assurance that the rail project is what New York needs. And thanks for keeping her stand on the second ammendment and her views on illegal immigration. I definately caught her by surprise as she was wisked away very quickly.

Malcolm went on to introduce the new State Senator Eric Schneiderman from the 31st district in Manhattan. You can view the intro below:

Notice Something Different? from Elizabeth Benjamin on Vimeo.

What struck me was how Sen. Smith recognised Larry at the first greeting, remembering that Larry was the only upstate candidate to bother venturing to Manhattan for a statewide candidates forum he offered back in August. I was impressed.


I am in favor of a Main Street Manager so long as the Federal Grant funds it for just these two years. I have been asked to repeat this since I posted it several weeks ago.

For too long, the City of Kingston has been divided into three geograp
hical regions. I don't have to give great detail where and why. Concerned locals know what I mean.

A little background: Early into my tenure on the Council, we were faced with a parking dilemma. All three districts had different parking regulations which magnified this distinction further. I made it clear to my fellow Councilmen, that whatever parking regulations we approved had to be identical throughout the city.

Why? Because we are ONE city. Since the merger of the many towns t
hat make Kingston, we have been in the same economic boat. Nothing is accomplished when three business districts are fighting over the same limited City, State and Federal funding.

Unfortunately, we suffered through the free [2 Hour - once per day] catastrophe and are currently regulated by the parking meters. Like em or hate em, they are identical throughout Kingston. Exemplifying the ONE city concept.

This is where the Main Street Manager comes in. If there were a single person, for all the business owners from the three commercial areas to work with, with the intent to increase the business friendly atmosphere of ALL of the City's commercial areas, then we will see more of an upswing in the general perception of our city.

Don't misunderstand me, the existing business groups do a phenomenal job with the tools they've been given. But I see the city wide initiative as a more lucrative expense for their efforts.

I should disclose that I do represent a portion of the midtown district and have issues with the lack of attention from the High School down past Stewart's.
You'll notice that this strip, with the original Locust Trees, has had side-walk issues as well as empty store-fronts. We had a neighborhood meeting on this just the other day.

I would also suggest the business community to hire someone of their own choosing. No influence from the city. My reason? The city has been in position to bolster the business community for 100 years...what good has it done?

Sure, the Mayors words regarding the tax shift have merit. We did say that the tax shift would come in small doses at a later time. It will. It will be painful. Until then, this proposal for a city wide merchant leader should prove useful and I am in favor of providing temporary seed money to make it happen.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The Common Council has sold off another piece of property in the Hamlet of Wilbur.

In accordance with Local Laws #5 of 1989 and 1995, the City of Kingston is urged to sell off any remaining paper streets that our departments deem unnecessary. The piece of property that came before the Council this month was the undeveloped portion of DuFlon Street.

The street, was named after John DuFlon who, like so many of the leaders in Kingston's earlier industrial history, had his own evident impact on the development in the Wilbur area. I'll dive into family history at another time.

Over the period of 15 plus years, the Feeney Land Company, with property on three sides of the paper Street, have acted as owners of the unwanted strip. Strangely enough, they have been paying taxes on the lot and in years past, acquired the small building you see here, which is 1/3 on the paper street in question.

DuFlon was already noted as the shortest street in the City. Well, now we have proof. With only one house on the street, occupied for decades by one of Feeney's employees, the little stretch of macadm was unknown to me. Once I became Alderman, I set out to find this DuFlon St in what was then Ward 5.

The Council opted to offer the Feeney Land Company sale of the paper street for the sum of $100. Their history of paying taxes on the strip for all these years while insuring the property, made the decision easy and equitable.

Their intent, through this purchase, is to disolve the multitude of lot lines running through the parcel. However, there is one last mystery lot between the Feeney building and the single DuFlon house. The owner, with no known lineage, has been deceased for decades and our Corp Counsel is trying to settle the process for that sale as well.

Don't get excited, there's no access to the lot other than through the two contiguous owners.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


New York State Senate Democrats have been in control for 50 days now. It's taken this long to follow the perk mon
ey to the Brunomobile and the TV studio in Long Island?

For the period equatable to the Dark Ages, Republicans had control of the State Senate and have accumulated quite a few perks during their reign of "Good Ol Boys" and insider wealth dispersal.

The New York Times reported: The Democrats are still t
rying to find out how the chamber's nearly $100 million budget was spent, how perks were distributed and even how many people were on the payroll under the GOP. You know, the "smaller government party".

On the list of surprises, was a quasi-political outfit, staffed with 75 or more, funded by the taxpayers engaged in Rep
ublican campaign propaganda, mailings and brochures. Located very close to the State Capital. A printing outfit only a few minutes away! How could the Democrats or even the press not have stumbled on this during the last 40 years? 75 employees for 40 years? Starting 40K to 90K/year with benefits? You do the math.

Getting back to this tricked out van for Joe Bruno. Tell me it's a joke. The arrogance i
s over the top and it has reached the point of unbelievable. Is there any way we, as New Yorkers, can garnish their future wages until death?

Malcolm A. Smith's top aid, Angelo Aponte, said; "Every time we nail something down, we uncover another rock and there's another 30 people there -- it's all over the state."

Considering the way Governor Blago of Illinois handled his stellar exit, we all know the corruption grows within the party in power, unless the press and the good people of that party stick to the ethical d
uties of the office they hold. Which is never.

The new report shines a light on the much-maligned political culture in Albany, where the division of taxpayer-funded resources has traditionally been lopsided in favor of the majority party.

Aponte continued: Republicans are not cooperating as he investigates payroll records and the money trail. He said an audit would be conducted, either by the state comptroller or an outside accounting firm.

Smith has been modifying the dispersal of monies to individual Senators, but has cut spending in the two main committee staff budgets. Both the majority and minority staff will see less than half of what they're used to.

Imagine you become the CEO of a massive company and noone knows how many employees are on the payroll? No wonder Albany has the reputation it does.

Smith, the new leadership and all those who fought so hard to see this change happen, have plenty of work to do. Just as was done when Ulster County did it's big shift, the deep cleaning will continue. Those specialty expenditures that make everyone grab their chin and say "Hmmm" will be weeded out and made public.

Honestly, It should be fun if it werent so sad.