Monday, August 31, 2009
If you didn't think the Council was facing a tough budget battle before, you know now. When have you ever heard of City Hall letting employees go? Oh, that would have been last year.
Two were brought back in the last minute, only to have one dismissed a few months later. Get ready for the next round of dismissals because there will be people walking out the doors in all the departments this year. Perhaps sending a whole department off to the county looking for work.
The Mayor told the Freeman: “City Hall will not be immune if it comes to layoffs, we are going to share the pain equally, across the board.” He has had some talks with the other Aldermen about some of the positions. He hasnt asked me.
The retirement incentive has had some mild success in getting our numbers down, but government in general is still perceived as our only large employer in the greater Kingston area. [That and the medical facilities] That perception has got to change.
Sottile went on to rehash the past focus on Economic Development, Registrar’s Office, Human Rights, and the Clerk’s Office. All have their limitations and with Kathy not feeling well, the Clerks Office is strapped as it is.
The public is screaming for something to be done with the Fire Department while begging for more Police Officers. You know there will be cries for better street maintenance, garbage pick-up and snow plowing this winter. So where else do you turn?
Wait! Lets focus on the stop signs on North Front Street. Yeah, that will help.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Could this be a temporary comeback for the former Governor? It might be the perfect choice. Why?
Mike is the age now where making a full-on run for the seat would be a burden. His years in acadamia have been very fruitful for him and the ability to jump in, work on healthcare [his passion too] and get out, would suit him well.
As the interim successor to the late senator, he could act his conscience without an election looming in the near future. Sure it's been 18 years since he left the Governors mansion, but the nation is in the mood for serious health care reform.
It helps that the general mood of the voters is leaning progressive. Something he didnt have the luxury of back in the 80's.
But if ever there was a time for a comeback, this is it. Let's see just how the prospect of a Senator Dukakis bounces off the already frustrated Republican minority. It's going to be fun to watch.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Not just your household lights, but the street lights that you see along our city blocks. Towns & cities from coast to coast are now cutting their carbon footprint and electrical expense, by shutting down their street lights half the night.
The cost-cutting moves coincide with changing attitudes about streetlights. Once viewed as helpful safety measures, the lights are increasingly seen as an environmental issue, creating light pollution and burning excess energy.When I read this on a twitter post, I looked for some examples: Santa Rosa, California, started a two-year effort to remove 6,000 of the city's 15,000 streetlights. An additional 3,000 will be placed on a timer that shuts lights off from midnight to 5:30 a.m. Savings: $400,000 a year.
Sure, people want light everywhere, citing the need for safety at every corner, but without 24 hour surveillance, its as good as dark anyway. The City of Kingston has thousands of street lights. Some in the weirdest places. It might be time to re-negotiate the contract with Central Hudson about the unnecessary expense to the taxpayers.
Streetlights are more expensive than people realize, and if it were up to me, Id start turning a few off as if they were in my own home. Hell, were all paying for them through taxes. Many cities are leaving streetlights at intersections but removing them from residential neighborhoods, especially from the middle of blocks.
According to some studies, there's little evidence to support the belief that streetlights reduce crime. However, lighting does reduce traffic accidents, especially at intersections. I would ask anyone within the City of Kingston to tally up a list of street lights we don't need and submit the list to the Common Council for the budget talks. I bet we could cut the increase by half a point right there.
With all this talk of green industry and carbon footprint, why don't we invest in solar street lights as an alternative to the standard High Pressure Sodium lamps we use today? Wouldn't that be a wise investment with all this federal stimulus money?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Now we are to remain calm as our Albany representatives are double dipping the system? Today's Freeman Editorial on the collection of pensions while still serving, has the region in a tither. They are referring to a New York Times article where they name the Assembly and Senate members who had retired moments before serving their next term. Then collecting tens of thousands in pension payments.
John McEneny [pictured] is featured in the piece. Hey, it's legal!
What people don't know, is that it doesn't stop at the pension level or at the State Capital.
There are more than enough examples of Executives and County Legislators who are collecting not just pensions, but health insurance buyouts. You'd be amazed at how much the county taxpayers actually subsidize the purchasing of retirement homes in Florida and upstate. Pretty sad actually.
If you ask any of the 45 Million people without health coverage what they think of such people, you'd have to censor the responses we'd get. Those buyouts affect the budgets of the local municipalities as well. Especially if the job you retired from was with a town or city. That town has to budget your extra playmoney, while cutting jobs and services to the greater public. Not cool.
Think about the 10 or 20 years that someone tapped the system and then wonder why we have rough streets, collapsing storm drains or even outdated office equipment. Your tax dollars are padding plenty of retirements out there.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I always get a kick out of the energy of the craft builders. There is no limit to the imagination when it comes to building an exhibit like this and then riding it down the street.
I took a few pictures of them while parked on the Strand. The afterparty is always fun too. Gallo Park had not only a good crowd watching the stage performance, but plenty of campaigners in the mix as well.
Harmless fun for all.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The heat of the day went on, work was tough but I had this nagging in my head that I should make this the topic of the Blog for a day. Then I fired up my iPhone and saw all the online comments on the Freeman website. What an amazing turnaround from the perceived public outcry that seems to be the basis for all this press.
Can you imagine? Look in your wallet, go ahead. Do you see the real issue here in Kingston? Sales tax revenue & mortgage tax revenue are both down, the Workman's Comp is gonna sock it to us again and the state pension funds have all but vanished. We're looking at what...a $3 Million deficit here in the 2010 budget, and AMD can only focus on the stop signs on Wall St? This is absurd.
And to my good friend Bob Senor, with all due respect, lets continue the trial period to see what affect it has on the quality of life in that district. Please!
Personally, I have to say, the intersection is as navigable as any other three way stop I've ever encountered. Whether its 10am or 10pm, the ability to get through there has never been easier.
[for people who know how to drive]
I understand the Mayor isn't going to make any rash decisions on the matter. Wait; Did I just type that?
[A ray of sunshine is always welcome]
The issue had been sent back to committee to be discussed further. I have asked members of the County Traffic Detail to have a look at the situation and render their opinion of the current traffic control.
They will be present at the Public Safety meeting this Wednesday, August 26th.
My goal is to offer a civil forum for discussion. Anyone who wishes to witness the fun, feel free to join us at City Hall that night. The meeting will start at 7pm, and will be on the top floor in the conference room. If the crowd grows to a certain level, we will shift to the main chambers.
There is an elevator by the east entrance.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The level of corruption and staggering evidence of drug & arms smuggling made the move that much more significant. What they didn't foresee, was the impact it would have on human trafficing. That too is seeing a decline in the 48 hours since the agents were replaced.
From what I've read in limited sources, the surprise switcheroo also doubled the size of the country's customs inspection force, with more than 1,400 new inspectors dispatched to 50 customs points at airports and border crossings.
With serious background checks and extra training in import tax collection, Mexico hopes to bolster their revenue at the border. It is estimated that more than 40% of their tax collection is at the border through customs.
Here's the funny line I saw in a Mexico City publication: The new Border Agents are intent on stopping cheap goods from coming into Mexico. Goods that compete with Mexican manufacturing. What's funny, is the drastic increase of cheep Chinese products delivered to Baja Ports on their west coast and using our poorly inspected highway crossings to bring the very same products into the U.S.
I looked around for mainstream coverage of this and found very little. Some publications outside the US have covered it like it's news, but it's been quiet nationally. Wasn't there a summit in Mexico last week with Presidents Obama and Calderone and Canada's Stephan Harper? Is there a correlation here?
Anyway, I'd like to see where all this new manpower is going to help with illegal immigration and better secure our borders. I'm not all that hopeful.
Eleven of the bills that were killed, would have extended peace officer status to several new groups working across the state, including animal-abuse investigators, animal-control officers, and court attendants in municipalities across New York.
[The latest class of graduates in NYC pictured above]
There has been a serious increase in requests to confer peace-officer within many jurisdictions. Peace officers have many of the same powers as police officers: (depending on the town) such as warrantless arrests, using physical force during arrests and issuing appearance tickets, but with less training and lesser salary.
[would the workman's comp be worth it?]
We don't have peace officers here in Kingston, Ulster County or any other local counties that I am a aware of and in some cases, the laws prohibit the use of Peace Officers. That is "peace officers" who act as just that and not as an extension of another official job.
The days of the town constable are long gone, but the duties of a corrections or probation officer as well as forest ranger can lend themselves to that title. Often with salaries higher than the average police officer.
The Governor thinks the training for Peace Officers is lacking in New York and has since unfunded any new applications to the program for those communities that do. Both the Assembly and Senate passed the increased funding.
The only way to increase or police protection locally, would be through the use of part-time officers, but of course that would have to survive the contract negotiations that municipalities like Kingston go through every three years. The PBA would have to want to offer the option for the subject to even be addressed.
Mind you, it is a far cry from the recent push for Guardian Angels here in Kingston. That plea from a few groups in midtown-west wasnt fully embraced by the Administration. The possible havok that a group of empowered civilians would bring to the police department would present more of a burden and place the city at such a lawsuit risk, that the benefits wouldnt be worth the trouble.
But Part time Officer's might be the answer.
Now where would we get the money?
Saturday, August 15, 2009
A Judge, Debbie Batts out of Manhattan, lifted the injunction that had put the expansion process in limbo. The bottling companies lobbied that they would lose too much money in unredeemed deposits, I guess.
The new law was supposed to take effect June first, but District Court Judge Thomas Griesa ruled on that day that it wouldn’t take effect until April 1, 2010.
The new ruling means the state can start collecting 80 percent of the current unclaimed deposits, which is expected to total about $115M annually. Bottled water companies have until Oct. 22 to comply with the new law.
From one of the AP sources, Cuomo said: “Our victory will ensure that the most critical elements of the bill move forward expeditiously, resulting not only in cleaner communities and new, green jobs but also in over $100 million in added revenue for New York.”
Anyone following this Blog knows I am in favor of anything that helps diminish litter in the community while providing additional revenue for those who rely on deposit redemption to supplement their income. If you feel the addition of non-carbonated bottles will tap into your petty cash, simply start returning those bottles instead of mixing them in your trash. Hell, this may actually help the city in diminished tipping fees.
Friday, August 14, 2009
According to the AP story I found: Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated "like a complete unknown" by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.
Dylan was in Long Branch, NJ on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp and scheduled to play in Lakewood.Apparently, the story goes that he didn't have any ID on him and they had to go back to his hotel to verify who he was. Can you imagine what that officer went through once she was left with her cohorts? And what about Dylan? It must have been surreal.
To think, I had met him in Woodstock, along with dozens of other greats during the early eighties. I didn't think anything of it because that was the norm in Woodstock. Now, these youngsters don't even know Aerosmith or Clapton. If it doesnt have a synth beat and some foul tyrics, they wont care.
As for our unwivering admiration for the great Bob Dylan, I think it's healthy and natural to want or even expect our youth to acknowlege an Icon like Dylan. Maybe it's just me sounding just like my parents 20 years ago when they defended the greatness of Mel Torme.
Any legend encounters you'd like to share?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The lab is expected to shut down in mid October. This will definitely delay the turnaround for evidence in many cases, including DWI, Rape, Murder and anything requiring crime scene examination. The materials will now have to be transported to Albany.
Thats right, a police officer in each of our departments from Putnam & Rockland County to Dutchess and Ulster, will now have to trek on up to the already overburdened facilities in Albany to have work done. How will this help law enforcement at a time when crime is expected to rise throughout the region?
I heard DA Carnright on the radio saying "If anything, we should be opening another lab!" He went on: "We're going to be running into delays that could well result in our inability to prosecute some criminals."
UC Undersheriff Frank Felutico said he was shocked to have to hear this from a reporter since the news went out from a committee in Albany without notice that it was even being considered. Having started serving in the regional drug task force based in Newburgh, Frank said he was very familiar with the lab and felt it's need outweighs the expected savings that the State plans to acrue.
Assemblyman Cahill even got a shot in about how this was short sighted and needs to be reconsidered in committee to get the logistics of such a move re-evaluated. The Governor is looking for any means to cut costs, but cutting services to the very forces that expedite criminal cases in the courts throughout the lower Hudson Valley, is not the way to go.
According to one local paper, the State notified the employees at the Newburgh lab will be absorbed in to the workforce at the Albany lab. Considering the lack of lab jobs in the region, many of those employees are destined to make that commute everyday. Needless to say, this lab closure was short sighted at best.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Did anyone else see the report in the NY Times about the fundraising disparities between the Republicans and Democrats in New York State?
During the first half of 2009, the Dems heavily out-raised the GOP in levels quite unexpected, considering they once had the most formidable fund-raising operation in Albany.
The piece went on to explain that the money follows the party in power. No-one here is going to shocked to hear that...right?
According to an analysis of donation records by the New York Public Interest Research Group, Senate Democrats raised $6.9 million, Republicans raised just $2.5 million. Remember, this is since the beginning of 2009.
I pulled this chunk right from the article:
One of the most telling shifts involves the powerful state health care union, 1199 S.E.I.U. United Healthcare Workers East. Despite its downstate base and largely black membership, the union was for years a staunch and important ally of Senate Republicans, who guarded the union’s legislative interests. In the first half of 2007, the union donated $436,200 to Senate Republicans. In the first six months of 2009, it gave nothing.
What's even more telling, even Bloomberg hasn't bothered to write them a check this year. That has to hurt, since the GOP's message has been New York was better when we controlled the Senate. Their plan is to take it back next year. Just who is going to bankroll their skirmish?
Monday, August 10, 2009
MADSEN FOR LEGISLATURE
As many of you know, campaigns cost money.
The cost of printing, signage and postage aren't cheap.
Everything else is hard work, energy and time.
I've said many times, If you cant walk it, you shouldn't run it.
That goes for the Legislative Districts as well.
In weeks to come, you'll start to see all the
candidates out in the neighborhoods.
For some, it's the only time you'll see them.
I intend to continue my neighborhood visibility as I have.
I hope to bring a fresh voice to the Ulster County Legislature.
With your help, I will bring my eight years of experience on
the Common Council to Fair Street in hopes to help
our City and County navigate the tough times ahead.
Thank you to all the supporters who joined me Tuesday night.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Last week, I had the privilege of riding the Trolley along the Rondout out to Kingston Point. Today I hopped on the Catskill Mt line stationed at the Kingston Plaza.
With so much of Kingston's early history linked to trade, You'd think we would have better preserved the lines that opened up the western part of Ulster County. Now that they are relegated to just a tourism dream, the need to refurbish the railroad link from Kingston to Roxbury is paramount. CMRR's plan is to reach the Ashokan Reservior within the next few years.
If you were to assess the commuter rail importance, I think you would have a three front push to save our local economy, by including the much needed commuter rail along the west side of the Hudson River.
All three projects become one grand vision for increased sales tax revenue when you include the plethora of industries that benefit from tourism. And we need a shot in the arm when it comes to sales tax, don't we?
The resources here at the city level are limited, actually non-existent. The possibility lies at the County level. If I earn a seat on the Legislature, I will wrestle with the issue of funding for the repair of the two lines and continue the push for the west side line from New York.
I had made mention of the need for volunteers a while back. It morphed into an attack on the KPFF here in Kingston. But the opportunity to volunteer is still out there. CMRR has over 100 vols, while the Trolley crew downtown has almost 20.
The Kingston Trolley offers rides throughout the weekend, while CMRR offers Sat morning journeys at 1 & 3pm from the Kingston Plaza.
Take a ride and imagine a dinner theatre rail ride through the Catskills. I will happen one day.
As CMRR expands their operations in Phoenicia and Kingston, we can use more help. If you would like to join in this exciting project, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ernie Hunt. New volunteers are always welcome!
Friday, August 07, 2009
Carolyn was the last of a short list of possible challengers who have since decided not to bother. Pressure from the folks in Washington as well as the daunting task of raising money in these tough economic times are two possible factors in her decision.
During an interview on NPR, She said her decision was based on a desire to deal with current challenges including health care reform, clean energy issues and the economy.
Maloney has been in Congress for almost 20 years and has been a champion on numerous social and safeguard issues during her tenure. As much as I admire her record, I have grown to appreciate the centrist positions demonstrated by Sen Gillibrand.
From what I've read, the Republicans have yet to embrace any candidates to face her in 2010. But there's still time.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
At the last Council meeting, the eight of us passed legislation that moved hundreds of thousands of dollars without sparking even a peep in discussion, and yet a simple traffic modification at a street corner consumed the chamber for almost an hour.
You would think the City of Kingston was some sunny little hamlet on the Cape with nothing but flowerbeds to worry about. I got news for ya...We've got plenty to worry about. This was embarrassing.
If I can find one thing that proved useful throughout the exchange, was the exercise in Robert's Rules of Order. Always a fascinating process.
I had expressed, during the heated discussion, that had the proposal been submitted through the clerks office and "fast tracked" by President Noble, we would have had the same result. But NOOO!
With insufficient homework done to prepare the request, most Aldermen didn't realize that the legislation that changed the traffic flow of the intersection in question, was enacted through three separate legislative acts. They were visiting just one. What a mess!
I have since, contacted Charlie Schaller from the County Traffic Safety Board. He, his crew and I will be visiting the location during the next few weeks to get measurements, study plans and simply review what is permitted, what follows DOT rules and whether the current controlling unit serves the purpose intended.
The city's police Department no-longer has a traffic safety officer with the training we need, but there will be consultation with the department as this develops.
What gets me, is now we have a verbal volley in the papers, where now the "Good Ol Boys" are ganging up on AnnMarie and the word Sexist has even come up. What a summer!
We have a budget ahead of us that is going to test our abilities to manage this city and this is what my collegues are fighting about!
Monday, August 03, 2009
The latest would be John Faso, who challenged Spitzer a while back, is now on the hunt for the State Comptroller's seat. That office is occupied by the freshman incumbent Tom DiNapoli.
Some say Tom is the only vulnerable incumbent in office as the field of contenders continues to grow almost at the rate of unemployment numbers increase.
As the states chief bean counter, people look to him for the answers and the blame at the end of the day.
The numbers for Faso to compete with Spitzer never added up, but his challenge to Hevesi came close. Through experience comes wisdom. Does John think DiNapoli is ripe for the picking? Will New Yorkers blame Tom enough to send him packing? or is John Faso a name we would all like to keep in the past?
Last I heard, the pension funds have seen an increase in recent days due to the Wall Street bounce. Not enough to retreat from triage mode for our budgets, but enough to give indication of a possible reprieve.
Good timing? Who knows. What I question is where does John see his successful attempt making New Yorkers better? Apart from the task of investing, the New York dollars are almost at the mercy of the regional economy, this will be a fun race to watch. My bet is on DiNapoli for another term. But who am I?
I think the "Cash For Clunkers" program might fit that category. The Billion dollars slated for the program is just about exhausted and may actually have to shut down unless the U S Senate provides additional funding.
So far, about 250,000 cars have been traded in with the rebate incentive nation wide. Local car dealers have quoted in the local papers how successful the program has been and the number of gas guzzlers (like mine) coming off the road is impressive.
Although the program seems to be helping a small fraction of the economy, it's nice to know it helps with the efforts to diminish pollution; in that the clunkers are usually the worst offenders.
If the program continues, will you take advantage of the rebate? And will you shop for a car locally? I guess that depends on the financial state you and your family are in, doesn't it?