Monday, August 29, 2011


I received one of those chain Emails yesterday that focused on Congressional pay rates for retirees and their staff.
Turns out most of the assumptions were false. I actually visited to check up on it. 

1. Congressmen collect full pay until death. False.
Their pension is determined by length of time served, when they got to congress, age of retirement and what program they participated in while serving. Their retiring income cannot exceed 80% of their working pay.

2. Congressmen don't pay into Soc Security. False.
Since 1984, they have been paying into Social Security just like everyone else. Prior to that they were in a separate program for Civil Servants. (CSRS) which was closed to government employees after 1983.

3. Congressional members are exempt from prosecution for sexual harassment. False.
The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 placed all government employees and elected into the same category. It was included with the protections against discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin. Which has since been updated to include sexual orientation.

4. Members and staff are exempt from the Healthcare Act. False.
Members, their family and staff only have access to plans that are created by the bill and required to have the same minimum standard of coverage dictated by the legislation.

5. 35 Governors have filed suit against the Fed for unlawful burden on states. False.
The Email has been going around for years now. The insertion of this comment happened about a year ago since the passing of Healthcare Reform. It takes 38 state legislatures (two thirds) to call for a Constitutional Convention but it takes three quarters to actually amend it. No such group of Governors have made efforts to bring the "28th Amendment" forward or pushed for a convention for that matter.
Below is the basic point of the Email:
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States."

I think there are words like this somewhere already.

Friday, August 26, 2011


At some point this fad of wearing your pants under your butt cheeks has got to pass. Does anyone else feel this contributes to the negative perception of Broadway? 
Didn't a few towns and cities address this through legislation a few months back?
Is it worth the discussion locally?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011


Mobile phones are just about everywhere in America. About 90% of us have one or more. We are a little slow in the transition from binary to smart phones, but we're getting there. Where we are really lacking is the ability to pay for small and large purchases through our mobile like a credit card. But that's about to change.
A growing number of service providers are developing safe payment options through some of the major credit card companies while others are heading for direct mobile credit billing. Skipping the credit cards all together.
South America and Asia have been paying for soda and candy with mobile phones at vending machines for years. The technology isn't new. The reluctance of Americans to trust their financial safety holds us back. With millions of people in other countries already comfortable with such daily purchases with little record of abuse, is it time for us to leave the wallets at home and trust our phones?
In a recent article in Forbes, Beth Robertson of Javelin Strategy said: "The rest of the world is kind of ahead of us in this area. There are a number of global markets where you can essentially hold your phone near a device and authorize payment from your bank account or cellular bill or do person-to-person payment by texting someone. Most of the options take the credit card out of the equation."
You need only experience the Speed Pass at the Thruway entrance or the Speedy Pay at the gas pump to see how this would work. Have we gotten comfortable with those options yet? I'm kinda thinking yes.
A recent piece in the NY Times highlighted some independent non-credit-card options coming out. One example is Xipwire, a new mobile payment system which lets people make retail purchases or do peer-to-peer transfers via texting. 
You've seen the new square barcode on select advertisements and websites by now. Well the same individual code could be used to purchase merchandise by displaying your own barcode on your screen facing a screen reader. That technology is coming from FaceCash. You just hold up your mobile screen, which displays a barcode and a photo ID, up to a barcode reader. Once authenticated, the purchase is debited directly from a bank account. 
 But that's not all. Think FaceBook couldn't get more into your personal business?Along comes ZONG. Through a FaceBook credit system, you could use your phone to pay for goods on websites and have the bill merged with your mobile bill.
In one edition of Parking Today, they did a piece on mobile phone scanning strategies for parking lot kiosks. That was of course back when we were researching meters for the city. By now, someone should have advanced that technology somewhere. If we ever build a parking garage in Kingston, we'll have to pursue a market testing grant for the installation.
But getting back to the current topic, the general sense is that if it were to catch on in the States, it would be on the east coast first. Are we close enough to NYC to think we'll get to see it by 2015? I really don't know what's taking us so long.

Monday, August 15, 2011


This past Thursday night was the Shayne Gallo fundraiser dinner cruise on the Rip VanWinkle. I'll say it was a good party for the 100+ who embarked on the journey. As we discovered, having events outside is a gamble when weather plays a part, so we were pleased with the attendees who took advantage of the terrific evening.

Thanks to DJ Styles for his party mix, the long list of local restaurants that offered food and Van Loans for the abundance of beer. Finally, thanks to Sandy and her crew for their steady hand at the wheel as we got to enjoy the two hours of fun on the Hudson.

The next event is at Casa Villa on Albany Avenue.
Wednesday September 7th at 5pm
Tickets are $25 Again with plenty of food. Cash Bar.
Space is limited so email: 
or call 331-2202 for more info. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011



Throughout my term as an Ulster County Legislator, I have been a visible and vocal advocate for keeping the county nursing home, Golden Hill Health Care Center, under county control. Of the representatives from the City of Kingston, I join the chorus of Jeanette Provenzano and Peter Loughran who have been just as vocal for over a decade. My good friend Dave Donaldson is now jumping on board and stating that he is in support of keeping Golden Hill county owned as well. Three cheers for Dave for finally coming to the correct conclusion. 

However, prior to and during his time as Chairman of the Legislature, Jeanette continually addressed the mounting repairs needed at the facility. Only to fall on deaf ears. If the repairs had been made at that time, we wouldn’t be hearing about “systems at risk of catastrophic failure” now, would we?  Anyone who follows the political landscape here in Kingston knows Dave and I are in a Primary this September so I get to point out that of course, now, during these special election circumstances, he sees an opportunity to put words before actions to gain support. Four of those years Dave was the Legislative Chair, One of them as Executive Chair. With a sizeable majority at the time, the opportunity to address Jeanette's issues were missed. How sad is that?

The Legislature and specifically, the Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Walter Frey, has spent far too long debating whether to sell, renovate, rebuild or build a new, state-of-the-art nursing home. The option of selling the facility needs to be taken off the table, once and for all. Privatization of nursing homes amounts to more money in the pockets of private investors, and results in lower wages, higher turnover rates and drastically lowers quality of care for residents. Meaning, if a shortsighted legislature votes to sell the facility, Ulster County’s seniors will ultimately pay the price. And for what? To save a subsidy that in 2010 amounted to just a 1/4 of 1% of the total tax burden? Isn’t it better for us to keep the employees making a living wage, so they can continue to own homes, shop and support our local economy? Isn’t it better to know that we have a safe, quality nursing facility available to anyone, regardless of their medical condition or ability to pay? 
Unlike other county departments, Golden Hill Health Care Center is set up as an enterprise fund, meaning that its $30M budget operates completely independent from the county budget. Golden Hill’s income from Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, intergovernmental transfers, and private resident payments, covers all expenses, including employee salaries and benefits without any support from the County. In some years, Golden Hill has required a subsidy from the county to cover shortfalls in their revenues, mostly due to New York State’s failure to increase the Medicaid bed rates. In 2011, the County Executive’s office estimated that Golden Hill Health Care Center would require a subsidy of $4.2M. However, due to overdue Medicaid reimbursements received from the state, the amount required from the county to support the nursing home will be closer to $1M. This means, out of a $30M budget, just $1M will come out of the county budget.

Let’s make a commitment to our community to keep Golden Hill Health Care county owned and then continue to investigate the best options in terms of rebuilding, renovating or simply fixing the existing problems, and updating as needed. Let’s look at ways to increase revenues and lower expenses without compromising the integrity of this fine facility or the welfare of its residents. Let’s look at benefits of green technology and grants available for such. There are many options that I don’t feel have been explored because too many have their own agendas at play. If we take the option of privatization off the table, it will force everyone to focus on the challenge of making the County nursing home profitable for the County, instead of some private investors.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Last month, the Programs & Education Committee had the opportunity to ask the “Stop DWI” program coordinator, John Miller, about the current status of their operation. We got a pretty detailed snapshot of how things work.

First, the program is controlled by an Advisory Board which is responsible for the allocation of funds. The funds are limited, so the success of each task are measured against the greater good of the whole program. When we say success, it doesn't apply just to how many people are caught driving impaired but also how many people did we reach through the deterrent portion of the program.

One program outside of road patrols, would be the installation and monitoring of the Interlock Ignition System. Stop DWI and Probation share the effort to keep track of those who have been released and permitted to drive after a court directed enrolment. The “client” is responsible for the cost of both the apparatus and the installation, but in some cases, when they cant afford it, the county does invest. There are several vendors who supply the device and until recently, only a few had the camera. Now they all do.

When considering the budget of Stop DWI, you should know that most of the funds required come from fines. The breathalyzers are actually supplied by the Federal government, so now you know some of your tax dollars are being used on the street.

On the management end, the Stop DWI program used to be funded solely through the county. The formation of the commission allows the funnelling of the money from fines to be rerouted back into the system. Statistics for 2010 show that the Task Force logged in more than 2800 hours of patrol including sobriety checkpoints. Most of the arrests were made in the southern third of the county. Is that because more officers were assigned in that area or do people use the highways & Midhudson Bridge more when consuming alcohol?

If funding were to be cut, the preventative portion of the program is the first to go. Efforts to visit and engage students in school, the after-prom courses and possibly the elimination of the designated assistant DA. Sure, some grants come in to help with the costs derived from Stop DWI, but maintaining the program is imperative.

If you combine the Task Force and the State Police records, 2010 yielded:
  • 117 DWAI
  • 22 Zero Tolerance
  • 234 Aggravated DWI
  • 1035 DWI
  • 176 DWI/Drugs
  • 18 Refusals
  • 413 Aggravated Unlicensed

I don't have to remind anyone that this is just a small sample of those who got caught driving impaired or illegally through this program. I hesitate to estimate just how many people are on the streets and highway driving like this that don't get caught. I will estimate that just about every family out there has been affected by a drunk driving incident where someone either got hurt, or lost a loved one because someone got behind the wheel after a “good time” with friends.

As for the the future of the Stop DWI program, the subject of recent veterans and the advent of higher occurrence of DWI type violations came up. Legislator Hayes informed the committee that there are discussions between VA representatives, the UCCC program directors and some of the area judges to create a “Veteran's Court” which would dive deeper into the causes of alcohol/drug use. How much of a factor PTSD is in the use of alcohol and other drugs is a matter that may require different services. If something comes from these discussions, Miller and Hayes would both revisit and address the committee.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


So what is going on with the Ulster County Meals-On-Wheels program? Well, a few weeks ago, the Programs Education & Services Committee met and we reviewed the status of the contract bid process. The Meals-On-Wheels subcommittee, chaired by Cathy Terrizzi, offered the continuing report showing that the bid process for potential food service companies is expected to go out mid-August.

To what level the Legislature can influence the requirements in the contract bid is a continual debate not just in this instance, but just about any time a contract is offered for a service through the county. This was one of the complex issues we faced in the former Operations & Efficiency Committee last year.

As the weeks pass, the time to deliberate on our ability to shape the proposal is wasted and the window to offer and collect bids diminished. Terrizzi echoes the rest of us when she says we want to see what is in the contract and don’t want to be left out of the loop but thought we should let the process begin and at least review the contract before it goes out.

My buddy Dave Donaldson said the obvious in that we, as a legislature, direct policy and it is up to the departments to carry out that policy. So he joins the rest of the 32 of us in that statement. A number of us acknowledge that this is a stumbling block and always has been and as pointed out by Don Gregorius, we should review the contract before it is signed because we have had problems with other contracts in the past, this way everyone is on the same page and we don’t have to start the process all over again. As you can tell, the Opps & Efficiency Committee really had it's hands full.

At this point, the Meals Sub-Committee is scheduled to meet once again and have asked Deputy Sudlow to join us so that we can better evaluate the amount of input that the Legislature can have on this bid. We understand there are limitations for both policy and operations when it comes to this program because there is Federal money injected into the process but, I would agree that we need to flesh out what the county desires when it comes to delivering hot meals to our home-bound seniors.

When it comes to Ulster County using vendors of any kind, it is preferable to engage local companies. Hopefully within our county. To help smaller outfits compete with some of the larger conglomerates, the issue of localized credits was discussed. One avenue was to modify our purchasing laws through resolution where the Legislature can actually do some good within the county. Terrizzi closed the conversation by verbalizing what we all agree on in that the Legislature would have to come together on this and inject it into county policy.

So will the bid include the option for frozen meals? Will it allow diminished home visits by the delivery service?  Will seniors be once again, be the way out of a financial crisis? This is what we want to discuss at that next meeting. Keep in mind; this is one way in which the county reaches out through personal contact with many of the seniors. They aren't just clients.

Chairman Harris said they have been delivering meals five days a week and there should be some kind of compromise. That will be one of the opinions at the July 12th Meals Sub-Committee meeting. It is with great hope that Mr Sudlow is able to attend to help us through this process.