There has been much back-and-forth about what exactly New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said regarding the much-discussed, little-accomplished four-lane highway across Northern New York.
It used to be called the Roof-Top Highway, then Gov. Pataki's public relations flacks called it the Northern Tier Expressway (a name I actually like because it says something, but one that Jason Clark hates because it came from a Republican administration), and then it was called the fictitious I-98.
I say fictitious because there is no such designation - that is the slick name that snake oil salesmen like Jason Clark came up with because it looks good on lapel pins.
Agencies like the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority have long promoted the idea of the highway and that makes sense for them. It could lead to more business at their bridge and industrial park, although the highway's last path took it about 45 miles to the south of the 'Burg.
Then a bunch of academics from the Potsdam/Canton area weighed in by saying the highway will never happen and that by supporting it, local politicians and agencies are causing the state to ignore upgrades to US Route 11.
YESEleven, as they call themselves (again a cute little name that would look good on a pin) found all sorts of reasons why the four-lane concept is dead in the water.
Jason and the I-98 crew were incredulous that someone would actually oppose their great idea and they went after YESEleven, or at least Jason did. The resulting hilarity has led us to what happened a couple of weeks ago in Potsdam
All of this debate caused a reporter to asked Gov. Cuomo where he stood on the four-lane highway, and both sides were quick to interpret (translate) the Governor's words to support their respective stances on the transportation Trojan horse.
Well, here's my take on what Gov. Cuomo II said (I'm paraphrasing and translating to the best of my ability):
"I think the highway MIGHT (emphasis added) be a good idea but we're constrained because the state has no money for it, I don't want to raise taxes to pay for it, the federal government is also short on funding and the economy is still in rough shape."
Then he said, "IF we decide its a good idea, then I THINK we need to study the highway further but we have no money for it, I'm not going to raise taxes to pay for it, the feds have no money and the economy is very sluggish."(emphasis all added)
He then further said, "We're trying to be fiscally responsible so SOMEDAY, IF we still think its a good idea, IF the study shows its a good idea and will have some economic benefit, then we MIGHT just THINK about building it, IF the state is no longer flat-busted broke, there's STILL not a snowball's chance in hell that I would raise taxes to pay for it, IF the Feds are no longer MORE BROKE than New York State, and the economy's not STILL in the crapper where it probably will be for a while yet! (emphasis added)"
Thus, that's MY take on what the Govenror said (emphasis added).
So, while Jason Clark and the other spin-meisters continue the charade that the highway is just one federal transportation bill away, maybe they could take a few minutes to give the taxpayers a FULL ACCOUNTING of how much money - much of it belonging to taxpayers - they have spent in the past decade on pins, bumper stickers, newspaper ads, slick hand-outs, etc. (emphasis added).
There has NEVER been a complete and public disclosure of the finances of the North Corridor Transportation Group (another cute name, isn't it?), and the time has come for the public to demand one.
How much are the "consultants" like Jason Clark being paid? How much were they paid over the years? Was the Massena BDC ever repaid the $18,000-plus it was owed by the NCTG?
And it's time for YESEleven to go to the government officials in Potsdam and Canton to commit IN WRITING to bypasses around their congested, travel-time-sucking downtown corridors. Maybe then we can get the NYS Department of Transportation to upgrade US Route 11 and NYS Route 12 and make portions of them four-lane so as to relieve some congestion and speed people and commerce on their merry way.
Oh, and it would be nice if both groups would conduct business in the public eye so that we know who you are and what your agendas are REALLY (emphasis added).
Below you will find a link to an interesting story one of my blog readers sent me. The story from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is an interview with one of the originators of the Idle No More movement.What my reader found very interesting was the movement's co-founder, Sylvia McAdam, says she is not comfortable with blockades and things like bridge closing because it makes the movement appear to "aggressive" (her word). She makes some other interesting points.Click this link and see what I mean:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/01/14/sk-idle-no-more-sylvia-mcadam-130114.html
There's an old saying that a man in a hole has got to know when to stop digging.So, I'll apologize to all of my Mohawk neighbors and others who were offended by my post about the bridge closing.As you can see, my post upset a lot of people. That was not my intent. Nor was it my intent to to dismiss or criticize the Idle No More movement or the opposition to Mr. Harper's legislation. The opposition is legitimate and everyone has a right to oppose it.I simply hoped that in the future we could find a better way to state a protest than to shut down the bridge. In retrospect, I could have chosen a few words differently in my post.Because this has taken on a nasty tone, I will no longer post comments on my original post about the protest. I have never done that before, but this one is different.I will post comments about this post - my apology.I hope I can repair any damage I may have caused. I worked for the Mohawk Tribe for over five years and really enjoyed my time there. I grew up in Helena and attended weekly mass at St. Patrick's Church in Hogansburg. I have many Mohawk friends and I hope this controversy has not caused my to lose any of them.Niawen (I hope I spelled that right!)
Once again, law-abiding travellers between Massena and Cornwall, Ontario, have been harassed and inconvenienced by another pointless protest closing traffic on the the Seaway International Bridge.The time has come for U.S., Canadian and Mohawk authorities to stop this foolishness.What exactly have any of these protests accomplished other than ticking off drivers?If the organizers of these protests think they are gaining any kind of public support for whatever statements they are trying to make, they are sadly mistaken.Why must we tolerate them? Why do authorities tolerate them? If I get a hundred people together to close the bridge in protest of bridge-closing protests will I be arrested and taken off to jail?Look, I know that authorities are hesitant to stop the Mohawk-sponsored protests for fear of being called racists but the time has come for residents of all three communities to come together and say we've had enough of the disruptions to our business, our pleasure, our daily lives.Most people can't tell you what any of these protests are about. In fact, some of the protesters probably don't really know why they are closing a bridge and what they hope to achieve.I don't make these comments out of hatred or because of any bias.I am simply appealing to reasonable adults in our communities to do the right thing and say we will not tolerate these disruptions in the future. There are plenty of other means of expressing your viewpoint.Let's put our energies toward something positive and make a real difference in our region.
The Massena Village Board recently passed a new curfew law that says 15-18 year old kids must be off the streets between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.Why is this law even necessary?Poor parenting, that's why.How do you not insist that your kids are home in the house by 10 o'clock at night? As a parent, where are you and what are you doing? Is it possible that you don't know where your kids are?When I drive around town late at night, I am amazed at what I see. Kids, young kids aged 10-12 by my estimation, are out roaming the streets on foot, bikes and skateboards. Why aren't they at home? Why aren't their parents out looking for them?It's time to hold people accountable, and this new curfew law will do just that. It's long overdue and I believe the village was remiss in not enforcing the old curfew law that was on the books for decades.Police Chief Timmy Currier said it was unenforceable because a court had ruled a similar law unconstitutional. My attitude was enforce law and let someone challenge it in court.But that's all history now.The new curfew gives the Chief and his police force the tool they need to clean up our streets and likely put a damper on some of the stupid vandalism that has been plaguing our community.Now we have the law. Let's put it to good use as quickly as possible.
I try not to make this blog political and this entry is not about partisan politics. It is about the bad things and corruption that usually evolve when any one political party has a lock on all the power of a specific part of government, or government in general.In New York State, Democrats control the Assembly, the Comptroller's Office, the Attorney General's Office and, of course, Governor Andrew Cuomo is also a Democrat. Republicans control the Senate by a slim majority.Again, when one party controls things for any period of time, bad things happen.In the Senate, which was controlled by the Republicans for about 40 years straight, guys like Joe Bruno took advantage, wielded undue power and eventually broke the law. Thankfully, he was sent to prison for his corruption.Now, in the Assembly (as referenced in the article link above), Sheldon Silver and his cronies have run roughshod over the state constitution, the state's taxpayers, even the weakest code of ethics, common decency and perhaps the law.It's not the first time he has done this and it probably won't be the last. He is a tyrant and a corrupt one at that.The Democrats hold a veto-proof and bulletproof majority that is hugely dominated by New York City and the typical political machinery that is put in place in large cities controlled by one party. Chicago and Los Angeles are other examples.I'm sure you don't have to look very far to find plenty of examples where complete Republican control has brought about similar seedy situations.Silver is a bully who reigns over a cowed Assembly whose members are afraid to stand up to him and his corruption. Anyone who dares the challenge King Shelly is usually put before the political firing squad and summarily executed. And for years, media in Albany, NYC and around the state have allowed this abuse to go unchallenged as well. Shame on them for there complicity,New York State as a whole may be unique in that all of the major political offices are held by politicians from the same party. Our state in not well-served by that situation. In fact, we suffer because of it.There was the time when the voters made sure there was some political diversity in these top jobs. Just a few year ago, we had a Republican Governor with a Democratic Controller. For years before that, we had a longtime Democratic Governor and similarly long-tenured Republican Comptroller.It's not that way any more. Nearly all of New York's political eggs are in one basket. Those eggs are getting rotten and beginning to smell.Attorney General Eric Schneiderman knew about Silver's latest crooked deal. So did Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli. And neither one did anything to stop it or even let the public know about it. They should all hang there heads in shame and should give serious consideration to resigning there posts.What's most obvious is that Silver has got to go. If not to Attica or Dannemora, then at least out of the Assembly. There should be a unanimous demand for his resignation. But it's not happening, and the silence coming from other politicians, especially Democrats, over his corruption is deafening.But, ultimately, who is responsible for this corruption that is brought about by total control of our state governmental system?The voters. All of us who elected this sorry slate of crooked enablers.Look in the mirror and you will see who has allowed this cancer to grow and thrive in our once Empire State. We elected them.Do we have the courage and the stomach to turn them out next time we have the chance?Probably not. Our track record stinks, but I can still hope that one day we will collectively do the right thing for ourselves.
Public employee pension costs are killing local government budgets and the various Comptrollers' manipulation of the fund is making it worse. Couple this with the fact that most people in the fund no longer contribute to it, and you've got a big mess that it costing taxpayers big money.Most people don't know that only one man has control over the billions of dollars in New York State's pension fund. There is no committee, there is no investment advisory board, heck, there is absolutely no input from the millions of public employees whose retirements Thomas Dinapoli is messing with.It's all his call.The New York State Constitution says so.And the State Constitution needs to be changed. Change needs to happen to get better results and to avoid criminal activity like the damage done by DiNapoli's predecessor, Alan Hevesi, went to jail for his corrupt dealings with the state pension fund, among other things.But that's a topic for another day.This post is to call on town, village, county, state and other public employees, and the unions which represent them to do the right: begin contributing to your retirement pensions again.You see, most present and former public employees (including me), only contribute to their own pension for ten years. When they do contribute, it's only about two percent of their salaries. Then, like magic, after 10 years they no longer contribute. They leave it all up to the taxpayers.This year, the taxpayers will foot a pension bill that is equal to almost 21-percent of every public employee salary. So, if somebody makes $45,000 as a town employee who has been in the job more than 10 years, then the taxpayers of that town pay 21-percent of that salary to the state pension fund. The employee pays nothing.Do people in the private sector stop contributing to their 401Ks after 10 years on the job?Well, if they do, you can bet their retirement checks will be pretty sparse.Public employees, after 20 years on the job and only contributing two percent of their salary for 10 years, will retire with about 50-percent of their average salary over the last three years of their careers.So, I guess I will go out on a limb be one of the few public officials who say that all public employees should continue to contribute to their pensions during their entire careers.The taxpayers deserve no less.In fact, the taxpayers deserve a break.It's time for Governor Cuomo, Comptroller DiNapoli, the entire New York State Senate and Assembly to speak up and do the right thing. They need to start moving to reinstate public employee pension contributions.Will they do the right or will they continue to cave in to public employee unions and their millions in campaign contributions?We'll have to wait and see, but I won't be holding my breath....
Sorry if I'm underwhelmed by the big announcement out of Albany today that Gov. Cuomo has finally signed legislation giving us OUR power!Oh, it's good news that we finally are guaranteed this allocation of 20 megawatts of hydropower for economic development purposes, but what took so long?It's been three years!!And where is the "monetization" that allows us to sell any of this unused power on the open market and pocket millions of dollars like the New York Power Authority does every hour of everyday of every year?Oops! Guess I'm not supposed to use the "m" word right now because our elected, and appointed, officials are all basking in this big accomplishment and patting each other and Gov. Cuomo on the back.Why?For finally giving us OUR power!! (Did I already mention that?)There has been way too much red tape in bringing this very simple measure to fruition. As usual, mid-level Albany bureaucrats and their lawyers held this up for far too long. And they are still finding ways to delay the monetization.You see, there are folks that don't think we can be trusted to sell this power and re-invest in our communities. Or, perhaps, even use it to lower our taxes and make up for some of the billions of tax dollars we have lost over the past 60 years since the St. Lawrence Power Project was built in Massena.These people think we need to be supervised and treated like children - only doing what our governmental parents give us permission to do.I hope I'm wrong, but my prediction is that the monetization legislation, which is supposedly all that is needed for this to become reality, will take at least another three years, if it ever happens at all.Then again, I could be wrong.Note to Albany: please, please prove me wrong!!(See, I'm not above begging....)
Last night I made the decision, as one member of the Massena Town Council, to "double down" on our economic development efforts by voting to fund the Business Development Corporation of Greater Massena at $60,000 a year for 2013 and 2014.I use the gambling term "double down" because the Town currently funds the BDC for $30,000 a year.Why use the gambling term?Because my decision is a gamble for our community and its taxpayers.It's a gamble because over the last three decades the Town and Village of Massena have collectively spent a very significant amount of money on economic development and gotten very little in the way of positive results as far as job creation and business development.Why continue funding the BDC and gamble with more money, you might ask?Because for the first time in my memory we have a economic development board mostly made up of business people who are putting in a major effort to make the BDC work and produce results for Massena.The current BDC board is all about business.They have made some tough decisions over the past couple of years. They pushed the former director and tried to hold him accountable. They have embarked on some creative yet solid efforts to improve the economy of our community and try to put a dent in the 11- or 12-percent unemployment rate we are experiencing.Now the BDC wants to start anew with a new person at the helm. They've abandoned the I-98 folly and refocused their energies. In a joint meeting last week of the Town Council, Village Board, the BDC and the Chamber of Commerce, we reached consensus on a plan to give the BDC two years to prove itself with a total of $120,000 a year coming from the Village and Town.I made it clear that I was willing to give it one last go if the BDC was willing to be more transparent and accountable to Town, Village and taxpayers. We will develop specific goals and ways to measure progress and success.I also expect the BDC and the Chamber to work more closely together, possibly share office space and staff and create the most positive business climate possible for Massena and our surrounding area.Moreover, I sincerely believe we should reach out to towns like Brasher, Louisville, Norfolk and Waddington and ask them to join forces with us to promote our entire corner of St. Lawrence County together. Let's face it, a new business is any of these towns will likely have a positive impact on all of the others.Yes, it's a gamble. But it's one we have to take - and we have to take it now.If we see no measurable positive results in the next 28 months, we'll fold the BDC's tent and look for an alternative. If one exists....
When I sat down to write this, a helicopter was zooming around the sky above my house. When I returned from Syracuse one evening last week, I was forced to drive through a Border Patrol checkpoint. A few days later, I read about the mysterious cameras popping up in our communities.I know I'm not the only one that finds all of these things disturbing. I am one of millions of law abiding US citizens who have to endure this kind of oppressive law enforcement presence everyday - all in the name of protecting us from terrorists and other miscreants who would do us harm simply because they hate America and everything our great country represents.In short, we're being treated more like subjects of a great bureaucracy known as Homeland Security and less like free citizens of the greatest country the world has ever known. I have to wonder if the terrorists are winning because they have already forced us to change our way of living.Too many of us are willing to endure the BP roadblocks, unnecessary searches, physical pat-downs at airports. And it seems our friends in the media are cowed by the "it's for your protection" argument.Actually, I'm not opposed to the cameras themselves and I want Massena police to put some up in public areas in my community to fight vandalism and theft. But our want our community to make that decision, not some unilateral agency.What I am opposed to is the way this was handled by whoever put up the cameras.Someone knows who put up the cameras, who paid for them and who's recording what they see. In fact, I would bet National Grid knows and I'll make a further wager that National Grid is being paid for the cameras' presence on their poles. No one in the media has thought to ask that question apparently. But I'm relatively sure that a private utility is not going to allow a multi-billion dollar agency to use its poles free of charge.It won't be long before someone is charged because they were recorded doing something they should have been doing. Then we'll know...or will we??It is time we as citizens who enjoy and appreciate our freedoms stand up and say enough is enough.We must demand that Congress and federal bureaucrats get our permission before they subject us to further invasions of privacy. At the very least, these agencies should be required to disclose their activities.Once, years ago, when I asked at a roadblock why I was being stopped, the officer at my window asked if I was concerned about national security.Yes, I said, but I'm even more concerned about my Fourth Amendment Rights protecting me from illegal searches and seizures.The officer's response? "Have a nice a day."All of my days would be a little bit nicer if someone would be honest and tell us the purpose behind the roadblocks, helicopters and cameras. It would be even nicer if they would tell us what our rights and responsibilities are when it comes to these roadblocks, helicopters and cameras.I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.Government bureaucrats seem to be able to do what they want when they want. No one seems to be able to rein them in. And when national security is proffered as the reason for their actions, no one seems to dare ask why.