Friday, December 31, 2004

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Albany Common Council member Michael Brown always has something to say and he loves to get the word out. He just sent out another mailing using taxpayers money. In the nice letter he called Council President Desfosses and President Pro Tempore Conti "heartless political bosses" and "an elite gang of politicians that looks down on our community". So much for Holiday Cheer from Mr. Brown. And this letter cost the city $663.

Brown couldn't be reached for comment.

I have no problem with Mr. Brown speaking his mind. I have a problem with paying for his pointless mailings. How exactly are these mailings helping the people Mr. Brown represents?




Thursday, December 30, 2004

Birds of a Feather

We all know Mayor Jennings endorsed Governor Pataki in the last election and that he claims to have a good relationship with the Governor (those are tough to come by these days). They certainly have a lot in common. Seems they also both like to keep information from the public. Wondering about that audit of the police departments handling of the pile of cash they kept around for odds and ends? Might have to wait a while on that one. The Mayor won't release it to the public until he is ready. Stay tuned.

Campaign Contribution Guidelines - 2006

The contribution limits for the NYS 2006 election are as follows: Corporations: $5,000 per calendar year (subject to NYS aggregate limits for corporate contributions).

Individuals & all other non corporate entities: $16,200 primary election/$33,900 general election.

Wow. That is a lot of loot. So if my wife and i wanted to help out a candidate we could each give $50 grand to their cause. That's a quick $100K from my household. I bet I'd get someone to return my phonecalls if that happened. I've been thinking of getting into real estate...

Pataki Prayer Breakfast Trust Fund

Sounds appetizing! For some reason I didn't get invited to this last year even though Laura Bush attended and there were fun moments like when the Rabbi said, "God has given us a courageous president to lead". Thanks, God! I'm thinking i'm going to be getting $25 together this year and getting myself a ticket so I can go thank God in person. It was sometime in May last year. Keep it on the calendar.

Priviledged

So Pataki says we shouldn't be allowed to read any of the information regarding the communications between his people and the state thruway authority's people regarding the Great Canal Giveaway Scandal. He says these are "priviledged intergovernmental communications". I'm not sure what is worse - how obvious it is that they are hiding their involvement in this blatantly obvious example of buying favor from politicians via lobbyists and rich friends of the Governor OR the fact that our Governor thinks he has the right to have secret negotiations when giving away OUR property in exchange for political donations and that we are creating a "political charade" if we question this? Not an easy choice because they both stink. This is what happens when politicians are in office for too long. We need term limits. For the Governor and the Mayor.

Also very interesting that the Thruway Authority Chairman John Buono says he wants the documents to be released. Buono and Pataki both know what is in those papers. Buono wants them out. If they come out it won't be good for George and if they stay "priviledged" I'm pretty sure George doesn't want to have to discuss this issue in a debate with Spitzer. So, about that open job at homeland security.... Apparently the last guy wasted funds, mismanaged prioritites and has left us all not any safer. If that is what it takes it sounds like George Pataki is the perfect guy for the job.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Need Help? Get a good lobbyist!

Looking to get into real estate. Might want to hire this guy?

Pataki Literacy Program

Pataki has been all about literacy this year. Even paying employees to read. And this Prayer breakfast he "encourages" people to attend sure sounds like fun.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Term Limits

Politicians shouldn't be allowed to keep their jobs forever. Here is another good example of why, from a recent TU article (bold added by me).

"Assembly Republicans are angry at the governor, too. They say they've repeatedly gone to the mat for Pataki but haven't received much help from him over the years. After standing together to block an override of his budget vetoes in the Assembly this year ('04), one Republican assemblyman said he placed a call to the governor to ask for help with a local matter, only to be told by an aide: "You don't speak to the governor." "

How about that?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Publicity Seeking Charade

So apparently the documents about the Canal deal were intentionally withheld due to "guidance from the Governor's office". So Pataki was directing documents to be withheld. Doesn't sound very ethical. And Pataki pulls a card from the Delay Republican handbook and calls this whole thing "a publicity seeking charade". Excellent! I love a good public charade as much as anyone. What could Governor Pataki possibly have to hide? Other than his record, of course.

This article also contains one of my current favorite quotes, "Apparently the witnesses don't know what it means to be under oath". I think some more resignations may be on the horizon.


Canal Corruption

Real estate and corrupt politicians seem to go hand in hand in New York. Have you heard the news about the Canal deal? It's a bit confusing at this point because the Thruway Authority won't release the paperwork regarding the deal. But apparently the deal went down like this:

The State Thruway Authority agreed to sell 9% of the shoreline of the Canal for $30,000 to a real esate developer (NOTE: to put this in perspective the canal is 1000 miles long. So that means that for $30,000 the developer(Richard Hutchens) got 90 miles of canal front property for $30,000. Math moment! ......That's $333 per mile for waterfront property) That leaves 91% left over for the rest of us. Personally I don't care where the property is, if its $333 a mile for waterfront and its in NY, I'm buying. So sign me up. I've got $666 and i want my 2 miles. But wait. That is where one of the problems comes in to this little story of corruption. Not only is the land basically being given to the developer, the developer and state were a little misleading. The 91% left over for the rest of us ISN'T developable. So, Mr. Hutches bought all of the available developable land on the 1,000 mile canal for $30,000 (again, we're sorry, that was a one time offer and is no longer available).

And of course Mr. Hutchens donated to the Pataki campaigns. And Hutchens also clears up what he was after with those donations with this dandy of a quote: "Everybody makes a political contribution for a purpose." Ok, so lets cut to the chase and just start calling them bribes. Works for me.

So where does your future Governor Spitzer stand on the issue?

"This report tells a troubling story of bureaucratic incompetence, cronyism, ethical lapses and lack of oversight" Said Spitzer. And it was Spitzer's office that headed the investigation that uncovered this.

Just in case you run into any of them at a holiday party and you want to avoid any of those embarassing "so what's new?" moments, these are the state employees with the brand new subpoenaes:

Thruway Authority Chairman John Buono
Executive Director Michael Fleischer
General Counsel Sharon O'Conor
Micheal Flynn

Oh, and in case you are wondering. The development rights could have been worth millions according to experts. But intead they sold for $30,000.

And for a really in depth article on this including all the fun details of, "a story of power golf and fishing trips, illegally leaked state documents and questionable campaign contributions, with a dose of trains and baseball thrown in" I recommend this one.

Drug Reform - A Good Thing

So I've been working on a little theory and Martha Stewart (of all people) has got my back on this one. The best CEO's are always the ones that worked their way up through the company. They know what works, what doesn't and what makes the employees happy. If you are going to do your job, you should really KNOW what the impact of your decisions are on the daily lives of the people that are affected by the decisions. That is one of the problems with George Bush. He has no idea what it is like to work for a living. And it shows. When he was running for Governor of Texas he told an advisor that he needed to figure out how poor people thought "because he had never met any". But back to my theory. If you are a Judge that sentences people to jail, I think you should have to do a couple of months of hard time yourself. If you get to sit back and decide whether someone goes to jail for 10 years or 15 years or perhaps to rehabilitation instead, I think you should know what that decision means. Really know. You should spend some time in the joint. Get in the door, bend over, grab the ankles, let them check your orifices for hidden objects. Maybe dine on the LOAF for a few days. And then maybe you might think twice about sentencing a first time non violent drug offender to 20 years in prison. Hell, it only took Martha Stewart 2.5 months in prison and she now is speaking up for reform of the drug laws. And she hasn't even had to eat the Loaf! Martha isn't supposed to be a very nice person but even she can see that this is bad for our society. So there you have it. My theory is to lock up all the judges for a couple of months. And then the whole NY State Assembly for as long as it takes. They don't get anything done anyways. And then we could have some votes on reforming the drug laws in a meaningful and compassionate way. All in favor?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Year End Awards - And the Winner is...

Well apparently Mr. Nearing wanted to save the best for last and make that last minute push for article of the year. Not a bad strategy. It's a long one but well worth the read. Its about the Wellington Hotel and oh so much more. With choice bits like:

" [Sebba's] family's century-old real estate company was valued last year at almost $380 million" So these guys are RICH but can't afford to fix windows on the buildings they own in Albany. Or can afford but choose not to. They don't live here so really why should they bother?

"In October, the city cited Sebba with 17 code violations, ranging from a rotted roof and collapsed stairwells to a flooded basement and rat infestation." When these very rich investors bought the Wellington is was occupied and in fine condition. They have let it rot for 17 years so they can tear it down and sell the land. Greedy?

"Jennings, who took office in 1994, has rejected criticism that his administration dropped the ball on enforcement" That is our Mayor. Always quick to reject criticism or point the finger at someone else. He says he didn't know the building was in bad shape. So, either he is lying or he doesn't have the skills to be Mayor because anyone that walked down state street and saw the broken windows and facade could tell you the building was in bad shape. And even if it wasn't structurally at risk (it isn't), is that what the Mayor wants the middle of our city to look like?

And so now that the Mayor knows its a problem, what does he want to do about it? "The mayor has since then refused to answer questions about code enforcement against Sebba"

And there is the little matter of the convention center that the Mayor wants to put there and the developers that prefer that site and also donate heavily to the Mayor's campaigns:

Prominent developers who want to build the convention center at that site don't appear worried about the dispute. "We still think this is the best site for the convention center," said James DiNapoli, senior vice president of the Rotterdam-based Galesi Group, owned by real estate mogul Francesco Galesi.

An option to buy the Sebba properties has expired, DiNapoli said, but Galesi still expects that the dispute with Albany won't derail his plans...on the convention center proposal, Galesi is working with Columbia Development Cos., a firm associated with local developer Donald Led Duke and BBL Construction Services.

Both Galesi and Columbia are major campaign donors to Jennings. Columbia is building an office tower on Broadway near the Palace Theatre on land the city gave it.


And this:

During the week before Christmas 1997 -- a year after Capitalize Albany envisioned a downtown convention center -- the company acquired 132 and 134 State St. for $335,000, and emptied those, too.

In Summary: Super rich English guys (Sebba) buy historic buildings in the middle of our city. They clear out all of the tenants and let the buildings rot. And they want to tear them down to sell the land. But there are no buyers. So the buildings stay empty and rot. And the city doesn't fine them for the code violations. And then the Mayor decides he wants a convention center there. And then mysteriously Sebba buys two more adjacent pieces of land that make it even more desirable for a convention center. And they immediately kick out those tenants... and let the buildings rot. And the city doesn't fine them for code violations. And now the developers that hope to build this $150 million convention center say that they think this is the best spot for the center. And they also give lots of money to the Jennings' campaign. And in August they were about to tear down the buildings but some pesky preservationists get in the way.

If nothing else I'd say the city has a code enforcement problem. And the Mayor probably should return campaign contributions from any real estate developers looking to win the convention center contract. It would be the honorable thing to do. Because this really doesn't look so good.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

72% of drug users in America are white

If you don't think the Rockerfeller Drug laws need to be reformed, take a look at this:

- African Americans represent 12.7% of the US population
- 15% of US drug users (72% of all users are white)
- 36.8% of those arrested for a drug-related crime
- 48.2% of American adults in state, and federal prisons and local jails and
- 42.5% of prisoners under sentence of death.
- Due to felony convictions, 1.46 million African American men out of a total voting population of 10.4 million have lost their right to vote.
- One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 live under some form of correctional supervision or control.

Read an interesting take on this here.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Back to the Future

A while back i linked to a letter to the editors of the TU about the Mayor of Albany. But apparently their links have a code date on them and they don't keep the content up forever. Luckily i was able to retrieve the content via Google (be careful what you publish...)


Voters' desire for change should worry Jennings

First published: Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Is it all just about money? Although any challenger to Fred LeBrun's "Mayor and undisputed champion" (commentary, Nov. 9) will need plenty of funds to unseat the incumbent Jennings, perhaps he should consider that the citizens of Albany are tired of politics as usual.
The election of David Soares was about far more than one party outspending another. Albanians overwhelmingly voted for change. They voted against the mayor's candidate.

Mr. LeBrun claims that the mayor has "done a decent job." Does that include suing the school board? Instead of fostering a spirit of cooperation to benefit the children of this city, the mayor successfully extracted a six-figure settlement from Albany taxpayers. Does that include his epic battle with Jim Coyne over the Washington Avenue Armory? I guess the new library wasn't that urgent after all.

As the Wellington Hotel continues to crumble, no one is moving downtown. More people leave for the suburbs. There is no significant retail.

Shamefully, Albany is still horribly segregated. That's apparent to anyone driving around town. Most neighborhoods, where the people actually live, are in decline. New Scotland Road in front of the mayor's house is looking great, though. So is Whitehall Road, which connects to New Scotland.

Some things are apparent from the election of David Soares. The city is ready for someone who will bring a new spirit to the people who are still willing to live here. Albanians want someone who will make everyone feel that their interests matter.

The complexion of Albany has changed. Too many people perceive that the mayor is beholden to Governor Pataki (who's likely in his last term), corporate interests and machine supporters only.

Unfortunately, that perception isn't helped by the mayor's statement that LeBrun quotes regarding Jennings' war chest: "Right now I have about $130,000, but I will become aggressive about getting more."

Too bad the mayor isn't as aggressive about effectuating positive change in the city as he is about courting campaign donors. It's time to find a new way to do business in Albany. To the extent that LeBrun thinks there is no viable candidate, who knew about David Soares before he announced his candidacy?

MICHAEL KOHN, Esq.
Albany

Friday, December 17, 2004

Getting Out of Dodge

So Albany County's Democratic elections commissioner Micheal Monescalchi is calling it quits. He has been working the $33,0000 a year part time job since 1996. Now Mr. Monescalchi says there is no connection between his decision and the fact that D.A. Elect David Soares announced last week that he will be investigating voter fraud in Albany County. None. Wink...wink. Just time to move on to greener pastures. And he absolutely did not have an illegal nanny.

So if you were working a job and you committed crimes, and you quit the job, does that mean you are no longer guilty? Guess that is a question for the D.A. Be interesting if we see any other sudden "resignations" around town any time soon. The new D.A. gets sworn in December 27th. Start polishing those resumes.....

Job openings

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Tis the Season

Fundraising season! If you can't shell out the $1,000 a plate to eat with Mayor Jennings on Monday you can drop $50 and eat with D.A. Elect Soares on Wednesday. That seems like a more manageable figure for the general population. It might keep out some lobbyists though. They are insulted if you don't ask them for large piles of money.

Personally I like to judge a fundraiser and for the most part, the candidate, by the quality of their shrimp cocktail. Those better be some damn fine shrimp that the Mayor is putting out. And don't give me none of that Coors Light at the bar. This isn't a wedding at the local V.A. hall. So, the question is - will the Mayor's shrimp be 20 times better than the D.A.'s? If not, i think he is making a big mistake.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Guilty

The city made some progress on Wednesday when the judge hearing the Wellington case decided that Seeba was guilty of 12 violations and needed to pay up because they have been negligent. To the tune of $480K. Of course Seeba can appeal the decision. And this can drag on. My guess is that it probably will drag on in some form until the decision about where to locate the convention center is made. In today's column, Fred Lebrun says this decision will be made early next year. That seems to be much sooner than past projections but it certainly will help clear up this matter. If the city picks that spot, the city gets what they want and Seeba will get a lot of money. Its win-win if you are one of those two entities. The rest of us will have to make up our own minds as to whether the citizens won or lost on this one. If the city doesn't pick the spot, Seeba will either have to fix the building violations and pay their fines or they will lose the buildings for failure to pay at some point in the future. At that point there probably isn't much winning going on for anyone.


Republicans Court Jennings

The Republicans of Albany County continue to try to get Jennings to accept their endorsement. The Republicans REALLY like Jerry. Albany County Republican Chairman Sullivan keeps asking. From a recent article we get this (bold added by me):

"Sullivan has specifically reached out to Jennings, one of the few area Democrats who didn’t support Soares, inviting him to seek the GOP endorsement. “I think we’re kind of a safety net for the mayor,” said Sullivan. “I do feel and believe he’s going to be primaried. The coalition that got Mr. Soares in there has shown they can get the votes out.” Several committeepeople said they already support the mayor. “I’ve never had a problem with anything he’s done,” said Jim Cribbs. “I think he probably does lean more toward the conservative side.”

Read more about what the Republicans are for like eliminating the School Board. I can't wait to hear more about that. If the primary gets interesting next fall I think we may see Jerry change his tune on not needing the Republicans support.

Soares and the Rabble Rousers

So back in August then D.A. Paul Clyne called the people asking him to prosecute the local politicians that had been involved in voter fraud "rabble rousers". He stated that they were just doing this for political gain. Sounds a little bit like our friend Tom "the hammer" Delay down in Texas. It didn't work for Clyne. And things keep looking worse for Delay. But now we have a new D.A. in Albany and apparently he thinks voter fraud is serious and he will be looking into the case.

I for one, think voter fraud is worth investigating. Rouse some Rabble.

$1000 a plate? In Albany?

I think i'll go to McGuire's instead for that kind of money. I guess Jerry liked what he saw at the $1,000 a plate Spitzer fund raiser and decided to get in on the action. Next monday you can join him at the Fort Orange club for some holiday cheer...if you have a $1,000 and another grand for your date. Hmm, what kind of people in Albany have that kind of money. Real estate developers might. Lobbyists might. I'm sure some other politicians have that kind of scratch. How about the citizens? Better tune into the radio show if you want to hear the mayor talk.

Oh, I know someone who might have that kind of money. Common Council member Michael Brown. See he recently sent out a mailing attacking another common council member and it costs $805. But the good part for Mr. Brown is that he used taxpayer money to pay for it. That is almost a $1,000 we all just gave him. So i'm sure he will have the money to attend the party. No need to thank us Mr. Brown. Have a good time at the party. Maybe you could write up a little summary and mail it to us.

The devil is in the details

Jennings Switching Teams...Again?

Spotted in the crowd at the $1000 a plate dinner for Elliot Spitzer was none other than former Pataki endorser and current favorite of the Albany County Republicans...Jerry Jennings. Politics is funny that way. Now what happens if Giulaini decides to run? I guess its good to be a switch hitter. Let the past be the past people. No need to hold grudges.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Republicans on the Wellington

So Albany County GOP committee person Ed Pierce says he's disappointed that the Wellington didn't get torn down because preserving it "costs us more" (Metroland Dec 2-8). Now, i'm not a republican but i can agree that I don't want to be paying to preserve buildings owned by wealthy foreigners. I really don't want that. However, that is completely not the case here. The owners have to pay for the costs or forfeit the building. Not "us". And if they forfeit the building, the county takes ownership of a very valuable piece of property. Either scenario doesn't cost Mr. Pierce or anyone in Albany a thing. The PROBLEM is that Mayor Jennings hasn't been enforcing the code and has let the landlord of the Wellington create a problem by doing nothing. If you enforce the code, the city wins and the people win.

But it is another great republican attempt to sway the public with simple and incorrect statements than anyone can agree with. So the question is - do they know they are lying?

The Patroons are Coming!

Now I like basketball. A lot. And I remember the good old days when the Patroons were the CBA champions. Phil Jackson coached them! Yeah, that Phil Jackson! And guys like Vincent Askew played for them. He could really dunk. Entertaining stuff. Back in the days before NBA expansion, cable TV, non stop NBA coverage every night of the week. Those were the days. If you wanted to see some good basketball the Patroons were the only game in town. That was last century. People are not going to pay to watch guys that can't play in the NBA anymore.

Back in 1984 the CBA set a record for the number of people that attended games for a season. Still trying to break that record.

Wellington

So the owners of the Wellington still aren't paying any fines, the building still isn't being taken care of and the city and the Wellington are going to meet up and talk in the courts. How come whenever i get fined for something the city/state/feds make me pay up immediately or go to jail?

So take your pictures now, because odds are that hotel is coming down. And make sure to pay your taxes so you can keep funding overseas investors that buy up our city and expect us to maintain their properties until they can sell them at huge profit.


So You Want to Run for Office?

Ever wonder what it costs to get one of those high paying government jobs? It ain't cheap. According to the TU it goes something like this if you want to be DA.

$311,678 by Clyne
$236,657 by Cusick
$340,149 by Soares -- on top of the help he got from the Working Families Party, which a lawsuit showed put up at least $164,624.

Damn, even losing costs a lot.

Start saving up, election 2005 is right around the corner.