Sunday, January 30, 2005

What Do The People Think?

A recent poll has shown that 58% of NYC residents are against the proposed new stadium and convention center that Mayor Bloomberg wants to build. But the Mayor and the other elected officials are going ahead with their plans. I'd be interested in a poll in Albany showing what the public thought about the proposed new convention center here.

Casinos and Convention Space

Its been mentioned by casino advocates that the up to 5 new casinos that the Governor wants to put in Sullivan County will also have convention space. Makes sense because conventions and gambling go together very well. Just check out Vegas and their booming economy.

So will these new sites compete for business with the planned new convention center in Albany? Seems logical that they would.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Smart and Funny

I was planning to take the weekend off and just enjoy the warm weather but then I read this letter in the TU.

It is a very well written letter that states

"The Bush administration's push for urgent partial privatization of Social Security is the most dishonest, economically unsound, diversionary fraud ever devised."

And then he goes on to back it up with a very logical argument. And then the writer states that he has always voted Republican in case you thought he was just another nut job liberal. And then he cracks a very funny joke at the end. And yes, I checked, he did go to Harvard Business School. I recommend reading the whole letter.




Friday, January 28, 2005

David Soares Speaks

It's not that I don't want to get all my news about my DA from a guy that has a picture of himself posing with Ozzy Osbourne on his resume (Andrew Wilkow) where he is described as "the punk on the right".....but I thought I might look for some other bits of info out on the big old internet. I found an interview with some rather tough questions for David Soares in the New York Daily News. You can read it Here. Let me know what you think.

This is an interesting coincidence. Wilkow is attacking Soares for trying to help people involved in drugs. Soares suggests we might want to offer people that are addicted some type of treatment. Is that OK with Wilkow? We all know Ozzy suffers from addiction. Take this bit:

"Other topics for his memoirs include his arrest for drunken urination on The Alamo, taking acid tabs every day for two years with Sabbath's drummer, Bill Ward, and a stoned attempt to strangle wife and manager Sharon while on tour in Moscow. "

OR

"When you're young, you're stupid. You do silly things. I did it when I was 14. I was in jail for something"

And then this:

"Osbourne has cleaned up his life, with rehab"

So I would ask the "punk on the right"....are you against trying to help people dealing with addiction?

WROW - Mayor Jennings!

Quiz time:

On today's radio show at one point a caller chose to be somewhat critical of the Mayor and the city. The Mayor declared,

"Everybody better chill out a little bit here"

We didn't hear any more from the caller. So, what was the Mayor referring to?

1) Criticism of the plans for the new convention center
2) Criticism of the snow removal on streets and sidewalks
3) Criticism of his inability to make it get warm and rain to remove the snow like he did last week.
4) More "monday morning quarterbacking" from people that "don't really care about the city like he does".
5) Another complaint about the high taxes in Albany.
6) The concept of criticism.

Guess away! The winner gets a free CD of 2004-2005 radio show highlights. This really is a must have (especially if you are the Mayor of Saratoga). Today Mayor Jennings told a caller that the Mayor of Saratoga, "doesn't have any juice". Damn! Remember when Biggie said that about Tupac? We know how that one turned out.






Wait, we already have a convention center?!

This just in. A fully functional convention center was just located in downtown Albany, NY. More to follow.

"Located in the heart of the City of Albany, the Convention Center is ideally situated to enjoy the unique amenities of the government seat of the State of New York."

Albany Convention Center
Albany Convention Center




The Opposing View

Today there is a letter to the editor chastising the TU for not supporting the building of the Albany Convention Center by running a cartoon showing why Albany's "uniqueness" might not actually be an advantage. He requests that the TU "get on board".... I guess he missed Fred Lebrun's column. He also provides no justification for his argument. And he lives in Guilderland.

I'm sure he'll love a new convention center that he can drive to to attend the boat show, eat at a new "safe" restaurant in a big glass building ("Honey, its like Crossgates in the City!") and then return to the suburbs. How about we put the convention center in Guilderland? Perhaps then he might read the Brookings Institute Report.

All aboard?


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sound Bites, Brain Cells and the D.A.

The "What A Week" Column in the Metroland weighs in on the Soares uproar with some spot on remarks. I especially like the bolded part.

"When District Attorney David Soares said on his way out of a meeting that we should recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of young drug dealers by helping them start businesses, anyone with two brain cells to rub together could tell he meant legitimate businesses, not storefront drug operations. Anyone, that is, except most of the local media outfits, which repeated the quote ad nauseum in outrage."

I pretty much said the same thing earlier this week.

The only part of the column I disagree with is the part about Soares not being good at soundbites. In a debate during the campaign for DA we were subjected to listening to Paul Clyne go on about all the reasons why he was qualified to be DA. Soares listened and responded,

"That's an impressive resume, why don't you send it to me on November 3rd".

I think that is one of the best sound bites of the last year.



Convention Center - Step Back From Plan

In one of two letters to the TU today criticizing the Albany Convention Center plan the writer proposes a new and bold idea:

"The other important point this study brings into view is the "... opportunity cost of not investing this money in other public goods ..." This is where thorough, thoughtful, inclusive dialogue needs to take place with citizens. There has been little opportunity for such a dialogue thus far."

Dialogue with citizens? I'm not familiar with that but it sure sounds logical. Especially since we the citizens will bear the increased tax burden of this money losing Convention Center.

The author of the letter also introduces a concept that is critical to this discussion. Opportunity Cost. Essentially, if we spend $185 million (plus another $20-40 million to Wall Street in return for financing the project) we will be shutting the door on all the other ways we could improve Albany with that money. It will be shameful if our elected officials move forward without addressing the Opportunity Cost of the convention center project.


Recall Mayor Jennings?

So a few days after Assemblyman McEneny says there are no campaign issues to challenge the Mayor on....issue letters start showing up in the pages of the TU. Two letters today about the convention center that Mayor Jennings is pushing so hard to build in Albany. The first calls the plan "ludicrous" and recommends a recall election to remove Jennings. Luckily, we have one of those scheduled for mid-September 2005.


Pataki's Student Aid Plan

An earlier post had pointed out the outright unfairness of Pataki's plan to without half of your student aid until AFTER you had graduated. Basically if you need money to help pay for school and you some how figure out a way to make that money yourself and graduate, Pataki will give you a reward for your hard work and ingenuity. Senator Schumer also points this out:

"It's a double whammy, it's a double killer, and I just don't get it"

Read more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Convention Center - What You Need To Know

Some facts you probably aren't getting from your normal media outlets. This report was recently released by the Brookings Institute saying convention centers are a really bad investment for cities. The report was dismissed by Mayor Jennings and other politicians in Albany. So when not studying the impact of convention centers on urban economies and populations what do the people at the Brookings Institute work on? How about these topics? Smart Growth and New Urbanism and Ten Steps to Vacant Land Reform. These people study how to make cities better. Meanwhile, Mayor Jennings is betting on a report by some paid consultants who only make money if people want to keep building convention centers. More on that later. To the facts.

The Bloomberg View

An article was recently written about the Brookings report on convention centers by Joe Mysak, financial writer at Bloomberg.com. Here are some highlights.

"If you are a city official, editorial writer, or taxpayer, you should read this report."

""Space Available'' is a damning piece of work, full of facts and figures you should keep at hand next time someone suggests that your municipality should build or expand a convention center."

""Space Available'' should be required reading in every municipality that wants to bond its way to economic development."

As a taxpayer whose municipality is planning to bond its way to economic development, I think you might want to read the article.

Visit http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000039&refer=columnist_mysak&sid=amCHwCDBaTHc

The Strategic Advisory Group (SAG)

Mayor Jennings dismisses the Brookings Institute Report and claims that the 4 year-old Strategic Advisory Group report proves that theAlbany Convention Center is a good idea. If you read the Brookings Institute Report in full (and I recommend you do) you will see that two of the biggest money losing Convention Centers are in St. Louis and Washington, DC. If you check out the Strategic Advisory Group's list of clients, you will see that they recommended both convention center locations. These people are consultants. They get paid if people keep building convention centers. It is in their best interest to keep the industry moving forward even if it is in a downward spiral. Are they paying the taxes to support these money losers in St. Louisor D.C? I realize that not all convention centers make money (only2 or 3 in the country do). But there is a limit to how much they can lose without having a large negative impact on their city.

In their May 2004 update of the 2001 report, SAG estimates that new space will be added to the market at a rate of 2.2% a year from 2004 through 2008. This despite increases of space of 7.1% in 2002 and6.3% in 2003 and all the new planned centers across the country. Where is the basis for this projection?

The SAG May 2004 update report uses the new Rhode Island convention center as a success story (pg. 11). However, they provide no numbers on how the convention center is doing financially or the impact the center has had on local hotel bookings.

The SAG report fails to mention the recent troubles with the new Boston convention center (see below).

The "unique" approach of the SAG report is to interview regional meeting planners. Mayor Jennings has said this is why he puts faithin the SAG report over the rigorous analysis of the Brookings report(WROW Radio Show, Jan 21). The 2004 SAG update claims to have spoken to 25 regional meeting planners. The format of the data they present is highly suspect and would never be acceptable in a typical business plan. They provide "examples of the questions that were discussed and a general consensus of the answers provided". You would be laughed out of any business plan presentation, venture capital pitch, or basic marketing meeting if you presented data in this fashion. It has NO significant value. No one in the private sector would gamble $185 million based on this.

The "Unique" Argument

Mayor Jennings says that Albany is unique and thus immune to the reality of the convention center industry collapse. Ironically there are Mayors across the country making that very sameargument. Anchorage, Alaska. Jackson, Mississippi. Lancaster,PA. Raleigh, NC. Vancouver, Washington. Indianapolis, Indiana. Baton Rouge, LA. Santa Cruz, NM. Erie, PA. Omaha, NE and more. Wehave a convention center industry that is in decline and overbuilt andwhat do we do? Build more! The great Space Race. Just some of the articles from around the country:

Raleigh, NC
Santa Cruz, NM
Indianappolis, IN
Vancouver, WA
Erie, PA
Jackson, MS
Lancaster, PA

And more are out there.




Boston's Mistake

Here are some quotes from the 2001 testimony of Charles Chieppo, House State Administration and Long-Term Debt Committees, discussing the planned convention center in Boston (they went ahead and built itanyway).

"Building this convention center is the functional equivalent of spending a billion dollars on a printing press in 2001. This market isnot coming back."

"The cities that are still making it in this industry--and you can count them on one hand--have a recipe that includes year-round warm weather, resort or destination locations, lots of inexpensive hotel rooms within walking distance, and abundant airline access." (Doesn't sound like Albany, does it?)

This testimony was coming at roughly the same time that the Strategic Advisory Group said Albany was a great place in the Northeast to have a new convention center. In Boston they didn't consider the facts or listen to Mr. Chieppo. And guess what happened?

"The new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center opened earlier this year with only four conventions booked for 2004 and officials therehave admitted the feasibility study justifying the center hadproblems."

They already made their big mistake based on a flawed study from consultants who ignored the economic realities of this market. I suggest we learn from it!

Want more information about the Boston situation? It's all here.

Omaha

Same story in Omaha. Omaha's Qwest Center opened in 2003. It has yet to recruit anywhere near the 28 or more conventions annually that were projected in an early feasibility study. That study was used as part of the justification for a convention center.

Still feeling good about this "transformational project"? Really? Then you must be a politician or in line to get the business to build the convention center or a consultant that will get paid to update this report again next year. Or you must like paying higher taxes.

Over Before It Begins?

News 9 checks in with McEneny and Desfosses to see what they think about a challenge to Mayor Jennings in this year's election.

"Both McEneny and Desfosses said there will be a challenger, but whoever that may be will have little chance of beating the three-term mayor."

I remember when they said that about Soares and Clyne.

McEneny says that there are no issues to challenge the Mayor on but part of the reason for that is he agrees that the Convention Center is a great idea for Albany so he doesn't see that as an issue. Many people disagree. So, here are some issues people care about:

Convention Center means Higher Taxes for Albany County Citizens.

Mayor Jennings has failed to endorse the last two prominent black Democratic candidates (McCall and Soares) and crossed party lines to do so.

Jennings repeatedly criticized the Working Families Party during the Soares election. On Saturday in Albany Elliot Spitzer welcomed the WFP's endorsement for his run for Governor and praised them as achieving the two most important steps of the past year (Rockerfeller Drug Reform, Increase in Minimum Wage). Can a Democratic Candidate really be against what the WFP stands and fights for?

Jennings endorsed Pataki.

Jennings wanted to tear down the Wellington, then he didn't, then he wanted to take down part, now he is changing his tune again. This problem developed on his watch.

From the Federal Audit to Scaringe shooting there is certainly a need for further improvement in the Police Dept.

Perhaps its not the issues that aren't there, its a quality candidate that can run an effective campaign that isn't there. There are plenty of issues. 12 years is too long for a single administration, 16 years is much too long. It's time for a change. Give the people a candidate and watch the support build. Because the "Renassiance" hasn't really made its way to all corners of the city.



Advertising Affecting Editorial?

David Baker has done research showing how the Times Union hasn't covered any of the lawsuits against a leading health care corporatation who is also a regular advertiser in the paper. It would appear that their advertising dollars are protecting them from any negative coverage. It is disturbing to read, but sadly not surprising. All The News That Our Advertisers Allow Us To Print.

Read about it yourself.

And as he points out, the TU has covered other cases against other health care providers. From his site:

"Now perhaps the management of the paper thinks that dangerous medical errors and negligence are not a matter of public interest. Given the alarming number of people reportedly killed and injured each year in health care facilities, most people would probably not agree. And the Times Union’s own editors clearly didn’t think so back in 2002 when they ran all those stories about the tragic death of one of their own reporters. You probably remember the case.

The writer, Mike Hurewitz, died after donating a part of his liver to an ailing brother. The state Health Department later fined Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City a total of $66,000 for a series of failures in its care of the 57-year-old patient. Again using the Times Union’s own data base, a search found that in the following three months, the newspaper ran at least 30 stories about the Hurewitz case. The paper also ran four editorials, the first of which was published just three days after Hurewitz died, and well before the Health Department had found any failure in the care provide by the hospital. Still not satisfied, during the next 12 months the paper ran another 20 stories that were about or made a significant reference to the Hurewitz case."

The catch is that Mr. Hurewitz was not being cared for by the local health care providers that spend all the advertising money.

I encourage you to read all of the information on Mr. Baker's site.

Soares Remarks

So there is lots of hype over some comments the DA made. Do I bet Soares wishes he has chosen his words a little more wisely? Something along the lines of "these kids don't have any opportunities so they take the only one they can find - dealing drugs. Let's try to take the time and effort they spend on dealing drugs and give them other opportunties to apply that where it has a positive impact on the community".

Do people have a problem with that? If so, then I guess the circus at WGY is justified. Do people think there is no hope for anyone who has committed a crime to get back on the right path if given the right opportunity? I didn't hear them voicing their opposition when a certain convicted felon was given the Washington Avenue Armory as a "second chance"? Where was the moral outrage over that story?

I can think of a lot of comments by elected officials that I find a lot more offensive in the past 2 weeks that haven't gotten anywhere near the coverage of this one. Read through the posts from the past few weeks and you'll see what I mean.

How about a story by one or more of our leading papers about the kids on Clinton Avenue? Let's see what opportunties they have. I'd be interested in reading that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

RFK Jr Staying Home

RFK Jr. won't be running for AG of NY. Says he's too busy raising 6 kids. Pretty hard to dispute that argument. I'm sure Mrs. RFK Jr. probably had some input on this one. Way to go. I guess family values are important to democrats.

So, looks like Brodsky is the guy. Hope he doesn't have six kids. Looking forward to learning more about him.

Jennings to Run Again

Mayor Jennings announced that he will run for a fourth term by telling the Capital News 9 reporter, "You've got a scoop here, young man, I'm running again".

Asked for her opinion on the matter Helen DeFossis replied, "I would say about half the people in town are approaching the other half [about running for Mayor]"

Everyone agrees that Mayor Jennings is going to be tough to beat. But if both halves of the town are talking to each other about running against him doesn't that mean the whole town would like to see him challenged? This site sure would. Unchallenged incumbents are bad for democracy.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Our Challenge

The president/CEO of the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc writes a letter to the TU and says that we should ignore the Brookings Institute Report(that references the Albany plans several times in its pages) that says building new convention centers won't help city economies. Not surprising since she is in the convention business and I'm sure would personally benefit quite a bit from this plan. It is the rest of us tax payers that get stuck with this big money losing project that will pay the price.

She references the personal interviews that have been done with regional meeting planners as the basis for going forward with the plan. Have you seen the results of those interviews? I highly recommend reading them. You can find them via the link on the home page of the www.albanyny.org site. They talked to 25 planners and the "proof" they provide us is in the list of “examples of the questions that were discussed and a general consensus of the answers provided”. That is what we are betting $185 million of OUR tax payer money on. You really should read the 1 page of example questions and consensus answers and see how confident you feel about this $185 million project. Its on page 4 of the plan.

Her letter claims "our challenge is to keep this process moving forward". I beg to differ. Our challenge is to do due diligence on this project and keep the process of figuring out what is best for Albany's future moving forward.

More convention center facts to follow shortly.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Of Course a Convention Center is Going to Lose Money

That is how Fred LeBrun's piece begins. Oddly, he then goes on to say a convention center is exactly what we need.

I'm in the process of pulling together all of my convention center research. Much more on this to follow.

Its Not Over, Mr. Mayor

An excellent letter to the editor today about the audit of the Albany Police Dept. 2 quotes:

"Its not over, Mr. Mayor:

"We will not rest as a community until truth and justice prevail"

Right on.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Report Wall Street Doesn't Want You to Read

Nice Headline? I stole it. From a Bloomberg writer. You know Bloomberg News? Their the people that write about money and business and how its never smart to invest in a proven loser of an investment. This guy is pretty adamant about the importance of this report. Look at this quote:

"If you are a city official, editorial writer, or taxpayer, you should read this report."

Well I'm not a city official, some people would certainly say I'm not a writer, but damn if I don't pay taxes. What is this magical report?

``Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy.''

That is the actual name of the Brookings Institute report on convention centers that is being dismissed by Mayors across the country. So why would Wall Street care if Albany builds a convention center or not?

"Wall Street makes millions of dollars underwriting bonds for convention centers and convention center hotels, and doesn't want states and localities to stop betting on the future success of the convention business."

Oh, that makes more sense now. The proposal for the Albany Convention Center has over a $100 million in bonds as financing. Good news for Wall Street! Did you know the combined bonuses for Wall Street employees this year was $15.9 Billion (not a misprint, that says Billion) ? So back to the report and his opinion of it:

``Space Available'' is a damning piece of work, full of facts and figures you should keep at hand next time someone suggests that your municipality should build or expand a convention center."

But my Mayor dismisses this report? I know you think you are some big shot Wall Street money guy genius and that is all cool but my mayor claims to be an "optimist" and really doesn't think this report is worth the paper it is printed on ....are you sure about this?

``Space Available'' should be required reading in every municipality that wants to bond its way to economic development. "

OK, smart money guy, but if I read this report and still think investing in this convention center is a good idea, you'll be hearing from me.

I've read the report. This article should also be required reading.

I wonder what my fellow taxpayers would think if they knew about this?

It's a case of Apples and Oranges - Mayor Dismisses Brookings Report

Now no one is claiming the planned convention center in Raleigh, NC is unique. But the Mayor of Raleigh still dismisses the Brookings report saying its a case of "apples and oranges". He claims the report only shows why convention centers are big money losers in big cities and not in small cities like Raleigh. Perhaps he missed the two mentions of Albany, NY in the report? Or perhaps he didn't read the report. Anyway, full speed ahead on the Raleigh, NC convention center. And if you live in Raleigh, NC....sorry about those higher taxes to bail out this money losing idea. If its any comfort you should have a lot of company shortly.

Federal Audit of Police

The story is resurrected! The TU editorial comments on the federal audit of the Albany Police Department and raises the excellent question of the legitamacy of the procedures allowing for seizure of property.


Welcome to Creative Financing with The Patakis

Ringing PHONE in ROOM with GOVERNOR PATAKI. GOVERNOR answers:

PATAKI: Hello

VOICE: Hi, Governor. It's Cendant.

PATAKI (excited): Satan! How are you?!

VOICE: Not Satan, Cendant...the huge corporate holding company.

PATAKI: Oh, what can you do for me?

CENDANT: We want to give you money...how much would you like?

PATAKI: Well, the law says you can only give me $5,000.

CENDANT: Governor?

PATAKI: Ha, I just say that in case Spitzer's people are listening. How about you hire my wife as a consultant?

CENDANT: What does she do?

PATAKI: Ha! Good one. I like you guys.

CENDANT: How about $55,000 through one of our subsidaries. Anyone else need a job?

PATAKI: How about you send another $25,000 to my PAC down in Virginia?

CENDANT: Done.

PATAKI: And send some of your employees to my Help George Pataki site. It's self explanatory.

CENDANT: Nice doing business with you....I mean helping you out Governor.

PATAKI: Right. If you ever need anything, just give me a call.

See the full list of donors that are bypassing New York's campaign donation limits.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Unique - Like Lancaster, PA Unique?

That Brookings Institute report reared its ugly head in Lancaster but the people behind the project quickly dismissed the report because.....

"Proponents of the local project say Lancaster has a unique heritage and character sufficient to attract visitors and make a convention center and hotel profitable. "

Seems like a strong argument to me. What do you think?

Unique - Like Jackson, Mississipi Unique?

So Mayor Jennings says that Albany is "unique" and thus the Brookings Institute report (you should really read it) that says convention centers are a really bad investment for cities doesn't apply.

As noted earlier Anchorage Alaska had a very similar response and dismissed the report saying they were "unique". But Jackson, Mississippi? I never knew THEY were unique. Apparently they think so. I guess they've never been to Albany. Their defense:

"Convention center supporters say Jackson's plan is unique tying the Mississippi Telecommunications Training and Conference Center into the project."

Well, they do have that on us. Damn. The Mississippi Telecommunications Training....I think they might be uniquer. You be the judge. Wonder if anyone else thinks their city is "unique" in its ability to support a convention center? Stay tuned.


Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

So there is a report that comes out by Mr. Heywood Sanders at the Brookings Institute that says it’s a bad idea to build a convention center in your city and expect it to have positive economic impact. He’s been studying convention centers and their economic impact for the last 2o years. And certain elected officials in a city that are planning to build a convention center and who have their own report saying that it is a great idea to do so… dismiss the report outright.

Quote from City Official

“Sanders’ report is a “broad generalization” that doesn’t take into account the unique generators of demand…that are being incorporated into the Insert City Name Here proposal”.

Anything else you care to add to dismiss the findings of the Brookings report that says your planned convention center is a big loser of a proposition especially since 40 other cities are planning to build new ones as we speak?

City Official: "We still have a tremendous advantage in that we have a first-class, location to sell," he said.

Think you know who the official is and what city he works in?

That’s right. Bruce Bustamante. Of Anchorage, Alaska.

You can find the whole story here. (Note: in this story they refer to the "Outside". I believe this refers to the rest of the U.S. Regardless of what it means, I like it and it has a real Sci-Fi feel to it that fits well with the current political climate).


Look Out, Mr. Spitzer!

That was the message from the TU Editorial Staff right after the Pataki State of the State. They were letting Spitzer know that people would be out to get him. What they failed to mention was that they were going to waste no time in hopping on that bandwagon. Check out their editorial today criticizing Spitzer's campaign for fund raising. They claim his campaign needs to "get a grip" and essentially say that his campaign should focus on other things than fundraising. Their gripe is that Spitzer's campaign manager, Cindy Darrison, sent out an e-mail to supporters asking them to donate before the recent reporting deadline to send a clear message to any Democrat that might be considering challenging Spitzer. I'm a Spitzer supporter and I got the e-mail. Didn't offend me. It reminded me of the many e-mails I got like this from the Kerry campaign and every other campaign I supported last year. If your campaign manager didn't send this e-mail, she wouldn't be doing her job.

The other gripe they have is that Spitzer doesn't have to worry about challengers because he is such a strong candidate. Logically this makes sense. But this is politics. You don't win by sitting back and just waiting to get elected. If you have a chance to raise more money, you raise it. If you can scare the competition, you go for the throat and "get a grip" and squeeze until you are being sworn in. Would RFK Jr. have announced his intention to run for AG this week if Cuomo had $7.9 million in the bank?

And how about this sentence in the TU article on Mayor Jennings State of the City?

"So far this year, no primary challenger has publicly announced a bid against Jennings, who has a substantial war chest". Why would the reporter mention this if according to the editors this is irrelevant? Mayor Jennings held a $1,000 a plate fundraiser recently. Where was the article criticizing the Mayor? There wasn't any. The Mayor is doing what he should do. Raise as much money as quickly as possible to scare off any challengers. It is working for Spitzer. We'll see if it works for Jennings.

And finally, the Spitzer e-mail went to Spitzer supporters. If it bothers the editors so much, I suggest they "unsubscribe" from the mailing list. Or just choose not to give. And they should keep their day jobs because I don't think they should be getting into campaign management anytime soon.


Blog Fog

Democracy In Albany gets a mention in Mark Mcguire's column in the TU today. He sends apologies to any other blogs he has missed. Here is a new one http://doctoralbany.blogspot.com/

And the good doctor has a story today about the arrest of a Cohoes Councilman and a classic quote from the Cohoes Mayor. Check it out.

Democracy is Hard Work

So the last Election Commissioner quit as soon as D.A. David Soares said he would be investigating voter fraud in Albany. Which left an opening for the $33,000 a year part time position. I was thinking that might be an alright job. You only really have to work a couple days a year and you get $33,000. Get the voting machines out, make sure people count the votes, certify the results...see you same time next year. Sure if you want to get into some vote rigging or fraud it might take a bit longer but still it seems like an easy gig. But now the Mayor wants to give the job to the current Deputy Commissioner and the plan is to now make it full-time and the pay will be $80,000 a year. Are we going to be having 3 times as many elections? Start counting the votes 3 times? That seems like a hefty bounce in pay. Even Chancellor King might consider that a bit ambitious. Read about that and how your tax dollars might not be funding local political mailings anymore in Inside Politics.

RIP - Sharply Critical Federal Audit of Police

How do you know when you have effectively buried your story? When the Alternative Weekly Newspaper mentions it in their "Loose Ends" piece. You know you've been especially effective when they even mention how the report was "released by the Albany Police Department late Friday afternoon (a common tactic to get unfavorable news in the less-read Saturday daily paper)". They come right out and acknowledge that the Dept is trying to bury the story and then.....do as they're told and put it to rest in the Loose Ends column.

So, we all know they released this when they did to bury the story. Two questions:

1) Why does everyone have to play along and bury it and not ask a single question?

2) Doesn't the public deserve better?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Constitutional Convention

I'm not exactly sure what this means, but i like the sound of it (from the TU):

"Brodsky and fellow Democratic Assembly members Paul Tonko and Adele Cohen joined in calling for a constitutional convention, which could give the public a chance to vote on restoring legislative budgeting powers, a new redistricting process and other governmental changes in Albany."

Sheldon, Joe, George...I thought you boys were all for reform? You know, giving the people what they want? This sounds like a great start. What better way then something that would "give the public a chance to vote"? Sheldon?

This should help Tech Valley (the one in India, that is)...

An interesting tidbit in the article about the many problems with the current Pataki budget. The one bit that was news to me was:

"Tuition assistance for college students, for example, is in the same budget bill as Pataki's plan to withhold half of that aid from students until they graduate".

I'm not sure they should be calling that "aid". I think something like that should be called the "If you're so smart, college boy/college girl, than how come you can't figure out a way to pay for college? Huh, Smartypants? Answer that one!" plan. I'm working on an acronym for that.

How long will we tolerate this?

Starting to Make Sense

You find yourself wondering why Chancellor King really wanted or needed a 6 month paid vacation. I mean when you're making $250,000 a year, plus an extra $90,000 in cash for your rent, plus a car and driver shouldn't you try to keep a good thing like that going as long as possible? Seems reasonable to me. Hell, I was pretty excited about the raise in the minimum wage.

But, you see, Chancellor King was recently denied a raise. A raise, you say?! How much higher could they possibly go? How many tax payer dollars would they think was reasonable for one man?!

How about $420,000 a year (plus $90K for housing, plus...you know the rest).

You can see why he might now feel a need to "recharge" his batteries since he is working for $170,000 a year less than he thinks he deserves. For the sake of the students I pray that he finds the strength to continue.

You can find this info and other fun facts (Like his links to the Great Pataki Canal Giveaway Scandal) here.




Consistently Crooked

This letter to the editor of the TU does a fine job of detailing a history of shady deals by the Pataki administration. Kudos to the TU for running it. I second the writer when she asks "how long are we going to tolerate this?" Now lets see the details of those unredacted Canal Scandal memos in the pages of the TU.

And then there is this letter from the day before about Chancellor King's 6 month paid vacation request.

How long are we going to tolerate this?


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Burying a Story 101

So, you've got an unpleasant story on your hands and would prefer it go away. Say the Feds just found out that your police department had some pretty serious accounting "practices". What ever can you do?

Step 1: Delay. Refuse to release the story to the public until you are good and ready. Make up some excuse to cover for this (e.g Say you are working on something, polishing your response).

Step 2: Check your calendar for any upcoming 3 day holiday weekends.

Step 3: Release the story on late Friday before the holiday weekend.

Step 4: Sit back, relax, and watch the story sink into oblivion.

Step 5: Tuesday morning, business as usual. It's like it never happened.

So, Presidents day is Feb 21st (for best results release story late on the 18th). After that you've got Easter which is a great way to bury a story and also talk about new beginnings. Good luck.

Wellington, Madison More Than Just Old

While the Wellington and Madison may not be "unique", but apparently they are more than just old according to this letter. Apparently more than just a couple of preservationists in Albany think the buildings should be protected:

"all of Wellington row is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This designation places each of the buildings in the row on the nation's official list of significant buildings worthy of protection"


Unique?

A nice take on the unique qualities positioning Albany for convention center success:

Unique?

Politics Vs. Profit (a.k.a. The Real World)

So I'm sure you know about the new study that says that although dozens of big cities across the country are planning downtown convention centers, the need for these is plummeting and many lose money. You can read the whole thing here. This report was done by the Brookings Institute. Now, according to Mayor Jennings he has a report of his own from Strategic Advisory Group (done in 2001) and the author of this report says, "the city's [Albany's] market was one of the strongest he had ever seen". This report was "updated" this year. So we have conflicting reports. One current, national, and independent that conflicts with what the city says and one paid for by the city that is 4 years old that supports what the Mayor and his construction company campaign donors want. Of course the Mayor dismisses the new report and says it doesn't apply to Albany because we are "unique". Care to bet $185 million in tax payer money on that? He does.

Remember when they were building the Pepsi Arena and some critics said it would end up losing money. Well the numbers are in and in 2004 we are using tax payer money to help pay off the Arena debt. Encouraging?

What does Assemblymen McEneny think:

"This is a public service, something the city needs. Its not supposed to make money, unless you judge it with tunnel vision."

Only a politician could recommend spending $185 million and say that the project wasn't supposed to make money. Try that in the business world some time. How about we get the answer to this question: Have you looked at other ways to spend $185 million in downtown Albany that might actually help the city and NOT LOSE MONEY? I think "tunnel vision" is exactly what we have here on the part of the politicians. The politicians want a convention center and refuse to change course. Does Albany need one?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Vetting

Pull back on SPAC BOARDROOM to see MARCIA WHITE and BOARDMEMBERS

BOARDMEMBER 1: Name?

MARCIA WHITE: Marcia White

BOARDMEMBER 2: Experience?

MARCIA WHITE: None

BOARDMEMBER 1: Connections?

MARCIA WHITE: I work for Joe Bruno

BOARDMEMBER 1: All in Favor

All: Aye

BOARDMEMBER 2: Will you be needing a driver for your car?

The Competition

From Rex Smith's latest column (emphasis added):

"One of our newsroom's key initiatives for 2005 is a renewed commitment to watchdog journalism -- the serious reporting that sets great newspapers apart from the good ones. We are redoubling those efforts, with particular focus on our state government, which is appropriate for the newspaper of New York's Capital Region. We won't scrimp there."

If they would agree to practice watchdog journalism for the city government as well they might just steal my whole readership.

Holiday Weekend Plans

Got any plans for the holiday weekend? Some big playoff games going on. This could be the year for the Jets. So, how about it, maybe we could relax, have a few cold ones, watch the game, release an audit of how the police use to take cash whenever they wanted and not document it...maybe even catch a movie. Sounds good to me. What do you say Chief?

"I'll stop doing it, but we still feel we're right because it's for the community"

Right on. So how about after the Jets game we rent Above The Law?

Mayor?

"I'm glad that it's over"

Sure, I bet you are, so let's kick back and enjoy the weekend. Maybe give Nielsen a call and let him know he doesn't have to pay back that $240. I wonder if you can rent Above the Law in Haiti? I bet they love that down there.

Still seems odd that he split the country over $240. Perhaps there was something more to it....hey, its game time...go Jets...see you Tuesday.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Mayor's Radio Highlights

Not much on the Mayor's show today. Lots of snow removal and parking complaints, one claim of being able to control the weather. One caller did call and ask the mayor what he was going to do about Charter Schools. The Mayor's response was longwinded but could be summed up as follows:
  • The public schools aren't functioning
  • We need to help the kids
  • The public schools are outdated
  • Kids need help
I agree with him on everything except the "outdated" part. Public schools work fine with proper funding, small classes, and good teachers (and well funded preschool and after school programs). He didn't directly address the issue of Charter Schools. I'm sure we'll be hearing more on this.

The only other interesting part was when they Mayor told a caller that the caller didn't have to worry about the snow because the Mayor had made it rain and the snow had melted. Mayor Whalen (or was it Corning) use to say "God put the snow there and God will take it away". Mayor Jennings seems to have updated that to "God made it snow and then I made it rain". I really think this may be more evidence that you shouldn't hold elected office for more than 8 years.



Politicker

Another new blog on NYC and NY State Politics is the http://www.observer.com/thepoliticker/politicker.html

One of the current focuses on the blog is the race for NYC Mayor. Apparently all the challengers are well into their fundraising. On a similar note - will anyone be running against Mayor Jennings in '05? That probably will require some funds as well so you should get started. This blogger needs something to write about so please step up to the plate and announce your intentions.


AlbanyEye

Two stories in the TU today about a new blog focusing on the media in Albany. Albany Eye http://www.albanyeye.blogspot.com/ Check it out.

King Controversy

So Suny Chancellor King is a flip flopper and now apparently he doesn't want to take a fully paid 6 month vacation. Now this has caused a bunch of controversy. But the part that bothers me most is his compensation package.

Salary $250,000 a year

Vacation: As Needed, Negotiable

PLUS, a car AND driver (apparently the Chancellor doesn't drive)

AND (and this is the part that really bothers me), $7,500 a MONTH for housing.

When you make a quarter million dollars a year you should be able to pay your rent. Ever wonder what you can rent for $7,500 a month? I'd be happy to house sit if the Chancellor ever needs another 6 month vacation. After all, my tax dollars are paying part of that rent.

It was nice knowing you, Mr. King.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

What You Are Missing

Apparently in Syracuse the reporters really like to dig into a story and inform the public about their government. If you want to read about the Great Pataki Canal Giveaway Scandal and see transcripts of e-mails of Pataki's Director of Communications Lisa Stoll referring to Alan Hevesi as an asshole (or a fuck, they bleeped the actually expletive so you have to use your imagination) you won't find that in the Times Union.

Perhaps this e-mail transcript (from Thruway Authority Spokesmen Terry O'Brien) explains why:

When only a few newspapers picked up the administration's carefully crafted spin, the authority's spokesman Terry O'Brien wrote, "Frankly TU (the Albany Times Union) and AP were the best of the lot. The rest were absolute crap."

So, The Times Union faithfully picked up the "administration's carefully crafted spin". All The Spin That's Fit to Print.

Much credit to Michelle Breidenbach for writing this story for the Syracuse Post Standard.

Read it here because you won't find it in Albany.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Integrity for Sale

How much is your integrity worth? How about $117,000 a year? Apparently for some people that is more than enough.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

If Karl Rove Only Knew

Apparently there are Republicans in Albany and while this may come as a surprise there isn't too much to worry about because they are currently in a state of disarray. Nothing cheers me up more than Republican infighting about the legitamacy of a Repub vs. Repub election.. Changing laws, rigging elections, "strenuous objections"....all of the usual stuff that they try to get their way instead of just having valid elections.

If this wasn't a blue state i'm sure Mr. Rove would send some of his thugs out to put an end to this. He just wouldn't stand for the following comment:

"All of us were surprised to know we were supporting the mayor [Jennings]"
Annette DeLavallade, President, Capital District Black Republicans

Annette, despite being a democrat I can say, "I feel your pain".






Getting on the bandwagon

So I write about the attack on Spitzer by the Business Council on Saturday and by Monday the Editorial page of the TU is saying the same thing.

And my bit about the comically edited Canal documents on Jan 5th is mirrored in the Editorial column on the 9th.

They won't print my letters to the editor but I guess this is just as good.


A Novel Concept

Interesting column by Paul Bray about the Madison Theatre vs. CVS issue. My favorite part is this bit:

"Fortunately, neighborhood groups are organizing to save the Madison and the "walking style of neighborhood" threatened by a drive-through and expanded parking. Their vigorous opposition is driven in part by active professionals who have recently moved into Albany and don't accept top-down governance from City Hall."

Hey! Not accepting top-down governance? Hmmm....almost sounds like these people want a representational democracy. I think i can get behind that sort of idea.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Accountability - Let's Try It Out!

If Elliot Spitzer doesn't have a bunch of illegal nannies or old DWI's in his closet or on his record then he might be putting together a perfect storm for a landslide election. He is demanding companies and politicians and SPAC follow the law. Which he should because that is his job. The stunning thing is how many people in NY and beyond can't seem to follow the law. Whatever happened to bringing honor back to the Whitehouse? How many different ways are they going to break the law? Yes, it is illegal to use taxpayer money to pay someone to talk up your latest policy.

And what the hell was Hillary Clinton's Finance Director thinking when he was cooking the books? He knew it was illegal. Didn't he think for a second about the fact that the right wing hates Hillary more than anything and are just waiting for this kind of thing?

And speaking of Finance Directors, there is an open position at SPAC now because they too are now the target of a Spitzer investigation and their Finance Director conveniently resigned this week.

And of course we have the ongoing Pataki Canal scandal and related resignations. And the Albany Police Audit that the Mayor is refusing to release to the public.

I think anyone thinking of running against Spitzer better have a sqeaky clean record or they shouldn't bother to waste their money on a campaign. I'm sure they are trying their best to dig up dirt on Spitzer. Do you think it was coincidence that the day of Pataki's State of the State that the head of the largest business association in the US attacked Spitzer? He claimed that Spitzer was being too tough on all the CEO's that had just made "honest mistakes and legitimate accounting differences". Honest mistakes. That is a funny way to describe large scale fraud. If that is the best they can do on Spitzer, I think he'll be alright.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Finally

The Albany County Democrats recently got together and talked about some issues. Of course Mayor Jennings and County Chairwoman Barnette weren't at the meeting which is why one of the problems noted was:

"Toleration by leadership of an environment in which Democratic officials elected in Albany County see fit to fund-raise for Republicans, endorse Republicans for election and even to become a Republican"

Its about time people started making some noise about this. Jennings can talk a good "i'm a team player and work with both sides of the aisle" game to try to explain his support for Pataki but the fact is he has repeatedly endorsed candidates running against the Democrats in Albany. That isn't bipartisanship. That is hubris and its time to put an end to it.

Let's Try That Again

Pataki and his crew are digging a hole as big as the Erie Canal with this one. They finally agreed to give the documents in question to the panel investigating the Great Canal Giveaway Scandal. However, they blacked out all the names of anyone involved. Did they think that one would just slip by unnoticed? You can't find us guilty if you can't read our names! Alas, they got caught in the crafty scheme and now have agreed to provide the real documents. I think they can be trusted, don't you?

And today in a letter to the editor of the Times Union Assembly Member PAUL D. TONKO said the following:

"As a participant in Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's recent hearings concerning the state Thruway Authority's awarding of the contract for the entire Erie Canal development rights to one individual, I was dismayed, yet not surprised, with the behavior of the governor and his administration.

The pattern of secrecy, avoidance of full disclosure, disrespect for the taxpaying public and disdain for legislative oversight has been routine."

Come on Paul, tell us what you really think. I hope George doesn't read the paper today. He's got to concentrate on that State of the State speech and this might be somewhat disconcerting.