Thursday, February 28, 2008

'Roid Rage

I’m not on steroids but nonetheless, I’ve got some steroid induced rage. How so, you ask? I am growing increasingly perturbed by the waste of government time and resources investigating allegations of improper performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. I’m not here to defend any ballplayers either. I simply don’t see it as a relevant issue our government should be concerned with.

It’s pretty obvious that steroids and other questionable substances are rampant in professional sports, baseball and otherwise. God help us all if the government is going to try to play enforcer on that front. We’ll never get anything of consequence accomplished on the issues that really matter. In fact, this whole mess is nothing more than an opportunity for no-name politicians to grandstand. Is it any wonder real problems go unnoticed, unaddressed, or unresolved?

Beyond the poor example these athletes set for our youth by this behavior, I’m really disinterested in the travails of these pampered individuals. I’m pretty certain I never pulled a voting lever for anyone to investigate the matter…but perhaps, I misremember?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the Cold of the Night

It seems lately that every meeting I attend is in a snowstorm. Last night I attended the important public hearing on the PILOT for SI Group. I’d never been to an IDA meeting before and thought it would be educational for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, my daughter was eager to accompany me.

By now, you probably know the PILOT was approved but not before a rather lengthy Executive Session produced a few additional concessions from SI Group. I’m not smart enough to tell you with absolute certainty that it was a good deal but I’m inclined to believe that it was probably a prudent decision to hammer out an agreement. If SI Group lives up to it’s end, it could ultimately be good for everyone. A calculated and necessary gamble given the pending tax litigation that now goes away.

The public hearing itself was a bit of a disappointment. Gazette reporter Justin Mason was generous when he described it as sparsely attended. Three people had their say so, expressing their concern about the financial impact on residents. Strangely, no one representing the Schalmont school district took the opportunity to vet the PILOT’s impact on school programs. The anticipated shortfall in revenues that the school district will shoulder is substantial no matter how you slice it. And lack of that money will either result in reduced programs or increased school taxes. Of course, losing the tax litigation could’ve produced the same or worse result.

In the end, I was especially surprised at the lack of public interest. I suppose I shouldn’t be by now. A cold night indeed.

Carrying the Water

Have you ever carried someone else’s water? I have. Not knowingly, but I carried it just the same having convinced myself that the water was actually mine. Chalk it up to political naiveté or just plain ego. More likely it was a combination of both. Anyway, after several years of maneuvering, or being maneuvered as the case may be, I’ve finally arrived back at where I started but a lot wiser and certainly more perceptive. In short, I’m pretty sure I know which water is mine to carry. I just hope it’s not too heavy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me

Taxes. George Harrison captured the emotion we all feel when we begin to realize just how much in taxes we pay. Just how much is enough?

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

We’re getting absolutely crushed by taxes, in New York State particularly. Property taxes are skyrocketing. Sales taxes are incrementally increased with greater frequency. George might have been exaggerating about the degree to which we’re taxed in his lyric, but his disdain for the taxman was never clearer.

So what will it take to reverse the pain? I know I don’t have the answer but I know where to start. Don’t vote for the incumbent at election time. I know it sounds wacky but how else are we going to get our elected officials to listen? We need across the board spending cuts in conjunction with no tax increases. One without the other is a losing game.

For example, Schenectady County is already in dire fiscal straits with budget shortfalls. How does that happen? It’s poor, some would say incompetent, budget forecasting. The problem, I think, is that they do the forecasting in reverse, essentially manufacturing the projected numbers to get them to what they already intend to spend. Somehow it continues. People complain but they fail to translate that outrage into different outcomes. In short, we keep getting screwed. More to the point, we keep letting them screw us.

I’d abolish the entire tax code as we know it, if it were up to me. It’s not.

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me.

Don’t I know it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Wind

The prospect of wind farms in Rotterdam took a small step forward at last Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting when a 197 foot temporary test tower was approved. The tower is approved for up to three years and it may well turn out that there is not enough wind to make a full-blown wind farm economically viable. This newly approved tower will be situate to already existing cell phone towers apparently.

Though only one resident spoke out against the tower, the concerns voiced were aimed more at future efforts to erect a wind farm and therefore were slightly misdirected. It will, nonetheless, warrant much closer scrutiny as this initiative progresses and the onus will be on the Town Board to make sure zoning is updated and sufficient to ensure proper safeguards should a larger scale project emerge.

Alternative energy is vitally important but look for this issue to heat up if a wind farm is eventually proposed as it was in Cherry Valley.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Early Call

It’s a long way to the election but after last night’s Democratic debate, I’d say get used to the notion of President Obama. He’s speaking the language that people understand. They yearn for someone to make their lives better, the country better. They believe.

It’s strange to see someone as savvy as Mrs. Clinton getting out-savvied. In my opinion, her arrogance has defeated her. She, along with many others, assumed early on that she was entitled to the nomination. It would be a cakewalk. Then Barack Obama captured attention unexpectedly. No matter, he’d fade away in good time. But strangely, he didn’t and now her back is against the wall. She looks unsure of just how to right the ship.

How could it happen? In simple terms, Obama seems to believe what he says. He inspires people to believe that what he says is possible. To make the promises reality, he’s going to need people to be motivated, inspired, and committed to believing.

The million dollar question is whether he can deliver. I hope he can because the last Democrat whose big talk I believed was Eliot Spitzer who disappointed me royally.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Road Traveled

It’s been a long arduous journey in the quest for drainage relief for the Masullo Estates subdivision. I’m reminded of this simple fact every time I take my dog for a walk and witness my neighbor’s sump pumps pumping furiously. I’m reminded again every time I leave for work and try unsuccessfully to navigate the ever-increasing number of potholes that unmercifully take their toll on my vehicle. And of course, I’m reminded every successive Spring that arrives without the associated previously promised relief. It’s frustrating.

With Spring once again approaching, I wonder if 2008 will be any different than the Spring of 2007, 2006, or 2005. The Town Board has been spending increasing amounts of money studying the potential fix. That’s good…and bad. Good because we hope we’re getting closer to actual relief. Bad because there still hasn’t been a shovel put in the ground to provide it. All the while, our roads continue to deteriorate. The logic is circular. We can’t fix the roads until we fix the drainage. We can’t fix the drainage because we need to study it further. And round and round we go.

To be fair, this administration has probably done the most to address the decades old problem. Unfortunately, they really haven’t done anything yet.

My personal stake is as it has always been. I’d like to see my road paved. It’s that simple for me. But many of my neighbor’s have serious drainage issues. As my knowledge of the problem increased, my outrage led me to believe we could get it fixed. NAG was born October 5, 2004 and its effectiveness has been mixed, as evidenced by the inability to force tangible relief.

At this stage, we’re effectively up against it, as they say. The nearby Helderberg Meadows is virtually approved and their required sewers are likely to become ours too. I fear that sewers will be offered as our drainage relief. It’s the groundwater, stupid. That’s the real problem. And it may get overlooked in the end. Right now, the Town is poised to repeat history with the approval of Helderberg Meadows.

In the end, I hope I at least get a road I can travel.



What a great word. According to Wikipedia,

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally un-related. In order to be synchronous, the events must be related to one another conceptually, and the chance that they would occur together by random chance must be very small.

It’s simpler for me. Synchronicity = The Police. The first event was 1983 when I attended their concert in Shea Stadium. Twenty-five years later, I am poised to attend their concert at SPAC.

It was unfathomable in 1983 to think that Synchronicity would be The Police’s final album. They were at their pinnacle…and then they disbanded. Even with all the other rock band reunions, this one was never expected.

Throw in Elvis Costello opening and you’re getting every penny’s worth of the indisputable exorbitant price tag.

It's so deep, it's so wide
You're inside

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Molding

Do not attempt to adjust your sets. The message about to be conveyed is not recommended for those with faint hearts. Please contain your bewilderment and muffle your screams. The Rotterdam Planning Commission did a nice job at their meeting tonight.

No, you haven't entered the Twilight Zone and I haven't lost my mind. It's a well-known fact that I am generally not a fan of the Planning Commission and have given them a fair share of criticism. However, I want to acknowledge good government too when I am fortunate to bear witness to it.

Tonight I accompanied some of our promising youth to the meeting. It was a full agenda with quite an array of projects in various stages of review. It was ideal, in fact, for the purpose of grasping the Planning Commission's function.

I thought I'd function as an interpreter of sorts. But Chairman DiLallo recognized the students' presence right away, acknowledged it, and proceeded to provide them with one of their detailed packets so they could better understand what was transpiring. He didn't stop there either. Throughout the meeting he explained some of the more technical aspects, such as SEQR, and their importance to the ultimate decision rendered. There was a concerted effort by all participants to make their comments understandable. I must say I was impressed.

Good job, tonight Planning Commission!

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming...

Last Word

The Rotterdam Town Board wanted a raise. I opposed it. It didn’t pass.

The Town Board decided to form a committee to study and recommend pay raises. I opposed it. It passed anyway.

It is inevitable that a pay raise for Town Board members will be passed in the next budget regardless of whatever suggestions might come out of the committee.

Part of the logic being used to advocate for the pay raise is based in a belief that greater pay will result in attracting better qualified candidates for office. Fortunately, there is a very prominent example for us to examine to determine if that belief is valid. Our own New York State Legislature is maneuvering to give themselves a pay raise too. Yes, the very same dysfunctional body responsible for perpetually late budgets and highest-in-the-nation tax levies. Their desires for a raise aside, let’s take a look at their existing gig.

The base pay for a state legislator is $79,500. That’s second only to Michigan and California and compares with an average salary in New York of about $45,820.

Each legislator also gets $8,800 for attending the January to June session plus per diem expenses. Special committee days draw $143 per day. More than half also get anywhere from a few thousand to more than $30,000 more in stipends for additional committee posts. Add it all up and most are making $100,000 or more.

Now I don’t mean to compare apples to oranges by comparing our Town Board members to State Legislators which of course, is what I’m doing isn’t it? My point is that we offer quite a nice premium package to our state officials for delivering late budgets and ever-increasing taxes. We’ve certainly attracted the best-of-the-best with higher compensation on that front, haven’t we?

The underlying default claim to a raise is how hard they work. I’ll grant them that claim. They work hard. We all do. If only that was enough for demanding more money. No one forces someone to run for elected office and assume the associated pitfalls of the personal sacrifices made in order to serve.

I hope this is my last word on this subject.

Facts and figures credited to Michael Gormley, The Associated Press

Monday, February 18, 2008

Molding Young Minds

I’ve always relished the opportunity to have an impact on a child’s development. As my children grew up, I was afforded opportunities to coach softball and soccer. It’s difficult to describe the reward from witnessing a child’s realization of mastery of a skill and knowing you helped them attain that realization.

So it was with great excitement that I trudged off to Rotterdam Town Hall the other night with my daughter in tow. We attended the town meeting together as part of a school assignment but she was genuinely interested in finding out what happens at one of these meetings. She’d heard my retellings numerous times but was looking forward to a first-hand view. The agenda that evening was mundane, however, with little public participation, but we were fortunate to hear Mr. Aaron Mair address the Board about aquifer concerns anyway.

The meeting turned out routine. Too bad because sometimes it’s better than watching TV. I think my daughter was secretly hoping to witness some fireworks. Plenty of time for that, I told her, if she stays involved. I warned her that attendance at these meetings could sometimes be painful. A few moments later, this turned out to never be truer when I accidentally slammed the car door on her finger! (Miraculously, she wasn't injured severely.)

We’ve got plans to attend some other upcoming governmental meetings soon. (Assuredly, they’ll turn out less painful.)

All of this is important because she’ll be of legal voting age for the general election. I’m proud to say she’s been paying attention, developing her own views as she determines what’s most important. It’s fun to have different political discussions with her and listen to what issues are most prevalent on young people’s minds. Our views are often different from each other as you’d expect them to be but I’ve been surprised that she’s as much of a teacher to me as I am to her.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Breaking the Camel's Back

Protecting the Great Flats Aquifer has once again been getting a lot of attention. The most recent instance is a resurgence of public outcry regarding the potential impact Long Pond Village will have on our water supply. This, of course, is being prompted by the visible construction of that project now being done, though the public hearings and subsequent project approval occurred long ago.

A closer look invites examination of past projects in the same area. The long-embattled Rotterdam Square Mall literally paved the way. BJ’s plaza and associated strip mall wasn’t far behind. Putnam Woods condos also jumped the bandwagon. Long Pond Village is simply the latest encroachment, soon to be accompanied by associated small strip malling next door. Don’t forget to consider potential adverse impact from the Marotta dump issue in Pattersonville too.

The Schenectady County Intermunicipal Watershed Board is charged with oversight to ensure that the aquifer continues to serve as a viable clean water source for Rotterdam and the other communities that rely on this water source. To date, they do not seem alarmed that all this development will cause harm. I’m not an environmentalist by any stretch but I do recognize that our water supply is probably Schenectady County’s most vital asset. Those in charge need to recognize that greater protections of it should be afforded. I can’t imagine that the final straw isn’t far away from being laid, if it hasn’t been already. Who’ll be responsible for that?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On Your Mark. Get Set. Study.

Last night was the second work session of the CDTC Exit 26 land use study and like the first session was well-attended. While the concerns and proposals are varied, the bike crossing across Route 5S, where there was a recent fatality, seems of particular interest to those that spoke. Essentially, it’s a safety issue and fortunately, the study has offered the opportunity to discuss possible worthwhile improvements. There will be much to consider when the concepts meet the design phase. Of course, funding any ultimate decisions will prove challenging regardless.

I thought the concept of “the green ribbon”, an idea to tie three distinct areas of the Junction together via green space along the river was intriguing. The idea one resident had of rerouting the bike path along that area and creating a new 5S crossover also made sense but it is unlikely that endeavor would ever be undertaken due to prohibitive costs. I can understand the notion of working to improve what’s already there but still it was an interesting idea to consider.

The current zoning designations didn’t seem to get much of an overhaul if I understood correctly. Wetlands, flood plains, and the aquifer are sure to exert influence over that aspect too.

The real benefit of this study will be when it is incorporated into the Town Comprehensive Plan, along with the other two interchange studies, in coordination with beefed-up performance standards. The early indication of that taking place is late summer or fall of this year. That’s the final exam for all our studying.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday Musings

Eli scrambles…throws…touchdown…the Giants win…the GIANTS WIN! Oh sorry…wrong day.

If you’re registered in a party, it’s time to go to the polls to select presidential candidates. Whoever your preferred candidate may be, I encourage you to go have your say.

Like many of you, I’m not thrilled with my remaining choices necessarily but I’ve seen worse fields. I’m a Republican who came of voting age during Reagan’s rise. I liked Nixon. I liked Goldwater. But after formative years of seeing issues in black or white, I’ve slowly relinquished my far-right stance and slid toward the middle. It’s a function of age, I think. Like I’ve stated before, many issues along with their associated solutions, are gray.

I believe in smaller government. Way smaller. On every level. I want the tax code thrown out and rewritten. I want a return to fundamental constitutional government. Most that concur, however, concede it’ll never happen. People clamor for change but then fail to embrace it when an opportunity to realize it comes along. I’m talking about real change, not the kind being paid lip service to by Republican and Democrat candidates alike.

I have always really liked McCain. But he’s not the maverick independent he previously was and I just can’t get excited about his presidency. His time has passed, I think. I thought another favorite of mine, Giuliani, would garner my support but he faded prematurely. A true leader not to be. Romney… Huckabee…not for me.

I find myself being drawn to Ron Paul in the way I was drawn to Ross Perot. Of course, conventional wisdom tells us he doesn’t stand a prayer. Nonetheless, he’s likely to capture my vote later today. Some will say I wasted my vote but the reality is he’s the candidate with views closest to mine.

I think the Democrats are likely to win the White House no matter who the Republicans field. I love the idea of a woman for president. I don’t think Clinton is the right woman but she’s competent and intelligent enough. Not to my liking but we could do a whole lot worse. I am intrigued by Obama though. He is passionate, dynamic, and charismatic. He seems to offer a fresh approach. I could potentially see myself pulling the lever for him but I’ve got to do my homework and examine the meat on his bones.

If only Eli was running…