Saturday, March 29, 2008

Quality of Life

Quality of Life. It’s this term that is purportedly key to Rotterdam decision-making. Often times, this term becomes linked with another popular term in Rotterdam. That term is Smart Growth.

Smart Growth is mostly a euphemism for economic development. It means many different things depending to whom you’re speaking. In Rotterdam, Smart Growth has come to mean economic development while preserving and enhancing Quality of Life. Accepting that description in simple terms begs the question than of what Quality of Life (QOL) means. Therein lies the rub.

I’ve heard both terms used so often by our elected here in Rotterdam that I suspect they’ve lost their meaning for many. Seemingly, the definition of QOL for our elected is simply predicated on an expanded tax base. More businesses. More jobs. The implication is that if these are provided you can’t help but have enhanced QOL. While I agree these things are important if not vital, they can actually be at odds with preserving and enhancing QOL.

How else can you explain the previously proposed Wal-Mart super center that would’ve disrupted the QOL that many residents in that area enjoy currently? How else can you explain the approval of Helderberg Meadows that will exacerbate drainage problems in the town? How else can you explain the McLanes food distribution facility that will operate trucks 24 hours per day and increase traffic through a high-end residential area? How else can you explain the exploding construction effort adjacent to the aquifer, putting our precious water supply in jeopardy?

In and of themselves, none of these projects are “bad” and in fact, they deliver some of that all-important economic development…but there’s certainly not anything “smart” about much of the growth we’ve invited. So much of that relates back to an outdated Comprehensive Plan. I’ve said it before but it bears mentioning again. The Plan has got to come first, followed by the building of appropriate infrastructure before approval of these projects. Doing it in reverse as the Town has attempted is a recipe for disaster and ultimately the very QOL we aim to preserve and enhance is compromised.

So just what is QOL? Here’s my attempt at a concise definition: A healthy, enjoyable environment where community design discourages additional traffic, noise, or adverse environmental effects, especially in the residential areas of Town. There’s a lot unsaid here but real quality is somewhat of an intangible. It varies depending on who you are talking to but deep down there is a universal feeling attached to it by the typical resident. He wants a place to relax, feel comfortable and safe, and raise a family safely. We all know progress marches on but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of what we value. If we can’t preserve that, all the economic development in the world won’t matter.


Big K has breached the void by logging the first direct comment of what I hope is many to follow. Though this blog was never intended to be tremendously interactive, I hope others that read my views are encouraged to open constructive dialogue with me on the topics I introduce. We can probably all learn something from the discussion.

I moderate all comments that are made. If they are inappropriate they won't be published which isn't to say you can't disagree with me. I don't tolerate politics of hate, however. If you want to spew rumor, slander or mock elected officials, or toe party lines and invect rhetoric, this isn't the place to comment. If you'd like to offer solutions or alternatives, or provide useful factual update (like Kevin did) then I welcome your participation and look forward to the positive outcomes our debate can achieve.

Friday, March 28, 2008


I went to the Town Board meeting Wednesday, March 26th with no intentions other than to listen to a discussion of the seemingly adopted SI Group PILOT sponsored by the IDA. There still seems to be some confusion and concern by the Town Board, who mostly still hadn’t seen the actual agreement so I gleaned less than I had hoped. Mr. Mertz raised some thoughtful questions that hopefully will be answered adequately.

One gentleman from Rotterdam Junction expressed concerns about how the proposed water tower was being considered in light of new site possibilities created by the SI Group PILOT.

The agenda overall was again very light and uneventful. Despite a public hearing for a recently recommended zone change by the Planning Commission, no one chose to speak to it outside of the applicant. Zone changes usually get more interest than that. My own interest has already been satisfied when I attended the Planning Commission review of the matter.

Since the meeting concluded in relatively short order, I impulsively decided to issue my 4th annual Spring plea for drainage relief and road repair for Masullo Estates. There is much still to be done to accomplish getting a shovel in the ground this season. With March over, no status on the “ongoing” surveying, a looming sewer district vote to determine the extent of any eventual plan, there doesn’t appear to be much room for optimism right now.

On a side note, Mr. Silva inquired about the progress of the Salary Committee. Sadly, no one had an answer beyond that the Town was preparing some information for the committee to use in their ponderings, though no one knew if ponderings had commenced.

Quarterly Review

The first quarter of 2008 is about to conclude and I thought I’d briefly evaluate my efforts and intentions in creating this blog.

I must admit I thought I’d be more active in my postings but I don’t typically spend a ton of time in front of a computer for personal use. Heading forward, I probably should think about a schedule for days I will definitely post, but it isn’t likely to happen because I like to feel inspired when I write and my crazy schedule probably isn’t going to afford me that predictable luxury. Plus, I don’t want to post just for the sake of maintaining a posting count. The Town Board agendas have been pretty quiet too which hasn’t helped production.

One thing I’ve enjoyed is stretching into some other levels of government. It simply couldn’t be avoided in a presidential election cycle and the unprecedented state government events, but I’ve tried to limit myself because I want my focus to remain primarily on Rotterdam issues I feel are important and what drives me to think the way I do.

I’ve just finished organizing my archives again so I expect to explore a few topics in more depth over the coming weeks.

Round Rooms

The politics of hate. For all the talk of moving beyond the daily vitriol, we seem to collectively fail in that pursuit. Whether we’re bashing our town officials, county officials, state officials, federal officials, party officials, or even each other, it’s self-defeating to our desired goals. I suppose it’s just easier to criticize than to actually try to participate in forging solutions. The problem with that, of course, is that we’re doomed to remain stagnant, stuck in our own cesspool of bitterness, anger, and apathy.

I’ve always believed that assigning blame is generally a non-productive exercise beyond identifying root causes of problems so that measures can be implemented to help prevent similar missteps from occurring. Unfortunately, for some people, they become obsessed with revisiting who’s to blame and become mired in a mindset that can’t get to dealing with possible remedies.

Long-time ex–Rotterdam Supervisor Constantino is still blamed for a multitude of sins. Ex- Supervisor Paolino is still getting knocked for initiating the town’s reval. Current Supervisor Tommasone is abused for studying issues to death while Councilman Mertz is routinely criticized for nobly sticking his neck out on a host of issues. County Legislator Dagostino is still vilified for her involvement in a questionable land sale. State leaders seem dysfunctional in nearly all aspects. Presidential contenders have resorted to trading distorted or exaggerated barbs daily. Some will say it’s just the nature of the game and can’t be avoided. I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that it’s some sort of game, with us as pawns to be maneuvered. I’m sick and tired of accepting the inappropriateness that dominates the process without getting results. It’s time for a new paradigm.

I don’t live in a bubble. I do my fair share of complaining and I’ve probably been guilty of being inappropriate myself at times. Let’s face it, many times they probably deserve it. I hope I’ve succeeded in never making it personal, though I’m also aware I’ve upset a few people along the way that have taken my comments personally.

I think the situation Senator Obama finds himself confronted with is a lesson for us all. He’s proved not to be perfect and Rev. Wright’s comments are undeniably disturbing. I don’t find my politics to be in alignment with Senator Obama as he leans left when I lean right, though I appreciate the foundation of his arguments because they surprisingly begin from the same constitutional basis more often than not. We just arrive in slightly different places. I can respect that because as I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily have all the answers. What I think is important about his candidacy is that we finally choose as a nation to acknowledge the existing racial divide in terms we haven’t before, put aside the provocative comments from the fringe, and begin trying to find a better way to co-exist so that we can solve the bigger problems that need solving that perpetuate. We’ll never, ever make progress if we continue “to retreat into our respective corners” of excuses. And that corner doesn’t just accommodate our discomfort discussing race but every other issue we encounter. It’s time for all of us to embrace the effort to be better than we’ve been regardless of our candidate preferences. And that applies from top to bottom. From the White House in Washington to the Town Hall in Rotterdam.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lightning Round

Easter weekend. High winds. The Woodsman returns. I’m just waiting for the first match to hit the ground.

Spring. Rain. Sump pumps working overtime. I wonder how the latest “study” is coming along. Of course, we’ll need the results before any action is taken. We’re also still awaiting a sewer district vote which will have to be organized and conducted before any decision for action is undertaken. Do you think there’ll be a shovel in the ground to provide drainage relief this year?

Grievance Day. It’s sneaking up. It will be interesting to see how many turn out to contest their still contentious assessed values especially in light of a weaker real estate market that has likely trimmed a little too. I love that our new assessor is named Mr. Surprise!

Flashing signs. Looks like there’s more to the proposed law change than originally met the eye as several business owners have expressed desire for such signs. We’ve already built in exemptions for schools, fire houses, and fraternal organizations. This looks like the evolution of spot zoning as surely waivers will be granted. I’m not losing any sleep over this one though unless my neighbor installs a flashing sign that keeps me awake.

Draper School. Charter School. Future derelict eyesore? I hope not. This could turn out to be the next hot potato in town. For those that recall, the approved charter school was met with strong resident opposition that fell on deaf ears. This one is worth watching.

Four Corners vacancy. What’s the deal? I haven’t seen anything on any agendas that pertains to the future of this building. I’d guess drugstore but the lot appears too small. Savvy move getting rid of the tenants beforehand though after what Capitol Plaza experienced by way of backlash. I’ll be sorry to see the billboards on top go. They were my favorite billboards. Maybe just a rehab is underway?

Ding! Time’s up.

Lions, & Tigers, & Bear Stearns, Oh My!

I have just one question…Where’s my bailout?

Fundamentally, I’m against bailouts. I like to believe in free markets to determine value. I have a finance degree, 20+ years of work experience on Wall Street, and am also a Realtor.

The recent bailout of Bear Stearns orchestrated by the Fed and JP Morgan is bad policy and is setting ever increasing bad precedent by the day, as now the price to shareholders is being increased to $10 from $2. It’s near impossible to be able to determine what value, if any, is left for shareholders but short of a bailout, value would’ve likely been determined by the market to be $0.

But for all my opposition to this bailout and its associated burden on taxpayers, it was absolutely necessary to prevent further calamity. Liquidity in the financial markets is already stressed and a bank failure of this magnitude would surely have set off a bank run and other giants would’ve fallen too. A collapse of the entire financial system would create Depression-like consequences the likes of which generations of Americans have never seen. The government had to step in or how ever ugly you and I think it is from a taxpayer’s view now, it would’ve been something unimaginably worse.

The real underlying problem here is where was the government when lending common-sense went out the window? Where was the government when derivatives were proliferated upon investors? The questions go on and on without adequate answers. There are varied and substantial layers of government regulation (Fed, SEC, FDIC, etc.) that facilitated this debacle by assuming a See No, Hear No, Speak No posture. They extended normal business cycles by allowing banks to play ever looser with the rules. It couldn’t last forever. They knew it but ignored it. We’re now imploding. We’ll see what the toll is, but many a little guy will be left holding the bag.

For now anyway, the bailout has succeeded in restoring confidence to the banking system and markets, as was the intention. Like it or not, we all need that confidence to sustain itself because if it doesn’t, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Caught in a Web

I just got finished looking at the Town of Rotterdam’s website and am slightly disappointed by the lack of useful updating. I was happy to see that past 2008 agendas are finally being uploaded but there are no “minutes” as one might hope and expect, and can be found on other town websites. I remember the Supervisor making mention of the possibility of having cd’s of the meetings available and wonder if progress has been made on that initiative. Also, I noticed that the latest newsletter upload is the inaugural one from May 2007. I seem to remember at least one other that I received in the mail that doesn’t appear yet. The Planning Commission agenda for the meeting that took place March 18, 2008 has yet to appear too.

Positively, the town directory seems adequate and several links are of particular usefulness. They include the school links, the library link, the real property database, and the sex offender registry. Other useful data can be found under Important Notices where a land use study appears along with an EIS and budget links.

Overall, the website is improving but is still lacking in providing critical information, such as the town code. I hope that’s something that will be added. I’ve suggested in the past that it may be worth investigating having a student intern provide the support necessary to keep the website updated.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


My last post got me thinking about the people I’ve met that inspire me to be better than I might otherwise be. We all have our own list I suppose but I thought I’d share some of the individuals on my list. I’ll intentionally limit myself to only those people who I’ve actually met and had substantive contact with.

My wife, Ann is absolutely the most influential person on my life. I’m consistently amazed at her insight on all matters complicated and delicate. Her advice is always speedy but never hasty and rarely off the mark. Truly the most remarkable person I know, she is my greatest resource.

Before Ann came along, I was most influenced by my parents and a few special teachers. My Dad is a WWII veteran who grew up through the Depression. I was always impressed by his work ethic and commitment and ability to make sacrifices without ever making them apparent. I think I’m only now beginning to fully appreciate that and understand how to incorporate some of it into my own behavior. My Mom is the one who nurtured and encouraged me in a way my Dad never would. She was the first person who made me understand the importance of believing in myself and that giving my best effort was all that was important in the scheme of things.

The most influential teacher on my life was my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Kaplan. She encouraged my writing, especially creatively, and introduced me to public speaking. To this day, she remains a resource to me.

I also had the great fortune, which often times felt like a great misfortune, of growing up alongside two individuals that went on to even greater accomplishments. Kevin Short, who is a northeast professor responsible for pioneering the compression technology that gives your cell phone those fancy rings among other things, and Walt Weiss, of Oakland A’s fame. Both provided enduring examples of excellence that I could directly relate to.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of being invited to an intimate investment seminar in Vail. Several individuals had a profound impact on my thinking but two stand out prominently. The first is Tom Kirk, Jr. whom I’ve already mentioned and the second is General Hal Moore. These two men are renowned for their ordeals but it was their distilled advice which seemed so utterly simple that was of most impact. In the context of what they had endured, their demeanor and insight on life was remarkable and compelling, yet surprisingly straightforward and simple.

These people I’ve mentioned are but a few of the direct influences on my life and how I choose to approach things. It’s amazing to me the shared qualities between those famous and those ordinary. We all know individuals with these qualities; the qualities hard to define sometimes but easier to recognize. We can all be inspired to be better than we would be otherwise if only we stay alert to the wisdom that touches our lives every day.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Reading one of the local forums has me a bit depressed. It seems when things quiet down, the tenor of comments turns nastier. I never understood the appeal of continual complaining or repeated bashing simply to complain or bash. It gets old fast and for the most part, is unnecessary if not redundant.

I’m not especially forum savvy and I no doubt expect intelligent discussion with a purpose in the wrong venue, I suppose. Maybe I’m just in a foul mood but if I wasn’t I now know where to go to get in one.

I do my fair share of complaining too but I then try to move past it to find a solution. It’s just plain unproductive otherwise. My best bet would probably be to realize that some people like to complain. And then they complain some more. And that’s all they’re ever going to do until they draw their last breath. I should learn to avoid those people.

I’m reminded of some advice given to me by Mr. Tom Kirk, Jr. “Look in the mirror each day and ask, have I been the best father, the best husband, the best son, etc. that I could be today?” That may sound like dorky advice unless you know who Tom Kirk, Jr. is and what he lived through. I’ll let you dig around on your own to find out but he’ll likely come up again in later posts. In the meantime, look in the mirror and ask the question of yourself. The answer may help you to stop complaining.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back To Business

Well, it's official. We'll have a new governor effective Monday after Mr. Spitzer finally saw the light and resigned. Let's hope Mr. Paterson is able to move our state forward.

There's a Rotterdam Town Board meeting tonight but the agenda is very light. There is a public hearing on limiting flashing signs that I don't imagine will generate much opposition. All said, looks like the quiet will continue here in town for a little while longer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

In A New York Minute

On Day 435, everything changes. The Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Ness, Mr. Clean, The Crusader of the Year, The Steamroller is now, just Client – 9. The reformer, Governor Eliot Spitzer, who promised great changes and rode a mandate of historic proportion into office, has fallen. And fallen hard. I am as stunned and dismayed as anyone. It’s inconceivable to me that all his accomplishments could vanish in an eye blink … all for sex.

This is by no means ordinary infidelity. It’s criminal. He of all people knew it. The stink of illegality and corruption is impossible to shake. This is a colossal betrayal of public trust affecting his ability to govern. There is no doubt, Governor Spitzer must resign.

The saying, “What goes around, comes around” was never more apt. Mr. Spitzer built his reputation as a moral bully. He’s about to be on the receiving end of such treatment, and rightly so. I have no sympathy for him. It was additionally disgraceful that his gargantuan ego allowed him to subject his wife to even more humiliation by having her at his side during his public apology. I thought that was extremely sad.

The motivation for the fall will be subject to endless speculation. Invincibility Complex? Certainly, a classic case of hubris. Whatever the reason, I’m ashamed to be a New Yorker today.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Not the Answer

I see the City of Schenectady is having trouble with their crossing guards not showing up for work. There is no doubt that’s a serious problem in need of remedy.

But of course, the first reaction is a knee-jerk one…and it’s not the answer. They are suggesting a pay raise without even knowing the underlying reasons for the absences, something they will likely never know anyway. Of more concern, their proposed plan rewards poor performance. Wouldn’t it be great if anytime you wanted a raise, you simply stopped showing up for work? In my world, you’re fired for that and replaced by someone else. Lately, government’s answer to all woes seems to be a pay raise. God help us all.

Visions II

I HAVE A VISION of the Town of Rotterdam being even greater than it is. I wouldn’t live here otherwise. It starts with an adequate Comprehensive Plan.

I HAVE A VISION of the needs of residents coming first. A vision where resident concerns are not made subservient to developer desires. This is derived and accomplished from adherence to the Comprehensive Plan.

I HAVE A VISION of economic growth in the Town complimenting and enhancing our Quality of Life, not dictating and overriding it. That involves decision-making that considers long-term impacts as carefully as short-term benefits.

I HAVE A VISION where taxes do not have a stranglehold on residents. We can control the tax burden we impose by demanding more efficiency from our tax dollar from those charged with allocating it. We need to accept we can’t have everything today and yes, some services will likely be seriously curtailed. I believe there is an acceptable happy medium to be realized that results in lower tax burdens and sufficient important services. To some degree, responsibility to be self-reliant and a willingness to sacrifice in the short-term will be required.

I HAVE A VISION that focuses on rebuilding Town infrastructure. That should be a priority.

I HAVE A VISION that does more to protect our greatest natural asset, the Great Flats Aquifer.

I HAVE A VISION of a “political” party to achieve these goals. In fact, it’s not a political party at all but a party without politics. It’s a party without $ influence. It’s a true grass roots uprising to begin to restore decision-making to the electorate. A party rooted in constitutional principles. It’s THE TEA PARTY.

Visions are only as good as the determination to realize them. The trick will be translating these visions into reality. I’m beginning to have a vision of achieving that new reality.

Visions I

Everything worth building starts with a blueprint. The blueprint guides everything. The Town’s blueprint is the Comprehensive Plan. Evidence suggests that the Plan is either woefully inadequate or disregarded altogether. I suspect it’s a combination of the two.

I’ve been accused of being a “negative guy.” I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna and being too unrealistically idealistic. I understand why the accusations are leveled but dispute them. (I’m negative, remember?) Anyway, the simple fact is there are problems that need fixing. There is a harsh reality to this life that cannot be ignored when doing so. That doesn’t mean problems are unsolvable. More precisely, it means they’re not easily solved. Still, they are solvable nonetheless.

My “negativity” is accompanied by constructive suggestions for solutions. If it wasn’t, there would be no point in opening my mouth to begin with.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


It’s been “all quiet” in Rotterdam lately and after yesterday’s rains, it’s also all “under water.” I had occasion to drive throughout the Capital District today and was truly amazed at the level of saturation and unusual flooding in almost all areas I visited. If you’re experiencing any unusual flooding, welcome to the world most Masullo Estates’ residents experience usually. I hope we all dry out quickly because it looks like more precipitation on the way shortly.

Barack Obama also got swamped in last night’s primary contests. Personally, I was surprised. I thought Hillary Clinton’s last stand would turn out to be her last gasp. Her wins last night certainly will keep the Democratic race interesting for yet a while longer. Ultimately, I believe Obama will prevail.