Monday, November 16, 2009

Post-Election Analysis: Icarus Falling

Part 2 in a series

Thought I was different and it seems I’m just the same
As a game I put my hand over the flame
Thought I was smarter as I flew into the sun
But it turned out the way it does with everyone

---lyrics from the song Moth on the album Revelations by Audioslave

This isn’t the first time I’ve highlighted noteworthy lyrics by Chris Cornell. I’ve always been a student of the lesson of man and his limitations. There can often be many different motivations for reaching beyond them. In my case, I’m guilty of being an idealist. Idealism often leads to the pursuit of lofty goals but it’s also a path that leads directly into the sun. Tough gig.

The election is over. I lost. The alternative choice we had hoped to provide by creating the independent No New Tax Party ballot line was not fully embraced by the electorate, although we pulled some significant numbers in spite of prognostications otherwise. In the end, it simply wasn’t enough.

The ramifications of our involvement though have caused many to speculate that “we split the vote” and were responsible for the paradigm shift of power in the town. A Republican supermajority was transformed into a Democrat supermajority overnight. It was a Democrat sweep of epic proportion.

So what does that mean? First, it means some people (ousted Republican incumbents and their leadership) are really, really p*ssed. They attribute the loss solely to the existence of the No New Tax Party. They assume that we split the vote and ALL our votes, or at least the majority of them, would’ve gone to the Republican candidate. Maybe, but I don’t agree. The argument is fair enough but I think it’s too simplistic. Here’s why: it doesn’t account for the fact that we appealed to independent voters, some that may not have even voted otherwise and also that we commanded many Democrat votes as well. It also doesn’t account for the impact of an ill-advised Republican attempt to create a new town-wide tax district prior to the election. In other words, it’s plausible that the Republicans lost because of their own missteps. There is an element of party arrogance that hasn’t been acknowledged. People definitely wanted and voted for “change.” We tried to provide it in the form of the No New Tax Party but instead the voter opted for the “change” offered by the Democrats. In my opinion, the Republicans would’ve lost the election either way, albeit by a narrower margin perhaps.

Let’s take a closer look at my race in particular. Remember, I won the primary in September to secure the Republican ballot line and thus, essentially returned the dynamic in my race to the traditional dynamic of two-party politics. I was competing in a separate, special election rolled into the general election. My opponent was a Democrat, who also had the Conservative endorsement. I’ve been the recipient of some Republican leadership wrath because they lost control of the town when their candidates fell to the Democrats. They blame me. I don’t believe the blame is warranted but I understand how I make a convenient scapegoat. If the Republican leadership really was interested in keeping seats, they would’ve supported me after I rightfully won the Republican primary. They didn’t. Moreover, a prominent Republican state assemblyman appeared on my Democratic opponent’s campaign mailer days before the general election. I lost by 572 votes and actually commanded more total votes than either of the two big dog Republican candidates running for the 4 year terms in the other race. Not too shabby in my book. Maybe some party support could’ve changed the outcome?

Let’s forget about the “what-if’s?” I lost. I only had a Democratic opponent. There wasn’t anyone else “to split the vote” unless I want to count my Republican primary opponent who stayed in the race on two minor party lines and garnered 403 votes. My point is the night belonged to the Democrats likely no matter what. Oddly, that point is in the same instant scoffed at by the Republican leadership when it’s being used to explain their defeat, but then offered as the reason for my defeat had I had their support or not.

We created the No New Tax Party in response to a perception that voters wanted an alternative. Undeniably, some did. I garnered 3098 votes unofficially in my race. I suspect about half of those were cast on the No New Tax Party line. Overall, however, the voter dynamic we envisioned and were relying on to win the election never materialized as evidenced by our individual totals on our independent line. We failed to motivate enough unaffiliated voters to come out and vote for us. We also didn’t pull enough from the two parties.

Failure? In some views, yes. Not in mine. I’ve always believed failure is an integral part of eventual success. Let’s consider it victory delayed. We most certainly lost, but we also had many noteworthy accomplishments that hopefully, strengthen the foundation of future third party independent campaigns.

Next series installment: Inside the Numbers

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Post-Election Analysis: The Agony of Defeat and the Thrill of Victory

Part 1 of a series

My campaign experience, like probably most others, was a series of ups and downs. Yet, some of my biggest ups and downs were superimposed on each other. The euphoria of securing enough petition signatures to file our ballot petition was tempered by my daughter unexpectedly being hospitalized. The triumph of winning my Republican primary was muted by the somber news of a good friend’s death in the moments before results started coming in. It seemed inevitable that joy would be elusive for me in this pursuit. On Election night, it became clear to me early that the trend of the result tallies were going against me and that I would eventually lose. I had set out to win. Expectations from five months of grueling, non-stop effort were evaporating with each district that reported. Surprisingly, the disappointment of this trough passed almost instantly, countered perfectly by a peak; the joy of my daughter’s impending wedding. Throughout the campaign, I spoke about priorities. Personally, mine are back in alignment.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Candidate Forum

The Schenectady County League of Women Voters will be sponsoring a Rotterdam Candidate Forum on Tuesday, October 20th at the Rotterdam Branch Public Library. The event is scheduled to begin at 6:15 pm and is scheduled to end at 8:15 pm.

This is an event I have attended several times in the past as a voter. I’ve always found it beneficial in some regard. This time, of course, I will be there as a candidate. I hope my views can offer the same benefit of helping voters make their choice.

I like this event because it tries to assemble all the candidates for office in one place, gives them each an opportunity to briefly lay out their message, and provides those in attendance to ask the candidates questions.

Nearly the entire Town of Rotterdam Town Board is being contested, with races for Town Supervisor and 3 Town Council seats. This year the event takes on even more significance because of the inclusion of the No New Tax Party slate of candidates. Voters will get to choose from 3 candidates for each slot instead of the usual two.

It’s a great opportunity to get better informed on the important issues facing the town and the vision each candidate has for addressing them. I hope you’ll attend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking Stock

With 3 weeks to Election Day, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on a few things. Becoming a candidate for office and subjecting myself to the rigors and scrutiny of campaigning has reinforced my distaste for many aspects of status quo politics. But that reinforcement only reaffirmed that I took the right path when I decided to get more involved. From the very beginning for me, it’s been about “changing the game” rather than “playing it.” I’ve been fortunate to be able to remain true to the unorthodox approach I set for myself when I jumped into the mix so my integrity is still intact anyway. (I’ve offered other early reflections in a guest post on Poli-Tea a few weeks ago.)

By the way, I succeeded in winning my primary in September for the Republican ballot line, knocking off the hand-picked candidate chosen by the party. I’m told that has significance because with a major party line “I might be able to win.” I find that pretty amusing. I don’t attribute the same significance to securing that ballot line as others do. I think the independent No New Tax Party ballot line we created is more powerful than it gets credit for. If elected, I hope that’s where I garner the votes.

Here’s how I view the significance of winning the Republican primary. It’s a giant win for the credibility of the No New Tax Party candidate slate. It’s proof that our message is resonating with voters. It’s proof that message and effort can trump party boss agenda. In addition, it was good strategy because it eliminated one of our opponents earlier. In the end, labels shouldn’t matter. Whoever gets elected is supposed to represent all the residents, not a select few.

That last sentence brings to mind a question posed to me at a recent Rotterdam Business Association dinner we were invited to speak at. The questioner essentially acknowledged and appreciated the alternative choice the No New Tax Party candidates would provide voters but wanted to know how we’d be any different at being able to get along with each other or someone else in order to actually facilitate solutions. It was a great question. In one swoop, it encompassed all the hope and promise our slate of candidates offered while also introducing the entrenched underlying doubts and fears about politicians promising change. Being able to overcome differences and produce results is always the wild card factor. I answered the question the best I knew how in the moment and I hope it sufficed but I haven’t stopped asking it in my head. Just the fact the question was posed demands one goal must be being able to consistently put aside partisanship and simply produce the results that are needed. In the end, it all comes back to shedding labels for real and working for the public good, not that of some special interest. For me, the question itself now serves as a constant reminder of that obligation.

Our third party involvement in this election has already impacted policy and actions of the other candidates. The current administration originally sought to unilaterally impose a new town-wide tax district. The No New Tax Party candidates were the only ones to take an early position against it and publicly oppose it. Our outspokenness contributed to sending the issue to a future public referendum to decide the matter. The No New Tax Party candidates advocate a 0% tax levy increase for the next 2 years. That entire notion was originally dismissed by the current administration that said that approach was both impossible and irresponsible, yet they eventually followed that with a tentative budget proposal that yields no tax increase. (Isn’t it funny how it suddenly becomes possible in an election year?) Our other opposition adopted a campaign flyer banner of the Tax Cut Team. It seems like the major parties want to be more like us all of a sudden. That tells me we’ve been listening to the voters better than they have because we were there first and we were there early. Win or lose, we’ve definitely been successful in shaping the discussion. But we were never in it to simply have influence on the dialogue. We’ve always been in it to win and affect the change people want. In 3 weeks, we’ll find out.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Civil Discourse

The Rotterdam Town Board conducted a public hearing last week regarding the proposed new tax district. The room was filled with plenty of concerned citizens with differing views on the subject. What really made this meeting significant in my mind was the constructive nature of it. Many people spoke up. Views were expressed passionately. Several different suggestions were offered. It was an informative encounter, and I think, a productive exchange of ideas. That was possible because it seemed that people were listening to each other. If we want to find lasting solutions, then it has to begin by respecting the views of those that disagree with you. Civil discourse is an essential element to effectively solving not only this problem, but every problem and sadly, that kind of discourse is usually elusive. The other night everyone seemed to appreciate the seriousness of the issue at hand and the need to find an acceptable solution. When all is said and done, I’m confident we’ll find that solution. No one has a monopoly on being “right” and if we really want to make progress on the difficult issues facing us then we’re going to have to be able to respectfully explore all the alternatives available to find the best path forward.

Below is a copy of the remarks I delivered at the public hearing expressing what I think is the best path forward on one of those difficult issues.


A. I support REMS remaining as our ambulance provider under the right conditions.

B. I DO NOT support a tax district to accomplish that objective.

While I admire and appreciate the effort and dedication that the new administration of REMS and others have demonstrated in their progress toward improving financial affairs at REMS, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people in town are against paying more taxes.

Currently, we’re assisting REMS through the general fund – in essence, our current tax dollars have been reallocated to provide this support. That is an approach that appears to be working and I support it in the short-term. In the longer term, I’d prefer to see REMS become self-sufficient.

As a community, I think we all agree that REMS provides a vital public safety service and as a result, we rightly have provided financial assistance through the General Fund. Yes, of course, that’s your tax dollar. But it is a reallocation of your CURRENT tax dollar, not a new tax. IF, as a community, we are in agreement that REMS provides a VITAL, NECESSARY function, then General Fund assistance is the appropriate approach. I believe that approach provides better transparency and accountability than a new tax district would. I also think it allows for quicker financial adjustments to be made if necessary to maintain public safety.

I don’t think we should be in a rush to increase the tax burden, and in no way do I mean to imply that you have not considered matters carefully. But I don’t accept the underlying premise being made about what the tax district will ultimately cost.

---If the cost is expected to be so minimal, then why is the tax district necessary at all?

---If the cost is expected to rise, then isn’t the new tax just as likely to annually increase?

---Lastly, and importantly, does it make sense to create a dedicated revenue stream at this juncture to support an organization in undisputed financial peril? Doesn’t that actually provide a disincentive to manage finances efficiently going forward, knowing there is a tax that could simply be raised instead?

Aside from either of these two approaches is the approach of possible privatization. To ignore it and then lock out the option in perpetuity through the creation of a tax district is a bad move, in my opinion. At the very least, it needs to be considered and explored further. That’s called due diligence.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed to me as I’ve gone throughout town is people can’t afford another tax. At the very least, any further consideration of a tax district should occur through a referendum allowing direct consent of the people. If it takes a referendum to abolish a tax district, then it certainly ought to take a referendum to create one. I’m heartened to learn that a referendum will now be part of any eventual decision.

I don’t think there is a person in this room that questions the importance of reliable ambulance service. There probably isn’t a person in this room that questions the determination of REMS to straighten out their financial difficulties. There’s a lot of fear being peddled with regard to this issue. No one should be afraid. REMS does and is doing a great job for us. I’m confident we can figure out the best approach without compromising public safety or creating a new tax district…because the people need and expect us to.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Guest Post: Two-Party Paradox

by Damon Eris of Poli-Tea Party

One of the more perplexing paradoxes engendered by the politics of the two-party system is the lack of all proportion between the number of independents among the people of the United States and the number of independents among our elected representatives. A significant plurality of Americans consistently identify themselves as independents, rather than Republicans or Democrats, when queried as to their party affiliation. Nationwide, almost 40% of Americans consider themselves to be independents, according to recent polls. In some states, such as Utah, among others, Republicans and Democrats taken together do not constitute an absolute majority of the population. In government, however, almost 99% of elected officials are beholden to the Democratic and Republican Parties. If millions of voters nationwide do not identify themselves as Republicans or Democrats, or with the Republican and Democratic Parties, with their means, their ends, or both, why are we only represented by officials who do? Confronted with this question, partisans of the major parties, many of whom are themselves dissatisfied with the political status quo, are often quick to assert the brute fact of the two-party system: we are represented by Democrats and Republicans, rather than independents and third party advocates, because we have a two-party system, they say. In other words, we have a two-party system because we have a two-party system. And because we have a two-party system, the argument continues, we have to work within the Republican and Democratic Parties, or simply accept the reigning Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government, if we desire to effect political change. Perhaps one might object here that this is nothing but a straw man argument. But is this not the exact logic by which millions of Americans resign themselves to voting for the lesser of two evils, when they are not simply voting against the greater of two evils, election after election? Otherwise principled liberals, conservatives, progressives and libertarians thus find themselves compromised by one party before they even confront the other, defeated from the outset by an ideological tautology.

Ironically, among the illusions that sustain the two-party system is the illusion that we have a two-party system. The US Constitution mandates no party system whatsoever; the framers where highly suspicious of what they called the "spirit of faction." The reigning Democratic-Republican duopoly system of government is rather an extra-constitutional political convention. In many ways it is little more than a fiction. At the local, state, and federal level, polities across the country are effectively dominated by a one-party system of government in which the Republican or Democratic Party has a virtual monopoly on seats for elected office. Yet, at the same time, there is always some level of independent and third party activity bubbling underneath the surface of the political status quo. Take the Northeast, for example. With the demise of Rockefeller Republicanism, it is considered a Democratic stronghold, at least for now. But there is strong evidence of independent resistance to the reigning two-party order, as such, in every state of the region, from the local to the federal level: in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Nor is such movement confined to the Northeast; promising independent campaigns for office are taking shape in Arkansas and Idaho, for instance.

Recognizing that the Democratic and Republican Parties are no longer effective vehicles for political representation, but have rather become obstacles to effective political representation, many people say they would consider voting for a "viable" third party or independent candidate for office.Though it may not be entirely correct to say that there is an independent movement taking shape in the United States, citizens from across the ideological spectrum are declaring their independence from the two-party system. But this is only the first step. If we only consider Republicans and Democrats to be viable candidates for office, then there will be no viable independent or third party candidates for office. The true measure of an independent is not whether he or she sometimes votes for Republicans and sometimes votes for Democrats, as partisans of the duopoly parties and their enablers in the media would have us believe, but rather, whether they vote for independent and third party candidates for office. The people can impose term limits on Democrats and Republicans any time we like: we must simply cease voting for them against our better judgment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Impossible Becomes Possible

History was made today in the Town of Rotterdam and Schenectady County when the No New Tax Party filed their independent nominating petitions. The alternative that voters have long sought will be available to them in the General Election in Schenectady County on November 3, 2009.

The event was documented in video and still photos (certain to find their way to our website and other forums in short order) by supporters that arrived to witness the formal petition submission. In addition, esteemed TV news reporter Kumi Tucker from News Channel 13 captured complete footage of the candidate’s news conference in the parking lot of Schenectady County Board of Elections which aired on the 5:30pm, 6:00pm, and 11:00pm News Channel 13 newscasts and can be found on their website.

Over 1700 signatures were submitted, far surpassing the thresholds for filing. The sheer magnitude of signatures submitted is testament to the growing sentiment of voters demanding tax relief, accountability, and transparency from those they elect. The support garnered by the No New Tax Party candidate slate is a reflection of the dissatisfaction with the status quo of governance.

Many thought this effort was an impossible task. Guess what? The impossible task just became possible. Undeniably, it was a monumental undertaking. The process was grueling. Success was fueled by the outpouring of support behind each successive door we knocked on. Our effort was unrelenting, driven by our desire to ensure the people’s voice was heard.

Today is just the beginning, not the end. The momentum is building daily and I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to The Albany Tea Party Patriots, The Upstate Conservative Coalition, The Constitution Party, and Primary Challenge for lending their support in making this effort succeed. To all the dedicated volunteers that worked long grueling hours alongside us to make this effort a success, I offer my humble thanks. I reserve the highest praise for the residents we visited and spoke with. Their input of views and concerns, and of course signatures, is the real pillar of the effort’s success. The excitement of potential is palpable.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No New Tax Party

The Daily Gazette reported today on an extraordinary new effort taking shape. The effort is a grassroots independent ballot line initiative that I am pleased to say I am part of. I thought it appropriate to clarify our initiative in my own words, now that Mr. Lamendola has given you his interpretation of our effort.

Our candidate slate is comprised of:

Brian McGarry for Rotterdam Town Supervisor
John Mertz for Rotterdam Town Council
Michael O’Connor for Rotterdam Town Council
Brad Littlefield for Schenectady County Legislator District 4

We are collectively, trying to collect petition signatures in an effort to create a new independent ballot line, the No New Tax Party. It is a monumental task.

Our message is simple and straightforward: No New Taxes. We are all committed to 0% tax increases for the next 2 years. We believe it is a realistic and achievable goal. More importantly, we know from knocking on hundreds of doors that it is what the people need, want, expect, and demand. The taxpayer is maxed out. He desperately needs relief.

This is not, as Mr. Lamendola reports, an “insurgency.” Insurgency implies that our cause is illegitimate. Insurgency also negatively introduces a suggestion of unlawfulness or armed revolt. Our effort can more accurately be described as a grassroots movement. It is intended to create a totally new dynamic of governance. A dynamic where taxpayer concern is placed first. We aim to shed the labels and constraints of party politics we’ve grown accustomed to and replace them with a true commitment to fiscal restraint and tax dollar efficiency. We intend to be held accountable.

Are these ideas brand new? Of course not. We’ve all heard politicians promise these things before but they have failed in large part to deliver on that promise. Our effort is the tangible incarnation of the displeasure associated with that failure. We have taken the highly visible tax protest gatherings we’ve witnessed across the nation to the next logical level. Action. We’ve become candidates for office to facilitate solutions to the dissatisfaction already so prevalently displayed. Despite what appear to be insurmountable odds against our success, we are motivated to try nonetheless. If we fail, we’ve tackled an “impossible” task and reinforced its impossibility. (Or maybe we’re just the wrong messengers.) If we succeed, then we’ve suddenly made the “impossible” possible. We intend to succeed and believe we can.

It’s been suggested in some circles that our actions are “destructive.” I prefer to think of our actions as creative. I’ve heard the term “creative destruction” by some and maybe that is the best description. We are challenging the status quo for sure and in that sense, success would certainly lead to the demise or destruction of certain party interests, I suppose. I think that’s a good thing. Governance should be about the people’s interests. Our goals, however, revolve around what we intend to create, not destroy. We need to transcend the negativity and distractions that currently engulf our electoral process and return to a mindset of accomplishment that best serves the electorate’s needs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

See Spot Zone

The Rotterdam Town Board meets again tonight and among the festivities is a public hearing on a change of zoning request for parcels in proximity to the McLane’s warehouse project site that ultimately failed to materialize.

B. To amend the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map of the Town of Rotterdam for
Change of Zone request from Aladdin Properties and Marie Iovinella, owners
of (2)
parcels of property comprising 3.4 acres. The site is located at 330
Becker Drive,
Rotterdam, New York 12306 and is known as Tax Parcel No.
57.00-3-24 and No. 57.00-
3-25. The applicants are requesting a Change of
Zone from Agricultural (A-1) to General
Business (B-2).

More spot zoning in the offing? I’ll be interested in how our outdated Town Comprehensive Plan is applied to any eventual decision.

To view the entire DRAFT agenda for tonight’s meeting:

Pinnacle of Dysfunction

As a New Yorker, I am appalled and disgusted by the circus we call our state government. If I ever had any doubts about replacing every last one of our state elected “leaders”, they have been dispelled. The current shenanigans occurring in the state Senate demand a backlash the likes of which our elected officials have never before seen. It is my opinion that every single solitary member of the Senate deserves to be voted out of office at the first available opportunity. Spare no one. Every single one must go.

Why? It is an obvious travesty that the peoples business has been relegated to an afterthought. But listen to the rhetoric coming from both sides. It’s laughable if it wasn’t so disturbingly pathetic. All the main players should be asked to resign immediately. They won’t of course. The remainder of them, even the ones you never heard of and who may be keeping their mouths shut also have to go at the earliest opportunity. There is not one voice speaking for us, the people, throughout this crippling inaction. Where are the leaders? Not one is fit to remain in office, if only for their failure to effectively speak up and stand against what has paralyzed our state government. The whole affair is sickening. Someone… everyone… must be held accountable.

The icing on the cake is that we get to pay through the nose for these elected officials to act like crybabies while they simultaneously do the people a disservice by doing nothing! Interestingly, I recently read a letter to the editor in the local paper that asked the governor to let the stalemate continue. The writer liked it just fine that these clowns weren’t acting on any legislation…therefore, no passage of new taxes or other hindrances they are notorious for providing.

This is the clearest example yet that our state government needs a complete overhaul. Please join me in first demanding that these stooges resign. If they refuse, show them the door at the next election.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

7th of July

It’s appropriate I think that today, July 7th kicks off petition signature gathering for Independent Nominating Petitions in New York State. There is a sea change of voter sentiment in progress. There have already been two major successful Tea Party events in Albany alone. The New York State Senate demonstrates new lows in dysfunctional government and disregard for the voters of New York daily. People are truly fed up. I think we will see them actually do something about it next election. My belief stems directly from the conversations I’ve had with voters after knocking on their doors.

Assuming I can successfully navigate NYS Election Law, you’ll soon have ballot alternatives at least when it comes to the Town of Rotterdam and Schenectady County. Not alternatives just to be alternatives but alternatives offering real solutions. The “revolution” is beginning. It’s time to declare your independence again by seeking out these alternatives when you enter the voting booth. Our elected leaders must be held accountable. Many of them have forgotten that they are elected to serve us. We can do better. We must do better.

So as you begin to enjoy your summer with election thoughts far from your mind, know that the next level of independence – independence from two-party politics and gridlock, independence from the strangle-hold of ever-increasing taxes, independence to achieve the quality of life we deserve and tax relief we require – is a knock on your door away. Will you answer it? I hope so.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Winds of Change

I read Mr. Arthur R. Wargo’s letter-to-the-editor in yesterday's Daily Gazette (Why one longtime GOP voter is giving up on it) with particular interest. Mr. Wargo’s culmination of disgust seems to be predicated on the current dysfunctionality of our state government but it clearly transcends that one aspect. It is another glaring example of deteriorating sentiment and support for the major political parties.

No, I am not going to become a Democrat, but will register
as an independent, hoping that someday there will emerge a
strong third party that will force the others to pay more attention
to the needs and wishes of the people and not to special interests
and/or their own selfish agendas.

The burgeoning rank of independents is a clear sign to me anyway that the time for a viable third party to emerge is upon us. Obviously for that to happen, ordinarily “uninvolved” people will have to step forward and become “involved.” Swelling disillusionment logically suggests that the needed candidates will come from the burgeoning rank. Candidates that emerge will come from a different mold. They’ll likely be ordinary people from different walks of life sharing one common coupling of traits. They will be as fed up as you are and they’ll be motivated to be beholden to no one but the taxpayer they represent and they will not let the assumed obstacles in their path to that quest deter them from succeeding. That is currently a rare coupling to encounter.

The problem for the people that step forth, of course, is acceptance as a viable candidate by the electorate. Let’s face it, you won’t be the typical candidate they’ve become accustomed to and even though they’re as fed up as you are, they still might not be able to believe the ingrained obstacles (money, time, special interests, etc.) can be conquered… by you or anyone else. That’s the challenge – can you get the non-believers to believe?

It’s somewhat of a Catch-22. Belief is earned through delivering. To get the chance to deliver, you’ve got to already command enough belief that will translate to votes in order to deliver. A leap of faith is essential at the beginning. I believe if I’m fed up enough to get “involved” then people, like Mr. Wargo, are fed up enough to be willing to take that initial leap of faith.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guest Post: The Bankruptcy of the Two-Party System

by Damon Eris of Poli-Tea Party

The ongoing debacle in the New York State Legislature in Albany has bolstered the positions of downstate cynics and would-be reformers. At the opening of the Ringling Brothers Circus in Coney Island, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg dubbed the state government "the second greatest show on earth." Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, on the other hand, has suggested that Albany convene a state constitutional convention, apparently unaware of the irony involved in calling up the arsonists to put out the fire.

The chaos in New York's state government is yet another symptom of the bankruptcy of the two-party system, in which entrenched elites and the special interest groups that back them seek to maintain their hold on power at all costs, and deprive voters of even the opportunity to drive their so-called representatives out of office. It is but one instance of a nationwide phenomenon. Among political scientists it is common knowledge that elections in the United States have become significantly less competitive over the course of the last century. In an Op-Ed for the New York Times in April, entitled 'No Country for Close Calls,' Nate Silver and Andrew Gelman of FiveThirtyEight noted that competitive elections for the House of Representatives are "exceedingly rare." They wrote: "in the past decade, there were 2,175 elections to the United States House of Representatives held on Election Days 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Among these, there were 41 instances — about 1.9 percent — in which the Democratic and Republican candidates each received 49 percent to 51 percent of the vote (our calculations exclude votes cast for minor parties). In the 1990s, by contrast, there were 65 such close elections. And their number increases the further one goes back in time: 88 examples in the 1950s, 108 in the 1930s, 129 in the 1910s."

This trend is apparent, and even more pronounced, at state and local levels. As Danny Hakim notes on an article of the power of incumbency in Albany: "Last year, more than half of the 212 legislators in the Senate and Assembly won with more than 80 percent of the vote. Fifty-seven ran unopposed . . . The average senator has served for nearly seven two-year terms." Given such numbers, one could be led to conclude that the people of New York were highly satisfied with their representatives in the state government. But the reality is quite different. Consider the following example. According to the New York State Board of Elections, 161, 786 voters turned out for the 2008 election in the state's 1st Senate district. The State Senate seat was won by Kenneth P. LaValle, who ran unopposed and garnered 63, 058 votes. On the other hand, 80, 692 voters preferred to vote for "Blank" rather than Mr. LaValle when filling out their ballots. The situation is equally dire in our local politics. According to the Shawanagunk Journal, in the upcoming county elections in Ulster, New York, "there are only four candidates running for four seats . . . the four candidates have been cross-endorsed by each of the two major political parties." One of the candidates went so far as to frame what basically amounts to bipartisan back-room dealing as a triumph of democracy: "I'm hoping that it's a testimony to the fact that we've done a good job."

The alleged "coup" in Albany is nothing of the sort. It is merely the latest scuffle between the duopoly parties over who precisely will control the flows of money and power in New York State. The real coup has taken place slowly, over the course of the last century, as the Republican and Democratic Parties have tightened their grip on control of our local, state and federal governments. Though they agree on little else, in virtually every state of the Union the Republican and Democratic Parties have come to the consensus that third party and independent candidates must be kept off our ballots at all costs. Since they view the disenfranchisement of voters as enlightened administration, it is no surprise that they have successfully turned our electoral process into little more than a formality necessary to extend their power and influence for the benefit of their corporate paymasters and to the disadvantage of the people they supposedly represent.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Guest Posting

I am pleased to report that Poli-Tea Party blog author, Damon Eris, has graciously accepted to guest post on The Rotterdam Windmill. Damon is an astute writer who examines and critiques the two-party system and duopoly politics. I hope you’ve already taken the opportunity to explore his blog – there’s a link to it on the sidebar – but if not, I encourage you to check it out.

His latest entry on Poli-Tea, The Ideology of Duopoly and the Infantilization of the American Voter, pointedly illustrates the untapped power of the ranks of independent voters. The post lays bare the fundamental potential ready to erupt and upset the current duopoly dynamic.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I’m often accused of being too idealistic. I’m okay with that. I haven’t encountered anyone yet that disagrees that achieving some of the things I suggest isn’t worthwhile. They just don’t believe these things can be achieved anymore.

Let’s be clear. I don’t operate with my head in the sand. I’m crystal clear on the realities of certain situations. Does that mean that the “idealistic” goals are unachievable? I don’t believe so. Usually anything worth accomplishing has some obstacles in the way of achieving it. Most of us take our freedoms in this country for granted, for example. But the reality is we gained them through extreme sacrifices and exceptional effort and desire. To realize anything that seems insurmountable, it requires the same type of fortitude, determination, and sacrifice. I know…fancy talk again, right? The fact is if you don’t first believe, then you’ve already begun to lose the battle for whatever you’re fighting for. I’m a believer.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Reason Why

I’ve encountered a few people that seem a bit bewildered by my entry into the political arena. They have a hard time understanding why I’d subject myself to the possibility (likelihood?) of unsubstantiated negative personal attacks. Politicians, in general, are not held in the highest regard. So why would I be interested in what they view as a “game?”

I have to admit that I asked myself the same question early on before committing to getting more involved.

The answer though, is pretty simple. As I stated in another recent post, I don’t accept the apparent futility of trying to achieve what appears to be an unachievable goal. Perseverance yields results. I can attest to that personally. More importantly, it’s not a “game,” even if the politicians treat it as one. That’s part of the problem. I’m not a politician. I’m not getting involved to “play the game.”

I have an objective that I believe the vast amount of town residents share with me. It includes relieving our tax burden, protecting our Quality of Life, and ensuring that proper Comprehensive Planning gets done.

So I guess the answer is I’m not getting involved to “play the game,” but more to end the game. {I know the thought “It can’t be done,” just crossed your mind so see my post Tell Me I Can’t before proceeding.} It’s important I try (at least to me and I hope to you.) I need to be able to look myself in the mirror each day and know I tried to do something about what I perceived to be wrong. Do I believe the current politicians are evil? Of course not. I do believe they have lost touch though with what the residents really need.

I’ve been “involved” for a number of years now. All from the perimeter, never as an elected official. Some things got done, other things didn’t. It’s the things that didn’t get done that compel me to take the next logical step to trying to make sure they do get done.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tell Me I Can't

I love it when someone tells me “it can’t be done.” The argument usually goes a little something like people have tried before to do it and didn’t succeed so you’re wasting your time. It doesn’t seem to matter if they desire the change or not. They just are resigned to the fact that it can’t ever change. Never. Ever.

I’ve been told exactly that several times in recent memory. The first instance is when I started to try to get the residents of Masullo Estates involved to obtain long-overdue road reconstruction and drainage relief for the neighborhood. Every single person I encountered said it would never happen. I was wasting my time. Did I know how many times they had already tried and failed? This was a decades old problem that no one was ever going to address. Never. Ever. Thankfully, enough people were willing to go along with my foolhardy notion that this time might be different. They didn’t believe me but they were willing to stand with me. John Mertz was among them. He may have been the only other person to actually believe we could do it. He certainly was as committed as I was. It took nearly 5 years, but we persevered and emerged with an approved project.

During that period, I also mounted an effort that most everyone thought was sheer lunacy. I opposed Wal-Mart and their plans to build a new super center in an inappropriate location. No one believed that the behemoth that was Wal-Mart could possibly be thwarted…but we prevailed there too…despite the declarations that it simply couldn’t be done. Strangely enough, John Mertz was an advocate with me on that victory too.

I’ve been told that to run an independent campaign against the major parties, with limited resources, and without mud-slinging was also a pipe dream, no matter how noble. We’ll find out soon enough if I can prevail on that count.

Lately, I’m hearing a similar sentiment when I talk about my 0% tax pledge. There is no doubt in my mind that it’s the right message and is attainable. Still, I occasionally run into the person that says, “It can’t be done.” When I ask them why they think that the reply is something like, “because taxes always go up – it’s just the way it is and you’ll never be able to change that.” Incredible isn’t it? They just reluctantly throw up their hands and say oh well, that’s the way it is so I guess I have to accept it. I don’t accept it.

I had the great privilege of watching my oldest daughter obtain her MBA from Union College this weekend. I can’t describe in words how proud of her I am. She worked hard. I bring this up because the commencement speaker struck a theme of perseverance I could personally relate to. Interestingly, his remarks contained a secret I learned myself long ago and perhaps is the reason for my own successes. Failure is a key component of success. Every time you fail, you actually get one step closer to your desired goal, because you learn something. You learn what doesn’t work. It sounds cliché, but it is the absolute truth. It’s all about perseverance. You don’t have to accept the status quo simply because it is. You can change it.

So please… tell me I can’t. It’s the biggest motivating force there is. The more I hear it, the more confident I become that I’ll eventually reach the goal. I won’t ever stop persevering. Never. Ever.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Be Yourself

I am a giant fan of Chris Cornell.
I find the song “Be Yourself” from their album “Out of Exile” to be particularly inspiring. The lyrics are simultaneously straightforwardly simple and insightfully complex.

…To be yourself

is all that you can do (all that you can do)


Be yourself

is all that you can do

even when you've paid enough
been put upon or been held up
with every single memory of
the good or bad, faces of luck
don't lose any sleep tonight
I’m sure everything will end up alright

you may win or lose


to be yourself
is all that you can do


To be yourself

is all that you can do…

I take these simple words to heart every moment of every day. My campaign for elected office will reflect this simple truth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Did you feel that? A political tectonic plate shift occurred today when John Mertz announced his intention to seek re-election to the Rotterdam Town Board, despite not receiving the Republican Party endorsement. Good for him! Though often tasked with being the front-man for all issues controversial, Mr. Mertz was always a strong voice for the residents. As arguably the largest vote-getter among the incumbents seeking re-election, his entry into the race throws down the gauntlet to the existing Republican Party establishment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Those who read my blog regularly know I announced my candidacy for Rotterdam Town Board last week. Justin Mason, reporter for the Daily Gazette did a nice piece on my announcement which I fully appreciate. The link to the article can be found on my campaign website.

Those familiar with New York State Election Law know how prohibitive it is for third party candidates such as me to satisfy the requirements to gain access to the ballot. But it can be done and I intend to do it.

Designating Petition signature-gathering for the major parties begins one week from today, Tuesday, June 9th. Independent Nominating Petition signature-gathering doesn’t begin until Tuesday, July 7th. Since only the first signature counts, it is easy to see the disadvantage placed upon a third party challenger. As a result, I will be seeking the Republican ballot line against those already endorsed. That will allow me to begin my effort alongside the major party candidates. The real fun begins though July 7th, when I’m able to reach out to everyone, especially all those registered blanks that dominate the eligible voter registration roll.

I respectfully ask that anyone approached to sign a candidate petition be especially thoughtful in giving their support. Remember, it’s the first signature that counts. If you desire alternatives to appear on the ballot, then please reserve your right to sign for the candidate that will best support your interests. I’m hopeful that candidate is me. I intend to earn your petition signature and eventually your vote by demonstrating my commitment to delivering a 0% tax increase.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


…number nine…number nine…number nine…

I am officially announcing my entry into the contest for one of the Rotterdam Town Board positions up for election in 2009. My approach will be 2-pronged. I will mount an independent effort to create an independent ballot line, but as a currently enrolled Republican, I will also mount a primary challenge for the Republican ballot line. The constraints of NYS Election Law put me at a distinct disadvantage and serve to compel me to pursue all avenues to the ballot. I enter the fray to win, not to simply stimulate the discussion.

For additional information regarding my candidacy, please visit my official election campaign website,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And Then There Were 8

The Democrats announced their November slate of Town of Rotterdam candidates today. Opposing Supervisor Steve Tommasone will be former town board hopeful, Richard Leet. Bob Godlewski, Nicola DiLeva, and Matt Martin will vie against current town board members Joe Signore, Stan Marchinkowski, and John Mertz surrogate, Joe Suhrada.

I was slightly surprised that Mr. Godlewski won’t seek the supervisor position. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Leet fares. As far as the remainder of the slate, I am not familiar with either of them.

I’m in the final stages of evaluating my own intentions but this is likely my last printed communication on the subject either way.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


The Town Board passed the necessary resolution calling for bids on the road and drainage work for Masullo Estates tonight as expected. I can now measure the last 4 1/2 years of NAG effort by this accomplishment. It's unbelievable it took this long but I suppose it represents an important step forward and helps make my resignation as NAG Chairman the other day the right move.


I attended tonight's Town Board meeting and delivered what I can only characterize as an emotional tirade. I hate it when I let my anger dictate my comments. Anyway, I think I remained mostly appropriate and conveyed what I set out to. I'm upset about the continued activity on the land parcel I've discussed at length elsewhere. The thrust of my argument tonight revolved around what amounts to an illegal curb cut. I augmented that aspect by revisiting my previous legal argument and concerns. The whole affair is just another example of the Town failing in the areas of oversight and code enforcement. Who will be accountable? Apparently, no one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I've reviewed all my previous posts and affixed LABELS in an effort to categorize my thoughts. I hope it makes it easier for those interested in particular topics.

Since readership of this blog has been steadily increasing, I've also added some new links on the sidebar to stimulate more discussion and broaden the usefulness of this blog. Please check them out.

I continue to welcome your feedback.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Open Water

Wow. The open water is still scary. I only used to come out here with my Dad, but now I’m on my own. I’ve escaped the noise of the breakers. Everything is quieter and clearer out here. I can see my goals, the tasks to take me to them, and more importantly, the obstacles that loom in my way. I can still see land too.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Building the Machine

I’ve taken counsel from various quarters since my intention to seek elected office has filtered out to the masses. I’m encouraged by the early support I’m receiving as I gauge the viability of an independent campaign. There are still plenty of naysayers too but their input is just as valuable to me.

There are a few paths to choose from as I proceed. Some would make the challenge of getting elected easier. The appeal of such an approach is countered by my desire to remain true to the ideals that have brought me to the brink of this endeavor. Otherwise, I fear I become “just another politician” which I certainly am not. I won’t compromise my integrity to make matters easier for me, already evidenced by the rejection of me by the Republican committee. Nonetheless, there may be an option that allows me to walk a fine line. Easier and harder at the same time. I’m aiming for simpler. People understand simple. I know I do.

I can count the people I truly trust on one hand…and still have fingers left over. When I need guidance, their advice is critical. They keep me and my ego in check. I’ve been burned by people with agendas before because I was naïve and misplaced my trust in them. I strive to not repeat my mistakes. I am already wary of some circling my effort.

It’s still early in the process but I’ve begun building the machine. Since machines in politics are typically viewed negatively, I like to think of mine as the anti-machine. It’s a machine bent on serving the residents interests first and foremost. It’s a machine powered by integrity. It’s a machine where no one speaks for me, except me. The intent is to create a new paradigm. One supported by the principles of Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency or what I like to refer to as the ART of government. It’s really pretty simple.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Broader Shoulders

I write this as I watch David Letterman interview Michael J. Fox about his illness and his forthcoming documentary/special about optimism. His book is titled Always Looking Up.

At any rate, he said something interesting and poignant while relating an amusing story. I wish I had been listening more closely but the gist of it was “sometimes we wish for a lighter load and sometimes we wish for broader shoulders.”

I think I’ll wish for broader shoulders too.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Some of my posts and associated views have some of my closer friends scratching their heads. It’s not so perplexing if you read ALL my posts. Granted, most won’t ever be able to reconcile some of what I’ll simply characterize as “a moderation of my early beliefs.”

Essentially, my ideology on certain matters has evolved resulting in probably what is a unique bundling of beliefs and views in relation to the typical packaging we’ve grown accustomed to from any of the major party platforms. I’m immersed in the gray, so to speak.

I’m sure some will see it as a nonsensical bundling or an attempt to pander. Whatever. I’m not too concerned. I’ve truly moved beyond any belief in litmus tests or rigid attachment to party ideology. I suppose some would characterize it as being pragmatic. Maybe so, but I see it differently. Pragmatism within the parties means something completely different, I think. It’s not intended as compromise either. It’s more about right and wrong for me. Many will never understand what I mean. That’s okay.

Nonetheless, people are often surprised to learn their preconception of me is not quite entirely accurate. I hope I leave them thinking. Not wondering where I stand, because to find that out, all you have to do is ask me.


Have you ever had anything unravel on you? Not implode or explode, but unravel? It’s a slow progress that winds up gaining unexpected momentum. The results can often be devastating. By the time you realize it’s happening, it’s too late to reverse. Sometimes you realize it’s happening but choose to ignore it, dismissing the significance of the early warning signs.

The truth is that almost every single thing is vulnerable to an unraveling. That’s right…almost everything.

It takes care to avoid complacency. Most things are more fragile than thought. An unraveling begins imperceptibly. There is an advantage gained by those who perceive it first.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


A little earlier today, the candidacy of Libertarian Eric Sundwall for the 20th Congressional District race was invalidated. Although he collected upwards of 6700 signatures, well exceeding the required 3500, something on the order of 3700 signatures were called into question.

NYS Election Law is intentionally quite complicated and convoluted. It is designed, in part, to make it prohibitive for independent third-party candidates to challenge the two major parties. I never much liked that. It limits voter choice.

In this case, you have a person who would like an opportunity to be included on the ballot and from what I can tell, genuinely tried to comply with the rules. He even went to lengths to provide over double the required number of signatures. To be sure, there might very well be legitimate exclusions, but 3700? Why are the major parties afraid to have another name on the ballot?

I can’t say I’m surprised though. This type of thing has occurred in many previous elections. I am sensitive to it in my own contemplated attempt to be included on November’s ballot. I’ve read and re-read the pertinent election law. I’m pretty sure I can navigate it successfully but I’ve already been to the Board of Elections for clarification once and intend to go again at least once more. I won’t have my efforts undone on technical challenges.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lobby Time

And so it begins. This effort by the Town of Colonie described in the Spotlight ( ) is exactly the type of pro-active approach I advocated in my post, Infrastructure , last month. If you want/expect the money, then you’d better demonstrate the need for it before it’s all spoken for. I’d make this a priority task of our newly appointed Economic Development Specialist.

Strap It On

Many months ago, I wrote about a higher standard. ( It’s an understatement to say there is a lot of warranted finger-pointing occurring at the national level as the various interested parties wrangle over missteps taken in dealing with the country’s fiscal crisis. In my opinion, there is certainly plenty of blame to go around, but determining who it belongs to is secondary to fixing the underlying problems.

I was personally impressed by President Obama’s willingness to step forward and declare, “The buck stops with me.” Again, many will dismiss his comment out of hand as just words that don’t matter. I disagree. They do matter. These are important words. Why? Because it’s an acknowledgement that missteps occurred. As top man, he is ultimately responsible and accountable. It will be his task to right the ship and ensure that eventually those most directly responsible for the missteps are held accountable in whatever sense makes most sense in the context of fixing the underlying problem.

Read my old post. To expect a higher standard from others, you’ve first got to exhibit that standard yourself. Does anyone else find it a bit disingenuous of our various politicians claiming outrage about the taxpayer being taken advantage of? These same guys across the political spectrum have been doing exactly that for as long as I can remember. They ride in taxpayer paid vehicles, enjoy per diem expenses to accomplish nothing, routinely fail to pay their own taxes, etc. In my opinion, it’s false outrage to distract from their own shortcomings. The bottom line is we’ve got to fix it. How we do that will be no easy feat. It certainly couldn’t have been realistically expected by anyone that understands economics that it would be fixed in short order.

The fix begins by “owning” the problem. So far, the only person willing to do that is President Obama and I respect him for it.

Too much finger-pointing. Too much name-calling. Too much nonsense. It can’t continue if we want to move forward.

I end with one question: Can you hold yourself to the higher standard you expect from others, or are you part of the problem?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

High Gear

If you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed the multitude of branches piled at curbside throughout town. That ice storm sure wreaked some havoc, didn’t it?

Anyway, be patient. The Highway Department will certainly have their hands full getting to it all. In fact, I saw them rolling the heavy equipment quite early this morning in efforts to do just that.

The town website had this bulletin posted yesterday:

***** I M P O R T A N T B U L L E T I N *****
Posted: 3/18/2009

BRUSH PICKUP: Since the ice storm in December, we have been picking up brush when possible and are now going section by section and will continue until the debris is cleaned up. We appreciate your patience as we complete this task and ask for your cooperation in getting your debris curbside as soon as possible. THERE WILL BE NO SET SCHEDULE.

NOTICE: If you hire a contractor to work in your yard and/or cut trees, the contractor is responsible for removing the debris. The Town WILL NOT pick up debris left by contractors.

STREET SWEEPING: Street sweepers will be out by the first week of April.

COMPOST FACILITY: The Compost Facility on Princetown Road will be open to the public Monday, March 30, 2009.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I’ve been involved in some worthwhile dialogue recently about political realities encountered when contemplating a run for office. My view has always been idealistic, I suppose. I appreciate the two-party system. I am often enamored by serious third-party candidates, however. My disappointment with the status quo has led me to believe that real solutions will be offered not by either of the major parties, but by a new independent movement. Though the idea is appealing to many, the same people tell me it’s virtually impossible. I understand the arguments but find myself unwilling to accept them anymore.

I’ve been a registered Republican since I came of voting age many years ago. Increasingly, I’ve found myself pulling the lever for candidates of all stripes – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative – especially at the local level where ideology often counts for less. The cumulative effect of the political bickering and maneuvering between the various parties has achieved very little other than consistently increasing the tax burden. I’ve had enough.

I’ve discovered recently that party structure and decision-making is rigid and controlled, driven by motives and mechanisms I don’t have any interest in. I mistakenly believed that our interest as citizens was paramount. I’m disappointed to learn otherwise.

I find myself at a political crossroads of sorts. I’m not a politician. A purely independent run is daunting and appealing in the same breath. But if I don’t win, then what was the point? I’m not looking to make a valiant stand for idealism – I’m looking to make a real contribution to the betterment of my community. I want to make a positive difference toward preserving, protecting, and enhancing the Quality of Life of my neighbors. I think I have something worthwhile to contribute to that end. I need a stronger voice than the one I’ve been exercising as a voter and concerned citizen.

In the end, labels are irrelevant. If elected, I’ll serve everyone – Republican, Democrat, whatever – equally anyway. Does it really matter what my label is? To some, surely. To most, I hope not. I won’t be beholden to anyone other than the residents. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, right?

My message will be concise and understandable. The path I take to deliver it might wind up being a bit unorthodox but I’m intent to deliver the message.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Solar Eclipse

The Rotterdam Town Board took another step recently toward operating in the shadows when they ceded power to appoint engineers to the Planning Commission. Of course, the move was touted by the majority of the Town Board as a means toward expediency. Developer interest was served over resident interest. The sole dissenting vote was cast by Mr. Mertz.

The problem with this procedural change is that it undermines ultimate Town Board accountability and pushes engineer selection further into the shadows. Transparency and open government are among the most fundamental and important aspects of effective governance. The passage of this measure seriously erodes those principles.

Who will ensure that potential conflicts of interest are properly scrutinized and disclosed? What are the criteria that will be used to qualify for the “preferred” engineer list? What are the criteria that will be used to be selected from the list? Will this selection process be uniform and public? Is it proper that the Planning Commission is the only unelected town body with the ability to hire/fire now? Who will be accountable to us, the taxpayer, when things go awry as a result?

Transparency in Rotterdam just became more opaque. I still have not heard a convincing argument for why this change is necessary and how it will benefit me as a taxpayer. I don’t like it.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Forget for a moment how you personally feel about the federal stimulus funds that will soon flow. The fact of the matter is that they are going to flow…like it or not. Interestingly, even the politicians that railed against passage of the stimulus are among the first taking credit for “securing “ funds for this or that, or first in line with their hand out for a piece of NY’s action.

I am pleased that significant money will be spent on infrastructure. I have been and remain an advocate for building or re-building infrastructure. Ours is generally crumbling, if it exists at all. In my opinion, this money will be money well spent. We are far behind the curve in keeping our once envious infrastructure updated and properly maintained.

I plan on doing some serious lobbying to those that control the purse strings. I wonder if our local elected officials will be doing the same. The excuse in the past has always been the lack of federal money and now, lo and behold, there’s some on the horizon. I hope we go get some. It is after all, our tax dollars too.

There are conditions attached to securing the funds and I must admit I haven’t yet explored all the criteria that need to be met. However, my understanding is that most will be directed at projects that are ready to go. We need to ensure that the criteria also include a measure of necessity, economic potential, and being worthwhile beyond just being “ready to go.” So what looks shovel-ready in Rotterdam? Hamburg Street comes to mind. Revamping that stretch could have economic bang for the buck. The Junction water tower? I don’t know if that would qualify or not but I hope somebody checks. Masullo Estates roads and drainage? I can only hope. A new sewage treatment plant? Leveraging rail improvements to spark initiatives similar to RailEx? The list could be endless, but certainly the money won't be. Meeting the criteria and lobbying hard…harder than ever before…will be key.

Why is Rotterdam so special? We just completed 3 CDTC planning studies and are theoretically poised to implement the suggestions. Our town has 3 major interchanges and infrastructure improvements should lead to economic development opportunities. This is a window we can’t afford to miss trying to climb through.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Translate Your Outrage

It’s that time of year again. Tax time. I posted my thoughts last year in a post titled Taxman, ( ), but feel compelled to revisit the topic.

In last year’s post, I rhetorically asked, “how much is enough?” Though the answer to that question varies, there is one answer that seems to embody all the others. That answer is “less.” Every single person I speak to is in agreement that the burden is overwhelming and must be reduced. In these difficult economic times, that burden becomes especially noticeable. It’s way past time to actually do something about it.

The natural next hurdle is just how to accomplish that task. It starts with a cap on spending. First and foremost, we’ve got to hold the line on any new tax proposals. Like the first President Bush once said, “No New Taxes.” He failed to honor his pledge, we can’t. We absolutely have to make that commitment. To make it happen, we have to eliminate strategies that simply call new taxes fees, or pay raises stipends. We have to ask ourselves what is essential, not necessarily to me as an individual but to the needs of the community overall. That process involves setting priorities and then subjecting those priorities to the fiscal restraint necessary to achieve them without breaking the back of every hard-working citizen. Wants and needs are not the same and we’ll need to be able to distinguish between them. There is no free lunch and we shouldn’t expect one.

Disagree? Even George Harrison didn’t contemplate the tax wrinkle Governor Patterson recently proposed. A tax to file your taxes. If that is not the epitome of tax excess than I don’t know what is. It disgusts me and it should disgust you too.

That brings me to the first part of my solution which I have proffered previously. The concept is not new. Vote the incumbents out of office in favor of those that will restore real fiscal discipline. Forget complicated tax credits targeted to certain groups. Put the money back in the pocket of the person who earned it. Enough is enough.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said before. I’d abolish the tax code as we know it, if it was up to me. It’s not. What is up to me, and what is within my control, is who I pull the lever for at election time. I’m done tolerating the lip service of those that run for office, only to disappoint me by increasing my tax burden. Those officials currently in office won’t be there as a result of my vote next time.

I can’t be alone in my outrage, can I? It’s time for all of us to translate that outrage into different outcomes. We can’t afford to let matters get any worse.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Thomas Edison once said, “Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.”

I attended last night’s Town Board meeting; partly I admit to see the dynamic of the board now that Mr. Mertz has been ostracized from the Republican Party. I didn’t see any of the other announced candidates in attendance but it’s possible they may have been there. Mr. Mertz, class act that he is, conducted himself in the same manner we’ve grown accustomed to, so no sordid tale to relate. I believe every single resolution, of which there were three pages, were motioned and seconded by a combination of Mr. Della Villa and Mr. Signore, however.

The recently proposed matter of granting the Planning Commission autonomy to select Town Designated Engineers (TDE’s) prompted the most discussion. It was on the agenda as a well-disguised public hearing. Had not Mr. Mertz made some comments that forced Mr. Comenzo and one of the TDE’s to respond, I would have been oblivious that it was a public hearing regarding this issue. I have views of my own on the matter and after listening to the other comments, I weighed in too. I basically expressed concerns about the process and criteria that would be used to produce and maintain the “Approved” list of TDE’s. While I appreciate the effort to improve efficiency of the current planning process, I would like to see the Comp Plan, performance standards, and all other zoning language updated, adopted, and firmly in place before looking to serve developer interests to speed up the process. The lag time currently is not burdensome, in my opinion. I am also concerned about granting hiring power to appointed town officials. I believe that ultimate accountability should remain with the Town Board and that changing the current approach diminishes Town Board accountability.

The answers provided seemed to indicate that accountability for any TDE “mistakes” would become that of the Planning Commission Chairman. I also understood the answer to my direct question about whether there would be a formal, defined process to select preferred engineers or an ad hoc, case-by-case process to be the latter, which also disturbs me. It may be splitting hairs to some degree because as it stands the Town Board usually relies on the Planning Commission engineer recommendation anyway in their determination. Though I didn’t say it last night because many of the people present would have interpreted it as some sort of accusation, I’m concerned that the change in procedure could create a window for a “pay-to-play” component. I wasn’t looking for trouble so I carefully danced around what I was trying to say without causing anyone offense.

I think I actually witnessed progress though on several of the issues foremost on my mind. The 3 CDTC studies were rolled into the existing Comprehensive Plan. That’s a huge advance, I think, and was accompanied by Mr. Comenzo’s stated commitment to getting performance standards and zoning language incorporated also. We’ll hopefully see some upcoming public comment period related to the Comp Plan.

More progress involved the passage of a resolution accepting the land deemed necessary for drainage relief to proceed in Masullo Estates. I’m not holding my breath but it represents another hurdle cleared. I congratulate and thank Mr. Mertz for his tireless effort to see that aspect through.

There was also a brief comment from Supervisor Tommasone regarding what he characterized as forward progress on building a new, long-awaited water tower in Rotterdam Junction. I’ll accept his remark at face value but with all the delays we’ve seen so far with that initiative, I’ll just hope this time is the charm.

Today is President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. His take on progress? “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It appears the Rotterdam GOP has succeeded in ousting Mr. Mertz from the Town Board. Personally, I am dumbfounded that arguably their single best vote-getter would be considered a liability somehow. It’s mind-boggling.

Undeniably the lightning rod for all issues controversial in town, he carried the water on the issues that scared others into silence but mattered most to residents. I suppose the only explanation is that he was carrying water someone else didn’t want carried. The local GOP must have another agenda and I confess, I can’t imagine what it could be.

What seems equally odd is that according to news reports, Mr. Mertz will be replaced by Mr. Suhrada, a Schenectady County GOP legislator, and an extremely vocal and often controversial character in his own right. What perplexes me most is that the GOP is already firmly in control in Rotterdam, soon to have 5 sitting Republicans while the County GOP is in the minority and Mr. Suhrada has proven to be an effective minority voice. This seems to weaken an already tenuous county foothold.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The ART of Government

My philosophy of effective government revolves around 3 important concepts.


The first two concepts are very closely related but subtly different. I distinguish them apart by thinking of accountability in terms of answerability, while thinking of responsibility in terms of the burden, duties and obligations of having to take action on something. Of course, transparency is simply having it all out in the open for scrutiny.

Getting all 3 together is the real trick.

Then there is the infamous quid pro quo, or “something for something.” Quid pro quo, though not inherently sinister, has increasingly taken on negative connation in the political sphere. In politics, it’s what gets things done. In politics, it’s what sends people to jail. In politics, it serves interests…just usually not yours. Whenever you are presented with a quid pro quo, it’s a potential red flag. Take extra precaution to remain in the light, because if it takes place in the dark, it probably isn’t ethical and maybe even illegal.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Beyond the Breakers

I’ve been swimming in the surf without realizing it. It’s time for me to swim out past the breakers.

Top 5 '08 Accolades

5. Council member Mertz serving as everyone’s favorite whipping boy by continuing to be a tireless advocate for what he believes.

4. Bagels & Bakes providing exceptional product and service.

3. Shop-O-Rama Pizza defying the ice storm power outage by conducting generator-assisted business as usual.

2. Adirondack Tire on Curry Road providing unparalleled level of service on multiple occasions.

1. Dunkin’ Donuts at Helderberg and Curry providing consistent, friendly service on a DAILY basis.

Top 10 '08 Disappointments

10. Approval of Helderberg Meadows.
09. Proliferation of vacant eyesores along main thoroughfare.
08. Lack of progress on Hamburg Street sewer initiative.
07. Ongoing code enforcement issues.
06. Further delays for new water tank in Rotterdam Junction.
05. Town tax increase despite tapping surplus.
04. Ongoing adverse consequences of town reval.
03. Stalled remediation effort for Masullo Estates.
02. No emergence of independent candidate.
01. No updated Comprehensive Plan.