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.