Some people haven’t gotten the memo. Residents of Rockland and Westchester Counties are still showing up at hearings and talking about adding mass transit to the replacement for the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge. They talk about tying together the mess of a transportation system and more choices for commuters. Governor Cuomo has pushed his $5.2 billion bridge replacement plan through the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council so fast that it appears to have violated federally-mandated rules for public involvement, and the unrelenting parade of staged events and lukewarm endorsements is supposed to inform everyone that this all done. It’s the Governor’s way or the Thruway. Very soon, the first federal funding will be approved.
“It’s time to get something done,” said the Governor the other day, even if this once-in-two-lifetimes opportunity isn’t going to get done what so many public officials and residents say they need done. We still don’t really know how the whole thing is going to be paid for or how much it might cost to drive on it. We don’t know the implications of the largest dredging project ever attempted on the Hudson River.
1. General Motors sold a record number of their plug-in hybrid engine Chevy Volts in August. Unfortunately, industry analysts estimate that it costs $89,000 to manufacture each one and that GM is losing, in the long run, $49,000 per unit.
2. President Obama has personally promoted the Volt as a major answer to our energy challenges, ignoring its price, dirty technologies required for its manufacture and operation and the fact that there is a superior technology choice available to consumers right now. Doesn’t make the Volt a bad car or a bad choice, but it’s not The Answer.
1. You don’t have to lecture Americans about how we still have the ability to solve our problems. We know that. That’s why the disappointment and bitterness in our leadership has been so great. Americans are festering to roll up their sleeves and begin fixing and solving. They are years ahead of their government.
2. This recurring theme brayed by national Democrats, “Things are Better, You’re Just Smart Enough to Perceive It,” will probably lose this election. We finally saw bits and pieces of something better and more interesting in the last two nights of the Democratic convention.
1. This will be published during Democratic National Convention week. Let’s see how many times anyone within a mile of the microphones mentions “TPP.” That’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement between the U.S. and 10 countries now in the final stages of negotiation. Only the draft agreements are a tightly guarded secret, even though the lives of billions of people could be affected.
2. TPP is being called a “free trade agreement.” Actually, there are already very low trade barriers between these countries, which include Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam. By labeling it “free trade,” it will automatically receive robotic support from the D.C. establishment and the media.
1. As of the moment I’m writing this, there are 1,784 hours until the first polls close on Election Day. Oh, no, no, no.
2. The official national presidential campaigns alone have spent over $900 million between them, and will spend significantly more than that again in the next 74 days. Averaged out, the cost of each one of those 30-second ad spots for or against a presidential candidate is about $521. Political campaigns across the country are on a pace to spend more than $5 billion on political advertising this year.
Representative and presumptive Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has stated numerous times that his thinking about government and about life in general was greatly shaped by the late novelist and essay writer Ayn Rand. He actually credits her writing and philosophy as the “reason I got involved in public service, by and large….” He gave copies of Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s signature novel from 1957, to his Congressional staff as Christmas gifts.
From the giddiness displayed in self-described libertarian circles, it’s clear that many people see this as a Romney-Ryan-Rand Republican ticket. During the Republican Presidential primaries, several candidates repeatedly associated themselves with Ayn Rand, especially Representative Ron Paul, who adopted the “Who is Ron Paul?” slogan as a play on the “Who is John Gault?” mantra from Atlas Shrugged.
1. A stunning report issued last week by the Office of the State Comptroller analyzed data from over 4,000 New York local government units, and found over 300 of them had run budget deficits in 2010 or 2011 and over 100 had serious cash flow problems that threatened their ability to pay current bills and obligations. Declining sales tax revenues, property values, state aid and mortgage recording tax revenues have left many local governments “extremely vulnerable to any unanticipated expenditures resulting from emergencies, mandates, or unexpected increases in the costs of goods and services.”
2. Many governments have scaled back, particularly in the areas of public safety, health and recreational programs, garbage collection and road projects.
It was technically by mutual agreement, but Nassau Community College President Astrab was separated from the school last week, after two years and much complaining and agitation by faculty members who felt they were not given their traditional input into program changes. Already, there are published threats to turn the campus “into a shark tank” if the next president does not pay proper respect to faculty senate resolutions, or proposes tuition increases to maintain class choices. Two years ago, there were serious allegations of attempted manipulation of the presidential selection process by outside political forces. This time, it can’t be just another game.
It isn’t scientific at all, but it is telling that the first 119 posts on Newsday’s online comment boards about the NCC situation were largely (57 percent) negative toward the college. Just over a third specifically wanted the college closed, referred to it as “welfare,” or otherwise questioned why tax dollars go to this. This is definitely a minority view, but those who hold it have learned to make themselves heard. And politicians read this. They fear this.
1. July 20, July 17, July 7, July 2, June 18, June 8, June 4, May 30, May 16. These are the days the postal carrier delivered publicly-funded mail featuring County Executive Ed Mangano. That’s only what has arrived since he threatened a $40 million budget cut if legislators didn’t approve additional borrowing. On July 13, we learned that Nassau County finished 2011 with a $50.4 million deficit and faces, conservatively, a projected $45 million deficit for 2012. One hundred more county workers were sacked last week, and it’s just starters. Yet the brochures, postcards and booklets keep coming, some from the Industrial Development Agency, which doesn’t need to mail anything to residents, let alone “Thanks to County Executive Ed Mangano” postcards. Clearly the county executive doesn’t do subtlety or nuance. Half the space on the new county prescription discount card, initiated by former County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, is now taken up by Mr. Mangano’s picture. It was mailed to hundreds of thousands of families that never asked for another one. Some other public officials are abusers, but given the county circumstances and the timing, scale and seven-figure cost of it, this is way over the top. Incredible!
Bradford County, Pennsylvania, lies along the border with New York, several thousand feet above the gas-infused rock formation called the Marcellus Shale and less than a half-hour drive from the cities of Corning, Elmira and Binghamton. Last week, three Bradford County families reached a $1.6 million settlement with Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City (“America’s Champion of Natural Gas”), compensation for the ruination of their water wells by methane gas migrations from nearby high volume hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations. This is the first time ever that details of a Marcellus Shale settlement have been revealed to the public, at the insistence of the families.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents around the Binghamton area say the unproductive leases they signed with gas drillers several years ago have expired, but the drilling companies are claiming that the leases may be unilaterally renewed because the state’s fracking moratorium is a akin to a natural disaster or act of God.
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org