Tuesday, September 23, 2008

News That Matters - September 23, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"I have had a strong and a long relationship on national security, I've been involved in every national crisis that this nation has faced since Beirut, I understand the issues, I understand and appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face from radical Islamic extremism. I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time." - John McCain, explaining why governors and mayors are not good presidential candidates (see the video here)

Good Tuesday Morning,

There's a lot going on in the area right now. What with the DEP taking a well deserved shot at Bob Bondi over the Ryder PDR deal and tomorrow's staged public hearing on Kent Manor. But the biggest story is that the millionaires on Wall Street are demanding that taxpayers bail them out else their golf club memberships expire and their subscriptions to Yachting magazine will run out.

Everyone in a position of authority - including the NYJN's Editorial Board are saying that we need to cough up the money else the world will decline into financial ruin. But if you get a feeling that there's something amiss in that whole picture, something that Congress cannot (or will not ) repair, you're right. This morning's News That Matters will focus on general news stories. Tomorrow's will delve a little deeper into the financial "crisis".

One thing that will come through is that when you stop listening to the talking heads and the politicians and the armchair financial advisers you'll find that those doing the talking are responsible and their solutions are designed to cover their asses. When the nation (read: taxpayers) can bail out a guy making $5 million a year but cannot find the funds to help stave off foreclosure and evictions, stop the fraud that is the credit card industry, find funds for early childhood education or a basic national health care plan, something is seriously wrong with the way our government operates.

Few of the candidates for President have a solution beyond easily digestible sound bites designed to make you think they care. They do not. Their loyalties are with the millionaires. Congress will do what the millionaires want them to do and the talking heads will divide themselves into camps backing one or the other. But in the end, unless you demand that there be *no bailout* your grand children will be paying China back for this debacle while the grand children of today's elite class will be vacationing on their yachts.

And now, the News:

  1. Spikes in community college attendance will cost Putnam $3M
  2. County Has a Surplus But Tough Times Loom
  3. Crazy Green Ideas Wanted
  4. Westchester Survey Shows that Many Workers Resort to Medicaid due to Inadequate Health Insurance from Their Employers
  5. Hospital getting gypped
  6. Renewable Energy Tipping Point? An Oklahoma Oilman Goes Solar
  7. NY uses little of 911 fee on emergency service
  8. McCain's Scapegoat - Wall Street Journal Editorial

Spikes in community college attendance will cost Putnam $3M

By: Eric Gross , Staff Reporter

CARMEL-The high cost of college is being felt by every resident of Putnam County in more ways than one.

Many parents are shelling out tuition checks in the tens of thousands of dollars this fall so that their children may attend a prestigious college or university.

Every property owner is also feeling the pinch since the county has budgeted $3 million in community college reimbursements for Putnam residents attending a community college.

Commissioner of Finance William Carlin told a budget meeting of the legislature's Health and Educational Committee last week that due to the high costs of college and the tightening economy "many people believe it's not where you start but where you finish. With the high cost of college or university, more and more people are beginning their college careers at a community college and transferring after two years when they receive an Associate's Degree. Add to this higher tuition charged by the various schools and the result is evident. We have been forced to budget $200,000 more for college tuition costs this year than we did last year with the four favorite two year programs offered at Westchester Community College, Dutchess Community College, Rockland Community College and the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan."

Read More

County Has a Surplus But Tough Times Loom

New state and federal mandates will make for a difficult 2008-2009 budget year
by Maria Theodore Leiter

According to an audit performed by an outside accounting firm, Putnam County saw a $5.2 million budget surplus in 2007. This followed two years of deficits that caused the County's bond rating to be slightly downgraded after ten years at the highest rating.

The report by the accounting firm of Bennett Kielson Storch & DeSantis revealed that the surplus came despite a $2.4 million shortfall in revenues. The County's property tax revenues were less than expected, while sales tax revenues experienced a halfmillion dollar bump attributable to an increase in the rate that took effect mid-year. Without this rate increase, Finance Commissioner William Carlin said the County would not have seen a revenue increase.

Auditors warned that the County is also beginning to see a rise in the number of property tax levies in arrears as some residents face the results of the mortgage market squeeze.

Read More

Crazy Green Ideas Wanted

Finally, there is someone who wants to hear about your bizarre green ideas. Yup, those crazy kids at the X PRIZE Foundation want you to come up with a suggestion for the new Energy and the Environment X PRIZE competition. Essentially, they are hoping for ideas that will lead to breakthroughs in clean fuels, renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, carbon reduction, and sustainable housing.

They recently unveiled their What’s Your Crazy Green Idea? Video Contest, in partnership with Prize Capital and YouTube. The X PRIZE gang are asking interested individuals to submit a two minute idea in video format via www.youtube.com/xprize.

“X PRIZE wants to know what young future leaders have to say. To solicit global input, we are launching a $25,000 contest on YouTube to get suggestions on what future Energy and Environment X PRIZEs should be designed and launched," explains Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman & CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.

Entrants will be down-selected to three finalists by the X PRIZE Foundation. Once the three finalists are identified, the public will be able to log on to XPRIZE.org and vote for the winner. The lucky winner and eco-revolutionary thinker will be announced on XPRIZE.org in December 2008.

Don't forget the money - the winner gets $25,000 and a chance to make the world a better, greener place. The $25,000 will be awarded for the best video proposing a new, world-changing X PRIZE in the field of Energy and the Environment.

Read More

Westchester Survey Shows that Many Workers Resort to Medicaid due to Inadequate Health Insurance from Their Employers

Taxpayers, not employers, are picking up the tab

Full report (PDF format)

An extensive survey by Westchester County of its employed Medicaid recipients has revealed that many of them are not provided adequate health insurance by their employers and therefore turn to the government for health care -- at an estimated cost to Westchester taxpayers of between $11.5 million and $34.5 million.

The survey, done at the direction of County Executive Andy Spano, quantifies for the first time what many have suspected: that companies beyond Wal-Mart are either not providing their workers with health insurance at all, or are providing insurance that is inadequate or that the employees cannot afford. Therefore, these employees turn to Medicaid to pay for their health care.

“Medicaid is an important and well-intentioned program, designed to provide health insurance to our most vulnerable populations,” said Spano. “As this report demonstrates, employers in significant numbers are having the best of both worlds: a healthy productive workforce, but no expense of paying for their health benefits. Instead, out taxpayers are footing the bill. This is not right.”

Read More (Ed note: the above story is from 2006 but nothing has been done - at all - since then)

Hospital getting gypped

By: Eric Gross, Staff Reporter
CARMEL-Putnam Hospital Center finds itself at the mercy of several major health insurance companies who are controlling the market relating to medical care reimbursement.

The president of the PHC Board of Directors, John Neubauer of Patterson, is working closely with the Northern Metro Hospital Association in lobbying Albany lawmakers to order health insurance companies to pay promptly while paying for what they promised and at the rates they guaranteed.

Neubauer charged that "the system consisting of health insurance companies, hospitals, physicians and most importantly the patient is no longer a level playing field."

Read More

Renewable Energy Tipping Point? An Oklahoma Oilman Goes Solar

“If anyone understands the preciousness of energy as it relates to Americans’ quality of life, it’s those of us trying to find it.”

Editor's Note: This is part of a series in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society. Click here for more articles about the National Solar Tour, and look for updates each Tuesday.

Dewey Bartlett, Jr. is a third generation oil man. The 62-year-old Oklahoman has been in the oil and gas exploration business all his life.    

But when it comes to the polarizing energy debate, he’s breaking new ground. This oil prospector is going solar.  

Why would a seasoned fossil fuel expert consider renewables? “Going solar was our way of demonstrating that domestically-produced alternative energy is important and practical,” he said. “We owe our livelihood to oil and gas, but these are finite resources. The need for domestic alternatives, particularly in today’s volatile international climate, is clear.”   A

merica currently uses 25% of the world’s oil supply, but this country holds only 3% of the world’s oil reserves. Global demand for oil is escalating, as is the volatility of many of the foreign sources from which Americans obtain their oil.

Read More

NY uses little of 911 fee on emergency service

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ It's listed on your cell phone bill as a $1.20 "911 Service Fee," and you pay it every month to New York state.

But an investigative report in the Syracuse Post-Standard's Sunday editions finds that only 6 cents actually ends up at a 911 center.

The fee _ intended to upgrade 911 services _ was implemented in the early 1990s. The Post-Standard report details millions in unrelated spending over the past six years.

That includes $24 million for overtime at agencies including the departments of corrections and parks, and $1 million to house and feed National Guard soldiers patrolling nuclear power plants.

Just last year, two agencies _ technology and agriculture _ used almost $60,000 in 911 fees to pay their own cell-phone bills.

Read Original

McCain's Scapegoat - Wall Street Journal Editorial

John McCain has made it clear this week he doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does. But on Thursday, he took his populist riffing up a notch and found his scapegoat for financial panic -- Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

To give readers a flavor of Mr. McCain untethered, we'll quote at length: "Mismanagement and greed became the operating standard while regulators were asleep at the switch. The primary regulator of Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) kept in place trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino. They allowed naked short selling -- which simply means that you can sell stock without ever owning it. They eliminated last year the uptick rule that has protected investors for 70 years. Speculators pounded the shares of even good companies into the ground.
"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the President and has betrayed the public's trust. If I were President today, I would fire him."

Wow. "Betrayed the public's trust." Was Mr. Cox dishonest? No. He merely changed some minor rules, and didn't change others, on short-selling. String him up! Mr. McCain clearly wants to distance himself from the Bush Administration. But this assault on Mr. Cox is both false and deeply unfair. It's also un-Presidential.

Read More

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