Wednesday, November 12, 2008

News That Matters - November 12, 2008

News That Matters
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"I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said. Like 'dead or alive' and 'bring 'em on.' "
- President George Bush 11/11/2008

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Good Wednesday Morning,

The following came in from JA last afternoon in regards to the polling machine problems you've read about in this column:

"The machines you were referring to [above] are Ballot Marking Devices intended for use by disabled voters.  These machines print out and read/verify  a voter's ballot but do not count votes."

"These BMD's are not the machines that will be introduced next year.  And actually there has been no certification of ANY machine to date so really, we don't  know what machines we will be voting on next year.  The optical scan machines we are supposed to see next year will only have to scan a pre-printed paper ballot filled out by a voter (by coloring in the little circles, much like an absentee ballot)."

"I've read several negative reviews and  inaccuracies about the "new machines" on Putnam blogs yet no one calls the BOE to report concerns or to clarify.  Along with the Commissioners,  there is a staff of 8 very dedicated public servants who work really hard and are very willing to help and educate the public.  The office has been getting a bad rap and it  irritates me especially lately when we've been working our asses off..."
Thanks JA! Consider us told, corrected and set straight.

If you live in the Town of Patterson there's a quasi-coup currently underway. The sides aren't all that clear-cut though patterns emerge.
On one side is Supervisor Mike Griffin and Councilman Ed O'Connor. On the other side are the rest of their town board. (Ms. Nacerino, Mr. Kassay and Mr. Capasso.) One argument is over the new town budget (in provisional form passed by the three insurgent board members) which removes funding for the town planner, the wetlands inspector and somewhere along the line adds a new contract for some workers that would make Joe Hill proud.

The real question here isn't what is in or is not in the budget but who is behind Ms Nacerino & Co and why, at this time, are they so set on paving over that town? I say that because of quotes in the papers and on the Patterson12563 group at Yahoo Groups. Yes, it's all about "development" and the faster, the better. (Oh, and that contract? It's really quite generous.)

If you drive around town you see signs that say, "Support The Budget Cuts". What those signs should be saying is,
"If You Think Patterson Crossing is Great, You Just Wait!"
There's an environmentalist contingent asking people to support Messrs. Griffin and O'Connor in this fight with the implied belief that Mr. Williams and Mr. Kozlowski (whose information packed letter ran here a few days ago) will be retained if they win. But it's one of those two-edged sword things that is sure to kill you.

Mr. O'Connor took great pleasure in announcing at a Highlands Coalition meeting that his town had set up a roadblock to the acquisition of the Ryder Farm PDR and do you know a supporter of Patterson Crossing as ardent as Mike Griffin? (Paul Camarda and Matt Bondi do not count!)

On the other hand, Ms Nacerino & Co have made it clear that there's not a blade of grass in town that wouldn't look better dressed in blacktop so what to do? I have no clue. Mike Griffin is fighting for his political life as Mike Semo is waiting in the wings itching for a fight come the next election. But is he really waiting or is he behind at least some of this?

There's a budget meeting tonight at the Rec Center in that town and if you're going, and you should, wear your asbestos. It's going to be hot. If there's anyone left standing, please write something up for posting here tomorrow morning. Thanks. And remember, supporting the budget cuts really means, get the bulldozers ready.

Remember Sewage Diversion? That was the plan a few years back to hook all of Putnam County's sewage plants together and dump their effluent into the Hudson River at Peekskill.

The signers of the Memorandum of Agreement thought the plan was great but others raised the flag on problems with it and had to fight not only County Executive Bondi but also Riverkeeper, NRDC and the City of New York to defeat it... which we did in the end. The price tag for Diversion was estimated at $150,000,000.

The alternative was that the DEP would upgrade every sewage plant in the Croton Basin to tertiary levels which technically means that their effluent would be of drinking water quality. That program lags far, far behind in schedule even though it was supposed to be completed by now.

An article in the NY Journal News today talks about how scientists from Riverkeeper and Lamont-Doherty have been testing water in the Hudson River where sewage was dumped and found, you guessed it, shit in the water, and proclaimed this a bad thing. So, now we have Riverkeeper, along with scientists from Lamont-Doherty calling for stricter rules on dumping sewage into the Hudson. My, how times change! And those of us who fought that battle should feel vindicated. The article is below the fold.

The "Hempstead 15", 10 of whom are Iraq war veterans, were arraigned in Nassau County court the other day. Here's a video of the demonstration held outside the courthouse in their support. One of these veterans, Adam Kokesh, will be tried this morning at 9AM. If you're a veteran please call Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice at 516-571-2994 as early as possible this morning to show your support for veterans to peaceably assemble in the United States. If you're one of those vocal "support the troops" types, here's your opportunity to do something real.

And now, the News:

  1. Battle brews over Patterson budget
  2. Tougher rules sought on sewage dumping
  3. Westchester County Passes Calorie-Posting Law
  4. A Town Drowns in Debt as Home Values Plunge
  5. Mugging a Handicapped Space
  6. Bonuses for Wall Street Should Go to Zero, U.S. Taxpayers Say
  7. Judge finds no violation in mayor's closed-door meetings
  8. Empty city storefronts now filled with Latino presence

Battle brews over Patterson budget

Michael Risinit
The Journal News

PATTERSON - Cutting the town planner and environmental conservation inspector from next year's budget will bring inappropriate development to Patterson, Supervisor Michael Griffin and some residents said yesterday.

The preliminary 2009 budget by the Town Board eliminates those positions. Griffin maintains the cuts would not be cost-effective and could lead to unchecked growth.

More than 200 residents showed up last week for a public hearing on the Town Board's version of the budget, forcing its postponement to tomorrow.

The preliminary budget also includes a change to the town's highway contract, paying employees who are called in early or who stay late to plow snow overtime for the entire shift - not just the extra hours.

The Town Board's preliminary budget and its cut positions will cost the town more because any savings will be offset by consultants' fees, one resident said.

Read More

Tougher rules sought on sewage dumping

Greg Clary
The Journal News

TARRYTOWN -- When a team of Hudson River researchers heard that Westchester County planned to dump 2.4 million gallons of partially treated sewage, it was too good a scientific opportunity to pass up.

So the crew of three water-quality testers - two Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory marine biologists and a veteran Riverkeeper boat captain - journeyed into the night before the Oct. 20 release to get base line readings, and three more times to get readings after the sewage was discharged.

Just hours after the predawn release, the three testers found levels of the sewage-indicating enterococcus bacteria that were four times higher than usual.

The highest levels recorded exceeded recommended federal guidelines for primary exposure, such as swimming.

Read More

Westchester County Passes Calorie-Posting Law

NEW YORK (AP)  -- Westchester County lawmakers have passed a law requiring major chain restaurants to post calories on their menus.
The Board of Legislators passed the calorie labeling law by a 15-1 vote Monday.
The law requires restaurant chains with at least 15 locations worldwide to display calorie counts on menus and menu boards. About 600 chain restaurants will be affected.
Read More

A Town Drowns in Debt as Home Values Plunge

MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Calif. — This town, 59 feet above sea level, is the most underwater community in America.

Because of plunging home values, almost 90 percent of homeowners here owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, according to figures released Monday. That is the highest percentage in the country. The average homeowner in Mountain House is “underwater,” as it is known, by $122,000.

A visit to the area over the last couple of days shows how the nationwide housing crisis is contributing to a broad slowdown of the American economy, as families who feel burdened by high mortgages are pulling back on their spending.

Jerry Martinez, a general contractor, and his wife, Marcie, an accounts clerk, are among the struggling owners in Mountain House. Burdened with credit card debt and a house losing value by the day, they are learning the necessity of self-denial for themselves and their three children.

No more family bowling night. No more dinners at Chili’s or Applebee’s. No more going to the movies.

“We make decent money, but it takes a tremendous amount to pay the mortgage,” Mr. Martinez, 33, said.

Read More

Mugging a Handicapped Space

by Bruce Apar

It’s a stretch to compare a mugger with the type of able-bodied motorist who thinks nothing of pulling into a parking space clearly designated only for drivers with disabled parking permits. Or is it?

Muggers and disabled-permit violators share some obvious traits: 1) desperate; 2) morally bankrupt; 3) crazy lazy; 4) weak in thought and deed; 5) insensitive; 6) self-absorbed; 7) disregard the law;  need counseling; 9) need to perform community service; 10) need to gratify themselves through illegitimate actions.

It’s somehow satisfying that I keep encountering more people who, like me, are repelled by parking space muggers and some even will mouthe off to the violators. It would be a better world in this particular way if more people called out the non-diasbled who selfishly plant their vehicles — even if for a minute — in a spot they don’t need.

I’m not advocating that anybody put themselves in harm’s way by poking a finger in the chest of a lineman-size driver who emerges from a car misparked in a handicap spot. But those of us who don’t let people like that get away with their shenaningns find various ways to duly shame the culprits into at least perhaps thinking twice about making the same move next time:

Read More

Bonuses for Wall Street Should Go to Zero, U.S. Taxpayers Say

By Christine Harper

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. taxpayers, who feel they own a stake in Wall Street after funding a $700 billion bailout for the industry, don't want executives' bonuses reduced. They want them eliminated.

``I may not understand everything, but I do understand common sense, and when you lend money to someone, you don't want to see them at a new-car dealer the next day,'' said Ken Karlson, a 61-year-old Vietnam veteran and freelance marketer in Wheaton, Illinois. ``The bailout money shouldn't have been given to them in the first place.''

Compensation at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and the six other banks that received the first $125 billion of the federal funds is under scrutiny by lawmakers, including Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat. President-elect Barack Obama cited the program at his first news conference on Nov. 7, saying it will be reviewed to make sure it's ``not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms receiving government assistance.''

While year-end rewards are likely to decline with a drop in revenue this year, industry veterans say that eliminating them risks driving away the firms' most productive workers.

``There are instances where bonuses are justified, deserved, and in the best interests of the investment bank involved,'' said Dan Lufkin, a co-founder of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., the investment bank acquired by Credit Suisse Group AG in 2000. ``Your very best people are people you want to hold, and your very best people will have opportunities even in this environment to transfer allegiance.''

Read More

Judge finds no violation in mayor's closed-door meetings

A Philadelphia court ruled against the local news media Friday in a fight over the mayor and city council's alleged violation of the state's Sunshine Act in a closed-door meeting last week.

Barred from attending the meeting, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News filed a petition Wednesday afternoon in which they claimed that the city's refusal to bar "the public . . . from attending the meeting will violate the [Sunshine] Act and cause irreparable harm." The Inquirer said it was the third meeting this year from which Mayor Michael Nutter has banned reporters.

The mayor and 17 city council members were at the meeting, which was held the day before Nutter announced a projected deficit of more than $1 billion over the next five years if the city doesn't significantly cut spending and staff, The Inquirer reported Monday.

Deputy City Solicitor Christopher DiFusco told The Inquirer that the meeting was an informal discussion, not a deliberation over budget cuts, and therefore did not fall under the Sunshine Act.

In effect, Judge Gary F. Di Vito agreed.

Read More

Empty city storefronts now filled with Latino presence

By Greg Marano
Poughkeepsie Journal

Penny Lewis can run down a mental tally of the Fifth Ward businesses that have closed since 1956, when she moved to the City of Poughkeepsie.

The city councilwoman recalls supermarkets, bars and a fish market when she moved into the neighborhood, which includes parts of upper Main Street, Smith Street and her home on Harrison Street. But over the next 15 to 20 years, she watched the businesses close one by one.

"People moved away, and a blighted area came to that [part] for a long time," she said.

Now, she said, it's slowly coming back, mostly due to a wave of businesses run by Mexican immigrants who cater to a Hispanic customer base.

Read More

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