Monday, March 21, 2011

News That Matters - Monday, March 21, 2011 - The State of the County Edition

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Good Monday Morning,

I must apologize to Mongolians, residents of Tennessee and the mayor of Albany, Oregon for not having been insulted or otherwise abused in my more then ten years of publishing this newsletter. I will do what I can to be more inclusive in the future. To the Unitarian who complained he has not been insulted, please refer to the January 7, 2011 edition of News That Matters and I think you'll be satisfied.

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Do you remember that hike a took a few weeks ago in Fahnestock state park where I continuously plunged my feet into deep slushy snow, creeks and streams, photographed and wrote about in the March 4th, Things To Do Edition? Well, I took the same hike last Friday and never got my feet wet once. It turns out it's much easier when you're not slogging through foot-deep slush and crossing streams that aren't swollen by several inches of rain and snowmelt. It turns out it's just around 2.6 miles and takes a little more than an hour... when there's no slush, snow or wet, cold feet.
If you'd like to follow this hike and you're a Google Earth user, here's a link to a kmz file that shows the route.

I attended the Nan Hayworth and Steven Katz community forum in Patterson on Saturday and my bullshit meter is plum tuckered out. Ms. Hayworth didn't answer a single question; she either deflected or answered the question she wished was asked or went off on some ideological tangent.

At one point early on while discussing budget cuts she said her party had proposed budget cuts but that Obama had proposed none. Of course that isn't true as the President had recommended more than $60 billion in cuts, so using that as a base everything else she had to say was immediately suspect.

How can a representative in Congress tell such a lie and expect people to believe it? Apparently many in the room did believe her which tells me they must be getting their news from Al Jazeera. Oh, and she loves Indian Point, says it's safe and essential but said nothing about alternative energy sources to wean us off imported oil. And she defended congressional action to cut $60 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting but said nothing about the $600 BILLION spent at the Pentagon.

On the question of why several major American corporations had paid no income taxes she said she didn't want to raise taxes on anyone. She repeated the Republican mantra that no economy has ever grown with raised taxes conveniently forgetting that FDR raised taxes during the depression, used those dollars to put Americans to work thus growing the economy and set the stage for pulling us out of the depression. But in 1938 under severe pressure from Congressional Republicans, he lowered the Federal tax rate, people lost their jobs and the economy shrunk again until the beginning of the war two years later. In 1994, Bill Clinton also raised income taxes and by the end of his tenure the nation had full employment and a federal budget surplus.

But redefining history was the rule of the day and she and Mr. Katz are good and I'm sure they'll get better as time goes on.

Assemblyman Steven Katz insisted - repeatedly - that 2 million people have left NY State due to high taxes. Where he got that information is unknown, but he said it over and again. The US Census bureau shows something different:

Census 2000: 18,976,811
Census 2010: 19,541,453

That's an increase of 3%, not a decrease.

So I must ask where he got his information.

My Love/Hate relationship with Patterson Supervisor Mike Griffin continues unabated. He singled me out for 'speaking out' while others were equally vocal and someone sent a County Sheriff to stand nearby just in case. Luckily he was young and handsome so if he had to escort me out it would have been a like a short date. Win-win all around!

I'm sure Vitelli from the Examiner and whoever was there from the Putnam Times will have a boring run-down of the afternoon without the fireworks, lies, mistruths and recreations of history, later this week.

Oh, I just remembered, there was a guy there from the Tea Party who didn't know what the USDA was or did and was just furthering the impression that, oh hell... I'm just gonna get in trouble.

State of the County:

Putnam's Foreclosure Rate:
From Nick Reisman at the Politics on the Hudson Blog:

A report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued today on New York’s foreclosure rate found that Putnam County had the highest rate in the state per 1,000 homes.

Putnam County’s foreclosure rate is 15.8 per 1,000 homes, more than double the statewide average. Foreclosures were also highest in Orange, Nassau, Suffolk and Rockland counties, all areas that have expensive housing stock.

For counties near us the rates were:

Putnam: 15.8 per thousand
Orange: 13.0 per thousand
Rockland: 11.6 per thousand
Westchester: 7.6 per thousand
Dutchess: 4.6 per thousand
Sullivan: 2.1 per thousand
Thanks to MYH for sending that along.

There is still a steady stream of long-term residents leaving the county. People are accepting less than value for their homes just to get out from under the crushing burden of their property tax bills and the all-around excessive cost of living where the country once began. And all the commercial development in the planning and wishing stages will only make it more expensive and onerous to live here. Just ask anyone on Long Island or Westchester or Rockland if their property tax bills have been lowered due to the bulldozers and paving machines.
Contrary to Assemblyman Steven Katz' assertion that people are leaving the state in droves, and though some certainly have, Putnam residents are largely fleeing to nearby counties within NY State. According to Forbes magazine, in 2008, 887 Putnam County residents moved to Dutchess county, 940 to Westchester, 44 to Rockland, 62 to Orange, 38 to Ulster, 26 to Columbia, 17 to Greene, 51 to Queens and 51 to Nassau. Of those leaving the state the vast majority, 331, moved to nearby Fairfield County in CT where the only thing that's actually lower when all is said and done, is the sales tax.

I was having a chat with a friend  last week as he pointed out each of his neighbors who used to work in the trades noting how each had taken work elsewhere and how difficult it must be for them to make ends meet. Many are lucky enough to have two family incomes but they're just barely hanging on. There must be more to life than struggling to survive, deciding at the end of each week which bills will get paid and which will not and counting the amounting debt just to stay alive.

Carpenters, painters, paper-hangers and electricians are sitting idle, worrying if they're going to make it or not and those with a little money in the bank are leaving the county either for work or leaving the county, period.

So what is the county doing to support their own? The boards over at Consumer Affairs are targeting their in-county competition for harassment to secure the few remaining jobs and forcing their neighbors out of business. The county legislature has pledged to continue the highest sales tax rates in the region and our County Executive and Legislature refuse to cut the county budget and school boards adamantly refuse to cut management spending.

An article in the NYJN yesterday told about how four-dozen high-level county management employees were being sought by a union for collective bargaining rights as if they're $80,000 a year plus benefit salaries required a union.

What about a union for the trades? Imagine what concessions we might be able to get from the county for the extra taxes we're forced to pay just for the right to work, taxes that if we do not pay we are refused the right to work?

There are no relief dollars for blue collar workers, no unemployment pay, no tax relief. These workers are the backbone of Putnam County, and the county seems hell-bent on forcing them out of work and ultimately out of the county both through its refusal to promote their work or through fines and penalties for doing something as simple as trying to put food on their tables by not paying the county it's legal protection racket money.

Instead, the county is doing everything it can to make us pay more. For example, Consumer Affairs wants landscapers to take a class in phosphorus reduction, which is noble. But they want landscapers to pay for it even though the county has already taken $250 from each and every one, and that's just the tip of the iceberg! The county wants its contractors to have a lead abatement licenses but is unwilling to assist in paying the cost.

Whether it be through sales taxes, through fees, through hidden taxes and other methods, our county government is determined to bleed you dry one tax at a time, until you, too, join the parade of long-term residents fleeing the county. I'm actually surprised the County Executive and Legislature have not instituted a "leaving the county tax" just to get your ass one final time.

Later this year there will be elections for County Executive, several County legislative seats and your town boards. If you vote for the incumbent party, as you always do, you're only going to get more of the same and you are, like it or not, directly responsible for the government we have which is the one you deserve.

If you like the current situation here in Putnam County I can only assume you hold a protected job with a municipality or you work for a firm which has been guaranteed work through their "proper" political donations. And while those days are clearly not over as politicians race to fill the void left by the retirement of Senator Leibell, you may be soon be working for a county which has no one living in it.

Putnam Valley's Ariane Orenstein passed away earlier this month after a long fight with cancer. Her last public post to the world on her Facebook page was, "What's on my mind 24/7? cancer." The post before, urging Congress not to de-fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting... a fighter to the end!

She will be missed.
The Philipstown Depot Theater will be performing four original one-act plays on April 8,9,10 in her memory with details to follow in Friday's Things To Do edition.

And now, the News:

Gov. Cuomo’s All-Cuts Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rightly argued that painful spending cuts will be needed to close New York’s projected $10 billion deficit. The hard truth is that it is impossible to cut spending deeply without cutting the state’s huge outlays for education and health care. That means that New York’s most vulnerable citizens — schoolchildren, the elderly, the poor, the sick — will feel a disproportionate amount of the pain.

Governor Cuomo has vowed to make the tough decisions and not to be swayed by special-interest pleadings. But he is refusing to impose any new taxes or even continue a current surcharge on New York’s wealthiest and least vulnerable citizens.

That makes no fiscal sense. So we have to assume that for Mr. Cuomo, some special interests are more special than others. Just extending the surcharge on New York’s highest earners through 2012 would add an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue to the upcoming budget and $4 billion the following fiscal year.

Without that surcharge and other targeted tax increases, Mr. Cuomo’s proposed cuts in education and other vital services will inevitably be deeper and more painful than necessary, harming both individuals and the foundation for the state’s future economic growth.

The governor has proposed his no-new-taxes budget and is now negotiating with state lawmakers. The Legislature is required to approve a final budget by April 1. That means there is only slightly more than a week to decide these critical issues.

Read More

March 18, 2011

Investing in green jobs will immediately address two of our country’s most important challenges: lowering unemployment while improving our energy system. For those reasons alone, these investments would be worthwhile. But they will also significantly improve our economy in the long term, making it more productive and efficient.

Richard W. Caperton and Adam Hersh explain why in a CAP analysis.

With nearly 14 million Americans unable to find work right now, jobs are the most pressing immediate problem facing the U.S. economy. At the same time, we need to rapidly move toward clean energy sources that will protect the economy from volatile imported fossil-fuel prices and help prevent the most extreme results of climate change. Policymakers have the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Green jobs—jobs created or retained through investments in renewable and efficient energy technologies and processes—are a key way to solve these overlapping challenges.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration and congressional leaders have taken critical steps to create jobs by moving our country toward a more efficient, lower-carbon economy powered by the clean energy sources of the future. They have instituted financial incentives for clean energy investment, continued regulatory processes that will level the playing field for renewable and efficient energy sources, and have proposed an ambitious plan for the United States to source 80 percent of its power from clean sources by 2035.

Read More

Border Patrol Beats a Man to Death


     SAN DIEGO (CN) - Two dozen Border Patrol agents beat a man to death at the San Ysidro Port of entry while onlookers screamed for them to stop, his family says in Federal Court.

     "At one point, there were approximately 20 to 25 agents taking part in beating, kicking or punching Mr. [Anastacio] Hernandez-Rojas ..." the complaint states. "The beating continued for several minutes. At some point, federal officer Doe 3 pulled out a Taser and fired it at Mr. Hernandez-Rojas while he lay beaten on the ground. He discharged the Taser several times. Mr. Hernandez-Rojas stopped screaming after being Tased.

     "Paramedics arrived on scene. By the time of their arrival Mr. Hernandez had not been breathing for at least 8 minutes. Mr. Hernandez-Rojas was transported to Sharp Chula Vista [hospital] and pronounced brain dead.

Read More
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