Thursday, July 31, 2008

Seeing Through New York

New York government became a lot more transparent today, thanks to the Manhattan Institute, one of the most forward-looking voices for reform in the State.   Its new website,, puts online

".  .  . searchable databases of the entire payroll of state government employees, operating expenses by both houses of the New York State Legislature, the Legislature’s pork-barrel 'member items' spending for 2008-09, and current teachers' union contracts and superintendents of schools contracts for nearly all of New York's school districts."
The site lists information never before available online.   The data was compiled by the Manhattan Institute through numerous Freedom of Information Law requests to the State.

The contracts for teachers' unions, school superintendents and other school district contracts were not previously available in one place, even from the State Education Department.

According to the Albany Times-Union, the site, inaugurated today, is close to crashing after being "bombarded with hits .  .  . mostly from state IP addresses."


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Golisano Gets It

Civic life in the State of New York cries out for the clarity of vision and expression displayed yesterday by Tom Golisano.   Speaking of the proposed 4% property "tax cap" -- an empty farce, as we've pointed out -- Golisano said that such a cap is like

"sticking a knife into someone, but promising not to stick it in any further."
At last, someone (other than we here at Mustard Street) has spoken up to say that the Emperor has no clothes.

Speaking at a rally for the 4% "cap" in Brockport, Golisano said that property taxes should be capped at zero percent growth in order to work.   He illustrated the point by observing that at the proposed 4%, it would take a century to equalize the rate between the average home in Rochester and the average home in Columbus, Ohio.

Recently we expressed hope that Golisano has a deeper understanding of the governmental/political world than so many businesspeople who become involved in politics.   His performance yesterday encourages us in that hope.

Keep it up, Tom.   Please make sure that no candidate gets funding from your new PAC without publicly committing to support a zero percent tax cap.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Here Comes the New Boss -- Same as the Old Boss?

It was announced this morning that Ali M. Zoibi, General Manager of Gannett's Indianapolis Star is the new Publisher of the Democrat and Chronicle.   He replaces Michael Kane, who left to become publisher of -- The Indianapolis Star!   (Just one big family, is Gannett).

In reaction, Jim Hopkins, who publishes Gannett Blog, commented:

Indy:  Please brief Rochester on the ethically-challenged publisher that [former Star columnist Ruth] Holladay says they're now getting.

At this point, we have no way of knowing what Hopkins means by "ethically challenged."   But, really, can it be any worse than the D&C's blackout of news unflattering to David Gantt, or giving free, front-page advertising for its favored political candidates, or its unprincipled selectivity in publicizing allegedly wrong acts by only one side in public controversies?

We must regard any change in management of the D&C as offering at least the possibility of our getting an ethical daily newspaper of quality.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Starvation Diet?

The late, great, Quentin Crisp observed, "To an egomaniac, fair share of anything is always starvation diet."

Some left-wing true believers around Rochester are upset over the impending format change at radio station WROC 950 AM.   The station now carries liberal-oriented programming from the failing "Air America" effort, and proposes to change to sports coverage by next week.   (Do we really need two sports stations in Rochester?)

What's a truly progressive Rochesterian to do?

If WROC goes, all that's left are CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Democrat and Chronicle, the Messenger-Post papers in all the local towns and the main national news magazines.

For decades in this country the Left was used to having the entire media loaf.   Now they're down to 95% of the loaf -- and it's just not fair!

However, to those who prefer "President" Castro to President Bush (we don't have time for either), take heart.   You can still hear Air America on WWKB 1520 AM out of Buffalo.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grand Opening

Monroe County Democrats celebrated the grand opening of new offices with cocktails on the veranda.

"We wanted to convey inclusiveness," explained a spokesman, discussing Rochester's newest architectural triumph. "Our design charettes came up with a bold concept that's relevant to all people, especially working families."

Others were inspired by the new landmark's practical advantages: "It's ideal for after-hours socializing for many of our members."

The yellow hydrant, front and center in this breakthrough public space, symbolizes the Party's commitment to the trans-species community.

In appreciation, Rex, a German Shorthaired Pointer known before his recent surgery as Osborn Hathaway, Ph.D., Professor of Multicultural Studies at Monroe Community College, said, "Woof!," before giving chase to a passing car.

Capturing the prevailing mood, one merry-maker enthused: "I'm so proud. It stands for what we've done for quality of life in the City, and our vision for the suburbs once we control the County."


Massive Giveaway to Public Employee Unions

New York State's most powerful special interest got a lot stronger yesterday, thanks to Gov. Paterson and a unanimous vote of the "Republican" State Senate.   The Governor signed legislation that makes permanent, instead of subject to renewal every 2 years, the ability of the State's public employee unions to charge union dues even to employees who don't join a union.

The new law removes one of the few remaining opportunities for leverage that taxpayers, through their local governments and school boards, have had in dealing with union demands.

According to The New York Times, the State School Boards Association, opposing the change, said it amounted to "denying school districts an important bargaining tool."

Thus the shackles on the world's longest chain gang, the taxpayers of New York, got locked up tighter yesterday.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Republicans Take the Bait


The recent call by Democrats for County Legislature President Wayne Zyra to resign got us thinking about something we hadn't noticed before.

Zyra's been president for 5 or 6 years, but only recently has he been in the news.  We don't recall seeing or hearing much about him before the controversy over the Public Defender earlier this year.

The acknowledged spokesman for Republicans in the County Legislature used to be the Majority Leader.  Bill Smith was Majority Leader through last year and seemed always to speak for the Republicans.   Before Smith, Shawn Hanna was Majority Leader; he similarly acted as spokesman.

It's like the U.S. Senate.   The spokesman's not President pro tem Robert Byrd, but Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Dan Quatro is now Majority Leader.   Yet the press, at least the Democrat and Chronicle, seems to be pushing Zyra as the go-to guy on the Republican side.   Why?

It can't be because Zyra's trying to assert himself, or usurp the Majority Leader's role.   His aversion to talking to the press is well-established.   We've commented on it before.

It can't be because Quatro lacks ability.   We've heard him on radio, and on TV news.   He holds his own as well as Smith and Hanna.

We think the answer is related to the legislative Democrats' recent call for Zyra's ouster, and the recent D&C editorial urgung the same.   If they were serious about booting him, holding a press conference, like editorial scolding, is the last way to do it.   In the political world, publicly seeking his ouster only causes the other side, reflexively, to circle the wagons.   We think that's exactly what they wanted Republicans to do.

The Republicans took the bait.

If Minority Leader Harry Bronson really had wanted to take out Zyra, he'd have approached Quatro privately, letting him know there are Democratic votes to remove Zyra, if Quatro's interested.

Given the substantial damage Zyra's caused his party through failure to speak out in either the Public Defender squabble, or the MCC presidential controversy (Zyra is the legislature's representative on the MCC board), a leader as astute as we consider Quatro might have welcomed such an opportunity.

We think the Democratic Party - Democrat and Chronicle Axis doesn't want Zyra out.

They want him to stay put, to make him into the public face of the Republican caucus going into next year's legislative elections.   This explains why the D&C puts forth Zyra, the holder of a ceremonial post, over Quatro, the Republican leader in both title and substance.

Zyra presents the weakest public face for the legislature's Republicans, because of his unwillingness to talk to the press.   The Democrats reinforce the image of Zyra as "leader" of the Republicans by insisting that it's Zyra who has to go.

The D&C gets a legitimate excuse to be even more partisan in its coverage:   in any story, they can present comment from Democratic leader Bronson, without having to add any Republican comment on the ground that "Republican Legislature President Wayne Zyra did not return repeated calls for comment," which inevitably will be the case.

Thus the paper can get in a double political hit each time:   printing only a Democratic comment, and putting Republicans even further behind by reminding readers that their "leader" is so hopeless he won't return phone calls.

When Democrats have controlled the County Legislature, the President has been whoever has the most power -- the genuine leader of the Democratic caucus.   At $54,000, the Legislative Presidency is the best job most of them will ever get near.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have jobs, in the private sector and in professions like teaching and law.   When they have the majority, the Presidency goes to whoever has time to do it, such as a retiree like Zyra.   Sometimes they get lucky with Presidents like John Auberger, or the late Dennis Pellitier.   Otherwise, it's whoever has the time.

Zyra's painfully conspicuous public withdrawal during the Public Defender struggle made the Democrats and their partners at the D&C aware of a weak link on the Republican side of the legislature.

What a mistake they'd been making for years!   Going to Hanna and later Smith for public comment, both effective spokesmen.   Now they're going to, and promoting, the weakest link.

Who mostly doesn't even speak at all.


Monday, July 21, 2008

The Best and the Brightest

Monroe County Republicans have additional reason to feel confident in their party's prospects with this morning's news of the appointment of Andy Moore as Executive Director of the County Republican Party.

Like Supervisor John Auberger, Moore is highly admired by the smartest and most talented people in the Republican organization. Moore served as Chief of Staff of the GOP Majority in the County Legislature under then-Majority Leader Bill Smith.   They were widely regarded as a formidable team.

Moore now bringing his estimable abilities to the day-to-day running of the Republican Party is good news for Republicans and bad news for Democratic headquarters.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

How About a Forum to Find Out Who's Buried In Grant's Tomb?

From a July 16 posting by Joe Spector on the D&C's political blog, we learn that Republicans in the State Assembly are holding "regional forums" to study the reasons why young people leave the state.

Spector politely suggests:   "Here's two answers: no jobs, high taxes."

Those aren't two of the answers, those are the answers.

We understand the political need to stage events, such as public forums, to get attention and to demonstrate a concern for problems.   We'd understand it if Minority Leader Jim Tedisco and his colleagues held forums to encourage public support for the policy changes necessary for New York to allow the creation of more jobs and to lower taxes.   They'd find receptive audiences.

But to study why young people leave the state?   What's next -- regional forums to figure out who's buried in Grant's tomb?

New York offers young people life as a galley slave of the welfare state and the public schools.   Until it offers something better, young people will keep leaving, and they should.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Golisano: Visionary or Dilettante?

We're not sure about Tom Golisano when it comes to politics.   Many good ideas, heart in the right place, but, perhaps, politically naive.   If so, then altogether not much different from most business successes who decide to go into politics.   They've mastered one world and expect to do it again, in a wholly different sphere they know superficially and whose rules and dynamics are completely different.   Some, like Bloomberg, make it, and accomplish something useful; others, not so much.

The ostensible goals of Golisano's new PAC remain too broad for us to know, yet, whether he's on top of the political game or not.

Here's how we're all going to find out.

The unique collection of problems that place New York first among states on all the lists of bad characteristics -- high property taxes, out-migration to other states, for example -- and last on the lists of good characteristics -- job creation, ease of doing business, affordable taxes -- involves two separate, even though often related, areas:   policies and process.

Upstate New York's economic death spiral will continue until the policies are changed.   Changes to process are relevant to curing the disease only to the extent they facilitate adopting the right policies and ditching the wrong ones.

Every politician recognizes that it's impossible to deny the deep problems with government in New York and maintain credibility with voters.   Therefore, politicians who want to preserve the policies crushing the people of this state, or who are supported by special interests that do, talk a lot about dysfunction, and fixing processes in state government.   This gives the appearance of doing something, while leaving the causes of the problems untouched.

Therefore, if we hear Golisano and the candidates he endorses talking about changing policies (e.g. "I'm funding Candidate X because she'll vote to repeal the Wicks Law," etc.), we'll know he gets it and that his PAC can do some good.   We think this is what he'll do.

If, on the other hand, we hear him focusing on process changes, transparency, etc., without talking about specific policy changes, then he's just another clueless Captain of Industry dreaming of apotheosis into a "Statesman," as he's played for a sucker by the political hacks.


Gannett Conference Call This Morning

The Gannett conference call is this morning, at 10 am. To listen to Gannett's CEO, its Chief Financial Officer, and others discuss earnings and answer questions from financial analysts:

Go here for the webcast.

Go here for information about phoning in to the listen-only lines. Call 10 minutes ahead of time.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gannett Stock Falls to 18-Year Low; Conference Call Tomorrow on Company Status

Stock of Gannett, the corporation that owns the Democrat and Chronicle, was down to $17.29 per share in afternoon trading, an 18-year low.

Gannett's stock has lost 67 percent of its value in the last year.

This is good news for those of us who hope Gannett will have to sell its newspaper assets. New ownership and management is our only hope for getting a newspaper of integrity in Rochester.

You can listen to Gannett's conference call tomorrow morning, July 16, at 10 a.m., when it explains the company's earnings and performance for the second quarter (April through June).

It figures that the conference call for the owner of the D&C is one way only. The public can listen, but it can't ask questions.

I think there's a problem with "the process."


Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Sinks to Democrat and Chronicle Standards

The cover of the latest New Yorker does to Barack and Michelle Obama, with a picture, what the Democrat and Chronicle does with words to local Republicans every chance it gets.

For portraying Obama and his wife in a false light, the New Yorker cover is both dishonest and offensive.

Every bit as dishonest and offensive as the D&C, whether it's falsifying information about Republican legislators "grilling" a board appointment, or claiming that candidates with Ivy League credentials and distinguished backgrounds are "unqualified" to run a local junior college if they happen to be Republican.   Whether it's suppressing information reflecting favorably on Republicans, as in this example and this one, or by doing the inverse, like falsely portraying a Democratic candidate for office in a way intended to portray him as "just a concerned private citizen," while concealing his real status as a politician.

There is a bright side, however:   stock of the D&C's corporate owner, Gannett Co. Inc., is down to $17.60 right now, thereby tracking the trajectory of the ethics of its Rochester newspaper.   A year ago it was above $55.00.   So maybe we're $37.40 per share closer to Gannett selling the paper, or getting taken over itself.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

From the Folks Who Brought You "Justice Arthur Kennedy"

A Democrat and Chronicle editorial this morning called for County Legislature President Wayne Zyra to go, because Zyra appointed banker John Bartolotta to the Community College Board of Trustees in exactly the manner of Governor Paterson in making an appointment to the same Board a week earlier. (Somehow the D&C didn't think to call for Paterson's resignation for doing the same thing.)

What stands out is the D&C's statement that:

" ... Republicans themselves put fellow Republican Lori Van Dusen, whom Bartolotta replaces, through the wringer when her reappointment to the MCC board came up."

Sources in the County Legislature today checked the transcript of Van Dusen's October 2006 reappointment. They confirmed that:

  Van Dusen's reappointment went through without any debate or questions;

  Her reappointment passed unanimously;

  Like similar appointments, Van Dusen's reappointment went directly to the Full Legislature and bypassed the committee process, meaning that the time between announcement of her reappointment and the vote on it was the same as for this past Tuesday's vote on Trustee John Bartolotta;

  V.D. herself was not even present when the legislature voted on her reappointment (in keeping with all other MCC Board appointees);

  She was never questioned by legislators prior to reappointment.

Some "wringer."

Has Gannett's financial deterioration reduced the D&C to not even having staff to do basic fact-checking any more? This is the same editorial board that recently referred to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as "Justice Arthur Kennedy."

Or has the D&C declined to the point where it now defines "truth" as whatever might sell the most newspapers?


Something We'd LIKE Jesse to Cut Out

There are certain people whose nuts we wouldn't mind cutting out, and even more people we consider badly in need of some nuts to start with.

Maybe this is why we're just not bothered by the most publicly controversial part of Jesse Jackson's latest indiscretion.   The "nuts" line ill-becomes a reverend, but Jackson isn't a real reverend anyway, so we can scarcely hold nuts-cutting aspirations against the old fraud.

What outrages us is JJ's other comment.

"Barack been talking down to black people ..."

No, Jesse.   Not "Barack been talking ..."

It's "Barack's been talking ... ", or "Barack has been talking ..."

We'll never understand why Jesse Jackson thought he could make a career as a kind of Mussolini of American blacks by sounding like the most vicious white racist's minstrel-show caricature of a black man.

A large part of Barack Obama's appeal is that he's a man whom parents of every ethnicity can commend to their children as someone to admire and emulate.   This probably is why Jackson resents him so bitterly.

We don't hold poor speech against people who didn't have much opportunity in life.   My grandparents had only limited education; they used "ain't" and "he don't" and similar constructions.   They did their best.

We're not even bugged that Jackson, a college graduate (or are you faking that, too, Jesse?), should know better.

What's upsetting is that for a generation and more he's put himself forward as a leader, and therefore, implicitly, as a role model.   Take on that job and you have a responsibility to do better.

To those of you getting ready to comment that this is just a tirade against "Black English" -- spare us.

You want to hear some "Black English?"

We refer you to the aforementioned Senator Barack Obama.   Or to thousands in our own community, in business or journalism, in a classroom or a laboratory, in medicine or law or government, in a cop car or fire engine, in a machine shop or driving a bus, or in myriad other endeavors of every stripe, whose ancestors came from Africa and to any of whom we'd point, and tell our children, "Be like this when you grow up."

Obama, by the way, was right when he said our kids should learn to speak Spanish.   He's too much of a gentleman to have added, yesterday, that Jesse Jackson should learn to speak English.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

MCC Board Appointment Rammed Through

Let's make the points of contention clear:

  An appointment to the Monroe Community College Board of Trustees is presented in summary fashion.

  Stakeholders -- not just elected officials, but also faculty, students, and members of the community that supports this Community College -- are not given adequate time to review the appointment before it's approved.

  Members of the County Legislature are denied the right even to interview the nominee, or to question him in open public session.

  It's an appointment that almost everyone agrees looked solid (to borrow the words of newspaper editor Jim Lawrence), if only because the new trustee has served on the board of the MCC Foundation.   But it's the way it's done -- the process, that undermines public confidence.

For these reasons, the entire community should deplore the appointment of Howard Konar to MCC's Board of Trustees, by Governor Paterson.

Only nobody's doing any deploring, at least not of the Konar appointment. 

Instead, Democrats in the County Legislature spent last night denouncing the appointment of John Bartolotta to the college's Board of Trustees, for every one of the reasons stated above.  Editor Lawrence followed suit this morning.  Yet none of them said a word about the appointment of Konar, to which every one of those points of contention apply.

Even casual observers of the local political scene will recognize immediately the reason for this monumental hypocrisy.   The factors listed above apply every bit to both appointments.  The difference in the reactions is that Konar was the appointment of a Democratic public official, so, of course, it's blameless, while Bartolotta is the appointment of Republican elected officials, so of course it's denounced.

We applaud Maggie Brooks for seeking a new era of cooperation in government.   But we hope she has no illusions of the environment in which she must pursue it.   County Democrats and their cheerleaders like Mr. Lawrence understand "cooperation" to mean this:

"What's ours is ours.   What's yours is up for grabs."


First Fruits of Brooks's New Approach

The announcement this afternoon of the County's settlement with the school districts over potentially lost revenue to the schools under the "FAIR" plan represents perhaps the first concrete example, in the post-Minarik era, of the cooperative approach to government that Maggie Brooks has championed.

It's a significant win for the County, inasmuch as the likelihood of the Court of Appeals taking the County's appeal of its court loss was infinitesimal.   Sources tell us that the terms for paying the funds to the school districts are highly favorable to the County, allowing it to make payments over time.  This is a particular disappointment for County Democrats, since it spares the county from a $29 million hit to this year's budget.

It puts Democrats $29 million further away from their holy grail -- forcing Maggie Brooks to have to raise property taxes.

A win for the school districts and a win for the County Administration. Also a big setback for Monroe County Democrats, which, alone, means a big win for the people of Monroe County.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Reilich Factor

Smart.   Capable.   Politically sophisticated.   Temperamentally and intellectually inclined toward the concept of the New Republican Party that Maggie Brooks has in mind.

This is as concise a synthesis as we can offer of the reactions we've gleaned in the last 24 hours since word started getting around Monroe Republicanland that Maggie Brooks would recommend Bill Reilich as party chairman.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

All The News That Fits, We Print. The Back of Our Hand to The Rest

Several months ago the Democrat and Chronicle, on both its "news" and editorial sides, threw a monumental hissy fit that trustees of Monroe Community College added finalists to the college presidential search, in addition to finalists picked by a Search Committee.

The choices of the Search Committee -- apparently a rarefied collection of Olympian visionaries assembled in one room -- were sacrosanct, the paper insisted.   For the trustees to add finalists was an appalling affront to the integrity of   "the process."

Never mind that a SUNY officer was quoted as saying that the trustees had the right to do exactly as they did.

Never mind that the candidates added by the trustees, lawyer and former county legislator Bill Smith and businessman Dennis Kessler, had better educational credentials than either choice served up by the Search Committee.   Or than the current president of MCC.

But here's what caught our interest:   the first of the Search Committee's choices, a junior college president from New Jersey, pulled out, deciding to stay put in his current job.  So much for the acumen of the divine seers on the Search Committee in sizing up the genuineness of candidates' professed interest in the job.

What of the Search Committee's other choice, the president of Broome Community College in Binghamton?

His own college just threw him out.
  Here's the story in the Binghamton Sun Mirror.

It happened two weeks ago.   You never saw a word about it in the D&C.   (Even though the Binghamton Sun-Mirror is another Gannett paper).   Because it wouldn't reflect well on the Search Committee -- in which the D&C told us to repose all trust -- that of the two people it selected, one couldn't be bothered and the other was sacked by his own college.   Way to go, Search Committee.   Zero for 2.  No coverage in McPaper.

This spring we paid a lot more attention to who's going to be the next President of the United States than who's going to head the local junior college.   (Shamefully inverted values, apparently, by Democrat and Chronicle standards).  

Thanks to our own Lucy's brother Dan, in Johnson City, for alerting us to the Binghamton news report.   It's made us more interested in the whole story.   Just who were the members of this hapless "Search Committee?"   Was its membership list ever published?

If you know, leave us a comment or send an e-mail.   We'd be interested to know just what cast of characters spent months of deliberation to come up with the two embarrassments they chose.


South Wedge Farmers Market 2008

This summer, as last, the South Wedge Farmers Market continues as one of our favorite venues.Thursday evenings from 4 - 8 pm, at the corner of South Clinton and Alexander.

One of the pleasures of City life.   This year, the price of gasoline is just one more reason to shop locally at South Wedge for your fruit, veg and other goodies instead of driving to the grocery store.

Their website is at