Friday, February 26, 2010

Reduce the Number of County Legislators?

Somewhere in Monroe County Democratic Headquarters there's a computer program showing that 15 is the optimum number of seats in the County Legislature for the purpose of maximizing Democrats' chances, in redistricting, for new district lines that make a Democratic majority most likely.

That's the real reason why county Legislature Democrats today proposed reducing the legislature from 29 members to 15.   Not because it could save what, in the context of the County budget, is a small amount.

Democrats point out that other similarly-sized counties -- Erie, for example -- have only 15 legislators.   What they carefully omit is that each of those 15 Erie County legislators is paid $42,588 per year (as of 2007; it may have increased since then.)   Monroe County legislators are paid $18,000 per year, an amount that hasn't risen since the early to mid-1990's.

It doesn't end there.  Erie County pays for a district office for each county legislator.   Monroe County legislators?   No district offices.

You won't read any of that in the Democrats' press release.   Or on the WHEC Channel 10 news site, which just shows the number of legislators in other selected counties, including Erie, without showing the cost data that tells the real story.   What do you expect from a station whose main newsreader, Jennifer Johnson, is Mrs. Vinnie Esposito, right-hand man to Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle and one of the County legislators behind today's little deception?

If the Democrats are really serious about saving money by eliminating legislative seats, why stop at 15?   Counties throughout the country operate with 5- and 6-member boards of county commissioners.   And let's save on the expense of redistricting, while we're at it.   How about a 5-member county board of legislators elected at large, county-wide?   That's how it is in counties across America.

If you're sincerely interested in saving money, this would make the most sense.  But somehow we think County Democrats would never let go of those one-man, one-vote, one-time City legislative seats where Democratic candidates are elected for life, at least.

And while we're saving money, why stop at the County level?

Rochester City Council members are paid $29,000 per year, with automatic annual increases through a cost-of-living adjustment.   Council has 9 members.

Here, with a one-party government, we have a real opportunity for savings.   Instead of nine City councillors who always vote with the Democratic Mayor, why not cut it down to three City councillors who always vote with the Democratic Mayor?   The outcome's the same, and you've just cut 2/3 of your City Council salary costs.   Not to mention benefits.

When the Democrat and Chronicle does its editorial in the next few days backing the Democrats' plan to reduce the county legislature, we're betting they won't be looking for similar savings in City Council.

If Democrats in the County Legislature are really serious about saving on legislature expenses, and since they look to Erie County as a model, they could take a page from the book of the minority Republicans in the Erie County Legislature.   The Erie Republicans just closed down all of their county-paid district offices, to save the county money.

Since Monroe legislators don't have offices in the first place, or county-paid cars, how about Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature really sticking it to those Republicans by giving up their $18,000-per-year legislative salaries?

And just one question more:   Why is it a blogger making all of these points and not the Republicans in the County Legislature?!


Paterson Calls It Quits

Pulls out of race for governor, but won't resign, says the Daily News.

Bad news for Rick Lazio.   We're looking at another Elliot Spitzer - John Faso campaign.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Odd Couple

A few weeks ago we wondered whether Governor Paterson might appoint Assemblywoman Susan John to a vacancy on Monroe County Court.

Last Saturday, Ms. John, Assemblyman David Gantt and his marionette Lovely Warren were the only elected officials present at the Governor's election kickoff rally in Rochester.

Then came today's New York Times story.   We think the story's appearance has to do mostly with a New York Times desperately fearful of a Scott Brown outcome in the election for governor.   We invoke it here because of the interesting contrast in reactions.

Shelly Silver calls the allegations "horrific."

The Governor's Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, Denise O’Donnell, resigns, saying it is "impossible for me, in good conscience, to remain a member of your administration."

The Rockland County Democratic Chairman says "Mr. Paterson should end his campaign immediately."

The Albany County Democratic Chairman says "Forget running for governor."

The Orange County Democratic Chairman says the allegations reveal "at best incompetence and at worst . . . abuse of power by the governor"

The president of the New York chapter of the National Organization of Women says of the Governor, "it would certainly be political suicide for him in the end if this is true."

And Susan John?

“At this moment I don’t believe that he interfered in an investigation.” said Assemblywoman Susan John, D-Rochester , who introduced Paterson at a campaign rally this weekend.  “The Times story has it reported both ways: that the woman called him and that he called her.  So at this point there’s no reason for me to believe–either proposition is as likely–there’s no reason for me to believe that the governor interfered.”
Such a detached, lawyerly analysis.

Some might even call it judicial.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is D&C Admitting it Backed the Wrong People?

The Democrat and Chronicle's editorial board has either changed its mind a lot or is telling us that it's been endorsing the wrong candidates.

In yesterday’s editorial, the editorial board asks state lawmakers to change their behavior, criticizes them for not working together, and makes a point of stating that the legislative and executive branches of state government are controlled by Democrats.

Pop Quiz:   Can you tell me who in state office today from Monroe County was endorsed by the Democrat & Chronicle?

Right you are my friend:   Joe Morelle, David Gantt and Susan John.

Next question:   What members of the Monroe County Legislature depend for their regular paycheck on these same state lawmakers or on an agency mostly funded by one of them?   I am sure that I will miss a few but here goes:   Harry Bronson, Vinnie Esposito, Calvin Lee and Glenn Gamble.  Those are Democratic County Legislators who owe their day job to one of these three state lawmakers, and whose independence as local lawmakers is therefore subject to question.

Legislator Carrie ("Are you looking down my blouse yet?") Andrews, is an employee of the teacher's union, and therefore owes her paycheck to the ultimate boss (or one of the ultimate bosses) of those three state legislators.

Last question: Of the County Legislators mentioned, how many of them were endorsed by the D&C the most recent time they ran for election?

Yes, right again!   All of them.

All of those county legislators operate under a cloud of suspicion, as to whether they're doing what their bosses -- whether their state lawmaker bosses or for Andrews, the union's bosses -- tell them to do.   They are probable pawns of Albany, which the D&C tells us in its editorial doesn't, and doesn't intend, to work to help the everyday working person and the families that keep our community going.

We'll see whether the D&C is serious about "fixing Albany," or whether they're just faking it, by who they endorse for election to the State Legislature this fall.

The original posting incorrectly identified County Legislator Saul Maneiro as an employee of a state-legislator-funded entity.   Legislator Maneiro is employed by the Rochester Area Community Foundation, which is funded through private donations, not by grants from the State Legislature or its members.  The Democrat and Chronicle endorsed no candidate in the election for Mr. Maneiro's legislative district.   Our apologies to Legislator Maneiro, and our thanks to him for making us aware of this.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Still the Greatest American Ever

Washington's Birthday -- February 22
The real President's Day


Challenging the Aristocracy

In a newspaper essay yesterday, John Batiste, president of Klein Steel, gets right to the point about the problem with Albany.   Cutting through the smokescreen generated by the political class and New York's aristocracy, the public employee unions, the retired Army general sets out the core issues with lucidity and precision rarely seen outside of Mustard Street.

After meeting with majority and minority leaders, and with state legislature delegations from Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, Batiste observes:

Most are bent on building a strong public sector, at the expense of the private sector. They are stuck on excuses and play a blame-shifting game that raised the hair on the back of my neck.

Most are concerned foremost with getting re-elected, as often as possible. They are dependent on the pay, benefits and pensions of public office and will do what is necessary to stay in office.
Which means robbing private sector employees to fund the public employee unions, the only group untouched and held harmless throughout the current recession.

Batiste's last point quoted above is the key.   Most members of the New York State Legislature probably would have jobs sweeping up somewhere, or would be on welfare, if they weren't elected legislators.

For the downstate members especially, the State Legislature is a dumping ground for hacks and time-servers at the end of the line politically, or who can't cut it in what, down there, is the big stage, which is New York City politics.   In New York, City Council is a much more coveted post, and more sought-after, than state legislature.

A poisonous combination of high life and low life -- the public union aristocracy and the Albany elected plebs -- squeezing the life out of the rest of us.

We'd love to have been there when Batiste delivered what he called his "simple message" to the legislators:
Do no harm to taxpayers or the companies that create jobs. Cuts must be made to reduce spending. Public and private sectors must share the pain equally.
That's like screaming "F--- the Church!" during Christmas Mass in the Vatican.

The general brought Albany a message of revolution.   Bring it on.


Friday, February 19, 2010

A Morelle Run for County Executive? Its Impact on His Party

Assemblyman and County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle may be gearing up to run for County Executive in 2011.   Apparently for more than a year, including discussions with campaign advisers.

And no, it's not Mayor Duffy who wants to take on Maggie Brooks next year, or who is going to.   Duffy's reportedly looking at succeeding Louise Slaughter in Congress; you don't hire Global Strategy Group for an upstate County Executive race.   And why trade the powerful post of Mayor for the weaker -- because the state mandates 80% of your budget -- post of County Executive?   Especially when you're Mayor in a one-party system and the party is yours.

For Morelle, a run for County Executive makes complete sense.   He's been in the Assembly since January 1991.

Two minutes as Shelly Silver's bum boy, metaphorically speaking, would be unimaginable to us mere mortals.   Morelle's done it for most of two decades.   Anyone would want out.   Eventually, as someone else wrote recently, servility always turns to rage.   Or, at least, to heading for the exit.


But what's the immediate impact on his own party of the local Democratic Chairman's ambition?

If Morelle wants the nomination, it's very much in his interest to remain as Chairman, where he has much more control over things.   This saddles Monroe Democrats with a Chairman who's turned in a lousy performance in elections for two years straight now, capped off by their disaster last November and the recent conversion of a Democratic County Legislator to the Republican side.

It also keeps in place a Chairman about whom very many rank-and-file Democrats are expressing displeasure, especially the party's activists and most motivated volunteers.   Never a good thing in a political organization.

In order to be a credible candidate for County Executive, Morelle's already started trying to position himself favorably with suburban voters; for example, his free pass from Shelly Silver on voting for the disastrous 2009 state budget, and his siding with the popular Mayor on the popular (in the suburbs) move for Mayoral control of the failed City schools.

But just in the last week we can see how the latter can harm the County party.   The teachers' union shut down a County Democratic fundraiser, by threatening to picket outside the event.   And apparently a union picket line to a certain kind of Democrat is like a crucifix to a vampire:   they just can't go past it.   Result:   Morelle was forced to cancel the fundraiser.

Now the biggest Democratic fundraiser of the year is coming up, the Mayor's Ball.   Can we really expect from the public employee unions any different performance?   They'd still be upset with the Mayor, but a Party Chairman who hadn't committed to mayoral school control would be in a far better position to work out a truce with the unions, in order for the Mayor's Ball to proceed.  Only this Party Chairman has publicly sided with the Mayor's proposal (with which we agree, by the way) and can't now play the peacemaker's role.

That union animosity is a major problem for County Democrats.   The teachers' and public employee unions and their satellites are major funders of Monroe County Democrats.   It's the Party that's the dependent of the unions, not the other way around.   The unions can cut off the Monroe County Party for an election cycle or longer without harming themselves in the least.   It's different than the state level, where the public employee unions and state-level Democrats (and State Senate Republicans) exist in a symbiotic and collusive relationship of mutual dependence.

It's more than money, of course.   When Jim Bertolone of the local AFL-CIO blasts Morelle and Monroe Democrats at a press conference, that means more than money.   That's the Democrats' manpower on the street at campaign season, and their phone center on election day.

Morelle's going to smooth this over, though maybe not in time for the Mayor's Ball.   The point is that here's an example of a problem caused by Morelle's remaining as Chairman while pursuing Maggie Brooks's job.

Bottom line:   Joe needs to stay as Party Chair to improve his chances for County Exec, if that's what he wants, but doing so creates problems for his Party, and within it.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Teachers' Union Mentality

"The people who test students internationally told us that two factors predict a country's educational success:  Do the schools have the autonomy to experiment, and do parents have a choice?"

In the U.S., government spending on education, adjusted for inflation, has nearly doubled since 1980.   Test scores have remained flat for decades.

•   Mayor Duffy seeks control of schools so poor kids with no other choice might have a fighting chance for a decent education.   Rochester teachers' and affiliated unions shut down a Democratic fundraiser because the Democratic Mayor, and Party Chairman Morelle (so far), support mayoral control.

•   Desperate parents of poor kids in Washington D.C. beg Obama to continue school voucher program, the only thing that's helped their kids learn so far.   Obama kills the program.   D.C teachers union head tells Washington Post, about the voucher program, "Parents are voting with their feet. ... As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers.  Our very survival depends on having kids in D.C. schools so we'll have teachers to represent."
  Those teachers' unions know how to keep their priorities straight!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Penfield Democrats Snub David Koon

At the Penfield Democratic Committee meeting last night, Assemblyman Joe Morelle gave an update on the status of the New York State Budget.   The meeting was publicized and was public.

Why is this a big deal?

Because Assemblyman David Koon represents Penfield in the New York State Assembly, not Morelle.   Morelle represents Irondequoit, part of the City and Brighton.  I bet Assemblyman David Gantt would have something unprintable to say if Morelle came into his district to give a speech!!

So why is Joe Morelle visiting Penfield, a suburb outside his district?   Possible reasons:

1. After 12+ years in the State Assembly, David Koon is incapable of giving a summary to the public of the New York State Budget.

2. County Democratic Chairman Morelle is trying to rehabilitate himself with Democrats after his party's catastrophic 2009 election performance, for which many Democrats point the finger of blame at him.

3. Morelle is branching out to suburbs outside his Assembly district to test or prepare the waters for his planned run for County Executive next year.


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Writing's On the Wall ...

And Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) can read it.   He's just announced he won't run for re-election this Fall.

So he avoids a likely political buzz-saw this November that could even affect R.I.   Likely scenario, we think:   now Kennedy can take up Massachusetts residency and challenge Scott Brown for his father's old Senate seat in two years.  Hard to run for Senator from Mass. when your still the Representative for Rhode Island.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

People to Look Up To

Why I look up to guys like Legislator Carmen Gumina (R-Webster) and Supervisor David Dunning (R-Chili).

People get involved in politics and government for a variety of different reasons I'm most impressed with people that get involved because they want to make things better. This is why our forefathers were involved in government affairs and politics and is still the reason why many people get involved today. Yes, I realize that some people have other reasons, but for today's discussion I am looking at the honorable few that get involved to make the lives of hard-working citizens and our families better.

Carmen Gumina and David Dunning ran for office because they truly believed in their heart that they can right wrongs, make better decisions, and in the end safeguard and improve the lives of the citizens that they represent. Both of these gentlemen ran for office in a time when they would win if they were Democrat or Republican. They took the path available to them and set out to win an election and obtain an office where they believed they could make a difference.

After serving for a year or two in their respective positions both came to realize that the party that they were enrolled in did not truly help them to serve the people that they represented. When they looked at other elected officials in the Democratic party they found very little common ground, and when looking across the aisle to elected officials of the Republican Party they found others that had similar core values and beliefs as they did. They made decisions that to do their best to help out the people that they represent, they would have to move to the more conservative, fiscally responsible, family oriented party, the Republican Party.

I am sure that the decisions that these two gentlemen made was not an easy one and took much soul-searching. It takes courage to be an elected official and switch parties, especially when you are making the decision for all the right reasons as these two gentlemen did. I applaud their courage, I applaud their determination to align themselves with others that have the same values and same core beliefs. I applaud that these two men are men of action, men of conviction and men that are willing to do what is necessary to fight for the families that they represent. They have earned my respect.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who's Looking Out For You? Not the Government!

In last weekend's edition of USA Today there is a graph showing that 51% of people watching the Super Bowl watch for the commercials, 49% for the game itself. I love both the game and the creativity of the commercials, so I intently watch both.

One commercial that really caught my eye was the U.S. Census Bureau’s thirty second commercial. It cost taxpayers $2.5 million. In a time of tough economic and financial difficulties for American families, I couldn't believe the US government could waste money so flagrantly. I mean, $2.5 million for commercial during the Super Bowl!

This is a government that's not looking out for you, that doesn't care about the financial well-being of American families or how much your family has to pay in taxes.

The federal government seems to look out for everyone except the hard-working families who pay the government's bills. We're supposed to shut up and just support the government that treats us like serfs.

Check out the full story
on the government's census advertising spree.


State Senate's Real Reason for Expulsion

The New York Times helps explain why the State Senate appeared actually to do the right thing by expelling Hiram Monseratte immediately.   It was really payback by both sides for Monseratte's double-crossing each in last summer's comic-opera "coup" and counter-coup for control of the State Senate.

It is one thing to cut a woman’s face with a broken glass, drag her through a hallway and then drive her, bleeding profusely, past several hospitals to an emergency room far enough away from home where no one would be likely to recognize him.

It is quite another thing for a politician to be bought and paid for, and then not to stay bought.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Surprise, Surprise

State Senate just expelled Monseratte.   Effective immediately.

Shocker -- are there moral limits even for the New York State Senate?


Phony Expulsion for Monseratte?

The contemptible New York State Senate apparently has just enough shame to worry about public reaction if it fails to expel convicted girlfriend mutilator Hiram Monseratte.

Late word is that it's considering a resolution to expel him effective six months from now.

Some penalty.   That's tantamount to no expulsion at all because it would give the girlfriend-beater until the remainder of the Senate session before the summer break.   All the active Senate time left in his term would be September and October, and the Senate's in recess most of that time anyway, because Senators are up for re-election in November.   Queens Democrats already have said they won't re-nominate Monseratte for reelection.   So a delayed-until-June "expulsion" really would give Monseratte until the rest of his term, for practical purposes.

Absolutely typical of the New York State Legislature:   to contrive the appearance of doing something while not really doing it at all.   How many members of the general public understand about the summer recess, and the September/October downtime?

Just when you think the moral and genetic trash that constitutes the New York State Senate can't look more ethically repulsive than it does already -- somehow, they find a way.   Even by just considering a subterfuge like this.

Will the Senate go this route?   Who knows.   If it does, when your State Senator comes around this fall for campaign events, go out to greet him.   Bring a horsewhip.


Bomb Iran -- The Democrats' Game-Changer?

Will Obama save his party's bacon in this year's mid-term elections by going to war with Iran?


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Growing in Office

"I stand here today because I believe that Maggie and the Republican majority in the Legislature have made protecting taxpayers their top priority."


Legislator Gumina Joins Republican Caucus

GOP Now Holds 16-13 Majority in County Legislature

Monroe County Legislator Carmen Gumina announced this morning that he is leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republican caucus of the Monroe County Legislature.

Elected to represent Webster as a Democrat in 2007, when he defeated then-incumbent Dave Malta, Gumina appeared this morning at Monroe County Republican Headquarters with County Executive Maggie Brooks and Republican Chairman Bill Reilich, who welcomed the legislator into the party.

The step makes a great deal of sense for the highly-regarded Gumina.   In our Almanac of Monroe County Politics for 2007, we wrote:

Democratic challenger Carmen Gumina came straight out of central casting as exactly the kind of person a party wants to run. Gumina is a well-spoken, educated professional, pleasantly presentable, possessing a broad community base gained from years as a teacher and school principal.

Representing a predominantly Republican district, from time to time Gumina has supported Republican initiatives in the legislature that his Democratic colleagues opposed en bloc.   He was the only Democratic legislator to vote for the 2010 County Budget that kept the property tax rate flat.

When Gumina lent his popularity to the support of Democratic candidates for Town and Village offices in Webster, it couldn't overcome the burden of the local candidates' party affiliation.   All went down to defeat.   For Legislator Gumina, these experiences surely must have underscored the problem of out-of-sync party affiliation in Webster.

In addition, Gumina had to know that, as a Democratic incumbent in a Republican district, he would have been one of the top targets in legislative redistricting that must occur early next year, and that the Republican majority will control.

On top of which, like the neighbors he represents, Mr. Gumina, in the votes we discussed above and otherwise, seemed to be showing what appeared to be more philosophical affinity with the majority Republicans than with his old party.

A smart move for a capable and admired legislator, and another milestone in the success story of Chairman Bill Reilich's leadership of the Monroe County Republican Party.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Happens When I Watch Olberman

... and his guests.


Monserrate Won't Be Expelled

In case you have the political perspicacity of a dead fish, be hereby informed:   girlfriend mutilator Hiram Monserrate will not be expelled from the New York State Senate.

We knew this as soon as the State Senate's bipartisan special committee on the matter offered a loophole the Queen Mary could sail through, in saying that he should be expelled, "or censured."

Yesterday, State Senate President Malcolm Smith, succumbing to pressure, issued a feeble statement saying the senators would resolve the matter before they go on vacation later this month. (Here's an idea:   how about if we offer to pay state senators double -- no, triple -- what they're paid now, if they go on vacation all year.   A bargain at twice the price, but clearly too much to ask for.)

The majority State Senate Democrats simply are unwilling to unseat one of their own, and are signaling they won't do it.   And make no mistake, the Republican political whores in the State Senate, and that's every one of them, would do exactly the same thing if it were one of theirs and they had the majority.

From the perspective of us outsiders, at least there's a discernibly principled basis for the senators punting on the Monserrate expulsion.   One would think you'd expel a senator for committing an act that would degrade the status of the State Senate.   As far as we can see, if you had a New York State Senate consisting entirely of girlfriend beaters-mutilators -- that would amount to a moral and ethical upgrade of the State Senate we tolerate now.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Susan John to County Court?

We wrote recently that LaMarr Jackson appears to be the favored candidate for appointment to the Monroe County Court vacancy created by the election of Judge Alex Renzi to Supreme Court.

A correspondent tells us, "Not so fast."   He says Jackson won't get it because of the question about her Bar Association rating, and that Assemblywoman Susan John will get the appointment instead.   John abruptly announced two weeks ago that she won't run for reelection.   She did so in a written statement, avoiding questions.   Since then she has refused to comment about why she's standing down or what she'll do next.

An intriguing idea, and certainly the Bar rating matter wouldn't help Jackson as a candidate this November.   But we don't know.

Could John win a county-wide election?   Or anything other than a district gerrymandered to favor her party?   Even with such an Assembly district, she typically has had narrow margins of victory for an incumbent, with some near-squeakers in recent years.   We don't think Democrats would appoint someone with such questionable chances in November.


"We're Going to Make A Lot of Money"

So said then-City Council President Gladys Santiago last summer, cutting to the main point about the City's plan to install red-light cameras as a money-making device.   As in every other city where these cash-machines have been installed, there's an embarrasingly thin pretext of "public safety" clothing the real purpose.   The last thing they want is for people to follow the law to the letter at a red light with a camera, because then the money stops.

Now Governor Paterson proposes, as part of the State budget -- not even bothering with any pretense about what it's really all about -- to install "speed" cameras on highways to catch unsuspecting motorists, with fines of up to $100.   The Budget counts on it for an additional $25 million next year.   And by keeping speed limits artificially and unrealistically low, the State makes us all criminals and speeders.   When was the last time you saw someone doing 65 on the Thruway, except maybe in a snowstorm?

From Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand:

There's no way to rule innocent men.  The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.  Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.   One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.   Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens?   What's there in that for anyone?   But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Kudlow for Senate

Last week we told you about Assemblyman Brian Kolb being approached to run for U.S. Senate.

It's an interesting Senate election in New York next year because both seats are up for election:   Kristen Gillenbrand's, because of the timing of Hillary Clinton's departure from the senate, and also Senator Charles Schumer's, because he'll be at the end of his 6-year term.

Apparently CNBC's Larry Kudlow is being encouraged to run. There's a Draft Kudlow effort under way, and the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore reports that Kudlow met last week with Michael Long, Chairman of the State Conservative Party, and that Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee head John Cornyn is urging Kudlow to run.

Kudlow could run for either seat.   Without committing himself, he's told the Journal's Moore that "getting Schumer out would be a real public service."

Especially if he's replaced by Kudlow, a classic pro-growth Reaganite Republican.


Gannett Conference Call Replay

If you want to hear the Gannett investors' conference call and missed it, it's archived until February 15.   To hear it, call 1-888-203-1112 and use access code 4260300.