Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bits and pieces

A few towns in rural Washington County, NY recently passed laws mandating English as the sole official language of government communication; though to his credit, the Green mayor of village of Greenwich, David Doonan, categorically refused to entertain such a proposition.

Recently, police in Saratoga Springs responded to a stabbing near the city's famous racetrack. But officers who responded to the scene could not communicate with the victim or any of the witnesses, because they spoke only Spanish. The track attracts a lot short-term workers during the summer, many from Latin American countries.

In response, the city's police department is implementing Spanish-language training for its force and is contemplating giving preference to bilingual officers in future hiring.

It's a good thing for the safety of city residents that the Saratoga Springs PD isn't hampered by an English-only law preventing them from effectively investigating crimes.


In my last post, I lamented the poor state legislators who, unpaid due to the unfinished budget, have to survive on a meager $171 a day per diem. I guess some of them are managing to survive.

Gov. Paterson called a special session of the legislature yesterday and the Senate merely gaveled in and out rather than do its job and work on a budget. The majority Democrats complained that the governor called the session when several of them were on vacation and thus wouldn't have the votes to pass anything anyway. Of course, if they'd passed the budget when it was due on April 1, or any time since, there wouldn't be an issue. The idea that they felt they had done anything to earn a vacation is, in and of itself, appalling.

The outspoken social conservative Democrat Sen. Ruben Diaz blasted the governor for wasting time and money. In other words, he said it's the governor's fault the he and his colleagues refuse to do their jobs.


Given the morass in the legislature, it's not surprising little talent is seeking the governor's mansion. Democratic attorney general Andrew Cuomo, the consummate insider, is running as a fake agent of change. I think his campaign handlers have banned him to not mention one single specific or proposition of something, limiting him to mealy-mouthed vague platitudes. His Republican opponents, Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino, are even emptier suits. They've chosen the demagogue route.

Far behind Cuomo in the polls, they have seized on attempts by a moderate Muslim group to build a mosque and community center near Ground Zero in a pathetic attempt to get someone to pay attention to them. They've both expressed support of using eminent domain to block the construction. It's bad enough they're focusing on this issue rather than the state's fiscal mess or corruption in Albany. But now we have the spectacle of so-called conservatives and opponents of big government launching an assault not only on freedom of religion but also on private property rights.

At least the Greens are offering a serious candidate for governor worth your attention, Howie Hawkins, as well as a number of other good candidates for statewide and local office. I've heard Hawkins speak several times and was impressed. He's not nearly as eloquent as the aforementioned empty suits but he's not afraid to get specific and offer concrete ideas, not just empty mom-and-apple-pie platitudes. The current governor is doing a decent job, considering the entrenched opposition. His successor needs both a brain and a spine and Hawkins is, to my knowledge, the only candidate with both.


The catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico has made Americans aware of the environmental and economic devastation caused by reckless practices of petroleum multinationals. People of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria are far too aware of this, as the public radio show The Story recently explored.


On a more upbeat environmental note, Adirondack Almanack's John Warren has a good piece on the profound legacy of Earth Day, which was first celebrated in 1970.


The Post-Star has a good editorial (hey it happens! law of averages) on Saturday about the state's now-defunct Empire Zone program, which was a slush fund for businesses. The current head of the Empire State Development Corporation told the daily's editorial board that out of the more than 8,500 companies that had received financial benefits under the old Empire Zone program, two-thirds of them probably would have done what they did anyway - without receiving any benefits at all. We would have gotten all the same economic benefits - jobs, local investment, tax revenue - without a single penny of taxpayer money.

The paper rightly bemoaned this huge waste of tax dollars for little appreciable benefit.

But there's even more waste than just that: the various quasi-public agencies.

The city of Glens Falls alone has: local development corporation, an industrial development agency, a tourism office and an urban renewal agency.

And yet it 'needs' to pay staff and fund these agencies even though they largely duplicate the work of the Warren County economic development corporation, the Warren County tourism office and the bi-county industrial development agency.

I'd urge Post-Star to continue its opposition to waste and do an investigation into the city EDC, IDA and tourism offices to see a) if their existences really justify what we're spending on them and b) if that benefit is really greater than what we'd get simply by using the parallel county agencies.

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