June 29, 2016

Tuesday's Number Quarterly Recap

Lordy, what an ugly quarter this was. Even with a missing week, it's the worst we've seen since the end of 2014.

And the bad was spread around, too - it wasn't just one category that was out of line, it was just plain ugly pretty much across the board.

Here are the numbers:

  • 307 judgments, totaling $5,987,344
  • 19 satisfied judgments, totaling $133,467
  • 4 bankruptcies, for a total of $111,423

Some comparisons:

  • Q2's 12-week net of $5,965,300, was up $1,675,912 over the 13-week net for last quarter, a 28% increase. 
  • On a per-hospital basis, Crouse and St Joe's were both down (57% and 31% respectively), but SUNY more than made up for that; the Q2 total was more than $2.1M higher than Q1
  • The total number of filings - 330 - was the highest it's been since the end of 2014, and the fifth highest since I started tracking this way in 2013.
  • We had seven weeks out of twelve where there were no satisfied judgments; the previous high was Q1 of 2015 (six out of thirteen)

Finally, comparing the first half of this year to all of last year:
  • number of filings: we already have 65% of last year's total
  • judgments: we have already accounted for 62% of last year's total
  • satisfied judgments: we're at 38.8% of last year's total
  • bankruptcies: we're at 24.9% of last year's total

Let's hope that we start off the third quarter in better shape. 

June 28, 2016

Tuesday's Number: $148,426

Tuesday is the day my local paper, The Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This is the fourth full year I’ve been tracking these numbers – I captured part of the year in 2012 – and the third year that I’ve captured filings by hospital.  I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

In the first three years, the overall total was $67,965,862 – a staggering amount of money for a relatively small metropolitan area that includes the city of Syracuse and her suburbs, the towns and villages of Onondaga County, and to a lesser extent, some of the even smaller neighboring towns and villages.  As I reported in the 2015 recap, we turned sharply down last year – some $7M – and the hope is that we will continue to see progress in the overall total. Of course, a better sign of health would be an increase in the number of satisfied judgments; people’s ability to pay off their debt (or their willingness, as the case may be) is something else I’m hoping to see this year. 

There were nine new judgments this week, totaling $118,211; one satisfied judgment, for $5,384, and one bankruptcy, for $35,599. 

Here's the breakdown by hospital:

  • Crouse had the repayment, for a net credit of $5384
  • St Joe's added one, for $5,013
  • SUNY picked up nine, totaling $148,797

The paper publishes only those filings of $5,000 or more. 


June 26, 2016

Grains of Salt (v10): Can I Get a Lyft?

A recent Post-Standard editorial supported bringing ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to upstate New York.

The benefits, including being able to pull up an app and see where the drivers are and what they look like before making a decision on which ride to take, are appealing to many, including travelers who use these services in New York City (the only place it's legal in New York, natch) and other places around the country and around the world.

The editorial mentions some "legitimate concerns" such as background checks ("not as thorough as they need to be"); the drivers, who are independent contractors not employees, having "to sue to get basic workplace protections" and a sometime lack of accessibility for wheelchair users, which can be filled by "specialized services already in place in Central New York."  And there is the issue of insurance, which the state legislature failed to resolve before the end of session.

The State Senate did pass a bill, however the Assembly did not do the same, effectively killing these services for at least a little longer.  Some concerns were the ones addressed in the editorial, and of course there's always the downstate Dems vs. upstate Reps that is claimed to be at the root of all evil in the legislature.

The Senate bill would have allowed each city, town or village to pass their own regulations, which could add even more clutter to our already messy under-the-back-stairs-closet patchwork of regulations that make it hard for businesses to know how to legally do business here.

And, of course, the whole thing about the 'gig' economy, as I heard the application-based business model called, is that it's not encumbered by all of the regulations that a bricks-and-mortar business has to navigate -- I mean, that's what makes them attractive to the entrepreneurs who get involved with them, as well as to customers who appreciate the simplicity of doing business with these firms.

The editorial also noted that upstate politicians, including Stephanie Miner, Syracuse's mayor, "embrace Uber and Lyft for the jobs (emphasis added) and transportation options they bring." Those jobs may very well come at a cost to existing jobs, as Syracuse has a number of taxi companies currently serving the area, employing who knows how many drivers for the big companies, as well as the many who appear to be independent contractors.

Furthermore, Syracuse has regulated rates, from the drop charge (the initial charge that's on the meter before the taxi pulls away from the curb, currently $2.80), the per-mile price (currently $2.50), and, for airport taxis, the flat rate zone price to get from Hancock International Airport to downtown, the University, to my house here in The Valley, or anywhere else.

And, don't forget the licensing fees, renewal fees, and the limitation on the number of ground transportation licenses that can be issued in the city, currently 200 plus whatever is needed for the airport.

Would all of the current rules and regs that apply to taxis apply to ride-hailing companies? Would the number of licenses be expanded to accommodate an unknown number of entrepreneurs, those jobs the mayor and others are looking forward to? Would the same rates, metering and other rules apply?

I'm all for expanding opportunity for people who want to work in, or take advantage of, the emerging app-based market. What I'm not in favor of are special rules that apply to some businesses but not others, as I've pointed out in prior posts (including here, here and here).

All hail Uber and Lyft, as long as taxi companies are allowed to participate on a level playing field. And it probably wouldn't hurt to eliminate some of the regulatory burden on the taxi companies, whether we Uber and Lyft or not.

June 25, 2016

The UK's Brexit Vote

Lots of people who are very well paid are trying to figure out what we should learn from the vote in the UK to leave the European Union.

Here's a few I've learned so far:

  • Some people say they voted Leave "as a protest" against "politicians who don't listen" to them.
  • Some people say they voted Leave but they "never thought their vote would count" 
  • Some people voted Leave only to find out that one of the biggest campaign promises was a lie
  • Some people voted Leave because "immigrants are stealing their jobs"
  • People in the cities voted Remain, people in rural areas voted Leave
  • Leaders of the Vote Leave campaign are suggesting that there's "no hurry to leave" now, as they watched global economic shock waves ripple across time zones
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, effective within the next four months or so, as he was not the right person to lead his country to their next destination.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions on similarities (or the lack thereof) between the UK and the US.

June 21, 2016

Is Our Input on a Bias?

I've been thinking a lot lately about perceptions, and bias, particularly as those relate to how we are delivered, and then interpret, the news of the day.

I was reminded of a cat my parents had, years after I was out of the house, about whom their veterinarian proclaimed, "her input is on a bias." That peculiar diagnosis had to do with the cat walking a little lopsided, and if memory serves, occasionally running into things. Her issue may have been solved by a dietary change and an antibiotic, can't remember for sure.

Back to bias. Regular readers know, for example, that I struggle with how we collectively discuss mass shootings; there are some obvious differences depending on who the shooter is, or what the shooter represents. For example 
  • In December, the shooting in San Bernardino was 'terrorism' because the American-born shooter professed at least some allegiance to what's referred to as radical Islamist beliefs.
  • The shooting in Orlando was also described as 'terrorism' because of similar beliefs held by yet another American-born shooter. 
Compare that to these two other recent shootings:
  • We just marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting at 'Mother Emanuel' in Charleston, which was committed by an American-born shooter who professed racist beliefs. This was described as a 'hate crime' but not terrorism.
  • In November 2015, after a shooting at a clinic in Colorado Springs left three dead and nine wounded, the American-born shooter was described as being anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood, but this too was not described as terrorism. 
In all four of these shootings, the perpetrators acted out of a belief, first and foremost, that they were right in acting as they did. And, in all four cases, one could point to extremism of one kind or another as being at the heart of the murders, and to the intent to terrorize people, to install fear that no one is safe, anywhere.  Not at a historic church during an evening prayer session, or at a medical facility at what is typically a very difficult time. Not at an office party, and not at a nightclub where a people gather to truly be free from hatred, to be themselves. And yet, only two have been labelled terrorism - the ones where the beliefs were furthest away from what "we" believe.

Here's another pair of news stories, both of which enthralled the regular news media and social media as well:
  • Remember the story about the little boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo, leaving zookeepers with no choice than to kill the gorilla to save the child? And the immediate cry from animal rights groups and many average Americans about how on earth the mom could have been so neglectful in her actions that they resulted in the death of a beautiful gorrilla? And the online petition to pressure the police into investigating the family? (That happened, and the mother was cleared of any wrongdoing.)
  • More recently, there was the story about the little boy who was snatched and killed by an alligator at Disney World, and the immediate calls to have the parents investigated for neglect? And the cries from the animal rights activists that several alligators were killed in the search for the specific one that took the child?
No? I don't remember that last part, either.

I would love to be positive that there's no correlation between the race of the families (zoo was black, Disney was white), or any other type of bias that went into the reporting or the reactions.  Heck -- I admit that, until I saw an Internet meme, the thought didn't even occur to me that there could have been any bias here. 

But you know what they say: you can't unring the bell. 

One more example, and then I'll leave you to ponder. Again with the Orlando attacks.  Donald Trump, in one of his several reactions to the shooting, blasted the alleged protection of terrorists by American Muslims, noting that
They know what's going on. They know that (the shooter) was bad. They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people they know are bad.. But you know what? They didn't turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.
Except that, in this particular case, we have a witness coming forward to talk about how he did turn this shooter in (confirmed by the FBI), and we know how that ended, right?

Except that, as Trump wanted, the number of people who will walk away from this believing that Muslims are bad and are hiding terrorists is significantly, perhaps even exponentially higher than the number who will learn of this first-person account of a person who did exactly what his entire faith is accused of not doing.

Is your input on a bias? Do you see things as you expect them to be, instead of the way they really are? If yes, you're not alone; I publicly confessed to this about three years ago, right here in these pages.

The realization of my own biased thinking doesn't give me a pass. I hope it makes me more aware of bias when I express it myself, or when I see it.  And, too, when I miss it.

I think that's a whole lot better than the dietary change that was recommended for the cat.

June 18, 2016

Donald Trump Should Step Down

Adam Shaw, a political reporter on FoxNews.com, published an opinion piece saying that Pope Francis needs to resignAs I read the article, my mind almost automatically started changing words around, until there was a different opinion piece entirely in front of me. Check it out:

With his sublimely low-energy entrance into the race, Trump immediately cemented his reputation as an “unconventional character” who created chaos out of calm with ridiculous, childish, and inflammatory pronouncements. The wall that Mexico will pay for, his multiple derogatory statements about women, his mocking a disabled reporter, and even his snarky comments about Pope Francis are but a few examples.

Several of his comments have needed to be walked back, ‘clarified’ by advisers or by friendly reporters on cable news. His crazy comments have attracted attention, much of it negative, and have damaged America's standing in the world, perhaps even endangering our country.

Trump’s candidacy has been confusing to the Republican faithful from the beginning.  Many of them, staring at sixteen or seventeen choices on the debate stage, thought he would provide some much needed early energy and then fade away, however that was not the case. One by one, he picked off the others in what has become a GOP primary season tradition – the circular firing squad. When he became the presumptive nominee, more and more Republicans got scared, and confused, and did not know what was happening to their party.

Recently, Trump went so far as to say that the LGBT community has the right to live their lives, love who they want, and express their identity – something with which most members of party, and many in his professed Christian faith firmly disagree, for those words are completely in conflict with their strongly held Republican and personal  beliefs, and with all for which the party stands.

Trump doesn’t give his fellow Republicans much credit; he has called a bona fide war hero a loser for being captured; he's told the party leadership to be quiet if they don't want to go along with him.. When he nullifies their beliefs and promotes his own, it implies that Republicans are ignorant, uneducated fools who don’t understand the long history of their own party; the history, we're told, stretches from Lincoln to Reagan, the Bush I and Bush II administrations notwithstanding. Yes, he loves the uneducated, just as he loves the blacks, and the women and the Jews and the gays and the Mexicans, and they all love him, along with the Chinese and the NRA and Franklin Graham.

Lincoln, Reagan and Goldwater are rolling in unison in their graves; I suggest there are Republicans wishing they too were dead, so as to avail themselves of the same opportunity

He does not care how he defies, and defiles, the Republican party and the believers. While the party’s authority rests on their ability to promote their message, their beliefs, their positions, and to have those supported by any who would wear their colors into battle, Trump has turned that on its head, to the party's peril. He simply does not care.

His words and actions demonstrate a lack of faith in the party and its believers. He’ll take their money,  and their endorsements, yet he treats leaders and followers alike even more poorly than he claims to have been treated by the rest of us. In doing so, he has brought the party’s very legitimacy into question.

How can he say horrible things about everyone his party is trying to bring into the fold? How can he ask us to infringe on the Second Amendment? Or suggest that we approve of the world becoming a wild, wild west of countries brandishing nuclear weapons? Or suggest, even for a minute, that we would leave our allies swinging in the wind? Or announce that the Republican party will be the party of the worker? That America will negotiate her debt with other countries?  Raise taxes on the wealthy? Tell the US military to commit war crimes? Punish women who have abortions? Invite Kim Jong-Un to the White House? 

The list of violated Republican sacraments goes on and on and on.

Once upon a time, Republicans would  have stuck it out with a bad candidate, held their noses and stood by their man, even in ignominious defeat. Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican, after all. But now is the time for the faithful to look to the gilded tower in the East, and ask themselves, “is this man able to lead the Republican Party?" The answer is no.

Trump has proven himself unable to support the party’s sacraments and unable to garner full and active support of its leaders and faithful. He is doing perhaps irreparable damage to the party, damage that may take multiple election cycles to heal.

Donald Trump should step aside.

Republicans should demand it, so they can begin to recover from this horribly ill-advised, self-centered, pompous, short-on-content long-on-self-promotions candidacy before it’s too late.

There. See how easy that was?


June 15, 2016

Selective Condemnation

Just as the Orlando killer does not represent all Muslims, I can only assume that this Sacramento man of faith, does not represent all Christians.
Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? Um, no. I think that's great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando Florida is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn't die. The tragedy is I'm kind of upset he didn't finish the job - because these people are predators. They are abusers.
I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.  
Just as our national elected officials, and those who would be national local officials, have made clear their condemnation of radical Islam and/or terrorism, you would have expected to hear them make clear their condemnation of this pastor and his sermon.

Even YouTube removed the video of the sermon for violating the hate speech prohibition. 

The local politicians did, of course, without hesitation.  And the national ones did, too - right? Or maybe they were waiting to find out anything about this gentleman's church, which they could easily do by looking at his website

Oh wait - maybe they saved their indignation until the pastor spoke to media outlets and confirmed his sentiments; in fact he doubled down. 
As far as the Bible is concerned, they crossed a line. The sin they performed is worthy of death.
And as far as Orlando being safer now?
Absolutely I think they are safer now because of these deaths, and the reason I think that is because I believe all of these homosexuals are pedophiles, and the Bible - see our culture and our society puts them in these categories - gay, lesbian, whatever, but that's not found in scripture. And I understand the world does not want to accept that, that's fine. I'm saying as a Christian, the Bible puts people in two categories: normal/natural, unnatural.
This was the point at which he and his statements were condemned, right?

Right?

Or maybe the same politicians who could not even bring themselves to mention that the Orlando shooting took place at a gay nightclub, and that the people who were murdered were LBGT, maybe they cannot bring themselves to condemn this kind of speech?

June 14, 2016

Tuesday's Number: $224,523

Tuesday is the day my local paper, The Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This is the fourth full year I’ve been tracking these numbers – I captured part of the year in 2012 – and the third year that I’ve captured filings by hospital.  I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

In the first three years, the overall total was $67,965,862 – a staggering amount of money for a relatively small metropolitan area that includes the city of Syracuse and her suburbs, the towns and villages of Onondaga County, and to a lesser extent, some of the even smaller neighboring towns and villages.  As I reported in the 2015 recap, we turned sharply down last year – some $7M – and the hope is that we will continue to see progress in the overall total. Of course, a better sign of health would be an increase in the number of satisfied judgments; people’s ability to pay off their debt (or their willingness, as the case may be) is something else I’m hoping to see this year. 

There were 20 new judgments this week, totaling $260,810; there were five satisfied judgments, the first in four weeks, totaling $36,287. And again, there were no satisfied judgments; it’s been ten weeks since we had an obvious health-care related bankruptcy.

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:
  • Crouse had one, for $7,040
  • St. Joe’s picked up five, for $75,082
  • SUNY Upstate had 14, including all of the repayments, for a net of $142,401

The paper only publishes filings of $5,000 or more.

June 12, 2016

It's Not Honesty, it's Racism

I saw something on a social media page today questioning why people are calling Donald Trump a racist; the thinking is he's not racist, he's just being honest.

A brief refresher: Since May, Trump has made increasingly outrageous comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has the Trump University fraud case in his court. He's now said he's done talking about it, but according to Trump, the Indiana-born judge, the son of American citizens,
happens to be, we believe, Mexican... (and later, Trump noted) I have a Mexican judge. He's of Mexican heritage and he should have recused himself...
I'm sure you've heard the comments from people who are simply appalled (even if most are not driven to action) by Trump's comments. You know what I'm talking about, right?
  • Paul Ryan Calls Donald Trump's Attack on Judge 'Racist' but still backs him
  • One of the worst mistakes Trump has made, says Newt Gingrich
  • Trump was not speaking about Curiel's heritage, says RNC Senior Advisor Sean Spicer
Here's a great read on comments made be a bunch of noted Republicans, Trump supporters all, including Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, John McCain, Bob Corker, Jason Chaffetz and others. Some say we have more important things to worry about, some say they're worried about their own campaign. Priebus even said he didn't know enough about the judge to judge the comment - from which I can only infer that that he didn't care enough to defend his party's standard-bearer, or else that he believes what Trump believes about federal judges with funny-sounding names (which would be ironic, wouldn't it?)

So, if what Trump says is simply honesty, let's make some more honest comments and see how long they'll be tolerated as honesty versus something else entirely.

  • These are members of Congress with Hispanic-sounding names: Pete Aguilar, Xavier Becerra, Joaquin Castro, Ted Cruz, Henry Cuellar, Carlos Cubelo, Tony Cardenes, Mario Diaz-Balart, Bill Flores, Luis Guiterrez, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Ruben Hinojosa, Ben Lujan, Bob Menendez, Loretta Sanchez, Jose Serrano, Juan Vargas, Filemon Vela, and Nydia Velazquez. They might "happen to be, we believe, Mexican" as much as Judge Curiel is Mexican, maybe even more so. Should they all recuse themselves from any discussions on immigration, wall-building, trade, the drug war, farming, and education (because of that pesky English as a Second Language stuff)?
  • And heaven forbid Bernie Sanders manage to steal the nomination from Hillary Clinton - we'd have a Jewish President? Obviously that would be a problem, even though his name doesn't sound funny like the Notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg? I can't imagine she could be impartial an unbiased should a case involving a Jew come before the Supreme Court? 
  • And clearly, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor would need to recuse herself as well, right? And what about Elena Kagan - what kind of name is that? Can she be trusted?
  • And what about a case of an African American? Down sits Clarence Thomas. And the Catholics on the bench, they must step aside on anything having to do with contraception, certainly - it would be impossible for them to maintain self-control and respect for the law, without letting their religion get in the way, right? 

People who have known him for years - not just his children - say that Trump doesn't have a racist bone in his body.  And they might be right; I don't know and will likely never know if that is the case. 

But what he does have, in spades, is a racist vocabulary that is designed to inflame the most extreme of his supporters, including many in the Republican party across all jurisdictions, and he knows as well as I do that when he suggests that Curiel is unable to be impartial because he "happens to be, we believe, Mexican," inflammation is exactly what will happen. That's what he wants, it's what he needs, and it's what he gets.

To pretend that his comments on Curiel (and others he has made) are merely 'honest' is disingenuous at best, and dangerous at its core: we've already seen what happens when racism is denied, excused, and explained away by white defenders of honesty.  And is that really what we want to be when we are made Great Again?

June 8, 2016

Wondering on Wednesday (v56)

Hard to believe it's been just over a month since I last wondered, on Wednesday. Or, I should say, since I last told you what I was wondering about, on Wednesday.  Here's what made today's list.

Am I happy that a woman has been declared the presumptive Presidential nominee of a major party here in America?  Sure I am. It's frustrating to think that the US is still in the dark ages when it comes to having a woman at the helm. Am I excited that it's Hillary Clinton? Not really. But, it could have been worse, I guess.

I admit to a significant amount of confliction about Clinton, confliction that I've had going a long way back, to the days of the 'vast right wing conspiracy' days when she was First Lady. She has accumulated more baggage and more enemies in the 20-odd years since then, including of course Benghazi and the email scandal.  While neither of these particularly point to any issue with her ability to lead the country, the sum of the baggage she's carrying point to whether she's the right person to lead the country.  The piles of Louis Vuitton also provide more than ample fodder for the other side to use as a hammer, something that the media will fall into gleefully, leaving all of us to wonder when we'll have a discussion of issues that matter, rather than on how much her outfit cost.

A friend of mine posted on social media today that he weeps for America - which I know comes not just from his dislike of Clinton, but also because of his dislike of Donald Trump. I can almost see where he's coming from.

Meanwhile, the primary season is, finally, almost over. I always wondered what it would be like for the entire season to have meaning, for New York (and California!) to still be relevant when it came time for our primary. Now that I know, I'm not sure we need to go through being relevant again. No, I'm kidding - I want ALL states to have relevance in choosing their party's nominee.  Even when one of the candidates isn't really a member of the party he's running to represent, and when his supporters are not members of the party he's running to represent, and when his platform actually more closely resembles the platform of a party he is not running to represent. Yes, I'm talking about Bernie Sanders. If nothing else, at least we're nearing the end of the 'rigged system' complaint life cycle. I wonder, is a vast left-wing conspiracy any better or worse than a vast right-wing conspiracy?

I'm looking forward to the Dems and the Independents coming to terms with each other, so that they can move forward to defeat Donald Trump in November.  Assuming he's still in the race, in November, that is.

I believe he's still working on his Trexit strategy, because I'm convinced he doesn't want to be president, and because I'm convinced his supporters will go ballistic if he gets muzzled by the GOP, as he was in his victory speech last night.  Reading from a teleprompter, which he hates and for which he mocks all other politicians, he told everyone unemotionally,
I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle, and I will never ever let you down.
He might as well have been reciting the multiplication tables. No bluster, no 'big hands', no nothing. Just another candidate. which is everything that he and his supporters hate.

Yeah. It's going to be an interesting summer, don't you think?

June 7, 2016

Tuesday's Number: $308,641

Tuesday is the day my local paper, The Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This is the fourth full year I’ve been tracking these numbers – I captured part of the year in 2012 – and the third year that I’ve captured filings by hospital.  I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

In the first three years, the overall total was $67,965,862 – a staggering amount of money for a relatively small metropolitan area that includes the city of Syracuse and her suburbs, the towns and villages of Onondaga County, and to a lesser extent, some of the even smaller neighboring towns and villages.  As I reported in the 2015 recap, we turned sharply down last year – some $7M – and the hope is that we will continue to see progress in the overall total. Of course, a better sign of health would be an increase in the number of satisfied judgments; people’s ability to pay off their debt (or their willingness, as the case may be) is something else I’m hoping to see this year. 

There were 20 new judgments this week, totaling $308,641. For the third week in a row, there were no satisfied judgments; it’s been nine weeks since we had an obvious health-care related bankruptcy.

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

  • Crouse had one, for $20,310
  • SUNY Upstate had 16, totaling $269,392
  • Community General, SUNY’s other campus, had one, for $6,849

 A local rehab facility had the final $12,090 judgment.  St. Joe’s had no filings reported.

The paper only publishes filings of $5,000 or more.

June 5, 2016

An Idea for the I-Team


June 5, 2016

Andrew Maxwell
Director of Policy, City of Syracuse
Director of Innovation, Syracuse I-Team
Syracuse City Hall
via email

Dear Mr. Maxwell,

Although I grew up in western Onondaga County, I've lived in the city for my entire adult life and, like you, consider myself a passionate Syracusan.  I appreciate the many things our city has to offer, including our diverse festivals, cultural opportunities, beautiful city parks, easy commutes, and our thriving downtown with its residential growth and enviable occupancy rate typically hovering at or above 99%.

I've long been a proponent of trying to find ways to extend the successes of downtown into our neighborhoods, including those closest to the downtown corridors. Programs such as the Near Westside Initiative are important in helping create identities and develop under-appreciated, under-served neighborhoods into ones that can eventually thrive, just as many of our other neighborhoods do, including Sedgwick, Westcott Street, Strathmore, Meadowbrook, Eastwood, and The Valley, where I live now.

We need even more of these initiatives that are designed to foster neighborhoods and communities within the city, the type of thing that could help save a neighborhood that's on the brink of tipping into despair, or that might even bring back a neighborhood that has fallen out of favor and is now deteriorating more and more every day.  I believe we need a Parade of Homes in the city.

Not the kind of Parade where homebuilders put up McMansions and McRanches with garages that are twice the size of the average city home; what I'm talking about is engaging the same folks who build the Parade homes, and putting their significant creativity, expertise, resources, and contacts into renovating a city neighborhood.

I've written about this in my blog, including in 2014 where I used Skunk City as the guinea pig neighborhood and described how a public/private collaboration including the City, the Onondaga Historical Association, the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, the school district, and the Homebuilders and Remodelers of CNY (HBRCNY), local businesses, and others could be tapped to help make this work. 

As I write this, the 2016 Parade has just opened, in the town of Manlius. Again. With $450,000 homes. Again. This year, with huge property tax breaks. 

It seems the Innovation Team has been focusing on infrastructure improvements (at least, that's the sense I get from looking on the website), and while clearly repairing our aging water delivery system and roads are critically important, those are necessities, not options. I appreciate having innovative ideas to approach these necessities, and am delighted that we've made progress in that area, but I believe that we need people infrastructure just as much as we need potholes filled.  We need neighborhoods. We need kids in our schools and we need police on the streets and we desperately need to expand our tax base. 

Just today, I found an article from April 2008 that touched on this same subject. In it, then president of the Greater Syracuse Board of Realtors David Manzano was noted to have said that
this is a good time to re-energize housing in the city, because...Syracuse has not felt the effects of the (housing market) crash.. (He) recalled telling a reporter that "for a while we were feeling like the crane was an endangered species, and I'm not talking about the bird."
Now he points to projects at hospitals and DestinyUSA as evidence that investors are once again interested in the Syracuse housing market...(He) also said he felt this would be a good time to educate young residents and then bring them back to Syracuse, to stimulate the local economy and housing market, If we're bringing young people to get educated and come back, it's nothing but good...
They say that all everything old is new again, and I think that's true in this case. Cranes are up at the hospitals; there's work being done on the SU hill with exciting changes coming to the Dome; the restoration of our beloved Hotel Syracuse is nearing completion; and there's work at DestinyUSA and in the Inner Harbor... 

So, is now the time to finally have a Parade of Homes in Syracuse? And is your Innovation Team the group to get the ball rolling?

I appreciate your consideration, and look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks.

June 2, 2016

He Said (She Said): Ryan 'Endorses' Trump

House Speaker Paul Ryan (he) and yours truly (she) discuss Ryan's announcement today that he'll vote for Donald Trump. His words come from his actual statement in the Janesville Gazette; my words are the ones that he was thinking as he made the luke-warmest party leader endorsement I can remember.

He: When Donald Trump became the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president one month ago, many Republicans like me faced a big question.
She: How the HELL did that just happen?

He: Six months earlier, in October, as I was taking the job as House speaker, my colleagues and I were discussing an equally important question: What could House Republicans do to give Americans a clear choice about the future of the country?
She: Remember last October, how I saved the party from a certain demise? Yeah, that was me! And way back then, I knew that if I was ever going to have any real power, I'd have to interject myself into the Presidential race. But I sure didn't want to run - heck, I wasn't even going to be Speaker unless they let me spend weekends at home, and I sure couldn't do that if I was running for POTUS.

He: Sure, count us among the majority of Americans upset with the direction our country is headed. But that's not enough. We agreed we must focus less on what we're against and more on what we're for. So, long before we knew who our nominee would be, we decided we would present the country a policy agenda that offers a better way forward. We know what we believe in, so let's bring it to the country.
She: What  I mean is, once Scott Walker and the other hard-core candidates started to self -destruct, we knew it was going to be a slug fest between Trump and someone, we just weren't sure who. I never in a million years thought it would be We Hate Cruz and No One Cares Kasich - wow! But with the tough guys out of the way, we started cooking up a plan that, oops I mean a policy agenda that needed to be ready before the convention, just in case we got lucky. (And boy, I suck at the nickname thing. Trump's really good at that, I have to hand it to him there...)

He: That's how I've always looked at it. I've spent most of my adult life pursuing ways to help protect the "American Idea" - the notion that the condition of one's birth does not determine the outcome of one's life. The first step is always putting it on paper and having a real debate. And with the Obama presidency nearing an end, we have a real opportunity to get big things done in the next four years.
She: You know of course that we have no intention of having a real debate, right? I mean, if the malcontents in the Senate hold their majority, everything should be fine. That Mitch McConnell - "make Obama a one-term president" my ass.  I will not allow the House to go over to the other side -- I'll be right back here in Janesville before that happens, I promise you that.

He: That's why next week my colleagues and I will start introducing a series of policy proposals that address the American people's top priorities.  These plans are the result of months of work by House Republicans.

He: The concept from the start was simple: If we had a Republican president ready to sign bills, what would we do?
She: My wildest dreams from October have come true! We've got the candidate who knows nothing about being president, he's clueless!  Putty in my hands!

He: This month, we'll show the country what a better tax code looks like. We'll outline a plan not just for repealing Obamacare but replacing it with a better system, more focused on patients, choices and lower costs. We'll offer a plan to restore the Constitution and the separation of powers that decades of executive overreach have eroded. We'll present the ideal national security and foreign policy to keep Americans safe.  We'll show how we can reform rules and regulations so they're spurring the economy and creating jobs, not destroying them.  And we'll offer a better way to help lift people out of poverty and into lives of self-determination.
She: Don't you love the part about 'separation of powers' I put in there? There's no chance of executive overreach with Trump - he doesn't even want to be president! He can win, and I'll run the show! He won't need a Trexit -- bahahahaha! The guy wants nukes in every garage -- anything short of that will be "the ideal national security and foreign policy" to make people happy. This is going to be easy!

He: It will be a positive, optimistic vision for a more confident America.
She: and it won't be even a little bit racist, I promise.

He: It's short of all that's required to save the country, but the goal was to focus on issues that unite Republicans. It's a bold agenda but one that can bring together all wings of the Republican Party as well as appeal to most Americans.
She: We didn't want to seem greedy, so we only put down enough for a single term of a Republican House, Senate and White House.

He: One person who we know won't support it is Hillary Clinton. A Clinton White House would mean four more years of liberal cronyism and a government more out for itself than the people it serves. Quite simply, she represents all that our agenda aims to fix.
She: Besides, I'm hoping she'll be so underwater with investigations, she might not even notice we have a plan. 

He: To enact these ideas, we need a Republican president willing to sign them into law. That's why, when he sealed the nomination, I could not offer my support for Donald Trump before discussing policies and basic principles.
She: Yeah, the key is having a willing, and as I mentioned, clueless GOP figurehead in the Oval. So when I talked to him, I made sure he knew what it would take to get my endorsement.

He: As I said from the start, my goal has been to unite the party so we can win in the fall. And if we're going to unite, it has to be over ideas.
She: We'll unite over my ideas, just like in the House! Unite with me, or die without me!

He: Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life. The list of potential Supreme Court nominees he released after our first meeting was very encouraging.
She: There I go again, reminding the nominee what his 'proper role' is, and when I told him he had to show me a sign that he understood his role, he did a great job with that list of SCOTUS guys. He did almost as good as that Gary Busey guy, or that old rapper, what was his name? Flavor Stick? Flavor Favor? Can't remember... or was that a different show?

He: But the House policy agenda has been the main focus of our dialogue. We've talked about the common ground this agenda can represent. We've discussed how the House can be a driver of policy ideas.  We've talked about how important these reforms are to saving our country. And we've talked about how, by focusing on ideas that unite Republicans, we can work together to heal the fissures developed through the primary.
She: We'll spoon feed him 'common ground' and we'll drive the policy ideas - no more of his loose cannon, say one thing this morning and contradict it this afternoon crap. We're done with that. And we're done with that stupid wall, too. That's never going to happen. 

He: Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people's lives.  That's why I'll be voting for him this fall.
She: What I mean is, he agreed to promote my agenda starting at the convention in Cleveland in return for my voting for him so he didn't have to bail out. I took his cojones right out of his fancy pants and he said thank you, I tell you! Oh, wow, it was awesome. Never felt better in my life. I held them right in my hand, and told him he could have them back after he was out of office. 

He: It's no secret that he and I have our differences. I won't pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I'll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.
She: I'll make sure he says some stupid stuff every now and then, and then I'll pretend to be alarmed like everyone else is, so that it looks like everything is the same as it was in the primaries. 

He: For me, it's a question of how to move forward on the ideas that I - and my House colleagues - have invested so much in through the years. It's not just a choice of two people, but of two visions for America. And House Republicans are helping shape the Republican vision by offering a bold policy agenda, by offering a better way ahead.
She: Holy crap, I almost forgot to mention "and my House colleagues" -- good save, man. Good save! I wonder if his voters will recognize that it's a different agenda?  Wait -- no worries there.  Trump wins the uneducated hands down, he said he loves the uneducated. They'll never notice.

Donald Trump can help us make it a reality.
She: Screw you, Mitt -- trying to draft me to run. You're on the sidelines, and me? You'd almost kill to be me right now, and we both know it.