November 22, 2009

Can We Talk (Part 2)

I sent the letter below, via email, to my State Senator David Valesky. He's a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, holding the position of Vice President Pro Tem. I'll keep you posted on what I hear.

Dear Senator Valesky,

While the Governor and the Legislature are in Albany, ostensibly to work out conflicts and come to resolution on ways to close the $3.2 billion budget deficit, the only concrete action I’ve seen mentioned coming out of the session are two bills which pile on sentences for (1) convicted felons and (2) drunk drivers.

While I suppose the update to Jenna’s Law, and the passing of Leandra’s Law, are worthy issues to have tackled while waiting for the real work of the special session to take place, I’m much more concerned about our economic problems than I am about these two laws. I’m also concerned that we’ve spent upwards of $500,000 since you’ve all been back in session and we have so little to show for it.

Frankly, I’m not convinced that our elected officials will be able to make the hard decisions that are needed to close our deficit and begin putting New York back on the right track. Especially considering the recent change of heart on the new license plates, which could have added some $129 million to the state’s coffers but is now likely off the table, I’m not sure that anyone in Albany understands how to do the right thing for our state.

Here are some specific questions for you, which are similar to the questions I’ve asked Senator DeFrancisco:

  • What specific changes do you fee are needed in the current budget?
  • What specific cuts are you willing to propose or support that will actually reduce spending, not just decrease the increases? For example, education spending? Health care spending? Member items?
  • What specific services are you willing to reduce so we can avoid another budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, which is just around the corner?
  • Will you commit to actually making cuts, rather than just shifting costs (and responsibilities) to local jurisdictions?
  • When will we see the benefit of having a Democratic majority in Albany? Seems like we continue to have gridlock and lack of progress, which is what we had before…
  • Why should I, as a registered Democrat and one of your constituents, continue to support you, rather than either shifting my vote to one of those who will challenge you, either from within the Democratic ranks, or a Republican challenger?

I’m concerned about the direction we’re headed and I’m looking forward to your response.


November 19, 2009

Can We Talk (Part 1)

I sent the letter below today, via email, to the State Senator who represents much of Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse. He's not my Senator, but he's very interested in what happens in my district, which adjoins his. I'll keep you posted on whether this correspondence generates a response.

November 19, 2009

Senator John DeFrancisco

Room 802 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247

Dear Senator DeFrancisco,

I recently read in the Syracuse Post Standard that you are supporting the candidacy of classical pianist Andrew Russo, the first of possibly several Republicans to declare as challengers to my Senator, David Valesky.

While I understand that you would support a Republican in a race against one of your Democrat counterparts, I’m curious as to why you think Mr. Russo is the best candidate to represent my district. I’m not that familiar with his positions, as his candidacy was only announced very recently; since there are others in your party who may also run, I suspect you have more familiarity since you’re considered a supporter even before any other candidates declared.

Can you explain your thinking on this? I realize I’m not one of your constituents, but as we are both residents of the city of Syracuse, I’m interested in your thoughts on what our city, our county, and the state need to do going forward in these difficult economic times, and why you think Mr. Russo can best help us move in the right direction.

Thanks for your insight, and for your response.

November 6, 2009

Election Post-mortem

I was pleased to read the final election results on Wednesday and discover that all but two of the candidates I voted for were elected. Now, as I’m in the process of trying to determine how engaged I’m going to stay with these folks after they get sworn in, and how closely I’m going to monitor my expectations of them, here are some random thoughts on the election.

Syracuse elected its first-ever female mayor, on the heels of our just electing our first-ever female county executive. Here’s hoping that the twin daughters of different mothers (Stephanie’s a Dem, Joanie’s a Republican) will be able to accomplish what the old boys have not – putting Syracuse and Onondaga County back on the right foot and making the kind of decisions regarding economic development, consolidation, and fiscal responsibility that we need to attract businesses, and more importantly, people. People who would want to live here, start families here, start businesses here, and stick around for a while.

Turnout was generally low in most areas, not only here in Onondaga County but generally in most areas. Naturally, the pundits have been analyzing and pontificating on this since even before the polls were closed, with most trying to make a connection to this year’s election and last year’s for President Obama. In my eyes, the reason why so many folks voted last year is because Obama, an incredible speaker with an idealistic message, was on the ticket, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to elect an African American to the highest office in the land. Regardless of whether you agree with his politics, it was a singular moment in our nation’s history. This year paled in comparison, and turnout dropped accordingly.

I think young people, who stayed home in big numbers this year, are as fickle about voting as they are about everything else – which makes them just like the rest of us.

The race in the 23rd district was won by Bill Owens, the Democrat, and the first from his party since the late 1800’s to be elected in that district. Note that the district then looked anything like it does today, but it was a ground-breaking victory for the Dems and there’s dancing in the streets. Oh wait, the dancing in the streets is because we are no longer subjected to the horrid campaign ads. According to one news report, there were 9,030 political ads in that race. I think I saw every single one of them.

Also regarding the 23rd district, which doesn’t include Onondaga County: voters in at least one town were confused as to why Bill Owens, Dede Scozzafava, and Doug Hoffman were not on the ballot here. Seems they too had seen all of the ads and assumed that they would be voting for that race. I suspect that confusion was more prevalent than we’ll hear.

Some folks got to vote on our new, old-fangled voting machines, which require filling out a paper ballot, then feeding the ballot into a scanner. There have been many reports of privacy concerns both during the completion of the paper ballot, and then having to transport the ballot to the scanner, and in some cases apparently having the ballot reviewed by the election inspectors to make sure that folks had colored inside the lines. The system is new and some kinks are to be expected, but the secrecy of our ballots is sacrosanct and must remain so. That much has to be figured out before we vote again next year.

According to published reports, my lame-duck mayor will be getting a job in the administration of our Accidental Governor. Not sure doing what, but not surprised that the opportunity is coming his way, as it’s been rumored for a while now. I wish him well.

November 2, 2009

Do It Until You're Satisfied...

Vote, that is.

On the eve of Election Day 2009, I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to do their civic duty and vote. I will be voting tomorrow at my new polling place, using old-fashioned equipment, making informed choices between candidates who may be strong or weak, good or bad, the lesser of or the greater of, idealistic or jaded, lifers or newbies, like me or not like me. I’m voting for the people I think can best help move my city and county in the right direction; hopefully the ones I vote for will win, and will live up to my expectations.

I know that this is not a ‘big’ election year, as things go. There is only one national Congressional election, in NY’s 23rd district,
and a few other high profile races, but mostly this year’s about local politics. I thought it would be fun to have some friends of mine help out by offering their take on elections and the importance of voting. Here goes:

After some thought, “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” (1) Actually “The idea of an election is much more interesting to me than the election itself…the act of voting is in itself the defining moment.” (2) And why is it that “When the political columnists say ‘every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘every intelligent voter’ they mean everyone who is going to vote for them”? (3)

We know it’s true that “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who didn’t vote” (4), and that “A citizen of American will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” (5) Do we still not realize, after all these years, that “lower voter participation is a silent threat to our democracy… it under-represents young people, the poor, the disabled, those with little education, minorities and you and me”? (6)

After all, “the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men” (7) and “to make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not just observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” (8) And complain we do, after every election, when the wrong guy wins. If only the actual voters complained, it’d likely be a lot less noisy.

Some folks may not vote because they don’t know how to pick the right person. There are a couple different schools of thought on that. On the one hand, some might think that “politics is the art of the possible” (9) while others may subscribe to the thinking that “politics is not the art of the possible, it consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. And it is true that, the great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter the chance to do something stupid.” (10) Said another way, a “Vote (is) the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” (11) But that’s OK – “personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard; otherwise you will be left out.” (12)

It’s generally true that if you “ask a man which way he’s going to vote and he’ll probably tell you. Ask him, however, why – and vagueness is all.” (13) But voting’s really easy; and “all voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong.” (14) And just about everyone likes to play a game every now and then, right?

The bottom line is, “voting is simply a way of determining which side is the stronger without putting it to the test of fighting;” (15) “voting is a civic sacrament;” (16) and “the future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” (17) If all of that seems like too much pressure, you have an out: “Vote for the man who promises least. He’ll be the least disappointing.” (18)

Hopefully my friends and I have inspired you to go to the polls tomorrow; if you’re in the Central New York area, check out the Voter Guide
for more information on where to vote, who the candidates are, and where they stand on the issues. If you’re not in the CNY area, check your local media outlets for similar information.

(Thanks to these folks for their words of wisdom: 1 - Charles DeGaulle; 2 – Jeff Melvoin; 3 – Franklin P Adams; 4 and 13 – Andrew Lack; 5 - Bill Vaughan; 6 - Nancy Neuman; 7 - Lyndon B Johnson; 8 - Louis L’Amour; 9 – Otto Von Bismarck; 10 – Art Spander; 11 – Ambrose Bierce; 12 - Mari-Luci Jaramillo; 14 – Henry David Thoreau; 15 – H.L. Mencken; 16—Theodore Hesburgh; 16 – Dwight D. Eisenhower; 18 – Bernard Baruch)

November 1, 2009

How I Spent My Fall Staycation

I've been on staycation this past week; you all know about staycations, right? A staycation is when you don't go anywhere on vacation, but instead stay home either to save money, to avoid the stress that's inevitably present when you're trying to plan and enjoy a relaxing trip out of town, or in my case to kill a hard-earned 40 hours of vacation. Here are some definitions; my personal favorite is #5, what's yours?

For my staycation, My Sweet Baboo went off to work every day, and I stayed home with the kids. Two of them (the brother and sister pair) were a bit under the weather -- Galway due to dental surgery, and My Angel the Fen because she had a horrible cold. Rightfully so, the two of them got quite a bit of attention, and of course the love must be shared with the other two as can't talk to one cat without talking to all of them. And while I had lofty goals of getting some work done outside, and reading a couple of books, and getting summer and fall/winter clothes organized, and cleaning the porch, and doing something with the plastic storage containers that fall on our heads whenever we open that one cupboard door in the kitchen, and trying to sterilize some dust bunnies, and and and...I fell quite a bit short:
  • the lawn is mowed (front and back)
  • the garage is cleaned out (OK, that was a MAJOR accomplishment!)
  • the brownies got made, as did a cake for someone in MSB's office
  • several dust bunnies are now RIP
  • I started one book, put it in the "why did I buy this?" pile, and started another
  • the new printer is hooked up
  • and I spent a great day with my Mom, which was the high point of the week (well, maybe second to getting the garage done...)

I also spent some time organizing the pictures I took on our September trip to the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. This was one of our classic weekend trips, where we take eight hours to go three hours away, take tons of pictures, stop the car at the drop of a hat to pick up rocks for the garden, and eat someone else's cooking. MSB did the math for me and advised me that had I been using my Minolta instead of the Canon digital, I would have used 28 rolls of film... in four days. Clearly, I have issues.

And I also have only today to finish up the things on my list...and get the last of the bulbs planted, and make some roasted pumpkin soup, and finish the laundry, and...and...

Here's the first set of pictures, which include Ausable Chasm, the Westport area (where we stayed), one of the Lake Champlain lighthouses, and some 'end of season' shots that are typical of the towns on the Lake. Enjoy!