July 25, 2012

Obama & Romney: Twin Sons of Different Mothers?

Recent polls show that the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney is getting tighter -- almost a dead heat in some areas of the country.  

I think I've figured out why that's happening: they have the same positions on so many things, its hard to tell them apart. 

Really - check it out:

On the economy:
On success:
  • President Obama tells us if people (and by people I mean corporations) are successful, they didn't do it on their own; governments built roads and infrastructure and the Internet, and they had teachers and and mentors along the way to help.
  • Mitt Romney tells Olympic athletes (who are people) if they're successful, they didn't do it on their own; communities (aka governments) built venues for them, and they had parents and brothers and sisters and coaches to help.
On health care:
  • President Obama passed Obamacare, which is modeled after Romneycare.
  • Mitt Romney assails Obamacare, but he started it all with Romneycare.
On foreign policy:
  • President Obama told everyone we’ll be out of Afghanistan by 2014.
  • Mitt Romney complains about Obama's timetable, but tells everyone we’ll be out of Afghanistan by 2014.
On gun control:
  • President Obama supports Second Amendment rights and doesn’t want to upset people with money by supporting any change in gun control laws.
  • Mitt Romney supports Second Amendment rights and doesn’t want to upset people with money by supporting any change in gun control laws.
On immigration:
  • President Obama wants to staple a green card to advanced degrees earned by immigrants, and has deported scads more illegal immigrants than any previous administration.
  • Mitt Romney complains about Obama's immigration policy, but says he wants to staple a green card to advanced degrees earned by immigrants.
On corporate welfare:
  • Under the Obama stimulus plans, many businesses received breaks and loans, and some were successful and some were not; some may have outsourced part of their business.
  • Under Bain Capital, lots of businesses outsourced, and many were successful and some were not.
Their children:
  • President Obama has all girls and they have not served in the military.
  • Mitt Romney has all boys and they have not served in the military.
On finances:
  • President Obama has raised well over $200 million dollars.
  • Mitt Romney has well over $200 million dollars.
See what I mean?

Sidebar: 'Good People'

Back in 2009, I wrote a series of posts under the title of The Value Proposition, after going through a training session at work.  Part One was about the training and how we all have 'value propositions' when it comes to customer service, where attracting and retaining good people can really make a difference. 

I posted in Part Two about the nonsense in Albany at that time -- a coup, some ethically challenged members, and a businessman with a lot of money injecting himself into the process, all because of a BlackBerry.
And, in Part Three, I looked at bipartisan cooperation in other state legislatures, to see what the functional gangs were doing; one of the primary comparisons was with New Mexico.  Here was my conclusion then:
So what can we learn from all of this? Clearly New Mexico and New York are vastly different in terms of size, population, and issues. What the Legislatures should have in common, though, is putting the best interests of the State first, then their own constituent interests somewhere further down the line, and at the very end of the line, their own self-serving interests.
I'm still in the same place today was I was three years ago. Things have gotten somewhat better in Albany, but here are a couple of very telling statistics, from the Syracuse Post-Standard, about our current situation: 
  • for just the Central New York area, it's likely that eight of the thirteen lawmakers will be unopposed, in many cases due to the amount of money and power held by the incumbents
  • From 1999 to 2010, 96% of the Legislature's incumbents were re-elected
 Is giving these folks a raise really necessary?  

July 24, 2012

To Attract and Retain Good People...

...we need to have salary increases for politicians and government appointees.  

How many times have you heard that, and what's your reaction when you do?  Do you cringe, like I do?

I just heard it again the other day, while watching Capital Tonight, the show devoted to all things NY politics brought to us courtesy of YNN, Time Warner's news station. The discussion centered on whether or not it was time that New York's legislators, as well as other folks in state government, deserve a raise.  

It's been 13 or 14 years for the Legislature, according to published reports, which I admit is a long time to go without a pay increase, even when you're making $79,500 plus a $170 per diem for days spent in Albany, plus an additional $10,000 - $40,000 for 'leadership' roles, which most of them receive - all for a part-time job that they volunteer for.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that trying to decide the direction and fate of the Empire State's 19,000,000 or so people can be hard work; and if I were working for the same money now that I was making 14 years ago, I'd be pretty annoyed too. The part-time job of a legislator is pretty lucrative, compared to other legislatures (and compared to many New York families), and in these difficult economic times, it's hard to want to give them a raise for any reason.

But what really gets me is this whole concept of 'attracting and retaining good people'.  What does that really mean?
  • Are our current legislators not 'good people'?
  • Would they all leave, and make room for really 'good people' if we raised their pay?
And what would be different?
  • Would we be able to get real campaign finance reform and real ethics reform, from the new 'good people'?
  • Would the new 'good people' do something about mandate relief and the buck-passing down the legislative line to counties, cities, towns and villages?
  • Hopefully they'd stop sending me mail telling me how wonderful they are -- because of course, they're 'good people' so that goes without saying, right?
Unless the 'bad people' we have no problem retaining now are willing to step aside for these mysterious new 'good people', I think we can continue paying them just the same as we do today.

What do you think?

Mittenverse: The Poetry of Mitt Romney

Coaches guided
You know you didn’t get here solely on your own power
Loving parents, sisters or brothers
Encouraged your hopes

Coaches guided
Communities built venues
In order to organize

All Olympians stand
On the shoulders
Of those who lifted them.

Let’s cheer …

July 23, 2012

Twenty-nine lives, $666,254

Monday is the day my local newspaper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes a financial section. Each week, along with tips from stock experts, budgeting advice, and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, twenty six people were listed with new judgments totaling $640,698 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, one person was listed as having satisfied a judgment totaling $5,088 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, two people were listed in the bankruptcy section with a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider as the major unsecured creditor, totaling $20,468.

July 22, 2012

Updated: The Second Amendment: 27 simple words

I originally posted this back in July, at the time of the movie theater shooting in Aurora Colorado.  Since then, we can add the temple in Wisconsin, and the shopping mall in Oregon, and the most horrific of all, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Colorado, where twenty children died, along with several adults. 
Some now say the answer is to have guns in schools; others say we need God in schools.  Some say the answer is to take all guns away, some say it's to arm everyone.
Will we ever come to terms on this? 
Another horrible gun tragedy in America, and another heated debate will kick up about whether we need more gun control in the US.

We've been talking about this for years.  We talk and talk and talk. People chime in from the left and from the right; from the NRA and the Brady Center and everywhere in between. Money flows fast and furious from both sides, to both side. The Supreme Court has chimed in.

We all chime in.

Everyone chimed in when Gabby Giffords was shot a year ago, and when the Virginia Tech shootings happened, and when the Fort Hood shootings happened, and when the Binghamton shootings happened, and the Columbine shootings happened, and lots of other times. 

MotherJones.com put together a map of dozens of cases since the 1980s that are considered 'mass murders' (at least four victims, generally a lone gunman  public place).  I counted over 300 people murdered, with the number of injured much higher.

Movie theaters. Restaurants. Army bases. Universities. Cultural Centers. High Schools. Shopping malls. Sadly, if we build it, people will be murdered there.  We even came up with the slang term 'going postal' after several incidents in 1986, 1991, 1993, and 2006 involving US Postal Service workers. 

I've heard the argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people, and of course I get that a person pulls the trigger. I've heard the argument that if we ban or restrict guns, we have to ban or restrict silverware, and rope, and cars, and everything else that could be used to kill someone. I've heard it from friends, and from family members, and from total strangers.

But here's what I don't get: did the Founding Fathers really intend that a person should be able to legally purchase thousands of rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle?  

27 simple words:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

July 19, 2012

Obamaverse: The Poetry of Barack Obama

You Didn't Build That

We can make some more cuts
We can make another trillion
or trillion-two,
and what we then do
is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more…

They know they didn’t - look,
if you’ve been successful,
you didn’t get there on your own.
You didn’t get there on your own.

If you were successful,
somebody along the line
gave you some help...
Somebody helped
to create this

If you’ve got a business.
you didn’t build that.
Somebody else made that happen.

July 17, 2012

Twelve Lives, $260,918

Monday is the day my local newspaper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes a financial section. Each week, along with tips from stock experts, budgeting advice, and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, seven people were listed with new judgments totaling $159,606 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, five people were listed as having satisfied judgments totaling $101,312 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

July 16, 2012

Mittenverse: The Poetry of Mitt Romney

We Want To Care
We're the party of people

who want
to get rich.

We're also the party of people
who want
to care

to help people
from getting poor.

We want to help the poor.

My Koch is an Asset
I understand there
is a plane out there
saying Mitt Romney
has a Koch

I don’t look at it
as a problem;
I look at it
as an asset.

I'm OK You're OK
If you are here,
by and large,
are doing fine.

I spend a lot

of time worrying
about those that are poor
and those
in the middle class.

July 15, 2012

Poll Watch: The Campaign, SCOTUS & Fast and Furious

With the political season heating up, how do we feel about the presidential election?  Well, not too great, according to a recent Pew poll.  Everyone – Republicans, Democrats and Independents -  find the campaign so far to be dull.

Independents, the group that the major parties are desperately courting, find it duller than Republicans (77% to 60%), with Dems (46%) finding it significantly less dull.  Maybe sitting around raising gazillions of dollars is uninteresting?

Those pesky Independents also think that the campaign is annoying already; can't wait to talk to them in October.  Also, if you’re in a battleground state, you’re seeing ads (again, 77%) and most folks (58%) are finding them to be a mix of positive and negative.  I’m not in a battleground state; after all, everyone knows what we're going to do here in New York. So the chances of me seeing an ad this early in the game are pretty slim - and I might not see any at all.

As expected, pollsters jumped at the chance to see what we thought of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act.  CNN found that 50% of us approved of the decision, and 49% disapproved.  And, the percent of those who were ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘pleased’ with decision, at 48%, was very close to the percentage of those who were ‘angry’ or ‘disappointed’ (51%).  The poll didn't ask why folks were disappointed, but 52% of us approve of most or all of the provisions of the ACA, vs. 47% who disapprove of most or all of them. Maybe we think it didn't go far enough?  Probably not.

So if we approve of the ACA, why is it that Republicans took their thirty-somethingth vote to get rid of (or de-fund) the law last Tuesday?  I assumed it's because they're self-serving politicians who just want to be reelected and are appealing to their base by thumping their chests against anything that the Administration is in favor of.  While that's true (I agree with my opinion 100%), interestingly on the question of repeal, 51% said get rid of everything and 47% said keep everything. 

Even though the responses to the two questions don’t seem to make sense, I think it some of it goes to the shouting coming out of Washington; the pro-repeal response was immediate and uniforma and loud compared to the pro-ACA contingent, which was more touchy-feely with stories of pepole who had benefited from the ACA. Or maybe it means that we think our laws, even the ones we like, should go.  Wouldn’t that be interesting!
And finally, Fox News polled us about Fast and Furious, using a fully loaded question to gauge our opinion:
You may have heard about a government operation under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms known as “Fast and Furious,” that was designed to track illegal gun sales and lead agents to gun cartel members so they could be arrested. Yet instead of stopping illegal gun trafficking, the operation allowed thousands of guns to be smuggled to criminals in Mexico and one is believed to have been used to kill a U.S. border agent. Do you think this operation was a good idea that went bad, or was it a bad idea from the start? 
In response, 34% thought it was a good idea gone bad, 54% thought it was a bad idea from the get-go, and 12% don’t know.  We remain conflicted on whether the Obama administration is hiding something (43%) or has a legitimate interest in applying executive privilege (42%) over disclosing additional documents on top of the over 7500 pages turned over to Congress so far, and on whether this whole investigation, largely driven by Darryl Issa (R-CA) is a witch hunt (32%), a cover up by the Administration (38%) or something else (30% some of both/don't know combined). Remarkably, they didn't ask if Fast and Furious was First and Foremost on their minds, as it suppposedly is in my Congressional district.
Where do you stand?

July 10, 2012

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote.

They will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Again.

As my representative Ann Marie Buerkle stated so eloquently, “This health care law just flies in the face of what America is supposed to be, and repealing it would revitalize our economy and the values upon which our country was founded. Then we would finally be able to pursue a common-sense, step-by-step approach that protects Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost."

They will vote to repeal full coverage for preventative services for men, women and children, widely believed to be the single most important thing we can do to improve our health and prevent significantly more costly care down the road. 

They will vote to repeal coverage for children with pre-existing conditions. 

They will vote to repeal coverage for adults with pre-existing conditions, offered through high-risk pools created because of the ACA.

They will vote to repeal rules limiting the length of time an adult with a pre-existing condition will have to wait for benefits to begin.

They will vote to repeal coverage of dependent children on their parent's policies until age 26, while at the same time they lament the fact that new college graduates can't afford to pay for health insurance. 

They will vote to repeal annual dollar limits on essential benefits, driving up out of pocket costs for consumers at a time when they can least afford it.

They will vote to repeal tax breaks for small businesses that offer health insurance to their employees, and subsidies to help low income people purchase insurance.  

They will vote to repeal coverage for prescriptions for seniors caught in the 'donut hole' of Medicare-D.

They will vote to repeal rules requiring insurers to spend at least 80% of premiums on benefits or reimburse their subscribers; this year, as much as $1.3 billion will be returned to consumers.

They will vote to repeal rules making it easier for insurance purchasers to understand and compare benefits, to be educated on what they're getting for their health care dollar.

The will vote to repeal added competition in the insurance market, and to repeal health insurance exchanges allowing greater choice for consumers.

And they will vote to repeal the requirement that people get insurance, so that the rest of us can stop paying for those who can, but don't.

They will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, revitalizing the values upon which our country was founded. 

In their dreams.

July 9, 2012

Update: Syracuse Common Council approves PILOT

In a 5-4 vote, the Syracuse Common Council approved the 30-year PILOT for the new SU Bookstore, fitness center, and retail complex.  The deal will see the development company, Cameron Group LLC, pay $64,400 per year for 30 years, after which SU gets the property back, and will be responsible for paying taxes only on the commercial pieces of the development.

According to published reports, the Council was 'bitterly divided' and ultimately decided by 1st district councilor Jake Barrett, who offered this comment after the vote: “I’m really uncomfortable elaborating on how I voted today, because it was so painful." 

We learned that the deal includes ‘contingencies’, among them a commitment by the developer to hire 10 minorities at apprentice-level prevailing wages for the construction, and a commitment from SU to develop fitness programs for kids aged 12 – 17.  These are binding add-ons to the deal, meaning that failure to comply could result in the PILOT being revoked. And, both require the principles to work with community agencies to fulfill the terms. 
If we are to believe the proponents, the $64,400 is not the point, it's the opportunity this deal presents in the larger scheme of things, in the leverage this is supposed to create with other tax-exempt businesses and their property.

Only time will tell.

To PILOT, or not to PILOT: the $64,000 question

Courtesy Cameron Group LLC,
published in the Post-Standard
This afternoon, at a special meeting of the Syracuse Common Council, there will be a vote on whether to give a developer a 30-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) deal on a project to build a new mixed-use facility housing a new Syracuse University bookstore, a fitness center, and a handful of retail outlets. 

Given the angst we're going through after our last (and only) 30-year PILOT, for Carousel Center/Destiny USA, there's quite a bit of consternation surrounding this one.

Here are the key players:
  • The Cameron Group LLC, a Syracuse developer whose management team includes a number of Pyramid Companies alums.  Pyramid, of course, is the Destiny USA mall developer.
  • Syracuse University, owner of the half acre lot on which the complex will be built; SU will lease the land to the developer for $1 a year, and will also pay $1.48 million annually to lease the building for its bookstore and the fitness center.
  • Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA), the gang that handles financial incentives and bonding for Syracuse economic development projects, and who narrowly approved the PILOT which now comes before the Common Council.
Needless to say there are lots of opinions on this. Many feel that getting $64,400 per year, roughly $1.9 million over the 30-year life of the PILOT, is worth it to the city, which is hampered by a significant portion of properties city having not-for-profit tax exempt status. 

And, maybe developing this little lot on the SU hill will help open the door for other creative development projects in the area. And, if SU were to independently develop the building, the entire property would be tax exempt and the city would get nothing. Editorial writers at the Post-Standard, back in March, suggested that the Common Council saying no to the deal would be the equivalent of cutting off their nose to spite their face.

On the other hand, there's a legitimate question as to why the PILOT needs to be so long - why 30 years, why not 20 or 15? And what about the impact to other businesses on the Hill, those who have to compete with the SU bookstore and also pay full property taxes?  Should we be offering better deals to new businesses, and leave existing ones in the lurch?  And is $64,400 enough to cover the cost of basic city services for the building? Is it fiscally responsible for a city with our issues?

The last time the PILOT was to be voted on by the Common Council, it was pulled at the last minute when it was clear that it would fail. This time, there's a special session for the vote, which under Council rules means that the majority for passage is only five votes instead of six.  I can only imagine supporters on the Council think they have the votes, otherwise I'm surprised they'd bring it forward again.

If I had to vote today, boy I don't think it would be easy. Previously I've suggested that developers should show us theirs - build something, open something, hire some people, make a go of it -- before we show them ours -- PILOTs and other incentives -- as we've been burned several times in the past. We've seen lots of pretty pictures of pretty buildings, and have had our share of developers promising pie-in-the-sky projects that never amount to anything.  Or, like Destiny USA, amount to less than what we were promised - but still deliver something.

In this case, there's nothing for the developer to show us.  So we're asked to approve a 30-year deal, on a project that is not be viable without the PILOT?  How would you vote? 

July 8, 2012

Hey Michelle, Can you talk to Barack for me?

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for your recent emails asking for my support for Barack's re-election campaign. I'm mulling over my contribution and will let you know soon. 

Meantwhile, I've been thinking. I know you are Barack’s most trusted advisor, and I know you’re concerned about the direction of our country and the choice we face in November. Lots of us are concerned too – and we need your help. 

See, I think Barack needs to work on The Message, because out here The Message is not hitting the mark.

First and foremost, he and the team have got to stop mentioning George Bush, except in one context.  It’s OK to say “When George Bush was in office” or “Remember back in the Bush era”, however those comments MUST be attached to a comparison of then and now.  For example, “When George Bush was president, such and such was thus and so, but under my administration…” and then give some facts. Or even give opinions. But whatever he says, it cannot be a complaint or a blaming message.  That’s getting old, and it’s turning people off.

We also need to hear what Barack’s ‘continuum’ is. By that I mean he needs to talk about what was accomplished and use that as a building block for what would be accomplished in a second term.   Everyone knows that resting on one’s laurels is the best way for a politician to get rest – long term rest, if you know what I mean.  Tell him we want to hear what the plans are to continue moving forward, and don’t be afraid to be specific.  If he can’t be specific, at least be positive in the generality. 

It was once said of the Clinton administration that they never met a focus group they didn’t like.  That could probably be said of any recent administration, really, but there’s something better than focus groups. There’s public opinion – and Barack needs to jump on that.  Nothing sways public opinion more than public opinion, so when a poll comes out, and it’s got anything positive, even if not directly tied to something Barack did or said, tell him to jump on it. Don’t let the other side control the message. 

Whatever he does, whatever the message, it must include the words bipartisan effort.  As in, it will take a bipartisan effort, I’m willing to make a bipartisan effort, I welcome any bipartisan effort, and so on. You get the bipartisan drift, right?  He can't do it alone, he'll need help from the R's, and if they refuse to rise to the occasion, it's on them for not listening, not on him for not asking.

Above all, tell him to tell the truth.  I get that there’s different ways to present a message – we’ve all heard of the salesman who could sell ice to an Eskimo or the DA who could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.  If something’s going to cost a lot, or hurt a lot, or make a lot of difference, say so.  Everyone knows his job isn’t easy, everyone knows fixing our problems isn’t easy.  So there’s no reason to pretend that it is, and there’s even less reason to lie.

Can you talk to Barack for me, Michelle?  I’d really appreciate it.

July 6, 2012

Sidebar: Buerkle's "Where Do You Stand?"

I subscribe to Ann Marie Buerkle's newsletter; even though I disagree with her on just about everything, I think it's important to stay informed.  In one of her recent emails, she introduced a new feature on her website called "Where So You Stand?"

"Where Do You Stand?" is a poll widget, presented as a way for Congresswoman Buerkle to her my view on a current issue. Not surprisingly, the topic right now is the SCOTUS ruling on health care.  Clicking through will get you to the actual question being posed, which is  "Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision regarding the President's health care law?"

The choices are Agree, Disagree - the individual mandate should have been ruled unconstitutional, or Disagree - the entire law should have been ruled unconstitutional.  That's it. Either I agree with the whole decision, or I think they missed the boat in one of two ways.  I don't get the option of saying I agree with their decision on the mandate but disagree with their decision on the Medicaid expansion issue -- because that apparently is not important to her.  And there's no way to provide any additional comments.  Once I make my selection, I'm required to enter my name, address, and email address and then given the option of signing up for her emails.

Worse than the limited options for responding is that Buerkle's website does not publish the results anywhere. So while she knows where her constituents stand, she doesn't currently share that information with us.  Which, I suppose, is what allowed her to say that Fast and Furious was first and foremost on my mind.

I'm really hoping that the poll results will be posted, so that we have the opportunity to understand what issues are important to those of us who live in NY-25 -- and to how many of us they're important.

July 4, 2012

Senator DeFrancisco: I'm not saying I told you so (honest)

Google 'Destiny USA' and there are around 47,000,000 results.  Many of them will be from my hometown newspaper, the Post-Standard, and if you were to take the time to read them you'd get a pretty good sense of the economic development conversation here in Syracuse over the past couple of decades. Here's a good start if you want the short story.

Destiny USA, or what will officially become Destiny USA in August of this year, is a mall.  A really big regional mall, but certainly nothing like it could have been, or should have been, if we had gotten what we were promised over the years. It's the poster child for a host of competing issues:
  • how to repurpose and transform 'unusable' land -- an oil tank farm;
  • how to manipulate the state and local economic development systems to get tax breaks that will outlive most of the companies that helped build the mall;
  • how to manage public relations campaigns and public opinion;
  • how governments and private businesses negotiate deals;
  • and how one man's dreams will almost certainly not live up to expectations.
When all is said and done, our local economy will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue, but will not receive more millions of dollars in property taxes.  In NY, with our 2% tax cap, this is likely to hurt.

But funny thing is, there apparently are only two people who knew -- absolutely knew-- that this was going to happen. Presumably, one of them is Robert Congel, the developer, who has some great lawyers and got a really good deal, all along the way.

The other is State Senator John DeFrancisco, who represents part of (but not my part of) Onondaga County.

DeFrancisco, the 'pit bull' of the NY Senate, had a lengthy column published this past Sunday's paper in which he made it clear he knew exactly what would happen, that Congel would declare his building done at the end of the phase 1 expansion, and that would be that: he'd get a 30 year property tax exemption.

His Pit Bullness noted that he certainly was not saying "I told you so" but rather was warning us about the potential for other bad acts to happen if we didn't listen to him. Not only did  we not listen to him all these years, which he referred to "this sad part of Central New York's history" and "this long sad journey," but it's worse than that:
"(he was) uniformly criticized by the media"
"...if I said it once, I said it a hundreds of times..."
"I was repeatedly vilified in the media..."
"Again I was criticized for being a naysayer..."
"..I was vilified once again..."
"..(I) was again criticized for being an obstructionist."
But he's not saying I told you so, no siree.  He's protecting us from ourselves, and blaming the media for pushing the original mall and the expansion. That's right, it's the media's fault. Admittedly, he didn't spare the various politicians who were involved over the years, who he said were "bowled over with a vision, and a hope, and a dream" and who didn't pay attention to the deal, but they almost couldn't help being caught up in the "media frenzy that was created for this project."

So how does a giant mall in Syracuse fit into the larger picture?  How does our pit bull Senator compare with those on the national scene?  

Well, many folks believe that most elected officials don't pay attention to what their constituents (or the country or the state) want or need, but instead only listen to someone else's dream and hope and vision - a PAC, the party leadership, or whomever.

And certainly at the national level and also increasingly in state contests as well, we're bombarded with direct ads, issues ads, junk mail, and non-stop media bombardment trying to push us in one direction or another, so that's pretty familiar to us as well.

Of course, on the other hand, we're also very familiar with politicians who are extremely adept at chest-thumping and pointing the thumb's up in their own direction, and equally adept at casting blame in the other direction. 

So in that respect as well, I guess our pit bull is just like all the other dogs in the pound.

July 3, 2012

Who is This Woman Ann Marie Buerkle?

I continue to be amazed by Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, the person elected to represent New York's 25th congressional district, which is the one I call home.  I frequently wonder if she even lives here, her positions are so far removed from mine.

Just the other day, Buerkle declared that Operation Fast & Furious was "first and foremost" on the minds of people in the district.  Seriously - she said this on the floor of the House, which I'm sure would have brought the house down had she actually said it back here at home. My Sweet Baboo and I were completely baffled by her statement, since neither of us have heard anyone talking about this, other than in my Twitter feed or on the nightly news. 

Then I remembered an online town hall Buerkle did recently, and found this in the transcript:
Q: How about an update on what's going on in Washington, then we'll dive right into questions.
A: That sounds great. Tomorrow morning I will have the opportunity to vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. in contempt of Congress.
Sounds like she's talking about going to the beauty parlor or something.  "Tomorrow morning, I'll have the opportunity to color my roots!" Sheesh. First and foremost on Darrell Issa's mind maybe, and we know anything that's first and foremost on his mind is first and foremost on Buerkle's mind. But folks in the district?  Not so much. 

Here's another fun one, related to an article in the Syracuse Post-Standard which questioned some of her recent statements on Medicare.  The article pointed out that several 'facts' Buerkle has been passing to us are not quite factual. At a recent fundraiser she was questioned on the article, and offered up that her messages has passed 'frank muster' and therefore must be true:

Although she did not specifically rebut any of the assertions in the article, she gave two reasons why she believed it was not “fair and balanced.” One was that a letter to constituents that was challenged in the article was subject to a review by a congressional “Franking Commission” — just like every other mass mailing from a member of Congress. She said the letter’s accuracy was not challenged by the commission.
The second reason? Voting for Paul Ryan's budget was just a vote on a bill, it wasn't really that she wants to cut $500 million from Medicare, which is what her mailing says the Affordable Care Act will do.

"I think there’s really a marked difference between a bill versus a law,” she said. “We vote on things in the House all the time. So many of them just don’t go anywhere because the Senate chooses not to act on them."
Thankfully, she's right.  I wish she'd go back to focusing on jobs.