AG’s race, Parks, Budget Crisis and Poll Questions

If last week’s Empire Page poll question voters are typical of the state’s enrolled Democrats, Sean Coffey will capture the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in September. However, we suspect Coffey supporters got wind of our poll and were able to generate more votes than he would in a poll of random voters. Coffey pulled in 45% of our poll numbers, beating out Kathleen Rice (22%), Richard Brodsky (16%), Eric Schneiderman (10%) and Eric Dinallo (7%).

We would like to know our readers’ views of what will happen tomorrow when the Legislature must pass a budget extender to prevent the state from shuting down, but since that would only give our readers 24 hours to chime in, we’re asking you another longer-range question: Do you support Gov. Paterson’s idea of allowing the state as well as municipalities to borrow from their pension funds? Vote on the home page now.

Today’s News

The news today as gathered by the editors of the Empire Page focused on many local issues along with the impending budget crisis. Bruce Dearstyne wrote a nice panegyric to the state parks system in the Times Union, but he doesn’t offer solutions to the fact that the parks are running up huge deficits.

We’ve previously offered our solutions:

1) Close those parks where attendance in so low as to foreclose the possibility that the park will ever bring in sufficient revenues to meet the cost of keeping it open, or sell them to the counties in which they are located. Counties very likely will be able to operate their parks more economically than the state does and they would work harder to involve the local community, thus increasing use and revenues.

2) Upgrade congestion pricing to allow people to bid online on the most popular spots, thus increasing revenue.

3) Offer to sell some parks to private enterprises that would be willing to run them according to a set of standards that would preserve their contribution to the public. There may be no buyers, but the state needs to find out.

4) Consolidate park administration and implement private sector management technology to reduce the number of FTE’s required in run the system.

We all love the park system, but it’s not fair to taxpayers that user fees only bring in 25% of the cost required to keep the system as it is today. We need a smaller system with users bringing in 50% or more of operating costs. I believe that could be done in a three to five year period with proper leadership!

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