Sunday Best Stories & PQ Wrap

It’s August which means it’s time for people in the news media to take vacations, visit Saratoga and/or bring a novel to work…right? Thank goodness not all of the reporters around the state have gone awol. Some good work is being done and it ought to be read and appreciated.

Let’s start by thanking NY Daily News for publishing “How public worker pensions are too rich for New York’s – and America’s – blood” by two professors from George Mason University. They provide a nice overview, but the problem is that the numbers are so large as to be incomprehensible, and because pension obligations are entered into by thousands of individual governmental entities, there’s no easy solution. The day is coming when some of those will not be able to meet their obligations. Then what? Another bailout is coming folks, even before we’ve paid for this one.

On Saturday, The Times Union‘s Rick Karlin reported state layoffs have not been taken off the table by the good news that the nation’s taxpayers will be sending New York another $805 million for Medicaid and $620 million for education and Joe Spector pointed out that despite the state’s dire fiscal condition, $12.5 million worth of member items were approved for payment by the Comptroller’s office. Those monies include $100,000 for an organization lobbying against those who want to run a major new power line through central New York.

Question: Since when does the state fund public interest organizations? IMHO that kind of pork violates one of the fundamental principles of democratic government, which is if an issue is important enough to enough people they will be able to raise sufficient resources to make their opinion heard. To interfere in this process is to make a mockery out of the concept of one man, one vote.

There Ought to be a Law: No public interest (lobbying) organization ought to be eligible to receive funds from any government agency for any purpose. You’ve seen what that brings with Acorn. Without regard to the merits of issue itself, the power-line group should not be applying for nor should they be given public monies.

Inmate Census Story

The other big story being covered by the media this weekend is the law passed this past week which will have a major impact on New York’s political infrastructure — namely, the fact that prison inmates will no longer be counted in the census as living in the county where they are incarcerated. This practice which mirrors the time when slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person when allocating members of the Congress allowed upstate New York to have more political clout than it deserved in relation to the actual number of the citizens who were eligible to vote.

Gannett‘s Joe Spector — Areas with prisons to lose clout in redistricting — and the Dunkirk Observer‘s Robert Rizzuto– Hurting Upstate: Census to count inmates in last community — provided excellent coverage of this issue.

I’m a big proponent of upstate New York and can catalog in dozens of ways that downstate interests do damage to the upstate communities like the one I grew up in (Gloversville in Fulton County) and where I currently own property and live part of the year (Hamilton County). However, to count prison inmates as part of a county’s population was wrong and it’s long past time when the practice should have been ended.

When redistricting takes place the political balance will shift even harder towards downstate. Thus, don’t look to the NYS Legislature for help addressing the long term economic decline of upstate New York. Upstate’s fate is now in the hands of its citizens — those who are not waiting for housing prices to rise or propitious business conditions to leave.

Poll Question Update

47 percent of our poll takers last week want the public to be able to buy cigarettes via the mail! Only 44 percent like the recent ruling against that practice and 9 percent have no opinion. Odd!

This week we’re asking you to grade the budget, but keep an eye on the home page, we’ll be changing the poll mid-week.

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