Consolidation is still the best solution

February 21, 2013

The focus of the debate today is on the tax cap. NYSUT has gone to court to overturn it; while the Business Council opposes that move. Both have their points. A rigid tax cap doesn’t allow for local needs. Although the 2% limit can be breached, there’s a cost in terms of people power and money to do so. On the other side without a cap, local government administrators lack any incentive to increase efficiency.

Gov. Cuomo’s solution––borrowing from future pension savings––has not won over a number of mayors and other officials. (See Stephanie Miner’s op ed “Cuomo to Cities: Just Borrow” in the New York Times)

The long-term solution is still consolidation. I’ve made this argument many times before. So if you don’t like my reasons, consider another data point offered by UB Prof. Bruce Fisher. Writing in ArtVoice, Fisher points to the success the cities of Toronto and Montreal have had with regionalization — merging small inefficient local governments into their regional structure. (See “Bashing Cuomo, Ducking Mergers“)

Let’s review the facts:

    Current jurisdictional lines–city, village, town and even county boundaries–no longer reflect current demographic and technological conditions. They lead to underutilized equipment and personnel, to gaps and duplication, to bureaucratic and political infighting, poor management, fraud and the bottom line poor service delivery.
    Those who oppose consolidation are the primary beneficiaries–those whose personal pockets are lined with cash today and in retirement. They get to act like kings and queens in the name of their subjects. I thought we’d gotten rid of royalty two hundred fifty years ago!
    Consolidation can result in lower taxes and better services. Examples abound (see Fisher). But we’re not just talking about something that would be nice to have happen. For Upstate New York, consolidation is a necessity!
    In review, lots of individuals and business owners in Upstate New York would rather be elsewhere. To keep them where they are taxpayers are taking on the chin. In order to make Upstate desirable we need fewer government entities, lower energy prices and lower taxes. Consolidation gives us two out of the three.

The State Department and our friends at the Government Law Center of Albany Law School and the Rockefeller College are doing their best to help local governments face the music, but the progress is too slow. Read the Comptroller’s audit reports of local government financial management and you’ll see that too many tax dollars are being mismanaged if not outright stolen.

The solution: Increase the incentives AND the penalties for not consolidating. Also, we need political leaders who will carry this water. Tell your constituents that they’re putting nails in their communities’ coffins every day they delay in merging with other jurisdictions. That includes some counties which ought to merge given how few people live within their borders.

Final point: Isn’t consolidation a solution both NYSUT and the Business Council could agree on? Wouldn’t both win with stronger school districts and a friendlier climate for the business community?


State of our Times

May 27, 2012

Just saw this press release headline: Governor Cuomo Presents New Legislation to Protect Vulnerable New Yorkers in Syracuse. What about vulnerable New Yorkers in the rest of the state?

In the week past 63% of respondents disagree with Gov. Cuomo’s decision to drop finger-printing as a requirement to receive food stamps in NYS. Only 30% approve.

This week we’re asking whether members of the State Legislature should get a pay raise. Vote today at

Do you have a question you’d like used as the Poll Question of the Week? If so, send it to

Be Like Barack?

May 22, 2012

Will Andrew Cuomo follow the example of Barack Obama and try to use his administrative authority to implement something he can’t get passed the constitutional way?

Advocates of an increase in the state’s minimum wage law have suggested Cuomo do an end around on the State Senate which opposes the measure as threatening small business and jobs.

This observer feels it is unlikely that Cuomo will do so, however. He certainly might have tried something like that when he was younger, but he’s much too smart to jeopardize his own career by playing footloose and fancy-free with the state constitution.

The opening Dean Skelos has given the governor and the State Assembly looks like a more appealing alternative. Skelos has suggested the Senate might stomach the minimum raise hike if offset by targeted tax breaks. Of course that would mean Cuomo would have to find ways to reduce state spending. Such a compromise would likely help the Republican Party hold onto the Senate in November. As a result, the most likely outcome is that neither gets done in 2012.

Stand Your Ground Draws a Crowd

May 22, 2012

The Empire Page poll question — do you favor stand your ground legislation? — attracted overwhelming support from the public. 98 percent of the more than 2,400 people who voted favor legislation which permits someone to use force in self-defense. Florida’s stand your ground law came under scrutiny as a result of the shooting of Trayvon Martin earlier this year.

Other recent polls saw the presidential race in a dead heat with 44% favoring Obama and 43% favoring Romney. 10 percent saw the race as too close to call.

An earlier poll asking how many people are following the controversy over teacher evaluations that has been taking place in Buffalo drew an interesting response. 42 percent were unaware of the dispute and 38 percent said they were not following it. The question was a sneaky attempt by yours truly to point out how important the Empire Page’s headline service is to its subscribers — many of whom would not be aware of struggles that take place outside of Albany or New York City were it not for the Empire Page’s coverage.

This week’s poll question asks the public to react to Gov. Cuomo’s decision to end fingerprinting of food stamp recipients.

Poll Question of the Week Update

August 21, 2011

Last week our readers in response to a question about where Gov. Cuomo should put his energy, favored “the economy” (36%), following by “next year’s budget (15%) and “redistricting reform (14%). Thirty-six percent want him to work on all three.

This week in honor of August we’re asking readers how often they’ve made the trip up to Saratoga to go to the track? Place your vote on The Empire Page today @

Poll Questions Update

March 13, 2011

Last week we polled our readers on the “last in, first out” policy that some including Gov. Cuomo feel needs reform. Only 15% of our readers would retain the policy as is; 80% said replace or reform it.

This week we wonder if the Kruger/Boyland indictments will result in new ethics legislation in 2011. Vote your view on our home page