Archive for April 2009

The Kessel NYPA Watch, April 26, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

April 26, 2009

To help NYPA’s ineffectual FOIL officer who has now been engaged for months in compiling Richie’s schedule, Street Corner Conservative reports the following recent sightings of Kessel in the Long Island vicinity:

  • Nassau County Democratic Spring Dinner, Crest Hollow Country Club, April 6
  • New York Mets Home Opener, Shea Stadium, April 13
  • Suffolk County Democratic Dinner, April 14
  • Andrew Cuomo Fundraiser, Oheka Castle, April 14
  • New York Yankees Home Opener, Yankee Stadium, April 16
  • Long Island Press Power 50 Awards, April 21
  • Vision Long Island Conference, April 24

This is a partial list and Street Corner Conservative thanks its correspondents for their sighting reports.

THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN:  ­615 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.

“Us vs. Them” Populism – By George J. Marlin

April 22, 2009

This article I wrote appeared on The Catholic Thing web site on April 21, 2009.

Dangerous Debt: NY’s Bond Gimmick – By George J. Marlin

April 21, 2009

This article I wrote appeared in the New York Post on April 20, 2009.

The Kessel NYPA Watch, April 19, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

April 19, 2009

“I Seen My Opportunties, and I Took ‘Em”
George Washington Plunkett

Richie Kessel has a history of being chastised by his overseers for various misdeeds at LIPA.  For instance, Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat like Kessel, criticized Kessel for violating bidding requirements when LIPA paid the Republican lobbying company, Strategic Planning Systems, $45 thousand to conduct political polls (all LIPA contracts over $5,000 require competitive bids).  The Attorney General of New York, also a Democrat, later critiqued Richie for improper charitable contributions made by LIPA.  Most recently, Governor Paterson and various Federal and State pols blasted NYPA CEO Richie for proposing to raise rates—a natural impulse for the big-spending, rate-increasing and vendor-pleasing Kessel—at a time when upstate ratepayers are falling under the burden of sky-high taxes and utility rates and when the Governor has himself surrendered $18,000 of his salary to the public treasury and frozen salaries.

When Richie took the helm at NYPA, Richie proposed to hire as NYPA Inspector General, a Saratoga-based Republican judge sent to the showers by the electorate this past November.  Richie, no doubt, moved by human kindness and the entreaties of Senators Bruno and Skelos, proposed to hire the newly-unemployed Republican judge as inspector general of the $3.1 billion revenue NYPA.  That plan may have been upset by newly empowered Senate Democrats who were determined to live by the golden rule— “to the victor go the spoils.”  So, in February 2009, NYPA announced in an unusual release that “Judge Anthony Carpinello earlier this week requested the NYPA Board of Trustees to no longer consider him for appointment to the Authority staff.  The Authority has been engaged in a review of the scope and practices of its current Office of Inspector General.  A potential reorganization plan could include a redefined position that would not provide the same professional opportunities that were originally discussed when Judge Carpinello was conditionally appointed in December, 2008.”  Very interesting but not very informative.

So, did the defeated Republican judge turn down a State government gig paying $40,000 annually more than his seat on the bench due to concerns about job description?  Did the removal of the job’s real responsibilities lead an experienced jurist to take a pass on being a messenger between NYPA and the State IG?  Did Richie reconsider the inconvenience of having a real person serving as IG when there was lots of business to be done?

Now, our story takes another turn.  As Fred Dicker of the New York Post reported, Richie announced this month that the remaining NYPA IG folk—four in total, were being sent to the unemployment line and an unidentified person would be hired to serve as a “liaison” to the State Inspector General.  A NYPA spokesman said, “The Power Authority is in the process of initiating a series of reforms from previous practices to address some of the criticisms in past and current investigations,” the spokesman said, adding:  “We have made the decision to eliminate the NYPA Office of Inspector General and instead will have a liaison position to the state IG.”  This despite the fact that NYPA’s by-laws require a real IG and not the cartoon version created by Kessel.  Fans keeping score at home will know that the By-Laws provide:  “There shall be a separate Inspector General which shall report to the Trustees, the Governance Committee and the President and Chief Executive Officer and shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as customarily pertain to such officer.  The Inspector General shall attend the meetings of the Governance Committee.”

We leave the parsing to the lawyers but note the language that the IG “shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as customarily pertain to such officer.”  And thus did Richie convert the oversight role of five NYPA IG staff into one liaison placeholder.

So, a NYPA CEO, used to operating without an internal IG at LIPA, has dispatched the proposed IG and all of the remaining incumbent staff.  Now NYPA is a large operation that requires an independent IG—assets of $7 billion, revenues of over $3 billion and net income last year of $300 million.  Plus Richie is working on bringing more hydropower down from Quebec, building more transmission lines to carry wind, solar and hydro power from upstate to the City, the Island and Westchester and other projects that will require the letting of many mega contracts.  As a result, many vendors and their lobbyists await the opportunity to bite into the newly-gorged NYPA pie.  And no real IG to watch the store.

Our story ends with the henhouse under the watch of none other than the egg-devouring feline.  Now there is no one to watch the NYPA treasury and the compliant NYPA Board poses no oversight threat to Kessel’s designs.  Street Corner Conservative thanks its correspondents for their information and assures them strict confidentiality.

THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN:  ­622 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.

What happened to sharing the pain? – By George J. Marlin

April 17, 2009

This commentary I wrote, Marlin: What happened to sharing the pain?, appears in the April 17, 2009 edition of the Long Island Business News.

The Kessel NYPA Watch, April 13, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

April 13, 2009

STREET CORNER CONSERVATIVE DEMANDS TO KNOW “WHERE’S KESSEL?” PART 2

At NYPA’s March 31, 2009 Board meeting, observers were treated to the unprecedented sight of a gubernatorial appointee, Richie Kessel, NYPA’s CEO, defending, like a wayward schoolchild, where he spends his time while running the nation’s largest public power utility. In response to Street Corner Conservative’s inquiries, Kessel said it was “nonsense” that he has been spending most of his time during working hours on Long Island. Kessel then listed his various ports of call in upstate New York over the last several weeks following his self-created disastrous proposed rate increases and politically tone-deaf call for bonuses for NYPA staff. After being called out publicly by Governor Paterson who has been extraordinarily tolerant of screw-ups by his second-rate appointees, Richie quickly reversed himself and abandoned what he had previously said were “legally required” rate increases and also threw over the side NYPA employees to whom bonuses had been promised.

Kessel, like a conductor on the Long island Rail Road, called out in rapid-fire fashion the upstate towns he has visited—Albany, nine times (State Capital, not exactly upstate); Buffalo, five times, including three meetings with the editorial board of The Buffalo News (Kessel patronized residents of Buffalo by noting that “I loved every minute of it,” making it sound like a visit to Mogadishu); Rochester, once; Montreal, twice (not exactly upstate, but close); Utica and Syracuse, once each; five trips to Watertown and Massena. Well, he said he has even met with several chiefs of the Mohawk Tribe.

Gilding the lily, Kessel added that he spends about “5 to 10%” of his time downstate in New York City and Long Island. We will see about that.

Kessel’s intimate familiarity with his schedule makes a mockery of the several months that NYPA is taking to respond to Street Corner Conservative’s FOIL request for Kessel’s schedule for the first few months of his reign filed on February 17, 2009. Please be assured that Street Corner Conservative will be tracking Richie’s travels as the year unfolds and reporting the NYPA FOIL response when it ultimately emerges.

In other news, at the March 31 Board meeting, NYPA’s Board rewarded Kessel’s stellar work over the last several months and, in response to direction from both Governor Paterson and former Majority Leader Skelos of Long Island, unanimously elected Kessel to a full year term as NYPA CEO. Unsurprisingly in light of his serial miscues over the last month, there were no effusive words of praise for Richie from the five NYPA Trustees (one of whom voted against his appointment in September; one other dissenter recently resigned with no comment from NYPA). Despite the quiet, pro forma approval of his election at the end of a 90-minute meeting, Kessel called the NYPA Board members “my good friends.” Street Corner Conservative is interested in hearing from its correspondents who work at NYPA as to what that “friendship” entails.

THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN:  ­628 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.

A Tough Tenure Full of Triumphs – By George J. Marlin

April 13, 2009

This article I wrote appears in the New York Post on April 13, 2009.