This article I wrote appears in the New York Post on November 22, 2010.
Archive for November 2010
The following appears in the November 19-25 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Congratulations on your election. You received a decisive mandate from an angry and frustrated public that’s clamoring for radical fiscal restraint and ethical reforms imposed on state and local elected officials.
You have your work cut out for you but if you vigorously exercise the inherent powers of your office early in your term, particularly those granted in the state Constitution’s Executive Budget Amendment that gives the governor primary responsibility for shaping the state’s financial policies, you will save the Empire State from swerving over the edge of the precipice.
No doubt you are being inundated with advice from scores of political wags. So, here are a few more suggestions to add to the pile offered in the spirit of bi-partisanship from a New York conservative.
The budget. To tackle New York’s financial woes you should consider hiring a strong-willed Patti Woodworth-type budget director who has a national reputation as an aggressive disciplinarian over spending and is capable of working smarter with less. Also, announcing on Jan. 1 a hiring freeze and moratorium on regulations would be a good opening salvo.
Unfunded state mandates. There are over 2,000 unfunded state mandates that consume, on the average, 60 percent of county governments’ budgets. Creating a bipartisan panel to recommend ways to curtail these unfair burdens would be a godsend for financially strapped local municipalities.
Local property tax cap. Retiring baby boomers, whose entire Social Security allowance is being used to pay property taxes, are selling their homes in droves and moving to low-tax states. Young people are also leaving New York because they don’t have the earning power to cover mortgage payments and with huge taxes. Despite all the talk of frugality, school taxes on Long Island continue to soar. My tax bill due this month jumped 8 percent – three times the inflation rate. If the mass exodus is to be stopped, a genuine cap that restrains tax and spend school district bureaucrats should be a top priority.
Debt reform. There should be an overhaul of New York’s long-term debt practices. Backdoor borrowing that evades ballot box approval should be halted. Thirty-year bonds used to finance current operating expenditures and not capital projects should be eliminated.
Moreland Commission. To tame the Legislature, you should consider employing the Moreland Act which vests you with broad unilateral authority to create an investigative commission with power to issue subpoenas and take testimony to document corruption, fraud or wrongdoing. Creating a Moreland Commission with a panel of renowned New York “wise men” who are above partisan politics would ensure an honest report that details for taxpayers the ugly reality of the Legislature and the lobbyists and other rent-seekers that feed off them.
Public authorities. It’s time to tame the sprawling maze of state authorities. An inspector general’s report released last week details outrageous abuses at Battery Park City Authority. Vast sums of the people’s money were squandered on lavish parties, expensive apartments and other shenanigans. The time has come to clean out the political hacks from these authorities. You should send a letter to every authority board member and CEO requesting their resignations. This will give you the opportunity to replace them with public-minded people who are not interested in perks and self-aggrandizement.
Finally, I recommend you hang on your office wall your father’s Holbein portrait of Sir Thomas More and always remember these words he uttered: “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”
Space limits me to these few recommendations, but your reform opportunities are practically unlimited. To succeed, stick to the principles of shared pain you outlined in the campaign. If you can pull our state back from the brink, anything is possible.
This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on November 17, 2010.
What is Richie Kessel hiding?
On August 23, 2010, over ten weeks ago, Street Corner Conservative (SCC) filed a short FOIL e-mail with NYPA requesting, among other things, disclosure of NYPA contributions to not-for-profits in 2009 and 2010. On September 14, 2010, SCC received a response from NYPA’s corporate secretary stating the Authority would release FOIL material “on or about October 26, 2010.” On November 1, SCC received this notification putting off the release of documents until December 7, 2010:
Dear Mr. Marlin:
This is in further response to your e-mail dated August 23, 2010 and received by this office on August 23, 2010, requesting the following records:
1. Information and records as to contributions and payments to not-for-profit entities from NYPA or any subsidiary or affiliate including purchase of tickets or sponsorships to events conducted by any such not-for-profit for the period January 1, 2009 through and including July 31, 2010;
2. Information as to each NYPA facility or office the President and CEO of NYPA was physically present in during each business day of the period from February 13, 2009 through and including July 31, 2010.
3. Information and records as to discussions, memoranda, financial and analyses and information as to any proposed merger, consolidation, combination or other transaction of any kind between or among NYPA and the Long Island Power Authority created (whether or not by or on behalf of NYPA) from February 13, 2009 and through and including July 31, 2010;
4. Information and records as to health insurance coverage or benefits or indemnification against health insurance coverage provided to any NYPA Board member;
5. Information and records as to use of cars in NYPA’s car pool for the White Plains office from the period from September 1, 2008 through and including July 31, 2010 by any of Richard Kessel, Bert Cunningham, Rocco Iannarelli, Francine Evans, Sarah Barish Straus, Denise Ellison, Roni Epstein, Victoria Simon and Francis X. Ryan (collectively, the “Subject Employees”);
6. Information and records as to expense reports by any of the Subject Employees filed during or with respect to the period (or any part thereof) September 1, 2008 through and including July 31, 2010.
Authority staff will need an additional period of time to identify, locate, retrieve and review any such responsive will contact you on or about December 7, 2010 with the status of your request.
New York Power Authority
How long can it take to compile a list of NYPA 501(c)3 contributions?
Do NYPA officials fear embarrassment?
Did this upstate authority donate large sums to Long Island not-for-profits?
Did Richie Kessel direct contributions in return for honors and awards?
Are these unexplained delays designed to hide abuse and waste till after the new administration picks its new team?
New York rate payers have the right to know if their money was squandered to promote Kessel on his home turf of Long Island!
Richie Kessel, stop stonewalling and come clean!
The following appears in the November 5-11 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Twelve days before the election, New York Inspector General Joseph Fisch shocked the political establishment by releasing a no-holds-barred report on the corrupt bidding process that awarded the Aqueduct video slot contract to a blatantly unqualified consortium, Aqueduct Entertainment Group.
Fisch, a former judge and prosecutor, found that the selection of AEG by Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate President Malcolm Smith “created a politically dominated process antithetical to the public interest and contrary to acceptable procurement practices.”
The 308-page Fisch report stated that heavy lobbying and major contributions to the Democratic State Senate Campaign Committee and individual Democratic senators had cast “a taint on the motives behind the Senate leadership’s support of AEG.”
The report alleges that Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson impeded the IG’s investigation, gave evasive and misleading testimony and leaked confidential information during the selection process to AEG’s lobbyist. And, AEG complied with Sampson’s request to hire developer Don Cogville.
The probe also revealed:
- Paterson ignored expert advice that AEG was not qualified;
- Sen. Smith pushed for AEG despite ties to its investors;
- Sen. Eric Adams advocated for AEG despite knowledge of the consortium’s shortcomings;
- Senate Secretary Angelo Aponte improperly served as a “conduit of information” to AEG;
- Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf and Paterson’s former top aide David Johnson pleaded the Fifth Amendment, stating their rights against self-incrimination;
- Former state Sen. Carl Andrews, now a lobbyist, procured inside information and memos concerning Aqueduct bids.
Reviewing the scope of the scandal which included leaks, self-dealing and favoritism to fix the outcome of the bidding process, Fisch said, “As one who has devoted an entire career spanning over half a century to public service, and as a taxpayer and resident of New York, I am outraged and profoundly saddened by the conduct throughout this process by the people who hold a responsibility to service the public, a responsibility that they betrayed.”
Albany potentates have reached these corrupt lows because of a warped definition of ethics. For them ethics is devoid of moral absolutes, that is, norms of morality by which one distinguishes right from wrong. They can rationalize illicit behavior because they have adopted a utilitarian, amoral system based on the so-called “pleasure principle” which holds that achieving what is best for oneself is all that matters.
With no appeal to absolute values, there are no “oughts” and as a consequence, many dominant politicians believe there are no limitations on their political behavior. Such people implement whatever has political utility. This leads to situational ethics – the ends justifying the means.
This “philosophy of expediency” ethical approach permits pols to exempt themselves from some rules of conduct. Because they perceive themselves as entitled nobility, they do not break laws or commit offenses, they only make occasional mistakes. Hence, no one should have been surprised by Sampson’s remorseless reaction to Fisch’s charges: “Mistakes were made at various levels of government, and we must collectively learn a lesson.” This remark proves that Sampson is a narcissist incapable of grasping they were more than mistakes, there was the breach of trust his constituents bestowed on him and possibly a breach of state law he swore to uphold. IG Fisch correctly concluded that Sampson and his political cronies based their award on a “militant indifference to the public good.”
The Fisch report confirms the cynical approach to governing that dominates Albany. One can only hope it serves as the catalyst that enables Governor-elect Cuomo to bring to a close the era of “anything goes.”