Archive for December 2010

The Kessel NYPA Watch, December 19, 2010 – By George J. Marlin

December 19, 2010

Senator Skelos Opposes Kessel’s NYPA-LIPA Merger Proposal

Senator Dean Skelos, the presumptive Senate Majority Leader, come next month faces massive challenges when the Senate convenes with new Governor Cuomo—a State that is broke, oppressive taxes and endemic corruption in State government.  Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre, regained the majority after losing it two years ago.  Skelos will be a bulwark against the City-centric Democratic majority in the Assembly and tbe out-going Democratic Senate Majority who see Long Island’s role as financing City expenditures.

One of the issues the State faces in addition to massive budget deficits and over-burdened business and individual taxpayers is the leadership of the State’s energy authorities.  As readers of Street Corner Conservative know, NYPA CEO Richie Kessel has been working full time to preserve his high paid, political patronage position at NYPA, a gift of the out-going and incompetent Governor Paterson (“it’s someone’s fault, but it ain’t mine”).

With public money, Kessel has hired an old, Democratic warhorse lobbyist who has been peddling proposed legislation to merge NYPA and LIPA, which Kessel also used to run before being dispatched to the showers by former Governor Spitzer, who believed that a reform administration couldn’t include Kessel.  The reasons why a combination of NYPA and LIPA doesn’t make sense are many and include financial, operating, economic equity and political reasons.

To his credit, Senator Skelos in an interview this week with hometown paper, Newsday, made the following statements to its editorial board:

Board: Most likely the new governor will be appointing a new head of LIPA. And for the first time, under the new authority reform law, the Senate will have to confirm that appointment.  What qualities and skills will you be looking for?

Skelos: “Richie Kessel?  No, I think what you need is really an energy expert. I think we have to bring in somebody that really knows energy and financing and all those aspects of energy.”

Board: Would you consider a merger of LIPA and NYPA?

Skelos: “I think that that would be a problem.  Upstate is very protective of their NYPA [hydropower] energy.  I think you can figure out a way to get additional energy to the Island, if we could do it in a fair way.”

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The evident disdain that Skelos has for Kessel manifested in the “Richie Kessel?” answer bodes well for Skelos upcoming term running the Senate and for overburdened NYPA and LIPA ratepayers, both of whom have been treated harshly by the Kessel PR machine.  Additionally, the new Majority Leader’s rejection of a NYPA-LIPA merger is welcome news to electric customers upstate and down.  Finally, Street Corner expects that Senator George Maziarz who is expected to be Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee will stand as a vigilant watchdog against Kessel’s continued reign of economic terror throughout the Empire State.

 Street Corner applauds Senator Skelos for his solid start to the new Legislative year.

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LI’s political winners and losers in 2010 – By George J. Marlin

December 16, 2010

 The following appears in the December 17-23 issue of the Long Island Business News:

This year, voter rage was the major factor changing Long Island’s political landscape. Here’s my take on the winners and losers:

WINNERS:

Peter King – The nine-term congressman was re-elected handily and is slated to become chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. This fearless and outspoken conservative, who wisely chose not to give up his seat to seek statewide office, will be New York’s senior Republican officeholder. Look for King to play a major role in rebuilding his comatose party.

Steve Israel – In the year New York Republicans took back at least six of their traditional congressional seats, the Huntington Democrat easily beat back his GOP challenger. Going against his party and endorsing an extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts and voting to censure Charlie Rangel were smart moves. As the newly appointed chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Israel has the opportunity to enhance his political stature and to be a major player nationally should Democrats return to power.

Tom DiNapoli – In winning the state comptroller’s race, the former Nassau assemblyman beat the odds, beat the pundits and beat the elites. DiNapoli proved it is still possible for a small-town David to beat a multimillionaire Goliath. Look for him to increase his profile and influence in a state government that is broke.

Dean Skelos – The Rockville Centre senator won, by the skin of his teeth, a GOP majority in the state Senate and the right to have a seat at Albany’s legislative re-districting table. Skelos must now prove that his slim majority can run the Senate better than the multifactioned Democrats did in the 2009-2010 sessions. Hopefully, Skelos and his GOP colleagues have learned that being Democratic-lite on fiscal and public employee issues does not sit well with the voters. Look for him to cozy up to the new governor as a foil against NYC-based Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Vince Polimeni – He navigated a treacherous real estate market by successfully switching his Mineola apartment project to rentals. His appointment to Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo’s transition team can only help his Cross-Sound Tunnel project.

Shinnecock Indian Nation – Long-awaited federal recognition should make the tribe the belle of the ball on Long Island in 2011.

LOSERS:

Rick Lazio – The former Suffolk County congressman suffered a humiliating defeat in the Republican primary to political buffoon Carl Paladino. Lazio proved that he still has a political tin ear and learned nothing from his loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2000 U.S. Senate race. Lazio is over.

Bruce Blakeman – The former presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature, who lost the state comptroller race in 1998 and was booted out of the county Legislature in 1999, chalked up yet another loss in 2010. Even though Blakeman was the state Republican Party’s designee to face off against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, he came in dead last in the GOP primary, receiving only 20 percent of the vote. Blakeman should find a better way to meet girls.

Chris Cox – Coming in third place in the 1st Congressional District’s Republican primary proved that “summering” at the family mansion in the Hamptons does not guarantee victory at the polls. This Manhattan Upper East Side child of privilege did not inherit Grandpa Richard Nixon’s disciplined, hard-nosed political skills.

Charles Wang – His Islanders are dreadful. Attendance will soon be measured with an abacus and there is talk of the NHL taking control of this sorry team. His minor-league-quality team won’t help his effort to grab a new coliseum.

Vision Long Island – Its loose cannon director alienated both county executives, many town supervisors, the real estate community and Long Island contractors. Due to its bizarre actions, its list of friends is short and shrinking.

The Kessel NYPA Watch, December 12, 2010 – By George J. Marlin

December 12, 2010

The Kessel Cover-Up

Why is Richie Kessel stonewalling Street Corner Conservative’s FOIL request for information about improper and abusive contributions?

How long can it take to compile a list of NYPA 501(c)3 contributions?

On August 23, 2010, over fifteen 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.”  That date came and went.  On November 1, SCC received another notification putting off the release of documents until December 7, 2010.  And that date came and went.  On December 7, SCC received the following notification putting off the release of documents until January 18, 2011 — about five months since the initial request:

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.

With regard to items 3 and 4 above, a search of the Authority’s records has not produced any records responsive to any portion of your request.

With regard to items 1, 2, 5 and 6 above, Authority staff will need an additional period of time to identify, locate, retrieve and review any such responsive records and will contact you on or about January 18, 2011 with the status of your request.

Sincerely,

Karen Delince
Corporate Secretary
New York Power Authority

Since SCC’s initial request, North Korea has threatened war, the Yankees were dismissed from post season play, control of the House of Representatives has shifted to the GOP, natural disasters have struck the globe, the Roman Catholic Church has named new cardinals, and Oprah has retired but the NYPA bureaucracy continues its cover-up to protect Kessel’s sinecure.

Is Richie Kessel stonewalling the FOIL request because there have been abusive NYPA contributions of public monies?  Does Kessel fear that releasing the contribution list would trigger an Inspector General investigation before our new governor takes office?

Time to end the reign of gov’t kleptocrats – By George J. Marlin

December 5, 2010

The following appears in the December 3-9 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Breach of public trust in New York’s state government has been the state’s only growth industry during the Great Recession. In recent years a score of state officials, both elected and appointed, has been indicted or convicted of taking bribes; committing conspiracy, mail fraud and grand larceny; corrupting bidding processes, misappropriating funds, soliciting illegal campaign funds, embezzling, money laundering and influence peddling.

It appears that many officeholders have forgotten they are public servants, who, by the very nature of their positions, are expected to adhere to the highest ethical standards and must, above all, place the common good above private gain. These pols have ignored Aristotle’s maxim, written in his “Politics” 2,300 years ago, that those chosen to govern must possess the capacity to “have at heart the best interest of the state and of the citizen.”

Fortunately, New York taxpayers have such a person in the state’s Office of Inspector General Judge Joseph Fisch has been fearless in exposing abuse of power. His blockbuster October report on the awarding of the Aqueduct video slot contract to an unqualified consortium and multiple breaches of public trust and law is an extraordinary example of how the tainted motives of many of our highest elected officials corrupt the procurement process.

This month, Fisch released another eye-opening investigative report that details abuses by officials at the Battery Park City Authority.

B.P.C.A., located next to Ground Zero in lower Manhattan’s west side, is a government-owned and managed apartment complex. Created in 1968, the authority was empowered to clear deteriorating and abandoned property and “to plan, coordinate and maintain a balanced community of commercial, residential, retail and park space within its designated 92-acre site.”

The project, which has been a great success, unfortunately was not sold when completed to private developers and managers and returned to New York City’s property tax rolls because it would have meant abolishing highly prized political board appointments and high-paying patronage jobs and perks. Indeed, a founding B.P.C.A. board member’s proposal to do exactly that was rejected by the board chair and senior management feeding at the B.P.C.A. trough.

The I.G.’s report on B.P.C.A., which originated in November 2008 after receiving a complaint which alleged “fraud and corruption,” revealed a blatant abuse of power by senior management and the squandering of the people’s money:

  • The authority spent over $300,000 on annual rent of more than $50,000 to lease an apartment;
  • B.P.C.A. made contributions totaling millions of dollars to charities not related to its mission;
  • It inaccurately reported its contributions in required financial filings;
  • The authority spent more than $45,000 a year for employee parties and gifts;
  • B.P.C.A. routinely catered meetings and paid for business lunches for its executives;
  • The authority improperly compensated the then-chairman by providing a car and driver, which the chairman failed to claim as income on his tax filings;
  • B.P.C.A.’s head of audit and its ethics officer created an inaccurate and inadequate automobile log; and finally
  • The authority’s audit division prepared a misleading and inaccurate audit report of the use of authority vehicles.

Such political arrogance must come to an end. The new governor should demand resignations from all board members and toss out all the holdover political hacks from the Pataki and Paterson eras. He should embrace passage of Fisch’s proposal to trap what he calls “kleptocrats.”

Fisch’s idea is to empower one truly independent investigative office to police all branches of state and local governments. Fisch wants “a watchdog with the authority and power and jurisdiction to look at the whole ball of wax, including the state Legislature.”

If Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo implements such a plan early in his tenure, he would not only be setting the right tone but would be giving real teeth to his “Clean up Albany” campaign.

The Billionaire Syndrome – By George J. Marlin

December 1, 2010

This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on December 1, 2010.