This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on May 29, 2013.
Archive for May 2013
The following appears in the May 24-30, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dropped his demand that LIPA be privatized, opting instead to restructure the agency into what it was originally intended to be – a holding company with 20 employees or so to oversee financing and debt management.
The board would also be reduced from 15 to 5 members, with trustees required to have utility, corporate or finance backgrounds. Political hacks, in other words, need not apply.
As for the rest of the plan, the devil is in the details and there are plenty of them in the 70-page bill introduced in the state Legislature.
Under the reorganization plan, LIPA and its service provider, Public Service Enterprise Group, would be under the thumb of a new Long Island office of the New York Department of Public Service. DPS would perform operation audits and “make recommendations with respect to the operations and terms and conditions of service and rates and budgets established by LIPA and/or its service provider.” In other words, DPS would have the final say on rates.
Many of LIPA’s general powers will be repealed and transferred to the service provider, which would manage as well as operate the authority’s electric transmission and distribution system. The service provider, not LIPA, would develop and propose construction and capital project programs.
The legislation permits the PSEG contract, which is to commence in January, to be amended to reflect these changes.
Big question: Why was the state comptroller cut out of the process to review and approve the contract changes?
Even bigger question: Since these significantly expanded responsibilities are not included in the current PSEG contract, wouldn’t it be prudent for LIPA to issue a new request for proposals? The new management structure may attract any number of qualified providers who might be willing to charge less for their services.
The 1998 enabling legislation permitting LIPA to take over the old Long Island Lighting Co. included a political payoff subsection that required LIPA to make payments in lieu of taxes “to municipalities and school districts equal to the taxes and assessments which would have been received year to year by each such jurisdiction.”
As a result, LIPA’s Port Jefferson station, which was in operation for less than a week last year, pays an outrageous $25 million in PILOTS annually.
The new proposal maintains the unfair LIPA payments to local municipalities – now $586 million annually. It does, however, limit future increases to 2 percent annually on LIPA-owned land.
The Cuomo legislation would also create a new entity, the Long Island Power Refinancing Authority, with an oversight board of three trustees appointed by the governor.
The authority will be empowered to issue securitized bonds whose proceeds would be used to redeem and defease the $3 billion of LIPA’s debt that can be refinanced at better rates.
The new debt could save as much as $30 million annually and might give LIPA enough breathing room to afford the governor’s proposed three-year rate freeze.
The “securitized restructuring” is plainly another scheme to extend the repayment of debt for past follies. Instead of paying off the Shoreham debt in 30 years, ratepayers will be charged for it for a total of 45 years. In other words, it will take more than two generations to pay off the Shoreham mess created by Govs. Mario Cuomo and George Pataki and their political cohorts.
If this proposal is signed into law, elected officials, not LIPA customers, will be the primary beneficiaries. If there is another major blackout, the pols will be able to pin the blame on the service provider. Meanwhile, ratepayers will get hit with a huge jump in electrical charges the day after the rate freeze expires.
But that’s OK for state-elected officials because the increase will occur after their next election cycle.
This article I wrote appears in the New York Post on May 20, 2013.
This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on May 15, 2013.
The following appears in the May 10-16, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Albany’s ever growing bi-partisan gallery of rogues confirms British historian Edward Gibbon’s observation that corruption is “the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.”
In recent years, more than 30 state-elected officials have been convicted of a crime, or have been indicted or censured. The list of those who have been found or pleaded guilty:
Republican Sen. Guy Velella, Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., Democratic Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr., Democratic Sen. Shirley Huntley, Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger, Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell, Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate, Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, Democratic Assemblyman Clarence Norman, Democratic Assemblywoman Diane Gordon, Democratic Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin and Democratic Assemblyman Roger Green.
April nominees to the perp walk were Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblymen Nelson Castro and Eric Stevenson. In May it was Sen. John Sampson. All were indicted by the feds on various corruption charges.
These arrests have caused the usual uproar. The ruling classes and media have expressed outrage and shock and have demanded reform measures to cure Albany’s diseased body politic.
Reacting to the April indictments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo treaded carefully. Remember, when he signed into law two years ago his ethics proposal he declared, “This legislation will help end an era of corruption in Albany.”
This time he was not so boastful and made this sober comment: “You’re not going to legislate away criminality and greed and venality and abuse and arrogance. It doesn’t matter what the law says. It’s human behavior.”
Every person who has achieved the age of reason knows that accepting a bribe is illegal, as is selling political nominations or selling government contracts. So why do so many in Albany choose to commit felonious acts?
Hubris, insolence or excessive pride has driven many in Albany off the path of righteousness.
The other reason many Albany pols wind up behind bars: They are dumb. Anyone with American horse sense would see through the stupid hot money schemes concocted by these dopes.
While the governor’s initial comments hit the mark, unfortunately he felt compelled to unveil a slew of hastily composed election reform proposals that he claims will “help prevent public corruption.”
His plan for an independent office to enforce the election law is absurd. Every time there is a problem, Cuomo rushes to create another commission or oversight board.
Remember JCOPE, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics created two years ago as part of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011? It was supposed to instill the fear of God into legislators. We can see how much good it has done.
What needs to be fixed is the patronage-laden and incompetent State Board of Elections. The governor should order the authority to get rid of the political hacks that serve as commissioners in every county elections office and to appoint competent managers who are not subservient to local political bosses.
The governor’s proposal to dismantle the Wilson-Pakula Act of 1947, which requires candidates seeking to run on another party’s line to obtain the permission of the leaders of that party, would not improve the system but further corrupt it.
Wilson-Pakula was created to prevent third parties from being infiltrated and taken over by the major parties. Major party leaders could “persuade” fellow party members to re-register in a third party in order to impose the will of the major party. Republican turncoats, for instance, could take control of the Conservative Party, and nominate the preferred candidate of the GOP boss.
Cuomo’s so-called reforms just don’t cut it. Instead of strengthening New York’s electoral process they will further encourage arrogant and dumb politicians to game the system.