Amazing. You know you’ve gone too far when you have a nun arrested. Seriously? A fucking nun?

Yes, and the story is at the D&C, RochesterTurning, and our own Carla Palumbo’s blog. I suspect we’ll be hearing from Jon Greenbaum soon, as well.

Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap by our own Rochester Police Department Monroe County Sheriff’s Department (correction by Carla Palumbo, thank you!). Don’t they have some obligation to enforce our rights, too? I guess asking police to say no to Republicans is too much in our current America, but I’d hoped for better. Welcome to our police state, where Republicans set the rules, tap the phones and network connections, appoint the judges, appoint the prosecutors, decide for the governor what is and what is not enforcible at the DMV, rewrite fire codes and beat up nuns.

It’s both sad and pathetic, with just a little bit of farce, the way the D&C bends over backwards to defend the Republican led Legislature. There was apparently quite the to-do at the Public Defender meeting last night, and I was clearly at the wrong meeting. Channel 10 seems to have decided that the change in policy – discussing which was the point of the meeting – was a foregone conclusion. R-News seems to have done a good job covering the play-by-play of the event. Channel 13 described it as a “fracas,” which if nothing else is a delightful choice of words. RochesterTurning was there to cover the action.

And then there is the Democrat and Chronicle, the Paper of Rectum for the Rochester and Monroe County area. What do they have to say about the incident? Well, that silly body of humanity known as “the public,” just refused to leave the meeting of a democratically elected body:

Public defender meeting shut down after protest || Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

The public refused to leave or listen to the public safety officers who were ordering them out, while legislature Democrats walked out in protest and Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester approached Republican legislators and demanded a merit-based selection process.

Remarkable, isn’t it? There is simply no room in this statement for insubordination to the rule of the Republican Legislature whatsoever. Everyone, including those who elected the body, is expected to toe the line.

I may not agree with Jack Driscoll on a lot of things, but I’ve spoken with him on a few issues, and he’s struck me as a pretty decent guy. He’s been fairly responsive to this blog, a statement that cannot be made for even a number of Democratic members of the Legislature.

Having said all that, now that the tax bills are in and folks are starting to realize that they either lost County school money for diddly in the way of tax breaks or even a loss, Republicans are starting to cover their bases and spin, spin, spin towards safety. Some municipalities are seeing County tax increases because of a redistribution of the costs of maintaining MCC, based on the number of people from each district attending that school. Jack gives us a mind-numbingly irrelevant comparison:

Homeowners Confused Over County Tax Bills – 13WHAM.com

The charge is part of a charge back for Monroe Community College, a way of dividing the costs of MCC based on how many students go there from the homeowner’s municipality.County Legislator, Jack Driscoll (R, Henrietta) said, “Some communities had a much higher percentage of their residents attending MCC than other communities.” Driscoll said it’s all part of the county executive’s F.A.I.R. plan, which kept services intact and erased a $50 million deficit.

Driscoll said his bill went up slightly too, but it paled in comparison to the price increases for gas or groceries.

OK, Jack. Should we now start blaming the Legislature for the rise in gas prices, or no?

Carla has updated her blog to announce her replacement in the 28th Legislative district for the Monroe County Legislature:

» You heard it here… » Carla Palumbo

Cindy is small business owner of a local company KalTech Support Team, Inc. and currently president of the Maplewood Neighborhood Association (MNA). She has been active in MNA, Sector 2 and in numerous other community initiatives over the years. She knows the district, both its challenges and its opportunities and will be a strong voice for the people in these neighborhoods. This is Cindy’s first bid for elected office and she is ready for the challenge. I know that I wish her well and have pledged to help her through the process.

Carla checks in with a new piece reflecting on her time in the Legislature. You might have guessed that being the minority leader in such a bully-ish majoritarian body cannot be fun, but she generally sees it in a rewarding light.

But best of all, she hints at the newest member of the Legislature, who will be replacing her when she steps into her role as a City Council member:

» Reflections… » Carla Palumbo

And of course 2008 will bring my swearing in to City Council, which will prove interesting I am sure. I look forward to moving an agenda and hope that happens with more ease than down the street at the County. Call me optimistic!My replacement is in the works… more on that in a few days. For now…. Happy 2008!

Carla Palumbo discusses the decision by County Democrats not to appoint someone to the Zyra Sham Committee nominating the new Public Defender. I agree with her completely, both that you normally need to stay engaged to get things done, and that you sometimes need to disengage completely and let the jerks take their own fall. In our inordinately majoritarian County Legislature, there is little else the Democrats can do:

» Democrats Decline to Support the Public Defender Sham Committee » Carla Palumbo

Though normally I would say you need to be at the table to “keep ‘em honest” sometimes you need to step away from the table to not give them “cover”. Having ONE community person on the committee comprised of Legislature appointees will not bring the independence to the process that was SO important in 1974 and in 1977.

There is simply nothing, nothing, nothing that Steve Minarik will leave unpoliticized, uncorrupted by the political wranglings that dominate the business of Monroe County. Now he wants a hand in appointing people to the Public Defender department, giving him a list of 50 plum jobs to give out as he sees fit and as benefits his crony system in the Legislature. Carla Palumbo reports here at DFE:

» Another Scandal in the Making » Carla Palumbo

What appeared to be a plan modeled after the one 30 years ago where the Monroe County Bar Association (NCBA)convened a committee to make recommendations to the Legislature has quickly turned into something different. What appears to be happening is a closely controlled Republican committee with next to no racial diversity and no community input. And although the Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA) was initially on board with the process, in the midst of what it has seen happening as withdrawn its support.

Carla Palumbo discusses the dust-up between Republican manipulation tactics, where the “Taxpayer Protection Act” meets the “F.A.I.R.” plan.

I would at least have more respect for Republicans if they could quit using the manipulative bill names. But then, the “pass a bill to strangle any Democratic majority, assuming there will be one, or else ignore the bill if there isn’t one bill of 2007,” doesn’t sound very good, does it?

» Taxpayer Protection Scam….. » Carla Palumbo

Now here we are with a Taxpayer Protection Act, a 2008 budget pending for a vote and non-mandated expenses way higher than the Consumer Price Index for this year. Why — because in that budget we have a 90 million payment to municipalities to even out the money taken from them in the Medicaid intercept that according to the budget director is a non-mandated expense (even though there is an agreement) because its not mandated by the State or Federal Government. So now what…. is your heading spinning yet? Wait hold on because now we are told…..not a problem, its not in effect year.

All of that genius fiscal planning Saggy Maggie did was predicated on the notion that New York State was planning on increasing funding to schools. Well, now there’s rumblings in Washington that this may not happen at all:

State budget ills put planned school aid hike at risk || Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

Spitzer and the Legislature earlier this year agreed to raise aid to local school districts by $1.1 billion this year, and $7.6 billion between last year and 2010.The second installment is due in the new fiscal year that begins April 1. But at a budget conference Tuesday, Francis and budget experts from the Senate, Assembly and state comptroller’s office agreed that state finances in the immediate future are shaky because of the recent Wall Street nosedive, the mortgage-lending crisis and the skyrocketing price of oil.

“When Wall Street gets a cold, New York state gets pneumonia,” said Francis, who pointed out that the state depends on the financial-services industry for about 20 percent of its tax revenue.

Have you signed the petition to end this debacle, yet? Can your kids afford you not to?

Talking Points Memo’s “Table For One” today features author and professor of law Cass Sustein. He has used his Table time to discuss a fascinating study done in Colorado exploring the effects of socialization on political opinions. Groups of basically like-minded people were first polled on political subjects, then allowed to discuss them with the group, then polled again:

Colorado Springs and the Politics of Conformity | TPMCafe

The results were simple. In almost every group, members ended up with more extreme positions after they spoke with one another. . .. . . Aside from increasing extremism, the experiment had an independent effect: it made both liberal groups and conservative groups significantly more homogeneous—and thus squelched diversity.

“Extremism” is perhaps a poorly-chosen word for what he’s talking about, as furious commenting suggests. The point is that people of like minds, when discussing politics at any length, tend to become even more strident in their beliefs and swing harder towards their respective wings. In his second installment, he goes on to explain that not only was this not any kind of specific benchmark of Internet culture, but in fact that sitting Federal judges displayed the same “joiner mentality,” leading to far more extreme positions in situations where like-minded judges sat in the same court.

What this all means for modern politics is interesting to consider. Professor Sunstein insists that the conclusions of his book are not as dire for political expression online as one might think, but certainly we can see that the blogging community has had this case-hardening effect in many quarters. There’s no question that, while I certainly have always been politically-aware, there’s never been anything in my life quite like DragonFlyEye.Net. Moreover, DFE had originally started as just an “About Me” type of webpage, and only for the purposes of practicing some of my then-hobby, web design. w00t! How times have changed!

On a more disappointing note, you can’t escape the fact that the Supreme Court is now populated by the most Conservative judges in a generation. If this idea of like-minded individuals swinging harder is true, I am very, very concerned for the future of this country with such group of men chatting amongst themselves. I wonder if Thomas and Scalia have taken to throwing stuff at Bryer and calling him a wussie. . .

Here in Monroe County, we can hope that the thinning of the Republican herd in the Legislature might have the opposite effect: in addition to the fear of losing more seats, the fact that there are less Conservative minds to speak in the Lej might hopefully mean a smoothing over of the rougher Conservative edge just by virtue of this above-cited effect. Unfortunately, the rules of the Legislature as outlined by the Monroe Charter are, as I understand them, entirely weighted towards the majority party, so this might be a pipe-dream.

But back to the conformity and extremity question:

I think most of us assume that the ability for the average private citizen to blog means greater diversity of thought, not conformity. Are we wrong?

Maggie Brooks is so sure her plan to balance the budget of the County is so beyond reproach, so fair, that there was absolutely no reason the public needed to know about it until it was too late.  She’s started an advertising blitz the likes of which would even make Billy Fuccillo blush, ostensibly because things as fair as F.A.I.R. require a lot of explanation.  And she claims, as the first leg of her stool, that the plan is “fair” and reduces the taxes of Monroe County residents:

MyMonroe. Opening Up Government. | Monroe County, NY

The Plan is fair to taxpayers, cutting the Monroe County property tax rate by eleven cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, as a way to reduce the property tax burden. At the same time, the Plan protects and maintains the County’s revenue sharing with towns, villages and the City of Rochester at existing “Morin-Ryan” levels.

But you probably already knew that those costs wouldn’t just disappear because Maggie said so, right? So, how does this affect your taxes? How does this affect your local school system?   Continue reading