Anatomy of a Shadow Party

Jo Meleca-Voigt flagged this one on FaceBook. The D&C’s Jill Terreri reports on the Independence Party and its workings. The Independence Party rarely runs it’s own candidates for anything, but rather raises money for candidates whom it endorses as a second party. This is a very lucrative and sought-after endorsement.

Of course these days, candidates aren’t even putting their primary party affiliation on their placards or television commercials, so how’s anyone supposed to know about this secondary endorsement? Seems like the kind of thing that can lead to abuse….


Seventy Bucks.

Jon Greenbaum checks in with a good report on the Unshackle Upstate crew’s latest attempts to obfuscate for the benefit of the wealthy and to the detriment of Fair Share Tax Reform. He goes on to point out that, allowing that there might be businesses in the $250k personal income bracket, those businesses would see their taxes increased at a paltry rate of $70 a week.

Hardly the type of thing that would bring business in New York to its knees.


What is Paterson Protecting?

Jon Greenbaum of Metro Justice weighs in on the town hall meeting with Governor Paterson this week. It seems like The Guv is really trying his hardest to protect the wealthy in this budget “crisis.” It’s hard to fathom how we could possibly have a budget crisis when the income tax rate plateaus at a mere $20k a year.

Jon makes a lot of other good points, such as debunking the myth of The Diaspora of the Over Taxed Wealthy. Princeton says it just ain’t so.

As for myself, I would only just add that when we got Paterson as a Governor, he was hailed as a Progressive. What the hell happened, then? A few simple tweaks to the income tax or property taxes in this state would make all the difference instead of heaping all the cost of bailing ourselves out onto the working poor.


Say Yes to Rail, Sez Carla Palumbo

Carla Palumbo weighs in on her blog about the proposed commuter rail service for New York State: an emphatic yes from the councilwoman.


A Train with Conflated Tireds

Of course, the big economic news in this state is the announcement of the new inter-city passenger train plans by Governor Patterson. I’ve been discussing it a little bit here and on FaceBook, both. And as you might expect, the comments in the local news are hot and heavy. Check out the D&C, where people are clamoring for the death of Renn Square and getting back to what Louise Slaughter proposed years ago and what I’ve been whining, bitching and complaining about ever since: a combined RGRTA, Greyhound and Amtrak station.

That article will have to wait, because there’s food enough for thought there. But it’s this comments section of the WHAM13 article I originally linked to that I want to talk about, because the comments there are going to radiate out farther probably long before the Louise plan gets talked about.

A few of the arguments here center around one basic premise: “oh, well. The rail line will be great for Montreal, when everyone from Rochester leaves to go there. But it’s not good for Rochester.”

It’s worth having a debate about how to keep people in Rochester. It’s worth discussing how the city and surrounding suburbs could attract more dollars to themselves by having better entertainment venues. It’s a legitimate discussion that we probably should engage in frequently.

But to conflate this discussion with that of transportation is absurd. It is, I am sad to say, exactly the classic provincial, myopic small-time thinking that has plagued this city literally since Old Nate setup camp by the Genesee River. The discussion of improving our infrastructure and transportation systems in Rochester has – let me be entirely clear – absolutely nothing to do with what Rochester people will be doing with their Rochester money.

Improving our rail system in this state is about increasing the flow of traffic along those routes. Not the traffic of Rochestarians, but of people from other places entirely. One major route is the North Corridor, traveled currently by the Lake Shore Limited. According to the report released with the new Patterson rail announcement, 1.5 million people travel by rail in this state every year. It doesn’t say how many travel the Limited, but its safe to say a hefty number of people are traveling to Chicago and points west. When they do, they go right through Rochester.

And that’s exactly what we need. Double or triple that number, if we can manage it. We’ve been fools for too long ignoring that source of revenue. The size of a city can probably be directly correlated to the availability of well-maintained transportation routes and the city’s exploitation of same.


$10.7Bn for Rail? Hmm. . .

The Governor has announced a plan to invest $10.7 billion into passenger rail service. Gosh, does this mean we can ace the Fat VAT on non-diet soda, or what? Seems like, if we can invest like this, we can certainly afford to change the tax code as well.

But of course, that’s just sniping, not discourse: money given to the state by the federal government for use on rail projects cannot be used to ease our debt.

The plan to update and improve our inter-city passenger rail system is actually kind of a good one, albeit painful to contemplate when the state suffers such tax injustice. At least more New Yorkers may have the opportunity to pay unfair taxes with the jobs it creates. Transportation investment is always rewarded, especially in a state like New York. The plan in this case is to provide a system that:

  • Increases freight rail market share by 25%, reducing the growth in
    truck traffic and energy consumption;
  • Provides six and one-half hour rail travel between Albany and
    Montreal (including Toronto), making rail a more viable option compared with driving;
  • Provides four-hour rail travel between Albany and Buffalo, also
    connecting Syracuse, Utica, and Rochester, making rail travel more
    time-competitive with driving;
  • Includes at least three new intermodal facilities/inland ports across the
    state serving the rapidly growing container segment of rail traffic,
    helping to remove long-haul trucks from the highways and delivering
    products to consumers quicker;

Now, a question for Rochester: don’t you wish we’d concentrated more on improving transportation in Rochester than on the Renaissance Square? You know, the theatre district that almost was? If we’d been playing our cards right six years ago, we would have had a plan on the table to combine our local RGRTA, Greyhound and Amtrak services under one roof. Think of the revenue it might generate to have transportation, food and other services available for anyone who steps off the train in Rochester.

But what is done is done. The Renn Square project is in full swing now, and with federal backing, there’s no turning back now. Better that we try to improve what we have than fight against what probably cannot be stopped. If that’s the case, is there any chance of providing a transfer system to the Amtrak station? Can there be any use of that federal money to create a new station up there on Central that might pique the curiosity of rail travelers?

I keep beating this expired nag’s head for six years, now. But I can’t help it.


A Couple of Good Videos, Today

Today’s been a pretty good day for video news in DFE land. First up is a great wrap-up of how the credit crisis got started and where it’s at now. Granted, it’s a big, complex issue on which I think they missed a few details. But the basics are there and solid.

The next is actually a PSA from the Working Families Party. Can you guess how much money you have to be making to be in the top tax bracket in New York State? Do you know how much money you have to make to pay the highest rate of taxes in this state? If you don’t already, the answer is going to make you sick, I promise. Don’t say you weren’t warned.


Scenes From a Rally

Jon Greenbaum of Metro Justice checks into his blog to show off some great pictures of the rally for Fair Share Tax Reform at Liberty Pole Way on Thursday. Oh, yeah, and also to point out that the D&C under reported the rally’s numbers by over 60%. How unlike them.


Booze Nooze You Can Yooze

OK, childish post title. So, sue me.

But in addition to the announcement of some weird beer happenings, there is also this: Lendevours reports today that the fight over grocery stores selling wine has spilled over into the wine festival circuit in New York. Meanwhile, Sarah and I shopped at the Penfield Weggies Sunday, and they had a guy soliciting petition signatures supporting the sale of wine in grocery stores. That’s right, a Wegmans guy.

Overall, I’d say I’m fairly agnostic on the whole affair. As a personal issue, buying wine at the grocery store along with all the other fixin’s for a good meal makes sense to me. At the same time, do you really want the sixteen year old who got drunk on Natural Ice last night to be your only reference when purchasing a bottle of French wine? I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as knowledgeable about wine – and I’m not that knowledgeable about wine – if it weren’t for the kind and patient folks at Schubert’s Wine on Park Avenue.

And while we’re discussing it, how does this fight relate to the recent tagging of Marketplace Liquor for selling wine gift bags? ((Can’t find a link right now, and don’t feel like looking deeper)) Back around Christmas time, Marketplace was fined for selling gift bags to throw wine bottles into, because they’re considered grocery items according to some arcane law or another. Sarah and I went there expecting to find martini rimming sugar a few days ago, but that’s a grocery item as well.

So, are these two events related? Was this some in-the-paint elbow throwing between the grocers and the liquor store owners? And if not, will the laws preventing liquor stores from selling grocery items be relaxed if the opposite is allowed?


I Guess You Wouldn’t Want to Double-Park the Brunomobile

I’ve been busy trying to find gainful employment, so I don’t know how long this story has been out there. But the Democrats in Albany are discovering “perks” Republicans granted themselves for being in the majority that are just insane. The Brunomobile, for example, is a rolling fortress filled with swiveling leather captain’s chairs and a golf course. And to go along with that monstrosity, they found – and this is not my trademark hyperbole – 800 parking spaces per Republican Senator, reserved just for them.

Must have been nice.


Rosemary Rivera on Patterson’s New Budget

Please take a moment to say hello to the newest member of the DFE blogging community, Rosemary Rivera. Rosemary is a long time advocate for education parity and health care issues in our community. I met her a few years ago when she was working for Metro Justice on educational issues and I was exploring Clean Money, Clean Elections. I’ve finally talked her into blogging on the site, so this is a big thrill for me.

Her first piece does a pretty good job of laying out the challenges facing Rochester and New York State as they relate to the currently proposed Patterson budget which taxes everything under the sun. She points out that in a world of crappy options for New York, taxing soda and movies is probably not the best option. There’s some great numbers breakdowns in there as well.


Patterson Changing His Mind About the Senate Seat?

Channel 8 is reporting that Governor Patterson will likely delay his appointment of a new Senator to replace Hillary Clinton, citing for a second time the “new thinking” Patterson is presumably in the throws of. Does this mean the end of the Kennedy appointment? Let’s freakin’ hope so.