Thursday, September 29, 2011

is this yesterday's news yet?

upstate new york: hello?

There are things that are incredibly stupid that we've been doing forever as a society or a government, stuff that is absolutely unjustifiable, nonsensical and there is no discussion of changing it. Why? Why are we arguing about the controversial stuff when there is so much low lying fruit?

Here is my plan for upstate New York, since you asked (did you ask?):

1. Clean up the corruption in local and state government, particularly local
2. Get rid of overlap and inefficiency and too many jurisdictions and agencies
3. Change the structure of government / reduce the number of elected officials
4. Put every single transaction of almost any kind online for the world to see
5. Set up a system to make sure people who work for government are actually competent
6. Undo the education system
7. Killing the goose that laid the golden egg: not so nice to live here... no more ugly

Right now, we waste money on duplicated services. We waste money by pumping money into corrupt and incompetent local governments who will do stupid things with it that actually harm the economy and look ugly. We prevent business investment by allowing incompetent and corrupt people to run the government. Most of the kids are learning to live in a world that doesn't exist anymore. The labor force is not trained to live in the world as it is, to put in economic terms. We are crushing the human spirit, to put it in emotional terms. We're making nice places into ugly places. We're squandering the environment.

The economic environment is stiffing. The physical environment is substandard, unhealthy and unpleasant. The government is corrupt and incompetent. We drive too much.

We here in upstate New York are only still breathing because downstate is a real economy with real value. As long as the leeches that run the government can suck blood out of New York City, they don't care that we don't actually have an economy here. We're parasites.

I'll drop a couple of points which I may come back and expand... or not:

a) The governor's initiative to pump money into the economy through his "Open for Business" strategy is likely to make the economy worse, rather than better and is completely counter productive, like foreign aid to corrupt third world countries.
b) You can make sure official are competent while still maintaining democracy, elected officials making decision, through a combination of reduction in the number of elected positions combined with overlapping jurisdiction over appointed positions.  
c) Stop paying for schools with local property taxes: replace with income tax. Get rid of town courts: send all cases to appointed professional judges. No village or small city police: increase the state police. No county sheriff. No town highway departments:  consolidate county and state highway departments. 
d) People like their towns and villages. They can continue to exist as community boards with drastically reduced power and budget. In my scheme, local government for small entities doesn't have anything they really have to do, except some smaller role in zoning and planning. Under my scheme, with voting representatives on planning and zoning from outside the jurisdiction, appointed by a different body, zoning and planning would not be under the town community board directly. So what would the community board do? New stuff... like offer payroll services to small businesses, or community college courses, or child care, or tutoring, or public education in other forms, or community development, or whatever... something that isn't happening already. Highway, court, assessment, police: they won't have any authority over that stuff. 

I could write up each one of those as an entry... and I might.

This one drives me crazy: paying for public education through local real estate taxes. Real estate taxes are the most subjective tax we have. You are asking someone to estimate the value of a property and base a tax on that number. When you have a subjective tax and empower someone to make a decision, you are begging for the system to be misused and unfair. It's inevitable.

It's also expensive to collect this tax, since you have to have so many systems in place to prevent the assessors from gaming the system. As much as you spend to stop them from gaming the system, they still will game it.

Real estate taxes are a progressive, maybe, when you compare poor and middle class people but they are entire regressive when you compare middle class and rich people. If I earn $70,000 a year and have a house worth $300,000 of which I have $100,000 in equity and few other assets, then I am paying a wealth tax on 300% of my wealth. If I am a billionaire with 3 billion in assets including a 30 million dollar estate, I am paying a wealth tax on 1% of my wealth.

Then each town is paying for its own individual schools with its real estate revenue, at least in general in New York. The tax rates then vary widely, advantages for some with some local cash cow while hurting the districts that can least afford it. You get places with high taxes and good schools where it only makes sense to live if you have school age children. So a lot of people leave when their kids grow up. And not too many 20 year old college grads want to live there. And then the rates have to go even higher. And you have the wrong labor force locally. You get economic segregation. You get age segregation. You get boring education that isn't working.

Conclusion: paying for public education through local real estate taxes is stupid. 

Next, locally, we have too many agencies doing the same thing in one area. Columbia County, for example, has the same population as Park Slope Brooklyn. In Park Slope how many highways departments are there? How many police forces? How many different phone numbers to call if you have a question about getting a form? How many local government websites? How many agencies to register your dog? How many agencies to transport children to school? How many school districts? How many library systems? How many courts dealing with traffic tickets?

In about every case the answer is one for Park Slope. In Columbia County, in ever case the number is greater than 7, as high as 20. Well, you might say, Park Slope and Columbia County are very different, even if the populations are similar. True. But administration and oversight are not dependent on geography or landscape.

Conclusion: there are tremendous advantages in terms of quality of service, efficiency, and accountability by getting your head out of you ass.

Okay, I solved the problem of the moribund upstate economy. That was easy. Just kidding: I will need three or four more blog posts, then it will be fine. But I got off to a nice start.

No really, there are a lot of simple things you could do... and I'll get back to this in another blog post if anyone is interested... hello? anyone? crickets?

Now, one last point. This last one is a PHILOSOPHICAL or HISTORICAL point. If you go and look at the debate between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists, you will see that they spent a lot of time talking about logistics and process. I mean both sides.

If you have a supreme court with judicial review, what will happen? How many on the court? Serve for life or a set term? (Side note: the anti-Federalist were sure right about that lifetime tenure thing: bad idea. Supreme court justices should have 8 year terms, then they can be re-appointed or not by the president and confirmed by the senate. Constitutional Amendment needed.)

They believed that if you rig up the numbers and duties right, the system will either work or not work. It's a system. People are people and human nature won't change. You have to get the right balance of interests. You have to use human nature as it is, not as you wish it were. Trust no one.

The same principles apply to the problems now with upstate New York. Corruption? Putting everything online is a good start. Then some real ethics boards, with oversight over the ethics boards.

Incompetence? Again, systematic controls, with layers of authority... I have to think about this in detail but in principle I don't see why you can't control of screw ups like you do corruption.

That's enough. Thanks for reading my thoughts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

register star does a pretty good article on this hearing

Get the full story here.

we lost

Basically, the ZBA ruled, following David R. Everett of Whiteman Osterman and Hanna, that the planning board screwed up in 2009 and gave me the wrong permit. So therefore they get to close my business down. Makes no sense.

It's a nonsense. But what else would you expect from a crooked, incompetent lawyer like David R. Everett of Whiteman Osterman and Hanna? He gets an F for strategy. He gets an F for loyalty. He gets an F for ethics. He gets an F for knowledge of the law. I will get a blog post about him coming up.

But we have a stay, we're on appeal again, we'll win in state and federal court, we'll get all our money back and still be operating as we are now.

I have no idea what I'm accused of having done wrong. Yet I'm already convicted.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

injustice on the agenda tomorrow night

Here is what other people say... not me...

Begin forwarded message:
Subject: Hearing to destroy local mans business in Stuyvesant NY

Hey, you guys need to be at this hearing tomorrow night. The local government of Stuyvesant Falls wants to make an example of one its citizens to keep any more city slickers from moving into the area. It's a struggle between transparent and effective government and a corrupt cronyist patronage system of government.

It's real news and it's an important issue. This guy is getting railroaded by a bunch of backward thugs who think no one is paying attention. Help prove them wrong.

Tuesday, September 27
7 PM Stuyvesant Town Hall
5 Sunset Drive
Stuyvesant, NY 12173

Begin forwarded message:
I can't remember if you've covered this issue, but I don't think you have. It's the action by the Town of Stuyvesant to cavalierly wrest a man's business permit from him, without affording him an appeal. They've really thrown the book at him. But he's not backing down. He feels his constitutional right to due process (and probably other rights) has been violated, and I frankly think he's right. He's a character, for sure, but that makes for a pretty interesting story, non?

Begin forwarded message:
They are fighting to keep their business open and pay their mortgage and payroll for their employees. They run a great business, a country  
getaway for city dogs and there are no problems with their operation.  The zoning board went there and proved it themselves. NO loud noises from the dogs!

They were given a permit 5 years ago by the town, and the town is trying to take it away due to political differences. 

How can this be permitted?  How can they take away a permit they granted, and yet allow another town resident operate a business that is clearly a violation of town zoning laws?

The process couldn't be more unfair.  Please help. In today's economy, why would a town board want to take away the lively hood not only of the owner but of the employees as well?  All because he has different beliefs than them. This can not be kept quiet. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

9-18-11: pot act eat breath read look up sky history

Marijuana arrest in Stuyvesant.

17 September 2011 On 09/05/11 the New York State Police at Kinderhook were called to a domestic dispute in the Town of Stuyvesant. While at the residence Trooeprs noted that there were numerous marihuana plants being grown in the bedroom. Christine Parks, age 33 of Stuyvesant was arrested and charged under the Public Health Law with Unlawfully Growing Cannabis. She was processed and released on an Appearance Ticket returnable to Stuyvesant Town Court.

Good luck Christine. You should be able to grow marijuana in your bedroom. What a country. Police state. Stuyvesant Town Court. Fingers crossed.

History. Columbia County and the Civil War lecture.

Art Omi Cafe menu and hours.

Kids want to act?

Fracking science.

I don't get this about the library. Why is this outrageous?!/neiltyson
Where to look to see the Moon & Jupiter late tonite you ask? After careful review of my charts, I recommend: up. Volunteer firefighters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

9-14-11: butterfly primary

Butterfly, Harrier Hill, Columbia County, NY

Hudson primaries!/victorinhudson
Linda Mussmann has won her traditional base, the 2nd Ward by a hair. Mussmann 55, Haddad 43.

A 2 to 1 win for Nick Haddad!

Cozzolino wins.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11-11: shame

What an utter disgrace, using a tragedy to start a war of aggression and send people off to be tortured.

The Nazis were prosecuted for aggressive war, not genocide.

Utterly foul. I have trouble even thinking about it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9-10-11: from tweets and alerts

Hudson city coins mentioned in here.

Columbia County mentioned in this article about flooding in Forbes.

Valatie mentioned in this article about disabled vets.

About Kinderhook Bank.

Wanted for rape near here.

Study: if children don't act like children, they go into puberty quicker.

Emergency Agriculture Meeting for local farmers affected by storms. At Agroforestry Center in Acra and on WGXC 90.7-FM this Tuesday 1 p.m.

Twin towers 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9-9-11: fema, wgxc, attica

FEMA aid.

This was horrible. Sending people off (rendition) to be tortured out of Columbia County Airport was horrible. Invading a county on false pretenses was horrible.

Kinderhook book sale.

Join WGXC.

Information about Columbia County primary elections Tue. Sept. 13 -- and absentee balloting which is going on now -- at

DEC to hikers: safety first.

Guide to the economy under Obama. Good links.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

see the daily dog

Story is about me but not on my blog.

9-7-11: rumors, trucks, and dogs

Rumor controversy at Gossip blog.

Daily Dog, a new blog, is promising a story later in the day, something only the Dog knows.

Here is the audio link he adds.

Here is the very importan video of a truck driving around with an old broom.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9-6-11: sneaky public notice?

After the county fair on the other blog.

Wonder what this is about? Public notice that doesn't tell you what is going on?
How do I know if I'm an interested party?

Monday, September 5, 2011

9-5-11: blame the voters?

Pampered Cow in the Times Union.

Flash flood watch across the river.

Catskill Radio during the flood featured in New York Times.

CEOs making 60, 80 million a year.

Fire parade.

Tweet: "Just stopped in great craft workshop in Rhinebeck called Wing & Clover. Wish I could take Paper Cutting class!"

Dysfuctional voters

I love Neil deGrasse Tyson and I listened to his complete lectures in the car (TERRIFIC) driving back and forth to the city but I say the problem is not the voters nor the politicians but the system. But I also heard this lecture series on the process of arguing about the constitution. I was impressed with many of the arguments of the anti-Federalists. And this debate shows a tremendous interest in the process: Should Supreme Court judges serve for life? No. Should there be a way to call the president to account, perhaps before congress? Yes. Should states elect at least some of the members of the House as at large delegates who do not represent a specific district? Probably.

Stuff like that... matters to the functioning of a democratic republic. The constitution, written in 1790, is a great event in the history of the human race, a huge step forward in people living in community, addressing people as they are not as we wish they were. But it was written a long time ago and the experience of 100s of countries and 100s of years suggest a few tweaks might help... among other changes not requiring constitutional amendments.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

9-4-11: police referendum in copake, hudson in pakistan, water

New blog: issue one, property tax games. The property tax is a very stupid tax and should be abolished and replaced with an increase in the income tax... but while it still exists, good to have some discussion of how badly it works.

The citizens who got a referendum on the Copake police department are to be commended. Chatham village residents should have the same referendum.

The state police are professionals with deep institutional back up. One state policeman is worth more than one village police officer.

We already have the state police and the county sheriff in the area. We have multiple highway departments, multiple police departments, multiple courts, etc.

This referendum in Copake is encouraging. The last election in Chatham village was encouraging.

On Sat.August 27, I presented a petition to the Town Bd. signed by 101 citizens of Copake.The petition was for a referendum on the Topic of keeping or ending our Police Dept.This topic should be on the Ballot on Nov.8, 2011. I expect that there will be a few meetings in Town Hall to discuss this matter and to hear both sides.We should also be aware of the history of our Police Dep't and the cost as well. This topic will be discussed by the Town Bd. on Oct.8, at Town Hall.Harvey Weber

Hudson airport discussed in Pakistan's leading newspaper.

Can you be a friend of Lindenwald and not a fan of Martin Van Buren?