Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Latest RINO Meme . . .

An interesting juxtaposition of subject matter yesterday from the Republican camp . . .

First this post on Facebook from our own Congressman Hanna . . .

"Today my House Committee on Small Business subcommittee examined the impact of occupational licensing laws on business startups and the economy overall. 
For many workers and would-be entrepreneurs, licensing requirements are presenting a barrier to economic opportunity."
This was soon followed by this video from Sen. Marco Rubio on CNBC Squawkbox . . .
Both Hanna and Rubio talk about the need to get rid of burdensome regulations to foster entrepreneurship . . . and who could disagree with that? We have all seen how New York State's heavy handedness (along with high taxes) has driven out our Upstate manufacturing base over the years . . . but there seems to be something more going on here . . .

A day earlier Rep. Hanna posted a link to a video of an entrepreneur being arrested for braiding hair. It would seem to most people like a pretty outrageous situation that needs fixing. But then one has to stop and think:  Occupational licensing (such as in the cosmetology area) is generally a STATE responsibility, not one of the Federal Government.  Should it not be the STATE's responsibility to clean up its own overly burdensome regulations?

The Rubio post also seems to be targeted at STATE regulations.

While it is a valid point that States must not unduly impede interstate commerce with their own regulations, there is already a mechanism for dealing with that:  The Federal Court System.

States have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of their citizens. And, yes, some states may use their regulatory powers to protect their own resident businesses. . . . but that may be protecting small businesses.

What the RINOs seem to be doing, under the guise of protecting "small" businesses, is setting things up to have the Federal Government supplant or regulate State and local regulations on business. . . . which would favor BIG (national and multinational) businesses.

Rep. Hanna and Sen. Rubio both seem to suggest that we need increased Federal involvement in our lives.   The "one-size-fits-all" "top-down" approach is contrary to our Founding Fathers' concept of a Limited Federal Government . . . and usually hurts the average citizen.

If States want to mess themselves up with regulations, so be it . . .

We do not need the Federal government -- the level furthest from its citizens -- becoming more powerful to "fix" things.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SUNYwhatchamacallIT . . .

Per the Rome Sentinel

State overseers have approved the merger of the SUNY Institute of Technology and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. . . .
"The merger of CNSE and SUNYIT sets a high bar for what a 21st-century entrepreneurial college campus can achieve for the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, and the entire State of New York," said Zimpher. "We are bringing together two institutions with similar missions and existing partnerships to create a high-tech academic and economic development juggernaut that does not exist anywhere else in public higher education."

"Bringing these two institutions together is exactly the type of forward thinking we need here in Upstate New York," said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. . . .
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, said, combining the two institutions into one makes sense.
"Both recognize this growing industry needs people in the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region who are educated and trained – and they're doing their best to meet that demand," he said. I see this as a wonderful opportunity for our local university to become more attractive to prospective students, without sacrificing other disciplines that are needed in this area as well."

Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi , D-119, Utica, said the consolidation is a boost to economic development .

"By further positioning Utica as a dynamic economic driver for New York, the merger will prime our region to become even more competitive in global markets and further revitalize the local economy," he said.
While everyone is toasting this as a good thing . . . and it may be . . . where are the questioning voices exposing potential downsides to this?

It is important for the public to remember the original name which revealed the original purpose of that college up on that hill:  SUNY Upper Division College -- a place where students from MVCC and HCCC could continue their studies and earn Bachelors and Masters Degrees.

While the expansion to a four year institution was welcome, and the addition of engineering and contemplated PhD programs is looked forward to with anticipation,  the original mission must not be forgotten.

Where will governance of this new SUNY-XYZ be located?  What will be its focus?  If governance  is out of Albany, you can be sure that the original mission will become lost.   And that must not happen.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Billions for Nano-What?

Headline Albany Business Journal: Tech boom isn't stopping 'out migration' :

Thousands of new jobs have been created in recent years, and billions of public and private dollars invested in the region's growing tech economy. Still, out-migration continues . . 
So, even with the practically recession-proof economy in Albany (because government is the main industry) and the much-touted, heavily taxpayer-financed, tech "boom" there, more people still leave the region than come in.

This is proof positive that the heavily-government-involved model of economic development simply does not work.

What does work? What has always worked:  Leverage our natural/public assets to lower overall costs of doing business, and then leave private businesses alone to figure out their own way.

New York's assets a century and a half ago were (1) lots of natural, low-cost hydropower and (2) a natural route to the West (the Mohawk Valley) .  NY leveraged the latter by constructing the Erie Canal.  With Cheap Transportation and Cheap Power, New York (driven by Upstate NY in particular) became a magnet for industry and thrived.

What has happened since?  We now tax transportation in NY (the Thruway) -- turning transportation into a liability.  All the cheap hydropower is sent Downstate to cheapen electricity rates there (where cost of electricity is likely a smaller percentage of income), which has the effect of raising Upstate's rates -- turning cost of power into a liability here.

Upstate will never regain it's role as an economic engine for New York State while policies are forged in a Downstate-dominated state government.

Returning to a form of government that gives Upstate more control over its destiny will solve economic problems, stop the out-migration, and benefit the entire state as a whole.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why We Don't Produce Enough STEM Majors . . .

Study Finds That One In Four Americans Don’t Understand This Basic Scientific Fact About the Earth

More than a quarter of Americans incorrectly believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth, according to a new study by the National Science Foundation.
Students are not going into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math studies in college because they lack even the basic knowledge to understand the world around them, much less than succeed in advanced studies.

Let's cut back on the group activities and student's "constructing their own knowledge" and get back to direct instruction of the knowledge they need.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Duplicitous . . .

Duplicitous -- adjective -- "marked or characterized by duplicity."
Duplicity -- noun -- "deceitfulness in speech or conduct, 
as by speaking or acting in two different ways . . . 
double dealing . . ."
"This legislation prevents our nation from defaulting, which has never happened in our history. . . . Default is entirely unacceptable for the United States of America and it would be painful for most every family and household I represent. . . .we need to pursue overdue reform to the long-term, structural drivers of our debt . . . I believe my constituents sent me to Washington to govern responsibly and not engage in petty politicking, so I look forward to resolving our serious fiscal problems in a thoughtful and productive way that allows us to stop borrowing from our children to spend on ourselves."
Rep. Hanna, why don't you and the other members of Congress recognize the existence of the debt ceiling when proposing new spending -- like YOUR spending proposal for universal Pre-k -- and stay under it?  The only reason why you are now forced to raise the ceiling to prevent "default" is because you and other members of congress are undisciplined, spending money that you already know we don't have.

Portraying yourself as concerned about borrowing while proposing a massive new spending program illustrates the definition of duplicitous, no? 

You may technically prevent a default, for now, by raising the debt ceiling, but you cannot not stop its effects from eventually happening. When the world starts thinking that we might not be able to repay our debts, the game is over.

We are just about there now.  Some countries have already stopped trading using the dollar, in spite of its status as the world's reserve currency, over fears that its value will no longer be there. When American companies issue bonds in other currencies (like Verizon's recent issue in Euros) the handwriting is on the wall.

The dollar will be devalued, like with other countries and their currencies, overnight. The value of a portion of people's lifetime savings will be wiped out.  And when people can't get their money out of the bank, there will be civil unrest.  And Congress' spending beyond our means will be to blame.

The debt ceiling is there to prevent over-spending.  Raising it only allows over-spending to happen.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

APPLE-Flavored Lipstick . . .

On the Common Core Pig?

When government leaders want to implement a program that proves unpopular, sometimes the program is re-branded with cosmetic changes (like a name change), but the program is still basically the same.  Is that the case with the Common Core reform package entitled “Achieving Pupil Preparedness & Launching Excellence (APPLE) Plan?”

According to Assemblywoman Malliotakis' website:

The APPLE plan solution addresses critical issues in the areas of Curriculum, Teacher Support, Funding, Student Anxiety, Special Education and Data Collection and concludes with two reform options recommended by members of the Assembly Minority Conference. Proposed solutions within the APPLE Plan include: 
  •  Stopping the rushed implementation of the Common Core State Standards; 
  •  Providing funding for professional development; 
  •  Eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA); 
  •  Reducing the over-reliance on student testing; 
  •  Reasserting that an IEP is the supreme document for the education of a child with special needs; and 
  •  Requiring that parents must consent to any disclosure of student information to a third party. 
“We need to put the brakes on Common Core implementation. You only get one chance to educate a child,” said Borelli. “Thanks to Ed Ra and the rest of the minority conference, we finally have a good plan in place for the proper education of our children.”
While the Assembly Minority members should be commended for producing a plan (available here) that addresses the most controversial aspects of the Common Core rollout, THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS STILL REMAIN.  These are standards that many psychologists are calling developmentally inappropriate.

As I blogged in December, there is a real problem with the Common Core Standards themselves, with their emphasis on performance over knowledge.  I concluded:

"Critical thinking" is "wisdom" . . . which comes with age and cannot be taught.  Common Core teaches the mimicry of wisdom while withholding the substance of it: knowledge.  

If you care about the next generation and the well-being of the nation, you will fight implementation of Common Core.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Universal Pre-K FAIL. . .

Rep. Hanna and Senator Gillibrand are at it again, promoting their "Strong Start for America's Children Act".

"If we expect our children to walk through the doors of our colleges and universities tomorrow, and succeed in our economy in the years ahead – we need universal pre-k," Gillibrand said in the release."High quality early learning leads to strong cognitive, social, emotional and language development – key skills for a bright future."
The problem with this proposal is that these things have been tried before, but research -- performed by think tanks on both sides of the political aisle -- shows that the results are inconclusive.

Heritage: Universal Preschool’s Empty Promises
For most children, “70 to 80 percent of the cognitive gains associated with attending prekindergarten have faded out by the spring of the first grade.”[19]
Brookings: Can We Be Hard-Headed About Preschool? A Look at Universal and Targeted Pre-K
If a year of Head Start does not improve achievement in elementary school, should we assume that a year of state pre-K does?
Since we now borrow 40 cents out of every federal dollar spent, should we borrow more to achieve inconclusive results?

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Predetermined Conclusions?

Per the OD: Hinckley Reservoir proposal elicits concerns for some, hope for others

The authority is asking permission from the state's Department of Environmental Conservation to withdraw up to 48.5 million gallons of water a day, the maximum amount it can legally take, said Patrick Becher, executive director of the authority.
As pointed out a month ago, although the application says 48.5 and MVWA confirms they are seeking 48.5 MGD, both the Notice of Complete Application and, now, the recent re-notice to extend the comment period only refer to "a maximum taking of up to 32 million gallons per day . . .."

Since MVWA seeks 48.5 MGD and has sent DEC plans to increase water treatment plant (WTP) and intake main capacity to accommodate 48.5 MGD, the language of the Notices (which were drafted by DEC) seems to suggest that DEC has already made the determination to issue the permit, but with withdrawals limited to 32 MGD (which happens to be the capacity of the existing WTP).

Another cue that a decision has already been made is the statement in the OD article coming out of DEC Central Office:
The DEC has considered the effect on the area wildlife if this was granted, and there doesn't seem to be an adverse impact, said Emily DeSantis, director of media relations for the department's hub in Albany.
Of course not!  MVWA's projection of an imperceptible increase in demand out to 2030 coupled with no specific expansion plans present nothing that would allow an impact to be identified  . . . But that would be putting the blinders on, ignoring: (1) that MVWA intends to draw 48.5 MGD, (2) that the new agreement with Canal Corp frees MVWA from any requirement to make compensating flows, (3) that no environmental impact study was ever made of the effect of that new agreement, and (4) that in 2007 we already had a water "emergency" caused in large part by the lack of compensating flows. That avoidable "emergency"  resulted in the fishery being shut down, harm to aquatic life, lost electric power generation, and lost income for many businesses.

It is difficult to believe that DEC's conclusion would apply when 32 MGD (much less than 48.5 MGD) is removed from the creek on a sustained basis during dry weather and the creek flows are allowed to drop to 160 cfs for prolonged periods of time . . . .  especially when no study has told us how much more often we can expect these minimum flows to occur.

One gets a feeling that just enough facts (i.e., the minimum projected increase in demand, unspecific "need" for water for economic development purposes in the 4 Towns) will be cherry-picked to justify a politically-motivated DEC (commanded from Central Office) to see no environmental impacts and "rubber-stamp" this application with a 32MGD withdrawal limit, which defacto already exists, to make it look like DEC is doing something.
 
If this happens, expect a slow degradation of the West Canada Creek as withdrawals increase over many years.  Maybe by the time the creek is completely destroyed, no one will remember what a magnificent stream it once was.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Tale of Two ODs . . .

At left is a comparison of two "ODs" -- Operating Diagrams -- for the Hinckley Reservoir. The top was drafted in 1920 and became part of a 1921 Agreement between the State and Utica Gas & Electric. The bottom was drafted in 2012 and became part of a 2013 Agreement between the State Canal Corp and the Mohawk Valley Water Authority.

The former was the subject of litigation between Erie Boulevard Hydropower, LLC and the State over the State's deviation from the 1920 OD during the 2007 drought.  The State released less water from Hinckley Reservoir than called for in the OD in order to keep reservoir levels above MVWA's intake.  (Had levels dropped, the intake would be high and dry and we would have no water at our taps).  Less water released from the dam means less water turning the power company's turbines -- producing less power to be sold causing lost income to the power company. The Court of Claims threw out Erie's lawsuit citing language in the 1921 agreement that allowed deviations from the OD without compensation to the power company in certain emergency situations.  Erie appealed . . .

A few days ago the Appellate Division reversed the Court of Claims saying . .

Because defendants altered the release rate for the purpose of preserving safe drinking water during a drought – a legitimate public and State purpose (see ECL 15-0105 [5]) – and not for a canal-related purpose, defendants are liable for breaching the contract.
So, unless deviations are for a canal-related purpose, the State's taxpayers will be responsible to the power company for the lost income the deviations cause.

The 1920 OD assumed that Utica's water supplier adds to the flow into Hinckley from its own reservoir to make up for what it takes out of Hinckley during dry periods.  The 2013 agreement between MVWA and the Canal Corp does away that requirement.  The 2012 OD takes that into account and controls reservoir levels to protect MVWA's intakes.

So does not that make the 2012 OD a deviation from the 1920 OD for a non-canal-related purpose?

With MVWA not contributing water to Hinckley, but taking more out as it ramps up to taking 48.5 million gallons a day per its new proposal, how much money will the power company lose in the future?

Since the power company did not approve of the 2013 agreement, it seems like the Canal Corp just locked itself into a course of conduct that exposes us taxpayers to liability to the power company.

I wonder how long this situation will be allowed to last???

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hidden In Plain Sight 3 . . .

In case you missed the MVWA's full page color advertisement in Friday's and Sunday's Observer Dispatch (which YOU paid for!) it is reproduced at left. It is almost verbatim the March 2013 newsletter you already received with your water bill. Both trumpet the agreement reached between the MVWA and NYS Canal Corporation that settled their lawsuit.  Why do we hear about this again, now?

The bold text 2/3 down gives a clue:

"While this agreement does ensure prudent management of reservoir levels, it is important to note that neither the MVWA nor the Canal Corporation controls the flow of water into the West Canada Creek below that reservoir.  The operations of a privately-owned hydroelectric plant determine how much water will be released and when."

Blame for flows of the West Canada below the reservoir is being deflected to a "privately-owned" company -- but not mentioned is the fact that MVWA and Canal Corp (your government) are the only ones who divert water away from the Creek (the power company does not).

With West Canada Creek's natural flows ranging from about 150 cubic feet per second up to over 30,000 cfs, there is plenty of water available for all sorts of uses -- provided that "excess" water is captured when flows are high and released when flows are low. Although MVWA has often claimed a "right" to take 48.5 million (75 cfs) gallons of water per day, that right was contingent upon it maintaining a storage reservoir upstream of Hinckley Reservoir of a size per the table reproduced at the right. Doing the math with these figures reveals that MVWA should be holding about 120 days' worth of water use in storage.  At the full 48.5 MGD, 6 billion gallons should be in storage. That's almost 1/4 the size of Hinckley reservoir itself! MVWA should be using this 120 day storage to replace what it takes out of Hinckley when creek flows are low.

MVWA's ad is drumming up public support for the MVWA-Canal Corp agreement now perhaps to avoid it being scrutinized as part of MVWA's pending application before the Department of Environmental Conservation to expand its service area. The new agreement does not hold water.  It was made without benefit of an environmental impact statement. The two "consumers" of West Canada Creek water went into a closed room and divided the creek's water among themselves. The agreement relieves MVWA of the storage and flow augmentation requirements which means that water will be removed by MVWA and not replaced.  Ultimately that means less water available for the creek below Hinckley Dam. 

Slick public relations campaigns may distract, but they cannot paper over the math.  

MVWA and Canal Corp hope no one notices that their agreement comes at the expense of everyone who uses the creek below the Hinckley dam.