Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Ghetto for West Utica!

Utica considers brownstone apartments on Lincoln Ave. According to this story, the "city" wants to build a 15-20 unit residential unit building on Lincoln Avenue for sale to low to moderate income tenants.

Who speaks for the city? How did this project get so far that "The process of vetting firms to do the architectural drawings will begin in the next few weeks . . ."?
“We felt the housing would fit in the neighborhood and help with the ongoing process of revitalization,” [Urban and Econ. Dev. Commr.] Soggs said.
Does Mr. Soggs really believe that housing next to an expressway will attract buyers?

As it stands now, NYSDOT is proposing to turn the Arterial into an expressway at this location. A "sculpture trail" along the route will not make up for the noise, lights, fumes and grime that come with an expressway. Just imagine the sounds of tractor trailers changing gears as they approach the ramp to the new Court Street overpass heading north. Yes . . . the sweet sounds of trucks will rock you to sleep! Put that in the "city's" marketing brochure.

Just because someone is "low income" does not mean they are dumb. People want their investments to grow. Housing next to an expressway is not likely to appreciate in value and not likely to sell.

High density housing (contrary to some councilperson's beliefs) has an appropriate place in urban design. Successful projects (i.e., where people would want to live and invest) would be associated with a Walkable Neighborhood where people can walk to services such as grocers and drugstores, and even to work.  The mix of uses, the infrastructure to support them, and the surrounding environment, however, need to be planned.

Where's the Plan?

Conspicuously absent from this story is any mention of the Utica Master Plan . . . probably because there IS NO PLAN.  There is nothing in the Master Plan which identifies this location as being appropriate for high density housing. Without an overarching plan for a walkable neighborhood, this project makes no sense.

Mr. Soggs claims there is a "demand" for this housing, but, if so, why are not private developers jumping to fill this niche? The apparent competition between Utica Economic Development and the Utica MHA is a strange twist.  Government distorts economic reality.

All this seems to do is enable certain people to dip into federal funds (which hopefully will be cut off soon). The project will turn into a New Washington Courts.

Utica deserves better.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Astroturf in Utica 3 . . .

"Make Them Pay" said the sign at today's protest outside of Congressman Hanna's Utica office. . . . They were protesting "tax cuts for the rich," which probably more precisely should be described as preserving existing tax treatment for the rich.

What they really are demanding are tax increases for the rich . . . the rich who already contribute the bulk of the national budget . . . the rich whose contributions allow 40% of the public not to pay any tax at all . . .  the rich whose contributions allow some low income people to get more in tax refunds than they ever contributed in tax withholdings... the rich who are NOT given the deductions that are permitted to low and moderate income people.  How is taking more from the rich fair?

Not surprisingly, this protest was arranged by "" whose stock-in-trade is class warfare . . . the kind that ends in revolutions and totalitarian governments. MoveOn's strident, divisive, hateful speech  preys on envy.

Too bad . . . because it gets in the way of serious discussion and debate over needed changes to the tax code. For example, GE has raked in billions of profits without paying any taxes, while other companies and people pay taxes through the nose. . . It did so by taking advantage of loopholes placed in the code for specific purposes.  Are the purposes beneficial to the country . . . or just to GE?  GE has kept a lot of its capital overseas to avoid taxation here.  Is that good or bad for America?  How do other countries tax multinational corporations? Should corporations be taxed at all when their shareholders will pay taxes on the profits that are distributed? Should capital gains be taxed at a lesser rate than other income? Should tax deductions be given for state taxes or home mortgages?  Should tax breaks be given to people who can afford a hybrid vehicle when the vehicle already saves the owner money? Likewise breaks for solar panels and wind mills?

The tax code is exceedingly long and complex.  "Loopholes" are "special treatment" for certain interest groups.  Perhaps if many of the loopholes were eliminated, our perception of the tax code would be more fair. We need to discuss what needs to be changed, and what should be kept the same.  While there is little on which I agree with President Obama, I agree with him when he says he wants "the amount of taxes you pay isn't determined by what kind of accountant you can afford." (See Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically)

Playing class warfare is not only a distraction, it divides us . . . preventing us from talking to each other and discussing rationally the issues that face this country and reaching sound resolutions. 

Organizations like MoveOn that prey on emotions need to . . . Move On.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maybe I Didn't Understand . . .

I was watching the Beck show the other evening listening to a conversation between Congressman Rangel (D-NY) and Judge Napolitano. When the subject of the national debt limit came up, I thought I heard Mr. Rangel say something like Congress has to raise the debt limit in order to borrow the money needed to pay the interest on the existing debt. I did a double take. Borrowing more money to pay for past borrowing? Maybe I didn't understand him correctly, but that's what it sounded like.

This morning I heard Congressman Hanna (R-NY) on WIBX. He indicated that congressmen did not want to admit it, but that they would end up approving an increase in the debt limit, and that Mr. Hanna favored doing so as well. Mr. Hanna explained that failing to approve the increase would be like a shopper going on a spree and then refusing to pay bill ... that the country's credit in the eyes of the rest of the world would suffer. Maybe I didn't understand him correctly because I was driving to work at the time and minding the traffic... but that's what it sounded like... It also sounded similar to what Congressman Rangel said.

Joseph Farah must have heard the same narrative out of Washington. In an Open letter to John Boehner on WorldNetDaily he responds:
"Saying no to more borrowing does not mean default on loan obligations."
To any of us with modest incomes "no to more borrowing" simply means to live within our means. Paying for past borrowing is something normal people budget for. If our means do not cover our budget, the budget must be made smaller by reducing planned spending ... but not by defaulting on past loans. That leads to bankruptcy.

Suggesting that the country will default on past loans if it does not raise the debt ceiling and borrow more is simply being irresponsible. How will the interest be paid on the new money borrowed? More borrowing in the future? As Joseph Farah says:
"It's time to stop cutting piecemeal. It is getting us nowhere. It is not responsible to keep borrowing – even if means borrowing less than in the past. You can't fix a debt problem through more borrowing."
But maybe we just don't understand.

Astroturf 'R' Us . . .

This is why taxpayers are losing sympathy for teachers.

The students should be in class . . . not on a picket line.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Budget Breakthrough . . . or Scam?

Mark Levin on Cavuto had a bit to say on yesterday's "breakthrough" . . .

So did Karl Rove (who is full of it, but Greta seems to understand what's at stake) .

What happens when the next stop toward our fiscal train-wreck is reached, the debt ceiling?  Will the Republicans approve using more debt to pay for ongoing programs? Is that why they were sent to Washington?  Will we ever reach anything even approaching Paul Ryan's budget (which might not even go far enough in spending cuts) when the next budget is due?

Our government continues to export our productivity, making it harder for people to find work. Our government burns our food as fuel in cars. Our government ignores costs in money and to our culture of programs which address "social issues" because to consider otherwise would be "divisive." Our government tries to regulate every aspect of our lives.  Our government insists on policing the world, but fails to police our borders. Etc. Etc.

Ultimately, our government pays for its malfeasance by stealing the value of the savings of its citizens by printing money.

When does it stop? 

Friday, April 08, 2011

Taking From People . . .

Mohawk Valley Edge is prepared to invoke the powers of eminent domain to essentially force a sale of 55 acres of Farmer's land on Hazard Road, in Marcy; land they say is essential to making the site to which they're trying to lure a nano tech center/chip fab plant more marketable.

"It would make it a lot stronger site," says Steven DiMeo, of the Edge.

Enough is enough. EDGE, Mr. Dimeo, and Oneida County have been given enough time and taxpayer money on this chip fab pipe dream. At one time we had a chance to land one . . . but this crew blew it, allowing Albany area politicians to walk all over us. It is time to move on.

Taking a family farm to make the county site "stronger" is not only nonsense, it is reprehensible.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Jigsaw Learning . . .

In the OD Today: Experienced teacher uses modern methods to get students learning
It’s called “jigsaw,” and requires students to perform tasks in groups, derive the tasks’ results and then teach what they learned to other students. . . . 
The jigsaw process, she said, almost creates an individualized education plan for each student regardless of that student’s level – helping teachers reach the lower-achieving students while still challenging the higher-achieving ones as they proceed through the lesson.

This begs the question, is it the teacher that is reaching the lower-achieving students or other students that are doing the job?  Who is being paid to transfer knowledge to the students?  Who is more likely to produce accurate information to the students?

The "Jigsaw Classroom" was originally conceived as a way to socially integrate different racial groups -- i.e., its objective was social engineering, not fostering the transfer of knowledge.  "Jigsaw" is a variant of the "cooperative learning" technique where students "construct their own knowledge."

"Jigsaw," "cooperative learning," and variations on the theme all work to reduce the importance of the teacher -- and the "older generation" -- as a source of knowledge. They also give a false perception of "expertise" to the student participants. These techniques have been around for about 40 years.

We have a serious problem with academics in this country, and with inexperienced "know-it-alls" running society's institutions.  Are these problems connected to these teaching techniques? 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Charter School Spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Utica

I'll be the last person to defend the track record of public schools. Simply put, they are not doing the job they have been given to do.  That said, Charter Schools -- at least New York State's version of them -- are NOT a viable alternative. Now Utica may have a Charter School in its future. Per the OD:
The schools’ lead applicant, Dr. Andy Lopez-Williams, specializes in children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The school would utilize methods developed by Lopez-Williams, but would be open to all students.
Per his website, Dr. Lopez-Williams has impressive credentials and experience, as well as a business that centers on providing services to individuals with autism. Certainly parents of autistic children would applaud having an alternative. The proposed school's prospectus reads well, seemingly promising something for everyone.

No reflection on Lopez-Williams, this spells big TROUBLE for Utica because of the way New York State funds and controls Charter Schools...

Taxation without representation. 

Utica taxpayers and residents will have NO referendum on the new school . . .and NO means of control over the school.  Rather, if the school gets a charter from the State, Utica's overburdened taxpayers will be stuck paying for it.

Dual public school system 

Utica is having enough trouble keeping one school system going.  Saddling the taxpayers with the cost of a second will drive more people and jobs out of town, threatening the city's economic viability.

Creation of another special interest group looking for a handout.

The New York Charter Schools Association is already complaining that its per student level of funding is less than that of regular public schools. You will hear this complaint more with a local charter school.

Poor oversight.

Local school boards have difficulties exacting performance out of their schools. Do people really believe that licensing authorities in Albany are capable of doing a better job?

Fragmentation of the curriculum with "designer schools"

An example is Chicago's "green" school.  Taxpayers could be forced to pay for charter schools for every social cause, political agenda, or interest.

Taxpayer funding of private business endeavors and experimentation.

If educators think they have a good idea, they should bear the risks of implementing it, not the taxpayers. Taxpayers should not be forced to fund someone's experiments. Let the marketplace rather than a state board determine "success."

Charter Schools are part of the legacy of the Republican Gov. Patacki years, but they have been expanded by his Democrat  successors.  Fittingly, Albany has the greatest number of them. Fred Lebrun of the Times Union has written several articles worth reading:
If the public schools are failing, the answer is to fix them, not create a taxpayer-funded, elite-controlled alternative system.  If fixing them is not an option, then try issuing vouchers that can be used at private schools ... Vouchers may still create a funding headache for local school districts, but they will put in charge the persons most likely to find success for students: their Parents.

There is something very wrong with our government when one man can go to a State board to force an entire city pay for his personal dream.  The Charter School law needs to be changed to give residents of local school districts the say over if and how a Charter School will be implemented.  

Friday, April 01, 2011

Losing the Tea Party . . .

Last November, the Republicans retook the House of Representatives, swept into office by the Tea Party Movement, which wants less government, less spending, and less borrowing.  Those Republicans seem to be alienating the core of those supporters with talk of reducing proposed budget cuts from 100 billion to only 33 billion dollars.  Now Judson Phillips, CEO of Tea Party Nation, (who does not speak for everyone who identifies themselves as part of the Tea Party) is calling for a Tea Party Insurrection in an editorial on World Net Daily.
The time-honored Republican tradition of surrender is in full swing in Washington today.
The problem is, the American people and the tea-party movement did not send Republicans to Washington to surrender. We sent them to cut the budget. . . . 
When Washington hits the debt ceiling in a few days, our national debt will be 100 percent of our gross domestic product. In plain, non-lawyer English, this means that to pay off our national debt, it would take every cent of wealth America generates in 2011. There is a term for this; it is called insolvency. . . .
Debt at 100 percent of GDP is something of a psychological marker. If we are not going to stop spending now, when will we? . . . 
It is not enough to simply to replace bad leadership. We must put good leadership in its place. . . . So far, we cannot say that we have put good leadership in its place.
Many conservative Republicans stayed home during the last presidential election, unhappy with their candidate who could have been labeled "Progressive Lite."

The voters want a choice, not different versions of the same thing.

It looks like lack of choice is going to happen again.

... unless some Reagan Democrats join the party.