Thursday, December 26, 2013

Not the Only Reason . . .

In the Christmas edition of the OD: Less water used could mean higher prices paid suggests that
As more and more residents, who get their water from the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, buy water-efficient appliances, the authority is forced to look at continually raising rates. . . . 
"When I came here 16 years ago, the average customer, the whole household used 80,000 to 100,000 gallons a year," [MVWA Executive Director Patrick Becher] said. "That's down to 50,000 gallons a year. We've been seeing a two to three percent declined in actual water sales, which is troublesome because our costs don't go down to operate the system."
Undoubtedly there is some truth to Mr. Becher's assertion that water-efficient appliances contribute to a decline in demand.  But is Mr. Becher ignoring the "elephant" in the room -- the Oneida County Sewer District -- whose charges have caused the bottom lines of all of our quarterly water bills to balloon?

Since Mr. Becher does not control the County charges, he may be forgiven for overlooking their effect . . . but we homeowners cannot.  The County signed the Consent Order, the County determined that a new sewer interceptor and expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant were necessary for economic development, and the County passed ITS costs on to the water users.  When it costs a small fortune to water your lawn or garden, or wash your car, you stop doing those things, even in times of drought like we had during 2012.  When you can no longer afford your water-using business (due to rates/taxes/regulations etc.), you leave town. And demand for water drops.

Our local government is so fragmented functionally and geographically that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing -- making it incapable of adequately responding to the needs of the average citizen or small business. For every action taken by one part there is a reaction elsewhere.

While the reason for the story seems to be a set up for higher water rates, the more likely motivation is MVWA's recent application to DEC (buried in the legal notices last week) to expand its service territory to include all of the Towns of Frankfort, Schuyler, Kirkland, and Westmoreland. We probably will hear that MVWA needs to do this to get new customers to offset the decline in demand. See (scroll down to multiple counties).  The comment period expires 1/17/14 -- just in time for Christmas, New Years, and the ML King holidays!  I'll post more on this later.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Innocent Victims . . .

$2 Million settlement reached in Longo lawsuit
A $2 million settlement has been reached to resolve the wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Utica stemming from police Investigator Joseph Longo's murder of his wife in 2009. . . .

The lawsuit stems from Longo's killing of his wife, Kristin Palumbo-Longo, before he stabbed himself to death Sept. 28, 2009, inside their Deerfield home on Cosby Manor Road.
Mr. Longo's actions left his 4 children motherless, fatherless, and without a means of support. This is a real tragedy. One's heart cannot help but to go out to the innocent victims, the children.

But now the Taxpayers of the City of Utica are somehow on the hook for $2 Million. That's over $30 for each resident, over $100 for each family.  How did this happen?   What did UPD do wrong?  UPD took Inv. Longo's guns. . . . UPD confined him to a desk job . . . UPD insisted on counseling . . . But the Longo family insists that UPD did "not do everything it could."  But what more could UPD have been done? What more was UPD obliged to do?

The article speaks of cronyism . . . but that's nothing new . . . or unusual in any government agency. How did cronyism cause these deaths?

The article suggests that UPD could have done an internal investigation regarding allegations of officer-involved domestic violence . . . But what would have been the outcome? How would that prevent what happened?

The article suggests a "fitness-for-duty psychiatric evaluation" . . . But how would that have changed things?  Assuming that Mr. Longo was unfit for duty, what would have been the result?  Discharge from his job?  How would that have helped the marital maelstrom seemingly at the center of this sad story?

Somehow the UPD is the target of the suit.  But the UPD was merely Mr. Longo's employer.  The crime occurred in Deerfield.  UPD has no jurisdiction in Deerfield.  Other police agencies cover Deerfield.  If someone feels that he or she is in danger from another person, and no satisfaction is obtained from the other person's employer, should not he or she have taken other measures of self-protection?

When does the Taxpayer become responsible for the criminal acts of another person?  

Perhaps the Mayor is right to have settled this suit.  With four innocent children, who knows what the outcome of a trial would have been.  The damages could potentially be a lot higher.  But does that not say something troubling about our legal system?

Utica Taxpayers did not cause the Palumbo-Longo dischord.  Utica Taxpayers did not cause Mr. Longo's mental state.  Utica Taxpayers did not give Mr. Longo the knife.  And Utica Taxpayers did not commit the stabbing.  But Utica Taxpayers are now forced to pay for this crime.

Evil created innocent victims here: The four children . . . And the Taxpayers of the City of Utica.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I DON'T Believe in Common Core . . .

In the NY Daily News a couple days ago was an article "Why I Believe in the Common Core" by Brett Peiser, CEO of "Uncommon Schools."
"The parents of our students understand that, contrary to the criticisms levied by a small contingent of opponents of the Core, the new academic standards are about establishing and teaching the skills and knowledge our students need to be ready for college-level work - not about high-stakes testing. . . .

Our country ranks behind too many others in international rankings of math and reading proficiency. Our schools have simply not been preparing children for college well enough, and we all need to do better.

Common Core is part of that solution . . . Common Core challenges teachers and students to get to the "why" behind how things work. So, it's not just learning that 3 x 5 = 15, but how and why that is true. It's a chance for students to become deeper and more critical thinkers. . . .
What's wrong with asking a third grader to figure out multiple ways of solving 12 times 8 or 36 divided by 4? What's wrong with asking a seventh grader to write an essay comparing two similar newspaper articles and how each author approached the same topic? What's wrong with asking any student to cite the evidence behind their answer?"
Mr. Peiser has mastered word-smithing well. . . .  suggesting those in agreement have higher "understanding" while marginalizing the opposition as a "small contingent" focused on trivialities. . . . citing conditions and aspirations that no one disagrees with . . . and, with the reader hopefully roped-in, presenting Common Core as the salvation.

If you had to rely solely upon the contents of Mr. Peiser's "informational text" for data and had no independent knowledge to draw upon, you would probably think that you now know all you need to know about the issue and accept his position as true.  Of course, Mr. Peiser is banking on you being ignorant . . . and that should make you angry!  It would be easy to marginalize Mr. Peiser's article as a crock by someone in a position to gain financially . . . but that avoids the substance.

The bottom line is that we all want our students to be able to think critically . . . but can you have critical thinking without something to think critically about? 

In the past we equipped our students with a "storehouse of knowledge"  -- things most people could agree upon: math facts and basic skills, history of our country and the functions of its government, basic principles of science, geography, world history, etc. That "storehouse" is the substance of critical thinking -- but it is now dismissed by Common Core proponents as "rote learning."

Why teach 10 ways to do multiplication when one SIMPLE "tried and true" way works and, once mastered, comes up with the right answer every time? The end result of the new approach is that NO way is mastered -- and students don't know when they've come up with the wrong answer. How can there be "understanding" of math without that storehouse of knowledge including math facts?

If you know nothing, there is nothing to understand!

The evil here is Common Core's emphasis on performance rather than knowledge (The same was true for Outcome Based Education, the Regents' "higher" standards of the late 90s, and a bunch of other reforms). By depriving our students of that "storehouse of knowledge" held in common with each other and with older generations, communications with the older generation becomes difficult, communications among different disciplines becomes difficult. . . . And this makes it easy to reprogram students, and eventually a population, using "informational texts" for whatever is the ideology of the day.

Example: If you knew nothing about the ice ages, multiple advances and retreats of ice, geologic changes in sea levels, the Vikings farming of Greenland, etc., you would be less likely to be a skeptic, and more likely to accept the "consensus" than humans are causing climate change. Which scenario (the acceptance, or being a skeptic) best represents "critical thinking?"

What does Common Core fill student's heads with besides mindless exercises in processing information?
At our schools, we inspired our students to "show what you know" on test day. Our students discussed Michael Jordan's career and how often he failed on his road to success, and that he was never deterred. Our students loved coming to school in Michael Jordan T-shirts during the exams. As the week wore on, one of our third graders wrote in a reflection about the challenging questions: "I just knew I wasn't going to give up."

Michael Jordan's career might be inspirational and give students something to talk or write about, but it is trivial in the larger scheme of things and spending a week on it is a waste of time.  It is not the "knowledge" the students will need to succeed in the future . . . and not the knowledge that society needs to maintain itself and help it to evolve in the future as new challenges arise.  

"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.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Flying High - - But Not Here . . .

From Aviation Week: Million Air Expanding Facilities, But Refuses To Grow At All Costs
". . . the newest FBO to join the chain is a facility at Orlando Sanford International Airport. The facility is operated by Freeman Holdings Group, the ninth Freeman location in the Million Air chain. Freeman CEO Scott Freeman calls the Million Air addition a strategic move for the company that operators facilities stretching from California to New York. . . . As part of the addition, the facility is undergoing a $3.5 million renovation that including stripping the facility’s 10,000-ft. attached hangar down to the structural steel and rebuilding. The 7,000-sq.-ft. terminal building is also undergoing upgrades that will include some of the Million Air-standard features, along with a range of amenities such as a theater, flight planning room and executive conference room."
Wow . . . that's lots of money . . . and a theater? and an executive conference room? Think Mr. Freeman will be doing this at Griffiss?

Well, as the headline says, Million Air "refuses to grow at all costs."  Million Air's CEO Roger Woolsey says:
"“If you overpay for your property, you can’t make money ... or you charge ridiculous fuel prices.”"
With its highest sales tax, Oneida County is already behind the curve on keeping Million Air's fuel prices low.  How are other costs at Griffiss compared to elsewhere?  There is a special utility company there that pays some lush salaries for a small operation.  Are its costs lower?

If it costs too much to do business here, the customers . . . and business expenditures to attract them . . . will go elsewhere.