Saturday, April 10, 2010

New York State of Mind

Now that the March flood waters have receded, the sun is shining, and the Cherry Blossoms are blooming at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens [see photo]. Spring has sprung in New York City.  It’s been a few weeks since my last report so let’s just dive right in…

Sports – Okay, baseball season started again. The Yankees first home game is Tuesday.  They've played three games and are well on their way of winning the World Series, Just remember you heard it here first!

Local – Our transit system is the best in the world and also the most expensive to run. The MTA Board of Trustees (which includes former Beatles Paul McCartney’s millionairess girlfriend Nancy Shevell) cross-our-hearts-and-hope-to-die-promised in early 2009 that if we let them raised the transit fares with no fuss just this one more time, that all of the budget shortfalls will be met for years to come or at least until 2011. Well, they must have had their fingers crossed behind their backs because in March, the Board announced that they would have to make major cuts in bus/subway routes and service and raise fares again to close a $378 million budget deficit.  The deficit has just been exacerbated by a 4% raise in wages that our Transit workers negotiated after their last strike in 2005 and state funds the Board was counting on that haven't materialized because of major state budget deficits.

Of course, the Board can’t possibly rescind the pay raises nor is the Transit Workers’ Union willing to make any concessions to  the wage increases or the nearly $500 million worth of ridiculous overtime rules. For example, if a transit worker is assigned a duty outside their normal paid function they get paid overtime. So, if a bus driver is assigned to shovel snow or put snow chains on tires for an hour, they get paid time and half for the whole day plus their regular time for driving the bus that day!

So what’s new? The bottom line is that, once again, the tax payers are caught in the middle. We have not choice, but to submit to whatever the Board and the Unions decide.  Though personally, I say let the Board cut wages and let the Union strike.  Neither will get any sympathy from the rest of us.

State - The State of New York just blew a chance to bring in $700 million from Obama’s contest for Race to the Top funds. Applications for these education funds needed to be submitted with a detailed proposal of how each dollar would be spent by the end of February. Each application was evaluated by a group of judges and awarded points for Obama friendly policies and achievements. There were a few qualifications that had to be met to win those some of the highest points awarded.

As only our famously dysfunctional Legislature could do, they failed to vote in legislation to meet some of the major qualifications - raise the cap on the number of charter school allowed in the state and tying teacher evaluations to student performance - and missed the deadline. The very influential Teacher’s Union was dead set against either of the changes, so no changes.

As a result, when the list of recipients was published at the end of March, New York was embarrassingly second to last. Fortunately, the state has a second chance to reapply by June 1, but the Legislature is noncommittal. Though the cap and the merit evaluations are just one of many points of evaluation that lost the bid, we, the tax paying public, later learned that we had points deducted for  fund allocations to buy administrators new fancy $500 desk chairs and $3000 desks –Oops! The State Education Commissioner David Steiner has promised to fix the "office furniture blunder the next time around”.

Federal – I can’t have an update without some reference to Charlie Rangel. Our esteemed former House Way and Means chairman had the ways and the means to make a pretty penny off of the healthcare bill. For his efforts to bring ObamaCare to a doctor near you, Mr. Rangel was allegedly awarded almost $4 million from the healthcare industry for which to enrich his already bloated coffers. No wonder, San Fran Nan has been dragging her heels on those “alleged” ethics violation investigations against Charlie!

New York Politicians Under Investigation – Remember in my installment in early March , I reported on a host of New York politicians in crisis. Well, it just keeps getting worse for them. As I reported, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D/Queens), former Rep Rev. Flloyd Flake, and State Senate Malcolm Smith (D a/Queens) along with Governor Patterson were under investigation for a shady state contract deal which included a lucrative slot machine contract at Aqueduct Raceway.

Well, now two of the cast members are under investigation for another alleged misdeed. Meeks and Smith unselfishly raised almost $31,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina and pledged every dime would go for those poor unfortunate victims. After a recent internal audit, it seems they can only account for only $1,391 of those dollars being disbursed to any Katrina victims. Quoted in the NY Post, Meeks was “shocked, just shocked” and stated that “I, like you, want a full accounting of those funds.”  I, on the otherhand, am not “shocked” at all. I’ve said this before, but at the rate our elected officials are going to prison, we’ll have to open up a new branch of government at Sing Sing prison. Here’s more if your interested ...

New York Tax Payers Who Are Not Under Investigation – A sweet, elderly Brooklyn couple has been raided by the police 50 times since 2002. Because of a “computer glitch” that flagged their address as a hotbed of criminal activity when in reality, their address was used as a random address the IT department used to test a new program when they set up the computers. So for the last eight years, this poor octogenarian couple has been rousted out of their bed in the middle of the night to armed police officers screaming at them. The couple had been guaranteed that the problem had been solved in 2007, but they were soon raided again. Police Commissioner Ray Kelley went personally to apologize to the couple and swears it won't happen again. Let’s hope so.

For those interested - The New York City Tax Day Tea Party will be held  on 4/15/10 at 31st Street and 8th Avenue.  For more information go to 


AndrewPrice said...

Oh my. I don't want to laugh about the old couple who keep getting raided, but it is strangely funny. Of course, it's also outrageous. Once is a mistake, two is a stupid mistake, three times is intentional, four or more is malice.

Who knew that Charlie Rangel could get rich selling his vote? Hmm.

So who will the Yankees play in the series? LOL!

As for the transit system, they always need money "just one more time," and it's never the last time. People need to stop falling for that.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention allergy season! I'm usually good with that sort of thing but I was sneezing up a storm during a temp agency interview the other day.

"I was fine up until 40th Street!" I told them. :-)

BevfromNYC said...

Oddly Scott, I grew up with allergy problems every day for almost 30 years in Texas. Then I moved to NYC. I've had about 5 allergy attacks in 20 years. Even when I go back to Texas I don't have allergy problems anymore. I don't know why, but I'm not complainin'. Sorry!

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Hmmm, anyone who plays the Yankees will lose, so it doesn't matter who they play in the World Series.

Now, I must report back to my pinstriped overlords...

I am resigned to whatever the MTA and Unions will do. But,my cushy express bus is getting axed, so starting in June, I will have to take the subway in the morning. It's just not right. No one should have to endure that much humanity in the morning.

Unknown said...

Bev: Your transport workers sound as greedy as ours. We've had a strike for higher wages hanging over our heads for nearly a year now (coinciding almost exactly with the time everybody else was taking pay cuts or losing their jobs). Your "educators" have an eerie familiarity as well. Our per capita public transportation accidents are higher than yours, but our crooked politicians are amateurs compared to New York's. If someone had made up a Charlie Rangel character for a novel, nobody would have believed it. Still, we have the Speaker of the House--so there.

Maybe San Francisco and New York City should start a competition of their own--the Race to the Bottom.

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk - A Race to the Bottom! Your state is leading with the your massive budget deficits. New York is leading in the least amount of elected officials. We're probably neck in neck on corrupt officials though...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I used to like riding the Metro in DC, but it was a little different system than the NY subway -- more spacious.

Yeah, there's nothing you can do about the transport people. Both sides are determined to milk the taxpayers, and since you don't really have any say in the matter, there's not much you can do about it except point out how full of crap they all are.

StanH said...

I’m glad that Spring has finally sprung, a long cold winter, global warming really sucks!

I love NY, but I can’t stand the unions, if you have to do business amongst them. NYC and NY State are sounding like the ‘70s, - (and since we’re talking about NYC and the Yankees a little Yogi Berra seems appropriate, “ it’s déjà vu all over again,”) - and are headed for bankruptcy. With Transit Unions, Teachers Unions, union this union that, and there are many a great American cities that are dying. I say this in other places to tweak the trolls, but the parasites are killing the host.

Politician and slim ball work hand in hand, it’s the same in Atlanta.

We’re having a Tea Party here in Atlanta as well at the Capital building at 4:00 Pm, on the blessed 15th - - Neil Cavuto will be the master of ceremony. If you haven’t been to a Tea Party go! It’ll make you think for a moment that the country hasn’t lost it’s collective mind.

BevfromNYC said...

StanH, being a former member (not in good standing) of a really stupid union (Actors' Equity Association) proved to me how corrupt and disruptive unions can be for the creative process anyway and for industry. Coal miners are the only exception in my mind. And may I add my prayers to those poor families in West Virginia who lost their loved ones.

Make sure you take a camera or video camera with you to your Tea Party. Video proof if necessary. Larry Kudlow is our big name. We're also streaming live on the our website and on SiriusXM radio. (Not the same as being there though!)

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