Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oh Snap!


Oh Snap!
“Oh snap” was a cultural phrase used In the 80’s to describe something funny, exciting or dramatic.  Today, I’m using the phrase to articulate concern for the federally funded S.N.A.P, (supplemental nutrition assistance program) specifically food stamps.  There’s a debate raging in Congress regarding S.N.A.P. and other federally funded programs like it.  With the lack of a farm bill being put into place by Congress, S.N.A.P is facing a mandatory 6% decrease in benefits for recipients.  Some looking at the reductions would see them as minimum.  A household of one person would see a reduction of $11 in monthly benefits. Two-person households will see a reduction of $20; three-person families will be reduced by $29, and four-person households will lose $36.  These are relatively small amounts, but when your income is growing less than inflation, any reduction in benefits is exacerbated.   My criticism of Congresses handling of this issue is Congress’s own report from the Congressional Research Service indicated by the U.S. department of agriculture, (USDA) projects that annual U.S. food inflation will be in the range of 3% to 4% for 2013 and relatively the same for 2014.  If this is indeed the case, how in the world can our federal elected officials allow this benefit to be cut?

While many criticize federally funded programs like S.N.A.P and think many who receive food stamps are lazy and less motivated.  They fail to realize, many of our disabled, seniors and in some cases, veterans also receive food stamps.  Despite what many may think, the food stamp program is crucial to the well being of the most vulnerable population in the U.S.   I agree, monitoring the abuse of this program is needed, but to continue to squeeze this population is shameful in my opinion.  Congress seems far less concern with approving COLA, (cost of living adjustment), increasing COLA, for federal retirees 1.3% in 2013 and 1.5% in 2014, then making sure the most vulnerable in the U.S. has enough food to eat.  I agree most of our federal retirees deserve their COLA increase, the point I’m making is, there seems to be a clear attack by some in Congress on the poor and needy.  For any of our federally elected officials to think a 6% decrease in food stamps is ok, when the price of food is rising by 3% to 4%, is not only irresponsible, but dangerous.  As a citizen, you get every two years to voice your approval or displeasure of how your congressman is representing your needs.  This year, 2014 is that year, follow the issues important to you and use your vote to voice your opinion.

William Hughes Jr.
4th Ward Supervisor, City of Hudson
Minority Leader, Columbia County Board of Supervisors

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Evolution and Resurgence Of Hudson


The evolution and resurgence of Hudson
Not so long ago, you could walk up the main corridor of Hudson, otherwise known as Warren Street and see boarded up, shuttered buildings, with all its historical splendor, slowly deteriorating.  One by one, most of the buildings have been brought back to their former glory and in some cases, exceeding their past existence.  Because of the poor condition and lack of interest in a lot of buildings on Warren Street, those with an eye for historical value and cash on hand, saw Warren Street as a cheap, underdeveloped, historical gem, waiting to once again gain its former grandeur.  The development of Warren Street has spawned a population shift, which is slowly leading to a cultural change in the City of Hudson.  Through the years of Hudson’s past, when it was known as a manufacturing player, you could find a job in a day, regardless of education, get a cold beer from a bar virtually on every corner, while enjoying a piece of chicken or slice of pizza, all for less than $5.  Today, on Warren Street, you can still enjoy a beer, at inflation adjusted prices and grab a bite to eat from one of its many restaurants.  Yes, Warren Street has changed greatly from its former past.  Today, Hudson's Warren Street is talked about State, Nationwide and even in foreign Countries regarding its presence in the antique world, boasting a range of antique stores and a collection of artist, making Hudson’s Warren Street a tourist destination.

There is no arguing the fact, that the resurgence of Warren Street has been a blessing or curse depending on which prism you are looking through.  Warren Street, which was once boarded up, was also home to a large portion of Hudson’s, low to moderate income population.  As each building was bought and sold, the occupants of the building were more often than not asked to leave, in most cases causing an unintended form of gentrification.   As a result, a lot of the Warren Street population and affordable housing stock was pushed over to the North side of the City. There was a time when most of the homes on the North side of the City were single family homes, owned by middle class income earners who worked for the cement plant, City or State government.  Once the cement plant along with a few other existing factories left Hudson, single family homeowners begin selling their homes to would be landlords looking to make a buck renting to the displaced tenants formally living on Warren Street as well as other locations on the South side of the City.  In my opinion, it is during this time period when tension and disdain for antique stores and new homeowners from Warren Street south developed.  Warranted of not, people on the North side of the City believed the City was and is being taken over by those moving from New York City, with lots of money.  Rents on Warren Street, South, shot up 3 to 4 times what families use to pay for an apartment.  The Columbia Diner shutdown and was eventually sold, going from a budget meal eatery to a much higher end American style restaurant.   I often hear mentioned, that no one can afford to eat on Warren Street now.  It’s a fact that a burger, beer and fries, which I enjoy most Thursdays, at a restaurant on Warren Street, will cost you on average, about $25.  That price point is close to where some residents on the North side of Hudson pay for monthly rent.  Although the tension seemed to have died down at times, it is always bubbling under the surface waiting for the next shoe to drop so it can rear its ugly head.  People, families have become fearful of their livelihood, ignoring the contributions being made by the population from the South side of the City.  It has gotten so bad on occasion, that some have refused to walk on Warren Street, other than to attend a street event or to go to one of the corner stores.  Because of these tensions alliances have been formed, which in the past may not have happened.  People now feel as though they are fighting for their future survival in the City of Hudson, real or not, that is the perception.  On occasion you can see the tension and frustration of the different opinions boil over at School board, business and local government meetings.  An example of this is, the recent decision to locate the Hudson City School District’s ALP (alternative learning program) a program for struggling youth in the Hudson City School District, on Warren Street.  There was certainly two mines of thinking here and maybe more.  Business owners on Warren Street seemed to be concerned about the safety of the youth and the lack of space for physical activity at the Warren Street location.  It was widely believed by those who live on the North side of the City, that the business owners were using that ploy as a way to fight the project, instead of disclosing their real feelings, they didn’t want youth who may have had a troubled past on Warren Street, potentially disrupting their business.  Factual or not, that was the widely spread belief.  This incident deepened the divide of the City, further solidifying belief that those who live and own businesses on Warren Street has to give you their blessing if you are to live or try to establish a business on Warren Street.  I believe many on Warren Street would say this is pure lunacy and totally basely.  In my opinion, this issue of a divided City has risen to become one of the top three issues facing the City.  Business owners who move to Hudson, establish a business here, in many cases using their life savings, do so at great risk.  Taxes are fairly high and a great deal of their business is at the mercy of tourism.  Contributing to Hudson becoming a tourist destination, is the culture of Warren Street and the fact that patrons feel safe visiting and walking up and down our City Streets.  Disrupt any part of the harmonious balance on Warren Street, I believe the ripple effect will be felt, not only City, but County wide.  This may be why Warren Street’s solvency is defended so rigorously.  Many on the North side of the City wouldn’t know that, given many never, shop or eat on Warren Street, let alone have a conversation with a business owner.  What they do know is, they see, more and more homes on the North side being bought by those moving to Hudson.  These once single family homes, converted to two or in some cases three family homes are now being converted back to one family homes, leading people to believe, this is Warren Street all over again.  With the affordable housing shrinking every day and low income housing locations like Bliss towers reaching its useful life, tension are running high as to where people will go once the affordable and low income housing are no more in the City of Hudson.  I don’t see this happening in the immediate future, but some would say it bares a resemblance to the development and resurgence of Warren Street.  I believe there is a direct correlation between the housing stock in the City of Hudson and the tension between the North and South sides of the City.  Housing isn’t the only contributing factor, but it’s a major one.  One thing I think can be addressed with some willingness and smart planning by City leaders, residents and business owners.  Hudson could immediately adopt a policy that no new housing will be constructed without 20 or even 30% being set aside for low to moderate income housing.  This would show that an effort is being made by all sides to preserve the diversity of Hudson, which has made the City what it is today.  Also, an idea brought up by defeated Mayoral candidate, Victor Mendolia, to change the zoning for Columbia Street, allowing more businesses to develop there, would maybe spawn some businesses geared more toward the moderate income population of Hudson.  Something, like a Columbia diner type restaurant, where someone could get a soup and sandwich for $5 - $7 bucks.  Again, this would open doors to relationship building in the City.  Then we could move onto much harder dividing factors such as education and jobs. 

It seems, most of our newly elected City officials are listening, let’s guide them and help them, make Hudson a true melting pot where people of all race, gender, economical means and sexual orientation, can live harmoniously together.

William Hughes Jr.
4th Ward Supervisor
City of Hudson
Minority Leader
Columbia County Board of Supervisors

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Keys Are On The Hook


I haven’t added an edition to my blog in a long time, so I figure today would be as good as any to rectify that.
Most call this time of year, silly season, others would say, this is when we get to choose those who will represent our views locally for the next 2 – 4 years.  Whatever your view, you decide where this story falls on that meter.

Earlier this week, it was brought to my attention that a room located in the County Administration building, 401 State Street, secured with the new electronic voting machines under lock and key, was entered without authorization.  It is to this point that the story gets murky.  As Minority Leader, it was brought to my attention that the room under lock and key securing the voting machines had been entered back in May without bipartisan authorization from the Board of Elections.  The Democratic Commissioner of the County Board of Elections reported to me, that she and the Republican Commissioner of the Board of Elections had been in ongoing discussions with the Director of Facilities about creating space and a form of security that would require a bipartisan team to enter the space holding the new electronic voting machines.  Once that space was erected, a lock with keys that couldn’t be duplicated was to be put in place, with keys going to the Republican Commissioner and Democratic Commissioner, respectfully.
The lock was put in place and keys were given to each of the Commissioners, with the understanding that work in the space was completed.   One day in May, the Director of Facilities came in and apparently questioned why the room where the voting machines are was locked.  The Board of Elections was under the impression the room was done, the machines were in the space, thus a locksmith was called by the Commissioners of the Board of Elections to put a special lock on the door and keys made.   The Director of Facilities came in and for whatever reason was upset or questioned the lock being put on the door to the room securing the electronic voting machines.  Upon discovering the lock on the door, the Director of Facilities, called a locksmith and had the lock drilled out and removed.   Later the next week to the surprise of members of the Board of Elections, the Director of Facilities and a County Supervisor, came in with 2 new keys and told members of the Board of Elections, “here is your new keys to the room securing the voting machines”.   What the 2 men must not have realized is, at the time of them bringing the new keys into the Board of Elections, a member of the State Board of Elections was present doing an audit.  Given the confusion around the removal of the old lock and installation of the new lock, the auditor from the State felt compelled to note the incident in their report.  It’s from this point that concern for the performance integrity of the voting machines and there security was questioned.  The Democratic Commissioner was very concerned and raised flags about the room being entered without a bipartisan team, how long the room may have been unsecure and who may have entered the room while it was unsecure.   The Republican Commissioner was less concerned, noting in a local paper, “This story is being blown way out of proportion”.   The Republican Commissioner went on to say, he doesn’t believe anything has been done wrong and that the voting machines were never in danger.  The Democratic Commissioner’s opinion differs on the situation, noting, she believes the machines should always be under lock and key that can only be accessed by a bipartisan team to maintain performance integrity of the voting machines. She also suggests, New York State law requires such action be taken.  Again, this is an area where the Democratic and Republican Commissioners of the Columbia County Board of Elections disagree.  This question should be cleared up soon, as soon as the audit from the NYS Board of Elections is finally released to Columbia County.

As Minority Leader, I was asked to look into this issue.  Given, both the Director of Facilities and the County Supervisor present when the Board of elections auditor was here are members of or answer to the DPW Committee, I thought it would be the best place to get answers to the questions I had regarding the whole story.  I attended the DPW Committee meeting with the Democratic Commissioner of the Board of Elections and members of the DPW Committee.  Once the Director of Facilities, finished presenting his monthly report to the DPW Committee, I asked the Chairman of the DPW Committee if I could ask the Director of Facilities some questions around the situation of removing the lock from the room securing the electronic voting machines.   I mentioned to the Director of Facilities the story in which I was given around the locks being removed off the door securing the voting machines, his story differed that which I was given by the Democratic Commissioner.  With all the confusion going on and at times, tempers flaring, it seemed the question I most wanted answered was getting lost. 
As the Chairman of the DPW Committee tried to end the discussion, I said Mr. Chairman, I only need the answer to one question.  I asked the Director of Facilities, “Given you were here trying to get into the room during business hours, did you use a key to take the lock off the door to the room holding the voting machines?  After a long pause, the Director of Facilities said and I quote, “NO”.

I ask you the voters of Columbia County,  if the story went as the Director of Facilities stated it did, why would he CALL a locksmith to take the lock off the door, given he could have just gone  up one small flight of stairs to the Board of Elections and get the keys to enter the room?
I’m definitely not accusing anyone of doing anything nefarious, I’m simply putting this out there.  A locksmith was called, at the expense of taxpayers, to cut a lock off which the Director of Facilities could have easily gone up stairs and gotten the keys to remove, why didn’t it happen that way?

If you are a voter in Columbia County, you too should be asking WHY?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trouble hitting the curve

Like a bad Clint Eastwood movie, the Republican Convention rolled out mega star Clint Eastwood for what looked like "the good, the bad and the ugly" of an Eastwood movie.

Trouble hitting the curve", is not just the title of a new Clint Eastwood movie, it describes the campaign of Mitt "Myth" Romney. Myth Romney, has indicated he will go after social programs like an old Eastwood movie "a fist full of dollars". Myth Romney, looked "we" American people in the eyes and said, I shall "hang em' high". Being a supporter of Congressman, Paul Ryan's budget and picking him to be his Vice Presidential, running mate, Myth Romney states, I will cut all entitlement programs, making it clear, that if you are poor, not of the financial elite, you will no longer receive government assistance. The problem with Myth Romney, Paul Ryan's budget is, they not only attack the poor, but seniors, women and the middle class too. Myth Romney, Paul Ryan's budget would cut the WIC program, put millions of young kids in our Country at risk. Their budget would also cut the Safety-Net program, the program that provides food stamps, housing assistance, day care and medicaid to 10's of millions who need help in our County. Just to show that they really want to destroy the middle class, The Myth Romney, Paul Ryan's budget would cut Pell Grants, making it much harder for poor kids and poor families to have access to higher education. How does Myth Romney propose to tackle that problem, by telling families, you can borrow the money and pay it back. Oh no, wait, Myth Romney and Paul Ryan didn't stop there, what do they say about those who would like to start a small business, but don't have the funds to do so? Listen to this one, "go borrow the money from your parents", as if we all have millionaire parents like Myth Romney had.

 The Myth Romney, Paul Ryan's budget not only demonstrates what they think of the poor and disadvantaged in our County, its a clear attack on women. Data shows that 2/3 of those who use Pell Grants are women, 2/3 of those who receive WIC are women, 2/3 of those who receive food stamps are women and oh, did I mention, Myth Romney and Paul Ryan would repeal a woman's right to choose?

Now I know who Clint Eastwood was talking to in that empty chair, it was we the American people. Myth Romney and Paul Ryan, see most of us as empty, not being worth their time. That is why, Myth Romney is caught on tape stating how, 47% of people don't pay taxes and I will never get there vote, they will vote for Obama, no matter what. What Myth Romney doesn't say is, a percentage of that 47%, although they may not pay property taxes, they do pay payroll taxes, basically the working poor and low middle class. Although he hasn't said this, this tells me one thing, Myth Romney and Paul Ryan would go after the Child Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax that most working poor and middle class workers rely on getting at the end of the year to help settle up bills that they have gotten behind on. Like another Eastwood movie, The "sudden impact" of this would create a clear difference between rich and poor in our Country. With the outlined plan of the Myth Romney, Paul Ryan's budget, the rich would get a tax cut, making them richer, in the hopes of some of that wealth trickling down to the poor. By the time funds were to trickle down, there would only be enough left to maybe create a few hundred minimun wage jobs. This is just like another Eastwood movie, "play misty for me", the math of the Myth Romney, Paul Ryan's budget is so foggy only they can see it. To vote for the Myth Romney, Paul Ryan ticket, would be like walking, "the gauntlet", of death for the middle class, it will disappear as we know it. Taking a cue from Clint Eastwood, Myth Romney and Paul Ryan is saying, "go ahead, make my day" vote for me and this is what you will get. We as voters in Nov should look Myth Romney and Paul Ryan in the face and say, this is a, "true crime" and vote them out "any which way you can".



Vote Row A all the way

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A House of Cards

Some are fortunate enough to never need food stamps or ever worry about being homeless.  Unfortunately, there are others who have been dealt a different hand in life and for whatever reason, they need any and all help they can get.

This brings me to what has become a divisive debate amongst elected officials and soon to be public in the City of Hudson.  Columbia County has proposed to build, with the assistance of a private developer, (Galvan Initiatives) a 37 unit living facility targeting those who have fallen on hard times and has no other place to live.  The living facility  would provide counselling, meals, transportation, laundry, 24 hour security and a live in facility manager, along with other amenities.

Currently, Columbia County houses those in this condition, in Hotels through out the County for an average of $70 a day or in some cases $1,300 - $1,400 a month, which does not include food and transportation cost.  Not to mention, under the current conditions counselling and services are not offered to help these clients get back on their feet, giving them a second chance at life.

A second chance at life, it is to this point that I have been working diligently to increase The City of Hudson's low income and affordable housing stock.  To no direct fault of anyone specifically, Hudson's affordable housing stock has been dropping precipitously, leaving many unable to afford the new market rate for an apartment.  We also have a problem of those who are poor money managers or those coming back home after a stint in NYS prison system.  Whatever the reason, Hudson and well as other Towns in Columbia County have citizens who have found it impossible to find a place to live.  As mandated by NYS, if a citizen has been found and proven through an initial evaluation to be homeless, the County in which they live, must provide them with a place to live.  As a result of this law, Counties across NYS have been forced at great expense to find a dwelling for individuals proven to be homeless.  Speaking specifically to Columbia County, over the years, Columbia County has spent as much as $2 million a year addressing this problem.  To the County's credit, they have tried several times to come up with plans that would provide a better living environment for the County's homeless clients.  One that would also help to decrease the amount of money being spent to address the issue.

Recently the County's homeless numbers have dropped sharply, holding stead at around 25 single individuals.  In the past few months some aggressive tactics have been employed by the County to decrease its homeless numbers.  One of those tactics is, to convince individuals who are living in the hotels to partner up with another client, put their resources together and move in together, often in apartments that are barely at living standards or worse.  What's amazing to me is, that some elected officials and fellow human beings would find this method to be acceptable, for someone to live in substandard conditions, as long as we save a dollar and they are not living next to them.  What isn't mentioned is, that which I believe!  The number of homeless kept by the County is skewed, I believe the homeless in the City of Hudson and the County is higher than reported.  The County does not track those who are staying with friends or family until they can find an affordable apartment, which in most cases doesn't happen.

Most of us, who live in the lower half of the City of Hudson, know of families or friends who have people staying with them who are essentially homeless, if not for the generosity of those family or friends.  The problem with this particular arrangement is, most times, those families or friends are barely making ends meat themselves.

It is because of this reason that I stood up and fought, when some elected officials made mention that the City of Hudson shouldn't renew the tax credits to the Hudson Terrance project, which were needed to keep rents affordable.  That is why, I stood as a fighting voice to build, what is now known as "Crosswind", when other elected officials were balking at the project.  And that is why I am now leading the charge at the County level to  develop this facility, with the partnership of Galvan Initiatives.

This project has now come under fire, with citizens and a few elected officials saying "Hudson already has too many services located here, we don't need anymore".  I had a few citizens tell me, we should move them to Kinderhook or Chatham and bus them back and forth to the City of Hudson where the services are.  One thing I would like to note here is, I haven't had one person from the 2nd, 4th or 5th Ward's make these kinds of statements. 

It's my belief that some have been instructed to protest at the next full board meeting with signs, voicing their displeasure with having more housing "these people" in the City of Hudson.

I'm putting out there, if you support this project, you too should show up at the next Board of Supervisors full board meeting, which is to be held on:  August 8, 2012  at: 7:15pm.  Come and hear what some have to say about your friends and family members who are currently staying in hotels.

Again, come out to a very important meeting, being held, August 8, 2012  at: 7:15pm.  I will post or info you more about this meeting as the date gets closer.

Thank You!

Sincerely,

Minority Leader
4th Ward Supervisor
William Hughes Jr.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

U.S. Debt, Who is at fault? Where do we go from here?

First, let’s talk about under the Bush administration how the rules for short selling was deregulated. Note: "Wikipedia", During hearings on the bankruptcy filing by Lehman Brothers and bailout of AIG before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld said a host of factors including a crisis of confidence and naked short-selling attacks followed by false rumors contributed to both the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers


Secondly, the lack of regulating the derivative market allowed billionaire’s to rape the stock market and investors. Note: "Wikipedia", 2000 December:Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (based on a report by Summers, Greenspan, Levitt, & Rainer) declares credit default swaps (and other derivatives) to be unregulated, banning the SEC, Fed, CTFC, state insurance companies, and others from meaningful oversight. CDS eventually destroy AIG & others.

• Third, it was under the Bush administration that the mortgage industry was deregulated. Don’t we all remember when then, President Bush stood on the White house lawn and said we are going to make home ownership affordable to millions of Americans? Deregulating the mortgage market is one of the biggest factors in causing the sub-prime mortgage market collapse. Note: "Wikipedia", subprime mortgages. 2002 June 17:Bush unveils his "Blueprint for the American Dream". He sets a goal of increasing minority home owners by at least 5.5 million by 2010 through billions of dollars in tax credits, subsidies and a Fannie Mae commitment of $440 billion to establish NeighborWorks America with faith based organizations. 2003-2007: U.S. subprime mortgages increased 292%, from $332 billion to $1.3 trillion, due primarily to the private sector entering the mortgage bond market, once an almost exclusive domain of government sponsored enterprises like Freddie Mac.

o The Federal Reserve fails to use its supervisory and regulatory authority over banks, mortgage underwriters and other lenders, who abandoned loan standards (employment history, income, down payments, credit rating, assets, property loan-to-value ratio and debt-servicing ability), emphasizing instead lender's ability to securitize and repackage subprime loans. 2007 Home sales continue to fall. The plunge in existing-home sales is the steepest since 1989. In Q1/2007, S&P/Case-Shiller house price index records first year-over-year decline in nationwide house prices since 1991. The subprime mortgage industry collapses, and a surge of foreclosure activity (twice as bad as 2006) and rising interest rates threaten to depress prices further as problems in the subprime markets spread to the near-prime and prime mortgage markets. April 3: According to CNN Money, business sources report lenders made $640 billion in subprime loans in 2006, nearly twice the level 3 years earlier; subprime loans amounted to about 20 percent of the nation's mortgage lending and about 17 percent of home purchases; financial firms and hedge funds likely own more than $1 trillion in securities backed by subprime mortgage; about 13 percent of subprime loans are now delinquent, more than five times the delinquency rate for home loans to borrowers with top credit; more than 2 percent of subprime loans had foreclosure proceedings start in the fourth quarter The monoline insurance companies (AMBAC, MBIA, ACA, &c) have written vast quantities of insurance against the failure of CDO tranches. Those tranches now begin to fail by the hundreds. The credit ratings agencies downgrade the monolines from AAA, but the monolines have a unique business model. If they don't have a AAA rating, then their main line of business (bond insurance) becomes impossible for them to perform. By 2009, the monolines have all crashed. 2008 October 1: The U.S. Senate passes HR1424, their version of the $700 billion bailout bill.

o October 1: The financial crisis spreads to Europe.

• October 3: President George W. Bush signs the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, creating a $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program to purchase failing bank assets. It contains easing of the accounting rules that forced companies to collapse because of the existence of toxic mortgage-related investments. Also key to winning GOP support was a decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission to ease mark-to-market accounting rules that require financial institutions to show the deflated value of assets on their balance sheets."

o October 6–10: Worst week for the stock market in 75 years. The Dow Jones loses 22.1 percent, its worst week on record, down 40.3 percent since reaching a record high of 14,164.53 October 9, 2007. The Standard & Poor's 500 index loses 18.2 percent, its worst week since 1933, down 42.5 percent in since its own high October 9, 2007.

o October 6: Fed announces that it will provide $900 billion in short-term cash loans to banks.

o October 7: Fed makes emergency move to lend around $1.3 trillion directly to companies outside the financial sector.

o October 7: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) relaxes rules on US corporations repatriating money held oversees in an attempt to inject liquidity into the US financial market. The new ruling allows the companies to receive loans from their foreign subsidiaries for longer periods and more times a year without triggering the 35% corporate income tax.

o October 8: Central banks in USA (Fed), England, China, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and the European Central Bank cut rates in a coordinated effort to aid world economy.

o October 8: Fed also reduces its emergency lending rate to banks by half a percentage point, to 1.75 percent.

o October 8: White House considers taking ownership stakes in private banks as a part of the bailout bill. Warren Buffett and George Soros criticized the original approach of the bailout bill.

o October 11: The Dow Jones Industrial Average caps its worst week ever with its highest volatility day ever recorded in its 112 year history. Over the last eight trading days, the DJIA has dropped 22% amid worries of worsening credit crisis and global recession. Paper losses now on US stocks now total $8.4 trillion from the market highs last year.[87]

o October 11: The G7, a group of central bankers and finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies, meet in Washington and agree to urgent and exceptional coordinated action to prevent the credit crisis from throwing the world into depression. The G7 did not agree on the concrete plan that was hoped for.

o October 14: The US taps into the $700 billion available from the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act and announces the injection of $250 billion of public money into the US banking system. The form of the rescue will include the US government taking an equity position in banks that choose to participate in the program in exchange for certain restrictions such as executive compensation. Nine banks agreed to participate in the program and will receive half of the total funds: 1) Bank of America, 2) JPMorgan Chase, 3) Wells Fargo, 4) Citigroup, 5) Merrill Lynch, 6) Goldman Sachs, 7) Morgan Stanley, 8) Bank of New York Mellon and 9) State Street. Other US financial institutions eligible for the plan have until November 14 to agree to the terms.

October 21: The US Federal Reserve announces that it will spend $540 billion to purchase short-term debt from money market mutual funds. The large amount of redemption requests during the credit crisis have caused the money market funds to scale back lending to banks contributing to the credit freeze on interbank lending markets. This government is hoping the injection will help unfreeze the credit markets making it easier for businesses and banks to obtain loans. The structure of the plan involves the Fed setting up four special purpose vehicles that will purchase the assets.  2011 The U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission reported its findings in January 2011.   It concluded that "the crisis was avoidable and was caused by: Widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages; Dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk; An explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis; Key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.

Not to be lost in all of this is the easing of “mark to market” (Mark-to-market or fair value accounting refers to accounting for the fair value of an asset or liability based on the current market price of the asset or liability, or for similar assets and liabilities, or based on another objectively assessed "fair" value.) on bank balance sheets, asked for by the “GOP” Republicans. This in itself is a legal way for banks to not tell us the truth of how much they are really worth, what happened to transparency?

These events not only collapsed financial markets in the U.S. but around the world. As a result the U.S. economy was sent into a tailspin that we are still in today.

I will admit, we have to get our spending under control, but the question needs to be asked, were do we start? We are spending billions in fighting two wars and now, one conflict overseas, should spending be cut there first? During this whole bank crisis, some banks took the bailout money reinvested and made billions on the back of taxpayers, should we demand that money back, plus that which they borrowed.

Yet, we hear talk about cutting entitlement programs, since when has social security, medicaid or medicare been entitlement programs? Most who receive these programs paid for them through payroll deductions. Social security is a promise made by the federal government, pay into it while you are working, if you become disabled or reach retirement age you will receive “payment”, sort of an american investment. Social security an “entitlement program”, here is what President Bush had to say about the program: “SentinelSource.com”, President George W. Bush made a shocking assertion back in 2005 when he was pushing to privatize Social Security. “A lot of people in America think there is a trust,” he said, “that we take your money in payroll taxes and then we hold it for you and then when you retire, we give it back to you. But that’s not the way it works. There is no trust fund — just IOUs ….”

Actually, working Americans have paid so much in Social Security payroll taxes during the past three decades that they have built up a $2.6 trillion surplus in the account. That money should make the system strong enough to cover the current level of benefits for the next 26 years. In the interim, a prudent government could restructure the program for the rest of the century, perhaps by means-testing benefits and rejiggering contributions.

But, unfortunately, Bush was right. In 1983, Congress and the Reagan administration adjusted Social Security taxes and benefits to put the program on an even keel that began to build up a huge surplus for investment. But Congress decided to “borrow” the surplus instead of investing. They’ve been using it to help pay for things that have nothing to do with Social Security, things the political establishment and tax-averse Americans wanted but didn’t want to pay for: invasions, education, highway repairs and so on. And, without giving any thought to paying the surplus money back, the federal government has been trading it for special Treasury bonds that politicians used to assure us were safe in a lockbox.

Just IOUs. In a lockbox.



Here are some programs I would call entitlement programs: Welfare programs such as: food stamps, shelter rent, homeless housing and WIC. As a people we have to ask ourselves if we want to help those who are less fortunate? Making the claim that we need to cut social programs to balance the budget vs. creating a millionaire’s tax is creating class warfare.

Where do we draw the line, the future of our great nation depends on how the majority of the people in this Country answers that question. One thing is for sure, social programs are not the sole blame for the financial crisis of the U.S., as a matter of fact one could argue the majority of the blame falls with the millionaire’s and billionaire’s on Wall St. and the politicians who robbed the social security fund.

TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT, THAT IS THE QUESTION!

YOU THE VOTER CAN FORCE POLITICIANS TO DECIDED

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Design build vs. Design bid build, how much will the WalMart project cost you?

At the recent financial committee meeting this issue was front and center.  Chairman Brown convened a sub-committee to research several areas of concern regarding a new home for DSS. 1.  Should the County or CRC build the new DSS home?  2.  Should the project be a design build or design bid build, also known as a (municipal build)?  3.  Who can finance the project cheaper, County or CRC?

First. let's discuss the proposed Walmart project and how we got here.  The County realizing their lease on the current home of DSS at 25 railroad ave was coming to an end decided it no longer wanted to stay in it's current location for many reasons, space and financial being the overriding issues.  A search started for a new location, with the BOS, (board of supervisors) tentatively deciding to purchase Ockawamick, an old school building in Clavarack to create a County campus including a new home for DSS.  The old school was purchased for $1.5 million and turned out to be a public opinion disaster, costing several County Supervisors their bid for re-election.  A decision was made that the County would abandon the Ockawamick idea and move on.  Move on is what should be focused on, fellow Supervisors were being told, "we" the County have a clause to extend the lease in the current DSS location if we would like to stay there.  The clause was true, but what the County leadership failed to tell most Supervisors is, if we wanted to extend the lease on the current DSS home at 25 railroad ave. we hand to notify the owner 180 days prior to the lease expiring.  Well, that never happened, so come August, technically the County is out of options to stay at 25 railroad ave, without another location to move to.  The saving grace from what could be a major embarrassment for the County of having it's DSS dept. homeless come August is, the owner of the DSS location is willing to lease the building to the County until the end of the year.  Because of this, there is a mad dash to come up with some kind of solution that would find DSS a new home before the end of the year.  The problem with that is, little planning has been done, little financial study has been done and little communication has been offered to the public.  Ken Flood, Chairman of the CRC offered to take the lead on the WalMart project, but had the rug pulled from under him when he came before the BOS asking for $78,000 to do a space needs assessment regarding County agencies.  This decision put finding a new home for DSS even further behind and sent County leadership scrambling, desperate for an idea that could bail them out of what has been in my opinion a series of missteps made over the past couple of years.

This brings us to the current WalMart idea.  The next time we as Supervisors hear of a new proposed WalMart proposal was when a resolution came before the DPW committee asking for $500,000 to be awarded to an engineer for architecture work on the project.  The resolution was passed and sent to the finance committee for final approval to be sent to the full board for a vote .  At the finance committee it was argued by a couple of Supervisors that it is improper to hand out this kind of money, $500,000 without first putting the contract out for bid.  Commission of DPW, Dave Robinson and Chairman of the Board, Roy Brown argued that this is a professional contract and does not need to be bid out, which is true, but the question is, do we want to spend this kind of taxpayers money without making sure we are getting the best price for the work we need done?  Because of the mad dash to get this project done, Chairman Brown and Commissioner Robinson argued that time is an issue, if we RFP this contract it could take more time than "we" the County have.  This argument went back and forth, with a decision made for an expedited RFP process to be done, the process has not been laid out as of yet!  This brings me to the financial issue being raised.  The sub-committee convened by Chairman Brown has concluded that it would be cheaper for the County to finance the WalMart project rather than having the CRC finance it.  We have been told, if the County were to finance the project it would save up to $2 million dollars over the life of the project because the County can borrow funds at a cheaper rate than the CRC can.

What hasn't been thoroughly researched is, if a design build is cheaper than a design bid build.  At the finance committee meeting, members of the finance committee read some notes from the State Comptroller's office stating that municipalities were using agencies like the CRC to get around tax and labor issues.  This is a difficult issues which the State Legislature and the State Comptroller currently stand at odds over.  Yet, some Supervisors state that a design build is not an option because of the State Comptrollers issue with the program.  This couldn't be further from the truth, the law as written right now, clearly allows municipalities to do design builds through agencies like the CRC.

To this point is where I have a problem with the whole project.  Not that I'm a 100% behind the WalMart idea, a decision I'm convinced will take place whether I support it or not.  My position is, to make sure whatever direction the County goes, we do it in the smartest most economical way possible.  That means giving serious consideration to design build vs. municipal build.  For County leadership to form an opinion on design build without having talked to developers who do construction work for a living is, shall I say, shortsighted!  By declaring "we" the County is going to do the project, YES, takes the option of design build off the table, because it is true, the County itself cannot do a design build, it has to be done by an agency like the CRC or the developer of the building itself. 

County leadership has already stated, by the County financing the project it may save $2 million over the life of the project.  What is not said is, doing a design build may save even more, possibly $3 - $4 million on the project, no one knows because know one has asked.  All I hear is, a design build produces an inferior building, but Saratoga County and Albany County have recently built beautiful buildings using the design build process.

As the general public, you need to pay close attention to this project as it moves forward, you could be paying much more than need be.  Also, ask your Town Supervisor, how much in capital project funding does the County plan to bond for?  My guess would be, in the neighborhood of $25 - $30 million.  Then ask your Supervisor, can we as a County afford such an expense at a time when County unemployment is approaching 10% and 25% of the County is receiving social services?

PAY ATTENTION OR YOU THE TAXPAYER WILL PAY!