Saturday, April 30, 2011

Madison, WI--Could It Happen Here?

The Tompkins County Democratic Committee Issues Committee sponsored a forum to discuss "Public Employees and the Budget Ax." It was a lively discussion, particularly in response to index-card questions from the audience. My one-time classmate, Kate Bronfenbrenner, now director of labor education research at Cornell, set the scene by indicating how Wisconsin was not about labor at all but rather about politics. Eliminating public employee unions means eliminating funding of Democratic campaigns. Governor Walker's campaign, of course, was partially funded by the Koch brothers, whose funding also supported the pro-Walker side of the battle with the unions. It's not a conspiracy theory if it's true, y'all!

When asked whether sexism played a part in today's union struggles, given that a majority of public employees are women, Kate replied "sexism and racism." Black women make up a large segment of those unions, and black women vote consistently Democratic. Faced with the fact that most private industries have long since given up on pension plans, Kate remarked on the "race to the bottom" and questioned whether we want a nation of retirees who can't support themselves or maintain their own homes.

ITA Union President Sue Mitler remarked that state pensions average $30-$35K, not a stunning amount. County Legislator Jim Dennis said that there's a rule that county pensions must make 8 percent a year or the county must make up the difference (which sounds like a bad idea in this day and age). Dryden Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner mentioned that Dryden nonunion folks get the same deal as union folks, sort of like how Paul gets the same deal as administrative folks at Newfield despite not being allowed in their union (so far).

On the whole, I found myself agreeing with everyone, even when they themselves disagreed, which shows what a difficult and contentious issue this is, or perhaps what a fuzzy thinker I am. Kudos to the Issues Committee for bringing it to a public forum.

Required Reading

Charles Blow on how racism has infected and been tolerated by the Republican Party with the goal of covering up that party's desire to uplift the American aristocracy.
This is not to say that all Republicans are tolerant of this behavior. Far from it. But the party has taken the strategic position that in some cases it’s politically advantageous to allow demagogues and xenophobes, sectarians and homophobes to not only see the party as a sanctuary but as a place to rise to its top.
Not that anyone sees Trump as a viable candidate, but no one is stopping him, either, because his bloviation enables them to work behind the scenes to widen the gap.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tax Cap Gun to Our Heads, Part 2

The IJ reports today that the average school tax levy hike across the state for 2011-2012 averages 3.4 percent, with spending increases averaging 1.3 percent. Dryden messes with that average, with a tax hike of 5.5 percent despite a spending decrease: -2.06 percent.

Think what it means for a district like ours to try for an annual tax hike of 2 percent. Consider that spending decrease as it multiplies year after year.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Did You Know...

...that only .2 percent of New Yorkers are without broadband service? That's the word from our state broadband initiative, which bases its data on the truthiness of Internet providers.

Paul came home from a meeting with state representatives today quite assured that we won't have rural broadband service in NYS in our lifetime.

To be fair, the state does have a website on which you can register whether their "facts" about broadband in your area are "true." I sent them a scalding missive, and I suggest you do too after you check out their "facts" and assess whether your speed matches their figures. Ours differed by a factor of 5 or so.

I am not sure how something that on the face of it seems so simple grew into such a bollixed mess. Paul's convinced that unless the state forces providers to extend service, they simply won't. It's not the sort of regulation he tends to approve of, but he doesn't see another way.

LATER: The IJ reports on the meeting.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Orleans

Paul took many more pictures than I, but here are a few. We lost six hours to ridiculous plane delays but managed to eat most everything and walk most everywhere within the Quarter and Warehouse Districts. High points: Dogs in strollers and goat on a leash; woman playing a saw on Royal Street; WWII Museum; bbq shrimp. Not worth it: Preservation Hall (the night we were there, anyway); the aquarium (although the IMAX was excellent); Bourbon Street (more of a boring frat party than the jazz fest I remember from 25 years ago). Unexpected fun: Excellent music at otherwise touristy lunch spots; sausage on a stick at a street festival; melange of languages on a riverboat trip.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Big Easy

Off to New Orleans for a few days of food and fun. Pix to come!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kinda Liking That Hanna Guy

He made less than no impression on me when he was campaigning, but I give Congressman Hanna some props for sticking up for his social agenda, apparently in the face of quite a bit of anger from the GOP leadership. Keep thinking for yourself, Mr. Hanna--don't let them convert you into a mindless clone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Required Reading

David Von Drehle on how the Civil War was really about slavery, and how we chose to forget that over the years.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School Budget So Far, Finale with Numbers

Here's the final story from DCSD.There are quite a few cuts that didn't make the paper, including Olivia's beloved Music Theory course (which she probably couldn't fit into her schedule anyway).

LATER: The Dryden Courier story is more complete.

Monday, April 11, 2011

School Budget So Far, Finale

I went oh-so-briefly to tonight's BoE meeting before I had to pick up Olivia at rehearsal. The supt presented the administrative team's suggestions for putting back the $280+K the legislators put back. There's a problem with the numbers for pre-K; the legislators only put in $34K, which isn't enough to run a program. The numbers for the past few years have been $58K, which allows for a single class, morning or afternoon. The governor gave Dryden $114K, enough for morning AND afternoon. The admin team is scrambling to get State Ed to admit its error. This is one of my pet projects, so I am crossing my fingers.

Back in, perhaps, are enough of a Spanish teacher to bring Spanish back to 7th grade, enough of a science teacher at the HS to keep a decent science program there, a couple of elementary teachers to keep those class sizes low, some athletic supplies (which have been steadily cut from $20K a few years ago to $9K last year), K-12 field trips, the MS-HS play choreographer (a drop in the bucket for a program that touches 100 or so kids), and a handful of other things. There was talk also of using a portion of the money to cut the levy, which I believe will happen. At least one reporter was there, so we may get the final numbers tomorrow. (There's also a chance that Paul will stop by on his way back from his own BoE meeting in time to hear the final results.)

Outside My Window

A gobbler is being roundly ignored by his nine-hen harem as he stomps, lowers his wings, and spreads his symmetrical tail. They are far more interested in pecking under the bird feeders. A few feet beyond, three does graze in the field, heads together. We expect a high of 75 degrees today before a cold front sends us back to springtime reality.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quick Trip

Off to CA tomorrow for a whirlwind visit.