Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Legislators Call for Border Solution

As St. Lawrence County Legislators for areas that have been greatly affected due to the closing of the International Border Crossing, Greg Paquin and Daniel Girard would like to call for a resolution that involves our American President and the Prime Minister of Canada, along with representatives from the Mohawk Council for Akwesasne. This would show our local constituents that each national government views this problem as a true international occurrence.

As the protests continue and the International Bridge located between Cornwall and Rooseveltown remains closed, many people have commented on the local impact for communities on both sides of the border. Estimated losses for Cornwall businesses stand at approximately $10,000 per day for each business. Merchants in Massena, especially the St. Lawrence Centre mall complex, and surrounding St. Lawrence County areas, have seen their sales drop significantly as the bridge closing limits Canadian customers. Businesses on Akwesasne have felt similar struggles, especially in a downturn at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and the Mohawk Bingo Palace, which will decrease the amount of money our local communities receive from the Tribal Gaming Compact.

Beyond the monetary impact is a personal impact for many families. The location of the bridges between the United States, the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, and Canada has allowed families who straddle the border to keep in contact with minimal effort for generations. Now, the path has been cut, and families are forced to find alternatives.

While most of the discussion about the bridge closure focuses on the local fallout, this is in essence an international problem. The reported issues deal with national border security and tribal sovereignty, unfortunately a solution that respects both issues has not been brought forward.

President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and representatives from the Mohawk Council for Akwesasne should sit together and give this issue the respect it deserves as an international problem. Hopefully, then a permanent solution beyond a permanent closing of the bridge spans could be reached.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Restructure American Auto Industry

With the Obama administration taking a hands-on approach to the auto industry after leaning on Rick Wagoner to resign, I believe they should carry right on through to the paradigm that surrounds corporate restructuring.

Corporations and the Federal Government seem to often be at odds about restructuring during the recession. Corporations want to cut expenses and make themselves look viable in the long term in an attempt to buoy their stock prices. The first area cut is personnel, and we have all read about the huge layoffs, buy outs and firings. But, the focus of the stimulus money was job retention and job creation. The Obama Administration understands that an unemployed person makes fewer purchases and cannot pay off the items he already owes on.

Obama should insist that every GM plant that has been closed, or idled as the company calls it, should return to full capacity. If they want to impose their will about the executives in GM, then they should impose the will of the stimulus plan onto the entire recovery procedure. If the money shilled to GM came from taxpayers' pockets, then it should go to keep taxpayers in jobs. This would be a boost across the entire workforce as many estimates show ancillary job loss at six to seven for every auto worker who loses his or her job.

The Federal Government should have a huge say in how these corporations operate, the same as any investor. If you can find me any other investor with as many billions of dollars spent, then she can control the process.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Disappointed with DANC

The DANC board voted unanimously to install Sen. James Wright as Executive Director. I'm not surprised that he was appointed, but I am surprised by the unanimous selection.

Current members of the DANC board have stated that they do not want to politicize the Authority, and they ask county boards of legislature to keep that in mind when making appointments. With their choice of Jim Wright, the DANC board has fully politicized their work. Regardless of resume, Wright's selection has taken an organization that was built to promote the economic well-being of Northern New York and given the perception that it is a political spoil.

On more of a personal note, I have never spoken with Sen. Wright, despite the position I have and the fact that he was my State Senator.

I attended the announcement that General Motors was "idling" their plant in Massena. Senator Wright was also in attendance, as was Gov. Spitzer, Lt. Gov. Paterson, Senator Griffo, Assemblyman Aubertine and Assemblywoman Scozzafava. Each official spoke about the closing and what his or her office would be doing. Most of them seemed involved during the announcement.

Except for Senator Wright.

He seemed to be text messaging constantly. I don't know what it was about. Maybe he was keeping in touch with the CEO of GM, or he was proposing legislation for Congressman McHugh to bring forward about job losses in the age of free trade agreements. Or maybe he was in touch with his office about trivial matters or concerns in other areas of his district. I don't know.

I know that announcement was important to the families of 500 people who were losing their jobs in Massena. It was important to a community that had seen its manufacturing base decrease by two-thirds in the last thirty years. And it was important to have an elected official treat them as if they were important, at least for the few hours that he devoted to them specifically during his many years of public service.

And so, I am nervous, that St. Lawrence County, who is relying on DANC to help rebuild what has been lost, will be overlooked. That the Republican Wright will overlook the Democratic majority in the Legislature. That Wright, who has served Jefferson County well in the past, before becoming a State Senator, will continue to primarily serve Jefferson County in his position after being a State Senator.

Even with all of that, I pray to God that he succeeds, because if he does, then life will be better for everyone in this area.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tax Cuts Trickle. A Stimulus Pours.

While haggling over the economic recovery package, many conservative Republicans (if they would favor the package at all) argued that it should be dominantly or completely made up of tax-cuts rather than stimulating spending. This assinine argument assumes that we are idiots. Both cutting our income or increasing our spending can hit the bottom line at the same level. The shift is on opposite sides of the ledger, but it's meant to address the different constituencies.

It isn't class warfare; it's political warfare that pits the classes against one another. Trickle down economics ruled the 1980s, the system viewed American society as a slope, with the rich on top and the poor at the bottom. Benefits needed to be poured on the top and those would trickle down to the bottom. Anyone who has actually grown anything on a slope realizes that the trickle dwindles until the bottom is left with almost nothing.

I look at our society and see it as a bell curve. More people earn income that would place them in the middle than at the top. The stimulus package focuses on the middle more than a tax cut package would.

Pour that stimulus straight down on the middle of the curve and watch it flow to both sides.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Everybody Likes Robin Hood

Many Democratic candidates advocate for a more graduated system calling for higher incomes to bear a higher tax burden. Republicans often label this as socialistic, wealth redistribution, summing it up as, "stealing from the rich to give to the poor."

Does anyone remember where that phrase comes from? It's the premise for Robin Hood, the outlaw from Sherwood Forest who tried to combat the inequities imposed by the Sheriff of Nottingham. At that time, the Sheriff forced the peasants to carry the entire tax burden all for his personal and professional benefit, as he lived a lavish life aimed at overthrowing the absent King Richard with Prince John.

From what I remember, Robin Hood, the one who stole from the rich to give to the poor, is the hero of the story. We cheer for him to right the wrongs of society.

I can guess the Conservative Republican response. They will say that the story focuses on over taxation. It is a condemnation of high taxes, and we should use it as a lesson that advocates tax cuts. That just is not the case.

Robin Hood is a tale about the unfair distribution of taxes. The wealthy and powerful gave too much (all) of the burden to the lowest class. Those people were left with a difficult choice, pay the taxes and forgo necessities, like food, or suffer the punishment for not paying the taxes.

The current process of tax breaks, itemized deductions, and loopholes allow politicians to reinvent a disproportionate tax burden for the all-to-shrinking middle class who are too rich for government subsidy and too poor for investment-based loopholes.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Good for the Nation, but not good for NNY

When seeking the highest office in the land, you have to expect a primary. Many Democrats in NNY supported Senator Clinton as our own representative from New York. She has supported the region despite its red tint during her terms. Even as many people call for her withdrawal from the race, she still has strong support in NNY from people who understand that the primary process is still going (and people who remember when a convention actually meant something.) The Democrat's nominee will be stronger because of the chance to hone a message before the general election.

In the 118th Assembly district, a registered Democrat (though it won't be "official" until after this general election) is seeking a spot in a Democratic primary and must be given special dispensation from the Jefferson and St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee Chairs.

Sean Hennessey, JCDC Chair, stated, even before the petitioning period begins, that he supports Jefferson County candidate Addie Jenne Russell and would not approve Tim Currier's attempt for inclusion.

Mrs. Russell seems like a great candidate. I was completely impressed with her knowledge and ability to answer direct questions. I think, based on first impressions and second-hand knowledge, that she would be a very good, if not great Assemblywoman. This is not an indictment of her at all. That being said, I shouldn't (and neither should anyone else) have a singular say in this.

Isn't it a disservice to the 118th to unequivocally say no so early? You have no reason to say no other than that you can. I could understand it if Tim Currier couldn't garner support in Jefferson County during the petitioning process. That seems like evidence enough for the JCDC Chair to say for the best of the whole 118th and Jefferson County, I refuse to let Tim Currier on the line for a primary.

From what I hear, some in St. Lawrence County will see this move as disenfranchising. It will leave a bad taste in the collective mouths of many people in strong Democratic areas of the 118th where Tim Currier is known.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Democrat enough?

To respect the ground rules that I set for myself, I want to restate them. First, my purpose is to connect state and national issues to a local perspective. Second, I'm not making any specific political endorsements.

State and national campaigns are simmering for St. Lawrence County residents. Currently, the 118th Assembly seat remains vacant. Three candidates have stepped up to the plate seeking the Democratic party line, Macomb Town Counclilwoman Laureen O’Toole, Jefferson County Legislator Addie Russell, and Massena Police Chief Tim Currier.

I don’t know a lot about Councilwoman O’Toole and many Democrats in Jefferson County have come out in support of Legislator Russell, including Tim Kelly and Ted Ford amongst others, because of her strong credentials as an elected official and campaign worker with the Democratic Party.

The most interesting candidate remains to be Chief Tim Currier. This is where I get to look at a national analogy. Most recent national candidates work through party lines, endorsements, and primaries to come out with the nomination. If a candidate is running outside of the two major political parties, then they try to keep their independent status, the way that Ross Perot did or they align themselves with a minor party seeking exposure as Ralph Nader did.

Some people find that declaring their political affiliation would hurt their professional life. Some businessmen feel that the divisions of politics could hurt their desire to have a wide customer base. Other people hold positions where they have to work with politicians and need to be seen as above the influence of party in their professions.

General Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. It was a very public role. The name recognition set him up for a strong political career. Many people mentioned him for high national office, Senate, Vice-Presidency, even the Presidency. But because of his role as Chair of the Joint Staff and his necessity to work with elected officials regardless of political affiliation, Powell had no specific party affiliation himself. He has since declared himself to be a Republican and served as Secretary of State.

There are some similarities between General Powell and Chief Currier. The one glaring difference is in the political party, but the similarities seem most pressing. Both held positions where their career best interests required them to be labeled as apolitical. Powell worked with presidents from both main parties. Currier has worked with mayors from both. Not only did they need to do this for professional relationships, but they needed to do it to appear above any sense of favoritism in enforcement. Both made a transition and declared based on that transition. If I remember correctly, Republicans were happy to have General Powell join their ranks. Because of his moderate views on using military force while being heading the Joint Chiefs, many Democrats hoped he would join their party in the 1990’s.

I don’t remember anyone asking, “Is he Republican enough?” They saw him as well-known, fitting most of their values, able to be elected, and ultimately, a declared Republican. Chief Currier is known in part of the district (as is the case with most candidate), states that he hold the values of the Democratic Party, and has declared himself a Democrat officially. That will become official after the general election, and there’s the rub.

The last word lies with the two county committee chairs. Sean Hennessey has a very good, very viable candidate coming from his county, and allowing her to face a primary opponent who is seen as an outsider could be disastrous.

While seeking office once, I was informed that my opponent may have had a problem with his petitions. It wasn’t anything big like people signing more than once, names of celebrities or names taken from headstones. It had more to do with old forms and an incorrect date on the page. I was told that someone could challenge the petitions. That would effectively keep my opponent off of the Republican line if the challenge were upheld. I stated that I didn’t want to them challenged. I didn’t want to feel that my position was gained through legal semantics or a technicality. Elections gave the most people the best voice.

My advice to all of the democratic candidates, particularly Mr. Currier. Raise your profiles. Get out and speak out. Prove who you are as a person and a candidate. During the petition period, get as many signatures as you can from all across the district. If you can show your appeal to the entire 118th in the next few weeks it will go a long way in legitimizing your candidacy. I wish everyone the best. May we have the best representation we can when all is said and do