Friday, July 31, 2009
This month, Brookings took their report a step further, through the work of Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, Christopher Sands. Mr. Sands' report, "Toward a New Frontier Improving the U.S.-Canadian Border" looks at the challenges and opportunities along the northern border not only region-by-region, but from the perspective of five types of border users: commercial shippers, energy shippers, regular commuters, amateur travelers and illicit border crossers. A good summary of the findings of the report are at the link above (as well as a link to the report, itself).
We are working on bringing in someone from Brookings in the next couple months to engage in a discussion of what this report means to the Buffalo Niagara region, and more importantly, what can we do with the information. It is true that despite the work of our Congressional delegation, there is still much work we need to do in Washington to convey a clear picture of what a one-size-fits-all approach to both the nation's northern and southern borders has done - and is doing - to border communities. We must simultaneously build awareness and advocate for action - which is the mission of our chamber coalition.
More to follow on when this important discussion will be held.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
What does this mean for us here in Buffalo? It means that there will now be economic incentive to reinvest and redevelop in our urban cores - something the Partnership has advocated for as part of the Framework for Regional Growth. When it comes to development, it is far more cost-effective to start fresh, rather than restore old buildings. But we all know the importance of rebuilding, particularly in Upstate cities such as Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where blighted structures are an eyesore and keep valuable property off the tax rolls. Which means that there has to be something in it for the developer to encourage in-fill development rather than continuing to expand the region's development footprint.
The poster child project in our region for this legislation is the old AM & A's building in downtown Buffalo, but the hope is that this bill will open up hosts of other redevelopment opportunities, as well. Rehabilitation tax credits have been an effective economic development tool in other states – including Rhode Island, where the historic rehabilitation tax credit program is hailed as the most effective economic redevelopment program in state history, generating $795.25 million in economic activity and creating 11,000 new jobs.
We have advocated for this important piece of economic development legislation for the past two years, and are pleased to see it come to fruition. This is definitely a "win" for the Buffalo Niagara region and Upstate.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Partnership has been engaged in the process. Our staff coordinated with other Upstate NY metro chambers of commerce along the proposed "Empire Corridor" from Buffalo to Albany, crafting regional impact statements that will be included in New York's application for federal HSR stimulus funds. That package is being finalized this week, and I'll share it here in the blog when it's done.
The federal HSR program calls for $8B in discretionary grants. That means that the cash is not being awarded by any kind of formula, as infrastructure funding often is, but that the money will be spent on the projects that are the most strategic and most ready-to-go. It puts New York at an advantage, as the state has been developing a rail plan for some time - already working with industry consultants to plan the expansion.
Earlier this month, New York submitted 37 pre-applications for HSR projects totaling $8.4B - part of over 200 submitted nationwide totaling $105B. The President has made it clear that the stimulus funds are "a downpayment" on future funding for HSR, and the House and Senate have already expressed willingness to put up to $4B annually toward the program.
Currently, top speed from Niagara Falls to Albany is 79 MPH - the scheduled time for the trip is 4:55, though the average time is 5:44. This is due to delays in the Albany area, where there is a stretch with only one track - and trains must alternate use. A dedicated HSR line (up to 110 MPG) from WNY to Albany would cut the scheduled time to 3:51.
From the Partnership's perspective, the most exciting part of the HSR initiative is the connection from NYC and the east coast through Buffalo to midwest cities, and to Toronto. The logistics opportunities available to this part of the country will be substantial, and will go a long way to fulfilling the goals of interconnected, livable communities, environmental quality and economic competitiveness. We're pleased to be able to be a part of this historic process, and look forward to the submission of New York's application for HSR stimulus funds, which is due August 24. We'll keep you posted here in this blog as updates become available.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Advanced Manufacturing (This year, including Renewable Energy)
2009 Winner: Multisorb Technologies
2009 Winner: Perry's Ice Cream Co., Inc.
Back Office/Financial and Professional Service Operations
2009 Winner: Synacor
2009 Winner: Roswell Park Cancer Institute
2009 Winner: Sonwil Distribution
Nominations for Innovate Awards will be accepted until Friday, September 11. For employers, this is a tremendous high-profile opportunity to highlight the contributions you and your colleagues are making to our regional economy. All qualified nominees will be recognized by their peers as one of Buffalo Niagara’s leaders - the top three finalists in each category will be notified during the week of September 28th, and the awards committee will hold interviews with each of the finalists during the month of October.
Going forward, we'll be doing some more on Buffalo Niagara's target industry sectors - those are industries that for specific strategic reasons, our region has an edge and is growing or is primed for growth - in this blog, but for the purpose of Innovate, there is a nice cheat sheet on the Partnership's web site. If your company fits into one of these industry sectors and has a story to tell, Innovate is a great place to tell it. I encourage you to fill out a nomination form.
Friday, July 24, 2009
So, in essence, they did nothing.
Actually, that's not true. What they accomplished was refuse to create job opportunities for Erie County residents and refuse federal economic stimulus funding that our community desperately needs. All in the name of a political agenda.
Truthfully, they still apparently don't even really understand the issue, which is unfortunate. The official amended resolution itself speaks of "significant local tax breaks," which is completely inaccurate. As stated repetitively in this blog, there was NO cost to taxpayers in the original proposal. But facts aren't really important when making policy, are they?
There's a reason why similar legislation hasn't passed in Albany despite overwhelmingly Democratic leadership... Because it's bad policy. And when New York State government can't pull the trigger on a labor-friendly bill, you KNOW it's bad policy. Yikes!
I have to say, today's op-ed in the Buffalo News by the Working Families Party is one of the most well-written I've come across in the prevailing wage debate. Very practical, with none of the ranting and raving we're accustomed to about how awesome unions are.
Unfortunately, as has been the case throughout this debate, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue on the table. The prevailing wage debate has long been focused on "big business" versus labor, and this op-ed references "no-strings attached subsidies for corporations." Now, while the not-for-profits we're discussing here are, indeed, corporations, they're certainly not of the revenue-generating ilk that are consistently classified by labor as the "bad guys." These are organizations that fundraise, seek grants, beg and borrow in order to bring a specific service to the community.
Most importantly - and this is a point that labor is ignoring completely - these not-for-profits are not benefiting from a dime of taxpayer money. Not a dime. They're simply using the county's borrowing power to get a better rate - a savings that in many cases will determine whether or not they are cost-effectively able to move forward with a project. We're not talking small savings here - take Meals on Wheels' proposed project: A savings of 15% on a $7 million project is $1.05 million. That's a big difference. The question is why - especially since no taxpayer money is changing hands - should these organizations be subject to the high cost of labor-backed regulation?
Why is defense of prevailing wage immaterial in Erie County's current debate? Because legislation in Erie County that allows bonding for not-for-profit projects that also includes the prevailing wage regulation is moot - same as in Albany. It takes us nowhere. These projects do not move forward (see Ulster County's example) if the fundraisers for them need to raise 28% more to cover the cost of prevailing wage. As a result, no one - including the union folks supporting the prevailing wage argument - gets ANY jobs on these projects.
I've still yet to see the "research" mentioned in the op-ed that speaks to better productivity. In our view - the state's organized labor leadership has held up projects like Women's and Children's Hospital and D'Youville college for 18 months - projects that were in the pipeline in 2007 that today have yet to get a shovel in the ground. That's about the worst productivity we can imagine. The "cut off your nose to spite your face" attitude of labor is terrible for economic development, job creation and for growing the economy.
So, a well-written op-ed. But we can only hope that Erie County legislators aren't misled by the tangential distraction of labor-speak from the issue that is actually before them today, which is putting Erie County residents - their constituents - to work.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
But, since this committee meeting was turning into a public hearing, I took advantage and said a few words myself, representing those who choose job creation over political agendas. Here's Channel 7's story on the meeting. A special session has been called for Friday (tomorrow) at 3 p.m., though no one knows if there is any consensus among legislators.
Much of the labor lobbyists' argument focused on the merits of prevailing wage in New York State, and why taxpayers' money should be used only to yield what they're calling "quality" jobs. Problem is - that's not what this issue is about. There is no taxpayer money involved - this proposal simply allows not-for-profits strapped for cash to use the county Industrial Development Land Corporation's (ILDC) bonding power to get better rates on the money they need to borrow. Why should that subject them to costly labor-backed regulations?
In addition, the philosophy of prevailing wage is not what's at stake here. It's the fact that prevailing wages will cost the not-for-profits more than they'll save on the bonding. It's simple math - these projects are not going to get done because the not-for-profits will not be able to afford them. In fact, given that prevailing wage adds 28% to the cost of a project and the bonding savings through the ILDC would amount to about 15%, in many cases the prevailing wage stipulation would make it cheaper for the not-for-profits to just go-it-alone.
It's a different argument than when we're talking about public-funded projects. With those, government can just raise taxes to cover the cost of prevailing wage rates - which advocates of prevailing wage would say is the right thing to do (we, of course, have a different opinion). But these not-for-profits can't arbitrarily raise revenues, so absorbing government-imposed regulatory costs is not doable, and good community projects and the jobs that come with them die.
This would be a great time to call your county legislator and tell them to get these projects moving.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Buffalo News emphasized its support for this legislation on today's editorial page, and their points are strong - right now, we need people working more than we need to waste time bickering about organized labor's pet issues. It is irresponsible for the state legislature to have sat on IDA legislation that would allow projects such as schools, hospitals and senior homes to commence. It would be equally irresponsible for the Erie County Legislature to do the same. County Executive Collins' frustration is not misplaced.
"Well, then add prevailing wage," the unions will say. Which gives a false impression that moving these projects forward at any cost is a viable solution. It's not. Prevailing wage adds 28% to the cost of the project. The incentives for an organization through the IDA or the ILDC save about 10-15%. The math isn't difficult - such legislation that includes prevailing wage will do nothing to move those projects forward, and truthfully may nix some of them altogether.
Here's a breakdown on the type of work that is being sacrificed by legislative district, should this legislation not pass:
District 2 - Legislator Tim Kennedy
Meals on Wheels - 100 James Casey - $7MM
District 3 - Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams
Tapestry Charter School - $8.5MM
Enterprise Charter School - $6MM
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus - Several projects cost TBD
District 5 - Legislator Kathy Konst
Gow School - $5MM
District 6 - Legislator Maria Whyte
D'Youville College - $22MM
Buffalo State College - Project cost TBD
District 7 - Legislator Betty Jean Grant
Women & Children's Hospital - $65MM
District 11 - Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli
St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute - $11MM
That's a total of at least $124.5MM in projects on which Erie County residents can be working. It is difficult for us to understand how a representative of the people can keep their constituents out of jobs to fulfill a special interest agenda - especially when a large percentage of those jobs will likely go to union workers! Who are we serving? Is all of this just an effort to appease union leadership? Because it's sure not helping the working men and women of Erie County.
The Legislature should pass this legislation as soon as possible to take advantage of federal stimulus money the investment will leverage. Every elected official says their goal is to "create jobs" (though it seems many of them forget they said that when it comes to policy-making). This is an opportunity to do so.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
An oft-quoted piece of political lore - at the end of the movie "The Candidate," a newly-elected Robert Redford turns to his adviser and asks "What do I do now?" - is a theme that holds forever true in the balance of politics/government. There's a big difference between saying what you're going to do and doing it. Regardless of how you get your message across to get elected - whether it be Satish Mohan's self-financed full-page Buffalo News ads or a party-backed get-out-the-vote effort - implementing your reform program once you're in office requires entirely different skills. Good ideas aren't quite enough.
You have to love the phrase "I am not a politician" coming from someone running for office - if you're running, haven't you inherently become a "politician"? It's particularly strange to admit that during a campaign when one of the definitions (dictionary.com) of "politician" is: "a person skilled in political government or administration." Isn't that the kind of person we would actually WANT to be representing us?! Skill in government involves being able to work with people - and that includes people from the party opposite of yours. The steamroller approach rarely works in America's system of checks and balances.
Unfortunately, since the word "politician" is demonized, people don't understand what it means. Take County Executive Chris Collins, for example. The people of Erie County elected him fairly overwhelmingly - what we in the business like to call a "mandate"... Get something done. But across the street from him in Erie County Legislature chambers is an unfriendly 12-3 opposite-party majority, much of which is beholden to the special interests that he was elected to fight. The solution: campaign against them and try to win a more friendly legislature in this year's elections. If he does that, he'll be labeled a "politician" (the horror!). But that's truly the only way for him to implement the change that we voters elected him to implement (at the same time electing nearly the entire legislature back into office!).
Voters deserve much of the blame: Raise your hands - how many of you absolutely detest New York State government, but vote to re-elect your state assemblymember and senator every two years? Actually, you don't have to answer - we know... A lot of you. On paper, voters taking different perspectives when voting for various elected officials is probably good for checks and balances, but it goes a long way to maintain the status quo. And the status quo is (1) not a good environment for public servants with worthwhile and necessary reform ideas; and (2) is the playground of special interests. If government isn't willing to make major change for the greater good, it's not difficult to find coalitions that will forward specific agendas.
Of course, from the Partnership's point-of-view, this News piece speaks volumes as to the challenge of recruiting candidates. The theme is posed right there in the article - why would anyone not beholden to special interests run for office if they can't get anything done anyway? Well, that's where becoming a politician comes in - and for business people, who are used to building professional relationships, it might just be accepting the fact that you CAN be a politician that can be the road to success as an elected official. It's been done before.
Monday, July 20, 2009
The New York Times reported last week that the "card check" provision of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has fallen by the wayside. In an effort to bring more moderate Democrats into the fold to support this pro-labor legislation, unions have backed off of the most glaringly un-American portion of the bill - the piece that would remove private ballot from the organization process. This is good news, and we have to say we're pleased that enough U.S. Senators across the nation rightfully saw card check as a bad thing.
The battle, however, is far from over. "Compromise" proposals on the table still include mandatory arbitration if the employer and union can't reach a contract in 120 days, now coupled with other methods of easy organization - including "quickie" elections and on-site access to employees for union organizers. For us, none of these proposals are acceptable - in fact, for many, the arbitration piece was by far the most noisome component of the original EFCA - and we will continue to lobby against any form of this legislation.
You can get involved, too. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has effectively led the nationwide effort to defeat EFCA, and continues now with the broader message to shoot down any number of "compromises" that continue to surface. You can send a message to our U.S. Senators with your opposition to EFCA today.
With a successful effort to make Washington understand how burdensome and un-American the card check provision was, it will be incumbent on the business community to demonstrate the same about any new proposals - and especially about the arbitration issue. Government exerting THAT much control over the private sector is not something our forefathers envisioned.
Friday, July 17, 2009
But things emerged from these three days, wonderful things, types of things that have little immediate effect but are integral to any long lasting, substantive progress. We all know how great this area is.
Almost no one "wants" to leave Buffalo, but "has" to leave for various reasons. Over the course of this week I had the privilege of interacting with a variety of groups who are trying to structure this affection for our city into an organized and concerted effort to economically, culturally, physically and numerically grow Buffalo. Buffalo Niagara 360, Buffalo2032, The B Team, Leadership Buffalo, and a host of others are committed to the prosperity of Buffalo, particularly its younger residents. I am thirty-one, and I know this city is where I’ll continue to spend my days. But I also know that I am one of the lucky ones who get to spend their days advocating and working on behalf of a region I love. This is why I implore all of Western New York’s students and young professionals to embrace this area, recognize its assets and believe in its future."
- Jack Quinn
Member of Assembly
Check out a video detailing this event at the Partnership's YouTube channel.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
From our perspective, we love it (here's our letter of support). It's creative, and it proposes a solution to a state-inflicted problem that has no visible end in sight. For the last 18 months, "civic facilities" projects - including hospitals, schools and senior homes - in New York State have been unable to progress, with the authority for IDAs to financially assist in these projects ripped away in a political battle in January, 2008. That's a total of about $2.3 billion - that's BILLION - in projects statewide that are being held hostage; including about $124 million in Erie County alone. That's a lot of work for a lot of people who could use work during this recession.
Who's holding it up in Albany? Well, organized labor insists that it won't support the restoration of civic facilities without the state attaching costly prevailing wage mandates onto IDA-incentivized projects. The state assembly has gone home for the year without addressing this issue (there were bills before them with prevailing wage and without prevailing wage), so at least for the time being, no solution to put people to work on $2.3 billion - did I mention that was BILLION? - worth of projects is coming from Albany.
To the County Executive's credit, he found a local solution, which he tried to move quickly through the County Legislature for a reason. You see, for that $2.3 billion in statewide projects, a tremendous opportunity for federal investment is available through stimulus funding - funding that New York State is currently abandoning while other states are taking advantage. It is a good solution, empowering local government to supersede a dysfunctional state government.
But, of course, here comes labor again. An amendment was presented this morning to add prevailing wage, apprenticeship, and project labor agreement requirements to the initiative. Which leaves us exactly where Albany is: trying to make people believe that not-for-profits - struggling themselves in an economy that isn't exactly thriving - in order to receive the 10-15% savings in construction costs that IDAs (or in this case the ILDC) can offer them, will accept a 28% increase in costs caused by the regulations. We just don't get it, do we?
There will surely be more debate on this issue, and we'll be lobbying for passage of the legislation. Of course, first, we'll be lobbying for passage of the Morelle/Stachowski state legislation that reinstitutes civic facilities on a statewide basis (without wage mandates), but we like the creativity from the administration on the local level. I worked for the Erie County Legislature for 4 1/2 years as press secretary, and I can assure you that there are not a ton of opportunities for county legislators to take a specific action that will allow them to quantify on their campaign literature, "I created jobs in Erie County." This is one they should jump on.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
twitter.com/AndrewRudnick - President and CEO Andrew Rudnick
twitter.com/BN360 - Buffalo Niagara 360 young professionals program
For more information on which Partnership communications may work best for you, or to get involved in guest blogging and video opportunities, please contact email@example.com today.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This year, similar legislation (A.8374/S.5073) has popped up again, and once again has passed the state legislature. Now before the governor for his signature or veto, this legislation, if enacted, would change the definition of a determination of financial crisis in the City of Buffalo, which would in effect provide the most direct path for the "control" board to become an "advisory" board. Here's the Partnership's letter urging the governor to veto this legislation.
On the most basic level, nobody wants a control board in place in the City of Buffalo. But we want the reason for the non-existence of a control board to be that the City is financially stable based on good fiscal decision-making over an extended period of time. Not because of a political agenda.
It's true that the City is in much, much better shape than it was in 2003 when the state put the control board in place. A lot of credit goes to the City's leadership - particularly Mayor Brown - for implementing cost-saving practices. But you can't discount the efforts and conservative guidance of the BFSA - including the wage and hiring freezes that were very effective not only in saving money, but in spurring reform and streamlining of departments.
The premature departure of the "control" board would leave a number of fiscal items up in the air - including labor contracts that are currently being negotiated. It is difficult to justify yanking the checks and balances on the contracts (which make up 82 percent of the City's expenditures) in the middle of the talks? In addition, the Buffalo School System - which is covered by the BFSA - has a extremely difficult financial challenges imminent.
Love 'em or hate 'em, the BFSA has been a benefit to City of Buffalo taxpayers, and is in a position to finish its important work before relinquishing its "control" over to the City. There's no reason to rush that change, particularly with a host of fiscal issues still on the table.
Monday, July 13, 2009
"Most people in New York aren't even aware of this radical group and think our state is run by Democrats or Republicans. That is no longer the case. The New York State Working Families Party is a textbook example of the tail wagging the dog."
"With a 98% re-election rate in New York, legislators fear the Working Families Party far more than voters, and it shows."
"No one is forcefully challenging the free-spending orthodoxy promulgated by the Working Families Party today, so New Yorkers for Growth is stepping forward to do it."
We certainly believe there's some truth to all of this. In general, for many of our advocacy issues to cut the size and cost of government, to deregulate business and to promote entrepreneurism and job growth, the WFP is actively on the other side of the issue. They've found success by using state political law to a tremendous advantage, as New York is one of the few states left in the union that use "fusion voting" - which allows candidates to run on more than one line (that's right - in most other states, you won't see candidates representing the Republican, Conservative AND Independence lines on the ballot!). Sometimes you'll hear it described as "cross endorsements." Since the WFP has secured one of these lines in New York each November, they can dangle the votes an elected official receives on that line their face throughout their term, hoping to influence policy votes. In fact, on the NY WFP web site, they basically explain how fusion voting is their secret weapon.
The interesting thing is that the WFP really can't be "stopped" - as long as they secure enough votes every four years in the governor's election (which, of course, they will continue to do - they are a well-oiled machine), they will remain a party - without a change in state law. Unfortunately for us New York taxpayers, it's an awful lot of power that's been taken by a small group of people, by percentages. Which is why over the past few years they've been able to raise extensive publicity and momentum for such anti-business issues as mandated health insurance, wage mandates and the "fair share" tax, which is a potentially lethal attack on small business.
We're curious to see the follow-up from New Yorkers for Growth. In our opinion, a PR campaign against the WFP won't work - they're too good at what they do, and, truthfully, someone without a line on the ballot telling an elected official that someone WITH a line on the ballot is not good for the state is a tough sell. Ultimately, it's fusion voting that's the issue - which is one of many issues that need to be dealt with in a NYS Constitutional Convention. We're all for giving everyone in the state a say, but fusion voting gives special interests a leg up. Kudos to the WFP for doing politics better than everyone else, but if we want change in Albany, we need to fix the system.
Best of luck to Mr. Faso's group. There are links on the web site if you want to get involved.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Last night, the new Senate was able to accomplish a few things pertinent to our efforts. First and foremost, it extended the Power for Jobs program - check out this self-applauding quote in the Senate Majority's statement... "By passing the Power for Jobs extender, the Senate Majority protected over 300,000 jobs." Clap, clap, clap. Standing ovation. This, of course after five weeks of making it quite clear to the nationwide economic development community that job-creating state incentive programs come second to the quest for political power in the eyes of state government.
The Senate also passed legislation changing some terms of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Act, more succinctly defining what counts as a Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority (BFSA) "success" - in the determination of whether the control board should remain hard, or become an advisory board. It changes the Act's language to gauge only the savings derived from the BFSA's taking control of bonding and debt service, and not the savings to the city resulting from other actions, such as the wage and hiring freezes. In our opinion, those actions - and other tools available to the BFSA - have been essential to bringing the city to its current financial state. We'll likely be supporting a veto of this legislation, which has already passed the Assembly, by the governor.
On a positive note, the State Senate also amended legislation enabling communities to utilize tax increment financing (TIF) to match the Assembly's TIF bill sponsored by Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. This is a key, no-cost economic development tool that many other states utilize, and is specifically useful in brownfield redevelopment. Marrying the two houses' bills has been a challenge to date, so last night's action on this bill is a positive step forward.
It is likely that the State Legislature will be called back into session shortly to deal with other issues - beyond the "non-controversial" agenda from last night - including the growing budget hole (now said to be between $2-$3 billion). Unshackle Upstate released a statement today reminding Albany that the state's financial problems must be addressed through better solutions than taxes and regulation. As I said, hopefully the last five weeks will make statewide reps think a little more carefully and creatively about their approach to the state's economic situation.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Lots of issues related to this:
(1) Former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Richard Ravich has already been sworn in - despite the questionable legality of his appointment in the first place. Any action he takes right now to us is akin to the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate both holding sessions and passing bills - it would be completely meaningless pending a court decision on his legitimacy.
(2) The lieutenant governor has the authority to break a 31-31 tie on a vote in the State Senate. However, that doesn't speak to a leadership vote, because neither side has 32 members to call the session to order. The LG can't be that 32nd member of either caucus, so neither side can actually legally bring legislation to the floor for the LG to break a tie. In truth, most of the "non-controversial" items we're talking about as stalemated here - i.e. Power for Jobs, sales tax extensions - most likely have better than 32-vote support in the Senate once the vote is called, so a tie-breaking vote by an LG won't be necessary. Even if the maneuver proves to be legal, it won't really do anything to end the standoff.
(3) Most importantly from our point-of-view... Even if it is rhetoric, and even if it does turn out to be illegal - the governor couldn't find someone from Upstate?! How many times and ways can we be reminded how irrelevant we are? There's not anyone from Upstate that could've been chosen to pretend to be LG for a couple weeks until the courts say it's illegal? Hell, even float a few Upstate names to the media as "being considered"? This is a downstate mess - directly caused by two NYC senators and heavily influenced by the ineffectiveness of NYC-based Senate leadership. We're apparently just along for the ride.
What's still blatantly absent is the push for a long-term fix - though I have to give credit to Assemblyman Robin Schimminger for raising this issue in a Buffalo News column yesterday. Of course, Albany's forte is not addressing the problem at the source.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
It's too easy to get caught up in the dysfunction in Albany and forget about the dysfunction in Washington. This week - yes, in July - the ballot counting in Minnesota concluded and Al Franken took his place as the state's junior senator. From a political perspective, Franken - a labor-backing Democrat - taking the seat is huge, as he is now, with Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-PA) defection earlier this year, the Democratic caucus' 60th vote. That 60th vote provides a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats.
For our purposes, the Minnesota election results could have a dramatic impact on the debate in Washington over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), AKA "card check" legislation. As it stands right now, a number of Senate Democrats have voiced their concerns about EFCA - particularly in the current economic environment - and negotiations for some kind of compromise are taking place behind the scenes. Hopefully, that will be enough to stop the bill as a whole, but from what we've seen of the compromise proposals - all of which are based upon part or parts of the EFCA legislation as a whole - we need to keep up the advocacy to make sure the 60th vote doesn't turn into "stepping stone" legislation for labor.
Couple interesting reads about EFCA:
- Still can't get the other side to talk about the merits of the legislation (mainly because there are none!). Check out a Teamster's best persuasive rhetoric about EFCA. Warms your heart, doesn't it?
- Card Check has already proven to be a failure - here's Canada's take.
Now would be a good time to get involved if you haven't already (if you have, do it again!) - join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's advocacy effort in opposition to this ridiculous, un-American legislation.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Aubertine, who is a possible candidate for departing Congressman John McHugh's seat in New York's North Country, is one of the "Upstate 5" targeted by Unshackle Upstate earlier this year as a possible vote against the state budget. Of course, he did not (nor did the other four) come through with a "no" vote, and allowed the budget to pass.
Now, a lawsuit. I suppose that wasting MORE taxpayers' money is preferable to walking into Senate chambers with the other side for a dozen non-controversial but important votes. This is where we learn who the effective politicians are - I would contend that if you're not going to do something to positively move the situation forward (such as voting), just stay out of the limelight. This guy wants to be a Congressman?! And the most productive thing he can come up with in this situation is a lawsuit?!
Aubertine's quote in the story is priceless - "He said anyone who would consider challenging the suit 'is clearly putting politics ahead of people.'" No, Mr. Aubertine... That's what you're doing.
This quote is good too: "'The hundreds of businesses enrolled in the Power For Jobs program with more than a quarter of a million employees across the state need this legislation signed into law. Taxpayers in my district and across the state need these home rule bills enacted,' Aubertine said in a statement." To us, if Power For Jobs is so important, it's worth swallowing some pride and voting on it legally with 31 other senators - regardless of their party.
My mother always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." That's a good lesson in politics, too. Not that we condone saying nothing right now - that's as big a let-down to the taxpayers of New York State. But if you have aspirations for higher office, and the best you can come up with is a lawsuit... just holster it - because now your name is attached to the futility, and you've done absolutely nothing to move the situation forward.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Now, though, as the July 1 deadline on a number of issues has passed, the political speculation and intrigue has passed, and the power struggles are getting tiresome. While we still contend that in many cases, no action by the state legislature is the better course of action, there is still business to get done.
Late last week, Unshackle Upstate weighed in on the impasse, urging passage of "non-controversial" bills. Labor also joined in the chorus. In essence, no one is benefitting from what's going on in Albany.
The Power for Jobs (PFJ) program, with July 1 having passed, is probably the poster-child for casualties resulting from the disarray - the important economic development program expiring while the senators bicker over leadership. Over 500 employers statewide - including 94 companies employing over 16,000 Western New Yorkers (Buffalo News, 6/23) - that have counted on the PFJ program are currently in limbo. Actually, they're not even in limbo because the program has officially expired, and can't be renewed without a functioning State Senate.
Here's the ridiculous part - there is bi-partisan support for the renewal of PFJ. But not one member from either side has gone into the Senate chambers to vote for important legislation. They're forgetting where their allegiances should be lying - to the taxpayers that put them in office. The people employed at those 94 WNY companies whose jobs may be on the line don't care about whether Pedro Espada, Dean Skelos, Malcolm Smith, John Sampson or Hannah Montana are in charge of the State Senate - they care that the people's business is getting done. All it takes is one senator to be a hero.
The silver lining in all of this (hopefully) is that it will make New York voters really step back and take account of their state government - something that hasn't happened in a long time.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Buffalo Niagara Partnership Congressional Briefing Series
Hon. Brian Higgins- June 30, 2009
Check out the Partnership's newest means of communicating to the public and our members, by adding our YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/BNPartnership to your list of favorites.
Stay tuned for more news and information about the Partnership via this video channel, and for members interested in guest video blogging, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Founding Members are generously supporting the start up of the program and our Strategic Partners are working closely with us to further expand our networks and program offerings. Our electronic and print media sponsors are capturing our best moments and getting the word out about BN360. Since last October, we’ve hosted an event almost each month, beginning with the launch party in the Electric Tower. That night, over 500 people came to celebrate young and successful professionals. Since then, young professionals and senior leadership have mingled and networked with one another over a variety of events, including Executives Unplugged and two Lunch and Learns.
At our Advocacy Boot Camp, they learned the importance of advocacy and being knowledgeable on the issues that affect our professional and personal lives in WNY. At our Emerging Workforce Panel and Networking Event at Canisius College, we brought students and employers together and spread the word about our growing industries and the job opportunities available within them. We did all this through our monthly e-newsletter, our Facebook page and LinkedIn group.
In Year 2 we’re giving even more value to our 360’ers, starting now by cutting membership rates in half. Movers will be only $25 a year, Shakers will be $50. Plus, Movers and Shakers will now pay nothing to come to our events. Thinkers, however, will have event fees (all the more reason to join!). We’re planning five major events starting with the Anniversary Party on September 17th to bring you professional development and networking. We’ve also got more plans for the fun stuff, too, through our “Going Out” committee, charged with creating our “Ambassadors” program, setting up sports leagues and finding cool places for happy hours. Our “Professional Development” committee is helping us identify even more execs to network with and is helping to shape the content of some of our bigger events. And, we’ll be launching Coffee and Careers, a small series of informal conversations around career development topics.
Want to learn more? Keep tabs on the website, join our listserv, become a member, renew your membership, join a committee, and send us your blog submissions. Thank you for believing in BN360 and see you in September!