Guilderland – The website issue

It’s not the biggest issue, but the incumbent town board candidates (Dave Bosworth and Mike Ricard) claim that they have improved the town website. It’s new and improved, now interactive!!

Baloney. The site is not interactive. It’s guilderland.org – check it out for yourself.

I’m more qualified to improve the town website. I said this in a recent post in more detail, but just check out my blog. I incorporate photos. In the last post I even embedded a YouTube video. I’m not saying this is difficult, but I did do this myself. Ricard and Bosworth can’t even put together their own websites. If you do a Google search for them, you find my pages about them.

They claim the town website as one of their biggest accomplishments. If that’s the best they can do, I hope voters will see I can do better than they have done.

Ron Paul using my “Stop Wasting Money” message :-)

Ron Paul starting running some TV ads in New Hampshire. In the second ad (below) he talks at the end about how we should stop spending trillions overseas.

I’m pleased to see this. My campaign theme in 2004 (and my TV ad) was about how we should stop wasting money overseas. In fact, it’s the topic of my second post on this blog, from back in July of 2006.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay4vXZWxeuU]

I’m not saying he stole the idea from me. What’s great about Ron Paul is he’s been saying this for many years. I did start on this kick during college in Texas, and come to think of it, he’s from Texas, so maybe he did steal it from me. Nope. Just kidding. Go Ron Paul!

Guilderland – Vision, open government and economic development

The Guilderland election is fast approaching – voters will choose on November 6th.

Our opponents have criticized us for not putting forward our “vision” for Guilderland. Like much of their other criticism, this is nonsense.

I speak for myself on this, though I think my running mate (Mark Grimm) agrees with much of the vision I set forth here. We have been talking about these things for the entire campaign.

First and foremost, we will change politics in Guilderland. The current administration hides what goes on in Town Hall. We had to dig to find out what they have been hiding. Through FOIL requests and research at other agencies, we have found all kinds of insider dealings – Ricard’s lowball assessment and zoning break, and Bosworth’s non-profit funnel. All of this is described in detail on the Guilderland NY website.

Mark and I will push for truly open government. Town information, such as the budget, should be available online. The Town has finally put the budget online, but only because of Mark’s efforts. The budget they publish is barebones, inaccurate, and difficult to understand for most people (including for me).

The contrast between them and us is shown in the Town website. They trumpet their success in creating an “interactive” website. The town website (guilderland.org) is not interactive. There is not much information. For an example of a really good municipal website, check out this one for the Township of Brick, NJ. I know something about websites. I’m building a Traffic Court directory site that is used by over 40,000 people a month (and growing rapidly). My law firm website and my blogs are visited by thousands more. If elected, I will push for a more informative and truly interactive website – one that allows citizens to comment and to encourage discussion.

Notice that both Mark and I have websites, and that we have a joint campaign website as well. Bosworth and Ricard have no websites at all. If they have a vision, they are certainly not making it accessible.

Another stark contrast is economic development. The current administration has no interest in this. They are pandering not merely to the NIMBY (not in my back yard) mentality, but even more to the BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) and NOPE (Not On Planet Earth) attitudes of the extremist fringe. The town’s “Economic Development Director,” Donald Csaposs, spends his time sending letters to the local paper attacking us and posting outrageous comments on local blogs such as on the Times Union website. Look around Guilderland and try to find where he has improved economic development in the town. You won’t find anything.

Take a look at the area around the former Bumble Bee Diner and the former Polito’s property:

The area shown in the picture has a number of properties that were developed many years ago. Nearly all have failed and have been vacant or grossly underused for many years. This could be called suburban blight. The current administration has no vision for how to revive such properties. We do have a plan.

This area has two features that make them ideal for development. First, they are already developed. Redeveloping them does not require cutting down trees or otherwise disturbing an existing natural habitat. Second, they are on a state highway (Route 20) and at or near an intersection with a second state highway (Route 146). If any area of town should be zoned to allow greater commercial use, state highways and their intersections are the most appropriate.

This area is perfect for sensible commercial use. The zoning code should be amended to allow more choices for property owners in a spot like this. By saying this I am not saying that we allow for unrestricted use. Zoning can allow for more uses, but with sensible restrictions.

For example, car dealerships could be allowed, but with restrictions designed to limit their impact on the community. Done well, this would lead to low-volume dealerships that create little traffic but still allow for development.

Commercial development is a good thing for our town. A vibrant commercial sector improves the tax base and generates revenue from both property tax and sales tax. It also leads to more services being available for town residents. Some of us don’t like that we have to go to Schenectady or Latham to buy a car and get it serviced under the warranty.

Currently, commercial development is concentrated on the eastern end of town. In particular, the town is very dependent on Crossgates for tax revenue. The mall is not doing all that well, and the town is woefully unprepared for the possibility that it might fail – which would dramatically reduce the tax base as well as sales tax revenue. This would lead to a large increase in taxes for everyone. Encouraging sensible economic development in the rest of town would make our tax base more stable.

The same idea for sensible growth applies to the western stretch of Route 20. Concerns about protecting views led to zoning that allows for no commercial development at all. This is foolish. Commercial uses should be allowed. The viewshed should be protected by appropriate setbacks and height limitations. Development in this part of town will not create traffic problems. As those who commute to Clifton Park know, the heavy traffic volume goes the other way. These businesses would create westbound morning traffic and eastbound evening traffic – the opposite of the current rush hour flows.

These are just a part of the vision. We have talked a lot before about fair tax assessment and fair zoning – eliminating the insider deals. There’s more. We should protect the Pine Bush by zoning for the environmental concerns now, rather than waiting until objectionable developments are proposed. I hope to put this in more detail in a future post.

Guilderland Town Board – Redux

I went to the Guilderland Town Board meeting tonight, and spoke during the Public Comment period.

Trying to force a debate, I put it right to Mike Ricard. He had made his bold vow to debate anywhere on any topic. I reminded him of this, saying that I wanted to debate in Town Hall, and on the topics of fair tax assessment and fair zoning.

I then asked him to name three dates. He did not respond. Supervisor Runion intervened on his behalf, saying the comment period is not for political grandstanding. I asked Runion to explain this “protocol.” Was he saying that Ricard was not allowed to answer my question?

Runion gave another mumbo jumbo response. I asked again if Ricard was not allowed to answer. Runion said that I was correct, that Ricard was indeed not allowed to answer.

This is just amazing. A sitting legislator allowed someone to tell him he was not permitted to respond to a question from the public.

I want to assure Guilderland voters of one thing. If I am elected to Town Board, and a member of the public asks me a question, I will respond. I will not hide behind anyone else.

Times Union bias continues

For more on the bias of the Times Union, see this Times Union Local Politics blog post.

Notice the unkind references by the reporter:

“especially the dirt he and … Mark Grimm say they have dug up on their opponents”

We never said it was dirt, and we don’t just say it. We back it up with evidence and make that evidence available for anyone to read (on the Guilderland NY website). Apparently that’s too much heavy lifting for him to actually read something and analyze it.

He also refers to us as “the dynamic campaigning duo.” When we criticize our opponents for refusing to debate, he refers to it as our “latest gripe.”

He writes that I read “to a crowd at a Town Board meeting.” He wasn’t there. There was no crowd. The town board members and other staff, and maybe 6 or 7 others.

He quotes from the “poem” I read at the Town Board meeting. Where did he get the quote from? From my diary post on Democracy in Albany.

Ron Paul, George Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Steven Wright

We went to a Steven Wright stand-up comedy performance last night. [The part about Ron Paul, George Bush, and Hillary Clinton is below.]

For those who are unfamiliar with him, Steven Wright is a very odd comedian. I remember him from 20 years ago, saying some very strange and funny things with a completely deadpan delivery. The one quote that stands out the most is: “It’s a small world … but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” There was something else about “powdered water … but I didn’t know what to add.”

Last night was similar, though he occasionally laughs a little and connects with the crowd a bit. He also did a little bit of guitar playing and singing – always for comedic value though he held a tune and sounded better than I would.

He says things that are surreal, bizarre, and often quite deep and intellectual. Last night he said something about “forensic astronomy.” I didn’t even hear the whole joke and I just started laughing. There was something else about HD ADD — High Definition Attention Deficit Disorder. Something about it being the same as regular ADD, but when they get focused on something they really get focused. Then there was the very simple: “The earth is bipolar.”

I have my own “joke” inspired by Steven Wright – it’s not a traditional joke with a punch line. Just an odd thing. I sometimes refer to a family member as “my identical twin cousin.” That’s it. Okay, not much of a joke.

My cousin and I look very similar, much more like each other than like our respective brothers. Our hairlines are both receding, but he’s 10 years older so he’s a little further back. And to be fair, he is the better looking one.

Anyway, on the way home I thought about how Steven Wright relates to presidential candidates, and in particular, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and my favorite, Ron Paul.

Ron Paul believes what he says. His supporters believe in him and in what he says, and that’s why we love him.

George Bush believes in what he says, but doesn’t understand any of it. His supporters don’t pay much attention to what he says. They believe in him and that’s why they love him.

Hillary Clinton (along with most politicians) says what the voters want to hear. She understands all of it but doesn’t care. Her supporters believe in what she says and don’t care if she means any of it because they don’t love her.

Steven Wright doesn’t believe anything he says, and doesn’t care if anyone else believes it. His audience doesn’t believe anything he says either, and that’s why we love him.

Times Union bias goes to 11

The Times Union has taken its anti-challenger bias to a new level. One courageous blogger has been criticizing the TU and its bias for some time now, on the Albany Media Bias blog. I haven’t blogged about it in this campaign until now, but they took it way over the top this morning.

We have been raising significant issues with the incumbents — sweetheart assessments, abuse of taxpayer money through a non-profit, zoning breaks, and of course their refusal to debate.

The TU ignored these stories. I was used to that part. This is consistent with their general policy of ignoring challengers, while writing the occasional story about incumbents.

To the extent that they covered it at all, they minimized the criticisms as “snippy attacks”. See their September 14th article, for example – the only example.

The pro-incumbent bias roared out on October 2nd with this article, which is also available here.
In these articles, the TU printed a completely uncritical story reporting what the incumbent Town Supervisor claims is no tax increase, with a very positive headline. All of it is, of course, inaccurate. The reporter was well aware of our criticisms of this very issue, but did not mention them nor did he contact us for a comment.

This happened one month before the election, and came out about the same time as the incumbents’ advertising claiming that they have not raised taxes.

The article opens with the following quote: “For the eighth consecutive year, the town’s proposed budget does not contain a tax hike.” It then continues with: “Runion … said his administration has controlled overall spending to prevent tax increases throughout his tenure.”

Ahem. Town spending is up 70% since 1999, more than double the increases seen by other area towns like Colonie. That’s according to the State Comptroller (a Democrat no less). Unless you’re drinking some kind of special Kool-Aid, you should know that spending doesn’t go up 70% without taxes going up too.

In fact, taxes have gone up. The morsel of truth in the story is that the tax rate is staying the same. But the tax base has gone up dramatically as the town has increased tax assessments. Thus town revenue from property tax is up dramatically since 1999. Taxes have gone up, even though the rate has stayed the same.

The article also says: “Guilderland’s infrastructure doesn’t need improvements now ….” This is in direct contrast to our campaign contention that the town has neglected Tawasentha Park and its pool. And again, this is just one month before the election, and while both sides are getting their message out. The TU is actively reinforcing their message and criticizing ours.

In today’s article (I’m not linking because the link will probably change) they really went over the top. They criticize us for complaining about the lack of coverage. Some quotes from the article:
“They claim that one of their Democratic opponents … won’t debate them …”
– It’s not a claim. It’s verified by the League of Women Voters and by e-mails written by our opponents themselves. And it’s not one of our opponents, but both of them. And they’ve done it for each of the last three election cycles (2003, 2005 and now 2007). All well documented and backed by evidence – but reduced to merely a claim. They also refer to our claims of improper dealings by the incumbents without any reference to the mountains of evidence.

Then they make this statement: “Gripes like these are common during an election season, but that doesn’t make them news.”

Apparently our gripes against the TU’s lack of coverage (in e-mails to the reporter and editors) is news, but the campaign issues themselves are not news.

Here is a quote from the reporter’s e-mail to me during a conversation about this:

“This is not a political story. There have been no tax increases in Guilderland and it’s my job to explain why. I know it doesn’t fit in with your political campaigning, but these are quick hit stories that look at the budget. They’re not the forum for political opponents to campaign.
My job is to write about what readers care about and they are concerned about their taxes a lot more than your campaign.”

A friend of mine calls the paper the Times Useless, but this is incorrect. The Times Union is very useful for incumbents.

Guilderland Debates

With the Guilderland Democrats refusing to debate, yet again, I created a page on the Guilderland NY website about the Guilderland debate issue. It has all sorts of details and quotes. The quotes are mainly from e-mails from the League of Women Voters, Dave Bosworth, and Mike Ricard. There are also links to articles from the Altamont Enterprise.

Guilderland NY – What’s Going On?

I haven’t done a Guilderland campaign update in a while. The ballot problem seems to be past, and I will be on the November ballot. I hope all readers will vote, and tell a few friends to vote as well. While you’re at it, lie to them and tell them I’m a nice guy. :-)

I’ve updated the Guilderland NY campaign site. I added a few links to provide more information about our positions on the issues, as well as pictures of our opponents (Mike Ricard and Dave Bosworth) and more information about them.

I previously uncovered the details about Mike Ricard’s assessment. More recently, Mark Grimm exposed Dave Bosworth’s improper dealings. Finally, I reviewed the documents underlying the illegal variance given to Mike Ricard. We back all this up with facts. Check out the links above and see the photos and documents.

Ricard and Bosworth have refused to debate us. I wrote a poem about it — Mike Ricard where are you now? — inspired by Ricard’s promise in August to debate anywhere on any topic, and also by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). I read it at the last Town Board meeting and actually got a few chuckles. The best line, apparently, was:

You tried to knock me off the ballot
But did not have the proper mallet

There’s more to come. While a number of people read this blog and/or the Guilderland NY campaign website, we will reach to all voters in more traditional ways as well.