Lessons From CGR Redistricting

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI’ve had “one person, one vote” (OK, “one MAN, one vote”) drummed into my head since the 4th grade. Yet this didn’t apply to many legislative elections until the mid 1960s. Congressional seats, while allocated to states according to population, were distributed within the states many different ways. Only in a series of decisions handed down between 1962 and 1964 did the Supreme Court declare that Congressional and state legislative districts had to contain roughly the same number of residents, basing its decision on the “Equal Protection Clause” of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
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Cash for Clunkers: Good Politics Trumps Good Policy – Again

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI sent my Nissan Quest to the crusher for a lousy $4,500.  Yes, I could see into the engine compartment without opening the hood—but it ran like a top! Now the feds will have their way with my car. Some minion will replace its engine oil with sodium silicate and fire up the unsuspecting engine—until it seizes up, never to run again. It’s the automotive equivalent of “hung from the neck until dead.” What have I done?

As cars fly out of the showroom and the dealerships are clogged with eager buyers, many of us are questioning this bit of Washington wisdom.

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Something’s Gotta Give: New York in Crisis

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.

Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.

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In the future, Rochester NY is a community where “we’re on our own”

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester City Newspaper.

Kent GardnerThe Rochester community confronts problems that will test the mettle of our leaders in coming decades. Our core challenges persist and others will emerge, yet help from external sources will become scarce. We are thrust back on our own devices, thus on the ability of our leaders to forge community solutions to community problems.

The City of Rochester will continue to struggle with its central economic problem: too many school dropouts and too many graduates who are ill-prepared for further schooling or a career. There is no challenge more difficult or more important.

  • Students who leave school without the tools to earn a living for themselves and their families face a lifetime of struggle.
  • The economy trades a contributor for a dependent.
  • The city’s economic vitality will be limited by an ill-trained workforce and a crime rate that is fueled by desperation, resentment, and disillusionment.

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Can you hear me now?

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerBack in 2002, CGR reported on the many buildings around the state bearing the names of elected officials. To illustrate our point, we included a picture of the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium at Hudson Valley Community College, built with $14 million contributed by the generosity of then Senate Majority Leader Bruno. Of course, he was being generous with OUR money.

Bruno Statium

Bruno Stadium

In hindsight, it was risky to use the Bruno example. A political friend told me what he’d have done to me had he been on Bruno’s staff. Standards of decency and editorial policy prevent me from saying more.

A lot of money flows to community projects through the goodwill of legislators. The NYS Legislature has long divvied up $200 million in “member item” cash—money from the annual budget that can be allocated by a member of the legislature with no more process than the permission of his or her political leader. In 2006, my colleague Erika Rosenberg reported that the problem extended to several billion dollars in additional money that was borrowed to fund projects sponsored by individual members. We called these funds “Capital Pork.”

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