Welcome to the Finger Lakes! Our theme song:

In a town this size, there's no place to hide
Everywhere you go, you meet someone you know...
In a smokey bar, in the backseat of your car
In your own little house, someone's sure to find you out
What you do and what you think
What you eat and what you drink...

(Kieran Kane)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Phish at the Glen

Grateful Dead arrive at Watkins Glen, 1973
Big weekend show to replace cancelled Indy Racing League event, local businesses breathe sigh of relief:
The rumors surrounding a Phish concert at Watkins Glen International were put to rest Thursday afternoon with an announcement that the jam band will hold a major three-day music festival at the storied racing venue.
The event, called Super Ball IX, will be the group's ninth multiday festival. It will be held July 1-3, the weekend that in past years has seen Danica Patrick and Helio Castrovenes race IndyCars at the track.
The band will play multiple sets during the weekend, said Ryan Lake, senior public relations manager at WGI.
Tickets, which will sell for $200 each for the entire weekend and include onsite camping, go on sale Monday and can be purchased online at www.superballIX.portals.musictoday.com.

New York drops tax on low priced clothing

J.C. Penney, 1975

New York State will again eliminate its sales tax on clothing and shoes selling for under $55.  State Senator Mike Nozzolio has notified South of 5 and 20 that wearing clothes will no longer be considered a luxury in the Empire State:
In today's economy, many more families are struggling to buy basic clothing and shoes for their everyday needs.  
Beginning April 1st, the State of New York will once again exempt clothing and shoes from New York State sales tax.  I fought hard to re-establish this exemption, and am very pleased it has been reinstated. This sales tax exemption will apply to items that cost under $ 55.00 and will remain in effect until April 1st of 2012, when the exemption will be raised to $ 110.00.
Before you rush to the outlet mall, remember that  most counties will still hit you for 4%.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The energy speech

We know you want to hear the official South of 5 and 20 reaction to the "energy policy" speech.  Since this is a family blog, we better refer you to Syracuse's Lonely Conservative for thoughtful analysis:
President Obama unveiled yet another version of his so-called energy plan today. The problem is it’s not so much an energy plan as it is a plan to boost sales of the unpopular and overpriced Chevy Volt; to pay off political donors with sweetheart loans and subsidies; and to drive up the price of energy. In delivering his message he also managed to lie about and vilify the oil industry while mocking millions of Americans.
Couldn't have said it better ourselves.  Have a drink, or two, then read the whole thing.

Cartoon by Gary Olsen.

Thinking of hiring an employee?

For the convenience of Finger Lakes small business owners who might be considering employing somebody, here's an informal, and not necessarily complete, list of the forms you'll need to prepare and submit to various authorities:
  • Form SS-4 Application for Employer Identification Number (EIN) (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4.pdf) – Your business must obtain an EIN if you have employees or will file for other taxes such as excise taxes.
  • Form NYS-100 New York State Employer Registration for Unemployment Insurance, Withholding, and Wage Reporting (www.tax.state.ny.us/pdf/2002/wt/nys100_1002.pdf) – To be filed when you become an employer.  You will be assigned an Employer Registration Number, which is separate from your federal EIN.
  • W-2 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw2.pdf) – Form stating wages and withholdings made for an employee throughout the year.  A copy is sent to the employee, the Social Security Administration, the IRS, the NYS Department of Taxation, and to county/local governments that have an income tax such as New York City.
  • W-3 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw3.pdf) – Similar to the W-2, filed with the Social Security Administration
  • W-4 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf) – Form filled out when an employee starts so that their employer knows to withhold the correct amount of taxes.
  • W-5 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw5.pdf) – Employees eligible for the Earned Income Credit may file this form to get an advance on their credit.
  • Form NYS-45 Quarterly Combined Withholding, Wage Reporting, and Unemployment Insurance Return (www.tax.state.ny.us/nyshome/efile_addnys45.htm) – State form to be filed quarterly.
  • Form 940 Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f940.pdf) - Required if you had cash wages greater than $20,000 or employed 10 or more workers throughout the day for 20 or more weeks in the year.
  • Form 941 Employers Quarterly Federal Tax Return (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f941.pdf) – Required to report wages paid, tips received, federal taxes withheld, Social Security and Medicare withholding, and advance EIC payments for non-farm workers.
  • Form 943 Employers Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f943.pdf) – Form 941 for farms.
  • Form 1099 (instructions www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1099msc.pdf) – Must be furnished to people who received $600 or more in non-employee compensation throughout the year.
  • Form 945 Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f945.pdf) – Used to report income tax withheld for non-payroll wages.
  • Form 4029 Application for Exemption From Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Waiver of Benefit (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4029.pdf) – Certain members of religious organizations (generally Amish or Mennonite in agriculture) may file this form to exempt themselves (and their employer) from Social Security and Medicare taxes.
 Make a mistake and you could end up in jail.  

Government regulation favors big business over small business. That intimidating tsunami of paperwork might be easier to handle if your HR operation is outsourced to a contractor in India.   Next time your local politician is telling you how she supports small business, ask her to run through this list with you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New York vs. Wisconsin

Jammie Wearing Fool makes an astute comparison between  the left's reaction to Democrat Governor Andy Cuomo's education budget cuts, and those of Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker.  First, our new budget agreement:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is being lauded for announcing a $132.5 billion spending plan that closes a $10 billion state budget gap. Yet it's casually noted that to get there he has chopped $1.2 billion in school aid while not raising taxes.
Then, recent developments in distant Wisconsin:
Walker's budget cuts state school aid by $834 million over the next biennium, a 7.9 percent decrease. That accounts for about one fifth of proposed cuts in the budget.
Compare and contrast:
Now suppose a Republican governor chopped $1.2 billion from education in New York. The UFT and NEA would already be marching on Albany warning of impending doom and telling us how much Republicans hate children. The ubiquitous Hitler signs would be everywhere, the capitol would be under siege, the president would tell us the governor is attacking teachers and national media would descend like locusts to show solidarity.
Indeed.  We suspect the Wisconsin mayhem was provided courtesy of the Democrat party's 2012 presidential campaign.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Royal wedding fever sweeps colonies

Royal swells

South of 5 and 20 has always been puzzled by our fellow Americans' fascination with the British royal family. The latest example is our national swoon over the upcoming wedding of Price Somebody and the good looking chick.

We suspect our contrymen's strange obsession could be explained by a lack of basic knowledge on how we, the luckiest people in the history of the earth, came into this unprecedented good fortune.  That same royal family, we should recall, exploited our ancestors to the breaking point, causing King George's oppressed subjects to risk everything for the American experiment.  At Pajamas Media, Rick Moran shares our concern:

Patriot's Farewell, 1776
 What is it about royalty, especially British royalty, that causes otherwise rational Americans to get all mushy-headed and weepy, not to mention taking a decidedly unrepublican interest in the scandalous doings at the palace?
We might as well call it “King George III’s Revenge” given how much blood we shed to throw off the rule of kings and substitute the rule of law. Poor George never got over the loss of his colonies, going to his death a blind madman. I’m sure he would be comforted to know that the descendants of those rebels now sit in front of TV sets for hours, consumed with getting every last morsel of fact and fiction that can be wrung from stories about the immoral, depraved, and usually silly doings of people whose only claim to fame is that they were born to one of the richest, most dysfunctional families in England.
John Armor relates those long past "times that try men's souls" to our current predicament:

If You Liked King George, You’ll Love Barack Obama

Friday, March 25, 2011

Left attacking college sports

Duncan, Obama

With the NCAA basketball tournament in full swing, our ruling elites seem to have launched an attack on one of America's last remaining meritocracies.  On March 17, without any constitutional authority, Obama's hand picked Secretary of Education, the annoying Arne Duncan, proclaimed his desire to regulate college basketball.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says schools not on track to graduate at least half of their basketball players should not be allowed to compete in the NCAA men's and women's tournaments.
If such a standard were in place now, three women's teams and 10 men's teams, including traditional powers Syracuse and Purdue, would not be in the tournaments
Central New York's basketball coach reacted quickly. 
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim calls Duncan's proposal "completely nuts."
Unlike almost any other area of modern life, college sports rewards the best, based on wins and losses, period.  Coaches and athletic administrators struggle to put the country's best student-athletes on the the court or on the field.  If a coach were to select a point guard based on anything other skill and ability, he'd soon be looking for another line of work.

You certainly might wonder if your surgeon got behind the scalpel strictly due to her talent and skill, or whether the fact that the governor appointed her uncle to the board of the state university played a role in her admission to medical school.  Yet, politicians still can't influence a basketball player's free throw percentage.  The most powerful of our self anointed elites cannot influence outcomes of college basketball games, and at this time of year that must be driving them nuts.

Now, we suspect not coincidentally, radical leftist Ralph Nader has joined the attack.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader is calling for the elimination of college athletic scholarships, saying the move is necessary to "de-professionalize" college athletes.
"As we near the exciting conclusion of 'March Madness' -- which would more accurately be described as the 2011 NCAA Professional Basketball Championships -- it's time we step back and finally address the myth of amateurism surrounding big-time college football and basketball in this country," said Nader, whose League of Fans is proposing that the scholarships be replaced with need-based financial aid.
Need based financial aid, of course, is subject to all sorts of political and ideological  agendas.  It's no surprise that Obama, Duncan and Nader would prefer elitist control.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Schumer: no due process?

Back in Mr. Kolb's U.S. History class, we learned that our government can't punish citizens without those citizens first being found guilty of something.  Due process, evidence, the right to confront one's accuser, all that stuff from 1776. We're not surprised, however, that New York's senior senator, who apparently never learned the three branches of government, doesn't know about due process, either. 

The Finger Lakes region is full of aging hipppies who've voted Democrat since the voting age was 21.  Those "dayglow freaks who used to paint the face" might want to reconsider when they find out that Chuck Schumer thinks their personal habits should be grounds to suspend their constitutional rights, absent the aforementioned due process.  Per the Daily Caller,
Get collared years ago on a bogus drug charge because the oregano in your back pocket looked like (it) was a bag of weed? Or maybe a judge back in 2006 dropped those charges because you were able to provide proof for that Adderall prescription? Under proposed legislation, it will not matter if you were innocent all along or even proven innocent by a court of law.
Either way, you can forget about buying a gun.
The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 would greatly expand the definition of those legally prohibited from owning firearms to include anyone who’s ever been arrested — even if never convicted or found guilty — for drug possession within a five-year period.
Yes, Schumer is sponsoring a bill to deny Second Amendment rights to a class of citizens who have never been convicted of a crime.  We suspect many of Chuck's loyal voters might find this a bummer:
Under Schumer’s bill, the definition of a “drug abuser” would include anyone with “an arrest for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past 5 years.”
That's an arrest, not a conviction.  New York needs a new senator.  See The Dogcatcher Project for the latest on Amity Shales.

Elizabeth Taylor, RIP

Elizabeth Taylor passed away today in Los Angeles at 79.  She appeared in over fifty films and won two Academy Awards for Best Actress.

More photos at the Daily Mail.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"the Detroit pattern"

Detroit's abandoned Northeast High School

The Obama administration seems to be following what might be called "the Detroit pattern"— increasing taxes, harassing businesses, and pandering to unions. In the short run, it got mayors re-elected. In the long-run, it reduced Detroit from a thriving city to an economic disaster area, whose population was cut in half, as its most productive citizens fled.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cashing in on NY's fracking ban

On Sunday the NY Post called for the State of New York to lift its moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and let natural gas drilling proceed.  In its pro drilling editorial, the Post points out who is really benefiting from the drilling ban:
Hard-core lefties and environmental groups say the process — which is banned only in New York — contaminates groundwater.

But those claims are refuted by the official state geologist, who calls them “exaggerated” and says he’s found no evidence of such contamination in three years of study.

“This could really help us fight climate change,” said Dr. Langhorne “Taury” Smith, who works for the State Museum, in an interview with an upstate newspaper. “This is a huge gift, this shale.”

On the other hand, the controversy over the shale, he said, has been a gold mine for environmental groups — which have raised funds by alarming folks about the alleged dangers of hydrofracking.The legislative ban, which was passed after lobbying by the Working Families Party and MoveOn, would’ve not only prohibited the horizontal drilling method, but also the vertical one, which has been used for decades without opposition.
MoveOn is financed by George Soros.  George Soros is invested in Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras.  And US taxpayers are lending billions of dollars to Petrobras to finance offshore drilling in Brazil (but South of 5 and 20 readers already know all that - ed).  Barry Obama is in bed with MoveOn.  And while in Brazil this weekend, President Obama took time out from vacationing and starting a war to pledge big US purchases of Petrobras oil.  

If that's not enough reason to start drinking, the Post points out an additional shady character who stands to profit from the drilling ban:
It also had the strong support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
No surprise there — as The Post first reported in January, Silver’s law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, holds regular “forums” in gas-drilling states, searching for clients interested in suing natural-gas developers.
Bold added.  We suspect that Cuomo and the state employee unions are so desperate for cash that Andy may indeed defy the Soros/Obama/Silver gang and lift the drilling ban.  Get the popcorn ready.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Weekends off with pay

Cornell University's Professor Bill Jacobson notes a pattern to Obama's travel  plans, and provides examples.  The Professor's concise post at his nationally prominent Legal Insurrection blog:
 I have noted before the tendency of Obama to drop political bombshell's on a Friday just as he was leaving for a trip abroad or vacation, including: November 13, 2009, when the administration announced that the trial of Khalid SheikhMohammed would take place in NYC; and August 13, 2010, when Obama announced his support for the Corboda Mosque near Ground Zero as he was leaving for vacation.
Yesterday, after an abrupt change earlier in the week in U.S. policy of non-intervention in Libya, Obama held a press conference in which he boldly threatened military action in Libya.  That same day, the CBO released a report showing our deficit to be far worse than the administration had previously acknowledged, with even Democrats complaining about Obama's unwillingness to become active in budget discussions.

The same day Obama harrumphed about military action and the CBO pulled the mask off the budget, Obama took off for Brazil and South America, leaving us to deal the the mess he leaves behind.

Another Obama Freaky Friday.
We're still waiting for the Ithaca Journal to profile Ithaca resident  Jacobson, who at this point may have more readers then the Journal.

Sycamores chopped

Despite Indiana State's best efforts, SU wins 77-60.  Next up, Marquette on Sunday, 7:40 pm.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It was on the Isle of Capri that I... shut off your lights

Indian Point

The Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River provides 30% of the New York City area's electricity.  New York City governor Andy Cuomo wants to shut Indian Point down.  New York magazine reports:
As Japan frantically tries to control a worsening nuclear crisis, Governor Cuomo is stepping up calls to shut down Indian Point, the nuclear power plant that provides a third of New York City's power.
In the same NYM post, we learn more about our friend-of-the-working-man governor:
As a show of commitment, Cuomo was even willing to come back from a ski vacation this week in the Adirondacks to issue a statement. On Tuesday, as state lawmakers fielded lobbyists asking for relief from budget cuts (and the world appeared ready to implode), Cuomo took his daughters skiing, followed by some time at Saranac Lake. According to Us Weekly, the lake is First Girlfriend Sandra Lee's favorite vacay spot, along with the Isle of Capri. (bold added)
Ah, the Isle Of Capri.  Sun, sea, beautiful people, and nuclear electricity.  
(Italian) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has made nuclear energy a key part of his platform despite widespread public opposition even before Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
He argues it will cut bills and boost Italy's independence.
"We cannot allow a new fear, not at this stage. Turning back is unimaginable," Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani told reporters.
Rome wants to start building nuclear power stations from 2014 and to produce a quarter of its electricity with atomic energy by 2030.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Penn Yan school district to raise taxes, lay off teachers, and pay big bucks to double dipping superintendent

Penn Yan Academy, 1959

Should a Finger Lakes business attempt to raise prices while at the same time reducing services, customers would quickly take their trade elsewhere.  However, the Penn Yan Central School proposes to do just that:

If the Penn Yan School Board approves the 2011-2012 budget presented to it on March 9, the number of school staff posts will be reduced by 22.5 full time positions, class sizes will increase,  fewer courses will be offered each year, some programs and courses will be eliminated and the total property tax levy will increase by 2.88 percent.

The quoted Chronicle-Express article lays out the facts as presented by the school district.  Let's take a minute to look behind the story.  Some statistics harvested from the districts's own website and Education.com, organized for the convenience of South of 5 and 20 readers:

3 school buildings
13 administrators, including superintendent, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, assistant principals
1,770 students
10 students per full time teacher equivalent
$17,683 dollars per student, proposed budget

The US Census Bureau reports the median household income in Yates County, home to the Penn Yan school district, is  $41,577 (2009).  Household income is defined as the sum of mom's salary, dad's salary, Junior's lawn mowing money, and any other income they can bring in.  That said, what are those households paying their employee, the school superintendent?  Once again, from the district website:
On December 8, 2010, the Board of Education of the Penn Yan Central School District approved the appointment of Thomas A. Cox as Interim Superintendent of Schools.   Mr. Cox retired in 2005 as the Superintendent of Schools at Gananda Central School District.  Since that time, he has served in several interim positions in the region.  
The District’s application for temporary employment of Mr. Cox under Section 211 of Retirement and Social Security Law and §80-5.5 of Commissioner’s Regulations has been approved.  In accordance with Retirement and Social Security Law, Mr. Cox is entitled to receive a pension while so employed.  He will be compensated at a per diem salary of $495 per day for the anticipated period of employment from February 5, 2011 through June 30, 2011. (bold added)
We'll leave it to intreped readers to track down the amount of Cox's taxpayer-provided pension, but we suspect it's somewhere north of $41,577 per year.  And that's guarenteed every year for the rest of his life.  As a retiree, perhaps Cox could pitch in by volunteering his services to the district, rather than accepting $495 per day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

End of the rainbow

Thanks to Parker and Hart.

Obama thinks you drive a tank

1959 Cadillac: 18 mpg!

The mainstream media's complicity with the Obama administration is often reflected in questions not asked.  For instance, was anyone surprised when the subject of the Wisconsin union riots was never mentioned during Obama's Friday news conference?  

Debra Saunders has analyzed Barry O's Friday boilerplate, and noticed something else none of the crack reporters in attendance thought to question:
At Friday's news conference, President Obama tried to connect with the common man coping with rising gasoline prices. Instead, the president left little doubt that he is clueless about cars.
"You may want to buy a fuel-efficient car," quoth Obama, "but you may not be able to afford it. And so you're stuck with the old clunker that's getting 8 or 10 miles a gallon."

Eight to 10 mpg? Which clunker would that be? I wondered. An old Hummer? Your father's father's Oldsmobile? A late-model Lamborghini? It takes a luxury brand, a boat-sized machine and/or a few decades to approach those dismal mileage numbers.
An 11-year-old Pontiac minivan, for example, gets 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway.
You have to go back to the Carter administration years or earlier to find Obama's idea of a gas-guzzling family car -- and even that vehicle would have been a van, light truck/SUV or luxury model. And yet he is behind the wheel of Washington's energy policy.
Can you blame me for believing Team Obama was pushing the pedal to the metal in a rush for higher gas prices?
It's clear to Ms. Saunders, as it should be to all Americans, that high gas prices are part of Obama's plan for national declineWhen you talk with your elected representatives, make sure they tell you what they're doing to fix this today.  And you are planning to talk with them soon, right.....?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Congress geting vapors over nukes

Clean coal, Lansing, NY

Professor Reynolds notes the anti-civilization forces' predictable reaction to the Japan earthquake, and asks the key question:
JAPANESE EARTHQUAKE CAUSING antinuclear folks to get frisky. I’d say that members of Congress should take a time-out — and maybe, you know, pass a budget — before they start trying to pass new laws on nukes. They should also explain where the energy is going to come from if we can’t drill for oil, can’t burn coal, can’t dam streams, can’t put windmills where they might spoil a Kennedy’s view, and can’t build nukes. Vague allusions to “green power” don’t count.

Is there gas in the car?

1969:  Owsley (hat), Garcia

Owsley Stanley, believed to be the inspiration for Steely Dan's  Kid Charlemagne, has died in a car crash in his adopted home of Australia.  Owlesy was thought to be 76 years old.
While the music played you worked by candlelight
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
You turned it on the world
That's when you turned the world around
Did you feel like Jesus
Did you realize
That you were a champion in their eyes
On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
But yours was kitchen clean
Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home
Every A-Frame had your number on the wall
You must have had it all
You'd go to L.A. on a dare
And you'd go it alone
Could you live forever
Could you see the day
Could you feel your whole world fall apart and fade away
Get along, get along Kid Charlemagne
Get along Kid Charlemagne
Now your patrons have all left you in the red
Your low rent friends are dead
This life can be very strange
All those dayglow freaks who used to paint the face
They've joined the human race
Some things will never change
Son you were mistaken
You are obsolete
Look at all the white men on the street
Clean this mess up else we'll all end up in jail
Those test tubes and the scale
Just get them all out of here
Is there gas in the car
Yes, there's gas in the car
I think the people down the hall
Know who you are
Careful what you carry
'Cause the man is wise
You are still an outlaw in their eyes

Friday, March 11, 2011

Obama to explain gas prices

Remember gas lines?

Gasoline and heating fuel costs are hammering Finger Lakes family budgets.  Many of us believe high energy prices are part of the administration's plan for national decline.  

Barry O. will set us straight on gas prices today.  Go to Lonely Conservative for a roundup of the insanity:

This Ought To Be Good – Obama To Address Rising Oil Prices

Thursday, March 10, 2011

$1,000 tote bag

Madame Obama's blue tote bag.  $990 at Reed Kraoff.  Expensive, sure, but she'll save a nickel at Aldi's.

Thanks to Keith Koffler.

Finger Lakes town requests ambulance proposals

1956 Cadillac

Last week we advised Finger Lakes municipalities to embrace privatization of services, citing the Villlage of Minoa's plan to get out of the ambulance business.  Today the Ithaca Journal reports that the Town of Ulysses is requesting proposals from private sector EMS providers.

Ambulance service in the rural Town of Ulysses has long been provided under contract by the tiny Village of Trumansburg's volunteer squad.  As more demanding lifestyles made volunteer EMT staff harder to find, Trumansburg hired professional staff to provide 24-hour coverage.  

As goverment employees, the paid EMT crew quickly became very expensive and difficult for part time village officials to manage.  The volunteer service did not charge patients, adding to the financial stress.  When it was realized that many patients' heath insurance would pay for ambulance rides, a suggestion was made to begin billing for services.  This led to a protracted battle between  officials trying to deal with massive costs and local leftists who view free EMS service as the first step toward 100% government provided health care.

After years of debate and legal fees, Ulysses Town Board member Kevin Romer is leading an effort to consider privatization:

The town board will send out a request for proposals to provide ambulance and emergency medical service to ambulance providers to get a clearer picture of what the disparity in annual costs is between the Village of Trumansburg's EMS service and commercial providers such as Bangs Ambulance...
At the board meeting Tuesday night, board member Kevin Romer said the request for proposals is for comments only and to allow EMS providers to give feedback about their expectations of ambulance service. Romer said the village has so far been uninterested in privatizing, even if it would save money.
"All this is just to get information on what it would cost (for a private company to provide ambulance service in town)," Romer said.
Romer said Bangs Ambulance gave him an unofficial rough estimate of $243,000 annually for providing ambulance service based in the village, while the village's total EMS budget hovers around $450,000, he said.
Romer said he's frustrated by how little progress has been made on the issue since he became involved. He said the EMS Task Force, a joint-municipal committee formed to solve the issue, hasn't even met in five months, although it does have a meeting scheduled this month. (bold added)
Many (but apparently not all) Finger Lakes taxpayers are struggling to keep their homes in the face of some of the highest property taxes in the country.  Yet even as those taxes increase every year, our local governments are reluctant to consider new ideas for providing basic services.  Part of the problem is that busy families are often unable to keep up with these issues, only to be shocked yet again when they open their tax bills.  This blog intends to raise awareness.  Please discuss with your neighbors.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Have a flexible spending account?

Are you one of the millions of Americans who use a flexible spending account to pay some of your health care costs?  If so, you're among the first to understand that Obamcare is really a huge tax increase disguised as the destruction of the world's best health care system.

Drs. Pelosi, Reid, and Obama's prescription is already unleashing a clown carload of unintended consequences.  Frustrated flex plan members, no longer able to use their pre-tax savings accounts to purchase common over-the counter medications, are asking their physicians to write prescriptions for common remedies like aspirin, decongestants and antacids.  Although it's only March, enough havoc has already ensued that the Wall Street Journal has published a lengthy article on the phenomenon:
Sandy Chung is grappling with a new kind of request at her pediatrics office in Fairfax, Va.: prescriptions for aspirin and diaper-rash cream.
Patients are demanding doctors' orders for over-the-counter products because of a provision in the health-care overhaul that slipped past nearly everyone's radar. It says people who want a tax break to buy such items with what's known as flexible-spending accounts need to get a prescription first.

The result is that Americans are visiting their doctors before making a trip to the drugstore, hoping their physician will help them out by writing the prescription. The new requirements create not only an added burden for doctors, but also new complications for retailers and pharmacies. 

"It drives up the cost of health care as opposed to reducing it," says Dr. Chung, who rejected much of a 10-item request from a mother of four that included pain relievers and children's cold medicine.

Though the new rules on over-the-counter drugs amount to a small part of the massive overhaul of the health-care system, the unintended side effects show how difficult it can be to predict how such game-changing legislation will play out in the real world.
We all need to know about this.  We're talking about aspirin today, but soon your pregnancies, heart stents and cancer treatments will  be included in the mayhem.  Read the whole thing, call you congressman, and tell your friends.

"The Cartel" in Seneca Falls Thursday

Americans for Prosperity, an organization recently attacked by Barry Obama, will present the important education documentary "The Cartel" on Thursday in Seneca Falls.  From AFP New York:
In Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, he declared that New York State ranks first in spending per student and yet ranks thirty-fourth overall in results.
It is not much better on a national level. American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy, behind almost all industrialized nations. Yet the U.S. was the biggest spender at 7.6 percent of GDP, or $1.1 trillion in 2007.
Obviously, we are failing our children in giving them the means to excel in the new global economy. And throwing money at the problem is not the answer.
On Thursday, March 10th, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. at Seneca Falls Library, 47 Cayuga Street, Seneca Falls, NY, there will be a public screening of The Cartel, a documentary that exposes the waste and problems in the public school system. VIEW the movie trailer!
You can register for this free-ticketed event HERE!

Mardi Gras 2011

French Quarter, New Orleans

More photos by Keith Marszalek.

New York's senators: on the job

Gillibrand at Saks Fifth Avenue, September 2010

Un/underemployment remains at a seemingly permanent 20%, a rapid rise in energy prices threatens to kill off what's left of the US economy, and dangerous lunatics in the Middle East are dragging us into another ill-advised war.  So let's check this morning's headlines to see which of these national crises are top priority for the Finger Lakes' US senators:

Democrat Chuck Schumer is focusing robberies of New York pharmacies, which are running at 1.6 incidents per month statewide, or 0.3 robberies per county per year:
Sen. Chuck Schumer wants people involved in selling prescription drugs on the black market to get the same treatment as mobsters.
The federal racketeering law that allows law enforcement officials to wiretap mobsters also would apply to the drug sellers, under a proposal backed by Schumer, D-N.Y., and several Democratic colleagues.
Our hottest senator, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, is fighting for nationalization of driving age regulations
New York should raise to 18 the age that people can obtain unrestricted drivers' licenses — and the rest of the country should follow suit, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand said Tuesday.
Mrs. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she is rekindling an effort in Congress to require graduated drivers' licenses nationwide, providing limited licenses until teens turn 18.
New York is already spending millions annually for an army of highly paid professionals to deal with both of these local issues.  Schumer is not our police chief, and Gillibrand doesn't work at the DMV.  These pompous twits should concentrate on defending the United States, while there's still a United States to defend.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Indictment in Valentine's shooting


A Seneca County resident charged with the Valentine's evening death of Sandra Marsh has been indicted for manslaughter

The Ovid man charged with shooting and killing a Lodi woman in her home on the night of February 14th – Valentine’s Day – was indicted by a grand jury on Monday.

Vincent Voorheis pleaded not guilty to second degree manslaughter. The 45-year-old is accused of recklessly causing the death of Sandra Marsh by shooting her in the throat with a 20-gauge shotgun.
The shooting happened inside of Marsh’s Grove Street home in Lodi just before 10 p.m. Valentine’s night.

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Finger Lakes districts looking to merge?

South Seneca Elementary

Belatedly waking up to shrinking enrollments and tapped out taxpayers, more Finger Lakes school districts are considering consolidation.  We recently noted discussion of a  Seneca County-wide consolidation.  This morning the Ithaca Journal reports another long rumored merger has moved closer to fruition:
Trumansburg Central School District officials are considering merger and resource sharing with the neighboring South Seneca Central School District.

Spurred by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's public push for consolidation of smaller school districts in New York, Trumansburg School Board President Douglas Ann Land and Superintendent Paula Hurley said at last week's school board meeting that they met with South Seneca representatives two weeks ago and began discussion of a possible merger of the districts and, in the nearer term, cooperation on joint services.
Struggling Finger Lakes families are forced to support way too many redundant school administrators.  Last week Governor Andy Cuomo, of all people, shined a light on superintendents' six figure compensation packages.  Consolidation will reduce administrative costs, starting at the top.

During the past decade, Central New York's dwindling private sector workforce has had to produce more while earning less.  Since the private sector is the ultimate source of all government revenue, its time for the public sector to get on the program.  Our government-run schools must learn to produce better results at lower cost, or get out of the way.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Democrat senators blame president for high gas prices

"Where is the president?" (John F.) Kerry asked in Portland, where gasoline is selling for as much as $2.31 a gallon. "We need a president who is fighting for the American worker, the American family at the fuel pump."
On Capitol Hill, a group of Democratic senators introduced a resolution calling for the release of 1 million of barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for up to 60 days, arguing that would force down gas prices. Said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.: "The administration insists on throwing fuel in the fire."
Those quotes are from an AP report written in May, 2004.

(We keep reposting this, because America needs to know. - Ed)

New solutions for municipal services

Tuxedo, NY, 1956

As awareness of economic reality belatedly sweeps the Empire State, every government service must make its case for continued taxpayer funding.  A case in point is provided by local "volunteer"ambulance services.

When smiling donors posed for the above photo in 1956, an ambulance was not much more than a horizontal taxi designed to rush victims to the emergency room.  Beyond basic first aid, little care could be provided at the scene.  While hospitals and funeral homes often provided ambulances to transport city residents, remote areas had to fend for themselves.  As suburbs grew, locals began to purchase their own ambulances, which could be staffed by volunteers who sprinted from their farm, factory, or storefront when called to an emergency.  

Inside a modern ambulance
Fast forward to 2011.  Medical technology has improved to the point where the ambulance has become a mobile extension of the hospital emergency department.  Ambulance crews now consist of highly trained medial technicians, regulated by multiple layers of government authority.  We all benefit from the most advanced emergency medical services in the world, but continuing to provide that level of service on a local, 24-hour, "volunteer" basis has become a challenge that is leading to the end of volunteer squads.

We place "volunteer" in quotes to reflect current reality.  Local ambulances and squad facilities are are often owned and maintained by taxpayers.  In addition, the difficulty of recruiting, training and retaining enough qualified volunteer emergency medical technicians had led some localities to hire full time EMT staff to assure 24-hour coverage.  Adding local government employees in today's environment defines "unsustainable".

As costs and taxes spiral out of control, Central New York municipalities are looking for new solutions:
The village of Minoa is investigating whether it would save money by eliminating its village-run ambulance service and contracting with another provider.

The village issued requests for proposals to several other providers, including EAVES, WAVES, NAVAC, Fayetteville, TLC and Rural Metro. The proposals are due today, and the village will decide what to do by next month, Mayor Richard Donovan said.

The village needs to cut costs, and this one measure being evaluated, Donovan said. Minoa is facing a budget gap of as much as $300,000, Donovan said. It already has trimmed many costs, he said.
Finger Lakes county, town and village governments must quickly move to privatization of basic services, or loose those services entirely.  Minoa's approach to ambulance service is the correct one.  Solicit several proposals, then ask community members to rip each proposal apart until the best one survives.  Precedents abound - in addition to providing ambulance service to Rochester, Syracuse and 400 other cities around the country, Rural/Metro Corporation also provides fire departments to 25 municipalities.  Indeed, readers may be surprised to learn that in "progressive" Ithaca, ambulance service has long been provided by for-profit Bangs Ambulance, Inc.

Jason Hart back on the hill

Jason Hart and family will visit the 'Cuse tomorrow, take in SU's Big East regular season finale vs. DePaul, then stick around for the team dinner on Sunday.  Bud Poliquin shares our admiration for the point guard from Los Angeles:
Pound for pound, was there ever a tougher Orangeman than Jason Hart, the 6-foot-3 guard? Was any SU athlete’s collar ever bluer than the one Hart buttoned day after day after day before reporting for work? You can ponder those questions until three minutes beyond forever, but don’t bother because the answers are no and certainly not.
And it is partly for those reasons that Hart -- after flying into Syracuse tonight and watching his first-ever game in the Carrier Dome as a civilian on Saturday afternoon when the Orange takes its swings at the DePaul piñata -- will accept the 29th Vic Hanson Medal of Excellence on Sunday evening during the annual team dinner at the Oncenter.
Poliquin summarizes Jason's career, from the beaches of Southern California to the tundra of the SU hill, and through the NBA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

GOP hopeful agrees with 5 and 20

Mr. & Mrs. Barbour

 The governor of Mississippi must be reading South of 5 and 20:
Mississippi Gov.  Haley Barbour, a potential presidential contender, accused the Obama administration Wednesday of favoring a run-up in gas prices to prod consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.
Barbour makes the case, as we did, that high gas prices fit Obama's vision of America's feudal future:
"This administration's policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive," Barbour said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast across the street from the White House.
In 2008, while the head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, (Obama's energy secretary Steven) Chu told The Wall Street Journal that energy prices were the lynchpin to an energy overhaul.
"Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," Chu said in September 2008.
If our country is to survive as we know it, the Republicans must nominate a presidential candidate who can win.  It's not yet clear who that would be, but by his stand on the vital energy issue Barbour has kept himself in the running.

Hillary's "200,000 jobs" located ...

... in Poland.

Back in the year 2000, when Hillary Clinton was wearing a Yankee cap and running for stepping stone to the White House Senator from New York, she won hearts and minds of Upstate voters by promising to bring us 200,000 new jobs.  As you may recall, we elected Mrs. Clinton, but Upstate continued to loose another 32,400 jobs before she bailed out of New York to become Obama's Secretary of State.

Surely the "smartest woman in the word" wasn't wrong about her ability to create jobs.  In fact, Mrs. Clinton is indeed supporting a wave of prosperity and job growth - in Europe!  Per the State Department's official website, "Offices reporting Directly to the Secretary, Global Shale Gas Initiative," Hillary explains how US taxpayers are supporting shale gas drilling ("fracking") in areas other than Upstate New York:
The Department of State (DOS) launched the Global Shale Gas Initiative (GSGI) in April 2010 in order to help countries seeking to utilize their unconventional natural gas resources to identify and develop them safely and economically. Shale gas is one of the most rapidly expanding trends in onshore U.S. oil and gas exploration and production.
To date, partnerships under GSGI have been announced with China, India, Jordan and Poland, with bilateral agreements possible with several other additional countries.
Yes, fracking jobs are on finally the way to a long neglected rural backwater - not in the Finger Lakes, however, but rather Nowa Wieś Lęborska County, Poland.
In the wide open Polish countryside, wind bends trees over towards the narrow roads and whistles against the side of a van driving along a weaving route to an emerging hot spot on the global energy map. “This is the county hall,” says host Ryszard Wittke, the mayor of Nowa Wieś Lęborska County. He points to an unremarkable building that badly needs a paint job. “It is going to get renovated,” he adds quickly. “And so is the road of death. They are going to start working on it in May.” Before his guests can ask if this rural lane is the one with the scary nickname and how it was earned, the mayor calls attention to a row of nice houses. “We do have some people here that are well off, you know,” says Wittke.
The affluent homeowners are not the majority. Not by a long shot. Formerly an area of many collective farms, Wittke’s county is poor even by Polish standards. The average income is the minimum wage of around 1,200 zloty a month or about $430. It seemed absurd to read the mayor’s prediction in a regional newspaper that the inhabitants of Nowa Wieś Lęborska County will soon live like the people of Kuwait.
But such bold statements, while possibly exaggerated, are rooted in fact. Wittke’s county is the site of Poland’s first exploratory shale gas drilling. One well, named LE1 Łebień, is being drilled by ConocoPhillips in co-operation with Lane Energy, a subsidiary of 3Legs Resources. With the notable exception of a drilling rig that had to be transported a long distance, the site was ready to go by late spring. It took 33 days to drill to a depth of 3,100 meters.
Follow the link above for excellent article in Alberta Oil Magazine.  

Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration are helping US and Canadian energy companies bring prosperity to Poland, while at the same time working hard to keep Upstate freezing in the dark.