Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Secession Chronicles

First it was the Upstate Republicans making their noises. Now the grunts are being heard from Long Island, as you might expect. There are three New Yorks, after all. (Or perhaps 19 million New Yorks…?) The MTA bailout has proven to be gasoline on this flickering little flame.

Article IV of the Constitution requires any state separation to be approved by the state’s legislature and Congress. [Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham)] said the matter is serious enough to attempt to bypass Albany lawmakers. “By its definition, an act of secession is a revolt and it doesn’t necessary adhere to all the laws,” he said.

Yes, I always wonder at people who say “But that’s not legal!” Of course it’s not legal, but laws are only as good as they are efficiently enforced. The breakup of the Soviet Union wasn’t legal either!

(For those keeping score, here’s the previously posted item about a proposed referendum on Upstate-Downstate separation.)

New Senate website

The state Senate has a snazzy new website (same old address). It’s a big deal for the new Senate Democratic majority, with some new features – but what about the minority senators? Are they getting the same bells and whistles on the site?

Judging from John DeFrancisco’s section on the new site, it looks like the answer is yes. There’s a “Featured Video” entitled “Senator DeFrancisco Blasts Upstate Democrats on MTA Bailout,” and what appears to be a blog post about “Bailing Out Downstate.” (The Republicans get a maroon banner, Dems get blue ones.)

And “Happening Now,” Senator Kevin Parker gets kicked out of the Energy Committee and stripped of his Majority Whip position, for allegedly assaulting a photographer.

Technology: bringing your government into the 19th 21st century.

Lead and arsenic in Syracuse community gardens

The Post-Standard has an important and very welcome front-page story today about elevated levels of lead and arsenic found in some community gardens in the city of Syracuse. (One of the beneficial side effects of the paper’s shrinkage: a front-page story really stands out and focuses the attention.) Although some of the contamination can be traced to street traffic and to homes that used to stand on the properties, a more sinister possibility is that the city simply provided contaminated dirt from construction sites elsewhere, for the residents’ use. Gee thanks!

“Sinister” is possibly too harsh a word for the crime of simply not thinking things through – after all, who really eats homegrown garden veggies except hobbyists? – but the specter of environmental racism is not exactly non-sinister. The comments at the Syracuse.com posting of the story (which I have linked to) are the usual mix of shadowy characters dismissing any whiff of racism in the community. So maybe it’s more helpful to use the term “environmental classism” than “racism” since that’s really the underlying issue that lurks.

If there are any smug suburbanites out there thinking something like this could never be a concern for them, they’d better think again. I’m not going to reiterate all the latest thinking about peak oil and the future need for locally-grown food or even subsistence kitchen gardens; but I really doubt many suburban residents in Onondaga County really know what’s in their own backyard dirt, or in the dirt they buy at the garden store. They do not know the history of their own patches of dirt. Don’t know who farmed it before houses were built, what was grown, what fertilizers (chemicals) used, or what might have been dumped there. Does anyone know what their own back yard looked like 100 years ago? (I’ve done some nitpicky research on the history of my burb, and I still don’t know what precisely used to be where my house is sitting.)

And yet, some of these same scoffing locals – if they’re not thinking about it now in the backs of their minds – will someday expect to get some kind of yield out of their future kitchen gardens. I have a feeling that 20 years from now, they will be asking the “lowly” city gardeners for a lot of serious advice on how to raise healthy food from poisoned ground.

No more Mr. Nice Guy

This is pretty unbelievable:

Former Schenectady city schools director of facilities Steven Raucci was indicted Wednesday on 26 counts, including terrorism and arson charges, one dating back to 1993.

Among the 26 allegations are two counts of first-degree arson and one count of terrorism, all top-level felonies carrying maximum sentences of 25 years to life in state prison upon conviction. Two of the charges relate to incidents already disclosed — placing a bomb that exploded at a Rotterdam home in 2001 and one at a Clifton Park home in 2006 that failed to detonate. The newest first-degree arson count relates to a 16-year-old case from Glenville. Raucci, 60, of Niskayuna, is accused of placing an explosive device on a picture window at a Willow Lane home in Glenville on April 10, 1993. The device exploded, shattering the window.

It took 16 years to get this guy under control?

It’s too bad he couldn’t have just embezzled funds or sexually harrassed employees, like a normal person.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid

The Syracuse International Film Festival finished its latest run this past weekend and there is good news!

The whole goal of the Syracuse Film Office is to get more films made in central New York — and it’s already making progress. “We had a Hollywood group, they were looking for a series of highways with overpasses, and they were looking for large buildings that weren’t skyscrapers, but large public-looking buildings,” says Christine Fawcett-Shapiro of the Syracuse Film Office.

Hollywood likes you just the way you are, Syracuse! Don’t knock down 81… it’s your best feature! (?!)