Monday, June 29 update

NYS update: If I only had a time machine, I would have loved to have seen people’s faces when they looked at this screenshot. “I can see it’s Andrew Cuomo petting Jabba the Hutt… but what’s with the Hitchhiker’s Guide reference?”

To the summit of Mount Corona with the flag! The governor is now relying on papier-mache stunts to get back into the media cycle just (checks watch) 10 days after he said he was signing off. (Thank God he didn’t task someone with producing a room-sized diorama of this.) The mounting COVID crisis in the hot states is having dramatic effects on people in the affected areas, yet you can tell it’s also having an effect on Cuomo’s more controlling instincts as well. It’s not as if these instincts are simply automatically “bad” — strong instincts can be beneficial. It’s just interesting to watch the Cuomonian way of things playing out.

Suddenly, the governor is laying down the law on fireworks, which isn’t a bad thing, especially because fireworks are not “just good clean fun”:

Spectrum News reports Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said it is investigating after someone opened the front door at a residence in New Scotland, New York, and tossed a lit firework inside Saturday night. An Albany County Sheriff’s Office worker was at the Albany-area home with his family, watching TV on the couch with his 4-year-old daughter, when the incident occurred around 10 p.m. The firework exploded and burned an area rug, Apple said. The employee and his wife were able to put out the fire with a pillow before it caused further damage.

So there is most welcome news that the state troopers are going to be patrolling our southern borders to keep those vile Pennsylvania products from being smuggled in. Oh, and I’m guessing that if they notice cars with certain out-of-state license plates, so much the better. The governor continued his musings on making the Empire State ever more impregnable later in the afternoon. The state that got threatened with a spanking because it wouldn’t comply with federal traveler ID rules is now contemplating stuff that seems just a few steps away from a visa.

Incoming air travelers to New York could soon be asked to fill out forms that would aid the state’s new policy on quarantines for people from locations where the coronavirus is still spreading rapidly. It’s unclear what information travelers would be asked to submit on the forms, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo described them as similar to the landing cards many countries use for international travelers. The cards typically gather basic information about where passengers are coming from, how long they plan to be in a country and whether they’re bringing in certain items.

Whether we like it or not, or have honestly mixed feelings about it, the combination of Cuomo and circumstances is certainly setting New York on a distinctive course for at least the next few years. It’s impossible to predict what happens next, but we’re either striking out in a good direction, or slipping down a gentle slope that leads to something bizarre.

Onondaga County update: CE McMahon does not use visual aids in his briefings, but here’s a depiction of COVID-19’s economic impact on local Upstate government budgets.

But it’s one more day to the county’s fiscal-year midpoint, and here’s some strange and almost shocking news: not only were the two sales tax payments from the state not as bad a disaster as feared, but year-over-year sales tax receipts were actually… up?

A $17.2 million payment received today was $6.9 million higher than the same sales tax installment a year ago. It represents a portion of sales taxes collected from certain retailers from March through May. A second payment, due Tuesday, covers a portion of sales tax collected during the first three weeks in June. That payment will be $11.2 million, or 28 percent lower than a year ago. Combining the two payments leaves the county about $3.8 million ahead of last year.

So, this means that maybe 2020 might just be gutwrenchingly awful instead of suicidally horrific to the county budget. A lot of the CE’s briefing today was about economic matters – the sales tax payments, how much the county spent on PPE and other emergency measures in the early pandemic — about $6 million, which FEMA may or may not reimburse. I still wonder how much was really spent, recalling the 60 ventilators and the surprisingly fast ramp-up in testing. It all seems like a very long time ago.

Numbers were delivered at today’s briefing as usual. Two deaths (the first in a few days) but all else in expected ranges. The key statistic of the day was the recently reported fact that 60% of positives over the past weekend were connected to just three businesses — one of them the Oswego apple plant, and the other two were smaller workplaces of 5-10 employees each, which McMahon demurred identifying but said he would later once the health department was done with them. More details were given about the new executive order requiring businesses to turn over employee rosters. (I don’t know how that works for large employers like SU or Upstate, but okay.) The truth is that CNY is now embarking on that part of recovery that much of the rest of the world is now on — and that the entire rest of the country will be on someday — where limited outbreaks at factories and institutions keep popping up and being routinely contained.

On a sad note – and this piece of news probably means nothing to people outside of Syracuse, or people who aren’t of a certain age – Benny Mardones has gone into the night. I wasn’t a big fan, but this song defines what it meant to live in Syracuse during the 1980s. We were his, he was ours, and we all weren’t much — but it was something.