Category: New York State

Ethics Reform In Albany, New York

The New York State Capitol in AlbanyThe recent indictment of former New York State Senator Joseph A. Bruno on federal corruption charges has once again brought attention to the need for ethics reform in New York state government.

Albany has been the capital of New York state since 1797. That is 212 years. I think that is enough time to come up with a strong, meaningful ethics law for its lawmakers.

I have some commonsense suggestions.

Senate and Assembly “jobs” should be considered full time. We are paying them $79,500 a year for a job they consider “part time.” That is more than the full time pay of most New Yorkers who work 40 hours a week for the entire year. The legislature meets from January to mid-June, several days a week. While they have part time hours, they get full time pay. What are they doing the rest of the year? They should be representing the people of New York at all times.

Let’s tell our 62 Senators and 150 Assembly Members that their job is now considered full time. They are not allowed to receive one dime more than their legislative salary in compensation from any other employment or “consultant” source. If they don’t like it, they can go back to whatever they were doing before they got elected. That should weed out some of the ones that are in it for the money and the power.

Senators and Assembly Members should also be limited to three, two year terms. Six years is enough. These should not be lifetime career positions. This would also insure a turnover in the ranks. You wouldn’t have people hanging around for 30 years for the power trip and the what’s in it for me attitude. If we had average citizens in the legislature instead of “professional” politicians, a lot more meaningful work would get done. If you doubt that, let’s try it and see.

I read in a letter to the editor that rank and file state workers are prohibited from outside employment with, or financial gain from, companies that do business with state government. Why doesn’t this apply to the legislature? It’s ridiculous. Senators and Assembly Members should not be able to leave the legislature and go to work for a company that does business with the state for at least 5 years. Period. What is so difficult about that?

According to the Albany Times Union, New York’s rules for public officials are widely viewed as among the weakest of any large state. What does the physical size of the state or the size of the population have to do with ethics? The same rules should apply to Alaska that apply to Rhode Island. This is not rocket science. It is commonsense and it’s about time.

It should take Albany about an hour to create and pass a meaningful ethics law, but I’ll give them an entire day. It should be written so that a fifth grader can read it and understand it in less than 20 minutes.

If they don’t want to take my suggestions, Common Cause has a list called, “Ten Steps Lawmakers Can Take to Reform Albany.” Step 6 says: The Governor and legislators should agree to ban gifts from lobbyists and create an independent ethics commission. Well, I guess that would be a start. If they mean an actual commission that will watch over the shenanigans of the legislature after a strong ethics bill is in force, that would be fine. After 212 years, I think we need to put a strong ethics law together quickly. Isn’t there a state somewhere in this country that has an honest, straightforward, commonsense ethics law with teeth, to govern their lawmakers? Can’t we just copy that?

Step 1 of Common Cause’s 10 Steps is about redistricting. It says: “Support the creation of an independent redistricting commission based on the state of Iowa’s successful model.”

The way that the state of New York’s districts were made is just another form of unethical behavior. Commonsense, logic and fairness were completely absent when the legislative districts were created. The Senate Republicans and the Assembly Democrats are allowed to draw the district lines for their respective house. That is just unbelievable. Who thought that one up?

Read what Common Cause says about redistricting reform. Common Cause says that incumbent state legislative candidates are re-elected at a staggering rate. In over 2500 general election races in the past 24 years, a challenger has beaten an incumbent only 34 times. Holy cow. That is ridiculous.

A lot of people that I talk to seem to accept that New York and Albany have been dysfunctional and corrupt for years and that it will always be that way. What can you do? That’s just the way it is.

There must be something that can be done. There must be a way for New Yorkers to get an honest, functional government in Albany that works for the citizens instead of special interests.

Why can’t the citizens of New York get their representatives to create and pass a serious ethics law? That would be a good first step.

Why Are Property Taxes In New York So High?

“Consolidating school districts could save New York homeowners — who pay the highest property taxes in the nation — millions of dollars, but surprisingly, some don’t want to hear anything about it, especially if it involves their own school district.” So said Thomas R. Suozzi,  in an article called “Streamline Education Through Consolidation” published in the Saratogian newspaper on Sunday, January 4, 2009. Suozzi is Nassau County Executive and chairman of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief.

New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in the nation. I just wanted to repeat that so that it sinks in. New York property taxes are 78% higher than the national average. What is wrong with New York?

One of the recommendations that the commission made is to consolidate school districts that have fewer than 1,000 students. I don’t know why they picked that number. It seems to me that it could be done with larger school districts. It should be looked at on a district by district basis. What makes sense?

According to Suozzi, we spend more per student in New York than any other state in America. Suozzi also said that people in the education community and taxpayers like the idea of consolidation, except for communities that would actually be effected. He thinks people worry that schools will be closed and their school identity taken away. Consolidation has nothing to do with that.

Consolidation is about combining the administrative functions of a school district. It means having one school administration instead of two or three. For example, the school district in which I live, Schuylerville has 1,862 students. It could be consolidated with another nearby school district such as Stillwater (1312 students) or Saratoga Springs (6,857students) or possibly all three could be combined. Again, what makes sense?

Each school would retain its individual identity. Property taxes would be lowered due to greater efficiency of the district’s administration. If we can get the job done with one administration instead of three, let’s put that money back in the taxpayer’s pocket where it belongs. We can’t continue to keep doing things the same way just because that’s the way it has always been done. Especially when the citizens of a community can’t afford it.

I moved to New York a few years ago from Hamilton, New Jersey. The school district there has 13,000 students and one superintendent. He does have several assistants. They have 3 high schools, 3 middle schools, 17 elementary schools and one school for special education. The school budget is $182 Million. If you divide that by 13,000 students it comes out to $14,000 per student.

Saratoga Springs has a school budget of $107 Million.  If you divide that by 6,857 students it equals $15,600 per student.

Schuylerville has a school budget of $30.5 Million. If you divide that by 1,862 students it equals $16,380 per student.

I couldn’t find any information about the Stillwater school system budget.

The Town of Saratoga (Schuylerville School system) has a median family income of $48,000. Hamilton, NJ has a median family income of $67,000. The people who can least afford it, pay the most per student. Why is that? I can’t find median family income statistics for Saratoga Springs or Stillwater. If I do, I will update this information.

According to a story on in Rochester, Sharon Sweeney is director of the Four County School Boards Association. She says, “Let’s not punish our schools. They are the one thing New York State still has that attracts businesses to the state.” Oh really? Somehow I find that hard to believe. Name one business that is moving into New York state because of the quality of the schools. More than likely, they are getting a tax break from the state of New York to move here, like AMD and their $1.2 Billion incentive package. They also just got a break on $26 million or so in sales tax while they are building the new plant. That is another story.

Consolidating school districts using commonsense is not punishing our schools. It is using our available tax dollars wisely and giving the overburdened New York taxpayer a well deserved break.

Below are some excerpts from the final report of the Commission on Property Tax Relief. You can read the entire report here. The report is on the Fiscal Policy Institute’s website. You don’t have to read it all at once. If your head starts to spin, just take a break and go back to it later. The report is 94 pages plus 40 pages of supporting documentation. It is an interesting document and very well done. Appendix B contains all of the recommendations of the committee.

High property taxes have the most negative impact on low and moderate income working families, seniors on fixed incomes, and small business owners, who must shoulder this burden regardless of their ability to pay. Whether your concern is decreasing education costs, or increasing education spending, or addressing inequities in school funding, or improving programs, virtually all agree the answer cannot be to continue to increase property taxes at the current rate. The rate of increase in property taxes over recent years is unsustainable, and simply unfair to those who cannot afford to pay.

New York schools outside of New York City spend more per student than any state in the nation – an estimated $18,768 in 2008-09. New York’s per student spending is more than 50 percent above the national average. This results from high personnel costs; the number and complexity of mandates and expense of compliance, especially those that govern special education; and the large number of school districts, many of which are small.

The Commission proposes capping annual growth in the property tax levy at 4 percent or 120 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less.

The Commission recommends that, after a property tax levy cap is adopted, the State reexamine the STAR program, which provides payments to school districts with no relation to individual taxpayers’ ability to pay and has failed to effectively reduce property tax growth. A new STAR circuit breaker, targeted to relieve the tax burden on individual taxpayers based upon their income and ability to pay, would be a much more equitable way of reducing an individual’s property tax burden.

The Commission recommends that the State support school districts’ efforts to rein in the costs of salaries, pensions and health care, as well as general operating and capital expenses. These recommendations address the root causes of high property taxes by adopting the following proposed solutions:

Increase health insurance premium contributions by employees and provide health insurance coverage jointly with other public employers or school districts, including increased use of health benefit trusts.

Centralize and streamline school district reporting to decrease personnel and other costs associated with sometimes duplicated and unnecessary forms and other filing requirements.

Require consolidation of school districts with fewer than 1,000 students and grant the Commissioner of Education discretionary authority to order consolidation of school districts with fewer than 2,000 pupils to achieve economies of scale and to increase educational opportunities through expanded course offerings.

Create countywide property tax assessment and uniform statewide assessing standards.

Here are some more excerpts from the final report. I picked out what I think are some important points for those of you who don’t won’t to read the entire document. I recommend that you read the entire document though.

Homeowners are “voting with their feet” – selling their homes and moving to escape the high property tax burden. Indeed, census data consistently show New York leading the nation in the number of residents migrating to other states. Almost universally, we heard that the high property tax burden is one of the State’s most pressing problems – and it is only getting worse.

For example, there are almost 700 distinct school districts in New York State. Approximately 200 of these districts enroll fewer than 1,000 children.

New York State has the highest local taxes in America – 78 percent above the national average. New York’s local taxes also rank far above those of other large states. For example, New Jersey has the next highest level of local taxes, but they are only 18 percent above the national average. New Yorkers pay $84 per $1,000 of personal income in local taxes as compared to the national average of $47. When local taxes are combined with State taxes, New York has the highest tax burden of any large state – 35 percent higher than the U.S. average. It is important to note, however, that State taxes are not a primary cause of this high tax burden. New York ranks only 5 percent above the national average in state taxes (at $73 per $1,000 dollars of personal income). It is New York’s local taxes that are particularly high.

There is a significant disparity between the taxes paid by citizens of New York State, not including New York City, when compared to the rest of the nation. Outside New York City property tax represents the greatest proportion, 76 percent, of local taxes. Outside New York City citizens pay $54 out of every $1,000 of income in property taxes, 56 percent above the national average of $35. Total local taxes are 52 percent above the national average.

While property taxes have increased by a total of nearly 54 percent since 2000, wages have risen by only about 26 percent. This underlines how unaffordable property tax bills have become for typical New York families, which makes the State a very costly place to live.

The average teacher in New York earned $58,873 in 2005-06, the latest period available for comparing New York to other states. While the Commission recognizes that a higher cost of living in New York is a contributing factor, this average salary is 17 percent higher than the national average of $50,379.

Benefits, consisting primarily of health care and pension programs have the largest growth factor of any expense category. Benefits averaged 38 percent of salary expense in 2006-07.

There are approximately 700 school districts in New York State, ranging in size from New York City to districts with fewer than eight teachers. Far too many are quite small. About 200, or approximately 28 percent, had fewer than 1,000 students in 2006-07, and over 500 have fewer than 3,000 pupils. Small districts are not limited to rural areas. On Long Island, where there are almost a half million pupils, over one fifth of the more than 120 school districts have fewer than 1,500 students, with an average district size of under 800 students.

In comparison, Florida’s system of countywide school districts includes only 67 districts, and school districts in that state, and in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, which also rely exclusively or extensively on countywide school districts, average approximately 40,000, 36,000, 12,000 and 9,000 students respectively.

There are really two New Yorks: the “downstate” region, which includes the New York City metropolitan area, lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, and the “upstate” region. The state’s high ranking in terms of income is due mostly to conditions downstate. In contrast, upstate cities and their surrounding areas have been losing industries, jobs, and population for many decades – nearly a quarter-million people left New York for other states in 2006 alone. Seventy percent of all school districts have declining enrollment. Absolute population declines would have become an overwhelming trend had it not been for a steady influx of immigrants. However, these immigrants settle predominately in the downstate area, where job possibilities are better, with a relatively smaller proportion choosing to settle upstate.

The report contains many detailed recommendations as to what should be done and why, but it doesn’t say who is going to actually do the work. It doesn’t say when or how the recommendations are going to be implemented either.

I hope that members of the New York State Assembly and our State Senators will read this report and begin to act on the recommendations so that New Yorkers can quickly see real property tax relief. What could they be doing that is more important than this?

You can always call them or email them and ask if they have read the report and how soon they are going to act on the recommendations.

If we New Yorkers pay the highest  property taxes in the United States, maybe we should take the advice of the Commission on Property Tax Relief and start consolidating some school districts. Are there any volunteers to go first?

I would really like to know what you think. Leave a comment or send me an email. Thank you.

Note added 10/6/10 The Times Union of Albany recently published a story called New York’s Property Tax Nightmare. It was written by Bob Port and James M. Odato. Thank you Times Union. It is a great article about out of control property taxes. You can read it here: New York’s Property Tax Nightmare

Note added on September 24, 2009: If you do a Google search on “Why are property taxes so high”, this blog post will come up on the first page at number 6. However you found this site, people continue to read this post because I get “hits” on it everyday. A lot of people are concerned about property taxes. If you read the entire post, I would love to read your comments. What state do you call home? What did you think about the post? What answers were you looking for? Did this post answer any of your questions? Thank you in advance. I hope you enjoy the blog post. John Tedder

High Electric Rates In New York, Part II

The citizens of New York State were robbed last year and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is still trying to figure out who did it.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) manages New York’s electricity grid and administers the wholesale electricity market. They filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in July 2008 saying that one or more market participants, between January and July 2008, scheduled inefficient transmission routes around Lake Erie to avoid paying higher transaction fees for congested routes between New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The electricity was sent over the New York routes anyway. This scheme had the potential to cause an electricity “blackout” by overloading the power transmission grid.

The transaction costs were then passed on to New York state electric customers. This scheme cost New York rate payers up to $400 million.

I have not been able to find any reference to this scam on the New York Times or the Albany Times Union websites, but I did find several press releases on U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer’s website. As far as I can tell, he is the only person that is following up on this to find out exactly who did it and how much it cost the citizens of New York. You can read excerpts from several of his press releases below. You can read the complete press releases by following the links to Senator Schumer’s website.

In an August 12, 2008 press release, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer “demanded that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission immediately conduct an investigation into an energy trading scam that allowed players in New York State’s energy markets to reap huge profits while passing on sky-high costs to consumers and municipalities.”

“Between the months of January and July of 2008, market traders were using deceptive energy trading practices that slammed consumers with millions of dollars in unnecessary, additional fees and put the state at risk of blackouts.”

“New York State’s energy consumers got ripped off by rogue energy traders who are employing deceptive practices and it must stop immediately,” Schumer said. “From what we know, it wasn’t just a dollar here and a dollar there — these folks may have fleeced New Yorkers out of a quarter billion dollars.”

“FERC’s job is to be the cop on the beat to protect consumers but a loophole is costing us dearly and putting everyone at risk of blackouts. FERC must immediately investigate the market traders’ practices and take swift action to nip this problem in the bud.”

In a September 17, 2008 press release, Senator Schumer called for FERC to “Launch a vigorous public investigation, including full consumer impact: Currently FERC is conducting a closed investigation that has no set conclusion date and precludes third parties from being involved. The investigation must also address key questions like: how much exactly did these schemes cost consumers and whether any laws or tariffs were broken. Schumer urged FERC to investigate how best to seek redress for the consumers.”

“Make no mistake about it, I will not stop until we get to the bottom of this scheme and New Yorkers receive the compensation they deserve,” Schumer said.  “It is the foundation of American justice and due process that investigations of alleged wrong doing be conducted in the light of day, not behind closed doors, and I will press FERC to do just that.”

A November 18, 2008 press release, the latest press release about this on Senator Schumer’s website, went on to say: “Following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) official closing of energy transmission loopholes that allowed rogue traders to reap tremendous profits, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today said FERC needed to go a step further and conduct an aggressive, public investigation into the energy trading scam that could have bilked New York consumers out of untold millions.”

“While this is a good step forward that slams shut an outrageous loophole, FERC must now get to the bottom of how this happened with a comprehensive and public investigation. Conducting the investigation behind closed doors just won’t do. We need FERC to open up the books and determine both how much this cost New Yorkers and if that money can given back to consumers,” Schumer said.

I think the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) owes the citizens of New York an explanation. Why is this investigation taking so long and why are there no updates from FERC? It seems logical to me that the people who did it are the people who scheduled the route around Lake Erie. Don’t they know who did that yet, and if they don’t know it yet, will they ever be able to determine who it was?

I know a million dollars isn’t what it used to be, but when you put a few hundred of them together, it adds up.

I sent an edited version of my previous post, “Why Are Electric Rates So High In New York?”, in an email to almost every New York State Assembly Member and every New York State Senator. I couldn’t obtain an email address for a handful of them from the state website. I did this last Thursday and Friday. So far, I have only received one real reply. The rest of the replies that I received were automated, canned responses.

The one personal reply that I did receive was from Teresa R. Sayward an Assemblywoman representing the 113th District of Essex, Hamilton, Saratoga, and Warren Counties. Thank you Assemblywoman Sayward.

I would like to hear what you think.

Update on 4/6/09. I sent the following email message to Senator Schumer requesting an update on the FERC investigation:

“Make no mistake about it, I will not stop until we get to the bottom of this scheme and New Yorkers receive the compensation they deserve,” Schumer said.  “It is the foundation of American justice and due process that investigations of alleged wrong doing be conducted in the light of day, not behind closed doors, and I will press FERC to do just that.”

What is going on with this FERC investigation? New York needs our $250 million back.

Why Are Electric Rates So High In New York?

New York State has the third highest residential electric rates in the United States; only Connecticut and Hawaii have higher rates. New York is 19.48 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), Connecticut is 20.24, and Hawaii is 36.94 cents per kWh.

Falls on the Battenkill River near where it meets the Hudson River

The average retail price of electricity for the entire country in September 2008 was 10.31 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

Rates in New York State are almost twice the national average.

You can see a list of all 50 states and their Residential, Commercial and Industrial average retail price of electricity on the Energy Information Administration website. ( The information on this site is updated monthly. As of November 1, 2009 the data is for July 2009. ) There is a wealth of information on this site, but you have to sort through it.

The information above is from the December 2008 edition of  Electric Power Monthly which is published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Why are electric rates so high in New York State?

According to this Facts about New York page on the EIA website:

New York produces more hydroelectric power than any other state east of the Rocky Mountains. The Robert Moses power plant on the Niagara River is one of the largest hydroelectric facilities in the world.

Although New York’s total energy consumption is among the highest in the United States, per capita energy consumption is among the lowest in the nation due in part to its mass transportation systems in the New York City area.

The average New York household consumes about one-half the electricity of the average U.S. household, largely because few use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating and because demand for air-conditioning is low during typically mild summer months.

One-half the electricity of the average U.S. household? That is an amazing statistic for New York.

So why are our rates so high?

Only Washington State (60,778), California (28,235) and Oregon (26,225) produce more hydroelectric power than New York (20,711). These are year to date numbers in Thousand Megawatt hours. The next 3 highest hydroelectric power producers are Idaho (8,061, Montana (7,672), and Arizona 5,797).

The New York Power Authority (NYPA), “America’s largest state-owned power organization”, according to their website, provides some of the lowest-cost electricity in New York State. That is a pretty vague statement considering New York’s rates are so high to begin with. I have been to the NYPA website and I can’t find their rates anywhere.

NYPA was established by New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1931 to, “give back to the people the water power which is theirs.” I think the people are still waiting for this to happen, 78 years later.

In a February 23, 2005 press release, U.S. Senator Charles. E. Schumer urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider its recent decision to reject Green Island Power Authority’s (GIPA) application to study the Cohoes Falls Project. He went on to say, “I am also very concerned about the fact that 73% of all hydroelectric power generation in New York State, including this plant, is now controlled by foreign companies.”

The hydroelectric power plant in Cohoes, NY is owned by a company based in Canada, Brookfield Renewable Power. Brookfield Renewable Power operates 75 hydroelectric generating stations on 15 rivers in New York State, according to their website.

An organization called Power in the Public Interest (PPI), in Olympia, Washington was “formed to promote state, regional and federal electricity polices that secure for consumers a reliable, affordable and durable electricity system.” Their website has a wealth of information and charts that compare electricity rates in all of the states. It also compares New York state electric rates to “regulated” states. Deregulation of electricity in New York has been a disaster for everyone except the power companies.

One article called “Electricity Price Trends in New York Compared to Trends in Price-Regulated States” uses data from the Energy Information Association up to June 2007. It claims that “for the 12 months ending June 2007,  New Yorker’s paid $22 Billion for their electricity. The same amount of electricity at the regulated states’ average rate would have cost $11.6 Billion—a difference (or comparative purchasing-power disadvantage to New Yorkers) of $10.4 Billion for a twelve month period. This is not to say that deregulation is responsible for the whole gap, or that the gap can be closed. The gap does, however, reveal the significant economic disadvantage suffered by customers in New York, and the imperative for New York to pursue the most effective form of economic regulation of electricity.”

Some of that $10.4 Billion could help close the New York State budget deficit that Governor Paterson is struggling to deal with, but it really should go to the citizens of the state who have been overcharged and abused for so many years.

I urge you to go to the PPI website and read the entire article yourself. Even though it uses data that stops at June 2007, it goes back to 1991 and clearly shows that New Yorkers pay too much for electricity. Based on current prices and rates, I’m sure there would be no difference in this article if it was updated to include September 2008 data.

Here is a link to an article titled, “Will NYPA creep away with another 50 years?” It is subtitled, “18 nauseating facts about NYPA, Niagara and you.” It is interesting reading.

I live within a few miles of three hydroelectric power plants. They are small, but they use the power of the Hudson River, Battenkill River and Fish Creek to generate electricity. Yet I still pay some of the highest electric rates in America.

Dramatically cheaper electric rates would benefit everyone in New York state.  Can anyone explain this to me? Why can’t we have the lowest rates in the country instead of the 3rd highest?

Feel free to email this post to your New York State Assemblyman or Assemblywoman and your State Senator. You can find their email address here. Under State Government, click on Assembly, New York State or Senate, New York State to find your representative.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to read High Electric Rates in New York, Part II, the next article on this blog.

If you found this post by doing a Google search and didn’t find the answer to your question, let me know what it is and I will try and find the answer for you. You can leave a comment or go to the home page and send me an email directly. Thank you. I appreciate your visit.

Tell People What you Want

It’s all over the news. A lot of people are being laid off and losing their jobs. But there are still plenty of people working and it won’t do any good to focus on the negative stories anyway. Tim Allen’s character in the movie Galaxy Quest is always saying, “Never give up. Never surrender.” I like that motto.

Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Heartbreak Ridge said, “Improvise and overcome.” He was leading a Marine Corps recon unit. It seemed to work for them and they were being shot at. Bing Crosby used to sing, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” It can’t hurt.

I know what it is like to not have the money to pay the rent or mortgage. I know that it is not always easy, but you might be surprised how quickly people want to help you if you just ask. Some problems are more difficult than others. But it never hurts to ask. If you are looking for a job, tell everyone you know. Everyone, at one time or another, has been job hunting. I should also add here, email everyone you know. Ask them to tell their friends you are looking for a job. Be as specific as you can about what you are looking for.

Being as specific as you can with your description is best, but having a couple of alternatives won’t hurt either. If you know what you want, you can target companies that have those kinds of jobs. You might even know what company you want to work for. If so, you can ask people you know if they know anyone who works there. You should also ask them to ask their friends if they know anyone who works there.

I attended a class at Mercer County Community College many years ago. I met a man in the class and we started talking. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was looking for a job. He worked for Merrill Lynch and they had a huge office complex nearby. I gave him my phone number and he said someone would call me soon.

Within the next couple of days a woman called me. She was very nice and asked me what kind of job I was looking for. I didn’t know and I couldn’t tell her. “Anything” is what I answered. That was the wrong answer. She had no idea what to do with me after I said that and the conversation ended.  I should have had some idea of what kind of job I wanted and I could have gotten an interview. Be ready to answer that question and tell the person what you want.

A lot of people don’t know what they want, so they end up with what they get.

In one of my top ten favorite movies, “As Good As It Gets”, Greg Kinnear tells Jack Nicholson how lucky he is because he knows what he wants. Nicholson wants Helen Hunt and is miserable because she won’t talk to him. Kinnear inspires Nicholson to go over to her house right away and tell her how he feels.

A few years ago I attended a Christmas party at the home of a friend of mine. I was standing around in the living room with some food and a drink. I introduced myself to another man who was in the room. He recognized my last name and asked me if I had a brother named Howard. I said yes, I did. He said that he used to work with him and he asked me how my brother was doing. For a minute, I thought of saying he’s fine and letting it go at that. The truth though was that he was looking for a job.

I decided to go for the truth. I told him that my brother was looking for a job. He immediately gave me his business card and phone number and said to have my brother call him. He thought that he could get my brother a job where he worked in the solar energy business. My brother ended up contacting him and was working again in just a few weeks. He stayed at that job for five years or so. If I hadn’t said something, he  would not have found his way to that job.

My wife Mary Lynn and I used to go to a bar called Ernie’s when we lived in Hamilton Square, New Jersey. We liked to go there on Friday nights for a few hours. There was one gentleman who I used to see there a lot and speak to fairly frequently. I knew him for about six months when I overheard a conversation he was having with someone else. He said that he was looking for a job and had been for quite some time. I waited for a pause in the conversation and interrupted. I asked him what type of job he was looking for.

I told him that the company I worked for was always looking for new people to install and repair phone lines. This was back in the day when everyone was getting a second phone line for their modem. He said that he would be interested in that. The next day, I contacted the human resources department. I knew everyone in the department and they liked me. They were always going through resumes and trying to recruit people. They WANTED recommendations from employees. My friend got the job and I think he enjoyed it for at least a few years. The point is though, that I knew him for six months and only found out that he was looking for a job when I overheard a conversation. If he had been sitting on the other side of the bar, he might still be out of work! My hearing isn’t that good.

I was walking down the street a number of years ago, unemployed and wondering what exactly I was going to do next. I was less than one half mile from my house. I happened to notice a man installing cable TV service while I was walking past a house. I walked over to him, introduced myself, and started asking him about the cable TV business. He was very happy to answer my questions and said if I was interested, he would give me a call the next day. I said yes. Go ahead and give me a call. The next day, he called me and arranged to pick me up and take me with him while he worked. I learned enough to know that I would like to try it. He was a sub-contractor and I went to work as his helper for a few weeks.

I still remember climbing my first telephone pole with Bernie. He was laughing his head off because I would not let go of the ladder and cable strand to work with both hands. It was in the middle of a snow storm too, on South Broad Street in Groveville, New Jersey. You just can’t work on a pole like that using only one hand. Bernie was an excellent teacher who had infinite patience with me. I’m really not that mechanical. Ask my brother. I eventually let go, finished the job, and survived. I eventually went on to get my own truck and equipment and work alone. I only stayed in the cable TV business for a year, but the point is that I asked questions and let Bernie know that I was looking for a job.

After I graduated from high school, I sat on the couch for a month watching TV. One day my mother asked me if I was going to look for a job. So, the next day I went looking for a job. I wanted to work for the local electric and gas company and be a serviceman that repairs appliances. I am not sure why I picked that. While I was in high school I wanted to pitch for the Oakland Athletics. I gave up on that too soon and switched to the repairman scenario. I think it seemed like a good steady job at the time.

I took the bus into town and went into the Public Service Electric & Gas Co. office. I filled out an application and took a test a few days later. The only problem was that I was at the commercial office, not one of the electric or gas offices. They didn’t have any repairman jobs. I started out as a building attendant and became a meter reader after that. I didn’t ask the right questions when I first applied. I suppose I could have left as soon as I discovered I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t. I was young.

In ninth grade I didn’t dance at the school dances because I was too afraid to ask any of the girls to dance. I didn’t really know how to dance anyway or at least I didn’t think I knew how to dance. I never really tried so how could I know for sure? If I had tried, I bet I could have danced well enough to get by. Most of the boys, myself included, leaned against the bleachers and acted like we didn’t really want to dance. We did.

Do you want to dance? Go out there and ask someone.

Cheating, Lying Politicians

According to the New York Observer, Joe Bruno, speaking to the New York delegation at the Republican National Convention, compared Barack Obama to Eliot Spitzer. The former Republican State Senator implied that since Obama is articulate like Spitzer,  we may be in for a big suprise if he is elected. That is quite a leap. Spitzer resigned as Governor of New York in March 2008 after it was disclosed that he patronized a prostitute. Joe thinks that Spitzer was elected because of great marketing. I think Spitzer was elected because people were sick of Republicans running New York.  People voted for him because he had a reputation for honesty and integrity and they hoped he would clean up the mess in Albany, the state capital. Spitzer had a great opportunity and he blew it. He disappointed a lot of New Yorkers who expected great things from him. Now, everyone is looking to David Paterson, the new governor, to change Albany. He is New York’s first black governor. Governor Paterson, can you take away Joe’s hall pass so that he can’t roam around the building while people are trying to work? Thanks.

I would like to see our first black president elected this year too. Barack Obama will be elected because people are sick of Republicans running the country and tired of hearing George Bush abuse the English language.

No Cheating

John Edwards didn’t appear at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He finally admitted to cheating on his wife. I guess he was still too ashamed and didn’t want to disrupt the convention. John McCain, who cheated on his first wife when he met his second wife, was nominated to be president at the Republican Convention. His cheating occurred over 30 years ago so it isn’t talked about much these days.

Larry Craig, Republican from Idaho, cheated on his wife and is still a United States Senator. The Senate Ethics Committee “admonished” him in February for his conduct in an airport bathroom. They slapped him on the wrist really hard.  Where is the outrage in the Senate? He pleaded guilty to the charges but, when the story surfaced, said that he was innocent. He said that he would resign by September 30th, 2007. Then he said he would finish out his term and not run for re-election this November. How would you like to sit next to Larry in the Senate?

David Vitter, Republican Senator from Louisiana, cheated on his wife by visiting prostitutes. He is running for re-election. Vitter and Larry Craig are co-sponsors (along with several others) of The Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, which would define marriage as only the union between a man and a woman. What shining examples Larry and David are. How heroic. It sounds like they worry about sex too much.

Bill Clinton cheated on Hillary in the White House. He lied about it and was impeached. Republicans went nuts. The impeachment distracted him from running the country.

Jim McGreevey, the Democratic former governor of New Jersey, cheated on his wife with a man. He resigned and admitted that he was a homosexual.

George Bush lied and took our country into an unnecessary war. Only Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, had the guts to try and impeach him. One person out of 100 Senators and 435 Representatives. What do they do all day in Washington, D.C.?

Presidents John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt all cheated on their wives.

Why is it that some politicians who lie and cheat resign, and others do not?

I’m voting for Barack Obama for President. You should too.

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