Mayoral Candidate Exemplifies Positive Campaign Through Negative Attack Ad

Apparently, the hallmark of a positive campaign is a negative attack mailer as seen below.

Positive Campaign 2015

Positive Campaign 2015

I get it — it’s a campaign and negative attack ads work. However, my problem with the mailer is twofold:

1. You can’t say one thing and then do the exact opposite. Well, actually, you can but you should get called out on it.

2. You should at least make some attempt at some factual basis to support your attack points.

To wit, I guess you can an attack the mayor on crime but why cite 14 years as the timeframe for the “upward trend” in crime when the mailer explicitly states that it’s only been 8 years since Mayor Thane has been in office? That means that apparently Mayor Thane should retroactively be held accountable for the 6 years prior to taking office. Still, the statistics in no way support such a claim or a cause-effect between the Mayor’s policies and crime. Most importantly, the crime statistics unquestionably show that Amsterdam is relatively safe so to demagogue on crime is an interesting spin on positive campaigning unless the intent is to positively rile up the local radio listening audience.

Next, the piece, hardly surprising, goes on to attack the Mayor for the growth in the city’s debt. This is quite lovely given that it is his fellow Republican alderpeople who just added 3 plus million to the total debt on the city’s books. I seem to recall that in the 2014 election it was this very same stalwart band of alderpeople who were going to set the city financially straight and stop adding to the city’s debt much to the cheer of our local media.


The most insulting aspect to the piece is that if you are an informed voter , you realize that you cannot simultaneously rail against the state of the city’s infrastructure — the city’s falling apart! — and then decry the growth of debt in the city. How else do you pay for multi-million dollar capital improvements without incurring some debt and without raising taxes? You simply cannot. To claim to invest in infrastructure while lowering the city’s debt is a nice– positive!– thought but it runs quite negatively against financial and political reality.

Let’s be clear: the mailer is just a short-form set of the same talking points you hear day-in-day-out on local talk radio and the local newspaper that attacks the mayor using the most specious of arguments. In short, the same chorus who wants everything without paying for it as if you can get better roads, better bridges, no blight without incurring a single penny more in debt or taxes.  Indeed, the same chorus who demands all this while cutting taxes at the same time!

Madness, positive madness.

And on these two points, I’m pretty positive , this is a totally negative reality.

Told Ya

Here ya’ go with the meme in full force:

Thane needs to remember that she was re-elected in a three-way race with 46 percent of the vote, meaning 54 percent of Amsterdam residents — a majority — who went to the polls voted for the other guys. She enters her second term with little to no political capital to spend, so Thane needs to work extra hard to build a consensus with the council if she hopes to be an effective leader this time around.

Of course, the “bipartisanship” advocated by the editors only works one way — the Mayor should yield to the Council; we should not expect the Council to yield to the Mayor. It’s like national politics — Obama needs to embrace bipartisanship while the House and Senate leaders undermine any notion of bipartisanship.

Funny how that works.

But political parties mean “nothing ” in local politics and that is why the mmost vocal public advocate against the Mayor and Corp Counsel, Diane Hatzenbuhler, gets cited by the Recorder when based upon their very own logic, she garnered not even close a to a majority of votes–  many more voted against her than for her. But that is OK as that supports the meme.

Like I said, this editorial seeks to delegitimize any policy or action, not on its relative merits or demerits, but on the notion that there is no “majority”.

Here is a funny thing if you extend the Recorder’s logic– Michael Chiara in the 5th Ward Supervisor race did not garner a majority of votes. In fact, he received 301 total votes while his opponents received a total of 303 votes. 

Do we get an editorial on Mr. Chiara’s need for building political capital? Do we get an editorial on how Mr Chiara does not really represent a majority of 5th Ward voters? Will we get a constant drumbeat on how Mr Chiara did not garner a majority of votes on any policy or action with which the editors disagree?

Funny, I haven’t heard or seen that. Quite the opposite, it seems the editors embrace Mr Chiara’s election even though he does not represent “a majority”.

Why the double standard here on the notion of “majority”?

Here’s another way to look at the numbers– Thane received 1762 and Emanuele received 1712 while Write-Ins received 337. 

That means that a majority of voters by a factor of 10X wanted Thane or Emanuele over a write in candidate. What does that mean in terms of outcomes– absolutely nothing, just like adding the combined votes for opponents for Mr Chiara and Mayor Thane.

I look forward to how the editors will pick a Super Bowl winnner– it won’t be based upon who scores the most points in the Super Bowl, it will actually be based upon which team has their opponents score the least points through the regular season and playoffs.






It is cliched to do this but we are all lemmings in one way or another. Here goes with some lists for 2011.

Top 13 of Subjects of the Year (No Particular Order)

1) The Amsterdam Way, Hippies and Conflicts of Interest

2) Do As I Say– County Supervisors and Budgets




3) Tulips and Bulbs– The Campaign to Keep Amsterdam Ugly


4) Unicorns and Other Mythical Creatures — The Epic Tales of Sharing Services





5) Demolitionists and The Race to Build Parking Lots


6) What The Hell Are You Doing Here! — Xenophobia, Racism and Other Tales from the Small City with the Big Heart





7) Thinking BIG–How to Turn Amsterdam Around


8) Excessive Returns and Financial Mavericks — How the City Can Fund $40 million in infrastructure with a $10,000 Budget and By Not Buying Tulips





9) Election 2011 — Low Turnout and Why Winning Really Means You Still Have No Mandate


10) Existentialism — Why The City Should Exist and Why The City Should not Cede to the Towns and County



11) And the biggest story of the year — Walking Away from a Game Changing Residential Development Project aka The Dumbest Move of 2011 and likely the 21st Century







12) Burnt and Crispy — The Dissolution of the Business Case for Shuttering Bacon



13) Nothing to See Here — How the GASD Board Fails to Its Mandate for Governance


Top Quips of the Year

When I was in college, there was a group of students in the Society for Creative Anachronisms that used to don medieval garb and simulate knightly battles of ages long past. Apparently we have a similar organization in AIDA sans the self-awareness and irony.

Personally I don’t get how we can proceed with a 2% tax cap when health and retirement expenses greatly exceed that. That is why the property tax approach is broken– I think it’s the solution to the wrong problem.

I’m so very sorry to actually subject your published posts to scrutiny– apparently words appear on your pages and comments unbeknownst to you and hence, you cannot be accountable for your very own words. You may want to reconsider your relationship with words and their sequencing as it kind of matters when you publish a blog and post on blogs. 

Why Mayor Thane Should be Re-Elected

I think it comes down to two words: Livable City. 

Bear with me and let me explain.

I first and foremost consider Amsterdam to be a city, not the great city it once was, but a city at its core with all the good and the bad that goes with a city. For a long while, the bad has outweighed the good and if you live here, you are pummeled day-by-day with that reminder. The drumbeat is deafening.

But if you live here, you realize that the city still clutches to its livability even though a host of actors past and present deny and reject the essential nourishment that this city needs to remain viable and livable. What they want is anything but a livable city. Indeed they want the city and the essence of a city subverted to industrialization (more industrial parks), suburbanization (more parking lots) and ultimately disintegration — the dissolution of the city and its very fabric.

I profoundly disagree with that assessment. In a time where local cities are fighting back and reclaiming some lost ground, the notion of a livable and viable city should not be rejected; it should be embraced.

It’s this embrace of livability and viability of this city that drives my support for Mayor Thane for another term.

What is indisputable elsewhere — that vision and strategy shape the future; that growth requires investment and nurture; that building trumps demolition; and that small cities can stage comebacks  — becomes the essence of controversy here with the attacks on Mayor Thane’s embrace of these principles.

I like living in a small city. I don’t want to live next to a C&D landfill; I don’t want to live next door to a casino; I don’t want to live in suburbia or the country.

And I don’t want to live in a city where the mayor, the elected leader and voice of the city, abandons the city to a slew of interests and voices who care not the least for the city or who simply cannot muster the courage to champion the city.

I want someone to stick up for this city — a livable city, a viable city, a comeback city. A proud city.

That’s why I support Mayor Thane.

Pre-Election Must Reads

I’m going to have a number of posts for a special Sunday Edition covering the following:

1) Why Mayor Thane Should be Re-Elected

2) Why Thom Georgia Should be Elected as Third Ward Alderman

3) Why The Politicians, Local Media and Community Leaders Who Decry the Sad State of the City, the State of Local Budgets and Economies Have Themselves To Blame

4) Why Cronyism Trumps Governance

5) Why Shared Services and Consolidation is a Hoax

That’s a lot of ground to cover but I think it needs to said.

In the meanwhile, you should read the following if you are interested in the upcoming election and how issues get framed:

Tim Becker on his ParsNova blog posts a smart, critical and hardly asked set of questions on the consolidation and shared services mantra– namely, where’s the business case that consolidating locally makes sense (hint: there is none) and the impolite question of does the city stand to gain from consolidation?

Dan Weaver at Mohawk Valley Independent dissects the Recorder endorsement. As I discussed in my piece on the endorsement for controller which I found ‘bewildering’, Dan looks at the substance of the mayoral endorsement and finds it ‘boggling’.


Disney on the Mohawk

It’s so very nice to read and hear Mayor Thane’s critics characterize her and others as inhabiting a magical place when they themselves reside in a literal economic and fiscal Disneyland in our fair city, and for most, a lifetime as princes and princesses here with a court of assembled characters heralding that, indeed, their wisdom and rule have showered the lands and the common folks with untold good fortune at their lot in life– not now or in their lifetime– but soon, so very soon, if only the common folk will wait for the wisdom and virtue of their rule to be revealed, and then at that magical point in time when the soundtrack swells and crescendos and the dark clouds of economic and fiscal dread dissipate, the kingdom will be enveloped in a golden light such that all is glorious in the now fair city on the Mohawk, the Magical Kingdom for all other cities to envy and loathe. But fear not, good folk, moats and drawbridges will assure the Magical Kingdom remains strong and true from the Outside knaves who dare attempt entry.

Let us behold and look forth at what economic and fiscal policies, if we just wait long enough, assure us an end –so very, very close now– to our long, dark days and years. Lest ye forget of what potions and elixirs we shall quaff, ye shall be reminded by this very blog post. Alas, ’tis a bitter irony indeed that the pestilence and curse of blogs shall weigh upon matters of fiscal and economic import to the kingdom. But here, forthwith, I present your potions and elixirs of which Mayor Thane’s critics demand you quaff:
The Disappearing Fund Balance Potion-– I’m going to piggyback a bit off of Tim Becker’s spot-on post on this issue on his blog. Here is the salient part:

Except that the economic climate in 2007 when Emanuele stepped down was vastly different from what we have experienced from 2008 until today. These graphs clearly show how cities all over the nation began to experience extreme difficulties as the economy began to collapse in 2008. Given the reports of many cities now facing bankruptcy, I think we are fortunate, all things considered, to even have a fund balance right now.

This potion presumes that you believe it is rational to expect in an economic downturn that fund balance would remain the same or increase instead of applying fund balance to retain services and/or mitigate tax increases. A powerful potion indeed but nothing more than water with a couple shots of ‘shine.

The Invisible Budget Hand — this potion imparts budget powers to the Mayor only such that the Mayor unilaterally drafts, creates, negotiates and approves the budget even though the Charter explicitly states that the budget is a Committee. This potion renders the quaffer willing to believe that no other hands or minds crafted the budget. This potion is especially coveted by the council and controller to escape any ownership or culpability of the budget. Indeed, the potion enables the Council to decry budgets they themselves were physically present but magically they do not become accountable and even rail against budgets for which they were present and voted aye.

The Forgetfulness Potion — this potion is perhaps most powerful and does not need to be quaffed as the potion occurs naturally in drinking water. This potion wipes any memory for voters that they indeed approved the budget structure and budget committee by Charter Change. The potion’s effects become more pronounced around budget and election season as voters readily fall under demagoguic spells rendering them unable to understand why budgets befall them or their very hand in a dysfunctional process

The Lower Taxes and No Impact on Services Potion — this potion warps financial reasoning such that you can cut taxes in an economic downturn even though expenses rise at a faster rate than the tax cap all the while preserving the faltering services we have now. Sure.

The Infrastructure potion — this potion enables 10s of millions of dollars of infrastructure to be built with absolutely no federal aid, no state aid, no local taxes or fees, and no bonding. A quite powerful potion commercially available at Stewart’s and rumored to be water with peyote.

The Water is Our Greatest Asset Potion –– This potion relies upon a favored approach to economic thinking both locally and nationally– the fact that something is in great supply means that it is by default an asset and hence highly valued. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me explain why:

1) The mantra that water is our greatest asset is decades old so it must be true. Ironically, the biggest asset on the books is aggregate property values on which property taxes are based. And what is the recognition or discussion of our true greatest asset — precisely zero. I appreciate getting schooled in assets when we ignore any discussion of the hard assets owned by city residents and businesses. Think about how many times a policy maker talks about addressing property values or property values form an issue in a campaign.

2) If water is our greatest asset, why do we cap the revenue under the guise of a tax cap? The fact that the tax cap acts as a revenue cap on our greatest asset is deeply humorous until I remind myself that it costs me to chuckle. What the recent budget showed, that gets beautifully misunderstood and mischaracterized, is that we have a self-imposed cap on what we can charge for water to outsides users. What’s even more humorous as a city tax payer is that rather than offset my property taxes to outside municipalities who consume water, that I as a taxpayer paid for via bonds, I get to watch the tax burden shift back to me in higher property taxes than I would otherwise pay. Couple that with the fact that we then impose a price-cap on water to encourage development outside of the city in the towns– which in turn puts even more pressure on my property taxes to rise and my home value to decrease.

Maybe I’m parochial but let me ask a very impolite question: why do I as a city tax payer want to subsidize the towns at my expense?

3) Water is our greatest asset means that economic development must therefore maximize marketing and promoting that asset. It’s been made quite clear by each and every economic development agency that economic development that maximizes water must occur outside the city. The question then becomes: how does Amsterdam turnaround under this scenario of water as its greatest asset? Apparently as a city tax payer, I must act as a passive bystander while development flourishes elsewhere. Maybe I misunderstand finance but if something is my asset, should I not realize the ROI of that asset?

Yet all of the above is considered the usual slogans of “protecting the taxpayer”, “fiscal responsibility”, “tough choices”, yadda, yadda.
You must be joking.

Of course when you point out that our greatest asset is not water but the very fabric of a viable city, that’s simply hilarious. What’s not hilarious is that indeed the variability of this city is getting flushed downstream by city taxpayers funding outside development on their own dime and with their assets assured to depreciate at the expense of appreciating someone else’s home values. Sweet.

In light of my arguments above, there is a nuanced argument to be made that the fate of the city and towns share a common thread. I don’t dispute that a nuanced argument can be made to that effect. I just reel at the fact that the arguments are anything but nuanced. It’s like trying to have a nuanced debate with a doctor who insists on amputating your child’s arm to get rid of the splinter in his pinky — there can be no nuance in such a discussion with a person wielding a saw. Just to be clear: the opposing arguments neither recognize nor admit to nuance; nuance to policy discussions is taboo.

DisneyLand is not a new creation of Mayor Thane; DisneyLand is here and now and forever with economic and fiscal thinking that is so profoundly misguided, ill-thought and ruinous that it’s actually difficult to grasp that you actually live and breathe within the Magic Kingdom itself.

If you don’t believe me, just look for the talking teapots– they’re quite easy to spot.

Welcome to Disney on the Mohawk.