Does this seem fair to you? Since the last census, New York’s population grew by 700,000 more people than Montana’s. But under current procedures, New York will lose a seat in the House of Representatives and Montana will gain one. New York will have 26 representatives, the fewest in the Read more…
It’s Going to be Huge… Estimating the Scale of the Current Wave of Migration from NYC to the Hudson Valley
In the introduction post to this series, I noted the recent uptick in the number of people moving to the Hudson Valley from New York City and the rising home prices driven by this trend. This next post is going to look a little more closely at the possible scale Read more…
This post originally ran as an opinion column in the Gotham Gazette and has been re-posted here with the publisher’s permission. Albany chatter in anticipation of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State message was dominated by the prospect of a $6.1 billion budget gap. How to fill it? Tax? Read more…
Assisted by Marc Thurston We usually think elections are about choice. Applying some combination standards or criteria that each of us carries around in our heads – opinions about issues, demographic similarities, points of view about candidates’ character, partisan loyalties – we voters choose some persons and not others to Read more…
Looking to the Future:
Twenty years ago the City of Poughkeepsie debuted a Comprehensive Plan meant to be a road map for revitalization. If you look at Poughkeepsie today you can see, broadly, how well or poorly Poughkeepsie followed its own plan. The past 4 posts, linked in the box at right, have looked at how the city envisioned itself in 1998, and graded the implementation of the 1998 Comprehensive Plan using the metrics contained within the plan. The final tally was a failing grade of 41%.
At the end of the last post I wrote that it is unfair to hold current policymakers responsible for failing to bring the comprehensive plan to fruition, nor is it fair to hold the current city leaders accountable for complying with a plan that is well past its expiration date. The solution though is not to give up. The solution is to create a new comprehensive plan to move the city forward, learning from the mistakes of the past. Residents and stakeholders need to reimagine a collective vision for the city, and a plan needs to be drawn up with realistic, actionable and measurable steps to achieve that vision.
This post will explore some of the more obvious areas that the Poughkeepsie may want to address, as well as some non-obvious things that might be included in a new comprehensive plan.
Partisan gerrymandering — incumbents drawing legislative districts to keep control of legislative bodies — destroys democracy by assuring that majorities don’t rule. It has been described as elected officials choosing their voters, instead of their voters choosing their representatives.
At the national, state and local levels our governments are made undemocratic by gerrymandering; despite widespread protest, those in power in both major parties keep doing it so that they can stay in power. Repeated efforts to get the U.S. Supreme Court to undo this practice have failed, though surely it is unconstitutional.
What most people in Ulster County may not know is that we are among the handful of places in the country that doesn’t have this problem. That’s because our county charter gives us a process for neutral non-partisan legislative redistricting. And it has worked. The districts for the current, closely divided county legislature were drawn through this non-partisan process. But in doing this the first time around we found out that there were some flaws in our design, and we needed to take further steps to be sure that it was more inclusive and effective while remaining non-partisan.
Under the leadership of County Executive Michael Hein, a commission headed by Kingston attorney Rod Futerfas was formed to work on this. (more…)
As the Supreme Court Swings Right, Where is the Pendulum on Women’s Equity in New York? There’s Good News and Bad News
Despite the #metoo movement, the nation continues with a president who has been accused repeatedly as a sexual offender and now a just confirmed Supreme Court judge also so accused. Add Kavanaugh to Thomas and now one-third of the six men on our highest court have been accused of sexual misconduct. This generally leaves women in the United States with a lot to fear. We in New York have been told that state law can potentially protect us if national protections disappear. Is this so?
Dutchess County Jail is Among the State’s Worst Offenders Our recommendations to address mental health care and education—without cost over-runs The New York State Commission of Corrections (SCOC) recently named the Dutchess County jail as one of the five worst in New York State (The Worst Offenders), one that Read more…
On Monday, October 3rd, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a potentially landmark case concerning partisan gerrymandering in redistricting the Wisconsin state legislature. Partisan gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative district lines to favor one political party over another, has long been commonplace for legislature at all levels of government. The Supreme Court has previously said the practice might be unconstitutional, but has never overturned a districting plan on this basis.
In New York State the redistricting process is done by LATFOR (The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment). It is no secret that there is an agreement between the Republican-led State Senate and the Democratic-led Assembly that each house majority does their own redistricting and signs off on the other. This bipartisan gerrymandering has been the practice for a long time; the outcome in Gill v Whitford is therefore very important for New York.
Social Media can make government better, more accessible, more transparent, more accountable, all good things. But when elected officials decide that government social media accounts are theirs to use as they please, we may be in very different territory. Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum reminded us of that this week.
In 2015 the Benjamin Center studied how local governments in the Mid-Hudson region use their websites and social media. We found that nearly 97 percent of the towns, villages, and cities of the region had some digital presence. At the time of the study 60 percent of local governments had a Facebook presence, but barely one fifth were on Twitter. (This was in the sleepy pre-Trump era of Twitter.) In general, we found that the more open governments are with constituents, the more they engender trust.
Even though our study was conducted barely two years ago, it came against a very different societal backdrop. President Obama was behind the push for government at all levels to communicate electronically with the goal of increasing trust and accountability. These days cities like Kingston and Poughkeepsie maintain fairly active Twitter accounts and post frequently. This seems appropriate: In our fast-paced era, when even Facebook seems too onerous to peruse, governments that can blast quick info to constituents (especially missives that can be read on a phone) are reaching people quickly and simply.
But what happens to the trust that openness engenders when the public official steps out of his or her governance role, and uses official social media platforms to advance personal views, or agendas?
Once Donald Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona, sheriffs around the country have felt emboldened to use social media to express their own views, sometimes using government platforms as their bullhorn. The latest but hardly the most inflammatory missive came this past weekend when Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum used both Facebook and Twitter to tell citizens to boycott the NFL because, he argued, players taking a knee during the national anthem were being unpatriotic.
If you were ever in combat and were the last person to pull up the zipper on a body bag of your fallen… https://t.co/R1YNHu79dT
— Ulster Co Sheriff (@UlsterCoSheriff) November 11, 2017
This isn’t nearly as disturbing as sheriffs in Oklahoma trying to thwart criminal justice reform through use of official social media communications. (more…)