March 1, 2012

Fire on Dryden Road, farmers meet

There was a fire yesterday at 1822 Dryden Road, which damaged one apartment but required residents of four others to leave for a few days.

There were also two farm summits in the area. Cooperative Extension held a Tompkins County Agriculture Summit, and the Cornell Small Farms program held their New York Small Farms Summit.

Posted by simon at 7:00 AM Comment

Trapped in the sausage-making redistricting machine

The Federal Courts have had enough of Albany's delay on Congressional lines, and ordered the legislature to hand over the maps. You can see the docket for the case (missing the Assembly maps?) and a complete set of maps submitted.

The key maps for Upstate and Tompkins County are:

  • Assembly Democrats map (872KB PDF) - Tompkins + Cayuga + Onondaga + part of Madison

  • Assembly Democrats' map of Congressional districts.
    Assembly Democrats' map of Congressional districts

  • Assembly Republicans map (9.2MB PDF) - Outer Tompkins County towns in huge Southern Tier district to Jamestown, Ithaca/Danby to Binghamton/Utica district

  • Assembly Republicans' map of Congressional districts.
    Assembly Republicans' map of Congressional districts

  • Senate Republicans map (1.4MB PDF) - Tompkins + Cortland + Onondaga + northern Cayuga + Wayne

  • Senate Republicans' map of Congressional districts.
    Senate Republicans' map of Congressional districts

  • Intervenors (Rose) map (5.3MB PDF) - Tompkins + Seneca + northern Ontario + eastern Monroe

  • Intervenors' map of Congressional districts.
    Intervenors' map of Congressional districts

All of these maps are bizarre, to put it mildly. The intervenors map (I don't know who they are, really), seems like a crazy effort to paint diagonal lines across Upstate New York with bonus strange gerrymandering in Broome County. The Assembly Democratic map creates a district that lurches from Binghamton and Cortland to Lake Champlain. The Senate Republicans map is at least mostly more compact, except for our district and the odd way they split up the Hudson Valley. The Assembly Republicans worst moment is here - they make sure that Tompkins stays weirdly divided.

(Senate Democrats didn't submit a map. At first I thought that was gutless of them, but as it turns out the contrast makes them look good.)

A special low point for me is the Senate Republican memo outlining "why incumbency protection is an appropriate factor for the Court to consider in drawing redistricting maps.".

So far, the only map I've seen that resembles sane is the Common Cause Reform Plan (8.3MB PDF), which actually creates compact districts of places that have something to do with each other beyond packing and cracking by partisan results...

Common Cause map of Congressional districts.
Common Cause map of Congressional districts

Common Cause has a larger explanation of what they're up to.

Update: I'd say this suggestion is even saner than the Common Cause map. The tricky bit for me is some splits around Rochester and Syracuse, but they aren't shocking splits. See? It's possible to create maps with coherent districts.

Posted by simon at 7:06 AM Comment

How one town beat a bully

Yes, it's still just the first round, but it's nice to see an in-depth story on Dryden's resistance to hydrofracking.

Posted by simon at 2:55 PM Comment

March 2, 2012

Judge ignores incumbent addresses

One of my least favorite things in yesterday's redistricting mess was the Senate Republican memo outlining "why incumbency protection is an appropriate factor for the Court to consider in drawing redistricting maps.".

I was very happy to find this between items 148 and 149 of the case docket:

ORDER: LATFOR is ordered to furnish the Court and Nathaniel Persily, forthwith, the P.L. 94-171 Data as formatted for use by the computer program, Maptitude for Redistricting. No political or other data, including incumbent residence, shall be included with the data provided. Ordered by Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann on 3/1/2012. (Mann, Roanne)

I appreciate that Congressional seniority is valuable to the state, but seriously - it's time to take the dealmaking out of these maps. I'd love to see the same requirement imposed on the Senate and Assembly maps, though they are not part of this piece of the process.

(I'm also guessing that the LATFOR folks will take that as a sign that they'd better get serious about cutting a deal if they want to protect any of their friends. Personally, I'd rather they all retire from the process, but I won't be surprised if they suddenly find a renewed burst of energy to get the job done quickly in their preferred corrupt way.)

Posted by simon at 7:43 AM Comment

Ithaca moves to acquire Newfield

I used to joke that Dryden needed to raise an army to reclaim the lots along its southern edge that we let wander off to become the northern edge of Caroline a century or so ago.

It seems, though, that school districts actually can make hostile claims on territory - without an army and with the consent of the governed, but not necessarily their government. The state is even willing to fund such maneuvers.

See Dryden Daily KAZ for much much more.

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

March 7, 2012

I'm behind, but

Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk is on track as always. Lots of March activities.

Posted by simon at 12:44 PM Comment

March 8, 2012

Special Master's maps

Sorry for the delay on these. They came out Tuesday (much earlier than expected!) and I've been sick.

At least Upstate, the special master's proposals look more coherent to me than the various proposals from the legislature.

Special Master's Congressional districts map, NYS.
Special Master's Congressional districts map, New York State.

The map comes from these maps produced in this case. (They're on line 184.) These aren't necessarily final lines - the courts could still change them, or the legislature could suddenly reach its own compromise.

Tompkins County would become part of a district extending along the Southern Tier to Jamestown, with Tom Reed (R) of Corning as its likely incumbent. While I'm sure One of Nine would be excited to have a right-wing Republican as its Congressional representative, I suspect much of the rest of Tompkins County would be a lot less happy.

It would be kind of an "ends against the middle" district, with Tompkins as the only decisively Democratic county, Chautauqua as the only closely divided county, and the rest (especially Steuben, where I grew up) running very Republican. Steuben by itself has 15,000 more Republicans than Democrats, while Tompkins has about 10,000 more Democrats than Republicans.

Posted by simon at 6:32 AM Comment

Freeville has a mayor's race

and the Ithaca Journal has guest viewpoints from incumbent Mayor Lotte Carpenter and challenger Ron Szymanski.

Most of both pieces is pretty classical muncipal issues, but Szymanski really pushes the doubletalk envelope with:

My ability to work with all interests is demonstrated by ... the "all-points-of-view" forums on natural gas drilling I conduct for the Dryden Safe Energy Coalition,

Can the DSEC and its members stop pretending that they're all things to all people? They're the local face of the gas industry allied with the local Republican committee, delivering tea party rhetoric online and not even holding their forums in the town.

Freeville's non-partisan elections will be Tuesday, March 20th. It's been a long time since they've had a contested mayor's race!

Posted by simon at 6:50 AM Comment

March 10, 2012

Etna Post Office survives, for now

I reported earlier that the Etna Post Office was likely closing, but the February issue of the Etna Volcano tells me that no, it's survived. There's a moratorium on closing post offices through May 15th, but the Regulatory Commission found "that there were too many miscalculations, omissions, and unanswered questions in the Postal Service's plan to eliminate the Etna Post Office".

Posted by simon at 7:52 AM Comment

It could be a lot worse

Dryden and especially Tompkins County have had to work overtime to keep their budgets in line, but at least I haven't heard any talk like this:

Even as there are glimmers of a national economic recovery, cities and counties increasingly find themselves in the middle of a financial crisis. The problems are spreading as municipalities face a toxic mix of stresses that has been brewing for years, including soaring pension, Medicaid and retiree health care costs. And many have exhausted creative accounting maneuvers and one-time spending cuts or revenue-raisers to bail themselves out.

...And Thomas S. Richards, the mayor of Rochester, recently described a grim situation facing New York's cities in testimony to the State Legislature, saying, "I fear that Rochester and other upstate cities are approaching the point of financial failure and an inevitable financial control board — as is the case in Buffalo — unless something is done now."

...The concerns of municipal officials are validated by the ratings agency Moody's, which downgraded the debt of Rockland County and Utica last month, and Yonkers and Long Beach last year....

"It's the worst thing that you can do financially," said Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County executive. "But when you are up against the wall and you have a county that has used every one-shot revenue that it can possibly use already, and you're facing a deficit of huge proportions, suddenly that becomes not such a bad option."

So far, at least, our problems don't sound like these problems.

Posted by simon at 1:34 PM Comment

Energy evolution of a house

I noted Stuart Staniford's exploration of home energy efficiency a few weeks ago. Now he's really outdone himself with a set of graphs about his house, calculating how much impact past energy efficiency improvement had and how much impact future improvements might have.

Posted by simon at 1:42 PM Comment

March 14, 2012

Something I didn't expect to hear

While sitting in Newark Airport last night waiting for a flight back home, a few people from Syracuse were talking about how they were flying into Ithaca rather than Syracuse to save "a few hundred dollars". That comparison used to run the other way, though it had pretty well leveled off a few years ago.

Update: This piece looks at the changing airport market. It makes me wonder if Syracuse is having a harder time, rather than Ithaca doing better.

Posted by simon at 8:46 AM Comment

March 16, 2012

Meet FH Fox

The grafitti on the old railroad bridge in Varna is not universally loved, but it has been constant. If I mention the "FH Fox bridge", people in Tompkins County generally know what I'm talking about.

Over the years, I put together the story of why vet students did this and keep it going - FH Fox is now 89 - but I never thought to seek out the man himself. Clara Gallagher, Freeville native and Cornell student, put together an amazing video asking the questions and telling the story.

Who is FH Fox? from Clara Gallagher on Vimeo.

It's well worth the nine minutes!

Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

March 20, 2012

Something I don't understand

I always try to make sure I keep track of the opposing side of any argument I'm making. In the hydrofracking conversation, that means following the Dryden Safe Energy Coalition and Energy in Depth - Northeast Marcellus Initiative.

Reading those really requires steeling myself, though. It's not that it's taking a shower in cold water - it's more like taking a shower in scalding water. These sites aren't just saying that gas drilling is safe. They routinely write from a right-wing Tea Party perspective, and (especially EID Marcellus) seem to take a special pleasure in scorching their opponents.

I just can't figure how EID Marcellus thinks a brilliant strategy includes random culture war blasts on Ithaca (and the Finger Lakes broadly), arguments that attempt to sound like Friedrich von Hayek, and conspiracy theory 101.

By contrast, the Dryden Safe Energy Coalition folks are a bit tamer, though their Tea Party roots certainly show through frequently.

Why do either of these groups think, though, that pushing gas development with Tea Party culture war arguments is a winning formula in New York State?

There are certainly people here who are all-in for such things. Steuben County (where I grew up) is pretty spectacularly conservative, and I remember articles about the Steuben and Chemung County militias in the days before the Oklahoma City bombing. Operation Rescue's glory days may have been in Wichita, Kansas, but its roots were in Binghamton, NY.

However, New York State, and even New York State Republicans, aren't especially Tea Party. The same Steuben County where I grew up was represented for a very long time by Stan Lundine (D) and Amory Houghton (as liberal an R as existed in recent memory). A lot of people in both major parties here vote the person, not the party, and grew up in an age when Republican meant Jacob Javits and Nelson Rockefeller.

I guess we'll see what happens as the propaganda battles develop, but for the moment I'll settle for being mystified by the gas industry's not just finding support from the far right, but for its strange strategy of adopting their arguments as their own.

Posted by simon at 12:14 PM Comment

Welcome to the 23rd Congressional District

The final Congressional maps are in from the Special Master process, and Dryden (and all of Tompkins County) is now in a district that goes from here to the Pennsylvania border by Jamestown.

Special Master's Congressional districts map, 23rd District.
Special Master's Congressional districts map, 23rd District.

This is a serious Southern Tier district, resembling the ones I grew up in in Corning, with Stan Lundine (D-Jamestown) and Amory Houghton (R-Corning) as Congressmen. Despite the district's Republican tilt, neither of them was a fire-breathing conservative - current incumbent Tom Reed (R-Corning) is many degrees to the right of them, which probably makes One of Nine happy.

It's definitely a Republican-leaning district by registration. Tompkins County may have 10,000 more Democrats than Republicans, but Steuben County has 15,000 more Republicans than Democrats. However, it's not actually that impossible a district for Democrats, and I wonder how long Tom Reed will survive here.

This table shows registration for (Democrats + Working Families + Green) and (Republican + Conservative), with an other column for unaffiliated (blank), Independence, and other registrations. It isn't perfect, because Ontario and Tioga counties are cut, and so the data there is for the entire county, not just the part in the district. (Tioga in particular was cut using the Susquehanna, which makes geographic sense but cuts the Town of Owego in half.)

CountyD/W/G EnrollR+C EnrollOtherObama 2008McCain 2008Kerry 2004Bush 2004

There are about 40,000 more Republicans total, but (if the Ontario and Tioga splits don't shift things), Obama and McCain fought to a virtual draw here in 2008. George W. Bush, though, defeated John Kerry by about 36,000 votes in 2004, so I tend to see 2008 as an outlier.

Right now I'm expecting Reed to run for re-election. I've heard that Nathan Shinagawa and Leslie Danks-Burke, both of Ithaca, are running for the Democratic nomination. My preferred candidate, Dan Lamb, is running just to our east, for the Democratic nomination to run against Dryden's current Congressman, Richard Hanna.

Posted by simon at 12:45 PM Comment

Vote today (if you live in a village)

The villages of Dryden and Freeville are having elections today. Polls are open from noon to 9:00pm at both village halls. Freeville has a contested mayor's race and two uncontested trustees' races, and Dryden has two uncontested trustees' races.

Posted by simon at 3:02 PM Comment

March 21, 2012

Carpenter re-elected Freeville Mayor

Freeville's non-partisan races are usually uncontested, with vote counts in the teens. This year was different, with a challenge to the Mayor from Ron Szymanski. Preliminary results show incumbent Lotte Carpenter beating Szymanski 62-33.

In both the villages of Dryden and Freeville, trustees races were uncontested. In Freeville, Diana Radford won with 76 votes and Penny Beebe with 70, while in Dryden, Charles Becker won with 45 and Don Norman with 42.

Posted by simon at 7:05 AM Comment

March 22, 2012

Will Anschutz appeal?

I keep hearing rumors that Anschutz may not bother appealing their loss in their case against Dryden's gas drilling ban. There was a strange hint of that in Attorney Tom West's immediate response to the loss, in which he suggested an even less plausible takings lawsuit instead.

Now I see Status of Home Rule appeals uncertain as deadline nears, in which Tom Wilber, author of the upcoming Under the Surface writes:

In a separate ruling issued days before the Middlefield decision, Supreme Court justice Phillip R. Rumsey upheld the Town of Dryden's right to ban mineral extraction activities. The case stemmed from a complaint filed by Anschutz Exploration Corporation, which argued that state permitting laws regulating oil, gas and mineral extraction superseded local ordinances. Tom West, an attorney for Anschutz, told me he did not expect the company to pursue an appeal, which would be expensive. Leaseholds were nearing expiration in the town, and the low price of natural gas and regulatory uncertainty in New York were other disincentives.

It's not time to break out the champagne. He has until April 2nd to file an appeal, and it's a reasonable tactic to be cagy about that until the appeal is actually filed.

Update: Here's the Ithaca Journal on the status of the case, including Tom West complaining about the state he's chosen to do business in for years. Did he just never get out and look around outside of Albany? And apparently his services are just too expensive for Anschutz.

Another update: Tom West claims to have dredged up a bill memo that strengthens his argument... in the Middlefield case. Won't show it publicly, seems to think he should show it to the trial judge rather than include it in an appeal - so it's hard to know what's there and what isn't. We'll see...

Posted by simon at 7:00 AM Comment

March 23, 2012

Ticks advancing

Last year was a terrible year for ticks here. This year looks likely to be much worse.

Update: That earned an Upstate 2050 story, though I know that for now we're not in the "red zone".

Posted by simon at 6:46 AM Comment

March 30, 2012

Anschutz will appeal

Surprise, surprise - Tom West was apparently joking about how he was just too expensive for Anschutz, his billionaire client. Not only will they appeal their loss to Dryden, "From day one, West said, it was his client's preference to appeal."

So of course that wasn't the story West told from, er, day one.

Posted by simon at 12:11 AM Comment