December 8, 2005

Brooktondale fire truck gone missing

This morning Ithaca Journal reports that the Brooktondale Fire District is facing some hard questions about where money for a truck went, after purchasing a truck through a now-deceased broker in Albany who may have defrauded other departments. (The Town of Dryden contracts with the Brooktondale Fire District to provide coverage for the Bethel Grove area south of Snyder Hill Road.)

The Journal's editorial opposes pay raises for state legislators, saying that:

A few weeks ago, state lawmakers let slip that some would like to increase their pay from the base pay of $79,500 it has been at for the past seven years. While that pay is well above the $49,930 the average the state Labor Department says taxpayers earn, the difference gets wider when other payments tied to the scores of "leadership" roles are factored in. The average state lawmaker earns about $92,000 a year, a few at the top reach $120,000-plus, and they all get thousands more to cover travel to the capital and "per diem" expenses for the 100 or so days a year the Legislature is in session. Even with the seven-year stagnation, state lawmakers still are the fourth-highest paid in the nation....

To all those lawmakers and judges who think hovering above or just below the six-figure salary line is an intolerable sacrifice, we say good riddance. If money can lure you away, the rest of us would rather you not have the position of power you now possess. It is the ultimate in insider arrogance to assume that a few hundred worthy citizens cannot be found from among the 18 million called New Yorkers to do the jobs you now hold, so we'll get through the troubles at hand just fine without you.

On a similar note, a New York Times editorial calls for legislative redistricting reform, the "Number One Reform", saying that:

If somehow there were one dangling thread that could unravel the dysfunction of New York's Legislature, it would be attached to the unfair system that allows state lawmakers to draw their own election districts every 10 years. So here is our request for anyone running for governor next year to start tugging on that fateful thread.

The stories of how lawmakers have mapped themselves into their permanent jobs are legendary - for example, there is the district in the Bronx and Westchester that is so misshapen to catch every vote that it has been nicknamed "the bug on the windshield." And there are districts like the one in Brooklyn that carefully carves out the home of a potential challenger. These districts are tailored so carefully to the incumbents that it is no wonder that the Legislature's re-election rate has been around 99 percent for decades. (When five incumbents out of 212 lost last year, counting one who had resigned to go to jail, Albany's leaders viewed it as a major upheaval.)

The "bug on the windshield" (411KB PDF) is fascinating, though I find the shape of the 51st Senate District (555KB PDF), which includes Dryden, just as ridiculous. It includes the eastern half of Tompkins County, and all of Cortland, then crosses Chenango in a narrow band of towns before lurching north to Old Forge and east to the Hudson River south of Albany. I refer to it as the "T-bone steak". (The 49th Senate District is another very strange shape.)

Those higher salaries might feel more sensible if there was a chance of the incumbents losing their jobs because their district didn't like their performance. The Journal doesn't add lawmakers' current job security to its arguments against a pay raise, but I think it reinforces their point.

Posted by simon at December 8, 2005 7:17 AM in , , ,
Note on photos