Friday, June 30, 2006

Chip market

With some of their reports, one has to wonder what drugs the Capital New 9 reporters are taking when they concoct ideas for their so-called enterprise pieces.

Granted, anytime a television journalist stops for a moment to smell the flowers, it’s good thing. Usually, they’re more concerned blurting the breaking news out, while ignoring any sort of analysis. However, when these gussied-up pretty boys and lipstick-loving valley girls of the news networks do try form a coherent thought, the results are sometimes bewildering.

Such was the case this week, following the announcement of name-brand chipmaker Advanced Micro Design coming to Saratoga County’s Luther Forest Technology Park sometime in the next decade. As most people must be tired of hearing by now, the plant is expected to bring 1,200 jobs and a boon to the county economy –as if it’s strapped for cash.

The Capital News 9 producers were probably thinking they had come up with something pretty slick to beat the competition, when they threw together a story titled “AMD could help housing market in Saratoga County.”

Swing and a miss.

Would you believe the housing market in Saratoga County is already rolling strong? If not, then take a look at some real estate sites. Scroll down and look at the price tag on any given house. What started with soaring prices in Saratoga Springs has long sense spread to the outlying regions of the county.

In fact, there aren’t too many places within a 15-minute drive of the Northway that could be considered reasonably priced, as compared to land values in the tri-city region. If indeed there is a downtrend, then it’s focused in the city itself, where the market is staggeringly overvalued. In the Spa City, even a small, dilapidated two-room shack on a tenth of an acre is liable to cost more than $200,000.

But save the best for last. Capital News 9’s two-source story concludes with an interview of a realtor, who insists the already hyper-developed region needs more housing to compensate for what ultimately amounts to a tiny blip of an increase in area population. And that’s if they can even afford to move to the county.

Don't drink the water

It’s impossible to escape the after-effects of the mighty deluge that befell Mohawk Valley this past week. Taking a ride west on Route 5 really hammers this point home. While there doesn’t appear to be many deaths from the swelling of the Mohawk, there are hundreds, if not thousands of lives and livelihoods that have literally been swept away by the surging river.

But for the Times Union –a paper that is often on top of gripping regional tragedies like white on rice –this point has seemingly flown right over the heads of their stalwart news crew. Instead of venturing out from the relatively comfortable confines of the Capital Region to see the devastation, they reported about forlorn yachters and how the flooded areas might affect the tourism of Saratoga Springs.

Yes, there’s a handful of “pleasure-cruisers” who won’t be able to regale aboard their Dutch trawlers this weekend on the Hudson. These boaters are faced with roughing it in Waterford, where they can only go on sightseeing ventures with local officials and look forward to an evening potluck with their cohorts.

Of course, all those people who had banked on fireworks this weekend in Scotia will have to scramble through their calendars and blackberries to figure out alternate plans for grandma and the kids. Untold tragedy, it seems.

Had these reporters traveled west past the Schenectady County line, perhaps they would have realized the real story, people crammed in high school gymnasiums, flood waters submerging whole downtown regions in Fort Plain and Canajohaire; entire communities shut off from both the grid and the outside world for days in the sweltering heat.

For many of these people, the term “skin of our teeth” comes to mind. And that was before the flood. They still don’t know what’s become of their homes, submerged in more than six feet of water that’s likely more toxic than raw sewage. There are businesses that may never reopen and homes that will never be rebuilt. Some farmers have lost at least a years’ worth of crops, if not more, given the toxic water on their fields.

As the flood waters subside in the days ahead, it’s not too hard to envision a public health travesty in the making, with hundreds of thousands of stagnant water pools in this vastly rural area that could become a breeding ground for disease. Can you say West Nile virus?

It should be noted for the Times Union reporters, however; most of these people didn’t loose their yachts. Let’s just overlook the fact many of them were too poor to own flood insurance, much less a floating castle.

With no less than eight by-lines attached to Friday's article, one would think that at least one of these reporters would have thought to go westward, where the real tragedy is swirling. Shame on you pompous bastards for not reporting that story.

Editor's note: The illustrious reporters from the Times Union did finally make their way out to the Mohawk Valley to report the carnage --more than three days after the fact. And while they were quick to make mention of a business manufacturer, they didn't mention much about the trailer park abutting the Mohawk River in Fonda, or the destroyed sewer infrastructure in St. Johnsville, to list off a few areas of tragedy .

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spinning out of control

Every sports fan loves a good giveaway. It’s like the sweet jelly filling of a fresh donut. But when people neglect the donut altogether and instead start demanding large vats of jelly to suck up, there’s something afoul.

That’s been increasingly the case at the New York Racing Association’s summer meet at the Saratoga Racecourse, which has a growing contingent of crazed fans that want nothing to do with either gambling or thoroughbred racing. Instead, these thrill seekers are in it for the blankets. Or bobble-head dolls, or any other kitschy trinket that can be mass-produced by some overseas sweatshop and doled out during a Sunday afternoon at the races.

Back in the day, the giveaways were simply a way to entice fans back to the track for some last minute weekend racing action, rather than beating the traffic exodus out of the Spa City at the crack of dawn each Sunday. Often, these items represented the end-of-the-day consolation prizes for dejected gamblers, as if NYRA itself was saying in a soothing voice, “sorry you lost last week’s paycheck on the ponies, here’s a cheep nylon blanket instead.”

But with the advent of eBay, the giveaways have become supplemental income for a host of greed-driven entrepreneurs, who buy multiple admissions to the track, then amass large stashes of these items for resale. These folks' hope is that the rest of the world will pay more than the $3-price-of-admission for a shoddy stop sign-red Saratoga Racecourse umbrella. And it must work for some, because the aptly dubbed “spinners” keep coming back for more.

Today, the giveaways have become akin to a feeding frenzy at the track. On such days, every inbound road within a 5-mile radius of the track becomes choked by these spinners. Inside, crazed hoards of people swamp boths stock with a handful of wayward track employees, who try in vain to maintain some semblance of order as the items are handed out. In anticipation of these freaks this year, NYRA even commissioned a “express line” for those not interested in waiting a half-hour while a gate attendant ticks off 30 redeemable tickets for some lunatic eBay auctioneer.

The media loves the giveaways too, gleefully reporting how many items are snatched up and thrown onto the online auction block, some even breaking down how much a potential “spinner” stands to gain from a quick trip up to the track. Anticipating these hackneyed stories next month, Capital News 9 didn’t even bother to mention the big news out of NYRA's conference Tuesday, save for this year’s giveaway dates. Keep up the good journalism, guys.

The truth amid all this knick-knack frivolity is that these giveaway days are inflating the attendance numbers at the track by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. This means NYRA likely has no real idea of the level of event attendance with any degree of accuracy. Not to mention, with most of the so-called sellout crowds on such days leaving the track immediately after receiving their giveaway, betting handles also go down, which for anyone familiar with organized gambling is not a good thing.

Suffice to say, these giveaways probably don’t cost much to produce, but they sure as hell aren’t free. And for a flailing, financially strapped organization like NYRA, this cost might be a lot more than the top brass really has a handle on, pun quite intended. Were they really interested saving money, the organization could merely limit the giveaways to one per person at the gate, no exceptions. If need be necessary, ink-stamp hands after they get their track hat.

Truth is, the vast majority of fans are quite content with one trinket, if any at all. Very few among the racing fan populous would bat as much of an eye were spinners abolished altogether. Getting rid of these nuisances, however, might also lift the smoke screen away from the attendance records NYRA has padded for the past six years or so, which might not be a good thing for an organization already facing a tough battle for the state’s heralded racing contract next winter.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Adding up the news

It’s usually a good thing when a trio of employees lends one another a helping hand. But in the newspaper business, when these three people happened to be the marketing director, circulation director and managing editor, there’s a mighty slippery slope created that often ends with egregious breaches of journalism ethics.

And if there’s a paper around that takes pride in taunting the fine line between reporting news and shameless self-promotion, it’s The Saratogian.

As mentioned previously, the Spa City’s local rag has proliferated the overly complicated “Tags to Riches” campaign in an effort to give their flailing circulation a shot in the arm. In an overly generalized nutshell here’s the contest: buy the paper, submit your license plate number on the entry form and then check in the next day’s paper to see if its picked as a cash prize winner.

Were that the extent of the contest, then The Saratogian’s worst crime would be falling prey to an overly gimmicky get-circulation-quick scheme so to speak. Heck, even publishing the names of the winners with a nice caption photo wouldn’t be much worse than a waste of valuable advertising space.

Writing two full-length 200-word by-lined articles about the winners to be injected into the flow of hard news, however, is a clear and dangerous breach of ethics that would be castigated by any professional in the business. This sort of small-time pandering to the circulation and marketing departments can foment much greater ethics problems down the road.

This is not to say that Tuesday’s “Tags to Riches” cash grand prizewinner –described by the paper as an overly excitable senior from Wilton –has some sort of sordid deal to get herself media attention. Rather, it shows that Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo has no qualms giving prevalent newsprint to someone who has quite literally been paid off to the tune of $3,500 by the newspaper itself.

Sadly, this is nothing new for Lombardo and her cronies on Lake Avenue. Just look at the clear and present pandering in the business section, which is almost completely devoid of any actual news content and might as well be a pullout glossy advertisement for area shops.

It’s quite interesting how businesses that advertise in The Saratogian also happen to get prominent play in the so-called business section. And it should also be noted that those businesses that don’t advertise with the newspaper get sparsely a mention, unless of course, they’re burning down.

For The Saratogian, this is business as usual, especially with little more than several yards of floor space standing between the newsroom and advertising department. Thank goodness the circulation department is now on the same page.

Friday, June 23, 2006

There's a sucker born every minute

And two to take ‘em, as P.T. Barnum’s legendary quote goes. However, it’s unlikely the American showman ever envisioned the size and scope of the chump that recently turned up in a painfully laughable investigation by Hudson Falls Police Department.

Apparently, a village woman was plucked off the Internet and goaded into cashing bogus travelers checks at a mini-mart, according to Friday’s Post-Star. Were that the extent of the story, one could easily write the case off as another gullible soul who was overly trustworthy with people she met online, as some less tech-savvy folk are.

But it’s hard to fathom that anyone with at least one functioning brain-cell could believe a complete stranger saying that mailing eight $500 traveler’s checks across the globe to someone in another country is the easiest way to change them into negotiable currency. This is especially the case when the aforementioned stranger happens to originate from a Web site proffering a method to get-rich-quick by working from home.

Did somebody say warning signs?

Well, this particular woman didn’t see them. In fact, she ended up cashing $1,000 worth of the bogus checks at the corner Cumberland Farms before someone finally alerted the authorities.

As if to add insult to injury, the woman was also duped into giving all of her personal information to some itinerant person claiming to live in England. Unfortunately for the limey would-be thief, the solicited rube turned out to be an uber-rube and even lost the return address to which she was directed to send the money.

Perhaps an ounce of sympathy could be garnered the woman, were it not for the fact that she stood to gain a cool grand from the gig. Not to mention, she didn’t use her own checking account to cash the checks, which was a wise move more likely precipitated out of necessity than her actual thought process.

Of course, given all the flotsam and jetsam clogging the Internet these days, it’s always good for police to alert foolhardy quick-cash seekers of new scams as they percolate online. For those still thinking about answering that random e-mail sent by deposed Prince Ahwa Koaume from the Ivory Coast seeking to hide his family’s fortune in an overseas bank account, here’s a warning from the Hudson Falls Police: if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.

There comes a point, however, when shear Darwinism should be expected to take over and cull a few of these mind-numbingly dense people out of the gene pool, lest it become too watered down for society to put together two cogent thoughts.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Canal Daze

Bruce Northam is touring the Empire State, whether it’s by horseback or tractor. If you’re living in the Mohawk Valley, however, don’t expect the “globe-trotting travel writer” to take a float by on a canal barge.

Northam took a brief stop in the Spa City Tuesday as part of his state-funded 2,000-mile journey to promote tourism. Dubbed the “New York Detour” by press flack from the state Economic Development Corp., he’s pulling the journey for the state’s official tourism promoting agency, better know among laymen as the “I Love New York” people –queue the catchy state song.

But one area Northam isn’t likely to visit on his 23-day journey from Niagara Falls to Long Island is the seemingly endless miles of heritage corridor along the Erie Canal, thanks to the brain-spliting stupidity of the state’s bureaucrats.

For the historically challenged, the Erie Canal served as the main bi-way across New York and toward the west for nearly two centuries. With the advent of modern engineering, the canal fell to the wayside, taking with it many of the communities that depended on the commerce.

Today, the canal is not much more than a summer attraction for boaters traveling from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. In an effort to rejuvenate this once-bustling swath of the state, the Legislature created the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission, which was charged with helping out little known townships such as Waterford, Canajoharie and Little Falls, to name a few.

But when two business incubators are shoved into the same cramped space, it’s almost guaranteed one is going to harbor a sour attitude. In this case, it was the Empire State Development folks, who couldn’t fathom the heritage corridor commission whistling their jingo.

So instead of working together, the I Love New York people forbade the commission from using their well-known logo until an agreement last week almost entirely ignored by the media, when they finally conceded the futility of two state agencies fighting amongst themselves for essentially the same goal: bringing in more tourists.

Last week, Empire State Development unceremoniously threw in the proverbial towel and agreed to allow the corridor commission to use its trademark emblem. That was probably long after Northam embarked on his journey, as there’s sparsely a mention of the canal in his blog.

Ironically, Northam prides himself for keeping “on the lookout for local unsung heroes,” or those who add to the community’s colorful social fabric. Oddly, he missed the one part of New York’s community, which played a major role in coining the “empire state” moniker. Just ask the unsung heros of the corridor commission. They’ll tell you all about it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Shark hunting

When the blood smells too sour for a pair of sharks like E. Stewart Jones and Stephen Coffey, you know it’s time to flush the water. And that must be the case, considering these two lawyers –perhaps the Capital Region’s most dubious –told the Albany Times Union they wholeheartedly support “sweeping revisions” to the Lawyers Code of Professional Conduct passed by the state Unified Court System last week.

Among these revisions is a set of standards guiding how attorneys can and cannot market themselves to clients. For the most part, this means no more jingoistic advertisements cluttering broadcasts, billboards and phonebooks across the region.

In other words, this means Martin, Harding and Mazzotti, the so-called heavy hitters –whose ads have the word “injured” with a question mark repeated at infinitum –have struck out. So has Ellis Law, another prevalent Albany firm, which will now need to remove the “as seen on T.V.” and “$150 million in settlement awards” slogans from their omnipresent ads. Don’t forget Dreyer Boyajian, a firm that won’t be able to boast getting “the justice you deserve” in their ads, according to the new guidelines.

Well, kudos to the court system for doing something right for once. These arrogant opportunists are scourges on society, who take wretched pleasure in bastardizing the nation’s laws, while fanning the flames of a sue-happy society that’s been spinning out of control for decades.

Of course, it’s very short sighted to think that regulating these ambulance chasers’ advertisement content is going to restore even an ounce of honor to the profession of attorney; quite simply, it won’t. There’s much more work to do in the ethics department before the term honor can be attributed to the profession of attorney –especially civil attorney.

But perhaps taking the commercial out of the attorney might inject a bit more law into the legal system. After all, the sooner the justice system can get a bridle on the tort lawyers, the more credence there will be for reform among their equally sordid counterparts, the insurance agencies, which have no problem upping premiums across the board as they dole out Ellis Law’s piggy bank of settlements. Perhaps the court system should consider saddling that disclaimer on their lawyers.

Frankly, state and federal legislators should consider reverting back to how the old system operated in 1908, when lawyers were barred from any advertising, save for distributing business cards. For now, the state court has moved an inch in the right direction. Let’s just hope they don’t get discouraged by the mile of reform they have left to traverse.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Survey says...

Leave it up to the public to solve the Spa City’s nagging problems, such as the affordable housing crisis, skyrocketing rents on Broadway and the ill effects of over-development.

The solution? Bring in more restaurants and maybe a potato chip museum.

That’s according to the unscientific public survey results of Team Saratoga, a marketing committee formed by Finance Commissioner Matt McCabe and tasked with finding solutions to ensure future success in the city.

In February, Team Saratoga attempted to reach out to the public with a survey asking for the little guy’s opinion. Physical surveys were located at City Hall and businesses across the city, while the plugged in resident could fill out an online questionnaire and file it electronically.

However, you can lead the public to a survey, but you can’t make them fill it out. In the end, residents largely ignored the appeal, with less than five percent of the population completing it, according to The Saratogian. And among the 1,300-some-odd residents that did complete the exercise, few seemed to have a grasp on the real issues –much less any issues –facing the Spa City in the 21st century.

Yes, traffic lights cycle in under 10 minutes. And yes, truck traffic is a nagging problem in a city that’s grown overdeveloped for its roadways. But when the top three new business suggestions are a high-end grocer, in-city movie theater and several new restaurants, one must call into doubt the results of the entire survey.

For those who haven’t traversed downtown Saratoga Springs in the past three decades, there’s an overabundance of restaurants that choke the street and seem to increase two-fold during any given year. For most owners, that means the pie is getting sliced a bit thinner every year. It also means only the most competitive and prominently located eateries stay in business at the end of the day, while everyone else is sent packing.

As for the high-end grocer, it’s tough to miss the Putnam Market on a stroll downtown, unless perchance you happen to be blind and lacking any olfactory senses. And if customers actually showed an interest in the movie complex on Congress Street, then perhaps some strapping entrepreneur would consider bringing another cinema within the city limits.

There were, however, several interesting comments to be gleaned from the survey. Some feel it’s time to bring a marathon to Saratoga Springs to highlight the city’s heritage as a health-oriented destination. Of course, this meshes well with another screwball idea tossed into the mix: form an entire museum dedicated to celebrating the potato chip.

Given this info, here’s an idea for city leaders to mull. How about hosting the Lay’s 25kg-25k, where all runners need to binge on 25 kilograms of potato chips in the week leading up to the 25 kilometer race. If nothing else, the race might bolster the city’s cardiology business.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Seeing the veritable tsunami of garbage left in the aftermath of a Dave Matthews Band performance at the state park in Saratoga is a sobering experience. The utter disdain these visitors seem to have for the nature preserve surrounding the Performing Arts Center is staggering for any civilized human familiar with the long standing tradition of throwing trash in the aptly named trash cans.

Each year, the otherwise innocuous horde of fans descends upon to this ordinarily sanguine area of the city with cases of beer and grillables, turning the park into an orgy of drunken mayhem. Two days later, they leave behind a park in a condition that even most landfill operators would consider deplorable. And Saturday’s finale didn’t disappoint.

As Matthews belted out the first few chords of his opening tune, the rolling greens of the park pavilions stood dotted with a confetti of beer cans and colored Solo cups. The of shattering glass was an all-too-frequent sound in parking areas, as exiting traffic smashed carelessly discarded bottles. Even with plastic garbage cans placed prominently throughout the park, there was a litany of other refuse left behind, ranging from smashed Styrofoam coolers to busted lawn chairs to rotting hotdogs; all standard fare for wasted concertgoers.

On a side note, the now-annual dump of garbage in the park has spurred an odd symbiosis, with the bulk majority of returnable cans and bottles being collected in mere hours by groups of enterprising adolescents, who understand that 1,000 cans translates to $50 worth of drinking cash. Still, the park’s grounds crew inevitably logged overtime to clean up this disaster, which is a price that should be paid by the host Clear Channel Entertainment, and not state taxpayers, who pay the salaries of the SPAC staff.

Still, there remains the gnawing question, which is where these people learned it’s even remotely reasonable to throw their refuse on the ground where they stand. What’s implied by their wanton disregard is that they would find it proper to defecate on the same bed they sleep, a thought that raises a number of questions from a behaviorist point of view.

Now, one could be quick to jump to the conclusion that state park officials should simply start cracking down on the revelers, giving those who choose to use the park as an extension of the bars downtown a ride in the back of a paddy wagon along with a book of citations. But this would simply reinforce among these partiers –many of them either soon to attend or attending college –a prevalent perception of an overly policed society. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of drunken fun now and again.

Here’s a different solution for park police to put in their pipe and smoke. If someone’s vehicle happens to be surrounded by garbage and unattended, then write them a ticket for littering; even place a warning on the concert tickets themselves so that fans aren’t caught off guard. It’s not likely that the fine will deter people from their filthy ways, but it would add revenue to the park’s coffers that could be used to help rehab trails, creeks and then some.

Even better would be a public appeal from Matthews himself to his audience, asking them to respect the park that has earned him a hefty penny over the past decade, or perhaps risk loosing the well-loved venue. After all, SPAC could very easily tell Matthews to screw off, much like they did with the Grateful Dead back in the day.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Roger Wilkow

Andrew Wilkow accepted a contract with Sirius Satellite Radio, which is good news for Capital Region AM listeners, but bad news for the flailing sanctity of political discourse. For those who’ve never strayed onto the airwaves of Clear Channel Radio’s 810 WGY, Wilkow is the prattling morning political shock jock that grabs the day’s headlines and blasts them through the FOX news filter –although he publicly prides himself on the originality of his thoughts.

This said, here’s a basic summation of his show: anything left of the far right is liberal and should therefore be tarred and feathered. As most people engaged in politics know, this isn’t a new act blossoming from the AM dial, just a new generation of blowhard to further skew the public’s view.

The Long Island born-and-bread Wilkow came to the area after completing a degree in communications at the University of Florida, which is a fact he often falls back on to give credence to his skewed brand of journalism. After serving stints as a rock deejay at several stations throughout the east coast, he gained notoriety with WGY and bumped nationally syndicated conservative host Glenn Beck out of the station’s morning slot in 2005.

Since that time, Wilkow has expounded upon his linear view of the world, which in fact is spherical, as explorers proved some centuries ago. But in Wilkow’s view of things, there’s a straight line with two sides, in which people either fall on one side or the other. He’s the new brand of conservative, the edgy radio host who gets hopped up on a Stewart’s double-large coffee then ridicules all those whom he's deemed the BMW-driving labor union-loving self-righteous leftists that swill fine wine at a socialist garden parties and spit down on working class people –not that this Hanity Jr. doesn’t enjoy a good chortle over martinis.

And while no one could ever fault Wilkow for his tenacity, he comes across as a garden-variety moron more interested in getting in the last insult than engaging in any sort of sensible dialogue. Regrettably, he’s not alone in the polarized market of news talk shows. It’s not to say liberal shock jocks are any better than guys like Wilkow – take a listen to Air America to hammer this point home –just that the one-sided approach often taken by these surprisingly influential jackasses is bleeding the life out of intelligent political discourse.

Truth is, categorizing people as textbook liberals or conservatives is problematic given the ever-changing dynamics of politics, which is something Wilkow’s mighty communications degree probably never hammered home to him. Suffice to say, he’ll bring this blinders approach to life to a broader market, where he’ll inevitably get a hefty raise for proliferating his lunacy, proving once again that ignorance breeds success.

For the Capital Region radio, it’s good riddance to bad rubbish. Sadly, however, there’s a whole new market of people that will now be subject to this flatulent butthead’s rhetoric. Hopefully he keeps quiet about his Albany roots, as the city's property values are low enough as it is.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


G. Jack Parisi must wear latex gloves to bed at night just to be safe. Or at least that’s the impression given of Schenectady County’s director of food and environmental health unit in an article headlining in the Daily Gazette Thursday, as he warns citizens of a looming danger threatening stomachs across the region: potluck dinners.

That’s right. Potluck dinners, it’s like playing Russian roulette, only with food.

Granted, there’s a certain degree of danger in eating any food prepared by someone else behind closed doors or at foreign locations. Then again, there’s an inherent danger in eating food altogether. This is not to say that any regulation capriciously enforced by either the county or the state is going to protect people from food-born illness.

But to warn people in a more-than-ominous way about the so-called dangers of shoveling down some glazed ham and cucumber salad at the local farm's fundraiser is just asinine. And to suggest that every church group in the Capital Region apply for a county permit before hosting a Sunday potluck or congregation barbeque is even more ridiculous.

Even better is Parisi’s threat to perform spot inspections and throw out food if necessary at some of these events. Of course, he’s got enforcer Andrew Suflita, the county’s senior public health sanitarian, to back him up on this idle threat.

“We will shut them down if there’s cause,” he told the Gazette.

Only cookies and similar dry baked goods are safe from this dynamic duo, which must have gotten a large grant from the state and a massive shipment of amphetamines if they think they’re going inspect every church picnic in the county this summer. Well guys, before you start shutting down these potlucks like prohibition-era speakeasies, perhaps you should make sure all the county's restaurants are abiding by this wonderful health code of yours.

Truth be known, there’s hardly any restaurants in the region that abide fully to the state health code; simply put, it’s overbearing and just not practical. In most cases, restaurateurs will catch the health department on the way into their establishment, then rectify most of the minor problems in the back long before they ever start scribbling on their clipboard.

Granted, nobody wants food prepared in a filthy kitchen with roaches scurrying across the floor, or by a guy with jaundice and open sores. But if granny’s potato salad has stood the test of more than a half-century’s worth of stomachs without causing a region-wide bacterial infection, chances are pretty good she’s making it in a somewhat sanitary way.

This said, Parisi and Suflita should find a better hobby than frightening elderly folks looking to raise a few pennies for their organizations. Better yet, maybe the county could find a better hobby for them where they actually earn their inflated paychecks footed by public tax dollars.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Winging it

After nearly three decades of minor league and semi professional hockey at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the ice has finally thawed. What was once an oasis of hockey –a one-year stop off for many who went on to professional fame –has now become a dumping ground for the Mullet, also known as Adirondack Frostbite Owner Barry Melrose, and the city’s Common Council.

As is usual with any pissing match between a private business interest and a government entity, the number-one looser is the public itself. In this case, it’s the faithful Adirondack hockey fan base, which has strangely offered continual support for the languishing United Hockey League franchise that Melrose has foisted up as a real hockey team.

For 20 years, the Adirondack Red Wings –the former American Hockey League affiliate for the Detroit Red Wings now located in Grand Rapids, Mich. –drew fans out to the civic center, sometimes in droves. Even when the Wings weren’t winning, fans could revel in the thought that they were watching players destined for a future in the National Hockey League.

Then in 1999, amid dipping attendance and a market that was steadily diminished by the successful Albany River Rats, Detroit moved their minor league affiliate to a larger market. Enter the hapless Icehawks. True hockey aficionados never bought into the team for one simple reason: they were a ragged bunch of has-beens, wash-ups, and beaten-favorites without as much as a prayer to make the big leagues.

After four solid seasons of heinous hockey, the Mullet, himself a former championship coach with the Wings, decided he could reinvigorate the civic center by slapping a new coat of paint on the UHL team and giving it a spiffy name. In perhaps his wisest move as owner, he hired back several former Wing players to perhaps draw some of the devoted fans from years past, which seemed to work all right until one hung himself.

Not surprisingly, the team went belly up this month. Melrose said the city’s unwillingness to lower rent at the civic center quashed a deal arranged with another soon-to-be-defunctUHL team called the Danbury Trashers(see above photo), which offered Glens Falls the deluxe all-inclusive package, complete with ties to the mafia. But after the deal fell through, the Mullet decided he’d rather see the civic center “go dark” than dump another boatload of cash into his flailing team. So long and thanks for the fish, Frostbite.

And while this might sound like a mere footnote in another pathetic chapter of Capital Region professional hockey, the civic center and the city itself could face some rough times ahead if the nosedive of the last seven years isn’t corrected in a hurry.

City leaders need to realize the civic center needs hockey, or another major draw to keep the lights on. If it’s going to be hockey, then it should be a competitive team that has more than tacit links to the NHL. After all, there aren’t too many self-respecting hockey fans that are willing to pay $15 to watch a hapless collection of 30-something former junior hockey standouts. There are plenty of beer leagues for that, and they don’t cost a dime to watch.

Truth is, there's a market for hockey in the great Adirondack north and in the Capital Region. One solution is to court a minor league franchise to be billed as a competing organization with the nearby River Rats, and then work a public relations campaign to augment that rivalry. But like many endeavors in today’s world, it would take a future vision and regional planning to tap the market; two things that both the Mullet and the common council leaders apparently lack.

In the mean time, it’s the fans and local businesses that get the proverbial screwing in this deal, much like they did when the Wings didn’t re-up seven years ago. Amid this developing calamity, city leaders are assuring there will be some sort of replacement or plan to fill the void left by the Frostbite. This is despite there being only three short months until a sports franchise would ordinarily be pulling revenue, which is a sparse amount of time for them to be winging it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Or is it nailed? Regardless, Tom Curley, the former Spa City public safety commissioner joins a dubious list of high-ranking republicans nabbed over the past four months for driving while intoxicated, proving true the axiom what goes around, comes around. And for a slippery individual like Curley, some might proffer that the just comeupance couldn't have happened to a better political figure.

Curley, as the media has taken recent joys in rehashing, is the former City Council member who refused –or rather was goaded by his party into refusing –to dismiss the young and embattled Erin Dreyer, after she abused the power of the deputy public safety commissioner’s position. Curley, as some may recall, was helped into office by Bill Ennis, Dreyer’s father and a behind-the-scenes-republican-heavyweight, who helped eliminate all competition during the 2003 election.

With his DWI, Curley joins a list that includes once up-and-coming Schenectady County Chairman James Walsh –not be confused with the Pataki aide of the same name –who three months ago, was charged twice in one week with drunken driving. And were one looking to tie the Pataki Administration into this party of tipplers, look to Press Secretary Joe Conway, who was nabbed for DWI last month after slamming a state vehicle into a parked car in Albany, then driving off several blocks to contemplate his misdeed.

Granted, things haven’t looked good lately for the Grand Old Party in the Capital Region. With a staunch conservative like John Faso vying for the top politcal seat in a mostly moderate state, the governorship has been all but handed to democrat Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who would probably need to be busted smoking a crack pipe with an under-aged Taiwanese prostitute before seeing any noticeable decline in the polls.

But given the most recent spate of headlines it appears as though things have been bad enough for the party’s heavyweights to keep themselves on steady dosages of –as some police agencies state in their reports –intoxicating liquors.

Just ask John Sweeney, who himself had two recent drags through the headlines; one for knocking them back at a Union College fraternity party in April and another after his son was offered a sweet deal to wipe a felony conviction off his record in October. That deal was presented by visiting Montgomery County District Attorney James Conboy and accepted by visiting Fulton County Judge Richard Giardino, both registered republicans.

Amid these drunken escapades is nestled a nifty little incident of groping, pasted to the forehead of Armando Tebano, the city of Schenectady’s Republican Party chairman, who also serves as the GOP’s county elections commissioner. Although Tebano’s counsel vehemently denies the allegations of third-degree sexual abuse, forcible touching and child endangerment lodged against his client, there’s a 14-year-old girl and a host of police that say he made quite a pass at her while they watched a movie alone at his house.

When listing any charges lobbied against them, it should be mentioned that all politicians are indeed human and ultimately suffer human vices; to characterize any politician as saintly is to not understand the dubious nature of politics itself. But with this caveat, it's a bit uncanny the number of charges levied against some of these ranking members of the party, who should realize from the begining of life in the public spotlight, they shouldn’t be cruising around drunk on a Saturday night looking for some teenage girls to grope.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Failing Constitution 101

James Schultz is teaching students at the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School a valuable lesson in fascist dictatorships. In a most egregious decree, the district’s superintendent has demanded that the district’s young adults sign a waiver forfeiting their right to privacy before allowing them to park their vehicles on school property, according to an article appearing in the Schenectady Daily Gazette. In typical secretive fashion, the district's Board of Education made sparse mention of this sweeping change in their minutes.

Here's the crux of the situation: Schultz has decided that a student’s vehicle is the same thing as a student’s locker, at least when such said vehicle is parked on school grounds. And given this fact, he believes that any student vehicle should be subject to search at the whim of any faculty member.

“There is a misconception among students that they have a right to privacy in their lockers,” Schultz told a Gazette reporter Friday. “In fact, the courts have held that lockers are the property of the school and can be opened.”

Aside from noting obvious ownership discrepancies in this comparison –there aren’t too many districts that provide students with complementary cars –one could also point out to the superintendent that few high school lockers can go zero to sixty in under a minute on the freeway. But an even more obvious question to ask is why faculty members can't simply call up the cops and have them search a student's vehicle when there's suspicion of criminal activity within its confines?

It should be noted that even police, bound by laws clearly spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, must either get an individual waiver from a suspect or seek what’s known as a search warrant based on probable cause prior to conducting a search. For any district Board of Education member, this fact alone should have quashed this asinine rule, which could conceivably drag the school into a lengthy, costly and highly publicized federal lawsuit in the very near future.

More importantly, however, is the message Shultz is hammering home to impressionable students at a time when society appears on the brink of falling into police state: don’t hide behind your flimsy little constitution, because those aren’t our rules.

Hopefully, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake students will tell Schultz where he can cram his waiver and stage at the very least, a moderate resistance to his ridiculous assertion that private vehicles are somehow public property. At the very least, their parents –the district’s taxpayers –should respond to this outrage by voting every last school board member who rubber-stamped this policy out of office, which would be the first step to ousting Schultz.

And feel free to drop Schultz a line to voice an opinion about his public urination on the most basic of Fourth Amendment rights.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Despising Abu Musab al-Zarqawi isn’t very difficult to do, especially after giving his biography a quick scan. For the world of journalism, he came to represent the prototypical bogyman, tantamount to the ever-elusive Osama bin Laden, in which to give a swift kick in the headlines each time a bomb blast ripped through the Middle East.

And while some sort of global impact from the Jordanian-born terrorist’s death this week is assured, it’s a fairly safe bet that very few people in the Capital Region are going to change their lives radically thanks to his demise. But given some of the reactions being chucked out to and by the local press, one could easily garner the impression that it’s now safe to start pulling the duct tape off the windows.

Take for example the prefab statement released by trusty Governor Protractor, not that Pataki himself or any of the other legislator in Albany played even a cursory role in tracking al-Zarqawi through the desert grottos of Iraq’s hinterlands. Still, the lame-duck governor –who still hasn’t confessed to having his eye on the White House –decided to drop a saber-rattling statement oddly reminiscent of the many speeches given in Madison Square Garden nearly two years ago.

“As we approach the fifth anniversary of September 11th, we must recommit ourselves to protecting our homeland with the same single-minded drive and determination demonstrated by the courageous troops who brought this madman to justice,” Pataki prattled on in a statement issued to the press.

Justice, that is, in the wrong-end-of-a-bomb-blast sort of way.

Leave it to another pair of windbags and a drunk to echo this statement. Sen. Hillary Clinton apparently “saw firsthand” al-Zarqawi’s handy work, while on a tour bus with the presidential fam in Jordan last fall. Meanwhile, U.S Rep. John Sweeny chose to point out the blisteringly obvious: al-Zarqawi bad, bomb-blasts good. Then of course, there was Chuck Schumer, who probably had a few martinis in his gut before coming up with the prose he tossed out to the media.

“Sooner or later, evil people meet their just desserts,” he announced Thursday. “The entire world of people who believe in freedom and peace can take solace in what happened.”

Desserts? Solace? Does the senator mean the public should take comfort in sorrow while shoveling down an apple pie ala mode?

But even amid this blustering front of hot air, it was again The Saratogian that prevailed with the most ridiculous angle during Thursday’s al-Zarqawipalooza. In an almost whimsical man-on-the-street article with no less than three by-lines, the Spa City’s crack-team of reporters determined for fact, that military recruitment isn’t expected to change even with news of al-Zarqawi’s death.

And here all this time, military recruiters were depending on this day to get a sudden influx of strapping young soldiers to swell the army’s ranks. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board, boys.

Whose news now?

If there’s a news network trying desperately to keep pace with steady downward spiral of small-market newspapers, then it’s Capital News 9, whose so-called “news now” approach to covering the day’s events apparently boils down to turning up the scanner and waiting until the tips line starts ringing off the hook. This is despite a mission statement that depicts the station as the great protectorate of community-oriented journalism.

Granted, producing 24 hours of news on a minimal budget with a staff that’s largely comprised of news rookies and neophytes can’t be easy. But to go on air each day without a clue as to the day’s pertinent news items is sheer buffoonery, even for those among the News 9 staff who can count the hours since they received their bachelor’s degree.

Typically, the best way to find news is to have a reporter living and interacting in a given community. That reporter can then determine with a fair degree of accuracy the importance of certain events. But presented with a cash-starved budget, most producers are hesitant to send a news crew –rather a 20-something camera-wielding post-intern –into the field to chase a story that might not pan out by the 7 p.m. broadcast.

Given this circumstance, the best way to get a broad idea of the region’s issues is to pick up a cross-section of area newspapers and actually read the articles. It doesn’t take much time, perhaps an hour a day. But from this exercise, any news station should be able to glean at least two interesting tidbits from each paper worthy of placing a phone call or two.

Not News 9. In fact, most of their reporters and so-called “anchors” have difficulty producing just one story per day. Even if they do manage such a feat –something that is expected from all print media journalists –generally the stories lack depth, insight or even a single source, which violates a whole host of journalistic ethics.

When they’re not missing the mark or flat-out plagiarizing, these future broadcast anchors of America are chasing sirens to every small fender-bender or swelled creak in the Capital Region. Were it not for careless drivers or inclement weather, it seems News 9 would loose the greater portion of their daily broadcast.

Now, if News 9's producers, or better yet, their staffers were to take even a passing interest in journalism, then maybe they’d try talking to some local people, learning some of the issues and reporting news that actually affects a broad range of people, not just the smarting victim of a car crash.

After all, there are more interesting things happening outside that don’t involve ambulances that might spur an iota of thought among the thousands of board viewers watching the all-day CNN-esque network. That is, at least, if one is to look past the Post Star’s Web headlines this morning.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

All washed up

Seldom is there a more ludicrous bout of legal and political sparring than the one transpiring out on Saratoga Lake. As even the most introverted of introverts must know by now, city leaders and lake residents have clashed openly over a plan to tap city water from the lake for more than a decade now in a dialogue that has often boiled down to childish behavior unbecoming of a hyperactive two-year-old with tourette's.

But for those in the cheap seats, here’s an abridged break-down of the action thus far. First, the city decides it needs more water, fearing the geological demise of Loughberry Lake reservoir on Route 50. City Public Works officials decide the closest and most reasonable alternative is Saratoga Lake, a prospect that ruffles the feathers of those living on its shores, who fear the plan will imminently limit their aquatic recreation and lower their property values.

As an alternative, the county supervisors decide that it would be a good idea to tap the PCB-laden Hudson by the town of Moreau, nearly 17 miles away, as a more regional and sustainable water source. That brings us to the 21st century. And what has followed since offers a look at how unbelievable convoluted local partisan government can be.

Were it not for the rubber-stamping going on at City Hall, however, chances are pretty good the ironically named Saratoga Springs wouldn’t need water in the first place. With still under 30,000 people living year-round in the Spa City, the present population remains dwarfed by its historic predecessors, who managed to operate towering behemoths like the Grand Union and United States hotels without having to seek water alternatives. Still, the raging debate over the lake versus the river or the city plan versus the county plan – the Democrats versus the Republicans –wages on unabatted, inevitably consuming time, energy and money that could be spent on projects that actually benefit average working-class families.

As it stands now, the only people standing to gain from either water plan are the builders poised to layout sprawl as far as the eye can see, a fact The Saratogian in all its lengthy coverage of this train-wreck of a story, continues to neglect. And instead of informing readers of the real agenda behind the non-issue of this issue The Saratogian feels the need to muddy the water even more by quoting the prattling windbags and nefarious politicians who have anything but the public’s interest in mind.

Rather than scribbling down all the drivel that often shoots from David Bronner’s mouth, perhaps one of the neophyte reporters among The Saratogian’s revolving door of staffers could take a gander at the noticeable-to-the-eye pace of city development. Maybe some discerning light could be shed on how dire the city’s situation really is, if it were publicly revealed how much water is quite literally flushed down each superflush toilet in the recently erected high-rise condominiums on Railroad Street; the hotels on Excelsior; the monolithic structure being built on Division Street; et cetera.

But it’s a lot easier for The Saratogian to cover –barrowing a slogan often espoused by genius city editor Connie Jenkins –every “burp and fart” bandied about in City Hall and among the propaganda raised through partisan politics. In the end and as usual, it’s the working class that gets screwed, as the issue quite literally bleeds away tax dollars on every level and at every step of the way.

And why? Check almost any workable faucet in the city and chances are pretty good it’s still pumping out cool liquid refreshment chemically known as H2O. When the aforementioned faucet finally burps or farts dust, then perhaps water will be an issue worthy of tax dollars.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Risky business

Dr. David Brill’s business went belly up in March, which is good news for the state’s working counter-culture, but a bad indicator for everyone else. For those with substance-induced memory lapses, Brill’s now-bankrupt business, ironically named DrugRisk Solutions LLC., was once foisted by Governor George Pataki as both a catalyst for both business rejuvenation in Schuylerville and the biotech industry in New York.

Less than three years and more than $1.2 million in debt later, Brill has filed federal chapter 11 proceedings as he reorganizes the company he once boasted would “save lives” and “reduce costs” for businesses by performing on-site hair follicle drug testing for them. Hair follicle testing can detect nearly every substance ingested by a subject on a “chronic” basis, according to the company, with little, if any margin of error.

For nearly five years, Brill was the darling child forged out of the matrimony between high-tech science and the legislative world, as he racked up more startup funding for his venture than many ordinary people make in a lifetime. Brill also seemed to cozy up quite nicely to Republicans in both the state Legislature and in Washington D.C., which is perhaps why he got so much capital from the get-go.

And shortly after the governor’s announcement in February 2004, things appeared to be going well with Brill’s company. DrugRisk received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market the privately to police agencies, pulled in a high-tone scientist from Vegas and made a second run at a $100,000 business plan competition during the “Summit in Tech Valley” last year.

Then suddenly, Brill’s once-ambitious business plan was flushed down the toilet of bankruptcy, taking with it more than $3.3 million worth of public and private investment, the break down of which is a bit sketchier. In 2004, U.S. Congressman John Sweeney managed to get Brill $300,000 of federal funding, while Pataki penned him a check for $500,000 worth of taxpayer money. New York’s Empire Zones also doled out more than $100,000 worth of tax credits for investors into Brill’s failed business.

Perhaps in the world of business, a cool million isn’t a lot of money. But from a taxpayer’s prospective, anything with six figures seems like an ample amount to be chucked into a venture whose chief officer once told a federal Department of Health and Human Services panel would let business owners “be a human being” with employees.

Maybe that’s why the company failed. Big business executives –conceivably fearing the results of their own tests –are now subscribing to a more humane belief system that some recreational drug use is acceptable in workforce, enough so that they’re not chomping at the bit over the idea of transparent spot testing. Or could it be that a whole slew of wealthy vultures used Brill’s idea to log tax exemptions and fly beneath the radar of the IRS.

As for Schuylerville, one can only hope that Brill’s business wasn’t the cornerstone on which revitalization was planned. And for Saratoga County, which has long touted the benefits of establishing the Luther Forest Technology Park, hopefully DrugRisk isn’t the proverbial parakeet that was flown into the mine of the region’s high-tech industry.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Take a look at the lawn signs rolling down Route 50 and even an outsider can get an idea of the venomous fight that has roiled among residents over Walmart’s plans to erect a 223,000-square-foot “supercenter” in the town of Ballston.

Now take a gander at the new signs that have popped up along the same roadway, announcing the closing sale blowout of yet another K-mart –this one dubbed a “Super-K” –less than 10 miles south in the town of Glenville. It’s an odd juxtaposition that few people in Ballston have publicly made notice of, whether they support bringing a big box store into the heart of town or not.

Building one of these behemoth stores isn’t that difficult for a thriving multi-national corporation at the top of its game. And for cash-strapped communities feeling the brunt of rising annual levies, having a large retailer adds money to the tax rolls and brings jobs to the area, albeit generally low-paying jobs.

But what is often ignored in debates about big-box retailers is what fate might befall their gargantuan stores if the parent company goes belly-up. And given the track record of many large retailers, it’s often not a question of if, as much as it is a question of when.

Take for example the awe inspiring plummet of K-Mart, which looked like a prototypical model for retail success through out the 1980s and much of the 1990s. Within 15 miles of nearly every town in the Capital Region, there was at least some sign of the retailer, whether it was the mighty Super-K, a more moderate-sized supermarket outlet or one of the company’s behemoth distribution centers.

Then, Wall Street pulled the plug on K-Mart, causing the once-bustling cluster of stores to wither up almost overnight. Instead of vanishing, however, the company left behind an enduring legacy in the massive rotting shells dotting the landscape; too big for any moderate sized business to use and too costly to be ripped down.

In the town of Amsterdam in Montgomery County, it’s been nearly three years since a neighborhood-sized K-Mart on Route 30 last saw customers. Today, it’s become a haven for rubbish as the building is transferred from one holding company to the next. And with retail competition at a peek along the road, it’s not likely that another box retailer is going to test the waters anytime soon.

Similarly, a K-Mart’s location in Saratoga Springs only recently sprouted a pair of new businesses –a tractor supply company and a furniture store –after remaining vacant for nearly three years. The last third of the store –not even considered one of K-Mart’s larger area branches –remains vacant to date.

Granted, there’s obviously a market for big box stores, especially when times are tight and people across the board are looking for nearby bargains. But that shouldn’t absolve a corporation of what should be its obligation to protect the better interest of the areas where they do business, even if they do end up filing for bankruptcy.

Here’s a simple solution for municipalities to protect themselves: mandate a contingency plan to be in place for retailers over a certain size. Demand that box store retailers set up a fund in advance to cover the cost of demolition, if they suddenly go bankrupt. Then require them to either fill the store or tear it down within two years after vacating.

Basically, this would provide a litmus test for the community to gague Walmart or any other boxstore retailer that comes sniffing around; if the company has a vested interest in making a store work, they’ll shell out what will ultimately be very little in comparison to legal and public relations campaigns. Such a contingency agreement would also offer an ounce of appeasement to detractors, who often express just fears over uncaring corporate monoliths setting up shop in their backyards.

And given the cut-throat rise-and-fall atmosphere of big business, it would be comforting for for the community at large to know that there is indeed life after Walmart that doesn't involve watching an already unsightly warehouse rot into obscurity on the hillside.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Kill your television

Leave it to the powdered up brainchildren of network television to malign, misreport and distort the day's news in any direction their fickle minds see fit. Then, as the rest of the journalistic world watches their handy work with utter puzzlement, they’ve already hopped on to a new story to sensationalize with out even bothering to correct a slew of errors that lay strewn behind in their wake.

Granted, no one is perfect. But the era of so-called “television journalism” has proven how utterly imperfect – better yet, incompetent –some people are when they’re gussied up in front of a camera wearing a layer of makeup that could only be applied by spatula.

As usual, the networks have come out shinning this week with their kamikaze no-holds-barred style of news reporting. Starting at the top of the week, there was the coverage of the CSX train wreck several miles outside of the paved paradise of Amsterdam.

While the rest of the world breathed a sigh of relief that a handful of tanker cars weren’t leaking flammable ethanol, the “live, local, late-breaking” geniuses of News Channel 13 still kept a posting on their Web site indicating that the state police were moving to contain the spill. Guess what. There was no spill of ethanol.

But when the on-the-scene reporter chimed in later in the evening, this event of misreporting was glossed over without apology or mention. And in keeping with television news tradition of poor reporting, none of the networks bothered to make as much as a phone call to CSX to find out the real story of what happened, which would have corrected a number of factual errors in their stories, such as the fact that 25 cars derailed, not the 14 that first responders had initially suspected.

Why stop at wrecks when bad reporting can bleed into tragedy? That was the case two days later, when three men drowned after jumping off a bridge into the Great Sacandaga Lake. As information began to dribble out from the scene, reporters from every news channel in the Capital Region descended upon the small town of Edinburg, furiously filming odd angles of pontoon boats and voraciously reporting anything that was spoken.

From those reports, the world learned that the man-made reservoir –often considered one of the shallower lakes in the state –somehow managed to keep an average temperature hovering around 50 degrees. In further dramatizing the event, several moron reporters made it sound as though a cold evening at the lake could freeze the damn thing over. But out of the whole lot, it was a reporter from FOX 23 News –the spawn of an even greater bunch of retards –who gave the best quote of the evening: ladies and gentlemen, just stay out of the water.

Of course, the swimming ability of the men wasn’t taken into account. And despite one FOX News bimbo brandishing an over-sized wall thermometer by the lake the next day, the station didn’t even bother to mention that the lake temperature is in the lower to mid-60s, which is still cool, but far from the ice slush they were reporting earlier.

Sadly, these are just two small examples of how reality is distorted once the camera is rolling. Perhaps that’s why the increasingly frugal networks are continuing to loose viewers at a somewhat alarming rate, even out pacing their dinosaur competition. In 2005, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that local news networks lost about an average of 5 percent of their viewers last year, in contrast to the 3 percent of readers lost by daily newspapers.

Some in the industry will stick up for the networks by pointing out shrinking budgets and smaller news crews thanks a steady decline in ratings over the past decade. But if the bleeding is to stop, the networks need to produce a vision for the future, rather than trying to boil 24 hours of news into what amounts to about five minutes of broadcast space.

Better yet, they need to start reporting the news with even an ounce of insight and accuracy, rather than worrying about camera angles, background shots or how tight their double Windsor knot is tied.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Mention the Caroline Street Block Party around Jim Stanley and the longtime owner of the Tin n’ Lint will undoubtedly go into a vitriolic diatribe about the medalling bastards in City Hall. Then ask him his thoughts on the Caroline Street Art and Blues Festival.

Stanley is among a contingent of people who still aren’t exactly tickled about the city’s decision six years ago to nix the annual even on Caroline Street, which for many bars along the city’s Bourbon Street signified the first big day of the summer season.

In its heyday, the Caroline Street Block Party could have easily been described as a blue-collar party; as sort of event that was anything but wholesome but far from raucous. On the first Sunday in May, police would block off the length of the street, suspend open-container laws in that area and allow revelers to freely float amid what often ranked as the first pleasant weather of the year. And more often than not, it served as the last time city natives could kick back without having to deal with half-cocked twits from out of town.

But then the city council had to get involved. First, it was decided that the block party wasn’t as family-oriented as it should be to properly convey the image of Saratoga Springs to visitors. Of course, there’s a very salient argument that any street with a bakers’ dozen bars in less than two blocks isn’t by nature a family-oriented area. Still, the decision was made in 2000 –under pressure from the council and the city Chamber of Commerce –to force any consumption of alcohol back into the bars.

Then, in another brilliant move, it was decided to over publicize the bash via radio. This meant the block party that once drew up to a couple thousand suddenly pulled in tens of thousands from outside the city, which was a number no one could have been prepared to deal with.

Predictably, the event got out of hand. With temperatures soaring into the 90s and a crowd of nearly 15,000 shoehorned into side street bars, violence began to percolate, especially when a handful of drunk Schenectady cops started throwing fists in Gaffney’s. Things only got worse when the hired security guards were dispatched from the event –already understaffed by city police –long before the rowdy crowd dispersed.

But rather than offer solutions, former Councilman Thomas Curley, who’s now well loved in the city, stepped up on his mighty pedestal and began launching an unabated attack against the event. In their trademark pandering way, The Saratogian editorial staff saw their opportunity to draw some blood too, espousing how horrible the event had become without taking even an ounce of credence to what was behind all the problems.

Today, in lieu of the block party, the city has the so-called Art and Blues festival, which is just another pompous white-bred event aimed at drawing wealthy tourists and their grandchildren to eat overpriced funnel cake while standing in, oddly enough, The Saratogian’s beloved parking lot. Given all the free advertisement they stood to receive, the paper was quite quick to make the offer to host the event, a fact that quite frankly smacks of collusion.

Now, The Saratogian prints such cheery headlines as “it’s party time on Caroline Street” to advertise the denuded event their editorial board helped foment, which in truth is anything but a party. Try more like hackneyed tourist-dollar sponge that Barbara Lombardo and her cronies have the unabashed gall to call a “block party.”

Five "fests" later, it's unfortunate that both city residents and the Caroline Street Association don't have the cojones to stand up to this nonsense and re-establish what was once the working man's celebration of the rites of spring.

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