Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Extreme Makeover: Public Safety Edition

It’s easy to goad folks into doing something they don’t like. Simply sprinkle a bunch of sugar over top an otherwise bitter idea before cramming it down the pipe. It works. Just ask Mary Poppins.

Undoubtedly, this was what all three developers were thinking when they recently submitted proposals for a new Public Safety block: Give them enough sugar to send them into diabetic shock so they never quite realize their sucking down a 50 pound bag of Denatonium salts. Hence their proposals for a Broadway-front cinema and a year-round farmers market, both ideas that are readily –even blindly –accepted by a very vocal component of city residents. And let’s not forget the appeal to the green sneakers with a quintessential mention of “green” or LEED-certified building standards

Meanwhile, they’re selling a plan that would drastically alter Saratoga Springs’ present landscape. In addition, they’re each adding a multimillion-dollar line-item to a city budget already dependent on shaky revenue sources and the annual fund balance. All three plans include more space than the police and courts need and two out of three propose financing the whole thing by accruing parking revenues over a prolonged-but-not-mentioned period of time.

Another element seemingly omitted from all three plans is the fate of the existing police station, a historic building about a quarter of the size of the most modest police station proposed by the developers. Or even the courthouse in City Hall, another large swath of space that would remain heated during the winters, air-conditioned during the summers and empty year-round.

But wait, there’s more. In following the city’s normally flawed request-for-proposal, the developers also made no mention of what the new public safety facility would cost to maintain. Sure, some include numbers like $2.2 million annually to lease. However, this figure probably doesn’t include the maintenance of the building or the utility costs it may incur.

Sure, these are rough sketches of plans that only include the cursory details. Still, these are decision-breaking questions that need to be answered before the city endeavors to contract such construction out to a private developer, especially before one builds a city-occupied structure that encompasses more than 56,000-square-feet.

Unfortunately, the public’s view is already obscured by the bells and whistles attached to each proposal. News of a cinema coming to Broadway lit up the Times Union blog with over-excited film fans salivating over the notion of dinner and a movie right here in the city proper. Then when the proposals were pitched Friday, the discussion swung over to the age-old talk about whether the city should charge for parking downtown, or if free parking is a god-given right in Saratoga Springs.

None of the discussion so far has focused on whether a city potentially facing a nearly 10 percent budget gap can afford a new public anything, much less a replacement for a building that is already serving its intended purpose, albeit somewhat marginally. Again, there is a failure among city officials to work within the boundaries of what they have at their disposal.

For instance, the city could easily sell all the property mentioned in the public safety proposals and accrue a massive windfall of cash. This funding could be set aside in an interest-earning fund devoted to improving the police department building. Meanwhile, several thousand could be invested into a study of the existing building and what can be done to improve its functionality. Private developers could then build retail, parking garages, cinemas and farmers markets to their hearts content –or as much as the market would dictate. Everyone wins.

Yet this sort of rational talk falls on deaf ears among the new public safety facility’s chief proponents; namely Commissioner Ron Kim, who is already planning the measurements for his new, Bonacio-built office. Hopefully, city residents realize these projects are obfuscating the real issues –the outlandish prospect of building such a structure during the worst economic recession in decades –before they end up biting into the lemon the City Council will soon be dangling before them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ode to Ivins

Why bother screaming at a brick wall? Because there’s an infinitesimal chance that someone on the others side might just hear what you’re saying. In this case, it’s Kenneth Ivins who is staring back through the bricks.

The city finance commissioner is hoping to get input on what he should do to abate the city’s looming budget crisis. Of course, the public is too concerned with their own personal budget crises(choose any of the following: wrecked IRA, laid off from work, valueless stock portfolio, facing foreclosure) to help ol’ Ken out in this endeavor; something that seems to bother him a bit.

So here is some advice to the powers that be, in the usual letter-form that most city officials take pride in ignoring. Time will only tell if Ivins kowtows to the two commissioners. If he does, he’ll certainly make his fair share of enemies. Then again, when the only people who can afford to live in Saratoga are the ones who work for the city, perhaps kowtowing is a good idea. Incidentally, you too can send a missive to Ken when the bank is done foreclosing on your home. Just click this link and you too can avoid going through the city Web site.

“Thinking a double-digit tax increase is plausible option to thrust upon a public fearing an eminent recession is a good way to get voted off the City Council Already, the combined municipal tax rate makes it nearly impossible for young workers to find homes in Saratoga Springs. And I’m not just talking about the working class. Even entry-level professionals would have a tough time footing the bill the council is talking about creating.

As finance commissioner, you have an obligation to plan for this city’s financial future. Clearly with the debacle over the state’s Video Lottery Terminal aid, past commissioners did not fulfill this obligation. Do the right thing and remove this aid. Then do whatever it takes to get the budget down to where there is no tax increase. Is this a herculean task? I doubt it. But it requires someone who has a vested interest in making this city livable for people outside of the uber-wealthy.

Had the city planned ahead five years ago; had the VLT aid been set aside in a separate fund; had the city harnessed the power of its almost unprecedented economic development over the past decade, we wouldn’t be in this situation. You have a choice to correct the wrongs exacted by your predecessors: Plan ahead and budget within reason.

I’m all for city services and wouldn’t advocate laying off anyone in this economy. But sacrifices have to be made. The first and foremost sacrifice is cutting the goddamn overtime budget for the city police and public works crews. Surely this isn’t popular among the workers, the union bosses or the businesses that rely on these hours, but there’s no choice at this point.

If they want the extra services for the semi-daily street festivals, then they’ll have to pony up the cash. If crews need more hours to plow the streets, then we’ll have to consider limiting the work they do when it’s not snowing. There is a way to do more with less, and you as an elected official have the task of finding a means to this end. Otherwise, you’re only helping to further a problem that threatens the very fabric of this community.

Next, ditch the recreation center once and for all. Put a stake through the heart of this beast and be done with it. Wasting $900,000 is a blow, but at least you can point to the vapid former mayor as the one who made the mistake. The bottom line is we don’t need it, the building will be too expensive to maintain and the city will eventually pay many times this amount for a service that is essentially already provided at a state-of-the-art YMCA.

Look down any city street and you’ll see a good number of empty houses. Moreover, you’ll see dozens of ‘for sale’ and ‘for rent’ signs posted. These are homes that won’t appeal to the upper-crust folks who can afford a 13 percent tax increase and the cost to maintain them is too damn expensive for the middle class workers looking for a modest residence in the Spa City. There is a gap the always increasing taxes have caused; a rift between the haves and the have-nots. Offering a double-digit tax increase will certainly widen this divide.

Sure, the cuts will hurt in the short run. You’re going to hear it from a lot of people, namely a blustering bankruptcy attorney masquerading as the public safety czar. However, it’s the only right thing to do at this point. When everyone else is cutting, so must the city. In fact, they’re the first institution that should be trimming the fat. And there’s a lot of fat to be trimmed.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More with less

Believe it or not, Saratoga Springs could learn a lot from the ailing newspaper industry. The city is facing a grim economic outlook, much like the lumbering media giants did during the late 1990s, as a perfect storm of failure was swirling over their business model. Similarly, the city is trapped beneath a storm cone that formed as a result of their abject failure to predict an inevitable slowdown of municipal revenue streams.

The newspapers could have forecast their decline when the World Wide Web picked up steam during the mid-90s. Those publications that embraced the Internet have since staved off many of the cuts they needed to make when Craigslist and eBay hit the market several years later. Those who fell behind this learning curve were left with declining profits, an archaic business model and no way of sustaining their workforce.

Nearly all local newspapers have contracted their staff numbers through lay-offs or attrition. And it’s a good thing too, considering the present state of the economy. Today the motto in most newsrooms is doing more with less. It’s a sad fact of life for the media, which can no longer afford even a fraction of the amenities they once did during their heyday.

Newsrooms have since adjusted to these cuts, some more seamlessly than others. The overriding concept of these cuts is doing more with less. Consolidating departments, reducing bureaus and ensuring every last employee is giving 100 percent. Some say this has diminished the product at the newsstand and has furthered diminishing circulation numbers. But ask any publisher and they’ll tell you the only other alternative was to pack it all up and call it a day.

Pan to the city’s developing fiscal crisis. For nearly two decades, budget planners have had the luxury of nearly unprecedented economic development on their side. Vacant lots were being converted into high-rise condominiums; run-down row houses were being turned into an art district, the mansions on North Broadway more than tripled in value. At the apex of this renaissance, the city was showered with more than $3 million worth of windfall funding through the state’s video lottery terminal aid.

Most fiscal planners worth their salt would have urged an ounce of fiscal restraint at this point; perhaps squirrel this aid away into a rainy-day fund. But at the time, the decision was made to dump the VLT aid into the city’s general fund and keep on spending. And they did.

All of this culminated with the 8 percent increase in taxes shoved through under the mayoral administration of Valerie Keehn in 2007, just as the real estate ‘correction’ was beginning and Albany was threatening to hatchet all of the VLT aid. Some municipal groveling and a helping hand from lame-duck Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno saved the city from what could have easily been a 20 percent tax increase or what today’s commissioners might term ‘drastic cuts.’

The Republican-led city council hasn’t done much to right the ship so dreadfully steered off course by the two preceding councils; one led by democrats and the other by the GOP. Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins first talked a big game in cutting overtime to the police and public works departments, and even laying off nearly two dozen part- and full-time city workers.

Then miraculously these cuts were all restored. All it took was the state Department of Environmental Conservation to mail a $526,000 check for aid from the state’s ‘energy to ice’ program. Suddenly, Saratoga Springs was fat city again, more than able to sustain a workforce that was unsustainable during the first round of budget talks. There was lots of back slapping right up until the inevitable news from Albany came last week, indicating the governor is again wittling down the city’s VLT aid. This will leave the city with an estimated 5 percent budget shortfall.

At this point, most rational thinkers would deduce that it’s a bad idea to balance a budget deficit on aid derived from tenuous revenues. At the very least, they’d recognize the shrinking likelihood of the city being isolated from a nationwide recession.

The newsmen realized they were in a similar budgetary predicament a decade ago. Some tried to scurry out of it by consolidating their industry for quick-hit one-time gains. Others rolled with the punches and kept their newsrooms competitive while trying to realize new methods of earning revenue. In both cases, they realized the need to keep a lithe staff that is able to do more with fewer financial resources. It’s something the city should be thinking about as it slogs through the latest financial debacle. In this case, there is no other choice but to cut the burgeoning ranks of city personnel.

This starts with a hiring freeze and continues with retirement incentives. Overtime budgets should be slashed in half, even if it means at the behest of lessening the nearly weekly downtown street festivals. And if the hole continues to gape, then it’s time to start trimming workers, starting at the top and working down. Perhaps if the city had saved some of its boon-time revenues, they could have at least prolonged the cuts they will certainly face either this year or next. But they didn’t, and now it’s time to face the music.

When Ivins takes the floor this evening, his command to the commissioners should be to find at least three positions in each department that can be consolidated into one, with specific regards to the Public Safety and Public Works departments. If they can’t figure it out, then he should advertise the double digit tax increase, and then let residents figure it out with pitchforks and torches.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cool justice in a 12 oz. can

You’re hammering toward the Batchellerville Bridge at midnight on a Saturday evening, fresh from a deuce of tequila shots at the Sport Island Pub. You’re six deep into the 18-rack of Keystone Light riding shotgun, when you suddenly get the insatiable urge to pound back five or six more. The first five go great and you’re feeling rather plucky. You reach for a sixth brew and dash across the Edinburg town line at 75 mph, cracking the cool can open just about the same time as the state trooper cruiser behind you lights up like the Northville Christmas tree.

Several unhappy moments later, you’re in the Edinburg Town Court sporting a pair of silver bracelets courtesy of New York’s finest. They’re free for the time being and are the only thing keeping the 0.25 percent of your blood from goading your brain into a rash decision you might regret after a few hours of sobriety and an over-sugared Stewart’s double large. An hour passes and you’re feeling almost sober when the trooper informs you that there’s no town justice available for arraignment purposes and you’ll need to sleep it off at Saratoga County lockup.

The sun is starting to poke over the evergreens in Ballston Spa when the bailiff finally checks you into you’re tax-funded lodging for the next few hours. He looks disinterested until he spots your last name on the paperwork.

“Hey, I voted for you!” he exclaims. “You’re the Edinburg Town Justice.”

Is it legal to arraign yourself? No. Is it OK to run roughshod across the law books if you’re a town justice? Not in the least bit. Can you rack up enough felonies to buy yourself a two- to five-year prison sentence and still sit on the bench arraigning people? Fuck yeah!

Just ask Brian Kedik, the fledgling Edinburg town justice. Fresh from his Election Day coup and still facing grand larceny charges, the 32-year-old unopposed Republican town justice apparently had enough booze on board to draw the ire of the state park police near the Spa City’s Avenue of Pines. The arrest followed another in October, which stemmed from Kedrik allegedly cashing a forged check he allegedly heisted from his in-laws.

To his credit, Kedik claims the forgery and grand larceny charges are a factor of a pissed-off ex trying to wreck havoc on his life. But it’s tough to sympathize with the guy when he’s getting a felony DWI four hours before happy hour on a Tuesday. At this point, most rational-minded people would ask, “Is this guy qualified for this post?”

Simply put, yes. To be a town or village justice in New York takes only three things: 18 years of life, residency in the municipality you wish to run and a pulse, even if it’s a barely detectable one. The first two requirements are by law, the last is by practicality. After all, it’s a bit difficult to dispense god-like justice down on a court of unscrupulous miscreants if you’re on the receiving end of a defibrillator shock.

Sadly, most state residents think the homely figure clad in black robes and sitting perched in court room has a clue about the law, legal procedure or the repercussions thereof. And in some cases, they may. But as a whole, town and village justices don’t have the foggiest clue about the law,aside from a few weeks of training and what they’ve learned by trial and error. In fact, roughly 70 percent –that’s 70 percent –of New York town and village justices have positively no legal background whatesoever.

Mind you, these are judges that regularly preside over felony arraignments and can issue sentences of up to two years. Granted, higher crimes are always relegated to the county courts, where judges are usually highly trained and highly knowledgeable of the law. This doesn’t change the fact that the opening moments of some very serious cases can sometimes be administered in a court room without a recording device and presided by someone who could very well be awaiting trial on their own felony charges.

Outgoing Chief Judge Judith Kaye realized this somewhere beneath the densely calcified strata of her thick skull. At one point late in her career, she argued New York’s justice system was far too convoluted to provide for the people. And like most administrators do, she commissioned a study.

The focus was on consolidating the 11 layers of the state’s cumbersome court system. Other states have done it; Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire to name a few. Instead of relying on laypeople to administer justice, these states hand the keys of law over to trained professionals, who preside over county districts instead of townships or villages.

When someone is arrested or charged with a crime in the district court system, they’re brought to a real court instead of town hall, or in some backwoods areas, a highway garage. Court documents are kept in a centralized location, easily accessible during business hours instead of in a locked filing cabinet that may or may not be accessible, depending on who the judge is or if there’s a clerk who functions during waking hours.

Kaye took up the case of justice courts in 2006 and sent out a commission to study the issue for a year. But when the study came back, it suggested just about everything except overhauling and consolidating the court system. Instead, it suggested New York invest more than $50 million over five years into the floundering justice courts so that they would all have real computers and court security; so that clerks and justices could have a few more weeks of training.

Pumping money into the justice court system is like pumping money into a rusted 1976 Chevette with 300,000 miles on the odometer: It’s a miracle it’s got you this far, but you’re probably better off cutting your losses. All the modern gadgets, training and security in the world isn’t going to make a justice like Kedik look any better on the bench.

But even a mere mention of ditching the justice court system raises the hackles of the old-timers and libertarians, who feel the law is better served by the people themselves. Take for instance a useless ham-hock named G. Jeffrey Haber, who has served as the executive director of New York’s Association of Towns since the dawn of time. His organization has been one of the most powerful defenders of the archaic justice court system and would go to bat for it.

“If it came up, we would take the same position that we did before,” he told the New York Times in 2006.

Go to bat for it? Why? So folks like Kedik can deliver hypocrisy from the bench? Or is it so these individual towns can maintain their private fiefdoms that cull hundreds of thousands of dollars from normally law-abiding citizens? But let’s not single out Kedik too much, since he hasn’t been found guilty, unlike many other crooked justices that have come down the pike.

There was former Mohawk Justice Roy Dumar of Montgomery County, who was censured after he “repeatedly asserted his judicial office” while attempting to further his own criminal complaints against his wife’s ex-husband and sister-in-law. Or former Ballston Justice Keith Kissinger, who was collected a month’s salary in 2005 even though he was living in South Carolina.

Or Esperance Justice Charles Myles of Schoharie County, a 16-year veteran of the bench who was removed after a jury convicted him on a felony count of falsifying business records in 2006. Myles, who had previously served six months in jail on a probation violation, had bypassed his electric meter to steal more than $3,000 worth of power over a six-year period. He remained on the bench and presided over cases for nearly a year before his conviction barred him from the bench.

Strangely, about 70 percent of the judges censured by the state’s Unified Court System were so-called municipal justices. That’s about the same amount of town and village justices that lack any verifiable law training.

Kaye could have changed all this, or at least tried. She was the only chief judge in recent memory to throw a few harsh words toward the justice court system during her tenure, even if they were prompted by even harsher words printed in a state Comptroller’s audit. But instead of touching a match to the powder keg, Kaye chose battle for the state’s trained justices in their quest for raises. In other words, who cares about those being maligned by the justice system itself, as long as the judges administering it have a good salary.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Playing the odds

Saratoga Springs is a gambling town. And in gambling towns, people like to know the odds. Sometimes is so they can take their money and throw it on a winner; other times it’s because they’re feeling lucky and want to play the long shot. Were most people true gaming aficionados, they’d probably have a sixth sense of the odds and the local rag wouldn’t need to print the Pink Sheet each summer. But with most normal people lacking this sense, there’s a market for the odds, even if they’re right only half the time.

So imagine the broad-based dismay among the Spa City’s voting public when they reached for the Saratogian this weekend and read Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo’s column about the paper forgoing its endorsements for the election.

“…the publisher and I agreed that The Saratogian could serve readers best by providing news coverage and, as always, making sure the editorial page continues to be a forum for local opinion,” she wrote in the column published Saturday.

Sweet baby Jesus. The Saratogian has decided against foisting its opinion on readers? What’s next? Eliminating the Pink Sheet? Well, the editorial crew at iSaratoga has nowhere near the scruples of Lombardo, her publisher or any of the other lofty-minded news outlets that did provide endorsements in lieu of the odds, which is what people really want to know.

Let’s face it: Were the common voter not lusting to know the spread, John Zogby’s recent appearance at the Canfield Casino last week wouldn’t have made a ripple in the news, the political science majors at Siena College would have a hell of a lot more drinking time on their hands, and newspaper pages would bear vast tracts of empty space where the poll numbers were once printed.

So let’s cut to the chase. Election Day is a gambling addict’s holiday. It’s the one day of the year preceded by all the other days of the year where folks of this ilk can talk game free and unabated by the constraints of the local chapter of Gamblers Anonymous, their spiritual leader or prying family members who simply don’t understand the rush in throwing several hundred thousand dollars down on hand of Texas Hold’em.

So here are the odds at today’s races for those who might just want to bet on…um…vote for the winner. Or perhaps those who want to find a long-shot in the mix.

John McCain vs. Barack Obama
Stakes: A sweet pad in D.C.; the free world
Track condition: Yielding
Odds: Obama 2-to-1

In the race that means the most to voters but the least in the actual day-to-day lives of voters, the senator from Illinois will win it by what some pundits will call a landslide. Any doubts about the pathetic nature of McCain’s plumber-centric campaign were allayed when the frail candidate attempted to parody himself on Saturday Night Live, just one week after his equally pitiful running mate appeared on the show. McCain will lose for many of the same reasons as Sandy Treadwell: You can’t say you want to ‘change’ a system you helped cultivate. This isn’t to say Obama hasn’t done or won’t do the same; just he’s got less of a track record. And when the other horse has a history of losing, sometimes it’s better to go with the unknown.

Sandy Treadwell vs. Kirsten Gillibrand
Stakes: The 20th Congressional District
Track condition: Fast.
Odds: Gillibrand 5-to-4

Late afternoon showers left the track a bit muddy. That hasn’t stopped these well-heeled thoroughbreds from running at a break-neck pace. Yet with a furlong to go, Gillibrand appears to be pulling ahead. In a somewhat desperate move, the independently wealthy Treadwell has been clutching and grabbing in hopes of thwarting the incumbent Democrat, but with little avail. In truth, Treadwell’s history of running beaten favorites will hopefully lead to his campaign getting put out to pasture; maybe even the glue factory. After all, how can the electorate that showed the hopelessly corrupt John Sweeney to the door possibly elect the guy who allowed such a bibulous freak into power in the first place?

Roy McDonald vs. Mike Russo
Stakes: The state’s 43rd Senate District
Track condition: Muddy
Odds: McDonald 4-to-1

Alleged Working Families party candidate Chris Consuello would figure into this race, had he not been hosing down the track for the past week. What was initially a clean race between the highly-favored Republican and Russo abruptly turned muddy when the Republicans sent out a last-minute mailer urging third-party voters to pull the lever for Consuello, who rightfully won a primary but is otherwise known as a GOP plant. Note to Consuello: If you ever do consider a serious run for office, try and learn how to use Photoshop. The whole flap is fairly senseless, seeing as though longtime 43rd sitter Joe Bruno all but anointed McDonald the victor. Russo didn’t do much to attract voters when he claimed the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority had “blah blah blah” somewhere in its official title.

Jim Tedisco vs. Jim Tedisco
Stakes: The state Assembly Majority’s whipping boy
Track condition: Closed
Odds: Tedisco 1-to-1

The sad part about it is that Tedisco is actually running this race. Or at least his supporters have bothered to put out a sign or three. Pathetically, the Democrats or the area’s third party pawns…cough…Working Families…cough…couldn’t find anything or anyone to run against Tedisco, the 26-year-veteran of the assembly who is rapidly becoming the Capital Region’s new Joe Bruno. As many recall, even the Democrats tacitly supported Bruno’s uncontested reign in office by not endorsing their own candidate and even taking great pains to knock potential candidates off the ballot.

Matt Dorsey vs. Jeffrey Wait
Stakes: A decade of arraigning drunks in City Court
Track condition: Dry
Odds: Dorsey 5-to-2

Some would opine that neither candidate is good successor for retiring Republican Douglas Mills. Dorsey, the former city attorney, was endorsed by the city Republican Committee over part-time city court Judge James Doern, who served nine years as Mills’ understudy. And then there’s Wait, who the Democrats for Change did everything in their power to torpedo before he soundly bested Joe Montagnino in September’s primary. They ultimately decided to support Wait as an olive branch to mend the party. But in this case, it’s a dollar short and a day late.

Jim Buhrmaster vs. Paul Tonko
Stakes: The 21st Congressional District
Track condition: Sloppy
Odds: Tonko 3-to-1

Tonko would have to have a real stumble in the final stretch to lose this race. The race started out as a free-for-all for the Democratic nomination, but ended with Tonko soundly securing the nomination; game, set match. The 21st District is occupied by generally beloved Rep. Michael McNulty and is heavily gerrymandered to support the Democratic cause. Couple this with Tonko –the assemblyman that was able to carry a heavily Republican Montgomery County for nearly 25 years –and you have a near vertical challenge for Buhrmaster to overcome at the polls. Buhrmaster is also hampered by the fact that he has next to no recognition as a minority member of the Democrat-dominated Schenectady County Legislature.

Hugh Farley vs. Fred Goodman
Stakes: The state’s 43rd Senate District
Track condition: Slow
Odds: Farley 6-to-1

Voters love an old geezer, and Farley is no exception. The electorate first put Farley into office during the United State Bicentennial, and there’s a good chance they’ll keep re-electing him until the tercentennial. There’s a comfort Farley brings to his constituents that’s reminiscent of the feeling some get when they visit grandpa at the retirement home. But let’s give credit where credit is due: Goodman, a Democrat, and Working Families Party candidate B.K. Keramati are at least running against Father Time, even if neither really has a chance of winning. The only challenger that stands a chance of unseating Farley is senility, and even that would be a neck-and-neck race.

Tony Jordan vs. Ian McGaughey
Stakes: The state’s 112th Assembly District
Track condition: Heavy
Odds: Jordan 6-to-5

Folks, if you’re looking for shaky bet this is your race. The challenge for McDonald’s soon-to-be-vacated seat could go either way. Jordan was quick out of the gate against McGaughey and was being heavily pushed by the Republicans over the summer, when his challenger was basically unknown to about two-thirds of the district. But since then, the Assembly Democrats have been pumping money into McGaughey’s campaign in hopes to reach the diehard Irish electorate and the geriatrics that will mistakenly believe they’re still voting for the immensely popular McDonald. They might be onto something here.

That’s about it for the handicapping on an election many media outleare already terming a “historic election” long before the votes are even tallied. Unfortunately, many of these voters participating in this oddly dubbed contest will crawl back into their hovels and blow off their democratic duties come the local elections. Sadly, as one reporter pointed out, those races start tomorrow.

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