Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On 911, Upstate mythology and payroll taxes

By Bob Confer

Some random musings this week…

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul’s ALERT ACT has been welcomed with open arms by many people in her district, including my friend Scott Leffler who addressed it in his column last week. He supports the Act in entirety. I, on the other hand, can’t do the same.

I agree with the usefulness of the portion of her bill that demands cell phone service providers send a return text saying that texting 911 is not an option for anyone who tries to contact dispatch through that method. But, I wholeheartedly disagree with her plan to update 911 call centers so they can receive and transmit text messages. In my opinion, doing so will be deadly for either the patient or the responding officer depending on the reason for the emergency contact.

How can I say this politely? Americans as a rule are functionally illiterate. Have you ever tried to decipher a text that your friend has sent you? Better yet, have you ever read a text from a teenager? The language shortcuts and general disdain for proper English make most text messages incomprehensible.

Now, imagine being at the dispatch desk, trying to figure out those messages. You’ll receive and respond to the initial message. Then you’ll have to inquire about various details in separate messages. What has happened? How many people are hurt? Is there a threat? Are other people in imminent danger? So on and so forth. Think about how long it will take the dispatcher to compose outgoing messages then translate the incoming messages. Think of how long it will take the distressed to respond and give details; that is, if her nerves aren’t shot and she can somehow have a steady typing hand.

Call me old-fashioned but vocal communication is the only way to go. A dispatch center can quickly and fluidly glean accurate and appropriate information, while at the same time adequately prepare emergency personnel for what’s ahead. Texting affords none of the above. Lives will be lost by texting; you can count on it. Delays will cost patients their lives while unsuspecting lone officers might come into a situation more dangerous than alluded to in a text.


I’ve always been dismissive of the idea that we should cut free New York City and make Upstate New York the 51st state. The general sentiment feeding that fantasy was this mythology that Downstate somehow took all of Upstate’s money. That’s contrary to reality as was proved in a report issued by the Rockefeller Institute of Government last week. They found that the 48 Upstate counties (excluding the Capital Region) paid 24 percent of the state's revenues and received 35 percent of state dollars back. Upstate would have lost up to $9.3 billion if its share of revenues matched its share of funding. You can see the report at

But, that doesn’t mean Downstate is perfect. In my opinion, the policies created by their legislators are responsible for a great deal of the economic malaise in Upstate. First and foremost is their approach to Medicaid funding. It’s extremely difficult for Upstate people to pay for Medicaid out of their property taxes. That approach doesn’t carry the same effect in the NYC region. High rent is almost looked at as a necessary evil in the world’s most vibrant metro area, an assumed cost of doing business/living.

But still, that doesn’t mean we should cut off our nose to spite our face. New York City is important to our fiscal well-being. If you value our roads, schools, and state lands Upstate, know we really can’t survive without New York City.


The Democrats must think we have short memories. Maybe most of us do.

They’ve been raising a stink the past month-plus over the manufactured threat that the Republicans will bring an end to the Social Security payroll tax cut. Where was this care for our pocketbooks exactly one year ago? Then, the President and Democratic Congress allowed the expiration of the Making Work Pay tax credit that helped buoy consumer spending in 2009 and 2010 as the economy crawled out of the recession. Most American workers benefited by $400 per year because of it. Alas, that credit was allowed to sunset, just as the Democrats intended when they designed it.

That makes the current hubbub so disingenuous to me.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at


This column originally ran in the 26 December 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

1 comment:

Ajlounyinjurylaw said...

I think that all levels of communications should be available for a 911 dispatch, why close the door on getting help.