Thursday, November 29, 2018

Make it Daylight Saving Time all the time

I don’t like this time of year.

It’s not because of the cold temperatures or the slow, snowy commutes.

It’s because of the darkness.

Nighttime’s early onset toys with my body. No sooner does the evening news come to a close and I feel like a waste. It’s dark outside, so, like some diurnal animal, lethargy overtakes me, my thinking dulls, and I feel like I could doze off with ease. I still do my evening things as a parent and volunteer but it’s tough to bring my “A Game” all the time.

Mind you, I’m chock full of energy and effort during the day, just as I am very late into the evenings during our longer summer brightness. I like light. I thank genetics and biology for the aversion to darkness. My dad is the same way. My grandfather was, too.

Some people get it far worse than the Confer boys. They get overcome by something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which, because of that same lack of sunlight leads to an abundance of melatonin which creates depression, hopelessness, malaise, and even suicidal thoughts.

Doctors will tell you that you can fight those winter blues with pills and lamp -- vitamin D and light therapy. That’s all well and good, but nothing is better than the natural source of that -- daylight.

But, getting it is easier said than done.

Most working people can’t get outdoors until the weekend because the government took away what precious sunlight we had during the week. Well, more accurately, Uncle Sam didn’t take away the sunlight, he just moved Mankind’s movements around it.

The recent “fall back” routine associated with the end of Daylight Saving Time robbed us of an hour of daylight every evening. That in conjunction with the shortening days as we close in on the winter solstice makes for early nightfall and not much time – if any – to get outdoors after work.

Daylight Saving Time’s (DST) later sunsets were a blessing, something to appreciate, but oddly, a lot of elected officials want nothing to do with it. When we changed the clocks numerous news reports were quick to point out that many bureaucrats, at the federal and state levels, want to do away with DST and leave everything as Standard Time, which means what we’re seeing now (an hour earlier end to the day) even in the summer months.

Why would they want that?

The lawmakers always cite, beyond the inconvenience of having to change the little hand on their watches, alleged increases in car accidents and heart attacks on or around the day the clocks change.

If health and safety is the reason to call for the end of DST, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to ditch Standard Time and make Daylight Saving Time the standard? You’d allow the working class to go outside and bask in the sunshine and get some much-needed exercise on winter evenings. That would help beat SAD as well as North America’s obesity epidemic.

But enough about us adults. What about the children?   

We relentlessly harangue today’s kids about physical activity. We want them to ditch the phones, computers, and televisions and get their butts outdoors to play sports, enjoy nature, and run around like youngsters are supposed to.

Even the National Football League and public schools across the country work together to promote something called Play 60 which encourages kids to have 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

How can they when we just took away a full hour of potential playtime?

For the next few months, a child who gets off the bus close to if not after the four o’clock hour in Western New York has almost no time to change clothes and get muddy, snowy, or sweaty.

They certainly can’t get in 60 minutes of vigorous play before the sun sets. But, were we to have Daylight Saving Time, they would.

So, doesn’t that, in a way, make the push to end DST a form of child abuse?

We need to let kids be kids. Heck, we need to let us old folks play, too. So, the next time you hear an elected official push for the end of Daylight Saving Time, ask that misguided soul, “Do you like living in the Dark Ages?” The world would be a better place if it was Daylight Saving Time all the time.  

From the 03 December 2018 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

The State Legislature doesn’t deserve a raise

When working in the private sector pay raises are contingent on one of or a combination of 3 things: The merit and successes of the individual, the current and projected health of the organization, and the health of the overall economy.

Because of the final factor (and its contributions to the second), annual raises of any measurable size have become something of a rarity since the days of the Great Recession. Nationally, wages are expected to rise by 3.1% in 2019, the highest rate since 2008.
Despite the working class consistently struggling to secure wage growth, the political class thinks they are free of such encumbrances. It has been the buzz in Albany, yet again, that state legislators are looking for a raise. They currently make a base salary of $79,500 and want to take it up to as much $100,000 -- never mind that their real wage is already well above that mark after taking into consideration committee bonuses and the $174 per diem benefit for when they are in Albany. And, on top of that, they can retire with mighty fine pensions.

When you consider the 3 factors behind raises, our senators and assemblyman aren’t deserving of a $20,500 raise, let alone one of $2,465 (which is what it would be were they to see just 3.1% like their constituents).
Let’s first consider the merits of in the individual. $79,500 is a rather exorbitant sum to be paying a part-timer. These positions were devised to offer regular people a chance to contribute to the social, economic, and legal development of the Empire State by having sessions for 6 calendar months per year and during those sessions mandating 0 to 4 days per week in the state capital (the legislative calendar showed only 61 in-session/budget days for the year). When the 6 months were up or when the legislature wasn’t in session during the week, the legislators could go back to their “real jobs” on the farm, in their offices and plants, or at home raising their families.
Sadly, the system been mutilated so much that people are led to believe that being a legislator is a full-time, year-round job equipped with regional offices and full-time staffs. Realistically, under such circumstances, one could look at the second half of the year as being nothing more than politics, rather than policy, a means to perpetuate incumbency through alleged necessity and importance. Really, what does attendance at parades and dinners contribute to the overall welfare of our state?
So, we need to look at the seats for what they are and what they should be – part-time, supplementary gigs - and realize that we cannot permit their income growth.
Now, let’s look at the organization through which they are employed. The state government headed into a budget gap of $4.4 billion this year, which the Governor and Legislature filled at the last minute by adding a bevy of revenue generators (taxes). This gap which followed a budget year with a deficit that was projected to be $3.5 billion but was actually closer to twice that. Deficits are the normal way of business in Albany. If the fiscal health of the state is directly attributable to their budgets, the laws that they introduce, and the tough-but-necessary cuts they are afraid to make, then how do the legislators deem themselves worthy of reward? If anyone ran a company like they run a state, that individual would be among the ranks of the unemployed, either through termination or the likely total collapse of their firm.

And, it’s that factor that leads to the last: the overall health of the economy. Every bill among the hundreds passed every year by the legislature either steals rights and freedoms or adds to the cost of living and doing business in New York State. Because of that, existing businesses (not the new ones which are granted special favor and public charity like Amazon or Solar City) face incomprehensible government-created financial burdens when compared against their competitors from other states. That has forced businesses to stagnate/downsize/close/leave, which in turn has caused the same to happen to our residents, young and old alike: In the period from 2011 to 2016, another 850,000 people left New York State for greener pastures.

It’s that final factor of assessing job performance that is the most damning to our legislators. They are complicit in the destruction of the once accurately-named “Empire State”. They’ve driven our government to ruin, which has done the same to our economy and to each and every one of trying to work and live in it.

Only politicians would think they deserve bigger paychecks for that.

From the 26 November 2018 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Amazon HQ2: What would you do with a half billion dollars?

Just over 2 years ago, we at Confer Plastics bought a molding machine that is one of the largest on the planet. Of course, it wasn’t cheap, but we knew that going into it. Its purchase was made possible by using the company’s cash flows and opening up a line of credit with our bank.

We could have lessened the burden on our company significantly by pursuing a grant from the state. Rather easily, we could have received a grant approaching, if not exceeding, $1 million in size. But, we didn’t even attempt to do that and we stifled any conversations economic development officials wanted to have with us.

We did that for two reasons -- hypocrisy and ethics.

It would have been grossly hypocritical to take money from the state when not a day goes by that we don’t complain about the high cost of doing business in New York, a cost created in part by corporate welfare. Why contribute to a very real socioeconomic crisis facing upstate? 

It would have been unethical by our standards, although totally legal, to accept the grant. The money belongs to the people of New York. It is their money, better invested in infrastructure, libraries, and schools. New Yorkers should not be in the business of business. True entrepreneurs assume the risk of their business; they don’t pass it on to taxpayers.   

Some corporatists will say that we’re stupid, that we wasted money. Maybe. But, there’s far more to business, far more to life, than the almighty dollar. We can sleep at night, knowing we did the right thing.

Frankly, I don’t know how Governor Andrew Cuomo, Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos can sleep at night after last week’s announcements regarding their fleecing of New York taxpayers.

Amazon is a company with revenues that approached $178 billion last year and Bezos is the richest man in the world with a net worth of $156 billion, yet Bezos’ people found it necessary to beg multiple states and provinces to give them the world in order to give them a home for HQ2. Somehow, Cuomo, Zemsky, and other power brokers in New York found it financially and ethically prudent to cater to the multibillionaire and give him a total incentive package approaching $3 billion to open up shop in Queens.

The thing that bothers me most is not the vast tax credits but rather the need to give them $505 million in cold, hard cash over a 10 to 15 year period to help Amazon recoup some of their construction costs. It’s guaranteed that Amazon would have made built HQ2 somewhere even if all of the states conspired against them and didn’t bait them, so public charity was never really necessary and it shouldn’t be. It’s Bezos’ business, let him grow it, let him assume the risk. Why should you? Why should I?   

They’re doing a reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. This is a half billion dollars, belonging to all New Yorkers, going towards the very top of the “One Percent”.

We have major issues all across the state. If we really do have a half-billion sitting around waiting to be spent, if I were in Cuomo’s shoes there are countless things I would take care. Here are a few…

The residents of the Central Adirondacks are holding a fund drive -- yes, a fund drive – to erect a critical $350,000 communications tower to be used by volunteer firefighters in the area of Inlet and Raquette Lake. Because of the mountains and the radio obstructions they create, their ability to communicate is suspect at best, every day putting firemen and general public safety at risk.

While we’re talking about first responders, don’t forget that come January 1st all volunteer fire companies must pay a pretty penny to buy a new cancer insurance for their interior firefighters. Why couldn’t the state self-insure in a way and make its own fund at $10 million?

Have you recently driven on the Thruway as it passes through the Cattaraugus Reservation? The state keeps that 12-mile stretch in the shape of a secondary road, mangled, potholed, and washboarded. What would it really take to fix the Thruway, the gateway, the connection to everything New York has to offer? 

Despite statements to the contrary, thousands of rural New Yorkers (their homes, businesses, and schools) are still lacking access to high speed internet. The state could build towers on municipal lands that they could sublet to telecommunications companies.

Decades of horrid state education policy drove the in-school trades classes the way of the dinosaur while also shortchanging STEM. Only recently has the state realized the folly in its ways and now sees the importance of those tracks. A few hundred million spread across the state would allow schools to bring back shop classes and invest in their science labs.  

New York has 1,800 structurally-deficient bridges that need repair or replacement.

I could go on and on. There are literally thousands of potential projects across the state that could benefit the people – and not just one billionaire.

Think about that…what would YOU do with a half billion dollars?      

From the 19 November 2018 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News