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July 20, 2005

Governor With a Passion -- Oh, No!

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

When a politician develops a hobbyhorse, watch out. New York's disgraceful governor George Pataki is determined to turn the Albany region into thriving technology hub, and it seems that nothing -- especially expense -- is going to get in his way. The New York Times' Michael Cooper reports that plans for a new microchip project have been announced, helped along by what's expected to be $180 million in state aid. How do residents of Troy, Syracuse and Rochester feel about state tax-money going to help out the Albany region?

Cooper also reports that the Governor has already laid out $535 million in state funds to encourage a project called Albany Nanotech. The yield in jobs so far? 645 big ones. My arithmatic can be mighty shakey, but that looks to me like it cost taxpayers almost a million dollars for each new job that was created.

Say, I have a thought. Instead of doing things so circuitously, why not just establish an annual $535 million New York state lottery? Take the money from NY taxpayers, then distribute it equally among 645 randomly-chosen, lucky residents.



posted by Michael at July 20, 2005


"How do residents of Troy, Syracuse and Rochester feel about state tax-money going to help out the Albany region?"

Given that Troy is only 8 miles from Albany proper, they probably regard it as a worthwhile investment.

Anyway, in a rhetorical question where a random string of second-tier cities in New York state is provided, the style guides indicate that the last city mentioned should be Poughkeepsie. ex: "How do residents of Syracuse, Rochester and Poughkeepsie feel about.."

Posted by: James M. on July 20, 2005 6:38 PM

I've got a better idea for Paturkey. Reduce New York's per capita Medicaid spending, currently by far the highest in the nation, to the same as California's,* thereby allowing for massive tax cuts and a far more business-friendly economic climate. The payoff from that will be far greater than offering huge corporate subsidies, er, state assistance, in the hope of creating a few jobs that probably will move elsewhere after a couple of years.
* = to those who claim California levels of Medicaid spending would be harmful to the poor, I will point out that the streets of the Golden State are *not* littered with the corpses of poor people who died from lack of medical care.

Posted by: Peter on July 20, 2005 7:53 PM

I've always liked the name Poughkeepsie; just sayin'.

Posted by: nick on July 20, 2005 7:56 PM

"Anyway, in a rhetorical question where a random string of second-tier cities in New York state is provided, the style guides indicate that the last city mentioned should be Poughkeepsie."

So, I take it Hicksville is passé, then?

Dang big-city fashions; always a-changin'.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on July 20, 2005 8:04 PM

It's interesting to thumb through the old Federal Writers' Project guide book on New York State and compare what is describered therein with what happened since. My copy is the the sixth printing in 1955, but the original edition had a 1940 copyright.

You have to plow through a certain amount of 1930s ideology and zeitgeist dealing with unions and such. But what struck me was how truly New York was indeed the Empire State in those days. The place was crawling with important industries and corporations, most of them now gone.

Even the Albany area had something of an industrial base in the form of lumber & paper products as well as printing, stockyards, locomotive-building, railroad repair facilities and electrical stuff related to General Electric.

Most of that was gone when I lived there 1970-74; it was pretty much a government town by then. Even new downtown office buildings were subsidized.

I was back there a year ago and saw that there were more new buildings downtown, but not many. I'm not clear about industries aside from the fact that there is some high-tech related to Rensselaer Tech in Troy (a mapping software company) and perhaps to what's left of GE's presence.

Altogether a sad area well suited for William Kennedy's novels.

I still wish the area well (though I hated living there), but I suspect Pataki's scheme will simply be one more instance of government good intentions running the state into the sewer.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 20, 2005 11:15 PM

Does this mean New York computer geeks will have to move to... Albany?

Posted by: Neil on July 21, 2005 8:25 AM

No job is worth moving to Albany for. I speak from experience.

Posted by: Rachel on July 21, 2005 9:16 AM

James M. -- Good correction, tks. I'm a western-NY-state (and NYC) boy myself: what do I know about eastern NY state?

Peter _-- Sign me up for that plan. "Paturkey" -- I like that! Why does this guy keep getting re-elected?

Nate -- So true. Funny too to think that a classy college with a classy name like "Vassar" is located in a town with a name like "Poughkeepsie," no? Doesn't seem to make sense.

Doug -- New York state has a wealth of groovy town names. I'm especially fond of the derived-from-classics ones: Troy. Syracuse. Rome. Mix in the Indian names (Canandaigua, Chatauqua) and it's ... Well, it feels just like home, actually.

Donald -- I think I've been to Albany once, as a small kid with the parents on some getting-to-know-the-state vacation many decades ago. But I could be hallucinating. I've always been curious to see how awful the big Rockefeller-era developments (the famous plaza especially) are. They sound like classics of bad-modernism, which I guess I have to admit I'm a fan of, in a perverse way. (Walking through NYC, I like snapping photos of awful modernist mistakes.) Strangely, I haven't yet been able to persuade the Wife to spend a weekend investigating bad Rockefeller-era modernism, though. Is it a sight to behold?

Neil -- Sounds like it, doesn't it? Though judging from the small number of jobs Paturkey's shenanigans have managed to create, it doesn't sound like there'll be room for too many of them.

Rachel -- You tease! We're all eager to hear more.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 21, 2005 11:53 AM

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