Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Column day (Things I love)

Here's a "wordle" of this week's column.  The bigger the word, the more often I used it ... Click here for the column itself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I love ...

I love my job. And my apartment. And my car.
I love my friends. They're really quite phenomenal. And they always seem to be there for me when I need them. I'd like to think that I return the favor.
I love my kids. And the relationship that I have with their mom.
I love my bed. And the black curtains in my bedroom that prevent me from having any inkling what time of day it is. It's always night there.
I love the night. I'll take a dark night over a sunny day any time.
I love my couch and my TV. Also my surround sound.
I love food. Chicken wings and pizza. Lasagna. Anything Italian, really. Oh, and Mexican. I'm not a fan of Chinese food, but I'll eat it on a special occasion.
I love my pet hedgehog, Liberty. There are some days when the only words I say out loud, I say to her. Of course, she doesn't really respond, but I'd like to think that she knows what I'm saying.
If I don't have to work and I don't leave the house, there are truly days when I don't talk. I sing. I dance. But I don't talk. Well, except to the hedgehog, like I said.
I love knowing who I am. That wasn't always true. There were years when I was trying to figure that out, with no luck.
I love living in a neighborhood where no one else knows who I am. To them, I'm just the guy with the loud music who keeps really weird hours. They don't want to talk politics. Or current events. My relationship with my neighbors stays within the neighborhood itself. We discuss potholes, new roofs and old trees.
I love a bottle of Coca Cola at just the right temperature. It reminds me of a band trip I took in 8th grade, I think. Simpler times when I didn't have to worry about bills or the cost of new tires. I wish I knew what that perfect temperature was. Maybe one in 100 bottles is like that. So every few years I get one.
I love introducing people who are important to me to other people who are important to me. And pray that they'll love each other like I love them both.
I loved the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Buffalo this weekend. I got to do several introductions. I was in my glory.
I love the fact that I finally figured out how to work a NFTA bus route. It took me a week to figure out how to get from Delaware Avenue in Tonawanda to Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. But I finally figured it out.
I loved making friends on the bus. Single serving friends of the Tyler Durden variety.
I love the fact that some of you know who Tyler Durden is. And some of you neither know nor care, but you're still reading this.
I love lamp.
I love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

British fart jokes ...

Schools just don't seem to get it

You would think that for all their college degrees and the fact that they’re teaching our children, school administrators would be an intelligent bunch.

I’m kind of wondering, though, due to the stories I’ve been reading about all the school budget workshops and meetings, if that really is the case.

The state’s education system got rocked when Gov. Andrew Cuomo told every single school district in the state that they’re getting less money due to statewide belt tightening. Every school district locally has been told that they’ll be getting less state aid next year than they did this year.

Of course, the school boards have done their obligatory whining, which I would expect. Then they dug in deep and cut programs and salaries, like they need to. Or, at least that’s what they said they’ll have to do. But not before almost every school district said they’d be digging into their reserves in order to preserve as much as possible.

This is the part that confounds me ... the digging into the district reserves, also known as the “rainy day fund.” It seems like their thought process is if they can just get through this year, everything will be OK and they can go back to taxing and spending and hire all the teachers back and restore all the programs, etc.

Except, my understanding is that this isn’t a matter of it being a rainy day. This is the way things are now. The state is not going to pony up as much money as it has been because of the dire financial straits it is in. And next year, the cuts may be deeper, even.

I know I said previously that I thought it cheap that Cuomo’s two best ideas for saving money were a property tax cap and a limit on superintendent’s salaries. That still remains true. But many of the correspondences I’ve gotten in the past week pointed out — and correctly so — that school districts are out of touch with reality.

One prime example last week came to me from a friend of mine, who happens to serve on a school board. This friend advised me that two of her school board colleagues had suggested that they jack taxes up as high as they can get away with this year, before the property tax cap becomes a mandate.
Because obviously the answer to all our prayers is higher taxes.

I pointed out that these were school board members, right? The smart ones. The ones running the show. The ones deciding how our children should be educated.

If the high taxes don’t get you, the rampant stupidity will.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Langworthy blasts Dems ...

Just got this press release. Here it is unedited:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, March 8, 2011
 
Statement from Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy in Response to Comments Made by the NY State Democratic Committee Chairman
 
BUFFALO -- Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy issued the following statement in response to comments made by Jay Jacobs, Chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, regarding businesswoman and Congressional candidate Jane Corwin:
 
"Taking fiscal advice from Jay Jacobs and State Democrats is like taking life advice from Charlie Sheen – It may get a lot of media attention but it will end up in disaster.

"While Jay Jacobs has been sitting around waiting for his marching orders from Nancy Pelosi about who the Democrat candidate will be, Jane Corwin has spent 36 years helping to create jobs and get Western New Yorkers back to work.

"The fact of the matter is that during her short time in Albany, Jane Corwin has fought to cut taxes and reduce wasteful spending, while Jay Jacobs has led the fight to elect and protect the very people responsible for driving New York State into a financial abyss." 

Savings need to start in Albany

As much as I appreciate the governor’s efforts to save us money, lately his focus seems to be aimed in the wrong direction.

With a $10 billion budget gap, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided that the best thing he can do for us is tell local school districts how much money they can spend and what they can spend it on, proposing a property tax cap and salary limits on school superintendents.

As much as I love the concept of my local school districts not taxing me to death, it’s not the governor’s decision to make. Those school budgets come before the voters and we always have the option of turning them down, which we do often.

And as much sense as it makes to me that school superintendents should make less than the state’s chief executive, that’s another thing that shouldn’t be up to that chief executive. If Andy Cuomo is so interested in how school districts run, maybe that’s the job he should have gone out for instead of governor.

Personally, I want Andrew Cuomo making as few decisions about my school districts as possible. The state meddles in the affairs of other government agencies way too much. And frankly, if the state would cease some of that meddling, those local school taxes wouldn’t be as high as they are to begin with.

The multitude of governments we have to deal with is already frustrating. The interaction between those governments makes it downright infuriating. If the federal government would worry about federal things, that’d be awesome. And if the state government would stick to state things, that would be equally fantastic. And that would make it so much easier for our towns, villages, cities, school districts, counties, etc., to do their jobs.

It’s akin to working for a mega conglomerate corporation and having six different bosses, each of them telling you to do something different. Or having your mother tell you to take out the trash right now while you’re trying to bring in the wood that your father told you to bring in. It’s simply impossible to serve two masters. Especially simultaneously.

The power to control your school districts lies in your hands. And if you let Andy Cuomo take that power from you, you will never get it back.

So as much as you may like the idea of saving on your property taxes, you should tell Andrew Cuomo to stay out of your school district’s affairs. And as much as you may think that your superintendent is overpaid, for the sake of simplicity, tell Andy Cuomo to stick that idea in the circular bin ... or wherever you want to tell him to stick it. I don’t judge.

•••

As an unrelated side note, I’d like to wish a prosperous retirement to a friend and former colleague of mine. WLVL’s news director, John Raymond, called it a career last week.

Radio has been good to John. And John made for some great radio.

He made me laugh at times. And he made me livid at times. But I enjoyed working beside him for the better part of seven years.

I’m certain I’m not alone when I say, John Raymond, you will be missed. Thanks for the memories.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Customer "service"

So I got up early today. Well, early for me. I think it was 10:30. Considering the fact I went to bed close to 8, I should be exhausted, but I'm not.

Anyway, having gotten up early - and having a list of things I want to accomplish today, I set out to reinstate my XM service in The Box.

I tried logging in to my account online, but that didn't work. So I looked up my most recent email from SiriusXM and called them.

Victoria was her name. I like the name Victoria. She asked my account number. I gave it to her from the email I had gotten. Then she asked my address. I told her. She said she didn't have that address on file and politely asked for an old address.

I told Victoria that they definitely had my current address. She said "let's try the old address anyway." So I gave her the other four addresses I've used in the past two years. When I hit the Lockport address, she said, "that's the one we have."

I said, in that case, it's for the wrong radio. I don't have that one any more. She asked what I had and I told her it was a factory installed model in my Honda Element.

She said, "oh, then you'll need to talk to XM," ... And gave me their number. Hmm, I thought it was the same company now?

Called XM. Got "LJ." I also like that name. Gave her my deets. And told her I wanted to reinstate service. She said I had a past-due balance of $16.75 I had to clear up first. Okay. Whatev. So I paid that.

Then she asked if I wanted to use the same card for the recurring payment. I told her I needed to know what the current deals were first.

$140 a year. Plus $15 surcharge. That's $155 a year, which is basically $13 a month. I said no.

She then offered $43 for three months. Basically, $13 a month. I said no.

"Call me back when you've got an actual deal," I told her.

The entire phone call, she kept calling me Mr. William. Ugh. Why do foreign call centers always do that?

So basically, I'm out $16.75 and an hour of my life ... And still don't have my XM back.

Oh, and next on my agenda? I'm off to pay a parking ticket.

I have it on good authority that the day will improve though.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Some minor updates ...

I did a minor revision to scottleffler.com ...

I took out the left navbar entirely and added links to the top of the blog, taking you to those things that had been on the navbar that I decided to keep.

I removed the pictures, calendar, and podcasts pages completely, since;
1) no one wants to see pictures of me ... and if you do, I have a bazillion on Facebook.
2) I hadn't updated the calendar in like 27 years. And the thought of updating it and keeping it updated was not palpable.
and 3) No radio show means no podcasts.

I'm not 100 percent pleased with the new design, but it is a little less 1996, which is when I learned HTML ... and when I stopped learning HTML. The interwebz have changed just a bit in the past 13 years ... and like most things in life, I haven't kept up.

If you find any glaring errors or anything totally stupid, please email me so I can fix it.

Thanks and have a great day. :)

Poloncarz bows out, smacks down Collins

Erie County Comptroller removed himself from the running for the special election in NY's 26th Congressional District, leaving Kathy Hochul firmly in the drivers' seat amongst Democratic candidates.

Poloncarz' letter to the Democratic chairmen (text below) basically said he has to keep his current job to protect Erie County from Chris Collins.

March 3, 2011


Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan
Genesee County Democratic Chairwoman Lorie Longhany
Livingston County Democratic Chairwoman Judith Hunter By E-mail Only
Monroe County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle
Orleans County Democratic Chairwoman Jeanne Crane
Niagara County Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera
Wyoming County Democratic Chairman Hank Bush, Jr.
Working Families Party Chairman James Lakeman

Re: 26th Congressional District Special Election

Dear Chairpersons:

As you are aware, due to the resignation of Christopher Lee as the elected representative of 26th Congressional District, a special election is to be called to fill the remainder of Mr. Lee’s term. The chairpersons representing the counties within the 26th District will choose the candidate for the special election.

While I am flattered by the encouragement I have received from many of you to run, after conferring with my family and friends I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration to be the Democratic and Working Families Parties’ Candidate for the special election.

I make this decision not based on the demographics of the district, as some will surmise, because a Democratic candidate can win the special election, especially if a third party candidate should run. Instead, I can best represent the hard working men and women of Erie County by continuing to be their voice against the current county executive who is determined to destroy what makes this community the great place it is to live, work and raise a family.

During his first term in office Chris Collins raised taxes while reducing services, refused to spend $80 million of stimulus assistance and attempted to subvert the democratic process by ignoring the checks and balances required by state and local law. Additionally, he recently proposed amending state law to provide counties the right to refuse to provide eyeglasses and hearing aids to needy families on Medicaid, as well as announcing his support of efforts to deny working men and women collective bargaining rights.

As such, I withdraw my name from consideration for the 26th Congressional District special election to focus my efforts on being the voice for the hard working families of Erie County. I look forward to assisting your efforts to win the special election, and as always, if you have any questions please contact the undersigned at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Poloncarz

In truth, I'm not sure I completely buy Mark's reasoning, but never a more entertaining withdrawal letter have I read.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

404 LOL

Column's up!

This week's column was kind of all over the place, because my brain wouldn't stay still to write 500 words on just one topic.

For a visual representation of the words I used most, check this wordle.

Or if you'd rather just read the column, that's cool, too. It's here.

Want to comment? Please go to the forum.

Can't stick to one topic ...

It’s one of those weeks where my mind is way too active for me to stick to any one topic for the duration of a column. So instead, here’s my thoughts on everything.

The labor dispute in Wisconsin is an interesting one. Many of my conservative friends now herald Gov. Scott Walker as their new hero.

Many of my liberal friends, meanwhile, seem to think he’s the new anti-Christ. I think both are exaggerating just a bit.

I’m not nearly as familiar with Wisconsin’s budget problem and political landscape as I am with New York’s. But if it’s even remotely similar, they need to do something to save money before the whole thing goes down the drain. In New York, Gov. Cuomo has his strategy. In Wisconsin, Walker has his. Both have their opponents. Both have their supporters.

In general, I will support an executive who tries to get an unwieldy government under control. Smaller is better. At least when it comes to government. As such, I’m OK with Walker’s position.

•••

When the Sabres new owner, Terry Pegula, took over, I was thrilled with the prospects for the future. And then the team won. And then they won again. And the Sabres were never going to lose another game — at least in my head, they weren’t.

Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings brought me back to reality a little bit though. The Sabres looked great in the first period. And not as great in the second and third. Having a 2-0 lead, they eventually lost 3-2 in the shootout. Same Sabres as before.

So maybe they’re going to lose some games now and again. But the Pegula era of Sabres hockey is bound to be a good one. I’m looking forward to it greatly.

•••

My opinion on Chris Lee still hasn’t changed — despite the new allegations. I thought he did his job of congressman well. His job of husband, apparently, he wasn’t as good at. But that’s between him and his family. These new charges have brought new jokes. And undoubtedly new pain for the Lee family. It’s sad, surely. But some free advice to wannabe politicians? Your skeletons will come out. If you don’t want your private life public, pick a different career. And if you must run for Congress, keep your private life clean.

•••

I got a news release last week from congressional candidate Jane Corwin, stating that she had a “major announcement” to make and she’d be dropping by a few of the cities within the 26th Congressional District to let the people know what that announcement was.

The newsroom was abuzz. What could she be announcing? Friends e-mailed and texted me asking what Jane had up her sleeve. I didn’t know. I couldn’t even speculate. I took a couple stabs in the dark. Boy was I wrong. Corwin’s big announcement? That she was running for Congress.

No. Really.

Dearest Jane, the fact that you were running for Congress was already well-known. That “announcement” wasn't worthy of a Facebook status, let alone a press conference in four different cities.

So you wanted to get out and meet the people? Cool. Come say “hi.” But don’t sell it as some major announcement. Because now I’m already skeptical of whatever your next press release may be.

Let me remind you of Aesop’s fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” It ends very similarly to a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. And surely, you don’t want your congressional campaign to suffer the same fate.