Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Finally paid the bill ...

You may have noticed an ugly void for a while where scottleffler.com had been. And now, you might see that it's back up. This site has a long history of randomly disappearing. Well ... it might not be as random as you think. It disappears when it's not in the budget. Fortunately, this week it was in the budget. So it'll be operational for at least another three months. Yay!

Holy cow has a lot happened since my last post (November 15, 2010). First of all, I got a new job as night/city editor at the Union-Sun & Journal. Back in media. Print media. Back where it all began. Greater Niagara News.

You might not know this, but I've worked for Greater Niagara News longer (cumulatively) than any other employer. From age 12 to 17 delivering papers. As an intern in high school in the Gazette newsroom. Another internship at the Gazette in college, in addition to a summer job in circulation there. In the Union-Sun & Journal's circulation department in 2000. Then into the newsroom there as the city reporter. Over to the Tonawanda News in 2003 to do page design. Then a seven year break ... and now back at the US&J as night/city editor.

So what is this night/city editor gig? Well, basically, when someone says, "Damn, doesn't anyone ever proofread this paper?" ... that was probably me that screwed up. Hopefully we won't hear much of that during my tenure here. Aside from the thrilling job of proofreading, I basically manage the newsroom when the sun goes down ... making sure we have all the news that people want in their hands the next day.

So if you have a tip, please send it to me. My work email address is scott.leffler@lockportjournal.com. I promise to do everything in my power to get the stuff that matters printed.

Also, I'm in charge of the social media at the US&J, like their facebook page and their twitter page. And I update the news portion of the website nightly. It'd be really nice if you added us on facebook and followed us on twitter. Those will give you a glimpse of the day's news. But the bulk of the news is on the company website itself. On average we upload 7 or 8 news stories a day, plus a couple sports stories and an opinion piece or two - including my column, which I continue to write weekly and is printed in the US&J in addition to our sister paper the Tonawanda News.

Speaking of, this week's column is ready for your approval. Read and discuss. And hopefully you agree with me. If not, that's all good. A variety of opinions makes for a more enjoyable discussion.

I'm hoping in the coming weeks and months ahead, I'll be able to freshen up both the content and look of this website. In my off time. Which I have very little of.

I'm still working part time as an assistant manager at Papa Leos ... at the Amherst store. And I'm doing some volunteer work with an organization called Peace Prints in Buffalo. (please add that on on facebook, too. A phenomenal organization if ever there was one).

Then of course, there's the kids ... and trying to have an active social life. So ... suffice it to say, I've been busy. How about you?

Oh - sorry, you can't comment here. I had to disable commenting on the blog because I got sick of having to delete stupid posts by people who could save the world if they put as much energy into doing good as they seem to put into hating everything. So comment on the forum ... or via my facebook or twitter.

Yes, I realize I gave you four million links to click through. But now that horrible dread you had of having nothing to do today is washed away, isn't it?

Glad to be back, peeps. I promise not to wait another 2 1/2 months to post again.

-27-

Going. Going. Gaughan!

I have long supported the efforts of Kevin Gaughan, the political activist hell-bent on streamlining Western New York governments.

Gaughan can legitimately claim being at least partly responsible for the reduction of members in two county governments, and six towns, as well as the elimination of a village.

And now Gaughan has set his eyes on Albany, wishing to reduce the state Senate, followed by the Assembly. His plan is to make 62 senators into 50 and 150 assemblymen into 125.

He says the reduction in the Senate, alone, will save $12 million a year. In a time when we’re all looking for two nickels to rub together, $12 million is a whole lot of rubbing.

Gaughan even has the theoretical support of state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who told him he has concerns, but generally is supportive of the plan.

I had my own concerns — particularly the diluting of the people’s voice in Albany with each state senator serving as many as 400,000 people under Gaughan’s plan. Right now, each senator has 322,000 constituents.

So Monday morning, I set out to put those concerns to rest with a phone call to Gaughan, himself.

“First of all, your question assumes that people have a voice in New York government,” he told me. “Virtually every New Yorker knows that the representative has no voice in government.”

“The fundamental purpose to reduce the number of politicians is to increase people’s voice,” Gaughan said, adding that when the real decisions get made, the state goes back to its tried-and-true method of “three men in a room.”

OK, he kind of got me there.

In addition, he said, bigger is not necessarily better. In lean times private companies roll back the number of employees they have to make ends meet. “Government should undergo the same change.”

Plus, Gaughan said, New York has one of the largest state governments in the union. And the cost of running that government is unmatched by even the largest of states.

“I think having two bodies with 212 members … I think there was a time when New York state could afford that,” he said. And that time is long gone.

“To ask people to have the highest cost for the New York State Legislature and have the least voice, calls for a change,” he said.

Gaughan continued, saying that real reform will require term limits, campaign finance reform and redistricting reform, which will prevent the legislators from gerrymandering their districts to ensure the 99 percent re-election rate they have enjoyed for years.

“Each of those reforms have been talked about and yearned for, for over 50 years,” he said. And while he certainly supports those three measures, his baby has been government reduction, which he says is equally important, but still just a part of the solution.

“To solve this problem, nothing's going to work ... but everything might,” he said.

Kevin and I were on the phone no more than five minutes. At the end of that five minutes, I agreed wholeheartedly. And I wish him the best.