Earmark magic: turning pork into economic development

Dec 2, 2010

Pork party
The Times Union's New York on the Potomac blog has a look at the ways that representatives will inevitably get around pledges to do away with earmarks, in order to route pork back to their districts.  Number three, which is basically "stop calling earmarks earmarks," is a real doozy:

An old joke in Washington goes like this: An earmark is somebody else’s project. If the project is yours, it’s a worthy proposal to create jobs and promote economic development.

Already, three prominent Republicans have suggested ways in which billions in federal spending will be relabeled so they no longer will be defined as earmarks. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a leader of Tea Party Republicans, says transportation projects shouldn’t be banned. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a member of the GOP leadership, says he will continue to seek money for his state to deal with natural emergencies. And three days after Senate Republicans voted to oppose all earmarks, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the second-ranking GOP leader, won $200 million to construct and maintain a drinking water project on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. While Kyl firmly denies that the spending is an earmark, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said it would help the local tribe “make snow at their ski resort, improve water flow to their casino and build fish hatcheries to improve local fish production.”

“I do know an earmark when I see it,” Leahy told his colleagues. “And this, my friends, is an earmark.”

Holy real estate
Back in November the Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison brought us details on Lafayette Presbyterian Church receiving state money to convert to lofts.  Now the Buffalo News reports that the church-turned-apartment complex is beginning to recruit tenants.

Going local: banking
The Times Union is reporting that consumers may have gotten back at big banks following the financial crisis by ... continuing to patronize them:

Data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show that the four largest out-of-state banks with branches in the area -- Key, Citizens, HSBC and Bank of America -- actually gained market share since the summer of 2008, before the financial crisis.

The four institutions in June this year together held 56.2 percent of the area's deposits, according to recently released FDIC statistics, up from 52.3 percent in mid-2008.

It appears that the trend to invest with small local banks or credit unions didn't catch fire.  But that doesn't mean it didn't catch on, according to the paper:

Some financial institutions in the Capital Region say they have benefited from that shift.

"We are absolutely seeing that," said Gordon Coleman, head of Patriot Federal Bank in Canajoharie, citing a 15 percent increase in deposits since the spring. "We've had a large influx."

Going local: farming
The Post-Standard has a profile of a project at Morrisville State College, to farm fish and hydroponic greens:

The goal of the Morrisville project is to integrate fish farming and lettuce production with an innovative energy system, and to cut costs by using waste from one process to fuel the next.

Heat given off by an electric generator next to the greenhouse will keep the fish and lettuce warm during winter. Carbon dioxide exhausted by the generator will help grow algae to feed the fish. And, yes, fish waste will be used to fertilize the lettuce, after being sterilized with ultraviolet rays.

Big rumblings in Rochester
The Democrat and Chronicle is reporting that there's a candidate for mayor of Rochester, to replace Robert Duffy, who's heading to Albany to serve as lieutenant governor.  Thomas Richards, formerly the city's lawyer and now deputy mayor, is set to announce his candidacy today, according to the paper.

The change in leadership comes at a critical time as Duffy tries to complete the centerpiece of his downtown economic development plan: moving PAETEC Communications into the former Midtown Plaza Mall space.  The D&C also reports today that PAETEC is starting to express frustration with the process, and has given a December 31 deadline to work out the details:

...issues that PAETEC called prerequisites in 2008 — such as free parking for PAETEC employees, permanent Empire Zone status and a proper development plan for the entire 8.5 acres — persist.

PAETEC officials want assurances on those issues and more, but not one contract has been signed between PAETEC and the city.

Education budget cuts
The president of Broome Community College lambasted Governor Paterson for cuts to the school's budget in a campus-wide email, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

Caught directly in Drumm's crosshairs was Gov. David Paterson.

"His approach is the chicken's way to slough off the hard public policy decisions," Drumm wrote. "I don't know what this governor is smoking ..."

Drumm's ire is directed at an additional 2 percent cut in state funding to community colleges. For BCC, which already lost about $2 million due to state budget cuts, the additional 2 percent would mean a loss of another $175,000.

4G in Rochester
Verizon is rolling out its LTE Mobile Broadband - or 4G - network in Rochester this weekend, reports the Democrat and Chronicle.  Rochester and NYC will be the only cities to get the service in the state:

According to Verizon, its LTE Mobile Broadband network will average downloads of 5 to 12 megabits per second and upload speeds of 2 to 5 megabits. For such applications as gaming, the wireless network's latency should be similar to what users see when connected via a landline, Melone said.

The network, at least at the offset, is aimed at laptop usage, though the company plans to roll out smartphone applications in 2011, [Verizon senior vice president Tony] Melone said.

Gas lawsuit
The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that a case against a gas firm was heard in court Wednesday.  The Harnas family is suing to stop Gas Field Specialists from assembling and shipping gas well equipment at a property near their home.  They claim constant vibrations and noise, as well as fumes from the facility, have ruined their quality of life.  The firm claims the family hasn't produced an expert to support their charges.  A ruling is due by the end of the year.

Go jump in a lake
Thought you were cold during yesterday's and this morning’s snow squalls?  Quit your carping: the Post-Standard reports a batch of executives at medical device manufacturer Welch Allyn jumped in Skaneateles Lake yesterday to celebrate exceeding their United Way fundraising goal.  Water temperature: 53 degrees.  Outside air temperature: 29 degrees.  Dress code: swim trunks.

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