April 7, 2008

Lost In Manhattan

We've been critical of the Greater Niagara Newspaper (GNN) in the past for what we perceive as a lack of "investigative" journalism, so when GNN does a story that requires more than the usual reporting, we want to give them the credit that they deserve. In this instance, we're referring to the story in Sunday's Niagara Gazette which highlighted the expenses incurred by local officials at an annual Association of Towns of the State of New York gathering in New York City in February.

In essence, the story details to a certain extent the expenditures of 37 officials from Lewiston, Porter, Niagara and Wheatfield to attend the function. Niagara sent nine representatives to the event. Lewiston also sent nine, Porter eight and Wheatfield sent 11. The cost of each person was as much as $2,000 per person for, as what Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin described as, "the only training that a town official gets in their job." So we're looking at as much as $64,000 to send our local officials to New York City to gain access to various state officials and experts in certain fields.

This is a problem. I could see sending a contingent from the four towns to represent the area, maybe a representative or two from each municipality, but 37 people? Why on earth would the Town of Niagara need to send four councilman? Why would Lewiston need to send it's Assessor Clerk, especially when the Assessor is going? Porter sent it's Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman, ZBA Vice-Chairman and a ZBA board member. Wheatfield sent it's Historian. It's HISTORIAN!

Now, I'm sure all of these people are nice folks. But we're talking about a taxpayer funded trip to New York City for 37 people that is simply a waste of money. I'm sure each of them will trumpet how valuable the trip was and how much they learned from it. Of course, learning is easier when you've had a nice dinner of crab cakes, pasta, cheese cake and a nice cold brew to wash it down, as one Porter Town Councilman did.

We're looking at approximately $60,000 for 37 local officials to spend a couple days in Manhattan. But why does this event have to be in New York City? Are any of these officials who find it so easy to spend taxpayer dollars putting forth any effort whatsoever to have this event in Niagara Falls or Buffalo? Did any of the local leaders who attended the event even have that conversation with the organizers?

Here's another event that would be good for the representatives of the four municipalities to attend: Get together at Tin Pan Alley and figure out how the four towns could consolidate into one. While you're at it, bring in each of your respective Superintendents and consolidate your school districts. Then again, maybe I should be taking that trip to NYC to learn about those monstrous windmills; I might as well be Don Quixote with my suggestion of consolidation.


Larry S said...

What on earth do all of these people need to be galavanting in New York City for? I mean really, if this is the only access these local officials have to certain state representatives, maybe they need to try a little harder.

I'd also love to know if they needed receipts for that $100.00 per day food allowance or did they simply get reimbursed for $100 regardless of whether or not they spent it.

Anonymous said...

This is a classic abuse of taxpayer dollars. I agree 100%, there is no reason in the world that 37 different people from the 4 towns needed to spend my money to run around NYC attending this event. Two from each town would have been sufficient.

Fat Tony said...

Hey, don't small town political hacks deserve some perks like the big city folks?

Fawn Leibowitz said...

Maybe Tony, but come on, 37 people out of four of the smallest towns in the state? I mean, this wasn't Power Authority money that Fred Newlin used, right? This is actual taxpayer money. And I agree with Hobbes on getting some functions like this to WNY. Hell, it's sunny and 60 degrees outside. We keep thinking small town, we're going to continue to be treated like small town.

rob clark said...

Unfortunetly the Assoc. of Towns and Villages won`t move the convention. It has been held n Buffalo before. But I believe that was years ago.

The trip to NYC is for classes. Classes on budget proccess, taxes, health care updates, Wind power( for all of you Access to Government fans)changes to laws that affect our Zoning and Planning Boards. Town Justices have to attend a certain amount of hours every years for there positions.

We really don`t get to mingle with state or federal officials that much. There are people from just about every state dept. available to us in the vendors area. There is about 100 or so differen`t vendors set up in one area of the convention. They have everything you could possible think of for your town available.

As far as how much money is spent, I guess that all depends on the person spending the money. Me personally. I spent $ 82.95 on food for 4 days. Most of our Town of Niagara) food was included in our room. We had a free continental breakfeast. and a free happy hour buffet.

rufus said...

I think this is the chicken sh*t stuff that makes people not want to run for office. If these local officials learned anything at all about how to better jod their jobs, it was money well spent. And while the aggregate figure looks pretty big, really a break down by town is pretty small.

I support continuing education for local government employees provided that it doesn't get out of control...and $60K is not out of control.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if you'd complain so loudly if it were Mark Smith instead of Fred Newlin. I still don't understand exactly why you GOP types have such a hard-on for Fred Newlin.

rob clark said...

Marc Smith was there. He gave a presentation to a fairly lagre group of elected offials from across the state.It was about his Transit North Project.(It was pretty good to)The best part about that project is the fact that Smith and Tucker,are both Gop guys. And there working together with Jim Reiester from Pendelton on it.

Going on the NYC trip is also good for networking on certian project across the state. But I waish that Buffalo had the space available to hold a confrence of this size. I believe there was atleast 2500 to 3000 People in attendance. Don`t quote me I could be wrong.

April said...

No one is saying that representatives shouldn't attend. I believe what was questioned was the need for 37 different officials from 4 towns to attend. The people throwing out these different names are the ones who are making this political.

Frank DeGeorge said...

I personally think Hobbes and Larry Castellani are the same person. Have you ever seen Hobbes and Laryr in the same place at the same time? I don't think so.

Fawn Leibowitz said...

I've heard the Aronow rumor about this site before myself, but I also heard that his mother passed away in mid-March in New Jersey. Considering that there was no gap in posts, I find it hard to believe that he was blogging from there during that time.

Actually, I find it hard to believe that a single person runs this blog. There are too many posts covering too many different areas to be one person.

Just my two cents.

Frank DeGeorge said...

Ooooh. It's like the old theory that Shakespeare couldn't possibly be one person because he was too prolific given the timeframe.

Yes, Fawn, you are on to something. I bet there's a shadowy office somewhere run by Maziarz with banks and banks of computers and people blogging all day across the world to get out the GOP message.

Back to the original post:
I don't disagree with sending people to these conventions but I think it would make sense for them to report in open forum at their respective board meetings what they learned and what they hope to implement.

At my work, people get sent for training all the time and there is an expectation that they will bring back some nugget of knowledge to be shared. If taxpayers heard what those nuggets were in the case of these government officials, perhaps everyone would agree that the expenditure was worth it.

Anonymous said...

What did Fred Newlin have to eat? The rooms would have cost about $750.00 the rest of the $1,600 most of went in his tummy. I know he's a big boy but Dam. LOL. Who cares it just the tax payers money - burp.

Anonymous said...

So Rob, you're saying Marc Smith was there? Amazing how that didn't come out in this post, huh?

pirate's code said...

anon said "So Rob, you're saying Marc Smith was there? Amazing how that didn't come out in this post, huh?"

I suspect that's because the Niagara Gazette only reported on the four towns mentioned in Hobbes' post. Obviously, that's one of the downsides to relying on the junior varsity of mainstream media.

Like many here, I really don't have an issue with attendance at something like this, although in this era of tight budgets and even tighter media scrutiny, you'd think the towns would be very circumspect as to how many might attend -- especially when it involves travel to one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But, c'mon Wheatfield...the historian?! It's stuff like that that makes me want to think... "junket."

And, for those who think that Newlin ate $1,000 worth of twinkies...unless he walked, I'm guessing some of the money was spent on getting to NY and back.

Folks need to relax...this was one of the stories that made me go "hmmmmm," to steal a line from some comedian, but I don't believe there are any grand conspiracies here.

That is, unless you've heard the one about Hobbes being the love-child of Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken.

Pete M said...

I read the post. Can someone please point out to me where anything negative was written about any specific person? I saw that Newlin was quoted, but unless I missed it, and its unfortunate that the Dems are so damn sensitive, nobody was personally attacked. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

rob clark said...

Gee ya think. My biggest problem with this whole thing is that only 4 towns were mentioned from Niagara County. With the Town of Wheatfield being the wrost with their spending. Yet no complaints. Why?

This is one subject that our mysterious host has a decent trend going. On one hand I want to defend our actions on going to NYC. On the other hand if you read the article posted on the niagara gazette website. Bob Herman say's it all. Its good as long as its affordable. Check it out.


Anonymous said...

Rob, I used to think that you were relatively impartial, but now I know how wrong I was. Someone nicely asked where anyone was personally attacked, and without answering his question and pointing out where anyone was attacked, you react like a 12 year-old. "Gee ya think"? My God, how juvenile. I didn't see where anyone was personally attacked either. Please enlighten me with your wisdom that I so obviously lack. Where was someone personally attacked, Rob?

Second, and it was already mentioned in the comments, only 4 towns were mentioned because the newspaper story only had 4 towns. Maybe Hobbes should have used his psychic powers to see what other towns went and what they spent.

Anonymous said...

I'd bet money that if the story had featured City and Town of Lockport folks, Hobbes would have found a way to work in his post that Newlin had gone.

Anonymous said...

But if Hobbes is not Glen than who. Fawn seems to think it is a collective. Might it be Mike Norris?

Anonymous said...

Cyd Bennett?

Anonymous said...

Her sister would be more likely.

Sweaterman said...

I think it is very ironic that all the towns in New York State attend a conference to learn about how to run government in the biggest burden of the New York State Taxpayer. New York City.

With today's technolgy can't these seminars be run through video conferencing at a local college.

DS said...

The Internet. It's a wonderful way to tell people that are in different locations all over the world(state) something without having to have everyone in a single location.

They might want to look into this new and exciting technology.