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Archive for October, 2012

Know the candidates before voting

LWV has candidate forums/debates coming up:

Monday Oct 22nd at the Predergast Library in Jamestown at 7pm

Thursday Oct 25th at the Fredonia 1891 Opera House at 7pm.

**OCBD Note: The final Presidential debate also airs tonight at 9pm**

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Have you heard that the decision to sell is a no-brainer, we have too, and you bet it is >

1- Does it cost the taxpayers/is it a burden on the taxpayers? You bet it does and is and by no small measure. $14+ million in taxpayer subsidies over the last 1/2 decade and in the hole another $3+ million for next year (and ongoing). This has a dramatic effect on our property taxes.

(Consider this beyond just the current year. If the Home were sold today it would not be only yield a “net” gain for the county coffers of $6+ million, but it would also avert next years $3.3 million loss, and the year after and after and after. Over a decade that’s over a $30 million swing from the bad to the good, and furthermore add in the taxes that would be paid by a private owner of say approx $1 million a year and now it’s $40+ million swing over a decade, and that’s huge!)

(Consider to the arguments we heard not to long ago about reducing the size of the legislature, downsizing, right sizing, limiting county gov, all to save $54k a year and all those remarks by some of the same legislators we have today about savings the tax payers money. That amounted to $ cents folks, yes pennies. With the issue of the Home we are really are talking about size and scope of government and right sizing in a substantial way and not about $ cents but rather $dollars, and a lot of them!)

2- Can a combination of cost savings, revenue enhancements, and union concessions end the taxpayer subsidies (IGT monies=county/fed tax dollar bailouts)? NO, the ad-hoc panel, though union heavy and biased in favor of continuing to run the home as a CSEA unionized government enterprise, proved that. They could not even come close to saving $2.3 million, let alone the $3.3 million actually necessary for the home to be revenue/tax neutral and self-sustaining.

(It should also be noted that CGR themselves never asserted that we could ever achieve enough savings ect. to operate without losses end tax payer subsidies for the home, but rather they only asserted that some of the suggestions could lessen them if that was the course chosen.)

3- The county home as a business model? Well first and foremost it isn’t. The home does not truly compete with any other nursing home due to special rules as a government entity, normally guaranteed taxpayer backed funding, and so on. In the real world when your taking in $20 million in revenues and have $14 million in personnel costs (that’s the present ratio, without IGT subsidy money), it is unsustainable and a failing model.

(To this end we would strongly suggest reading the opinions and position taken by the Chamber of Commerce. They represent 100’s of successful businesses, large and small, union and non-union, many of whom are associated with healthcare, and who are proven business leaders that known what a successful business model truly is.)

4- Well how then can a private sector firm make the home work? They can better control personnel costs, would not be locked into uncontrollable and skyrocketing pension costs for one thing, and that can innovate whereby measures can be taken to enhance revenues that the home is presently limited by law. There are certain services they are not allowed to provide according to state rules but a private sector facility is not limited as such.

5- Quality of care will decline? No, the home is presently an average facility by state standards and a below average facility by national standards. The reality is that quality of care, due to competition, private sector efficiency, and other factors, will actually improve.

(According to Medicare, which rates nursing homes, the highest quality care in our county is provided by for-profit nursing home facilities. more on that in a moment)

6- Current residents will be put out or shipped away to some other home in some far away location? No. It has already been stipulated as part of sale conditions that the new owner of the home will have to keep all existing residents. Once a contract is finalized this will be an iron clad stipulation.

7- Current employees will be put out of a job (and end up on welfare and in the soup lines, yes a union official actually said that!)? Give us a break, No. First of all again there are sale conditions and it will be part of the sale contract that current employees will be offered to retain their job. There will certainly be negotiations, potential retirements incentives for some of the very high paying positions, some changes in benefit structure to be sure (see sign above – facing reality), and the bottom line is most it not all of the workforce will be retained (without the CSEA and their forced unions dues of course). Just think about it, an employee could be paid less and because no union dues deduction, could actually be paid the same. Or an employee could be paid the same, and because no union dues deduction it would be like getting a raise.

(Now on that soup lines comment, how insulting. Union bosses should be ashamed, and union employees should be pissed at such a remark that they are thought so low of. The reality is that these employees are skilled workers with specific training, and even if they were laid off they would likely collect maximum unemployment not welfare, however more likely is that due to their experience they would be hired for a comparable job at one of the many other nursing home operations around the county!)

8- When it comes to personnel cost controls, the non-union administrators are as big a part of the problem as the union employees? No. The home is 98% CSEA and there are a whole 4 people who are non-CSEA. Unlike the union employees, these 4 have not had a raise in 3-4 years.

(did you know that most of the government homes that have been privatized still ended up with union representation, in almost every case they ended up being represented by the SEIU. How wonderful, now you can all stop whining about loosing your union representation.)

9- Chautauqua County is taking unprecedented action in selling their home? No. only about 1/2 the counties in NY still have a government-run home and many of them are in one stage or another to privatize just like we are doing. For example Albany county, Onondaga County, Orange county, Broome county, and Ulster county. Only two counties have actually closed down their home that we know of, years ago Dutchess and Niagara counties. “County-owned nursing homes have, in particular, become albatrosses around counties’ necks” and “It’s up to us in this state to confront what is a government structure that all too often is antiquated and outmoded.” are two quotes often attributed to this discussion.

10- It’s a partisan political issue? No. Well ok maybe for a few individuals and maybe in one regard with respect to the opposition (more on that later) but as for the effort to sell it is not: First look at other counties, some are Republican majorities and some are Democrat majorities, and furthermore look at some of the individuals that are trying to do the right thing because they know and understand what that is. Democrat Legislator Nazzaro for example, who is in the healthcare industry and the administrative end of such, he has no doubt that a self-sustaining model as a government-run facility is impossible, that the county home is fiscally failing, that only average at best services for such a high cost should no longer be acceptable, and that his responsibility as a legislator is clear. Too bad we can’t say that for all of them!

10b- About those supposed CSEA “government” union concessions, are they real? How much will they really help? What’s the real details? Now we’re getting into some complications and let’s start by talking about the partisan issues because where they do exist, they exist with the union leadership and a few certain “beholden legislators”. The leadership is being disingenuous about a number of things, has been the number one purveyor of scare tactics, has set forth a scenario that is them vs. everybody else, and there a few legislators that are enablers for them. Ahlstrom, a long time city of Dunkirk worker and AFL-CIO member which is a direct affiliate of the CSEA. Dejoe, who is a former County worker and CSEA member. Whitney who is a union boss from Jamestown. Cornell who is high in the leadership of the County Democrat party (along with a family member being a vice chair) and who is 100% pro-union and will always get the CSEA endorsement anytime she runs for an office, who now serves with and is a main supporter of, the new Dem Chair, the conflicted unethical, and again 100% pro-union, Norm Green, and let’s not forget who the new Vice Chair is, Williams Jr of the CSEA. So, hmm, some partisanship, yea you bet. [As a footnote, there is also Hoyer who is so pro-government that surely he is pro-government union, with him though the real issue is that he’s so far left into social justice ideology and rhetoric that there is simply no reasoning with him.] [Footnote2, understand that Ahlstrom’s issue isn’t just what we described above but is also, significantly, that the Home is in his district, and of course all the emotions along with it. Futhermore, he isn’t voting not to sell the home at Cornell’s behest who just helped push him out as Dem chair, no there is a rift between them, and it primarily centers around his desire to stick with the more moderate Congressional candidate Lori Burke as opposed to the farther left Shinagawa that Cornell and Co are stuck on.]

10c- About those supposed CSEA “government” union concessions, are they real? How much will they really help? What’s the real details? On to the more important stuff, here’s how it breaks down: You may recall this whole process did not start out with concessions but rather the CSEA wanting outrageous increases, and only after said outrage by the public and certain officials did some concessions start coming to the table. You should be reminded that last year during our budget crisis and cuts across all departments, the Home offered and contributed nothing towards solving our deficit problems. Now they are touting 1.7 million in concessions and calling them savings. No they are not, they are less increases (and it should be noted that even with a 0.00 increase in the Homes workforce budget, they will still loose 3.3 million next year). Worse yet they tout them as if they directly impact the Home budget when in fact only a fraction of the 1.7 million would impact it. Furthermore the CSEA’s local bosses along with the Buffalo and Albany bosses are flatly rejecting any further concessions, and the petition of over 1/2 the county members to their leadership asking for them to be more reasonable and do more is also being flatly rejected. Add to that some audacious rhetoric coming out of their followers of blind allegiance, such as how the County Sheriff should be cut more and the money given to them, which Fagerstrom and Co are not denouncing. Finally, here’s a real whopper, CSEA head Fagerstrom recently penned a letter to the Legislature that “…as of August 2011 there was no indication that the county home was in distress”. Are you kidding, where were you guys – see the comments above about the budget woes last year, and add to that all the debate about IGT money at that time. Give us a break, that is a statement of utter dishonesty, incompetence, or a combination of both. Lastly, is this is extremely important: The CSEA is not proposing to forgo this 1.7 million, in effect leveling the playing field, and getting a fresh start, NO they are only offering to put them off for 2 years and then they want them all back. The bottom line regardless of all of this is that unless they are willing to do way, way more, it’s not enough!

11- What is truly the overall public opinion on this issue? Well we should start by saying that those making the most noise about continuing a government-run facility are the employees and of course their union, and that stands to reason. Add to that a few others speaking out in their favor who are their friends and family, as well as some of those who are residents, and of course that stands to reason as well. However, it should also be understood that they are a minority, and in the case of the first example – a special interest group that is in fact an arm of the government itself. They seek the Legislature to make a decision for the few over the many, and for a special interest over the general welfare of the county as a whole, and as such they seek a decision that is not in keeping with the responsibility and duty of these Legislators.

Now look at those in favor of making the fiscally prudent choice, and a choice in keeping with the proper role of government: The Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Assoc. as mentioned above; the Editorial Boards of both newspapers; Certainly as many county taxpayers as there are home employees and residents for that matter, and these constituents who have written letters to the editor, or called their legislators, or pleaded to their town representatives, are composed of people in the private sector some of whom work at private care facilities or have loved ones in private care facilities, but some of whom are also home employees who concede that their own union’s position is flawed if not outright wrong (more on that later). Finally, there are also the town officials who have sent resolutions to the Legislature urging the sale. These officials obviously have experience in governance, economics, budgets, and some also in healthcare. They understand how county property taxes affect their own efforts to hold the line on property taxes as well as how they contribute to the overall high burden of property taxes we have in NYS and no less our county, and they are rightfully concerned not to mention properly representing their own constituencies that have spoken out to them.

12- What is actually the IGT money? and what about those surpluses the Home has had at times in the past? Well let’s start with the surplus issue, and first and foremost be clear that any surplus which has ever existed has been a surplus of tax payer monies. These are not profits, they are an excess allocation of tax monies that were only so due to IGT funding. Furthermore, no government enterprise within the larger scope of government, ie. county gov in this case, should have such an excess. Only the County gov itself is to maintain a fund balance as a matter of sound fiscal policy as set by rules of the state comptroller, not sub-agencies below it.

As for the IGT issue, it must be put in proper context and that starts with the full name “Inter Governmental Transfers” or one government transferring monies to another, and of course those monies are tax dollars. These are subsidies and what happens is that the county government is allocating some of our county taxes so that they can put their hand out to the federal government and have them match with an additional fed taxes subsidy. This could otherwise be known as a bailout. Yes that is exactly what it should be called – One part of government bailing out another failing part of government courtesy of the taxpayers!

13- Why can’t the County Home make money when privately run nursing homes can? Let’s have Legislator Borello explain from his recent article: “One of the most common questions I am asked is why can’t the county run the nursing home without a loss when other organizations can make a profit. There are several reasons why a private sector company would be able to succeed in operating the Home without a loss when the government cannot. First, and foremost, is the restrictions placed on county-run nursing homes by the New York State Department of Health. County homes are prohibited from offering assisted living and independent living care which are less labor-intense and more profitable. County homes can only offer skilled nursing. The state of New York will not allow county governments to expand into those other services.” “Should we sell the County Home? When I speak to other legislators “off the record” almost all of them admit that, at some point, we must sell the County Home. Even those who are vocally against the sale of the Home will admit, in confidence, that they realize the County Home will become a budget-busting financial burden. But then they say that they are just not ready to sell right now.” “I feel that “kicking the can down road” will only makes things worse. As Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements drop, and costs rise, the Home will lose value. If we wait a couple more years to sell, when our backs are against the wall, we will not be able to make demands of the buyer, as we are now.” “Right now, we are in relative position of strength. The Request For Proposal (RFP) that went out had 14 conditions that must be honored in the sale. Among those conditions are allowing all current residents to stay in the Home as long as they would like and keeping the home open for at least 10 years. We have the luxury of selling to someone who we feel will maintain the quality of care and honor these commitments.” “If we wait until we are desperate to sell, these conditions will likely not be included as part of the contract. Sound decisions are not made when an issue becomes a crisis.”

In conclusion, we are reminded of some words from the past that are still all too relevant today:

Gov Ronald Reagan, future President – “A Time for Choosing” excerpts from 1964

Reagan as GovernorI am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, “We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government.” This idea — that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power — is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

Plutarch warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.”

The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, “What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.” But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we’re always “against,” never “for” anything.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last.

Here’s a few others that understood this:
   Excessive taxation…will carry reason and reflection to every man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election. – Thomas Jefferson
  A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species. – James Madison
   There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always be the least burdensome. – Alexander Hamilton
  An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation. – John Marshall
  In a general sense, all contributions imposed by the government upon individuals for the service of the state, are called taxes, by whatever name they may be known, whether by the name of tribute, tythe, tallage, impost, duty, gabel, custom, subsidy, aid, supply, excise, or other name. – Joseph Story  [and that includes “IGT” “Subsidies” “Bailouts”]
for the background on all of this, reports, articles, ect. see: ISSUES

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Time to Act – Special County Legislature Meeting this Thursday, October 18th, 6:30pm, Mayville.

Be there, stand up for the taxpayers and the general welfare of our county, and speak out.

This failing government enterprise needs to be transitioned over to the private sector if you really want to save it, the services, and the jobs it provides.

As for signs, we’ll take option number three!

Hmm let’s see, from top to bottom:

Sign #1 – That’s what they say but it’s nothing more than a scare tactic. Save it? From what, the bombs, the bulldozers, the padlocks? NO, that is not at all the case.

Sign #2 – This is the real agenda = See sign #1.

Sign #3 – Now we are talking reality, and the proper fiscal responsibility as well as the proper role of government. The choice, from our duly elected and accountable representatives, in this case County Legislators, is clear – privatize the home, or in other words sell it, with necessary conditions yes, but never the less sell it.

No more delays, stalling, or pandering, no more $80k studies, no more emotions over facts, figures, inevitable conclusions, and duty. No more subsidies, no more bailouts, no more sticking the taxpayers with the cost of excessive government, when in fact the same services and jobs could be provided by a private sector entity that will enhance our local economy, as opposed to taking from it.

It’s long overdue, time for county government to act to protect all those families paying property taxes, time to help save all our homes, and the time to act is NOW !!!

“So often we hear from County government that their hands are tied on an issue, that due to legalities of one sort or another by the state or federal government, that they cannot act. This is not case with the County home, it is a decision solely in the hands of our county officials, no excuses”

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Hundreds Turn Out To Remember Fallen Soldier

October 14, 2012 By Shirley Pulawski (editorial@post-journal.com)

Members of area American Legion posts wait to enter the memorial service for Sgt. Jonathan Gollnitz. Photo by Justin Goetz
DUNKIRK – Central Avenue in Dunkirk was lined with hundreds of people, many holding American flags and others in military uniform, who came out to pay respects to fallen local soldier, U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan “Nathan” Gollnitz on Saturday afternoon.

Sgt. Gollnitz, a Fredonia native and graduate of Levant Christian School, was killed in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan on Sept. 26 in a roadside bombing. Staff Sgt. Orion Sparks of Tucson, Ariz. was killed alongside him in the attack. Gollnitz was the 1,999th soldier to die in battle in Afghanistan. He was 28 years old.

Gollnitz served in the Navy for six years before enlisting in the Army to, in his words according to family and friends, “be closer to the action.”

A memorial display in honor of Sgt. Gollnitz, whose ashes were interred in Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission, Texas. Photo by Justin Goetz

In addition to friends, family and the hundred of civilian supporters in attendance, several hundred veterans of all branches of the military were organized by the American Legion to participate in the funeral services.

Junior Ortiz of Dunkirk, president of the Sons of Liberty, a motorcycle club comprised of veterans, was one of the supporters in attendance. “It’s important for veterans to support veterans,” Ortiz, a veteran of the Marines, explained. “We try to do whatever we can to support local veterans.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Wayne Ashley, a veteran and Silver Creek resident who came to support the family.

Full military honors were performed during the ceremony, and most veterans appeared in uniform. The Dunkirk Joint Veterans Honor Guard presented an American flag to Gollnitz’s family after “Taps” was played outside.

American Legion officers presented a resolution to the family of their “beloved comrade” and told them, “We will forever cherish him in our hearts.”

The officers explained Gollnitz is now in post Everlasting of the American Legion.

Sgt. Jason Roberts came as a representative of the U.S. Army. “Grief is necessary. Grief is natural. It is not a sign of weakness. … It is proof of the strength of the bond we have for those who are asleep,” he said. He explained Gollnitz’s “military family … is going to be there for you in the end. These are outstanding people who came out to support you.”

Roberts also read from letters written by soldiers who knew Gollnitz personally and fought alongside him. “He always led from the front,” Pfc. Dean Feinstein said in a letter, and added, “Your son will never be forgotten.”

Two representatives of the Blue Star Mothers, a support group for those who have lost children to combat, also presented the family with thoughts and a commemorative token.

The Rev. Roger Eimers, Sr., former pastor of the fallen soldier, officiated. He introduced Holly Payne, who sang “I Can Only Imagine” while also signing the words. Eimers later spoke of his time knowing Gollnitz, who was close friends with his youngest son, Joshua.

Minnie Gollnitz, Jonathan’s grandmother, addressed the mourners present, and them about her grandson. “He was a very energetic little boy,” she said. “At a very young age, he started telling everyone that he wanted to join the Navy.”

She said she was very proud of Jonathan when his grandfather died. “I will never forget the way he saluted his grandpa,” at the funeral, Minnie Gollnitz said.

Joshua Eimers also spoke, tearfully, of his friendship with Gollnitz and times they spent together over the years. “He’s made a huge impact on so many of us. He was a loyal friend … and always there for me. There was never a time he didn’t end a conversation with ‘I love you,'” a sentiment also shared by his grandmother.

In addition to the local service,  military service with full honors was held in Mission, Texas on Monday, Oct. 8, when his ashes were interred at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery.

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Our County Deserves Better, and so does our Country.

Thank you Mitt Romney and congrats on clearly your first debate victory (as far as we’re concerned you just won the election!)

For Mitt, Ann, and Paul Ryan’s post debate messages;

To replay the entire debate;

and for news and analysis, click here.

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