2018 New Year Tidbits

BY THE NUMBERS

Word out of the Census Bureau is that New York State will lose one, maybe two, members of Congress after the 2020 official count. New York currently has 27 congressmembers. As recently as 1950, it was 45.

According to the Census Bureau, the Empire State’s overall population has been flat over the last decade, with upstate losses offset by Gotham gains. Ergo, upstate stands to lose another congressmember, maybe two. And the hatchet may well fall in the Hudson Valley. Again.

The effect of upstate depopulation in terms of congressional representation is to produce larger and larger geographical districts. Map makers will need to go far afield to find the 750,000 residents who will on average make up each of the new districts.

I’m not a big fan of government expansion, but perhaps it’s time to consider increasing the number of congressional representatives, currently frozen at 435. The Constitution, after all, only requires a decentennial census for the purposes of reapportionment, but does not limit the number of congressmembers.

Smaller districts, say with 600,000 people (a 20 percent reduction with about 85 new congressmembers)  would be more contiguous – the 11-county  19th includes Saratoga to the north and Binghamton to the west – and be more manageable.

Of course, it could be argued that the 435 people we have in congress now aren’t very good at their jobs, the institution’s rating being somewhere in the mid-teens.   Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons for this disfunction is sprawling congressional districts with far too many people to represent for one member of congress and a 20-person staff.

SPEAKING OF CONGRESS

At the risk of picking on once and future Speaker Nancy Pelosi: I got a web heads up last week quoting the Speaker-apparent as saying,  ”Democrats will restore integrity in government in working for the people, not the wealthy and the well-connected.”

In government, one doesn’t often see the words integrity, wealthy and well-connected in the same sentence.

To which I thought, “Huh?” Speaker Pelosi, as with other congressional leaders, is both wealthy (or at least rich) and patently well-connected. To have access to the speaker’s ear is a kind of one-stop shopping, or as barristers say, why buy a jury when you can buy a judge?

Recall a 60 Minutes expose a few years ago that showed leaders (including Pelosi) cashing in on insider information (like pending defense contracts) to the tune of millions. These are the same folks who condone secret, taxpayer-funded hush funds to pay off victims of members’ sexual impropriety.

BY GEORGE

In a vain attempt to avoid TV hucksters selling cars or diet plans over the holidays, I came across a rerun of George Bush’s eulogy to his father. Most media focused on 43’s breaking down near the end of his moving tribute, but there was some of the dry humor his father would have appreciated.

To paraphrase: “My father was a humble man,” Bush said, “something altogether rare in Washington, where in truth, you don’t get much traffic on the high road to humility.” 

ROOTS AWAY! 

It appears that Democratic Senator Jen  Metzger, a former Rosendale councilwoman, will not be taking the oath of office locally. Metzer’s one and only only swearing-in, will take place in Middletown on Jan. 2, according to staff. Hmm. Metzger’s huge majority in Ulster helped seal an election over apparent heavyweight Annie Rabbitt of Orange County. These ceremonial events are truly festive, allowing supporters, friends, family and donors to mingle with the object of their affection. Bombastic speeches are the norm, but nobody seems to mind. To hold a one-off inaugural in hard-to-reach  Middletown, albeit geographically central, sends a message to the rest of the district. I  don’t know who’s advising the new senator these days, but they’d better not forget where she came from.

PVB’s LAST STAND 

I didn’t attend Sheriff-elect Juan Figueroa’s unofficial swearing-in at the county courthouse in Kingston on Friday, figuring – WRONG! – it would be just for family, close friends and a few senior officers. Imagine my surprise to learn the place was packed with just about every Democratic dignitary from Shandaken to Kingston and from Saugerties to Marlboro and Plattekill. Imagine an event where arch-enemies Kevin Cahill and Mike Hein  both spoke? These guys rarely attend the same events once one or the other finds out the other will be there.  

Now, I’m not sure that Big Fig, though well-liked, is yet universally loved among Democrats or that he will play the role of party unifer going forward. But what is certain is that he had a unified, energized party behind him when he challenged three-term (Democratic) sheriff Paul VanBlarcum  (PVB) last year. . 

That said, the former sheriff, 62, a 42-year veteran in law enforcement, should enjoy a comfortable retirement under a Tier-I state pension off a $102,000 base.