Posts Tagged ‘Demographics’

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Existentialism in the 23rd Congressional District

Consider the Existentialist dilemma of the candidates seeking New York’s 23rd Congressional District seat. You may recall Existentialism from high school French class or a movie date in college: the hard-to-pin-down philosophy supported largely on the precepts that 1) Orthodoxies and doctrines are meaningless 2) We all live for the moment and determine our fate by our choices, and 3) We’re all doomed anyway, so what the heck. Toss in words like “ennui” and “angst” and you’ve pretty much covered it.

Anyway, on June 2nd, when John McHugh accepted President Obama’s nomination to become Secretary of the Army, he triggered a five-month-long campaign to fill his House seat, a campaign which will end at the polls on November 3rd.

The abbreviated schedule means that the traditional binary and sequential format of American campaigns—an ideological race (left v. right) in the primaries followed by a partisan race (R v. D) in the general election—must be fought concurrently. As a consequence, the race for the 23rd features a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage Republican who falls somewhere to the left of the opposing “centrist” Democrat, who was never really a Democrat before and doesn’t even mention the word all that often, and a Conservative who falls just to the left of a Viking on social issues. Contemporary political dogma will not help the disoriented voter in this election.

The foreshortened calendar has also served to concentrate the negative advertising in the race. While the regionally-recognized candidates need to define themselves (more by their actions than their party affiliations) across the sprawling district, they (and their surrogates) are already spending more time and money undefining each other—complete with ominous tones, distorted voting records and unflattering likenesses.

Perhaps the most resonant existential element of the 23rd CD race is the utter futility of the goal itself. Whoever wins the right to represent New York’s northernmost citizens will immediately have to gear up a defense of the seat in 2010, a tough job, with or without an extended recount. The 2010 election coincides with the decennial census, and the expected loss of two New York congressional seats in the ensuing redistribution. The choice of which districts to eliminate during reapportionment will fall to a state legislature that owes nothing to whichever rookie legislator occupies the seat.

In short, the best scenario that the victor of the November 3rd special election can hope for goes something like this: Beneath heavy Washington skies, following swearing in to the remainder of the 111th Congress, the Distinguished Representative, along with a few other members from terminal districts in Ohio and Pennsylvania will convoke the Jean-Paul Sartre Caucus at a cafe somewhere off DuPont Circle. Over espressos and Gauloises they will grimly deconstruct the lyrics of “Born to Run,” shrug twice, then disappear forever. C’est la vie.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Forever Wired: Some Thoughts On Adirondack Wired Work

Having taken some time to digest everything that happened at Clarkson University’s Forever Wired conference this week, I thought I’d try to wrap up the experience (coverage by Almanack contributor Mary Thill and me here) with some thoughts about what’s happening, where we’re heading, and where we should be headed. It seems to me that several strands are developing around the issue of a wired workforce in the Adirondacks.

The first is the technological build-out of broadband in the Adirondack region. Mary covered what we know is happening and has happened here, but there is still a lot to be learned. The big providers hold their plans close to the vest, but as Mary noted recent developments by CBN Connect, a nonprofit affiliated with SUNY Plattsburgh, and the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) have gotten us off to a good start, and there are hopes for a small piece of the $7.2 billion federal stimulus funds for broadband to extend coverage into the park. There is still, however, the looming question of how much of the park has broadband now. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Congresswoman Kirstin Gillibrand, and Clarkson President Tony Collins have all said that 70 percent of the park lacks broadband, but without public data (and real baseline for what should really be called broadband), we just don’t know. The bottom line is that on the technology build-out front, we’re moving forward, albeit hopefully. Clarkson president Tony Collins said the next step is a retreat September 22 at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake for an infrastructure working panel, an offshoot of the Forever Wired gathering.

A second big piece coming into play was highlighted at the Forever Wired conference. Much of the energy there is being put into convincing seasonal residents to move themselves and their jobs to the Adirondacks and work from home. Proponents of this plan point to the recent study by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages that indicated declining school enrollments and an aging park population. The general sense is that bringing new residents into the park will improve both situations and that selling the Adirondack wired lifestyle will help turn around our sluggish local economies. A plus side to the wired-permanent-residents approach is that it could lower the number of individuals with mailing addresses outside the park, those who currently own about half of the total residential property value and that may increase local property values and grow local property tax revenue. It’s felt that more full-time residents will also mean more jobs, but it might also mean fewer jobs for our current crop of young residents as new full-timers with technology skills take jobs. There is also the affordable housing squeeze, and then of course, more development sprawl caused by wiring the backcountry and lakeshores.

The final piece I want to mention has been generally left out of the equation—employing current local residents in existing wired work opportunities. If we’re going to have a plan for wired work, it would be helpful to know how many workers in the park might be eligible to move toward telecommuting. Human resources departments, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing, secretarial, media, political boards and committees, and no doubt other positions could possibly be moved to the home office. A representative of IBM reported that home-based employees save the company $100 million a year in real estate costs alone. Increased productivity (believe it or not), reduced costs of childcare, time and money saved on commuting (one of the park’s largest uses of energy) are all benefits of moving Adirondack workers toward wired work from home. Could recent job cuts in Warren County for instance, have been avoided if twenty or thirty percent of the county’s workforce worked from home? Twenty or thirty percent of energy costs? Building costs? Snowplowing? The list goes on. Could the folks who recently lost jobs at the county’s cooperative extension office have kept them if they closed down the office and everyone worked from home? The bottom line here is we don’t know, and the focus on technology build-out, future call center workers, and converted full time residents is leaving out the direct and fairly immediate savings current residents might reap from transitioning existing jobs to wired work now.

Some folks at the Forever Wired conference, folks like Elmer Gates — a Blue Mountain Lake native, engineer-turned-CEO-turned banker and a force in starting the Adirondack North Country Initiative for Wired Work—understand that getting broadband infrastructure here is just one step. Gates told the Almanack that people need training for technical support or call-center jobs. He was also quick to point to support offered by Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, where existing start-ups and small businesses can learn to succeed in the new business environment through free consultations.

Gates says he got behind the Wired Work Initiative because he “just got tired of everybody having given up” on finding good jobs in the Adirondacks. “That’s a defeatist attitude and we are going to change it,” he said, adding that he’s not satisfied with the track record of regional economic development agencies and plans to keep the Wired Workforce Initiative a private, volunteer effort.

I like the sound of that. Adirondackers need training for new wired jobs that can keep young people employed in sustainable, environmentally sound ways. But employers (public and private) need training too. They need to learn the benefits of wired work to their bottom line and to their workers’ (and taxpayers) wallets.

Local residents need a to path to the wired work future—who will lead the way?


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Status of Broadband in the Adirondack Park

If you live in one of the larger Adirondack communities like Old Forge or Lake Placid, chances are you can hook in to some form of high-speed Internet, broadly called broadband. If you live in a small-to-middling hamlet like Cranberry Lake—or if you live in between, on a lakeshore or in the woods—you might be among the nine percent of Americans still using slow, shaky dial-up, or one of a handful using expensive and unreliable satellite, or you just don’t bother.

There are no solid numbers on how many Adirondack Park residents have the option of high-speed Internet. Even local officials often don’t know who can wire to what and where in their towns. (These county maps provide the most complete picture, but an official with the state Office for Technology cautions that the Adirondack data are incomplete.)

Most Adirondack broadband users tie in via DSL (digitally enhanced phone line) or cable modem. But a handful of places like Keene have isolated ganglia of fiber-optic cable, the fastest option by far. Fiber optic is called “future proof”: odds are against a better technology replacing it. The hairlike glass strands offer more bandwidth than we’ll ever need, and they’re not far away, literally. The Adirondack Park is surrounded on the east, south and west by major fiber optic cables. They are buried along the Northway (I-87) and the Thruway (I-90), and they run roughly parallel to I-81 from Syracuse to the top of the state.

The reason we’re not hooked in to these trunk lines is that it’s just not profitable enough for Verizon and other private Internet service providers to lay miles and miles of secondary wire to the relatively few, dispersed customers that populate the Adirondacks. That’s why North Country economic- and technology-development organizations are applying for some of the $7.2 billion in federal stimulus plan funds earmarked to bring broadband to rural and low-income areas.

In the northeastern Adirondacks, CBN Connect, a nonprofit affiliated with SUNY Plattsburgh, is seeking $22 million in government money in hopes of starting work this year stringing 420 miles of fiber across Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties. The open-access line would run from the Canadian border to Ticonderoga and from Lake Champlain to Tupper Lake. CBN is also designing a network and applying for permits to bring fiber to Hamilton, Warren and Washington Counties.

West of the park, the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) has already built a model of rural Internet-ification, having strung 750 miles of open-access fiber by 2003. However, the line penetrates the Adirondack Park only as far as Newton Falls, where a paper mill needed high-speed to stay in touch with its Canadian owner. DANC officials say they would also like to apply for stimulus funds to expand broadband service in the western park.

These government-funded lines would not be the ones that attach to your house; these are more like main roads. It will still be up to private Internet service providers to step in and use these fiber backbones to offer service to homes and businesses—and connection fees will presumably drop since the really costly part has been subsidized and there will be competition among providers. What connects your house won’t necessarily be fiber, either, though the technology is well-adapted for towns like Keene where houses can be miles apart and mountains block airwaves. A lot of population centers will stick with cable or DSL, though linked to faster, fatter networks. Some will supplement with wireless; officials in Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Cranberry Lake, for example, are looking at sending signals from towers to reach far-flung residents and shoreowners at minimal cost.

They are hoping that seasonal homeowners and vacationers will stay longer and spend more money here if they can work lakeside from an Adirondack chair. This is where the Why comes in—the economic and other rationales for wiring the park—and that is a subject for another post.

Map of DANC’s fiber-optic Open Access Telecom Network (OATN), west of the Adirondack Park. Maps of the Northway and Thruway fiber-optic lines are not available because they are considered “critical state infrastructure.”


Friday, July 24, 2009

North Country Residents Fattest in State

According to a report released this week, the New York counties with the highest percentage of overweight or obese adults are Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties at 67.7 percent. Hamilton County has 62.9 percent, Herkimer 62 percent, Warren 60.2 percent, and Clinton, Essex and Franklin have 56.7 percent. Manhattan was rated the state’s skinniest region, even with 42 percent of its adult population overweight.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand mined the data from federal Centers for Disease Control body-mass index statistics and released it Tuesday. The proliferation of overweight people “costs the U.S. over $100 billion in health care costs every year,” the report states. Over the past 30 years obesity rates have doubled among children and tripled among teenagers, the CDC says.

Gillibrand called on parents and schools to serve healthier foods and encourage exercise. She is drafting bills to ban trans-fats in schools and to increase the USDA’s authority to regulate school snacks. She also wants to increase funding for school lunches and community-based programs that encourage exercise.

New York’s heaviest counties are in line with CDC’s national average of 67 percent overweight; the state as a whole is below average at 60 percent. At 62 percent, the North Country has the highest obesity rate in New York. Gillibrand, a Democrat, represented much of this region as a member of the House for two years until she was appointed in Janary to a vacant Senate seat to represent the entire state.

Next week the Almanack will talk with North Country physicians about the report.

Graphic from Wiki Commons. From left to right, the “healthy” man has a 33 inch (84 cm) waist, the “overweight” man a 45 inch (114 cm) waist, and the “obese” man a 60 inch (152cm) waist.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

ADKCAP Reports On Local Energy, Jobs And The Green Economy

The Adirondack region’s local energy bill is more than $600 million a year. Add in gasoline and the number soars past $1.5 billion a year. A new initiative seeks to cut that cost, and use the savings to help the region’s economy. The details of the region’s energy use are included in a new report, entitled the Adirondack Energy & Greenhouse Gas Inventory, that breaks down energy production and consumption. It details how money spent on energy flows out of the Adirondacks, draining resources from the local economy. The report, documenting the entire Adirondack region, is one of the largest regional energy and carbon audits ever produced in the United States.

“We’re interested in getting our hands on these numbers because we want to see how we could use the projected major changes in national and state energy policies to help build our regional economy,” said Ross Whaley former President of SUNY ESF. “If we could save just 10 percent of what we spend importing the energy we use locally we’d have $60 million more dollars a year that we could invest in the Adirondacks.”

The report was supported in part by The Wild Center and ADKCAP, a new initiative that says its goals are to channel federal and state efforts into the region to improve energy efficiency, support regional programs formed to help cut energy costs and waste, and create or save higher-value jobs that could have a lasting impact on the Adirondack economy. A year in the making, the final report that its backers say could lead to tackling energy waste and carbon pollution in the Adirondacks, is now available online http://www.adkcap.org/?q=audit.

Highlights? The report shows some big collective numbers. Almost 490 million gallons of gasoline are used to power vehicles in the region, more than 35 million gallons of fuel oil and kerosene and over 10 million gallons of LPG are used to heat area homes and hot water. Residential users inside the Adirondacks spend more than $25 million a year on electricity to heat their homes and $135 million a year on electricity for things other than heat, like running refrigerators and lights.

“When you become cognizant of the energy dollars being spent in the Adirondacks each year, one quickly realizes that we need to find an approach to keep some of those dollars here,” said Brian Towers of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. “Obviously community leaders from around the region need to investigate every avenue from small hydroelectric, solar and wind projects to looking at ways of reducing municipal energy costs with bio-fuels. Any way that we can cut public energy costs has a correlating effect on property taxes.”

The report was prepared by leading research firm Ecology and Environment, Inc. of Lancaster, NY. It was commissioned to create a baseline for looking at energy consumption in the area and dovetailed with the strong interest of a number of area groups who were looking at the Adirondacks as a potential large-scale example of how a region could address carbon dependence and grow its economy. “The national conference held here was about how the United States needs to transition away from carbon as our main energy source. With this transition comes opportunity if we act fast,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe of The Wild Center. “It started people talking about putting the idea of aggressively implementing energy efficiency and developing new renewable energy sources here in the Adirondacks. This is one of the few times that environmental concerns and economic opportunities share the same goals from the outset.”

The Adirondacks as an Example for the Nation

“We think we have a chance to set an example for the nation,” said Kate Fish of ADKCAP. “If we can show that you can cut energy costs in a big way, and use the money to grow your economy, others can learn from what we do. We are a region of 103 living, breathing and working towns and villages with challenges a lot of other places can relate to. Making this happen here could mean a lot for people all over the U.S. who are wrestling with high costs of energy, and the need to rebuild their economies.”

Fish and others say the Adirondacks’ New York location and high visitation make it an attractive place for other organizations, including power companies, who are looking to test efficiency and renewable ideas. “We can be the first place to take on energy independence across a large area. If we can show that 103 regular towns and villages can break the grip of energy dependence and build our local economies in a sustainable way we could demonstrate something important to others,” said Fish.

ADKCAP

ADKCAP, an umbrella group, formed after the ‘American Response to Climate Change Conference -The Adirondack Model’ held in November of 2008 at The Wild Center, is working with partner organizations and individuals to build on a variety of plans to turn energy savings into local benefits. Based on data in the report that shows that one third of all the energy used locally in the Adirondacks comes from home heating, a number of partners are focusing on getting effective region-wide access to programs designed to cut home heating and utility costs, including training a skilled energy audit and retrofit workforce. The initial actions being considered would also include logical uses of renewable sources including testing of new low emissions wood gasification systems that could use sustainably harvested local forest products. The development of a forest products-based energy system could also mean local jobs. Other local energy sources could include sun, wind and hydro, including small-scale hydro that could take advantage of standing local dams.

Groups involved with ADKCAP say that new job creation could encourage younger families to stay in the area, reversing the aging-population trend in upstate New York. “It has been demonstrated conclusively that one of the greatest home energy savers is preventing air infiltration. This can be a low-cost, high yield effort. Next, is improving the efficiency of the furnaces and boilers. Green home energy saving really is possible for everyone,” said Alan Hipps, Executive Director of Housing Assistance Program of Essex County. “Those are simple examples of how we can cut energy costs and create jobs at the same time.”

The renewable energy industry generated about 500,000 jobs and $43 billion revenue in the U.S. in 2007. The much broader energy-efficiency industry generated 8.6 million jobs and $1 trillion in revenue, according to a report issued in January by the American Solar Energy Society. The national study projected that the renewable and energy efficiency businesses could employ 16 million to 37 million people by 2030, depending on government policy.

“We need new jobs here, good jobs, and jobs that let us keep our natural character,” said Ann Heidenreich of Community Energy Services of Canton, NY. “We’re going to need to solve energy challenges one way or another, and this report gives us some of the basic tools to do the smartest thing, and be more in control of our future.”

Mike DeWein, an expert on regional energy issues and a member of the ADKCAP and Energy $mart Park Initiative (E$PI) steering committees, says the Adirondacks could do well by getting out ahead on energy efficiency issues. “We know the energy world is going to change in significant ways in the next 20 years, particularly because of national trends and policies going into effect in current state and Federal legislation. Places that get ahead of the curve will benefit, and the report sets the groundwork for the Adirondacks by moving initiatives and programs and being ready to benefit from those policies, as well as be ready for funding opportunities.” DeWein cited the internet revolution as an example. “Often when something big is happening it pays to “start the train down the track” to be ready for the opportunities rather than sit on the rail siding waiting for the train.”

The report was prepared for The Wild Center and ADKCAP, in consultation with The Adirondack Energy $mart Initiative (E$PI), by Ecology and Environment, Inc and with key contributions from Dr. Colin Beier of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The report was funded by the Adirondack Community Trust – Master Family Fund.

NOTE: This post is a reprint of the ADKCAP and Wild Center’s press release.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healthcare: Hamilton, Essex Counties Have Most Uninsured

Health care reform has been promised by President Obama for this year (here is a pdf of his plan). According to a new map created by Jim Gimpel of the political blog The Monkey Cage, the Adirondack region, particularly Essex and Hamilton counties, has the most to gain from health care reform. The numbers are drawn from the 2005 US Census and represent the percentage of uninsured in each county (under age 65, those older are eligible for Medicare).

The map is remarkable because it shows that the liberal northeast has the lowest rate of uninsured. New York however, has the highest rate of uninsured in our region, and Hamilton County, one of the lowest rates of insured in all of New York.


Monday, April 6, 2009

APA Reforms Moving Through Legislature

The New York State Senate introduced three measures, advanced by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which the APA argues will “benefit the Park, its residents and improve overall APA efficiency.” The three bills hope to address the issue of affordable housing, to establish regular funding for local planning efforts, streamline the project review process, and expand flexibility for transferring development rights.

Regular APA critic Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, is first out of the box to question the affordable housing plan. The bill would encourage community housing projects within a three-mile radius of APA-designated hamlets (shown in the map above).

In an interview with the Plattsburgh Press Republican Monroe says that that 31 of the 92 towns in the Adirondacks do not have APA-designated hamlets. A look at the map shows he’s exaggerating a bit, as only about a dozen of those towns have any real acreage inside the park and several of those are some of the park’s most remote.

Monroe wants the new law’s hamlet designation to include those areas locally considered hamlet, not just APA-designated hamlets, which are downtowns and population centers where local zoning holds sway. Monroe is the Supervisor of the Town of Chester and Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors; Chester and Warren County have some of the highest numbers of APA designated hamlets of all the park’s municipalities. About 3/4 of the Town of Chester would fall into the new designation, enabling development for affordable housing purposes almost anywhere in town.

Here is a description of the three bills from an APA press release (I have pdf briefing documents for anyone interested – drop me a note):

Bill S.3367 would increase affordable housing opportunities within the Adirondack Park on land best suited to sustain a higher density of development. The lack of adequate affordable housing is a problem that must be solved to retain year-round families and ensure community sustainability.

Bill S.3366 would establish a Local Government Planning Grant Program administered by the APA. This would result in steady funding for local government planning initiatives. Grant funding would be sustained through civil penalties, settlement agreements and application fees collected by the APA.

Bill S.3361 would modify the Agency’s project review process to improve Agency efficiencies and reduce unnecessary burden and expense to applicants. This bill would also result in expanded flexibility for transferring development rights. Transferring development potential from more restrictive APA land use areas into less restrictive areas can balance protection of the Park’s unique natural resources with the growing demand for increased development opportunities on land capable of sustaining higher density development.

Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the finance committee, introduced the affordable housing bill, which proposes a four-to-one density bonus for community housing built for seniors, low income and workforce population.


Monday, March 2, 2009

A Possible Adirondack Congressional District


View Larger Map
With the approach of the 2010 federal census and the ensuing remapping of representative districts for the state legislature and US Congress, New York’s legislative and executive leaders have a rare opportunity to repair the fractured battlefields of our district maps: the result of decades of partisan turf wars.

If lawmakers are looking for a place to start this process, they might consider the case of the Adirondack Park and the north country.

At present the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line passes through four congressional districts:
The 23rd represented by Republican John McHugh; the open-seated 20th; The 24th represented by Democrat Michael Arcuri; and the 21st (holding just a sliver of parkland in northern Fulton County) represented by Democrat Paul Tonko. Combined, these districts stretch over half the state and contain more than two-and-a-half million residents. Easy enough to see how the interests of the park might become diluted.

The map above advances an alternative: a single congressional district encompassing the entire Adirondack Park plus the balance of St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton and Warren Counties, and some parts of Saratoga and Washington Counties beyond the Blue Line. Using numbers from the 2000 census this boundary contains close to the 654,361 New York residents that were required to constitute a district nine years ago. With New York slated to lose one representative in the upcoming reapportionment, and with expected population increases, that 654,361 average will undoubtedly increase for the 2010 redistricting process. As it does, the district can absorb more constituents in Saratoga and Washington Counties (making all efforts to avoid Saratoga Springs, as it would be a pity to deprive Albany’s congressional district of the race track).

There are numerous arguments in favor of a congressional district with the unified park at it’s core. Perhaps the strongest is the intent of federal lawmakers as expressed in the 1965 Federal Voting Rights Act. The law sets out explicit directives that state legislatures create compact and contiguous congressional districts and that they respect natural and artificial boundaries.

This map is merely a starting point. We welcome your comments and any alternative congressional district map you may wish to submit.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Most Expensive Seat in the Park: NY’s 20th CD

The first debate for New York’s 20th Congressional District will take place in Saratoga Springs this Tuesday, four weeks before the March 31st vote. Before the media turn their focus exclusively upon the candidates, their war chests and attack ads, let’s take a moment to contemplate the peculiar 10-county district itself. And — more broadly — the process by which such a tortured political boundary is created.

With $12.5 million in campaign disbursements, the 20th CD became notorious last year as one of the country’s most expensive house races. While it held the number one position in November, by the time the last campaign finance reports were in, it had slipped to second place behind California’s 4th CD, which lumbered in at $16 million plus.

The high cost of the once stable Republican district owes to the perception among state and national GOP leaders that the defeat two years earlier of John Sweeney by Kirsten Gillibrand was an aberration. Grim prospects for Republican victories elsewhere made the 20th — with a 67,456 active voter advantage in party registration — appear to be as good a GOP redoubt as any. Throw in a wealthy, self-financing Republican candidate and a district that encompasses at least four media markets and you practically guarantee a broken spending record.

In a state that has become infamous for gerrymandered congressional districts, the 20th — stretching from Saranac Lake in the north to Millbrook and Hyde Park in the south, to the Southern Tier town of Sidney in the west — might best be viewed as three panhandles in search of a pan.

A slight detour here for those who have forgotten high school civics class: congressional district boundaries shift every decade following the decennial census and reapportionment by congress of the 435 house seats among the 50 states. The process of drawing boundaries to encompass equal numbers of constituents is left to the legislatures of individual states, a smooth enough drill if your legislature is, well, functional.

In Albany, however, the last three redistricting cycles have coincided with legislatures divided by party and geography. In the case of the last redistricting in 2000-2002, deeply divided. Consequently, a map of New York which naturally breaks down into neat, logical regions has been jig-sawed into a puzzle of pseudo-fractals and jagged rorschach blots.

All of this is about to change. With both houses of New York’s legislature and the executive branch held by the same political party for the first time since the 1970s, the redistricting machinery is about to run a lot faster, and might just result in a long-overdue return to cohesive districts in the wake of next year’s census.

Redistricting is a quintessentially political process and there are basically three rules for a single political party remapping congressional districts:

Rule #1: Keep your party’s incumbents safe. If reapportionment robs your state of one member of its delegation (as will happen to New York in 2010), make sure the seat is pulled out from under someone from the other side of the aisle.

Rule #2: Divide and conquer. If a geographically unified base of support for the opposing political party can be distributed among separate districts with larger safe populations of your own party, get out your meat cleavers.

Rule #3: If that hostile voting block is too large to be safely subsumed by friendly districts, then isolate and ignore it.

How these rules will affect the future of New York’s 20th Congressional District will largely depend on the outcome of the balloting on March 31st. One thing is certain in any case. With the special election this year, and an immediate reelection campaign in 2010 followed by a brand new race for a potentially radically redrawn district in 2012, this contested terrain will continue to be very expensive property for the incumbent.

Come back tomorrow for the Almanack’s modest proposal for a redrawn congressional district that neatly encompasses the entire Adirondack Park.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Solution to the Adirondack Tops Supermarket Debacle

A recent post over at Friends of Rural New York is just the ticket to replace the we are losing throughout the region. The Community, Food, and Agriculture Program (CFAP) at Cornell University will be submitting a proposal to the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NE SARE) to start community cooperative farm stores. In short:

Europeans have been successfully proliferating the concept of farmer-owned cooperative grocery stores for the last 15 years. The Rhône-Alpes region of Southwest France, with a population similar to the state of Indiana, has a network of 20 stores that are owned, supplied, and operated by farmers. Typically, 10 to 12 farm families own the store, each providing one or two specialties: meats, poultry, eggs, cheeses and other dairy products, wine, juices, canned goods, baked goods, fruits, and vegetables. The hallmark of the stores is real food that is sustainably produced, and one of the farmer-owners must be in the store at all times to answer customers’ questions about production and processing methods.

They need up to 5 farm organizations, businesses, or cooperatives in the Northeast if you know someone contact project coordinator Duncan Hilchey at [email protected] or (607) 255-4413.