Jennings calls for creation of world-class high school, Double Happyness still running, Cuomo says massive convention center would cost state "bupkes," a long-developing talent

In his state of the city address, Jerry Jennings called for a new high school for the city and said the presidents of both UAlbany and St. Rose would be working to help the city create a world-class institution -- whether it's at the Harriman Office Campus or its current location. Jennings also reiterated his support for the convention center downtown, calling it a "transformational project." [YNN] [TU] [WNYT] [CBS6]

With the town of Colonie's deficit squared away following the leasing of the town landfill, supervisor Paula Mahan says she's now focused on creating a rainy day fund for the town. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

The bed bug problem at a Saratoga Springs Housing Authority highrise has set off multiple complaints and inquiries into how the org is managed. The city's accounts commissioner is questioning why housing director Edward Spychalski's salary has increased 110 percent since 2006 -- he apparently makes more than the Albany housing director, who manages four times as many units. And the feds are now investigating the hiring of Spychalski's children by the authority. [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette] [WNYT] [TU]

The Double Happyness bus line is still running between Albany and NYC, even though the feds ordered it shut down for safety violations. [CBS6]

State comptroller Tom DiNapoli criticized efforts to switch public pensions to something more like a 401k -- which is what Andrew Cuomo is pushing for in the creation of a new pension tier (tier V1) for state employees, one that would include a 401k style option. Neil Breslin is predicting there will be some sort of new pension tier approved by the legislature this year. [TU] [YNN]

Language repeated multiple times in Cuomo's proposed budget would increase the governor's power to restructure state government without the legislature's approval. [NYT]

Cuomo continued his push for the Aqueduct convention center, arguing the project would "cost the State of New York bubkes." [NYT]

Two groups of Cornell scientists are split over whether coal or natural gas from fracking ultimately produces more greenhouse gases. [AP/TU]

Jurors will hear closing arguments today in the trial of George Mott III, accused in the 1994 murder of Rosemary Crosier. [Troy Record] [TU]

Opening arguments in the Troy voter fraud case are expected next Tuesday. [Troy Record]

Schenectady's fire chief says investigators have concluded the house fire that killed an 80-year-old woman early Thursday was likely caused by a cigarette. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Troy fire chief says they were lucky that five fire firefighters weren't injured when a burning ceiling collapsed on them while fighting a three-story house fire. [Troy Record]

Schenectady police say a girl wasn't seriously injured when she was struck in a hit-and-run in Northside Thursday afternoon. SPD says the driver didn't stop and it's looking for the vehicle. [TU] [WTEN]

Niskayuna police say the M&T Bank on Union Street was robbed yesterday morning. Police the man used a note and didn't display a weapon. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

A Troy city council committee voted to dissolve the city planning board and replace it with a city planning commission. The move was opposed by the two Republicans on the council, who questioned why a change was necessary. [TU] [Troy Record]

A Greene County Supreme Court jury awarded $1.4 million to the family of a man who died at Albany Med from complications following a hip replacement. [TU]

The owner of a sand and gravel operation in Rensselaer wants to expand the mine that's been open for 118 years. [TU]

A Hudson man has discovered a talent for composing complicated classical music -- at age 75. [WNYT]


It’s bad public policy and bad executive management for Cuomo to offer a defined contribution plan as an option, for the reasons DiNapoli describes. But it’s probably a good, if cynical, political strategy.

This 401k-like option is, I think, part of Cuomo’s negotiation strategy. More than likely, Cuomo is offering up a defined contribution option as a sacrificial lamb so he can give something up in negotiations with the Assembly (and indirectly, public unions), and reach an agreement on a substantially-reduced defined benefit pension plan as his Tier VI pension “reform”. This way, he can please many of his conservative supporters and the localities by yet again taking a whack at the big, bad, bogyman Public Union. Simultaneously, he would blunt some of the opposition to his original Tier VI proposal from public unions and the Assembly by appearing to back off.

Ain't politics grand?

Bad public policy? Pensions are completely unsustainable, which is why they've died out in the private sector.

Big labor needs to wake up and live in the reality the rest of us have been living in for years.

Speaking of bad public policy...Jerry Jennings has the policy acumen of a 12-year-old playing Sim City.

Failing school? Blow it up and build a new one instead of dealing with the underlying social problems and curriculum leading to it's failure!
Want a big, empty, useless building to stroke your own ego? Plop down a convention center in the middle of downtown instead doing something creative to bring residential and commercial activity to a useful space!

I can't wait to ride the monorail to the waterfront casino in a few years!

Is anyone else disappointed by the modern bank robber? A note? No weapon? What happened to kicking in the door and spraying the ceiling with a tommy gun?

Frankly, I don't believe anything DiNapoli says, 46% more expensive for whom? It's certainly not more expensive for the employer (i.e. State Government), or not private industry would never have abandoned them.

and as for the Pension system beating individual accounts, color me unimpressed, because I'll bet you dollar to donuts it still underperformed the S&P 500...we're paying all that overhead for financial wizards, for what? Probably 95% of all investors saving for retirement should have the bulk of their money in low cost indexed mutual funds because nobody can consistently beat the market. If someone wants to try, let them take that risk with their own money instead of with my taxes.

But, this takes the cake ""it is misleading to blame state budget problems on these pensions, most of which were adequately funded before the financial crisis."

Oh really Tom, at the height of the bubble the pensions were well funded? CRAZY how that works out. The entire point of this is that the business cycle happens, there are bear markets, and when those occur the current absurd pension obligations of the state can utterly shred the budget.

401(k)s for everyone.

Defined benefit retirement plans (that is, the traditional pension plans) take advantage of "risk pooling" and "risk management" in combination with other members of the plan, whereas the individual in a 401k plan must account, on his own, for the risk of outliving his estimated life expectancy. This "collective" concept may be anathema to libertarians, but there you are. It's a concept used by the insurance industry over the past several hundred years.

This risk pooling allows the following advantages of defined benefit pension plans, as DiNapoli is quoted in Politics on the Hudson:

"- Individuals investing their own 401k pay significantly higher fees, and earn significantly lower rates of return.
- Individuals must base their asset allocation on their age and whether they are nearing or in retirement, while a defined benefit plan bases its allocation on market conditions.
- Individuals must save at a rate that ensures that their funds will last well into their nineties. In contrast, large institutional plans like ours have assets based on the average mortality of its members."

Currently, only a third of 401k plans in the private sector are adequately funded, with the remainder only partly-funded or not funded at all. Of course, the fewer employees who contribute to their 401k plan and take advantage of their employers' matching contribution, the lower their employers' expenses. Funny how the shift from traditional pension plans to 401k plans worked out for employers, now, isn't it? But it's not working out for the employees. At least employees can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they have "individual choice" and "freedom." That's better than an adequately funded retirement plan any day.

it's time to mobilize against this convention center idea. The LAST thing downtown needs is another white elephant taking the place of a potentially good project. Ellis or whoever runs against Mayor Jerry should make a big issue out of this before it's too late. City Council, where are you?

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