Items tagged with 'New York State'

A few bits about how New York State's population is changing

domestic migration by state population percentage

This is map of change in state population between 2010 and 2018 due to domestic migration, by percent. Red represents increase, blue decrease. (Is there a clickable map inside? Do you even have to ask?)

You probably saw the headlines this week about how New York State led the nation in population loss between 2017 and 2018, according to new Census Bureau estimates.

Here are a few bits to fill out the picture:

+ New York is estimated to have had 19,542,209 people as of July 1, 2018.

+ Between 2017 and 2018 it's estimated to have lost 48,510 people. That's 0.2 percent of the state's population. The total number is highest in the nation. By percent of state population, it's the fourth highest.

+ New York's population is estimated to be up between 2010 and 2018 by roughly 164,000 people. Compared to the rest of the states, that's about middle of the pack by total number and near the bottom by percentage (#43).

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Future jobs, done by humans and not

Rockefeller AI jobs graph

Roughly half of the jobs in New York State could be automated or otherwise significantly changed by artificial intelligence over the next 20 years. That's from an ongoing look at the issue by the Rockefeller Institute of Government here in Albany. From a post by Rockefeller's Laura Shultz:

The calculation is based on individual occupations. A recent paper by Frey and Osbourne estimated the probability of computerization of more than 700 jobs in the near future based on the tasks associated with the job and currently available technologies.[1] A high probability of computerization suggests technologies could eliminate or dramatically change the tasks associated with the job in the next twenty years. We combined these data with the occupational makeup of the New York State workforce in 2017 and found that 53 percent of jobs in New York could be automated with technology available today or anticipated in the near future, while 56 percent of workers across the US face threats from automation.[2]

Rockefeller has put together an interactive graphic that highlights the number of jobs -- by industry and type -- that could be affected around the state. (That image above is a static version of the graphic.) At the top of the list are office support, retail salespeople and cashiers, and food service -- potentially 2.5 million jobs lost or changed.

This struck us as a key clip from Shultz's post (emphasis added):

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Election 2018: Two maps and three charts

Election2018_governor_treemap.png

You might have heard that there are a lot of votes around New York City.

A few more bits from Election Day 2018 -- about the geographical split in the gubernatorial election, voter turnout, and the unofficial popularity contest.

In (clickable) map and chart form, of course.

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Quick-scan general election results 2018

New York State I Voted sticker

Here's a quick scan of results from elections for the US Senate, Capital Region US House seats, statewide offices, and Capital Region state legislature seats (and a couple other elections).

This is not a comprehensive list, just some highlights. Numbers are unofficial, and there are bound to be some changes on Wednesday.

On with the results...

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New York is one of just a handful of states that still don't allow early voting

polling place general election sign

Electoral fact of the day: New York is one of only 13 states that do not have some form of early voting. [NCSL]

Given that early voting makes it easier to vote and is popular in many other states, Common Cause New York's Susan Lerner told the New York Times its absence here is "an embarrassment." [Brennan Center] [NYT]

Back in February a Siena poll asked people in the state about early voting. Two-thirds of respondents said they supported it. Though there was a partisan split on the issue: 81 percent of Democrats said they supported it, but just 48 percent of Republicans. Among Independents, 64 percent supported it.

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The ruling when it comes to the cash vs. credit card price: There should be no math

dollar bill on top of card

New York is one of 11 states that technically prohibits retailers from charging customers a surcharge for using a credit card when making a purchase. But the state's law allows merchants to give people a discount for using cash instead of a card. So, in the end, you can still be charged more for using a card.

The question of how to describe the credit card versus cash price in New York has been working its way through courts for the last few years, and even circulated through the Supreme Court of the United States at one point.

A group of businesses had filed a lawsuit seeking to affirm their right to tell customers, for example, "a haircut costs $10.00, and if you pay with a credit card you will pay 3% extra." The Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, ruled this week that's not allowed. From the majority opinion:

... [W]e conclude that a merchant complies with [this provision of the state's general business law] if and only if the merchant posts the total dollars-and-cents price charged to credit card users. In that circumstance, consumers see the highest possible price they must pay for credit card use and the legislative concerns about luring or misleading customers by use of a low price available only for cash purchases are alleviated. To be clear, plaintiffs' proposed single-sticker pricing scheme - which does not express the total dollars-and-cents credit card price and instead requires consumers to engage in an arithmetical calculation, in order to figure it out - is prohibited by the statute.

In other words, the price listing can't be something like "$10 (+ 3% when using a card)." It must be something like "$10 / $10.30 when using a card."

Over at the New York Law Journal, Dan Clark has more context for the case and highlights one of the judges' dissents over the it's-a-surcharge/it's-a-discount issue.

Earlier: New York State and credit card "checkout fees" (2013)

Clickable maps of county-by-county results for the Cuomo-Nixon Democratic primary, and state attorney general

New York State Democratic primary governor 2018 map

Andrew Cuomo won by a wide margin overall in the Democratic primary, but as in 2014, he didn't fare well in the greater Capital Region.

For easy scanning and discussion: We've rolled together a few clickable maps based on the results of the Democratic primaries Thursday, including Andrew Cuomo's win over Cynthia Nixon in the gubernatorial primary and the crowded race for state Attorney General.

And here are those maps, along with a few notes...

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Quick-scan 2018 Democratic primary results for New York governor, lieutenant governor, and state attorney general

sign Democratic Party Primary polling place

We rolled together a few maps and notes for these primaries.
____
Updated
Andrew Cuomo has won the Democratic primary for governor over Cynthia Nixon.

With roughly 90 percent of election districts reporting, Cuomo was ahead 64-34, a lead of more than 400,000 votes.

Lieutenant governor
Incumbent Kathy Hochul appears to be headed for victory over challenger Jumaane Williams by a margin of just 48-43.

State attorney general
Tish James is headed for victory in the four-way Democratic primary for state attorney general, with 39 percent of the votes. Zephyr Teachout was in second place (29%).

A few bits from that Siena poll about the Democratic primary between Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon

Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon

The primaries for state elections are this Thursday. And the big spotlight matchup is, of course, the Democratic primary for governor between Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon, which has gotten a lot of attention here in the state and nationally because of Nixon's involvement.

But: The Siena poll released Monday morning has Andrew Cuomo leading Cynthia Nixon 63-22 percent for the primary. That's a wider lead than the 60-29 split Siena reported in July.

There's been a lot of buzzing on Twitter today among state politics people about what that says regarding the primary or just about the poll itself -- mainly, that it could be missing the mark. Because it's roughly correct, it would mean Nixon's in line to not do any better against Cuomo than Zephyr Teachout did four years ago despite much greater attention (and Teachout did pretty well in parts of upstate). Whatever happens this week, it should prompt some interesting interesting thinking/study of state politics and media.

Also: Whatever the polls say, you should show up and vote. Primaries tend to have very low turnout, which makes your vote all the more valuable. That could be especially true in a matchup such as the Democratic primary for state Attorney General in which four candidates are competing and the polling has them all pretty close to each other.

Don't know where to vote or what's on your ballot? Check with the website of your county board of election or the state Board of Election.

Here are a few more interesting bits from the poll...

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There's a new type of tick in New York State

longhorned tick deer tick poppy seedsThere's a new type of tick in New York, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday: Haemaphysalis longicornis -- the "longhorned tick." DOH says it was found in multiple locations in Westchester County. From the press release:

While the longhorned tick has transmitted disease to humans in other parts of the world, more research is needed to determine whether this can happen in the United States. Regardless, New Yorkers should continue to take steps to protect themselves, their children and their pets against ticks and tickborne diseases that are present in New York State.
This tick is also a concern for the New York State agricultural industry and may pose a threat to livestock. Farmers should continue to work with their veterinarians to check their animals, particularly cattle, sheep and horses, for exposure to ticks and to ensure their parasite control plans are up to date and working. Symptoms of tick-borne disease in cattle include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, weakness and labored breathing.

That photo on the right compares deer ticks (top) and longhorned ticks (bottom) with poppy seeds (middle) for scale. (Click on the photo for a larger version -- we figured no one needed to see that up close unless they wanted to.)

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Scanning that New York State Department of Health report that argues the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

The New York State Department of Health released its report on regulated marijuana Friday -- and it argues for legalizing recreational marijuana. Here's a chunk for the report that largely sums up the argument:

The positive effects of regulating an adult (21 and over) marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts. Harm reduction principles can and should be incorporated into a regulated marijuana program to help ensure consumer and industry safety. Legalizing marijuana could remove research restrictions in NYS, which will enable the State to add to the knowledge of both the benefits and risks. In addition, NYS would be one of the largest regulated marijuana markets. As such, there is potential for substantial tax revenue in NYS, which can be used to help support program initiatives in areas such as public health, education, transportation, research, law enforcement and workforce development. Tax revenues can also support health care and employment. Finally, legalization of marijuana will address an important social justice issue by reducing disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of certain racial and ethnic minority communities.

Whatever the political machinations at work surrounding this report, it is a remarkable document. Pretty much anyone over the age of, say, 20, has grown up with government/law enforcement/schools warning against the dangers of pot. And in this report the state Department of Health essentially says, yeah, pot has some downsides, but they're probably not as bad as they've been made out to be and our society would be better off it we made it legal and kept an eye on it.

Anyway, we read through the report and pulled out handful of highlights -- about potential benefits, opioids, mental health, criminal justice, and tax revenue -- for easy skimming...

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Beer (and cider) ice cream is now legal to be sold in New York

mercers raspberry chardonnay

Wine ice creams, like this one, have been allowed to be sold for the past decade.

Noted: Beer and hard cider ice creams are now legal to be sold in New York State.

The state has allowed wine ice cream for the past 10 years, and this week the governor signed a bill that also allows for beer and cider ice cream or other frozen desserts. From the memo for the bill, which was sponsored by James Seward in the Senate and William Magee in the Assembly:

Ice cream made with wine is a food product manufactured in New York State that has been safely sold and regulated in a manner similar to confectionary that contains alcohol since 2008. This bill seeks to approve similar products made with beer and hard cider. As with wine, this bill would, limit the percentage of alcohol in ice cream to not more than 5% of alcohol by volume, prohibit its sale to persons under twenty-one years of age and require the same product labeling and warning statements similar to wine and confectionary that contains alcohol. This bill will help New York dairy farmers, craft beer and cider producers, dairy processors and manufacturers, and food retailers and restaurants meet the increasing consumer demand for these new and innovative products.

Five percent alcohol by volume is right around the alcohol content of many beers.

To go along with the beer and hard cider ice cream bill, the governor also signed another bill this week that allows wine frozen desserts to be sold in packages of less than one pint. (The original intent of the minimum package size was an effort to keep the products away from kids.) From the bill memo: "The sale of wine ice cream was enacted into law in 2008. Since that time, the demand for smaller packaging for weddings, fundraisers, recreational tours and other events has increased. This bill would lift the minimum requirements that are currently in law to accommodate this demand for smaller packaging sizes."

Both bills take effect immediately.

Earlier: Here's a map of every brewery in New York State

New York continues to produce more and more maple syrup

mountain winds maple syrup amber

New York State produced more than 800,000 gallons of maple syrup during this year's season. That's the highest total in 74 years, according to the Cuomo admin.

The Empire State was able to hold off Maine (539,000 gallons) for the #2 spot. Vermont continues to look across the border and congratulate New York on its hobby -- the Green Mountain State produced 1.94 million gallons last year. (But its production has more or less than been flat the last few years and New York is gaining...)

Here's the national production table from the USDA (pdf p. 9). And we rolled together a tree map of the numbers. (It's kind of like a square pie chart.)

The maple syrup production of both Vermont and New York State has been on an upswing since the start of this century. And in just the past five years their running three-year averages are up 50 percent.

One of the reasons: There have been major shifts in technology, as producers have switched over to use miles of tubing and vacuums to collect sap, and then reverse osmosis to remove some of the water before boiling.

Here's an interesting Washington Post article from this past spring about the way the industry is changing, and how the growth is attracting the interest of private equity and companies looking to scale.

Maybe the biggest question, though: Is New York's pancake industry ready to step up to the challenge?

New York's moving closer to marijuana legalization -- thinking about what could that mean for local communities

David Soares marijuana public meeting

David Soares at Wednesday's meeting in Arbor Hill.

It would not be surprising for New York State to legalize recreational marijuana sometime during the next few years.

Massachusetts will start legal sales of recreational pot this July. That same month in Vermont it will become legal to have and grow small amounts of marijuana. Legalization had majority support among respondents to a Siena New York State poll earlier this year. Cynthia Nixon's made it a plank of her gubernatorial campaign. And Andrew Cuomo, who has been against legalization, ordered the state Department of Health to study it.

If/when legalization happens, there will be a lot of things to sort out -- not just details about how pot will be sold and taxed, but also how to deal with the significant ethical and legal issues that rise from legalizing a product that's been the subject of so much law enforcement and crime for decades.

So how do people want that future to play out? And what can be done in the interim?

Those were some of the questions at the heart of a community discussion with Albany County District Attorney David Soares in Albany this week.

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Another push to get e-bikes up the hill to legalization in New York State

Jump Bike e-bike demo Albany

One of Jump's bike share e-bikes.

E-bikes hold the potential to stretch the use of bikes in all sorts of interesting ways, but they're not currently legal in New York State.

There's a push to change that, and advocates are pedaling hard to make it up the hill before the state legislature ends its current session later this month.

On Wednesday reps from the company behind the bike share operated by CDTA were in town to argue the case for e-bikes along with a handful of state and local leaders. The pitch: e-bikes can be a new way for people to commute, they'll open tourism opportunities, and they'll expand the pool of people who ride bikes.

So here are a few bits about how e-bikes might work with bike share in the Capital Region, and a check-in on where things are at in the state legislature...

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Here's how much it snowed in various places all around New York State this winter

new york state snow totals 2017-2018

There's a clickable map, too. (Because of course there is.)

May starts this week, so that probably means we're finished with snow for the season. Though April apparently decided to get a few more flakes in before exiting.

So to bid a final farewell to this past winter, here's a clickable map of snow totals from around New York State for the season. Some of them are bonkers.

By the way: Wednesday and Thursday this week both have forecasted highs in the 80s.

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An end for plastic shopping bags in New York?

plastic shopping bags

Paper or... reusable?

On Monday the Cuomo admin floated a bill that would ban many kinds of plastic shopping bags starting at the beginning of 2019. Bill language blurbage:

This prohibition does not apply to (i) a reusable bag that is not made of film plastic or a compostable bag; (ii) a plastic bag used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish, or poultry; (iii) a plastic bag used by a customer solely to package bulk items, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, or candy; (iv) a plastic bag used solely to contain food sliced to order; (v) a plastic bag used solely to contain a newspaper for delivery to a subscriber; (vi) plastic bags sold in bulk; (vii) a plastic bag prepackaged for sale to a customer including, but not limited to, a trash bag and a food storage bag; (viii) a plastic garment bag; (ix) a plastic bag provided by a restaurant, tavern or similar establishment to carry out or deliver food; or (x) any other bag exempted by the department in regulations.

The bill would also make the state the sole jurisdiction for regulating the use of plastic bags. There are currently a handful of municipalities around the state already with laws on the books. (And the state already requires larger retailer to collect plastic bags for recycling.)

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Here's a map of every brewery in New York State

Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady

Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady is one of the many new farm breweries around the state.

As of mid February of this year New York State had 400 breweries, the Cuomo admin announced this month. That's said to be a new record for the number of individual breweries in the state, surpassing the former high count of 393 in 1876.

When that announcement arrived, we put together a map of the 46 breweries in the greater Capital Region.

People seemed to like that, so we figured, hey, why not just roll together a clickable map of all 400 breweries around the state?

So we did. And here it is.

(Also: A quick run though some New York State brewing history.)

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There are now 400 breweries in New York State

Fort Orange Brewing Albany

Fort Orange Brewing, which opened in Albany last October, is one of the 400.

Bonus: We've added a map of the Capital Region breweries.

New York State now has more breweries than at any other point in history, the Cuomo admin reported Wednesday.

There are 400 breweries operating in the Empire State. The previous high count was 393 in 1876.

The Cuomo admin points out there have been 243 new breweries licensed since 2012, and 202 of them have gotten the OK to operate under the relatively new farm brewery license that took effect at the start of 2013. That license relaxes a bunch of rules for breweries if they use a certain percentage of ingredients grown in state. (There's also a farm winery license that dates back to the 1970s, as well as more recent farm distillery and farm cidery licenses.)

It's probably true that New York is also riding the general rising tide of craft beer over the last decade or so. Example: In 2016 overall production of beer in the United State was flat, but craft beer production was up more than 6 percent and grew to more than 12 percent all beer produced in the US.

Here's the whole list of breweries, which includes 46 in the (greater) Capital Region....

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All the other sunsets

New York State sunset chart NYSDEC

Because we're on a spinning oblate spheroid revolving around a distant light source...

Check out this sunrise/sunset chart the state Department of Environmental Conversation posted on Twitter this week. (DEC shared the chart as part of a reminder to hunters about sunrise-sundown rules for shooting.)

It's like seeing New York State sliced into a bunch of time zones.

Earlier: When the sun goes down

The earth beneath our feet

USGS New York State geology map

Friday afternoon geology*: Check out this US Geological Survey map showing the topography and geology of New York State and nearby areas. We clipped this section from a national map -- see that link above -- which is really worth a look.

The map colors correspond to the age of the rock. The purple area dates back to about 400some million years ago. The pink dates back to around 500some million.

And then there are the Adirondacks, which (literally) just stick out. So we looked up a little bit about their geology. From an Adirondack Park Agency explainer:

The Adirondack Mountains are very different in shape and content from other mountain systems. Unlike elongated ranges like the Rockies and the Appalachians, the Adirondacks form a circular dome, 160 miles wide and 1 mile high. Although the Dome as we know it today is a relatively recent development, having emerged about 5 million years ago, it is made of ancient rocks more than a 1,000 million years old. Hence, the Adirondacks are "new mountains from old rocks."

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*What, when is your day and time for thinking about geology?

[via Kottke]

A chance to hear two sides of the debate over whether there should be a state constitutional convention

New York State Capitol with reflection

The November general election here in New York State will include a ballot question about whether there should be a state constitutional convention. (The question is required to come up every 20 years.) If a majority of people vote in favor of a convention, it will kick off a process that could reshape the state's constitution.

Maybe you've heard a bit about it. Maybe you've seen the yard signs. Maybe -- if you're like most people, we suspect -- you have only a vague sense of the arguments for and against it.

Next Monday, October 30, there's a public forum at the Albany Public Library Washington Ave branch to showcase the pro and con ConCon viewpoints. Erika Lorshbough -- legislative counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is very much against a convention -- will present the con side. Laura Bierman -- executive director of the League of Women Voters of New York State, which supports the idea -- will present the pro side.

The event starts at 6 pm. It's free.

Juice for electric vehicle sales

electric vehicle charging station Market32

The number of electric vehicles sold in New York took a big percentage jump during the first half of this year, according to the Cuomo admin. Sales were up 61 percent from January to June 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

The administration attributes to the jump to the new electric vehicle rebate the state started offering this spring. New York State is now offering up to $2,000 for qualifying vehicles, bringing the total potential federal and state rebate to $7,500. The Cuomo admin points to a sharp uptick in sales this year after the rebate started (sales January to March were up 44 percent compared to 2016, and up 74 percent April to June.)

The total number of electric vehicles sold in New York State during the first half of this year: 4,209. And through the end of August, there have been 2,332 "Drive Clean Rebate" applications submitted.

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New York State city and town populations 2016

new york state city town population map 2016

The Capital Region has some of the state's fastest growing towns in terms of population percentage change.

That's one of the bits from new population estimates for cities and towns released by the Census Bureau this week.

Is there a clickable map? You know that there is.

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Life expectancy in New York State by county

nys counties life expectancy 2014 map

New York counties by estimated life expectancy. Green is roughly the state average -- yellow below, blue above. (There are two clickable maps after the jump.)

Life expectancy at birth was a little more than 80.36 years in New York State in 2014, according to a new study out this week.

That was good for 6th best in the nation. And it's up 73.19 years in 1980.

Those estimates are from a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week looking at how life expectancy varies across counties in United States. And as the researchers reported, there was wide variation -- some 20 years of difference between the high and low ends.

Here's a good interactive map of the numbers. And here are a few articles in the popular press about the overall study -- at FiveThirtyEight and The Atlantic.

New York counties didn't exhibit such a wide range, but there were some differences.

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How New York's House members voted on AHCA

US Capitol Martin Falbisoner CC

photo: Martin Falbisoner via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The big national news on Thursday was the House of Representatives vote on the latest version of the American Health Care Act, the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill narrowly passed 217-213.

When the day started, there was a little bit mystery about how the Capital Region's two Republican reps would vote. But first John Faso, and then Elise Stefanik, fell into line with the Republican leadership and voted in favor of for the bill.

Statements: Tonko | Stefanik | Faso.

The potential effects of the bill aren't entirely clear -- the Republican leadership in the House pushed it through before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office could make its estimates -- but it's a big departure from the Affordable Care Act and probably means millions fewer people with health care coverage. [NYT] [Vox]

If you spent any time on Twitter Thursday, you probably saw people vowing political payback for Congress members who voted for the bill. John Faso, in particular, was catching a lot of heat of there. And considering his relatively narrow victory last fall -- he won 54-46 -- he's looking like a prime target for Democrats aiming to flip seats in 2018. Will all that anger and dissatisfaction translate into voter turnout and action next year?

Here's how New York's Congressional delegation voted, along with the percentage of the vote each member got during the 2016 general election...

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The true size of New York State

New York State France The True Size clip

A little goofy, but what good is the internet if you can't superimpose the borders of states and countries onto other states and countries to get a sense of their relative sizes during an afternoon lull.

A site called The True Size allows just that. So, of course, we selected New York State and moved it around the world. See the screengrab above.

By the way, one of the interesting things about that site is the way it highlights how map projections affect the size of countries. As you move New York State north and south around the world, its outline grows, shrinks, and warps.

[via @yayitsrob]

Scanning the reaction to New York's new free public college tuition plan

UAlbany entrance fountain

One of the most notable features of the big blob of legislation that finished off the state budget is the new plan for free tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools for students from families making up to $125,000 a year -- the Excelsior Scholarship. It starts phasing in this fall.

The idea has gotten a lot of attention no just here in New York, but across the nation, in part because of provisions such as the requirement that students live and work in the state for a certain number of years after graduating.

Here's a quick scan of a bunch of commentary about the free tuition plan, much of it skeptical...

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Spring is back, and so are ticks (ugh)

lyme disease avg annual cases Northeast 2011-2015

The average annual number of reported Lyme disease cases by county between 2011-2015. (Please see the important notes below about these numbers.)

This part of the country -- the whole Northeast, really -- is a hot spot for Lyme disease. The map* above depicts the average number of Lyme cases** reported in each county each year between 2011-2015 -- the numbers are published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There's a larger, clickable national map after the jump if you'd like to explore further.

New York is tagged as a "high-incidence state" for Lyme by the CDC -- it had the 13th highest rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 people across the three years 2013-2015. (Vermont had the highest rate, and Massachusetts the fifth.)

Here's info from the state Department of Health of ways to lessen the risk of being bitten by a tick and what to do if you are. (And don't forget about taking precautions for your dog, too!)

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A few bits about the (probable) upcoming arrival of ride hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft

Lyft app screenshots

Screenshots from the Lyft app. / images: Lyft

As you've no doubt heard, the big blob of legislation that wrapped up the new state budget included a provision opening the way for ride hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to start operating across New York State.

The services will be allowed to start operating 90 days after the governor signs the budget legislation. So, it's probably going to be sometime this July. And then whether the services are offered in a specific market will be in the hands of the individual companies.

The legislation sets out rules for a handful of issues that had been holding up the approval, including insurance requirements and local regulation. Here are a few bits and other stuff...

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The presidential vote, district by district

election desk rohla 2016 presidential district map Capital Region png

Of course, such maps show area, not population. Some of those wide spaces between urban areas have relatively few people. Hillary Clinton ended up taking New York State 58-37 over Donald Trump

A link follow-up of sorts to the stuff about how populations are changing around New York State and the urban/rural split...

That map above is a clip of how Capital Region election districts voted in the last presidential election. It's from a larger national map by Ryne Rohla at Election Desk that aggregates the results from virtually all of the nation's election precincts.*

One of the things that sticks out when looking over New York State on the map is how stark the urban/rural split was between districts that went for Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. That's not all that surprising -- it's not a new pattern, as Rohla's map also shows for 2012. But the pattern appears to have intensified in this past election.

Another interesting bit: The Rohla map also shows which direction districts shifted between 2012 and 2016. And the way things shook out in the Capital Region core is kind of surprising. Even in such Democratic strongholds as the city of Albany, there were districts that shifted toward Trump.

(* We had thought about doing something similar for New York State, but the challenge of pulling together the necessary election data and map files for all 62 counties in the state seemed too daunting. For someone to do this for the entire nation is crazypants dedicated/ambitious.)

Earlier on AOA:
+ Another look at New York State's population change, this time along the urban/rural split
+ Clickable county by county results for 2016 presidential election in New York State

Saratoga County ranked as the "healthiest" county in New York State

RWJF 2017 Health Outcomes New York map

The state's counties coded by how the ranked for health outcomes in the rankings. / map: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Saratoga County is the "healthiest" county in the New York State, according to rankings out this week from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Specifically, Saratoga ranked #1 in health outcomes -- "how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive."

The rankings also look at factors that feed into health, and Saratoga ranked #3 overall for those.

Here's how the Capital Region core counties stacked up compared to to Saratoga and each other.

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Another look at New York State's population change, this time along the urban/rural split

New York State counties population density 2016

There's a clickable map inside, because of course there is.

Here's a bonus track from last week's post about the slow population growth of the Albany metro area -- and the melting populations of many upstate counties.

That map above depicts counties by population density. The deeper the blue, the more people per square mile of land. It's pretty much you'd expect. But we had the numbers leftover so we figured we'd roll the map together.

As we mentioned last week, there's been an urban/rural split in the state over the last handful of years for population growth -- basically, counties with higher population densities have added people, while counties with lower population densities have lost. (With a few notable exceptions)

So we grouped the state's population by county density and it makes this divide very clear -- let's have a look, along with a clickable map...

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The Capital Region is growing very slowly -- which is better than many other parts of the state

New York State counties 2010-2016 population change map

The deeper the green, the higher population gains by percentage. The deeper the gray, the higher the losses. (Here's a large, clickable version of the map.)

The population of the Albany metro area was up slightly in 2016 compared to the year before, according to new Census Bureau estimates out this week. The Census figures the Capital Region had 881,839 -- up about 1,000 from the year before.

But compared to other large metros, this area's population has been falling behind. In 2010, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro was the 60th most populous among the nation's 382 metros. In 2015 it was 61st. And in 2016 it was 63rd.

Between 2010 and 2016, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area's population is up 1.28 percent, according those estimates. During that same span, New York State population is up almost 1.8 percent and the national population is up 4.65 percent.

Here are a few more bits from the new estimates for metros and counties -- declining populations, immigrants, and Donald Trump.

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New York State is now offering a rebate for electric cars

electric vehicle charging station Market32

The EV charging stations outside the Market32 on Madison Ave in Albany.

The Cuomo admin officially launched a rebate for electric cars Tuesday -- New York State will now chip in up to $2,000 for qualifying vehicles. That's on top of federal of a federal tax credit that's worth up to $7,500.

Press release blurbage:

$55 million of the Drive Clean Initiative is dedicated to rebates of up to $2,000 for purchase of a new plug-in hybrid electric car, all-electric car or hydrogen fuel cell car. In addition to the $55 million in rebates, $15 million will support improving consumer awareness of electric cars and their many benefits, installing more charging stations across the state, developing and demonstrating new electric car-enabling technologies, and other efforts to put more electric cars on New York's roadways. The initiative will be managed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and will help the state achieve its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.

The rebate can be applied to more than 30 different models of vehicle, though the amount slides based on the all-electric range of the car. Also: If the vehicle is more than $60k, the rebate is just $500 regardless of range. (Let's face it, if you can afford a Tesla a rebate's probably not going to sway you.)

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The proposal for free tuition at New York's public colleges

UAlbany entrance fountain

On Tuesday Andrew Cuomo floated a plan to for the state provide free tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools for students from middle- and low-income households. Details blurbage from the Cuomo admin:

New York's tuition-free degree program, the Excelsior Scholarship, requires participating students to be enrolled at a SUNY or CUNY two- or four-year college full-time. The initiative will cover middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 through a supplemental aid program. Currently 80 percent of NY households statewide make $125,000 or less with an estimated 940,000 households having college-aged children that would be eligible for the program. Based on enrollment projections, the plan will cost approximately $163 million per year once fully phased in.
The new initiative will be phased in over three years, beginning for New Yorkers making up to $100,000 annually in the fall of 2017, increasing to $110,000 in 2018, and reaching $125,000 in 2019.

The Cuomo admin says the proposed program would work in conjunction with the already existing Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and federal aid.

During the announcement Tuesday, Andrew Cuomo framed the idea as a way of reducing student loan debt -- "Debt is so high it's like staring a race with with an anchor tied to your leg." -- as well as a matter of economic competitiveness for both individuals and the state: "In this economy, you need a college education if you're going to compete."

Bernie Sanders joined Cuomo for the announcement and predicted that if New York runs with the idea, other
states would follow.

Here are a few other quick things about this idea...

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New York State's population growth has stalled

large states population change 2010-2016

New York continues to fall behind the other most populous states.

New York State's population was 19,745,289 on July 1 of this year, according to new Census Bureau estimates out this week.

That total still ranks the Empire State fourth in the nation -- but it's down by 1,894 (.01 percent) compared to 2015. It's the first decline in the state's annual population estimate since 2006. (The state had a streak of three years of estimated population declines from 2004-2006 in which it lost almost .4 percent of its population compared to 2003.)

Florida passed New York for the #3 spot in the population rankings in 2014. And the gap has now grown to more than 867,000 people. The Sunshine State's population was up 1.8 percent compared to 2015, according to the estimates.

And from a population perspective, that's one of the things that sets New York apart from the other large states: slow (or no) growth. Between 2010 and 2016, California (#1 in population) is up more than 5 percent, Texas (#2) is up more than 10 percent, and Florida is up more than 9 percent. New York? Not quite 1.8 percent.

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A call for early voting and other ways to make it easier to vote in New York State

albany county ballot scanner

There are a lot of steps before you get this to this point.

Given that the United States republic is more than two centuries old, it's remarkable that we still struggle with the mechanics of one of the fundamental aspects of democratic government: voting.

New York State is no exception, as a new report from the office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman notes the presidential primaries this year highlighted multiple problems with how the state's voting system is set up and administered. Among the most amazing examples: A person already registered to vote had to have declared or changed her party affiliation 193 days ahead of the primary in order to be eligible to vote.

The report details many of these problems and also offers a slate of potential upgrades of the state's voting and voting registration processes. One that we suspect would be popular: early voting. A clip from the report:

Permitting early voting is an easy solution to the problems of long lines and overwhelmed poll sites. Under New York State Election Law, the only way by which voters can cast a ballot early is by submitting an absentee ballot. However, access to absentee ballots is limited to a specific set of circumstances ... As a result, New York is one of only 13 states that fails to provide all voters the opportunity to cast a ballot in person prior to an election day. Permitting early voting in New York would make voting more accessible while simultaneously alleviating some of the pressure on poll sites and workers caused by heavy Election Day traffic.

Many of the other proposed reforms also seem very reasonable, such such as...

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Can't afford a brewery? Share one.

glass of nine pin ciderNext year it will become legal in New York State to operate what are essentially shared brewery/cidery/winery production facilities that home brewers will be able to drop in and use.

Legislation allowing these "custom centers" passed earlier this year, and the governor has now signed it, the Cuomo admin announced this week.

From the memo for the Senate bill, sponsored by David Carlucci, a Democrat who represents Rockland County:

[The legislation creates] a new custom beermakers' center license that authorizes the operation of a custom beermakers' center facility to provide individuals with rental space (to make and store homemade beer), the use of equipment and storage facilities, and/or beer making supplies for the production of beer for personal household use and not for commercial use or resale purposes. It defines beer making supplies as products grown or produced in New York in quantity amounts as determined by the State Liquor Authority. A custom beermakers' center licensee would be authorized, if permitted by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau,(TTB) to conduct training classes on how to manufacture beer and conduct certain tastings of beer produced on the premises.

The legislation does the same thing for cider and wine. From a Cuomo admin press release:

New York's craft beverage industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation, however many urban and suburban residents often cannot afford or do not have access to the appropriate space or equipment to make homemade beer, cider, or wine in their homes or apartments. These custom production centers not only provide space and lower the overhead costs of production, but they also provide amateur brewers and wine and cider makers with the local ingredients and expert training needed when first starting out.

The legislation takes effect in six months.

We hadn't heard about these sorts of production centers before, so we poked around online looking for examples and found a few that look somewhat similar -- including one in Boston, and another in New Hampshire.

Clickable county by county results for 2016 presidential election in New York State

new york state presidential election 2016 voting results map

There's a clickable map after the jump.

Updated

In a presidential election marked by polling surprises, the voting in New York State pretty much shook out as expected.

Here are county-by-county clickable maps of the results, along with a few notes about some geographic voting patterns around the state...

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Quick-scan general election results 2016

general election ballot 2016 president

Here's a quick scan of results from elections around the Capital Region Tuesday. This is not a comprehensive list, just some highlights. Numbers are unofficial, and there are bound to be some changes on Wednesday.

On with the results...

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A snapshot of New York State's immigrants

albany high school multi-lingual office sign

We snapped this pic in the front lobby of Albany High School during a tour last fall.

About 22 percent of the residents of New York State -- almost 4.4 million people -- are immigrants. The second-highest total of immigrants for a state in the United States, behind only California.

That's one of the bits from a report out this week from the state comptroller's office about immigrants in New York State.

There are a bunch of interesting bits in there, and here are a few of them...

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Where New York's crime guns come from

NYS OAG Capital Region likely trafficked guns origin states

This map is clipped from the AG office's interactive report -- it shows which states are the origin for the "likely-trafficked" guns recovered in the Capital Region.

Of the almost 53,000 guns recovered by law enforcement agencies in New York State between 2010 and 2015, 74 percent of those guns originated out of state. And of the 1,872 guns recovered in the Capital Region over that period, 67 percent were from out of state.

Those figures are a from a new report by the New York State Attorney's General Office -- "Target on Trafficking" -- that use federal gun trace data to argue for stricter gun regulations on the federal level and in other states.

The report tags a handful of states with more lax regulations for being the source of many of the crime guns, handguns in particular, that end up in New York.

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New York's farm cideries

fermentation tanks at Nine Pin

Fermentation tanks at Nine Pin in Albany.

The hard cider industry in New York continues to fizz -- there are now 24 farm cideries around the state, according to the Cuomo admin. That's up from eight in 2014, when the farm cidery law took effect.

Farm cidery? It's a type of license issued by the state that smooths out some of the regulations and requirements for running a cidery -- if the operation uses New York State apples to make its products. (There are also farm winery and farm brewery license.) The state's first farm cidery was Nine Pin Cider Works in Albany's Warehouse District.

Of course, the requirement to use New York apples isn't too much of a hurdle. The Empire State is the nation's #2 producer of apples, behind only Washington State. So the hard cider industry is another way to make use of the state's abundant crop.

Given the growth in the number of farm cideries, we figured it'd be fun to roll together a map of where they're located around the state.

Let's have a look...

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Does Albany get a fair share of state aid?

city of Albany view from corning tower

Fair might depend on your perspective.

Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan released her proposed city budget for the next year on Monday. Among the many points that will surely end up being discussed is that her administration is again seeking $12.5 million from the state in what it's calling "Capital City Funding."

Whether the city of Albany gets a fair deal from the state is a contentious topic. On one hand, the city is the capital and gets all the benefits of that -- jobs, attention, associated economic activity. It also has to bear the costs and complications associated with all that activity. And much of its land is untaxable (63 percent according to the Sheehan admin) because it's owned by the state (more than half the value of that untaxable land). City leaders have long argued the state's funding for the city comes up short when everything is taken into account.

One of the main arguments the city has made is that it gets much less state aid than other big upstate cities -- and it's not even close. How big is the gap? And what would the gap look like if Albany got that $12.5 million? Or what it if got aid that was about the same as those other big cities?

Let's take a quick look at the numbers.

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New York is getting updated rules for gift cards

back side of a gift cardNewly-signed state legislation is changing the rules about fees and expiration dates for gift cards sold by retailers.

The state Assembly and Senate passed the legislation in June, and the governor signed it this week. The rules:

+ The time period in which fees can be charged to unused gift card balances increases from 13 to 25 months. And monthly service fees that are applied after that period must be waived if the consumer uses the gift card within three years of the issue date.

+ No gift card can have an expiration date of earlier than five years from the date it's issued or funds were last added to it.

+ The gift card's terms and conditions must describe exactly what the procedure is to replace a missing card.

The federal government changed the rules for both retail gift cards and bank gift cards in 2010, and this state legislation appears to piggyback on that. The five-year rule was part of the federal rules change -- the two-year waiting period for fees extends the federal rule's one year period. [FTC]

One of the problems with gift cards is that people tend to forget about them, or forget about the odd balance left on them. Cumulatively, that adds up to billions of dollars. [Barrons]

The new state rules take effect for cards issued December 24 of this year and after.

Hillary Clinton continues to poll ahead of Donald Trump in New York (and upstate)

Hillary Clinton and Donald TrumpA few bits from the new Siena poll out Tuesday morning:

If the 2016 election for President was held today, who would you vote for if the candidates were:
Hillary Clinton: 51%
Donald Trump: 30%
Gary Johnson: 8%
Jill Stein: 3%

The numbers for upstate voters: Clinton - 42% | Trump - 36% | Johnson: 11% | Stein 4%

[T]ell me whether you have a favorable opinion or an unfavorable opinion of each person or institution I name.
Hillary Clinton 52% favorable | 46% unfavorable
Donald Trump: 29% favorable | 68% unfavorable

One of the many remarkable things about this presidential election is how much many people seem to not like either candidate.

Do you think Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump is honest and trustworthy or not?
Hillary Clinton: 39% Yes | 58% No
Donald Trump: 29% Yes | 67% No

If Andrew Cuomo runs for re-election as Governor in two years, as things stand now, would you vote to re-elect him or would you prefer someone else?
Re-elect Cuomo: 45%
Prefer someone else: 49%
____

The Siena Research Institute says this poll was conducted September 11-15 and included 600 likely voters in New York State. Margin of error is +/- 5.

candidate photos via their campaign websites: Clinton | Trump

The earlier-booze-at-brunch bill is now law

a brunch bloody mary

The Cuomo admin announced Wednesday that Andrew Cuomo has signed the legislation passed earlier this year that allows restaurants to serve alcohol two hours earlier on Sundays, moving the start time from noon to 10 am.

Here's press release blurbage on the brunch booze provision of the legislation:

Expand Sunday Sales: The law expands Sunday sales at restaurants and bars by changing the statewide opening hours from noon to 10 am. In addition, the agreement enables these licensees to apply for a permit, limited to twelve per year, to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on Sundays between 8 a.m. and the new 10 a.m. opening hour in areas outside New York City.

The shift from noon to 10 am on Sundays takes effect immediately. Those provision allowing the dozen special 8 am permits (apparently prompted in part by NFL games in Europe and European soccer matches) will take effect in 60 days. (Those 8 am permits will cost restaurants and bars $25 plus a $10 filing fee. They also will require a notice filed with the local municipality.)

The legislation signed today includes a bunch of other updates to the state's complicated alcohol laws. Among the changes: Wineries will be allowed to sell wine in growlers and liquor stores will be allowed to sell gift wrapping and gift bags (yep, that was prohibited).

photo: Lauren Hittinger Hodgson

The Capital Region leads Upstate in job growth

nys osc upstate jobs report regional employment change

The Capital Region led Upstate New York* in employment grown between 2009 June and 2016 June -- that's from a new report by the state comptroller's office. The Capital Region* was up 2.2 percent over that period, while all of Upstate employment was up just 0.3 percent. It was one of just three (of eight) regions Upstate to see employment growth.

So... good for the Capital Region, right? Yep, but it's not all great.

Here are a few more interesting bits from the report about jobs Upstate...

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A face in 128 points

NYS drivers license sample 2016The Cuomo admin is touting an upgraded state DMV facial recognition system that launched earlier this year -- the admin says the system is intended to help catch fraud and identity theft, and it's prompted "more than 100 arrests and 900 open cases since it launched in January."

A clip from the press release that we thought was interesting:

The upgraded system increases the number of measurement points on the face from 64 to 128, doubling the number of measurement points mapped to each digitized driver photograph and vastly improving the system's ability to match a photograph to one already in the database. The system also allows for the ability to overlay images, invert colors, and convert images to black and white to better see scars and identifying features on the face. Different hair styles, glasses, and other features that change over time - including those that evolve as a subject ages - do not prevent the system from matching photographs. DMV will not issue a driver license or non-driver ID until the newly captured photograph is cleared through the facial recognition system.
Since the facial recognition technology was implemented in 2010, more than 3,800 individuals have been arrested for possessing multiple licenses. Additionally, more than 10,800 facial recognition cases have been solved administratively, without the need for an arrest. If the transactions are too old to pursue criminal prosecution, DMV is still able to hold subjects accountable by revoking licenses and moving all tickets, convictions, and crashes to the individual's true record.

The Cuomo admin says almost half of the people tagged so far are accused of using a stolen identity in order to get a new license because their old license has been suspended or revoked.

(there's more)

One thing that sticks out about prices here

new york state RPP metros map static

You might have seen that map floating around online recently about "the real value of $100 in each state" -- and New York State had one of the lowest "real" values of any state.

That map was based on figures published by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. And one of those figures is something called the regional price parities (RPPs) -- an attempt to measure how much goods and services cost in an area compared to the rest of the country.

You can probably now guess why the state level number for New York is kind of misleading -- if you're lumping in numbers for New York City with numbers for, say, Utica, it's going to be skewed. And to the credit of the think tank that made that state map -- the Tax Foundation -- it followed up this week with a similar map based on metro areas.

Anyway, this is just a long setup for looking at RPPs for metro areas around New York State. There's a static map above for the RPPs for all items across the state's metro areas -- and a clickable map after the jump. And as you can see, most parts of upstate have prices that are about average for the nation -- or lower.

Which is probably what you might expect -- except for one category...

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New York State will soon exempt tampons from sales tax

one tamponThe Cuomo admin announced Thursday that Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that will exempt tampons and other related items from state and local sales tax.

The bill passed earlier this past May after being sponsored by Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) in the Assembly and Sue Serino (R-Hudson Valley) in the state Senate. From the bill memo:

New York State exempts certain items from state sales tax, including drugs and medicine, medical equipment and certain medical supplies as well as prosthetic aids. Feminine hygiene products, such as tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners, are an undeniable necessity, yet they are subject to sales tax.
This bill would correct the fundamental imbalance that currently existing in New York State by exempting certain feminine hygiene products, including but not limited to, sanitary napkins, tampons and panty liners from sales and use tax.

The Cuomo admin figures the sales tax exemption will collectively save women in the state $10 million a year. It's set to take effect September 1.

There's been a push in many states recently to exempt tampons and similar items from sales tax. Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have already done so, and Connecticut is scheduled to do so 2018. And a few other states are moving in that direction. [Providence Journal]

A generational shift

new york state counties median age change 2010-2015

Just a handful of New York counties had lower median ages in 2015 (green) compared to 2010. Albany County was one of them.

Quick: Guess which 5-year age group has the most people of any age group in the Capital Region.

OK, got your answer? Hold onto it for a second.

The Census Bureau recently released new estimates for the populations of counties by age. And those numbers can help us get a sense of the age distribution of people here in the Capital Region -- and answer questions like which age group has the most people.

Plenty of graphs and maps are the jump.

But first, let's answer that question at the top...

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Another record year for New York State maple syrup production

mountain winds maple syrup amber

Sweet.

New York State set a new modern record for maple syrup production this year, the Cuomo admin announced Friday. The Empire State produced 707,000 gallons of syrup, according to numbers from the from the US Department of Agriculture.

That's up from 601,000 gallons last year. And it keeps New York at the #2 spot nationally, holding off a surging Maine with 675,000. Better luck next time, Pine (Not Maple) Tree State.

New York's increased production this year was in part a result of a longer season -- 36 days on average this year, compared to 26 last year. But the state continues to add taps, too. Its tap count was above 2,500 this year -- the Cuomo admin says that's the highest number since 1946 -- and the count has been rising by a couple of hundred each year for the past few years. (The state's yield per tap has also been rising.)

Of course, Vermont continues to dominate the field, where they're just playing a different game.

(there's more)

Booze at brunch, two hours earlier

brunch bloody mary

Restaurants will be able serve alcohol two hours earlier during Sunday brunch as part of an agreement on new state legislation announced today by the governor and the state legislative leaders. From a Cuomo admin press release:

Expand Sunday Sales: The [Alcoholic Beverage Control] Law includes provisions strictly prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages at on-premises establishments (restaurants, bars, taverns) before noon on Sunday. The agreement expands Sunday sales at restaurants and bars by changing the statewide opening hours from noon to 10 am. In addition, the agreement enables these licensees to apply for a permit, limited to twelve per year, to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on Sundays between 8 a.m. and the new 10 a.m. opening hour in areas outside New York City.

Earlier this year a Cuomo admin working group released a report with recommendations on how to modernize New York's many (and complicated) laws related to alcohol sales. In addition to citing "the common practice of consuming alcoholic beverages during Sunday 'brunch'," the report also mentioned how bars showing NFL games played in Europe -- as well as European league soccer matches -- were an example of how the soon-to-be-old rules clashed with what people wanted to do. So it looks like the 12-times-a-year exemption pushing back the time to 8 am is a nod to those situations.

The agreement announced today also includes provisions for licensing craft beverage producers, wholesalers, and even the sale of wine in growlers.

It also includes a small provision that in some way really seems to highlight the tangled mess of rules here: The new legislation also will allow liquor stores to sell... gift wrapping and gift bags.

photo: Lauren Hittinger Hodgson

A quick look at city and town population changes

nys city and town population change 2010-2015

There are large, clickable maps after the jump. (Because of course there are.)

The topic of changing population popped up in comments earlier this week, so we figured it'd be interesting to whip together a clickable map of some new numbers for city and town population changes both here in the Capital Region and across the state.

And it turns out the Capital Region is a bit of an outlier.

Let's have a look...

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Siena poll on Clinton-Trump, Andrew Cuomo re-election, Uber

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

A few bits from the Siena poll out today of New York State registered voters:

+ Respondents say they would vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the presidential election 52-31. (Upstate it's 38-40 in favor of Trump, which is shift. When the Siena poll asked about a potential Clinton-Trump matchup this past spring, upstate respondents picked Clinton 51-38.)

+ The "unfavorables" for both Clinton and Trump continue to be high. Clinton's favorable/unfavorable split is 46/51 and Trump's is 27/68.

+ "If Andrew Cuomo runs for re-election as Governor in two years, as things stand now, would you vote to re-elect him or would you prefer someone else?" -- re-elect: 42 percent | prefer someone else: 49 percent

+ "[D]o you support or oppose legislation that would allow ride sharing companies like Uber to operate in your area?" -- support: 70 percent | oppose: 19 percent

+ "Do you support or oppose legislation that would legalize daily fantasy sports companies, like FanDuel or Draft kings, to operate here in New York?" -- support: 37 percent | oppose: 45 percent

The Siena Research Institute poll was conducted May 22-26 with 825 New York State registered voters. Margin of error is +/- 3.9.

candidate photos via their campaign websites: Clinton | Trump

The buzz on New York honey

lloyd spear honey trioAgricultural fact of the day: New York State produced almost 3.6 million pounds of honey in 2015, according to numbers from the federal government.* That's up almost 9 percent from the year before.

New York's total ranked 10th among all states last year. (It ranked #13 last year.) And it's by the far the biggest producer in the Northeast. (Next up is Maine at #31.)

The state's production was valued at a little more than $10.5 million. The average price per pound that New York producer were able to get was $2.94. (The national average $2.09.)

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The Atlas of Inland Fishes of New York

Inland Fishes of New York 2016 cover

There are 181 native and introduced freshwater fish species in New York State.

That's one of the many, many bits in a huge new catalog of the state's fish released this week as part of joint effort by the New York State Museum and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. It's the first such publication in three decades.

The book is available to download for free as a pdf from the State Museum website.

The Atlas of Inland Fishes of New York is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It includes photos or illustrations of each of the state's different fish species, along with maps depicting where the fish have been found both in the past and present. As the atlas preface notes of New York: "its freshwater fish species represent one of the richest and most scientifically fascinating ichthyofaunas in the Northeastern United States."*

It's fascinating to flip through the atlas, gawking at some of the wildly-colored or shaped fish, and seeing how they compare or contrast with other similar fish. It's also interesting to see the geographic ranges of each species plotted -- how some species live only in a few river corridors, others are confined to specific watersheds, and others are pretty much everywhere.

And if nothing else, some of the names are great: Gizzard Shad, Central Stoneroller, Northern Redbelly Dace, Tonguetied Minnow, Rosyface Shiner, Bigeye Chub, Northern Hog Sucker, Threespine Stickleback, Pumpkinseed, Tesselated Darter, and so on...

* "Scientifically fascinating ichthyofaunas" really should be some sort of state marketing slogan.

New York presidential primary 2016 results

presidential primary results Cap Region map clips

Clips from the maps of results for the Democratic (left) and Republican primaries by Congressional District.

Originally published Wednesday 9:30 am. Updated Wednesday at 11:30 am.

Here's a quick scan of (unofficial) results from the New York presidential primaries on Tuesday:

+ In the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders statewide 58-42. That resulted in Clinton winning the state's delegates 139-108.

+ In the Republican primary, Donald Trump beat John Kasich and Ted Cruz 60-25-15. That results in Trump picking up 90 delegates and Kasich 5 delegates.

After the jump there are clickable maps of the results by Congressional District (delegates are apportioned by those districts) and counties. The maps highlight some clear differences across the state, like the fact that Bernie Sanders did well upstate.

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Getting some sense of New York's upcoming minimum wage increases

George Washington one dollar bill

As you know, New York State's minimum wage -- or, really, its minimum wages -- are set for large increases over the next handful of years. Areas downstate will eventually hit $15 an hour, and upstate will rise to $12.50, with continued increases planned after that.

Last year during the debate about whether the state should take this path, we tried to get some sense of the proposed increase by comparing the minimum wage to the wages of everyone else in the state. And we did this by region, because making $15 an hour in New York City isn't necessarily the same as making $15 an hour in Utica.

So now that the increases are set, we thought we'd run that comparison again. And we added a new one -- using the cost of housing as a yard stick.

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The Capital Region is growing. Slowly.

new york state county population growth 2010-2015

The deeper the green, the higher the percent population growth between 2010 and 2015. The deeper the gray, the higher percentage of population loss. There's a clickable map after the jump (actually, multiple maps).

The population of the Albany metro area was 881,830 as of last July 1, according to Census Bureau estimates released Thursday. That's up 1,739 people -- 0.2 percent -- compared to the same point in 2014.

The Capital Region is up 11,117 people -- 1.28 percent -- from 2010, according to the estimates. Its population growth (by percent) during that time ranked #260 among the 381 metro areas.

So what makes up that modest growth?

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New York's Powerball fever is uneven

nys powerball sales by drawing

As the jackpot has soared, so too have sales here in New York State. (There's a larger version after the jump.)

Wednesday night someone -- or multiple someones, or maybe no one -- will eleventy zillion dollars in the multi-state Powerball jackpot. OK, not eleventy zillion -- it will only be something like $1.5 billion.

That's an eye-catching number, even if you don't usually pay attention to lottery games. And that's the whole the point -- the org that manages the game changed the rules last year in an attempt to build huge jackpots in order to drive ever larger ticket sales.

And by now you probably know all about how playing the lottery isn't a good investment -- expected return and all that. If you're going to play the Powerball, buying a single ticket just for the conversation value is the way to go.

Anyway, we were curious how Powerball fever was playing out here in New York State. So we got county-by-county numbers from the New York Lottery...

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New York State is #4 -- again

2015 top4 population states trends graph

It's not looking good for catching Florida anytime soon.

The Census Bureau released new state population estimates this week and the Empire State was pegged at 19,795,791 people as of July 1, 2015. That's up an estimated 46,933 from the same point in 2014, an increase of .25 percent.

But that small increase wasn't enough for New York to catch back up with Florida, which passed New York for the #3 spot in the national population ranking last year. Florida's population grew an estimated 1.84 percent between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015.

And that's the overall story for New York's population -- it's growing, but very slowly, especially compared to California, Texas, and Florida. The Empire State's population is up an estimated 2.02 percent between 2010 and 2015. But over that same period California is up 4.85 percent, Texas is up 8.81 percent, and Florida is up 7.54 percent. (The graph above illustrates the change for each state since 2010.)

The drag on New York's overall population growth is that it's losing a relatively large number of people each year to other states. It lost an estimated 628,672 people between July 1, 2010 and July 1, 2015 to what the Census calls domestic migration.

So, what's propping up New York's population? People coming to the state from outside the United States -- international migration to New York is an estimated +606,667 between 2010 and 2015. And New Yorkers are having babies at a much faster rate than people here are dying -- New York is an estimated +441,603 over that same period for births and deaths.

There are a handful of clickable national maps (and another graph) after the jump. Because of course there is.

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Looking ahead at New York's craft beverage boom

glass of nine pin cider

Hard cider is one of the many growing segments of the state's craft beverages industry.

By Deanna Fox

We wrap up Following Food week with a few drinks.

I write frequently about the beer, cider, wine, and spirits industry, and to be honest it is hard to keep up with the frequency at which another craft beverage producer is launching, or when new craft products are being released. New York State is a hotbed for craft beverages, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Just ask Andrew Cuomo. Last month, his administration held the third wine, beer, spirits and cider summit in Albany that brought together beverage makers, farmers, politicians, and bureaucrats to discuss the progress made in the beverage production in New York State.

"Our investments in the farm-based beverage industry have created a synergy of economic momentum for wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries. That momentum is fueling opportunity for small businesses across the state, and we are going to keep it coming well into the future," said Cuomo, who then announced a series of investments and initiatives totaling more than $16 million to support the beverage industry's growth.

Here are some of the obstacles -- and opportunities -- that are still ahead...

cdphp in-post ad local food week 2

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Dog people outnumber cat people in New York

Otto pumpkin

What sort of crazy people would dress their pet up in a costume...

A few bits from the Siena poll out today about pet ownership in New York State:

+ 42 percent of respondents said their household currently includes a pet (and 59 percent of upstate households).

+ Of pet households, 70 percent of respondents said they have a dog, and 46 percent said they have a cat.

+ Of dog households, 34 percent said they have two or more dogs. Of cat households, 41 percent said they have two or more cats.

+ "Forced to choose, do you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person?" Dog person, 57 percent. Cat person, 17 percent.

+ 24 percent of respondents with a pet said they dress their pet up in a costume at least once in a while.

+ 44 percent said they celebrate their pet's birthday at least once in a while.

+ 59 percent of pet owners said they talk to their pet as if it were a human being "all the time."

+ Estimates of how much spent on a pet each year: less than $500 - 27 percent | greater than $500, but less $1000 - 38 percent | at least $1,000 but less than $2,000 - 19 percent | $2,000 or more - 15 percent

Siena Research Institute says the poll was conducted September 1-28, included 800 respondents, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.3.

A snapshot of Capital Region income

albany metro area ACS2014 income povery gini

How the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro compares to the nation's 381 other metro areas.

The Albany metro area continues to have one of the nation's higher median household incomes, and one of the the lower rates of poverty, according to the newest estimates from the Census Bureau.

Household income
The median household income in the Albany metro -- the point at which half the households had more income, and half had less -- was an estimated $62,265 (+/-1,494) in 2014. That's up just a bit from 2013 -- $59,626 (+/-1,981) ($60,593.25 in 2014 dollars). And it ranks 41st among the 381 metropolitan statistical areas the Census tracks.

Poverty rate
The Albany metro area's poverty rate was an estimated 11.7 percent (+/- 0.9). (It was 12.5 percent (+/-1.0) in 2013.) The metro's poverty rate was the 51st lowest among the 381 metros, lower than 87 percent of them. The Capital Region's poverty rate for kids wasn't quite so low -- an estimated 17.1 percent (+/-2), lower than 76 percent of metros.

Income inequality
Another angle on income and poverty is income inequality. And for that the Census Bureau publishes a figure called the Gini index -- a Gini index of 1 means only person has all the income, and 0 means everyone in a group has the same level. The Capital Region's Gini index for 2014 -- an estimated .4357 (+/-0.0119) -- was the 80th lowest (that is, toward the more equal end) among metropolitan areas.

Even if those three measure look relatively good for the Capital Region, there are still some troubling parts to the picture.

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Getting some sense of a $15-per-hour minimum wage

George Washington 1 dollar bill closeup

When Andrew Cuomo recently proposed raising the state's minimum wage for all industries to $15, it created a big stir -- in large part because that's a big jump from the state's current minimum wage of $8.75 (soon to be $9). And it highlights the question: What is the "right" minimum wage?

Here's one way of thinking about that question for different parts of New York State...

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Cuomo: Raise New York State's minimum wage to $15 an hour for all industries

cuomo biden 15 minimum wage screengrab

Cuomo announced the push during an event in New York City with Joe Biden.

Updated

Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that he will be pushing to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour. The announcement accompanied word from the governor that the state Department of Labor has accepted the wage board recommendation that the minimum wage for fast food workers increased to $15 an hour.

Cuomo's push to raise the overall state minimum wage isn't that surprising (even if he had downplayed the push for $15 earlier this year). He had tried to get the legislature to accept an increase to $10.50 ($11.50 in NYC) during the last legislative session. And the fast food wage board plan was pretty clearly an attempt to out maneuver the opposition in the legislature. (State Senate Republicans -- the most likely road block to the minimum wage increase -- criticized Cuomo's handling of the fast food wage increase Thursday.) [NYT] [Politics on the Hudson]

Invoking the memory of both FDR and his father, Andrew called the proposed increase as matter of economic justice. "You cannot support a family on 18,000 a year in New York State, not to mention having a decent living," he said with Joe Biden looking on in New York City. "Every working man and woman in the state of new york deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage and we're not going to stop until we get it done."

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When bikes weren't just something on the side

1900 New York State bike map Albany area crop

A 1900 map of "side paths" -- bike paths -- around the greater Albany area.

That recent post about the "great popularity of cycling" in Saratoga Springs around the early 1900s and the all the discussion of late about building protected bike lanes in Albany got us looking into the history of bike paths. And, as so often is the case, the past seems like a completely different place.

For example: There was once a law in New York State that allowed a group of just 50 bicyclists to petition for the formation of a commission that would be tasked with building bike lanes.

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Jobs gained and lost

cap region jobs growth 2009-2014 NYS OSC

"Government" also includes jobs such as public school teachers. / graph: NYS OSC

That graph above depicts the numbers of jobs gained and lost, by sector, in the Capital Region between 2009 and 2014. It's from NYS Comptroller's Office report out Monday looking at employment trends across the state.

That might sound like a snore-inducing document, but it collects a bunch of bits that help fill out the picture on what's happening (or not happening) in the economy. A few of those interesting bits...

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A future with less heating, more air conditioning

scientific_reports_heating_cooling_days_national

Can you imagine a New York with temperatures that are more like... Oklahoma?

That's one of the comparisons made in a paper published today in Scientific Reports that aims to project how global warming will affect the heating and cooling needs of areas around the United States.

Using a climate scenario that expects global mean surface temperatures to rise by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit, two Stanford researchers projected how the current "normal" annual number of heating and cooling degree days across the US would compare to levels at the end of this century.

(You can think of heating and cooling degree days as a measure of how much heating or cooling a building needs in a place over a time period.)

Here's a clip from the paper about projections for New York City:

The historical CDD [cooling degree day] value of New York City (1,105 CDD) is projected to increase by the end of the century (2,348 CDD), approaching a CDD value that historically prevailed in the hot desert climate of El Paso, TX (2,331 CDD). The historical HDD [heating degree day] value (4,750 HDD) in New York City is projected to decrease (3,126 HDD) to approximately the number of HDD in present Raleigh, NC (3,246 HDD). New York City's historical degree-day sum (5,855 HDD + CDD) will decrease (5,474 HDD + CDD), resembling the historical degree-day sum in Oklahoma City, OK (5,463 HDD + CDD).

The researchers used numbers for current normals from more than 7,000 weather stations around the country, so they were able to make maps based on the projections. One of them -- showing projected differences in cooling and heating degree days across the country -- is above.

A bigger map, which we think illustrates things a bit better, is after the jump. And it illustrates that the Albany area is, of course, not exactly like New York City. But the general trend is projected to be about the same -- fewer heating degree days, and a lot more cooling degree days.

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New York State set to raise fast food minimum wage to $15 per hour

fast food wage increase schedule chart

The state Fast Food Wage Board has recommended that the minimum wage for fast food employees across New York State rise to $15 per hour -- eventually.

The board's recommendation, which now heads to the state labor commissioner before it can take effect, lays out two tracks for increasing the industry's minimum wage, for New York City and areas outside the city:

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The Northeast, man... so full of @!#$%^&*

The map above is one of many like it posted on Twitter by linguist Jack Grieve of Ashton University in England. It's based on almost 1 billion geo-coded tweets over the course of a year and depicts the relative frequency of the word "asshole" in each county. Grieve explains the process over at the Huffington Post.

Here are a bunch of Grieve's maps looking at other curse words.

Interestingly, the northeastern frontier of the "shit" line is in the Hudson Valley.

(Thanks, Tim)

Solar continues to grow around New York

rooftop solar panels

More common.

The Capital Region had the second-highest amount of installed solar energy generation capacity in the state as of 2014, according to numbers released by the Cuomo admin Monday. The eight-county region had 51 megawatts of capacity -- up 500 percent since 2011. (The region with the highest total was Long Island, with 96 megawatts.)

For some perspective, a megawatt of installed solar is estimated to be capable of powering about 155 homes a year in New York State.

New York State has a whole had almost 315 megawatts of installed solar capacity as of 2014, according the Cuomo admin. That's up 300 percent since 2011.

A few individual Capital Region counties also ranked highly. Albany County had 13.66 megawatts of installed capacity -- the fifth-highest total among all counties. And Columbia County ranked #1 for installed capacity per capita.

Are there clickable maps? You know there are...

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New York closer to $15/hour for fast food workers?

state fast food wage board screengrab

Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, chair of the fast food wage board, at Monday's meeting. / screengrab: NYS DOL livestream

At its last scheduled public meeting Monday the state's Fast Food Wage Board didn't recommend a specific increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers in the state -- but its members' comments pointed toward them eventually recommending a significantly higher rate.

"There's no question in mind that we need a very substantial increase in the minimum wage," board member Kevin Ryan, the chairman and founder of the online shopping site Gilt, said.

"When you look at the industry as a whole in this state, we really should be looking at one wage rate for the state, and that should be $15 and that should be as soon as possible," said board member Mike Fishman, the secretary treasurer of Service Employees International Union.

The fast food wage board was empaneled by the state Department of Labor at Andrew Cuomo's direction in May to consider raising the minimum wage in the industry. The Cuomo admin says the board's recommendation can be enacted without legislation.

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Sweet: Record maple syrup production in New York State

mountain winds maple syrup amber

New York State produced more than 600,000 gallons of maple syrup this past spring, according to numbers from the US Department of Agriculture. That's good for #2 in the nation. And the Cuomo admin says that's the state's highest total in 70 years.

The sappy record is especially notable because this past maple syrup season was just 26 days long. It was 40 days long when the state set its last "modern" record in 2013.

So, what's responsible for the sweet success? From a Cuomo admin press release:

The amount produced is the most since 1944, the last year before the beginning of a long drop-off in the number of tree taps and the yield of syrup per tap. New York's resurgence began in 2008 as vacuum pumping systems began to replace the metal tree taps and hanging buckets that have signified maple syrup farming for centuries.
The New York State Maple Producers Association estimates that 60 percent of maple farms, including most of the larger farms of more than 500 taps, use vacuum systems to collect raw sap. The modern vacuum system is easier for producers to maintain, which has helped increase production per tap. The average tree tap produced a little more than one quart of syrup this year, though some large farms are seeing yields of a half-gallon or more.

New York State is still far behind Vermont for the nation's top spot for maple syrup production. The Green Mountain State produced 1.39 million gallons this spring, according to USDA. (The tiny state's pancake industry is straining under the pressure to keep up.)

Vermont maple syrup is an interesting case because the state has been experiencing some sort of Maple Miracle over the last decade. So much so that Quebec -- the Saudi Arabia of maple syrup -- has been warily eyeing its neighbor to the south.

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New York popular baby names 2014

name tag ariana

Say hello to Arian(n)a, Madelyn, Mila, Nora, Nathaniel, Luca, and Jaxon.

Every year the Social Security Administration publishes a list of the 100 most popular baby names for each state from the previous year. The lists for 2013 were released this week, so we pulled the results for New York State.

And here they are, the 100 most popular female and male baby names, along with which names are rising -- and falling -- compared to 2013.

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Fewer and fewer New Yorkers are smoking

cigarette against a blue sky Flickr user Fried Dough CC

How much does smoking have left? / photo: Flickr user Fried Dough (CC BY 2.0)

Will there be a day when virtually no one smokes?

We were thinking about that this week after the state Department of Health reported that the percentage of adults who smoke was 14.5 percent in 2014 -- that's the lowest rate on record. And it's the latest point is a long trend of falling smoking rates.

So, why's that happening?

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Statewide beer

brewery equipment at Rare Form in TroyTwo beer-related things that caught our eye today:

Statewide Pale Ale
Starting this Thursday (June 11) a new beer will be available that's a collaborative effort of a bunch of breweries from around the region and the state. "Statewide Pale Ale" is the work of brewmasters from Shmaltz (it was brewed there), Community Beer Works, Empire Brewing, Lake Placid Brewing, Crossroads, CH Evans, Mad Jack Brewing, Browns, and Rare Form Brewing. Blurbage:

Statewide Pale Ale is a bright and crisp pale ale brewed with all NYS 2-row malt sponsored by Pioneer Malting, Inc., as well as other American malt favorites, hopped with a burst of warrior, simcoe and mosaic and dry hopped with NYS cascade donated by Country Malt Group.

The beer will introduced at the Shmaltz tasting room in Clifton Park on Thursday from 4-6 pm, and then it will be available from the breweries named above, along with "select bars."

The beer is part a fundraiser for the New York State Brewers Association, and part an effort to highlight the growth of brewery business in the state.

So many breweries
Speaking of that growth... This number from the NYS Brewers Association jumped out at us: There were 207 breweries in New York State in 2014 -- up from 95 in 2012.

Guessing the number will be even larger this year probably isn't a bad bet -- the national Brewers Association currently lists 263 breweries either in operation or in some stage of planning in New York State. (As we've noted in the past, that list isn't necessarily up to date.)

The brewery boom in New York and across the country has been driven by the growth craft beer breweries and brew pubs. And the number of breweries in the country is now at a level not seen since the last 19th century, according to numbers compiled by the Brewers Association.

New York State had 181 craft breweries in 2014, according to the Brewers Association -- that's up from 165 in 2013.

Earlier on AOA: Breweries in New York State

A ZIP code map of New York State

Capital Region ZIP code map clip

This is just a clip -- the clickable map is after the jump.

As it says on the label, here is a clickable map of ZIP codes (roughly) in New York State.

A while back we had planned to include this map with some discursive post about ZIPs and maps and perceptions of place that was related to the Halfmoon-wants-its-own-ZIP thing, but that post ended up only half baked and unpublished (thankfully -- no one needed to be subjected to that). We were reminded of the map again this week because of the wealthiest ZIP code ranking over at the Biz Review.

Anyway (oh no, here we go...), ZIPs are kind of interesting because of what they started as (a way for the US Postal Service to arrange its routes) and what they've ended up being used for (a way for the rest of us to also identify places). As the ZIP data website ZIP Boundary highlights, a ZIP code doesn't really define an area for the USPS, but rather a collection of delivery points.

And then there are the issues related to the fact that ZIPs are only loosely associated with municipalities -- that's how a place like Crossgates, which is in the town of Guilderland, ends up with a postal address that is Albany (because it's in the 12203 ZIP). Here's an interesting history of ZIPs, again from ZIP Boundary, that touches on that issue.

One of the things that's reinforced for us by looking around the map of Capital Region ZIPs is that the codes aren't necessarily a good way of defining areas (well, unless you're delivering mail). Again, using the 12203 ZIP as an example: it stretches from Washington Park in Albany west along Western Avenue, with lobes that include Guilderland, Bethlehem, and New Scotland -- that's an odd collection to group together.

Right, so... on to the map...

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A few ways of thinking about the minimum wage

george washington on dollar bill

The "Fight for 15" rallies got a lot of attention around the country this week, including here in the Capital Region, as people pushed for an increase in the minimum wage.

The current minimum wage in New York State is $8.75 per hour. It's scheduled to increase to $9 at the start of next year.

A lot of numbers get thrown around in these discussions, and sometimes it can be hard to keep in them context. So we put together a few easy-scan charts in an effort to get a better sense of things...

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Siena poll: Majority support minimum wage increase to $10.50 per hour

washington dollar bill green shadeWhen given the choice of letting the New York State minimum wage rise to the already-scheduled level of $9/hour next year or raise it to $10.50 per hour, almost 3/4 of respondents in a Siena poll out today picked the $10.50 level.

Here's the question text from the Siena poll, because it was a little complicated:

The current minimum wage in New York State is eight dollars seventy-five cents per hour. It is scheduled to go to nine dollars per hour next year. When it comes to the minimum wage, among the following three choices, do you agree more with the State Senate, which wants it kept at nine dollars per hour, OR Governor Cuomo, who wants it increased to ten dollars fifty cents per hour, OR the State Assembly, which wants it increased to ten dollars fifty cents per hour now, with provisions to go higher in future years?

And the answer options:

+ "State Senate, which wants it kept at nine dollars per hour": 26 percent of all respondents

+ "Governor Cuomo, who wants it increased to ten dollars fifty cents per hour": 20 percent of all respondents

+ "State Assembly, which wants it increased to ten dollars fifty cents per hour now, with provisions to go higher in future years": 52 percent of all respondents

The $10.50/hour options drew the combined support of more than 65 percent in each of the three income categories for respondents -- less than $50k, $50-$100k, and $100k+. And it also had at least 50 percent support from both Democrats and Republicans.

The Siena poll also asked about the idea of a having a higher minimum wage downstate -- the yes/no split on that was 47/51 for all respondents. NYC respondents supported 55 percent, it was essentially even for people in the downstate suburbs, and upstate respondents opposed it 63-43.

The Siena Research Institute says the poll was conducted March 15-19 and has a +/- 3.5% margin of error.

Proposed state legislation would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas

otto through dunkin door

No matter how many times we explain the law to Otto, he just doesn't seem to understand.

In New York State it is against the law to allow a dog in a restaurant -- even (technically) on an outdoor patio. But a bill sponsored by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) would open the door for dogs to legally be in outdoor eating areas.

The bill includes a bunch of qualifications for allowing dogs in these areas -- here are just a few:

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Digging in the dirt

Google Map of 41.33,-74.44

A bill introduced in the state Assembly this week by Karl Brabenac (R-Warwick):

S 90. STATE SOIL. BLACK DIRT SHALL BE THE OFFICIAL SOIL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK AND THE BLACK DIRT REGION LOCATED IN SOUTHERN ORANGE COUNTY SHALL BE THE OFFICIAL HOME OF THE MOST FERTILE SOIL IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

Can you really legislate that something is "the most fertile"?

Anyway, if you're behind on your study of New York geology and soils, and not familiar with The Black Dirt Region, let us direct you to this 2007 New York Times article:

"With other soils, you're lucky if you have 10 percent organic matter," said Maire Ullrich, an Orange County agricultural extension agent. "In the Black Dirt, we have 30 to 50 percent and sometimes up to 90 percent organic matter. It's basically a giant bowl of compost."
About 12,000 years ago, when glaciers receded from what is now lower New York State, they left behind pockets of low-lying bogland that built up deep layers of decayed plant matter. It wasn't until the early 1900s that German, Polish and Dutch immigrants to Orange County drained the bogs with a network of ditches, revealing a sulfur- and nitrogen-rich black soil that in some places is 30 feet deep. In summertime satellite photographs of lower New York State, it's visible as a smear of blacks and browns at the bottom edge of the emerald-green Catskills.

The soil is excellent for growing onions and potatoes -- and it apparently imparts interesting and strong flavors to the vegetables.

BUT HERE'S THE STUNNING TWIST YOU DIDN'T SEE COMING:

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Taxable sandwiches and other foods that are taxed, unless they're not

hannaford_rotisserie_chicken_cold_in_case.jpg

These roasted chickens aren't taxed because they're cold. But if you tried to buy one as it came out of the roaster -- taxed.

Sometimes things are just hilariously (and also frustratingly) complicated.

We were thinking about that today after Jon Campbell said on Twitter of the state Department and Taxation and Finance's web page explaining that sandwiches are taxable: "Is this the best page on an NYS website? Yes. Yes it is."

One of the subheads from that page: "What is considered a sandwich."

And thus we fell into the rabbit hole of what sorts of foods are -- and are not -- taxed by New York State.

A few somewhat mind-warping examples...

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The future is mobile

siena_poll_mobile_usage_mobile_only_small.png

Don't squint -- there's a larger version after the jump.

A Siena poll out this week had some interesting bits about mobile phone and other communications tech usage.

Among those bits: 28 percent of upstate respondents to the poll reported having only a mobile phone -- no landline. That was the highest mobile-only percentage for any region in the poll.

Here are a few things that caught our eye, in quick chart form...

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Three reasons why bringing the Olympics back to New York State is a bad idea

Lake Placid bobsled track

Lake Placid still has the facilities from the 1980 Winter Olympics -- and that's great. But it doesn't mean the games should return.

Every now and then the idea of New York State hosting the Olympics pops up. And it's done so again this week, with leaders in the North Country banging the drum about bringing the winter games back and both Chuck Schumer and Elise Stefanik offering generally supportive statements. [Lake Placid News]

This is not a good idea.

Let us turn our attention to the medal stand of reasons why not...

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Measles in New York, before and after the vaccine

graph of measles incidence in New York State 1928-2011

With all the news about the recent upswing in measles cases -- and the all discussions about kids not being vaccinated -- we had been curious about details regarding how a big a difference the measles vaccine made when it was introduced.

A recent Wall Street Journal data visualization illustrates this before/after across the country beautifully. It's based on numbers collected and organized by Project Tycho, a health data project at the University of Pittsburgh.

Project Tycho includes data for many states, including New York. So we pulled out the data for measles cases in New York State between 1928 and 2011. There's a graph above.

There's a bigger version after the jump, along with a few notes.

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Not in the driver's seat

car steering wheel

An increasingly uncommon spot?

A theme that's popped up often in recent years among developers, planners, cultural observers, whoever: more people -- younger adults (the Millenials), especially -- don't like to drive. You see it mentioned in national articles, and we've had developers and planners mention it to us locally.

We had that idea in mind this week when we came across some numbers about vehicle use over the last few decades, both nationally and here in New York State. One thing led to another and we ended up calculating driver's licenses per capita for counties around the state. (Because of course.)

A few interesting bits floated by along the way. Among them: Of New York State counties that are not part of New York City, Albany County has one of the lowest levels of driver's licenses per capita in the state -- and the rates for all of the Capital Region core counties in 2013 were down compared to 2007.

Here are a few quick graphs, and a few thoughts.

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A push for more, and faster, broadband internet access in New York

nys 100 mbps  broadband map

This map depicts parts of the state (in blue) that have access to 100 mbps broadband internet access, according to the Cuomo admin. Here's a larger version, along with county-by-county figures. / map: Cuomo admin

One million people in New York State currently can't get broadband internet access, and 7 million -- including roughly 70 percent of upstate -- can't get access that would be considered very-fast* high speed access.

So reports the Cuomo admin Friday as part of its pitch for a plan to put $500 million of the bank settlement money toward extending broadband internet access to every part of the state by 2019.

The plan aims to use the money as matching grants to private providers to expand access. And one of the conditions of the funding would be that (in most cases) the internet access would have to be at speeds of at least 100 mbps. (For comparison, the "standard" TWC internet connection includes speeds up to 15 mbps.)

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The Empire State is now #4

national state population change 2010-2014 percentage

States by percentage population change between 2010 and 2014, according to Census Bureau estimates. Here's a clickable version of the map.

New York has slipped to #4 in the national population rankings, according to new Census Bureau estimates for 2014 out today. Florida edged past New York to take the #3 spot behind California and Texas.

It's not that New York lost population, it's just that didn't grow as fast as Florida (and many other states). The Census Bureau estimates the Empire State had 19,746,227 residents as of this past July. That's up about 50,000 residents from the year before (about .2 percent). In that same time Florida is up approximately 293,000 residents (about 1.5 percent). The difference between New York and Florida is now about 147,000 in the Sunshine State's favor.

Zooming out a bit and looking at the numbers since 2010 highlights some of the trends. The nation's total population grew an estimated 3.3 percent between 2010 and 2014. But New York's population grew 1.9 percent (roughly 368k people) -- and Florida was up 5.8 percent (roughly 1 million people). The Empire State ranked just 31st in the country for population gain.

So, what's contributing to these totals?

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Seneca White Deer

seneca white deer dennis moneyOdd New York State wildlife fact of the day: What's thought to be the world's largest population of white deer lives on a former Army depot in the Finger Lakes (map). Here's a photo gallery.

The relatively high numbers -- reportedly 200 white deer that are part of a larger deer population of 800 -- are apparently the result of the depot land being surrounded by a 24-mile-long fence during the 1940s. The original population had a small group of white deer and their numbers have increased over the decades.

From the website for the Seneca White Deer org:

The white deer found at Seneca Army Depot are a natural variation of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which normally have brown coloring. The Seneca White Deer are leucistic, meaning they lack all pigmentation in the hair but have the normal brown-colored eyes. Albino deer, which lack only the pigment melanin, have pink eyes and are extremely rare. The Seneca White Deer interbreed freely with the brown deer in the former Depot and appear to share the habitat equally. Some of the white bucks show a flattening, or palmation, of the antlers, but are physiologically similar in most other ways.
The genetics of these deer have not been studied extensively, but a recessive gene for lack of pigmentation apparently prevents normal (i.e. brown) coloration of the hair. Management of the white deer within the former Depot increases the proportion of deer exhibiting the trait.
In an unprotected environment, white deer are usually easy prey for predators or hunters. The limited predators and controlled hunting on the former Depot have allowed the white deer to interbreed and increase in numbers for more than 60 years. Other white deer herds exist in protected environments, including white fallow deer in Ireland, but none of those herds are as large as the white, whitetail deer of the Depot.

There's been some tension over the last decade about what should be done with the depot. Seneca County officials have been looking at ways to possibly used the land for development, while preservationists have promoted the land -- and the deer -- as a possible park and tourist attraction. The TU's Brian Nearing had an article over the weekend about the latest state of the situation, including an attempt by preservationists to get the state involved. [NYT 2004] [TU]

photo: Seneca White Deer / Dennis Money

Capital Region gets $60 million in Regional Economic Development Awards

monument square 2014 market rendering cropped

The planned permanent space for the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market was awarded $1.5 million.

Capital Region projects got a combined $60 million in the Regional Economic Development Council awards announced Thursday. An easy-scan table of the projects is after the jump.

The region snagged $82.8 million last year. But this time around it was not a "top performer" in the state's annual Who Want's to Win Some Pork?!?! game show -- it ended up receiving the second-lowest amount out of the state's 10 regions.

Here are a few of the project awards that caught our eye on the first pass...

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A new website for New York State

new ny gov website screengrab

A screengrab from the site.

The state unveiled its new website today. And it's... a lot better.

State officials say the state's main website hadn't undergone a major design overhaul since 1999 and it showed. The new website is very much in the modern, text-over-shaded-large-images style. It's "responsive" -- which is to say the design adjusts to the type of device upon which it's being viewed. And it includes some helpful new features.

The site bears some resemblance in both form and function to that of New York City. And that makes a lot of sense. The Cuomo admin hired Rachel Haot as the state's chief digital officer at the end of last year -- she had been in the same job with New York City, and had overseen a re-design of the city's site last year. Over at Medium, Haot highlighted some features of the new site.

The new site announcement mentions that the new "redesign elements, functionality and content management system will be extended to all interested State agencies beginning in 2015." That could be a good thing. And we're curious if the state could eventually makes some of this stuff available to local governments, too. (Because local government websites tend to be really, really bad.)

A few quick things we like about the site and things we wish were better...

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NY Governor 2014: 5 (+1) maps

election2014 Cuomo Astorino diff map clip

Updated with a bonus map.

Andrew Cuomo won re-election Tuesday over Republican challenger Rob Astorino 53-39 (according to the official unofficial count this morning with 93 percent of precincts reporting).

And while a win is win, it's not the landslide that the Cuomo team had at one time been trying to pile up. [NYT]

Here are county-by-county gubernatorial results from around the state in 5 clickable maps.

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Poking at some numbers for New York school districts, graduation rates, and income

chalkboard eraser chalk

This won't be on a test. / photo: Flickr user alkruse24 (CC BY 2.0)

Two things (indirectly) prompted this post:

1. The discussion around that Miss Pearl question about moving out of Albany for the school district.

2. Another one of those school district rankings.

If anything, both of those items highlighted for us our desire to better understand what people are talking about when they talk about "the schools" -- and how factors such as income and poverty fit in.

So we pulled a whole bunch of numbers on New York State school districts -- specifically graduation rates, household income, and poverty rates -- and did some sifting. And we came across a few things we expected -- and few things we didn't.

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Official snacking

Thumbnail image for chobani containers in fridgeNoted: Yogurt is now officially the official snack of New York State. The Cuomo admin announced Wednesday morning that the governor had signed the bill making it so.

As you well know, New York has been the biggest producer of yogurt the last two years, thanks in part to the Greek yogurt boom and companies such as Chobani and Fage.

The press release doesn't mention anything about the heated debate over whether frozen yogurt would qualify as official snacking if consumed between meals. The Cuomo admin is obviously dodging this important question. (Zephyr Teachout would have put the screws to AC on this question in a debate, no doubt.)

Also: Empire State cottage cheese and sour cream -- call your lobbyists, it's time to get them earning their pay. New York was the #1 producer of both dairy products in 2013. (The Empire State rules cottage cheese.) So where is your official state designation and summit, huh?

How New York and the Capital Region compare on income inequality

ACS2013 state median income map

States by median household income in 2013. / map: US Census Bureau

Income inequality has been a much-discussed topic over the last few years, so some new numbers about income -- and income inequality -- out this week from the Census Bureau caught our eye.

As part of the income data from the 2013 American Community Survey, the Census Bureau released Gini coefficients for various places -- these numbers are the result of calculation intended to give a sense of how income is distributed within a group of people, usually a nation. It's a very common of income inequality when comparing countries.

So we were curious to see how New York -- and the Capital Region -- compared to the rest of the nation...

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The Northeast, upper Midwest, and the South... uh, really?

quartz uh um map

The deeper the pink, the prominence of "uh." The deeper the blue, more so "um."

The map above is via Quartz. And it's based on the work of a linguistic researcher who sifted through millions of Twitter posts looking for geographic patterns indicating where people are more likely to use "um" or "uh." Blockquotage:

The regional breakdown is clear, and it doesn't look much like other maps that try to show where some phenomenon or another is happening in the United States. Grieve said the use of "um" looks to follow the elusive "Midland dialect," which linguists have suspected follows the Ohio River southwest from central Pennsylvania. That accounts for most of the blue that sweeps from West Virginia all the way to Arizona. Grieve said the "uh" and "um" analysis is the first time his research has shown clear evidence of the Midland dialect.

The Quartz article is interesting and includes some important details about how the map was created.

We were just struck by the distribution of "uh" -- the Northeast and upper Midwest.. OK, maybe not hard to believe. But the South as well? Surprising.

(Also, probably coincidental more than anything: The strong "uh" tendency starts to fade out in New York State about the same place as the pop/soda line.)

Earlier: An Albany dialect?

map: Quartz

Clickable county by county results for the Cuomo-Teachout primary

cuomo teachout primary result map

The deeper the blue, the higher the percentage of Cuomo votes. The deeper the yellow, the more Teachout votes. (Unofficial results with 98 percent of precincts reporting.)

Map of the day: The above is a county-by-county breakdown of votes in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

As you know, Andrew Cuomo beat challenger Zephyr Teachout 60-33. But it was a strong showing for Teachout. And as the map indicates, she ran ahead of the governor in many parts of the state.

There's a clickable large-format map after the jump, along with a few notes.

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New York has one of the country's lowest adult obesity rates, but...

State of Obesity NY obesity rate 1990-2013

New York's adult obesity rate over the last few decades. From Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The State of Obesity 2014. (This chart does something it probably shouldn't -- explained below -- but because of most of us here aren't epidemiologists, we'll just over look that for the moment.)

New York was among the states with the lowest percentage of obese adults in 2013, according to figures recently out from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Empire State ranked #42 among the 50 states (and DC) for percentage of obese adults. (Or #10, depending on how you sort the rankings.)

That said, the CDC estimated that a little more than 25 percent of New York adults were obese in 2013, which, from a historical perspective, is not low. That's up from almost 21 percent in 2003, and about 9 percent in 1990.*

The CDC considers adults to be "obese" if their body mass index is 30 or higher. So someone 5 feet 8 inches tall weighing 200 pounds would be considered obese. (And that same person weighing 165 pounds or more would be considered overweight.)

There's a map depicting obesity prevalence rates by state after the jump.

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New York has a big economy, but...

BEA GDP change by state 2013

New York State has one of the biggest GDPs in the country. But its GDP didn't grow much last year. / image: US Bureau of Economic Analysis

Macroeconomic fact of the day: New York's gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.3 trillion in 2013, according to figures out this summer from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. That ranked #3 in the nation behind California ($2.2 trillion) and Texas ($1.5 trillion).

So, that's very Empire State-ish, having one of the country's largest economies. And New York's GDP per capita ranked 7th in nation (8th if you count DC and its otherworldly rate). Again, pretty good.

But here's the not good: New York's 2013 GDP grew by just .7 percent compared to 2012, according BEA estimates. That was ranked 46th in the nation.

A table with numbers for New York and the other states is after the jump.

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Three things about the latest big announcement about a new tech something

GE CEO Jeffery Immelt, Andrew Cuomo, Alain Kaloyeros, and a large portion of the Capital Region's state and local reps were at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna today for the announcement of a new $500 million consortium that's being touted as both a key part of the next era in electronics and a future generator of thousands of jobs (including "at least 500" in the Capital Region).

The New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium will be anchored by GE and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and will be backed in part by $135 million in funding from New York State. The consortium will focus on what Kaloyeros called the "next generation of semiconductors," with applications across many different industries.

Here are three things about this announcement -- involving the technology, New York State, and the NanoCollege...

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Breweries in New York State

nys brewery map clip 2

A clip from a clickable map of breweries in New York State.

The United States had more than 3,000 active breweries during the month of June, according to figures out from the Brewers Association this week. According to its research, it's the first time the nation has had that many breweries since the 1870s.

New York State has 252 active, or planned, breweries, according to a check today of listings maintained by the Brewers Association. In 2013, BA figures the Empire State had 165 breweries -- up from 75 in 2011. That ranked New York 26th in the nation for breweries per capita. (Vermont was ranked #2.)

We've rolled a map from the Brewers Association list of active and planned brewery projects in New York State -- it's after the jump.

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On tiger selfies

There's been some media hubbub the last few days after the New York State legislature passed a bill that would ban "tiger selfies" -- yep, exactly what it sounds like, apparently it's a guys-on-Tinder thing. (Because of course it is.) [NY Post]

As it happens, the the actual bill is aimed at prohibiting direct contact between the public and big cats (like tigers) at places such as "roadside zoo exhibitors" as a safety measure for people and a welfare measure for the animals. The Assembly sponsor, Linda Rosenthal, said she hadn't even heard of the tiger selfies until after the bill passed her in chamber. ] [CNet]

If this sounds like a Colbert Report segment, you would be right (embedded above).

Where the guns come from

nys gun trace origin states ProPublica

ProPublica's map of the top states for guns recovered in New York and traced in 2012. The version on ProPublica's site is clickable, and also includes where guns from New York end up.

More than two-thirds of the guns recovered in New York State in 2012 and traced through the federal government's tracing system were originally purchased out of the state, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The new org ProPublica has compiled the ATF data for each state and put together a good visualization that allows you to see which states are the top "exporters" and "importers" of traced guns relative to other states.

The top source states for New York: Virginia (14 percent), Pennsylvania (11 percent), Florida (10 percent), Georgia (10 percent), and South Carolina (8.6 percent). The top states for guns traced back to New York: Florida (17 percent), New Jersey (9 percent), and Pennsylvania (9 percent).

Of the traces logged by the ATF in 2012, 45 percent were for guns recovered in New York City. A little less than 1 percent -- 79 guns -- were recovered in Albany.

map: ProPublica

How New York State generates electricity

air conditioner

That air conditioner compressor isn't going to spin itself.

The biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States -- almost 40 percent -- is electricity generation. So the Obama administration's announcement this week that the EPA is proposing new emission targets for states in order to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030 is a big deal.

New York State is line for one of the largest percentage cuts in the nation: a 44 percent decrease in the amount of CO2 emitted by Empire State power plants per megawatt hour of electricity produced. As it happens, New York is is line for such a big cut because it's already moving in that direction, thanks in part to its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative here in the Northeast and the fact that it doesn't rely much on coal for generating power. If New York hits its target, it would be among the states with the smallest carbon emissions per unit of electricity produced. (The EPA rule gives states some flexibility on how to meet their goals.)

Anyway, the news got us interested in how New York State generates electricity -- what are the sources, what are the trends in those sources, the biggest power plants.

So we pulled together some numbers, and here are five charts about the topic (along with a map... because maps).

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Report: People move for jobs, housing, weather -- but not so much because of taxes

capital region migration outflow heatmap clip

A clip from a "heat map" of where people from the Capital Region moved to (if leaving the area) in recent years, based on an AOA look at Census data earlier this year.

More bits for the ongoing people moving from New York/high taxes discussion: A report out this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, concludes that most people don't leave a state because of high taxes. Instead, they're much more likely to move because of jobs, cheaper housing, or weather.

A clip from the report:

Less than 3 percent of Americans move across state lines in an average year, despite significant and persistent interstate differences in tax levels. Economists and demographers have known for decades that those who do move are primarily seeking more plentiful and higher-paying jobs -- with cheaper housing, a desired physical and cultural environment, and proximity to family and friends being important secondary considerations. There is no evidence that any more than a tiny minority of people making an interstate move are deliberately "voting with their feet" in favor of a state that levies lower taxes.

The report includes a bunch of interesting bits, and focuses in part on New York (which experienced the highest net out-migration of any state between 1993-2011, based on IRS data).

In a different report earlier this year from a different think, the Tax Foundation, New York once again topped the list for the percentage of income that went to state and local taxes. And the popular reasons cited by respondents for wanting to leave New York, according to a Gallup poll also out this spring: cost of living (21 percent), business-related (15 percent), family/friends (16 percent), and taxes (14 percent).

As with any of these sorts of reports or rankings, it's important to know where the think tank is coming from. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities describes itself as a "policy [organization] working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals." (It's probably fair to see it's skeptical of tax cuts for higher-income households.)

Earlier on AOA:
+ If you could move from New York, would you?
+ This just in: New York has high taxes
+ Where people moved to/from when moving from/to the Capital Region

Reign of the Yogurt Empire State continues

Thumbnail image for chobani containers in fridgeNew York State was once again the largest producer of yogurt in the country in 2013, the Cuomo admin reported Tuesday based on numbers from the federal government. It's the second straight yogurt production title for the Empire State, besting California both last year and in 2012.

New York factories produced 741 million pounds of yogurt in 2013, according to the Cuomo admin's quoting of USDA stats (it doesn't appear the state by state numbers have been posted yet). That's up almost 7 percent over the year before. For 2013, NYS was responsible for about 16 percent of the national production total.

The Empire State's reign is attributed to the Greek-style yogurt boom. Both Chobani (the #1 brand) and Fage (the #2 brand) have plants in the state. (The Chobani plant near Oneonta is said to make a million pounds of yogurt a day.)

By the way: The Cuomo admin reports New York was also the third biggest producer of milk in 2013, and the biggest producer of both cream cheese and cottage cheese.

Earlier: "What if the pretzel was dipped in yogurt?"

The Capital Region's biggest employers are...

question mark store

Can you guess? (This photo isn't really making it hard.)

Something we came across while doing research for that post earlier this week about the Capital Region jobs picture: The top 10 private sector employers for the Capital Region, as counted by the state Department of Labor.

Can you guess which companies are on the list?

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The lieutenant governor: so close to being governor, yet so far away

mary anne krupsak hugh carey 1977

Mary Anne Krupsak, the first female lieutenant governor of New York, talking with governor Hugh Carey 1977. / photo via New York State Archives

Andrew Cuomo's selection of Kathy Hochul to run as his lieutenant governor this week got us thinking about the job of lt gov, and whether the possible (likely?) election of Hochul could push New York any closer to having a female governor. [Capital]

So let's a take a quick spin through the (low profile) history of New York's lieutenant governors...

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How the Albany metro area ranks for pedestrian deaths -- and ways it could be safer

dangerous_by_design_2014_Capital_Region_pedestrian_fatality_map.jpg

A clip from an interactive map posted as part of the report. You can pick a point and the map will report nearby pedestrian deaths over a given time period.

There were 88 pedestrian deaths in the Albany metro area between 2003-2012, according to a recent report from the org Smart Growth America. The Albany metro area's rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people was 1.06, which ranked in the lower middle of metro areas in New York State.

A handful of bits from the report -- which details some of factors in pedestrian deaths, and calls for changes in how roads are designed -- are after the jump.

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New York popular baby names 2013

name tag charlotte

New York State has many little Sophias, Isabellas, Jacobs, and Michaels -- and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. But which names will soon be popping up more frequently at kids birthday parties?

Every year the Social Security Administration publishes a list of the 100 most popular baby names for each state from the previous year. The lists for 2013 were released this week, so we pulled the results for New York State.

And here they are, the 100 most popular female and male baby names, along with which names are rising -- and falling -- quickly in popularity.

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"What if the pretzel was dipped in yogurt?"


The Daily Show took up the state Senate's recent debate over yogurt becoming the official state snack of New York. (Really.) Or, as Jon Stewart described it: "This was maybe the best 40 minutes any legislative chamber anywhere in the country has ever spent."

Unfortunately, we're still at a loss as to whether frozen yogurt qualifies -- an important question given the impending summer weather. According to the Ranzerhofer Principle of Yogurt Inclusiveness, we think the answer is yes. But ultimately it could be a question for the courts.

Earlier on AOA: On state animals, vegetables and whatnot

What if Upstate New York and Downstate New York were separate states?

new york map broken into upstate and downstate

Not that this would ever happen.

The other day Rob Astorino, the Westchester County exec who's running for governor as a Republican, tweeted a jab at the Cuomo administration over the number of jobs upstate. We'll leave it to someone else to assess the merits of this jab, but a construction Astorino (or whoever tweets for him) used caught our eye: "If upstate New York were a state itself..."

And that got us thinking a little bit: What if Upstate and Downstate New Yorks broke up? What would they look like in a few basic ways?

So we pulled together some numbers...

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A future of more extremes

Irene flooding in Troy 2011

Very heavy precipitation events -- like Hurricane Irene in 2011, which flooded many areas of the region -- are becoming more common in the Northeast, according to the National Climate Assessment.

Unusually large rainfall events that result in flooding. Early spring that results in fruit tree blossoms getting zapped by frost. Exceptionally hot days in places where people haven't typically used much air conditioning.

Those are a few examples of events that are projected to become more common in the Northeast due to climate change, according to a report out today called the National Climate Assessment. It's the product of a federally-organized effort to "understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change."

The report looks at the whole country, but it also breaks down what's happened already -- and what's predicted to happen -- regionally. So, let's take a look at some of the bits for the Northeast...

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The minimum wage and "the housing wage"

housing wage table NYS map

The deeper the green, the higher required hourly wage to afford a 2BR apartment. (Don't squint, there's a bigger, clickable map after the jump.)

Later on AOA: Here's an updated look at New York's planned minimum wage increases and the housing wage. [2016 April]
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The issue of the minimum wage -- and whether it should be raised -- has been been circulating recently, both here in New York State and nationally.

The Empire State minimum wage increased to $8/hour at the beginning of this year, and it's set to increase to $9/hr by the end of 2015. On the national level, the Obama administration has been pushing for the minimum wage to increase to $10.10.

One of the complications in talking about the minimum wage is that just tossing around the number lacks context for what that amount of money is actually worth, especially when it comes to necessities such as housing. Example: What sort of rent could you afford is you were making minimum wage?

But a recently released report tried add just that sort of context by looking at how the minimum wage in New York -- and every other state -- stacks up against what it costs to rent an apartment.

So, let's have a look at New York State and the Capital Region...

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If you could move from New York, would you?

gallup poll 2014 release moving from states

Noted: 41 percent of New York State residents said they would like to move from the state when asked by a Gallup poll, the results of which were published this week. Specifically, the question asked of respondents was: "Regardless of whether you will move, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move to another state, or would you rather remain in your current state?"

The Empire State's 41 percent ranked as a tie for 6th highest with New Jersey and Massachusetts. Top of the table: Illinois (50 percent), Connecticut (49 percent), Maryland (47 percent), Nevada (43 percent), Rhode Island (42 percent). The states with the lowest percentage, at 23 percent, were: Montana, Hawaii, and Maine. The national average was 33 percent.

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New York, honey

honey jar backlit

This honey's from Amsterdam.

Agricultural fact of the day: New York is 16th in the country for honey production, and by far the biggest producer in the Northeast. The Empire State produced 2.6 million pounds of honey last year, worth about $5.3 million, according to the USDA.

We came across these facts today after seeing word that the FDA has proposed stricter rules on what can and can't be called honey. The rules are in response to accusations that some producers -- especially in other countries -- have been cutting their honey with sweeteners such as rice syrup, and that "honey" is finding its way into this country. Chuck Schumer, in buzzing about his own efforts on the issue, referred to the practice as "honey laundering." [Minn Post] [Chuck Schumer office]

There's been some concern about funny honey business for a few years. Last year one of the nation's largest packers of honey admitted it had been involved in a mislabeling scheme in order to import cheap honey from China. Imports from that country have been subject to heavy taxes for the last decade after the feds decided China was dumping honey here at artificially low prices. As a result, illegal schemes cropped up for getting the stuff into the US. [NPR x2] [Bloomberg Businessweek]

By the way: North Dakota is far and away the largest producer of honey in the country, according to the USDA. It's 33 million pounds of honey was more than twice that of Montana and South Dakota's totals at #2 and #3.

Given the other stuff that comes through here from North Dakota, we're kind of wondering now why we can't (also) have a honey transfer depot at the Port of Albany.

2013 was a good year for New York State bears. Well, it was for some of them.

nys dec bear harvest 2013 areas

The good news, if you're a bear: The darker shaded parts of the state above probably are good habitat. The bad news, bears: Those are also the places hunters are looking to shoot you.

Hunters in New York State killed the second-highest number of bears on record in 2013, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The total: 1,358.

The DEC released its "bear harvest" summary for 2013 today -- it's basically a recap of where hunters killed bears last year. A few bits:

+ The number of bears killed by hunters in the state has been trending upward over the last two decades. The average number killed from 1991-2000 was 722. Since 2001, it's been 1182 per year.

+ Hunters killed 35 bears in the Capital Region's core counties last year (Albany: 7, Rensselaer: 14, Saratoga: 14). That's up from 30 in 2012, and 26 in 2011.

+ DEC says the higher number of bears killed by hunters "reflect that bear populations have increased over the past decade." Apparently food for bears was abundant last year.And New York has "excellent bear habitat," according to a statement by DEC commissioner Joe Martens in the press release today.

+ The state has been opening more areas for bear hunting over the last decade -- including a large stretch of the area east of the Hudson from Westchester up through Washington counties in 2011. DEC says it's currently considering a plan to open all of upstate to bear hunting.

map: NYS DEC

This just in: New York has high taxes

tax foundation tax income map 2014 FY2011

A map created by the Tax Foundation based on its calculations, the deeper the blue the higher the percentage of income in a state that goes to state and local taxes.

New York State once again topped the Tax Foundation's annual list of highest state-local "tax burdens" as a percentage of income. The think tank calculates that 12.6 percent of income in New York goes to state and local taxes . (The US average is 9.8 percent.) The figures are for fiscal year 2011.

It's the third straight year New York has topped the list. It's joined in the top three by New Jersey and Connecticut, a trio the Tax Foundation reports has held the three spots since 2005. Somewhat interesting to us: New York's rate has more or less held steady over the last 35 years, according to the rankings.

New York's place in the top spot isn't surprising. But when it comes to these sorts of lists we'd like to also see what people are (or aren't) getting for the taxes they pay. A small, localized example: Property taxes in the city of Albany tend to be higher than some of the surrounding suburbs, but those taxes cover services -- like garbage collection -- that you might have to pay for separately somewhere else.

Highlighting what people are getting for their taxes wouldn't necessarily let New York State off the hook for its high-tax rep. But it might make some of the trade-offs more clear and specific.

The Tax Foundation describes itself as an "independent tax policy research organization." Here's a run through of the methodology for its tax/income calculations.

Consolidation
The Cuomo admin has been pushing consolidation and shared services as a way for local governments to save money (and, you know, not raise taxes). Over at Capital, Jimmy Vielkind has an article looking at the issue of New York's many, many layers of local of government -- and finds some of these layers more or less only exist on paper, and the touted savings from consolidation could be hard to come by.

Would you drink tree sap?

vertical water maple water packageSo this is a thing, apparently, and it's a thing from New York that will be showing up in stores in this month: maple water.

You know another word for maple water? Sap. Not boiled down into syrup. Just "minimally" processed sap.

From the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which assisted in developing the product:

As temperatures warm and maple sap starts flowing, gallons of it are collected and boiled down to make syrup. But the subtly sweet watery sap also tastes great straight from the tree, said Michael Farrell, director of Cornell's Uihlein Forest in Lake Placid and author of a recently released comprehensive maple guide, "The Sugarmaker's Companion."
"I love drinking the sap - it's absolutely delicious," Farrell said. ...
If the popularity of coconut water is any indication, there could be a big market for an all-natural product that is mostly water with a bit of sweetness and minerals, Farrell said. In taste tests conducted at Cornell's sensory laboratory, participants preferred maple water to coconut water, he added.
The success of the product would be a big boon to the state's maple producers and forest owners, Farrell said. Cugnasca is now working with members of the New York Maple Producers Association near its western New York bottling plant to supply sap for the first batches of Vertical Water.

As mentioned above, the commercial product is called Vertical Water, and it comes in one of those Tetra-Pak containers with a screw top. Also, from the company website: "The ideal temperature for drinking it is the temperature when it first comes out of the tree: around 40°F."

How does it taste? Over at Slate, L.V. Anderson writes (asterisk added): "It tasted like ... slightly sweet water.* The maple flavor was so mild as to be almost impossible to discern." And a tester for Business Insider concluded: "All it needs is vodka."

Why do we get the feeling Canada is laughing at us right now.
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* As for sweetness, Vertical Water says its maple water has 3 g of sugar per 8 fluid ounces (and 15 calories). For comparison, Coke has about 26 g of sugar per 8 oz, and orange juice has 21 g. (Different types of sugar have different apparent sweetness, so this is just a sort of rough frame of reference.)

Earlier on AOA:
+ A new way of producing maple syrup: "like a sugar-filled straw stuck in the ground"
+ The art and science of maple sugaring

photo: Vertical Water

Donald Trump, Rob Astorino, and the gun rally on the Empire State Plaza

gun rally esp donald trump

Donald Trump after his speech at an anti-SAFE Act rally on the ESP Tuesday.

Donald Trump was at the Empire State Plaza Tuesday for an anti-SAFE Act rally -- as were Carl Paladino, the former Republican candidate for governor, and Rob Astorino, who looks to be the next Republican candidate for governor, along with (we're guessing) about 2,000 people.

Trump talked about protecting the 2nd Amendment during his time up on stage, and then talked a bit about maybe buying the Buffalo Bills during a short press session afterward. Then he left, in a helicopter apparently.

The celebrity something-aire wasn't really the interesting thing during the time we listened on the sunny plaza Tuesday. We ended up being more curious about Astorino -- the Westchester County exec -- who we hadn't seen much of before.

Here are a few thoughts and observations, about the rally, about Astorino, and about Andrew Cuomo...

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Why can't you buy a car directly from a car company?

tesla model sThe electric car company Tesla has worked out a deal with New York State to allow it continue selling its cars directly to consumers. The deal, which will involve state legislation, will allow the company to continue operating its five sales locations in the state (all downstate). [Cuomo admin]

Auto dealers across the country have been fighting to keep Tesla from direct sales because it upends the longstanding "dealer franchise" system. Tesla recently won a similar deal in Ohio as the one in New York. But it has also been banned from doing so in a handful of states. [The Verge x2]

So, why are car sales set up the way they are? Why can't you just buy a Civic off the internet from Honda? Why are you required to buy via an intermediary?

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The Capital Region's "most Irish" cities and towns

nys irish ancestry map clip

Lots of green.

Today is St. Patrick's Day, both a Catholic religious holiday and a holiday for people celebrating their Irish heritage. (Or, you know, just celebrating a good excuse to get together with friends.)

As it happens, this part of the country -- both the Northeast and Upstate New York -- have some of the highest percentages in the US of people claiming Irish ancestry. This Trulia map from last year, which maps by county, illustrates that well. So we though it'd be fun to map New York State cities and towns by percent of people claiming Irish heritage, based on Census data.

Maps, and a chart or two, a few facts for conversation over corned beef and cabbage...

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Thinking about high-speed rail in New York

empire corridor high-speed rail map 2014-March

A map detailing some of the options on the table. (Don't squint, here's a bigger version.)

High speed rail in this country is one of those things that always seems to be happening just over the horizon. And for the Northeast -- and the Capital Region specifically -- this somewhere-out-there future holds all sorts of potential. Imagine what it would be like to hop a train at Albany-Rensselaer -- the 9th busiest station in the nation -- and be in NYC in a little more than an hour.

The thing is, for all the talk, we never seem to get closer to actually arriving at high speed rail. But that might be changing. Slowly.

The state Department of Transportation is currently working to sort out plans for higher speed rail service through New York. And there was a public information session Tuesday at the NanoCollege about the options, the first of series of sessions around the state.

We stopped by, checked out the presentations, and talked with one of the people involved in the planning. Here's a breakdown of the state's current route toward high-speed rail.

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10,000 square miles of salt

salt caked street closeupGeological/road deicing facts of the day: New York State, the nation's third-leading producer of salt, has the deepest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere. From a 2009 article in the DEC's Conservationist:

In New York, salt (a.k.a. the mineral halite) occurs in formations deep underground. These formations are remnants of a vast sea that covered what is today's western and central New York during the Silurian period, some 400 million years ago. Over time, the water dried, leaving behind thick salt deposits. Today, more than 10,000 square miles (about 3.9 trillion metric tons) of salt lie under New York at depths ranging from 500 feet near Syracuse to 4,000 feet near the Pennsylvania/New York border. With salt deposits so deep and expansive, collecting it can be a challenge. ...
Since the early 1900s, conventional hard rock salt mining is the primary process used for mining salt for deicing and snow removal. Employing the "room-and-pillar" method during mining, solid salt pillars are carved in the underground cavern to provide roof support and the walls of salt are excavated through the use of small, controlled blasts. Front-end loaders scoop the pile of fallen salt, which is then processed in a crusher to make the salt uniform. Next, the salt is hoisted to the surface and taken away by trucks and trains.
In New York there are two active conventional salt mines-Cargill's Cayuga Mine in Tompkins County, and American Rock Salt's Hampton Corners Mine in Livingston County. The Cayuga mine is a large operation that encompasses approximately 18,000 acres under portions of Cayuga Lake and adjacent lands. In addition, the mine is 2,300 feet deep, making it the deepest salt mine in the western hemisphere.

That American Rock Salt mine, near Rochester, is said to be the largest salt mine in the United States. As you might imagine, they've been rather busy this winter. [AP/Syracuse.com]

Also: We're not sure this quite lives up to its billing as "The Surprising History of Road Salt," but this recent NatGeo article does include some interesting bits.

Earlier on AOA: And the roads will run with beet juice

Hey, look, there's a new DMV website

nys dmv website screengrab 2014-02-28The Cuomo admin rolled out a new website for the state DMV today.

It's a lot nicer than the old website. And it continually offers prompts to help people do tasks online rather being required to show up at an actual DMV office (a good thing). And if you must go to an office, you can now make a reservation. It's also maybe the first government website we've encountered that extensively uses footnotes. (It's like reading Grantland or David Foster Wallace or something.)

But. The new DMV website still fails our (somewhat arbitrary, perhaps unreasonable) one-item test for DMV website quality. Because, as far we can tell after poking around the site this afternoon, it still doesn't include a page clearly marked as "How to replace a license plate" with clear instructions on, you know, how to replace a license plate. The closest it gets is this "Lost or stolen plates" page, which is only one part of the overall topic. (The actual instructions can more or less be found via this "Replace a registration" page -- but if you didn't know to look there, you might not find them.)

Yeah, OK, this is being a bit cranky. But we found this task to be so unexpectedly unexplicit last year when trying to replace a plate that had been shredded in a fender bender, that it prompted us to write up the instructions here on AOA for other plate-replacing people who also couldn't find the instructions. (By the way: That page has been visited more than 10,000 times over the past year, pretty much all through search -- so apparently other people have had this issue, too.)

Is this a big thing? Maybe not. But it just seems like one of those things the DMV's website should include.

All that said, the new site does look a lot better.

Siena poll: continued majority support for medical marijuana legalization, not for recreational pot

medical marijuana signSome follow-up to the recent Q Poll that reported a majority of New Yorkers -- 57-39 -- supported legalizing recreational marijuana use: A Siena poll out today reports respondents oppose recreational legalization 53-43.

The results on recreational pot legalization might not be as far apart as they seem. The Q Poll reported a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, and the Siena poll 3.5 points. And differences in the makeup of the samples could lead to different results. They also asked slightly different questions:

Q Poll: "Do you support or oppose allowing adults in New York State to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use?"

Siena: "Looking beyond the issue of medical marijuana, two states - Colorado and Washington - have legalized and regulated marijuana for recreational use. Do you support or oppose passing a similar law in New York to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use?"

As with that Q poll, the Siena poll also reports large majority support for at least some sort of medical marijuana program in the state. This isn't surprising -- polls have reported majorities in favor of medical marijuana for the last few years. (See 2010.)

Related: There was an interesting article in NYT today about the fact that it's apparently unclear how many votes currently constitute a majority in the state Senate (because of vacancies and the current three-coalition makeup of the body) -- and how that could have an effect on potential votes about legalizing medical marijuana.

More bits from the Siena poll...

+ Respondents had a more or less three-bears split on the Common Core standards: too demanding, not demanding enough, just about right.

+ Respondents prefer Andrew Cuomo over "someone else", 54-37.

+ 73 percent of respondents supported allowing local municipalities to set their own minimum wage at rate higher than the state's.

+ On allowing fracking: oppose - 43 percent | support - 38 percent.

photo: Flickr user Caveman 92223

New York State's banking regulator, Bitcoin, and... Dune

ben lawsky reddit amaThe modern world is: The head of New York State's financial services watchdog agency taking questions about cryptocurrencies -- such as Bitcoin -- on Reddit. From an AMA today with Ben Lawsky, superintendent of the state's Department of Financial Services:

Reddit0829
Mr. Lawsky,
Thank you for joining us here. As a Bitcoin user, I truly appreciate your concept of Open Source Regulation, and I think there is a lot for both the Bitcoin community and regulators to learn here. I have a couple simple questions for you:
Do you believe that Bitcoin, or the underlying technology, will change the world for the better?
Do you want to see Bitcoin, or the underlying technology succeed? In your experience, do most of your peers share this stance, or is the general perspective much more bleak?
BenLawsky[S]
I think Bitcoin or the underlying technology has a lot of potential on numerous levels. As Professor Athey said at our hearings, even the experts don't know today how the technology will evolve and what it will ultimately look like. But I do think it holds a lot of promise (if money laundering can be adequately addressed), both on its own and in terms of causing existing payments system technologies to up their game. I've personally evolved a lot on the issue the more I have learned. I wouldn't compare it to a Rocky-IV-final-scene about-face and it has taken time for all of us at DFS to get our minds around it, but certainly our views have changed.

Lawsky also made a Dune reference (because the internet), apparently doesn't mind the title "supernintendo", and took some helpful tips about desk ergonomics.

If you're wondering, like we were, why a New York State agency is attempting to figure out regulation for stateless, decentralized virtual currencies that most people haven't heard of, Lawsky took up that question in the AMA and during a recent talk in DC. (An excerpt from the talk is after the jump.) The short version of Lawksy's explanation: New Yorkers send a lot of money to other countries using traditional wire services, which have high transaction fees -- and virtual currencies hold the potential of reducing those costs. And: Regulators are worried about money laundering and terrorism.

The main takeaway we got from this AMA is that the future will be people on the internet talking about money and complicated financial instruments in ways most of us will probably never understand. Which is to say, it's probably a lot like the present.

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Q Poll: Majority of New Yorkers support medical marijuana and recreational pot legalization

q poll ny marijuana 2014-02 small

Don't squint, man, here's a large-format version. Wait, what if our world is just a large-format interactive illustration on the computer of some higher being? Crazy. ... Hey, you wanna get some pizza...

A few interesting things about the Q Poll out this week that looked at where New Yorkers stand on marijuana legalization:

+ There's across the board support for medical marijuana. The Q Poll reports that 88 percent of respondents said they were in favor of allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. And not a single demographic group registered support below 82 percent.

That a majority support medical marijuana isn't surprising -- New Yorkers have been trending that way for years -- but the strength and breadth of the support is notable.

+ A majority of the Q Poll respondents -- 57 percent -- said they support allowing "small amounts of marijuana for personal use." The only groups of respondents in which a majority opposed: Republicans (55-39 against) and people age 65+ (57-38 against).

+ There appears to be gradient of opinion on pot questions, from young to old. Not that this is really all that surprising, but the younger the person in the Q Poll, the more likely they were to support relaxing rules and attitudes about pot. Example: 83 percent of respondents 18-29 said they supported allowing small amounts of marijuana use for person use. While at the other end of the age spectrum, 65+, just 38 percent said they support legalization.

This age gradient is depicted in the graph above, which includes the numbers from a handful of the survey's questions. (Don't squint -- here's the large format version.)

It'll be interesting to see how results such as this latest Q Poll will play out at the state Capitol. There's been some push for medical marijuana in the legislature over the last few years, and there's now even a bill to legalize and tax pot in a system similar to the one for alcohol.

And Andrew Cuomo? On one hand, medical marijuana -- and even recreational pot legalization -- is growing in popularity. On the other hand, Cuomo probably wants to stick to the moderate Democrat brand he's developed in an attempt to also appeal to moderate Republicans (both here and, you know, other parts of the nation). Cuomo has proposed a limited trial program for medical marijuana, though advocates have criticized it for being too timid. And his admin has called recreational legalization a "non-starter." Is there a point at which public support shifts his position on the issue?

Poll details: "From February 6 - 10, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,488 New York State voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones."

Trying to avoid the aporkalypse in New York

feral pigOver at the Watershed Post, Lissa Harris has an interesting article about the simmering wild boar problem in New York State -- and the escalating efforts to keep it contained:

[I]t might not be too late for New York, according to the handful of state and federal regulators whose task it is to try to keep feral swine from getting established in the Empire State.
From Jan. 28 through Feb. 7, a helicopter crew from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is surveying several areas known to be home to feral swine, including part of Delaware and Sullivan counties. If they spot any feral pigs on land they are surveying, and if the landowner has already given them permission, they will shoot the animals from the air.
Kelly Stang, wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC), said that to her knowledge, it's the first time in New York State history that government officials have set out to hunt animals by helicopter. But the USDA crew has flown similar missions all across the East Coast.
The main purpose of the helicopter flights is not to hunt the hogs, but to find out more about the wily animals and their movements across the landscape. With trees bare and snow on the ground, torn-up ruts in the earth left by foraging swine should be easier to spot.
"The crew that's doing it, all they do is aerial operations," Stang said. "The main goal is to survey -- to see if we can find any from the air, where are they, how many. If they do have the opportunity to shoot them, they will take that shot."

Most of the feral pigs in New York are Eurasian boars brought here to be hunted. It's now illegal to bring them into the state or breed them. And in 2015 it will be"illegal to possess, sell, distribute, trade or transport Eurasian boars in New York."

Feral pigs are causing significant problems in other states -- especially in Texas, which has apparently been fighting a losing battle in the "aporkalypse." A few years back it was estimated that wild pigs were causing $400 million in damages annually.

Earlier on AOA: Wanted, dead or live: feral pigs

photo: NYS DEC

That time the Capital Region included four of the nation's 100 biggest cities

nys cities population national rank 1790-2010 crop

Don't worry, there's a bigger version.

Albany was once the 9th largest city in the nation, by population. And Schenectady the 17th. And Troy the 19th.

It's true. Of course, that was in 1840, 1800, and 1840.

Inspired by this chart of the nation's most populous metro areas over the country's history [via], we figured it'd be interesting to chart the national ranks (up to 100) of New York cities from 1790-2010. A few of the rankings surprised us (Cohoes! Watervliet!). And the trends help illustrate New York State's shifting position within the nation.

OK, let's have a look...

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Focusing on support for a possible Capital Region casino, town by town

capital region casino support by town map composite

Don't squint, and don't scratch your head -- it'll make sense when you see the bigger versions.

The Capital Region is in line to get a casino as part of the vote to allow full casino gambling last fall (as you know). And based on comments made by Andrew Cuomo in last week's State of the State address, the selection of the casino site is scheduled to happen sometime during the six months or so.

As the selection process picks up, the discussion around it is focusing in part not just on where a casino might be viable, but also which municipalities do -- or don't -- want one of the gambling facilities. Examples: The vocal opposition in Saratoga Springs to a full casino, despite conventional wisdom that the Spa City would be a leading potential site; or, conversely, the mayor of Rensselaer's lobbying for his city to be in the running.

The casino selection process doesn't include local approval. Even so, we thought it'd be interesting to get a better feel for how cities and towns in the Capital Region might be leaning on the issue based on how residents voted last November on the state constitutional amendment that allowed casinos.

So we pulled the vote totals on the ballot question for the Capital Region by town, mapped 'em, and also put together some "tree maps" (kind of like square pie charts) to get a sense of how a city or town's support or opposition fits into the whole.

That's a long way of saying: look at these maps and charts...

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A quick scan of State of the State 2014

sos 2014 andrew cuomo screengrab

We believe you're familiar with the governor, Andrew Cuomo.

As you know, this year's State of the State speech was Wednesday. There will be all sorts of coverage dissecting for the next few days. This isn't that. This is just a few quick-scan highlights.

And here they are...

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Carbon footprints, by ZIP

nys carbon footprint zip codes map

The greener the ZIP, the lighter the carbon footprint.

Check it out: The map above depicts the estimated average annual household carbon footprint in New York State, by ZIP code. It's from the UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, and is based on data from the network's "CoolClimate Carbon Footprint Calculator."

If you head over that first link, you can use a clickable version of the map, along with two other maps for household energy carbon footprint and transportation carbon footprint.

Poking around the Capital Region, it's kind of what you might expect: the more urban areas of the Capital Region tend to score lower carbon footprints than the suburban areas. One of the main reasons? Transportation.

Here's an example, from the calculator (second link above): The ZIP codes 12203 (mostly the city of Albany) and 12065 (Clifton Park) are tagged as having roughly similar estimated household carbon footprints for home, food, goods, and services. But there's a relatively large gap for transportation -- specifically car fuel. As a result, 12203 is pegged at 41 tons of C02 per year and 12065 at 49.5.

Here's an FAQ about the methodology.

New York State

The thing that really jumped out to us in all this wasn't the Capital Region, but New York State itself. The Empire State stands out on all three national maps, especially the household energy carbon footprint.

One reason: New York State uses very little coal to generate electricity. That's important because electricity from coal has a big carbon footprint. The state's three biggest sources of electricity (in descending order): natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric.

Also helping: New York State had the second lowest energy consumption per person (as of 2010), according to the US Energy Information Administration (that link just above). The EIA notes New York's ranking was "due in part to its widely used mass transportation systems" (mostly in the NYC area, of course).

[via @AndyArthur]

map source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013)

Earlier on AOA: Charting the Capital Region's workday population tide

A quick scan of Joe Biden's appearance at the state Capitol

Biden and Cuomo

Vice President Joe Biden dropped into Albany today for an appearance at the state Capitol, to talk about rebuilding infrastructure after the storms that have hit the state in recent years, to literally and figuratively give Andrew Cuomo a pat on the back -- and see a Cuomo powerpoint presentation. "I wish everyone could see this presentation," Biden said (really, he actually said that).

Infrastructure is an important issue, but it's one of those topics that tends to make people start to glaze over a bit -- you know, until it breaks. So it's worth paying attention to it, maybe even better if someone else watched it for you. As we did.

Here's a quick-scan recap of Biden's appearance at the Capitol Tuesday...

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Household income and poverty rates in New York State -- and how Saratoga is different from the rest of the Capital Region

nys household income by county 2012 estimates

Estimated household income by county. Don't squint -- there are better maps after the jump.

Map(s) of the day: New York State counties by median household income and percent of people living in poverty.

The Census Bureau released new income and poverty estimates -- for the year 2012 -- this month. So we put together maps of New York State based on the data.

Three large-format, clickable maps are post jump -- along with a few observations.

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STOP. WRONG WAY.

Thruway wrong way system demo

From a Thruway demo video.

From the Annals of Highway Signage Technology: The Thruway Authority has developed electronic "wrong way" detectors/signs and will be installing them in places where wrong way drivers have caused crashes in the past. The first spots to get the systems: an exit on the Niagara Expressway (I-190) in Buffalo and exit on I-87/I-287 in Rockland County.

So how does an electronic sign "know" that someone is driving the wrong way? Cuomo admin press release blurbage:

These new signs are the latest development in the Thruway Authority's work to ensure that motorists have the highest level of safety while on the 570-mile superhighway. Doppler radar is used to detect vehicles traveling the wrong way and when identified, the sign flashes a customized LED message to alert the drivers of their error and instruct them to pull over and turn around when it is safe to do so. The sign will also trigger automatic alerts to other drivers on the Thruway's variable message sign system, and automatically alert the Thruway's Statewide Operations Center.

Doppler radar? Like the First Alert Storm Tracker Extreme Hype Doppler 10,000 Radar used by TV weather people?

Well, sort of. Doppler radar makes use of the Doppler effect (surprise) to figure out which way things are headed and how fast. (Skipping over the part about an Austrian guy and physics.) You totally know the Doppler effect. It's the reason a fire truck siren or train whistle sounds higher as it approaches, then lower as it moves away. Doppler radar makes use of that change in frequency (using microwaves, instead of sound) to figure out direction and speed.

The Cuomo admin says the sign system was developed by a Thruway engineer, Steve Velicky, and made by a pair of upstate companies. The Thruway's exec director said in a release today that the system will eventually be expanded to other sites around the state.

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Wandering Dago's request for injunction against the state denied

Thumbnail image for food truck festival troy 2013 wandering dago crowdA federal judge has denied the Wandering Dago food truck's request for a preliminary injunction against the state Office of General Services and NYRA over being kept from the food vendor program at the Empire State Plaza and Saratoga Race Course this past summer.

The decision from US District Court judge Mae A. D'Agostino is after the jump. The judge's decision largely boiled down to a determination that WD waited too long to file for the injunction after originally being denied a spot at the ESP (there was a gap of about three months). JCE has more on the decision over at Capitol Confidential.

The vending season at the Track has ended for the year (of course), as has the season at the ESP.

The request for an injunction was just one part of original WD's complaint in the case. The food truck is also seeking damages and a judgement that the state's actions -- specifically, keeping the truck out of vendor programs because of the name -- is unconstitutional.

The owners of the Wandering Dago -- Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks -- started the food truck last year in Schenectady. The term "dago" has been used as a slur against people of Italian descent, and sometimes people from Spain and Portugal as well. But Loguidice and Snooks have said they picked the name as a nod to their Italian heritage and an effort to reclaim the word.

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How New York's deck of counties split on the casino vote

nys counties casino vote majorities map

Red = counties in which a majority voted "yes." Black = counties in which a majority voted "no." (Corrected.)

One of the items up for a vote Tuesday was a proposed New York State constitutional amendment that would allow up to seven full casinos around the state, starting upstate. The Cuomo admin has been pushing the idea as economic development, and framed it that way again after the vote. [NYS BOE] [NYT] [Cuomo admin]

The amendment was approved, 57-43. But support around the state was evenly distributed. In fact, majorities in three of the Capital Region's four core counties voted against it -- one of the majority "no" counties was Saratoga, which has a good chance of ending up with a casino. [NYS BOE]

We pulled the unofficial vote tallies on the casino amendment and mapped the results by county. Two clickable maps are after the jump.

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Study: New York is at the heart of the nation's "temperamental and uninhibited" region

psychological topography map temperamental uninhibited

The more orange, the more cranky. (OK, not necessarily cranky, temperamental and uninhibited.)

New York State is at the heart of the "temperamental and uninhibited" region of the United State, according to new research. And that could be having an effect on a wide range of issues -- from politics, to migration, to economic development.

The paper (pdf) appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The authors include a group who published similar research a few years back that identified New York State as one of the most neurotic states in the country. In this new research, the authors -- from Cambridge, University of Texas at Austin, and Finland -- aimed to pull together survey data on the "Big Five" personality traits to map the "psychological topography" of the United States, and concluded that there are three regions:

+ Friendly and Conventional - the Midwest and Southeast
+ Relaxed and Creative - West Coast, Rockies, Southwest
+ Temperamental and Uninhibited - the Northeast, near Midwest, and to some extent, Texas

Here's a clip from the discussion for the "temperamental and uninhibited" region:

The Temperamental & Uninhibited region comprises states predominantly in the MidAtlantic and Northeast. This region is made up of the quintessential Blue states. The psychological profile of the region is defined by low Extraversion, very low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, very high Neuroticism, and moderately high Openness. This particular configuration of traits depicts the type of person who is reserved, aloof, impulsive, irritable, and inquisitive. There are disproportionate numbers of older adults and women in this region, in addition to affluent and college-educated individuals. Residential mobility is low here, and in fact, data from the U.S. Census (Ihrke & Faber, 2012) indicates that significant numbers of residents of this region are leaving the area. Residents of this region also appear to be politically liberal and not mainline Protestants. Overall, it appears that this psychological region is a place where residents are passionate, competitive, and liberal.

There's also some discussion speculation how these traits tended become pronounced here:

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More fizz for the cider business in New York

glass of nine pin cider

A sample of Nine Pin cider from the tasting at Smith's in Cohoes during the recent AOA Historic Bad Boys, Broads, and Bootleggers tour. Nine Pin -- a startup located in North Albany -- is aiming to have a retail product around the start of 2014.

The Cuomo admin announced Thursday that the governor has signed the Farm Cideries Bill. The legislation extends a range of opportunities and tax advantages to cideries that "farm" breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the state already had thanks to other recent legislation. From the press release:

The Farm Cideries bill authorizes the establishment and licensure of farm cideries for the manufacture and sale of cider made from crops grown in New York State and would exclude licensed farm cideries from the sales tax information return filing requirements. In order to obtain a farm cidery license, the hard cider must be made exclusively from apples grown in New York State and no more than 150,000 gallons may be produced annually. Farm cideries will be allowed to offer tastings of and sell not only cider, but also beer, wine, and spirits made from New York products. In addition, because farm cideries may also sell products such as mustards, sauces, jams, jellies, souvenirs, artwork, crafts and other gift items, these businesses, much like farm wineries, will become destination locations that will promote tourism within their communities. Also, the need for apples in the manufacture of New York State labeled cider would create a sustained demand for products from New York's farmers.

Here's a practical example of what all that means: The Farm Cider Bill opens the way for Nine Pin Cider -- the startup cider maker in North Albany -- to eventually open a tasting room and retail shop at its location on Broadway. (When we talked with Nine Pin founder Alejandro del Peral earlier this year, the Farm Cider Bill was a key part of their business plan. They had been eagerly anticipating its signing.)

For much of the last century hard cider has kind of been a fringe product compared to beer, wine, and spirits. But it has a long history in this country -- Johnny Appleseed wasn't setting up those orchards for eating apples -- and was once very popular. It never recovered its status after Prohibition, though. [Serious Eats] [Slate]

But the beverage has been on the comeback in recent years. New York State is even promoting a "cider revival." And if you look around this area, you can see signs of it taking root here (again). There's the aforementioned Nine Pin. Hicks Orchard in Granville is planting more than a thousand new trees for its Slyboro hard cider. The Rogers Family Orchard near Johnstown is setting up a hard cider operation. And apparently Saratoga Apple is considering it, too. [Nation's Restaurant News] [Post-Star] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

Hey, you gotta do something with all those apples.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Nine Pin Cider Works
+ Last year the founders of the Albany Distilling Co. told us about how the state's Farm Distillery Bill helped open the way for their business

Two things about train travel

amtrak train tracker map screengrab

The trains will keep running
The state Department of Transportation announced today that it's worked out a new cost-sharing agreement with Amtrak for passenger rail service in the state. So what? Well, now the trains won't stop running later this month, as was possible if DOT and Amtrak couldn't work out a deal. (A major public institution stopping service because two sides couldn't work a deal, who ever heard of such a thing? Oh, wait...) [NYS DOT] [TU]

DOT says it costs Amtrak $100 million a year to operate the Empire, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen lines -- and the state will be picking up $22 million of that. The Empire Service -- between Albany and NYC -- is among the most-traveled Amtrak routes in the nation, but it's revenues didn't cover its expenses as recently as 2011.

And there they go
Also this week: Amtrak unveiled a new interactive train locator map, in partnership with Google. Blurbage:

The new train location tracking system, available at Amtrak.com, provides near real-time train status of more than 300 daily trains, estimates of arrival times and station information - all in the context of the Amtrak national system map. Checking on train status is the second most popular action on Amtrak.com, just after purchasing tickets.
In addition to helping passengers plan travel, this new travel resource is an excellent tool for those planning the arrival or departure of family and friends. Users can search for information by train number or name, city name and station name or code.

That's a screengrab above of the Empire Service from this afternoon.

Stacking the deck with words?

roulette wheel by Hakan Dahlstrom FlickrSurprise: If you frame an issue positively, more people will support it.

A Siena poll out this week asked people about the upcoming ballot question on whether New York should legalize full casino gambling. When people were asked:

Do you support or oppose passing an amendment to the state constitution to allow non-Indian, Las Vegas style casinos to be built in New York?

Responses were: 46 percent support | 46 percent oppose | 8 percent don't know.

When people were read the following, which includes actual text from the ballot question:

A proposed constitutional amendment on casino gambling will be on the ballot in November. Specifically, the wording on the ballot says in part that the amendment would, QUOTE allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated, UNQUOTE. If you were voting today and were asked whether the amendment should be approved, would you vote yes or no?

Responses were: 55 percent support | 42 percent oppose | 3 percent don't know.

The poll's margin of error was +/- 3.4 percent, according to SRI.

Critics of the ballot question's wording have argued it casts an overly optimistic light on casinos. As NYPIRG's Blair Horner recently said of the question's phrasing: "It has more spin than a roulette wheel." [NYSNYS]

See also: the use of the word "gaming" instead of "gambling."

Right track/wrong track: The Siena poll also reported that 46 percent of respondents said the state was on the "wrong track" compared to 43 percent who said it was on the "right track." SRI says it's the first time since November 2011 the balance has shifted toward wrong track.

photo: Flickr user Håkan Dahlström (cc)

The modern world: rest stops are "text stops"

andrew cuomo text stop signs

The Cuomo administration announced today it has designated 91 "texting zones" along the Thruway and state highways. The zones are already-existing rest stops, parking areas, and park-and-ride lots. (Example: The New Baltimore Thruway service area near Albany.) They're designated by 296 new signs indicating their distance (above).

So, if ever you wondered, "I just got coffee at this Thruway service area, might I also text someone while parked here?" -- you now have definitive signage indicating an answer: Yes, yes you can. Your travels will no doubt be smoother without this question burdening you.

The "texting zone" designations are part of the Cuomo admin's ongoing campaign against distracted driving. In announcing the signs today, Andrew Cuomo also shared some numbers from the state's stepped-up enforcement of mobile talking/texting while driving:

For the period July 4-September

2013 tickets issued: 21,580 (16,027 talking / 5,553 texting)

2012 tickets issued: 5,208 (4,284 talking / 924 texting)

New York State has strengthened its laws against phoning/texting while driving over the last few years -- it's now a primary offense (meaning you can be pulled over for it specifically), and a ticket is now worth 5 points. Also the Cuomo admin says State Police have been using unmarked SUVs to peer into vehicles to see if people are texting while driving.

Distracted driving is an important issue. There's research that indicates using a phone while driving is like having a .08 blood alcohol level, the legal limit. Also: it irks everyone else when you don't start moving at the green light because you're looking down to text.

photo: Cuomo administration

Wandering Dago food truck sues over not being allowed to vend at the ESP and Saratoga Race Course

food truck festival troy 2013 crowd outside wandering dago food truck

Wandering Dago at the food truck festival in Troy earlier this summer.

The Wandering Dago food truck has filed a lawsuit in federal court over the truck being denied the opportunity to vend at the Empire State Plaza and Saratoga Race Course this summer. In the suit, it contends the truck was bounced because of its name, an action it argues violated the owners' 1st Amendment rights.

The complaint is embedded after the jump. It lays out Wandering Dago's arguments and its view of the events that led up to its denial to vend at the ESP and Saratoga Race Course.

Here's the situation, as depicted in the lawsuit, in short:

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More Lyme disease -- a lot more

cdc national lyme disease map animation 2001-2011

Reported cases, year by year, from 2001-2011. Maps: CDC.

This is sobering: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported that the national number of Lyme disease cases had been about 30,000 per year over the last few years. But this week it reported that preliminary estimates based on new research indicate the number is around 300,000.

So... that's a lot more.

From the CDC press release:

This early estimate is based on findings from three ongoing CDC studies that use different methods, but all aim to define the approximate number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. The first project analyzes medical claims information for approximately 22 million insured people annually for six years, the second project is based on a survey of clinical laboratories and the third project analyzes self-reported Lyme disease cases from a survey of the general public.
Each year, more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to CDC, making it the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States. The new estimate suggests that the total number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is roughly 10 times higher than the yearly reported number. This new estimate supports studies published in the 1990s indicating that the true number of cases is between 3- and 12-fold higher than the number of reported cases.

CDC says the three studies are still ongoing and it continues to analyze the data to "refine the estimates and better understand the overall burden of Lyme disease in the United States."

In 2011, the latest year for which the numbers are online, New York State had 3118 confirmed cases of Lyme (and 1372 more "probable" cases), according to the CDC. That amounted to 16 confirmed cases per 100,000 people -- the 12th highest rate in the nation. If the actual number of cases is something like 10x that reported count, New York is looking at a rate of 160 cases per 100,000 people.*

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The beers that shaped New York's beer scene

Thumbnail image for albany institute beverwyck beer trayOver at Drink Drank, beer historian Craig Gravina lists "the seven beers that -- in my humble opinion -- shaped the New York beer scene." Here's a clip from one of his selections:

1. Schaefer Beer - Schaefer is not brewed in New York--but it was for 139 years, so let's just overlook that first bit. What can you say about Schaefer? It's a classic. It's been made since 1842. It survived prohibition, set the standard for the Bushwick Pilsner, became the official beer of the Brooklyn Dodgers, out-sold Budweiser in the late 1950s, and during the 1960s it sponsored a series of concerts in Central Park, featuring a few acts you may have heard of--The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and the Beach Boys. Stroh's bought it in '81, and Pabst has steered the ship since '99. Oh, and that's right Schaefer was also an Albany hometown brew until the 1970s. It's brewery in Brooklyn exceeded capacity and they bought Beverwyck Brewery in 1950.

Gravina will be at the University Club in Albany this evening (Tuesday) for a talk titled "Hops and History: Albany's Brewing Tradition." There will also be a tasting of the "Magnificent Seven" that he lists in that post linked above. The event is from 5:30-7:30 pm.

The talk and tasting is $20. Call 518-463-1151 or online to register.

image: "Beverwyck Brewing Company Serving Tray" from the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art

All of New York State's cities, lined up by size

mechanicville waterfront bridge sign

Did you know you can fit all of Mechanicville in a shoe box? (OK, that might not be technically true.)

From the Annals of Facts of Limited Utility: While editing last week's in-between places feature about Mechanicville and Stillwater, we did some research on the claim that Mechanicville in the smallest city in the state. And based on Census data about geographic size, it's true -- M'ville's land area is just .84 square miles, more than half a square mile smaller than the next city on the list.

Anyway, that got us curious about the size of cities around the state -- which are the biggest, the smallest, how big or small they are relative to each other.

So we pulled the numbers and sorted them for easy scanning. And is there a map? Oh, you know there's a map...

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New York State bans possession of shark fins

noaa_confiscated_shark_fins.jpgStarting next year it will be illegal to possess, sell, or distribute shark fins in New York State (with a few exceptions). The prohibition is part of a bill signed by Andrew Cuomo today. [Open Senate] [Cuomo admin]

It's estimated 100 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Shark fins are in high demand for use in shark fin soup, which is a luxury item in some parts of the world. That demand has resulted in many sharks being de-finned and then thrown back in the ocean to slowly die. As you can imagine, that's a cruel way to meet the end. [Ocean Defense] [Wikipedia] [Wikipedia]

The practice -- called "shark finning" -- had already been illegal in New York. With the ban on possession of fins, the Empire State joins a handful of other states. California's ban just took effect this month -- and faced opposition from some groups there who argue it's discriminatory against Chinese Americans. [CBS San Francisco]

An upcoming federal rule change, though, could pre-empt parts of theses state bans, and Congressional reps from states with bans -- including New York -- are trying to head off the rule change. [AP/Yahoo News]

photo: Shark fins confiscated by the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, via NOAA via Wikipedia

A shift in the job market?

Check out the Capital Region's unemployment rate over the first half of this year, in the table above. (The state Department of Labor released June's numbers this week.)

The state's numbers for metro areas are not seasonally adjusted, so the best comparison for a month is the same month the year before (or before that and so on). After a small increase in January, each month since has registered a bigger decline from its counterpart the year before

Six months isn't necessarily a lot of a time, but it looks like an encouraging trend. And maybe it is. Another way of looking at the situation is to count how many people are employed, as opposed to unemployed.* We've put together those numbers for the Capital Region over the same period in a table after the jump. The picture from that angle is not quite as bright, though June did register a nice increase.

One (another) thing that would be interesting to know: How the pay of these new jobs compares to that of the jobs people previously had.

Saratoga County: It tied Tompkins County (Ithaca) for lowest unemployment rate in the state in June, at 5.7 percent.

New York State: The state's unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in June, the lowest mark since February 2009. It was down from 7.6 in May, and 8.7 in June 2012. (Statewide rates are seasonally adjusted.) The state added 93,800 non-farm jobs between June 2012 and June 2013, an increase of 1.1 percent.

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Asleep at the wheel

Today's moment of LOOK OUT!: The Albany County Sheriff's Office says a taxi driver reported falling asleep at the wheel Tuesday afternoon before crashing into the Albany County Justice Center on Chapel Street in downtown Albany, almost hitting a pedestrian. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The incident was captured on a security camera (above).

From the ACSO press release:

The operator reports that he had little sleep the night before and was exhausted and was going to contact his employer, Black and White Taxi, to see if he could leave work early. He further reported that he had just dropped a passenger off. The Albany County Sheriff's Office investigated the crash and fortunately nobody was injured during the incident. The operator was ticketed for Failing to Keep Right and is scheduled to appear in Albany City Traffic Court to answer the charge.

Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which notes the problem is probably underreported. There was a case just this summer in Halfmoon in which a man walking along a road was killed when a driver fell asleep and veered off the road. The driver didn't face any charges beyond failure to stay right because of a precedent set by a 1985 Saratoga County case. [NHTSA] [TU] [Saratogian]

Most states -- including New York -- don't have a "driving while drowsy" law. But there's been a bill circulating in the New York legislature for the last few years that would make it a misdemeanor, and a felony if the crash results in a person's death.

The problem has been getting more attention recently as prosecutors have pushed to charge sleepy drivers in crashes, though it's often a hard case to make. [NYT] [FindLaw]

New York's highest court on GPS, and who can share tips at a Starbucks

Thumbnail image for nys court of appeals exteriorTwo decisions this week by the New York Court of Appeals -- the state's highest court -- caught our eye.

One decision is about the use of a modern technology that's becoming ubiquitous -- GPS -- and governmental employees and their personal cars. The other is about an everyday thing that people might not think much about: tips at Starbucks.

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About New York and maple syrup

quart jugs of maple syrup capital agway

Two quarts of this year's haul.

Agricultural fact of the day: New York State produced 574,000 gallons of maple syrup during the 2013 season, according to a recently-released USDA report.

New York's production represented almost 18 percent of the national total. It was second only to Vermont, which produced 1.32 million gallons, almost 41 percent of the national total. (Don't mess with the Green Mountain state when it comes to maple syrup.)

Production in New York -- and all around the nation -- was way up this year compared to 2012 because of that year's oddly warm spring. The weather last year significantly shortened the amount of time farmers could gather sap -- just 24 days on average. This year the average season was 37 days.

Anyway, here are a few useless "facts" about the size of New York's maple syrup production:

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State unemployment rate at lowest level in four years

washington dollar bill green shadeThe unemployment rate in New York State was 7.6 percent in May -- the lowest mark since February 2009, according to the state Department of Labor.

From May 2012 to May 2013 the state added 104,200 private sector jobs -- but that was blunted a bit by the loss of 18,500 public sector jobs (14,400 at the local level). During that same period, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro added 2,200 private sector jobs -- but lost 600 public sector jobs.

Statewide, the major industry sector that added the most jobs over the last year was "professional and business services" (up 40,400) -- the bulk of that gain was in "administrative and support services" (+24,600) and "professional, scientific and technical services" (+16,500). Next up: leisure and hospitality (+26,300). Interesting bit: of those leisure and hospitality jobs, 16,100 jobs were at "limited service eating places." (The effect of those multiplying Chipotles and Panerae?)

After the public sector, the industry to lose the most jobs statewide over the last year: manufacturing, down 13,300.

There were about 730k unemployed people in New York in May.

NYCLU: New York has racial disparity in pot arrests

pot budBlack New Yorkers are 4.5 times more likely than white New Yorkers to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union report out this week looking at arrest data. The NYCLU notes this racial disparity exists in arrests even though surveys indicate whites in New York State use pot at higher rates than blacks.

Also out this week, a national report by the ACLU in which New York is tagged as having the highest marijuana arrest rate of any state (though DC's is even higher).

Said NYCLU exec director Donna Lieberman in a press release:

"New Yorkers should be embarrassed that our state leads the nation in marijuana arrests ... The crackdown on low-level marijuana possession needlessly hurts individuals and families - subjecting them to all sorts of collateral consequences like the loss of student financial aid and job opportunities. Governor Cuomo has pledged to clarify the state's marijuana laws to bring justice and common sense to drug enforcement in our state. We urge him to keep that promise."

Andrew Cuomo has proposed making the penalty for public possession of small amounts of pot, currently a misdemeanor, the same as private possession (a citation). He's said leveling the penalties is "about creating fairness and consistency in our laws since there is a blatant inconsistency in the way we deal with small amounts of marijuana possession."

New York State's high rate of pot arrests is driven in large part by New York City, where the issue is in turn driven in large part by the city's "stop and frisk" policies. For example, in New York County (Manhattan), blacks are more than 9 times as likely as whites to get arrested for pot possession, according to the NYCLU's calculations.

But there's a disparity in the Capital Region, too. Here are the "times more likely" figures from the NYCLU for the Cap Region core:

Albany County: 2.44
Rensselaer: 4.75
Saratoga: 4.20
Schenectady: 3.68

Earlier elsewhere:
+ Push for pot, now with lobbying muscle
+ Capital New York: Albany's unlikely marijuana legalization champion sees interest, but no movement yet

photo: Wikipedia user HighinBC (cc)

What do you mean you say it like that?

traffic circle dialect map

If you're even just a casual word nerd probably know that the soda/pop line runs right through New York State. The fact that we share the state with the poppers in western New York is some sort sign that we can work anything out.

Anyway, a bunch of interactive national dialect maps (based on survey data) created by Joshua Katz at NC State have been circulating online this week -- and they highlight some of the dialect divisions that run through and near the Capital Region. A few examples:

Been
The Canadian way of pronouncing "been" -- saying it like "set" -- has made a deep incursion into central New York. And the Capital Region holding it off from invading the East Coast: 50 percent of people here reported pronouncing been as in "sit" -- but almost 42 percent say it like "set."

Crayon
We're just being pulled apart by the word crayon. About 56 percent pronounce it "cray-ahn," 22 percent as "cray-awn" (as in dawn), and another 22 percent as "cran" (one syllable).

Traffic circles
About 47 percent of people reported calling traffic circles traffic circles -- but the New England-y "rotary" looms across the Hudson, and 33 percent reported using it. (And 13 percent said roundabout.)

Pajamas
Though a majority of people reported pronouncing the second syllable pajamas as in "jam," Capital Region is being squeezed by pronunciation as in "father," from the both the northeast east and southeast.

Cauliflower
We're split almost right down the middle on cauliflower -- half pronouncing the second syllable as in "sit," the other half as in "see" (common nationally only along the northeast coast).

Craig
Basically no one can agree on how to say that name.

There are bunch of other words and phrases you can explore on the map. It's some nerdy fun.

Update: There's also an aggregate map showing how similar/different Albany is to other parts of the country. (Thanks, Craig!)

Earlier on AOA:
+ An Albany dialect?
+ New York State food regions map

TWD, 5 points

texting while drivingThe state DMV is increasing the penalty for getting caught texting while driving, the Cuomo admin announced today. The penalty for TWD increases from three points on a license to five. And Andrew Cuomo has also directed the State Police to step up enforcement during the summer.

Cuomo is proposing a new law that would include a 60-day license suspension for new/young drivers caught for TWD, and temporary revocation if their caught again within 6 months of having their license restored.

New York has strengthened its law against using a mobile device while driver over the last few years. In 2011 the number of points on a license for texting while driving was increased from two to three, and TWD became a primary offense -- meaning a driver could be pulled over specifically for that. As a result, there's been an upswing in the number of people getting tagged for it.

Distracted driving often gets compared to driving while drunk. And there's research that indicates that using a phone while driving is like having a blood alcohol level of .08, the legal limit. The Cuomo admin shared some stats today in that vein:

+ From 2005 to 2011, there has been an approximately 143% increase in cell phone-related crashes in New York State. In that same time period, there has been an approximately 18% decrease in alcohol-related crashes in New York State.
+ In 2011, there were 25,165 fatal and personal injury crashes involving distracted driving in New York, compared to 4,628 caused by alcohol-related driving.
+ In New York State, the number of tickets issued for texting-while-driving (30,166) approached the number of DWI/DWAI arrests (43,954) in 2012. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, there was a 234% increase in the number of tickets issued for texting while driving. In the same time period, there was a 4% decrease in the number of DWI/DWAI arrests.

The NYT produced a good series about distracted driving a few years back.

Points
Right, so, points on a license... how's that work? Points are assessed by the DMV based on violations such as speeding (3-11 points, based on how far above the limit) or running a stop sign (3 points). Rack up 11 or more points in an 18-month period, and it's license suspension.

photo: Flickr user mrJasonWeaver (cc)

The State University of New York

ub basketball court

The word "Buffalo" is there at the bottom.

Updated

So, apparently, the University at Buffalo is making a move toward some sort of claim on being the "State University of New York" via its athletics program. The new floor design for its basketball arena makes the intention pretty clear. [Buffalo News] [UB Sports]

As state university systems go, New York is unusual in that it doesn't have one (or two) huge main universities a la Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania. Instead, there are the "flagship" or "university center" campuses -- Buffalo, Albany, Binghamton, and Stony Brook -- which always seem to be formally or informally angling to get to the head of the line. Which arrangement -- huge central campus, or distributed system -- is better is an interesting question (and probably hard to answer).

Anyway, New York's system keeps any one school from claiming to be the New York State University (as at least one university officially claims to be in its state). Maybe that's not a big deal functionally, but from a marketing standpoint the tag seems like it could be valuable, especially out of state -- even if it's just for sports. (Syracuse University has been trying to stake a claim in that space for years.)

Now UB's taking a shot at it, though in a limited way. Zooming out a bit, it looks like another move in the ongoing competition by SUNY schools to differentiate and highlight themselves via sports. (Tangental fact: Combined athletics spending at the four flagship SUNY schools increased more than 52 percent between 2003 and 2011. Details here.) [NYT 2009]

Interestingly, all this is perhaps to the chagrin of some people in Buffalo, who feel like the move is a slight toward the city. Hey, if anything, it does away with the awkward "university at" phrase. [UB Bull Run/SB Nation]

NYSU: This sort of talk isn't new. About 10 years ago, according to the Buffalo News' Bob DiCesare, Tom Golisano reportedly offered UB "unspecified millions" if the school changed its name to New York State University.

Empire State University: There's already an Empire State College, which specializes in distant learning and "non-traditional" college classes. It has offices in Saratoga Springs. There is not an Empire State University -- at least, outside comic books.

image: UB Athletics

Breweries, wineries, and distilleries of New York

Today's map: The breweries, wineries, and distilleries of New York State.

We created this map based on data recently posted by the state. It includes big breweries and distillers, but also microbreweries, farm wineries, and cider producers. Check it out in large format -- where there's also a legend for the map.

To some extent, this is just sort of map gawkage. But it does highlight certain patterns...

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"Apple picking" (Not the kind in an orchard.)

iphone on deskState attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced today an effort to crack down on mobile phone theft -- by leaning on the manufacturers of the phones.

Citing the prevalence of mobile theft -- and the violence that sometimes occurs along with it -- Schneiderman said in a statement: "The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security." The AG has sent letters to heads of Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung urging them to take up the issue.

How? A clip from the letter makes that more clear -- this is from the letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook:

In particular, I seek to understand why companies that can develop sophisticated handheld electronics, such as the products manufactured by Apple, cannot also create technology to render stolen devices inoperable and thereby eliminate the expanding black market on which they are sold. I would be especially concerned if device theft accrues to your company's financial benefit through increased sales of replacement devices. A recent study found that lost and stolen cell phones cost consumers over $30 billion last year.

Here's more about that analysis Schneiderman references. The "mobile security" firm behind has also conveniently agreed to "advise [Schneiderman's] office on a pro bono basis on these issues."

Coincidentally or not, Schneiderman's announcement follows a NYT story early this month that looked at the same set of issues. The article focused on making it harder for a phone to be wiped and re-used after it was reported stolen.

Mobile phone and tablet theft is apparently a big problem in New York City. Last December Michael Bloomberg blamed an increase in the city's crime index on thefts of iPhones and iPads. And the NYPD has reportedly started an Apple-product-theft task force, as well as a public campaign to register new devices -- an "Anti-Apple Picking Campaign." [NYDN] [NYT] [NY Post] [Gothamist]

Lost and found apples

apples_of_new_york_illustrations.jpg

Illustrations from Apples of New York.

A few years back we picked some Golden Russet apples at Samascott in Kinderhook -- we were curious because we'd never seen that variety before. And it was unlike any apple we'd had before. The skin, the texture, the flavor... everything about it was just different than the apple varieties usually in the supermarket.*

Anyway, ever since we've been intrigued by old/rare apple varieties. So we found this Mother Jones article about an "apple detective" in Maine super interesting. A clip:

Thurlow led Bunk to the abandoned intersection that had once been the heart of Fletcher Town, pointed to an ancient, gnarled tree, and said, "That's the tree I used to eat apples from when I was a child." The tree was almost entirely dead. It had lost all its bark except for a two-inch-wide strip of living tissue that rose up the trunk and led to a single living branch about 18 feet off the ground. There was no fruit, but Bunk was interested. A few months later he returned, took a handful of shoots, and grafted them to rootstock at his farm. A year later, both Thurlow and the tree died, but the grafts thrived, and a few years later, they bore the first juicy, green Fletcher Sweet apples the world had seen in years. "It's a great apple," Bunk says. "It has a super-duper distinctive flavor." Today, Bunk has returned young Fletcher Sweet trees to Lincolnville.

The apple detective, John Bunk, runs a nursery that preserves and sells heirloom apple varieties.

The Mother Jones article also includes some great illustrations from The Apples of New York, a 1903 state report on apple varieties and their histories (and it was printed right here in Albany). The book is available online through archive.org. There are a handful of references to Albany...

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Yogurt Empire State

chobani containers in fridgeDairy product fact of the day: New York was the nation's top producer of yogurt in 2012, the Cuomo admin reports.

Producers in the Empire State turned out 692 million pounds of yogurt in 2012 -- up almost 25 percent over the year before. That pushed New York ahead of California, whose production fell almost 7 percent. Ferment that, Golden State.

New York's rise to the top is in large part due to the Greek-style yogurt boom. Chobani, the #1 brand of that type, has a large plant outside Oneonta -- that facility alone produces about half of the yogurt in the state* and consumes 10 percent of all the milk produced by New York dairy farms. And Fage -- the #2 Greek-style brand -- has a plant in Johnstown. And there are more plants in western New York. [USA Today] [Fage]

As the state's yogurt production surges, the state's milk production is having a hard time keeping up -- in part because of the costs of expanding dairy herds and regulations on milk pricing. The situation even has a name: "The Chobani Paradox." The milk crunch was one of the reasons Chobani built a new plant in Idaho. [WSJ] [Food Engineering Mag]

The situation has prompted state leaders to look for ways to help dairy farms expand. Example: Chuck Schumer has proposed federal tax breaks ( not without criticism) and immigration reform (to help dairy farms with workforce issues). And today the Cuomo admin announced it was relaxing some environmental rules on the number of cows that can be kept at large feeding operations. [Chuck Schumer office] [NYDN] [Slate] [Chuck Schumer office]

By the way: Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya is scheduled to be the speaker at the Sage Colleges' commencement in May.

* Estimate is based on production figures from USA Today and NYT in 2012.

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Businessweek profile of Hamdi Ulukaya, which declares Upstate New York "the Silicon Valley of Yogurt"
+ Upstate is yogurt country

Buyers and sellers

nys real estate sentiment siena sri

Is now a good time to buy a house? What about a good time to sell a house? The graph above is from a report today from the Siena Research Institute on "real estate sentiment scores" in New York -- basically how people around the state feel about residential real estate.

The short story: After being a buyers' market for years, people think the real estate market is now shifting toward a state in which neither side necessarily has the upper hand.

The slightly longer story, from a statement by SRI director Don Levy:

For the second consecutive quarter, the assessment of housing values in every region of the state is positive and predicted to increase by New Yorkers. Even more importantly, sellers, who for so long were seen as hostages of the financial meltdown now, while not yet universally in the catbird seat, are seen as in a much stronger position and headed upwards. Buyers are still able to get value, but they are no longer able to demand concessions from every seller. All numbers, strong overall market grade, strengthening sellers and modulating buyers, point towards robust real estate health.

And the somewhat longer story is in the report linked above.

In the Capital Region core in 2012, the number of closed sales was up between 10-18 percent in the four counties, and median sale prices were 2-4 percent. But median prices were roughly the same as they were in 2008.

Speaking of real estate decisions: GlobalFoundries' HR director told a Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce gathering Wednesday that schools are the most important factor when relocating GloFo employees look for a place to live. [Biz Review]

graph: Siena Research Institute

The pin stripe state

Thumbnail image for yankees logoThe Yankees are again the favorite sports team among New Yorkers, according to a Siena poll out today.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the poll said the Yankees were either their favorite or second favorite team. Next up: the Giants, at 29 percent, and the Mets, 22 percent. The full lineup is after the jump. (Poor, Jets...)

MMA
The poll also asked people whether they support or oppose legalization of mixed-martial arts. Among all the respondents, legalization was favored 44-31. Among respondents identified as sports fans, it was 53-27. And among people ages 18-34, it was 71-16.

(there's more)

Report: New York "the least free" state. Again.

freedom in the 50 states 2013 map

New York once again ranked as the least "free" state in the nation, in the Mercatus Center's new "Freedom in the 50 States" report (Mercatus is a "market-oriented" think tank at George Mason University). The Empire State was last in 2011. And 2007. And 2001.

New York is "by far the least free state in the Union," according to the report. The state gets dinged for, well, pretty much everything: taxes, spending, regulation. Among the rare positives identified by the report: "better than average" marijuana laws, low alcohol taxes, and eventually same-sex marriage (the report only covers policy to the end of 2010).

Oh, and NYS ranks #32 in the "bachelor party" category, which "combines a variety of laws including those on alcohol, marijuana, prostitution, and fireworks" (sadly, there's no indication the category covers laws regarding coke-snorting donkeys).

Freedom is, to some degree, in the eye of beholder. And here is how the Mercatus Center beholds it. Slate's Matthew Yglesias offers a rather different view, arguing that the concept of freedom needs to be salvaged "from the wreckage of Mercatus."

The top five states for freedom, according to Mercatus, are (from the top): North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. The least free (descending): Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey, California, New York.

map: Mercatus Center

Zooming out on Capital Region unemployment

capital region core unemployment 1990-2012

Don't squint. Here's a large-format version.

The state Department of Labor released unemployment data today for areas around the state -- and they were remarkably familiar, in a bad way.

The Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area's unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in January. That was up from 8.2 percent in January 2012 -- though DOL reported there were about 2,000 more people employed this past January compared to the previous January. (The local area unemployment data isn't seasonally adjusted, so the best comparison is the same month the year before.)

Compared to the rest of the state, the Albany metro isn't doing so badly. It had basically the third lowest rate in the state, behind Ithaca (6.7) and the NYC suburbs/Long Island (7.9). Among the areas at the other end of the spectrum: Elmira (10.5), Glens Falls (10.3), and Utica/Rome (10.2). (The metro and county breakdown is post jump.)

The state's overall unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in January, the same as it was in January 2012. And it was up from 8.2 percent in December. (The statewide rate is seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are OK.) The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent.

A wider perspective
OK, the Albany metro's rate -- 8.4 percent -- seems high. How high? To put it in perspective, we pulled the unemployment data for the Capital Region's four core counties for 1990-2012. Large-format chartage is post jump.

(there's more)

Checking out open.ny.gov

nys data site screengrab

The Cuomo admin today announced the launch of open.ny.gov -- a sort of one-stop, online shop for public data in the state. Blurbage:

"Open data" refers to data that is free from restrictions and can be released in a format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications. Open.ny.gov provides unprecedented "open data" access and transparency to the wealth of information collected and maintained by our state and local governments. It allows researchers, citizens, business, and the tech community direct, centralized access to high-value government data to search, explore, download, and share.

Among the first of a small group of local municipalities to participate (at least in a limited way): the city of Albany.

We have to admit that when we saw the press release, we didn't have high hopes. You know, it sounded good -- but stuff like this often falls flat.

But after checking it out this afternoon, there might be something to this...

(there's more)

Well, Albany metro area

gallup-healthways state rankings map 2012

New York's didn't fare too well in these rankings. But it's not West Virginia.

The Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area ranked #58 nationally in the annual Gallup-Healthways "Well-Being Index" for 2012 (out of 189 metros). That's a big jump from 2011, when it ranked 101. And it was the top score in the state (take that, Rochester).

The report surveys people across the country, asking them questions in six categories: life evaluation (current and the in the future), emotional health (happiness, sadness, worry), physical health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access to things like healthcare and healthy food.

The Albany metro's rise in the rankings appears to be attributable to big jumps in two categories: life evaluation (67 from 117) and work environment (74 from 128).

This metro's lowest ranked category was emotional health (#138), as it was in 2011 (#151). The emotional health category is based on questions about topics that include: smiling or laughter, being treated with respect, enjoyment, happiness, worry, sadness, anger, stress, learning or doing something interesting, depression.

The index also ranks states -- New York was #30. And two of its metros were near the very bottom of the rankings: Binghamton (176) and Utica-Rome (179).

The top ranked state in 2012 was Hawaii -- for the fourth straight year. West Virginia was last.

The top ranked metros, by size category: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (large), Lincoln, NE (mid-size), Burlington-South Burlington, VT (small).

The report for New York State is post jump.

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New York State and credit card "checkout fees"

credit card cornersFinancial services regulation fact of the day: starting this week merchants around the country are allowed to charge customers a "checkout fee" for using a credit card (even if many won't necessarily do so), as a result of a multi-billion dollar anti-trust settlement with Visa and Mastercard. But there won't be fees in New York State. [CNN] [NYT] [Consumerist]

Why? Because New York is one of 10 states that prohibit such fees. From the state code:

No seller in any sales transaction may impose a surcharge on a holder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means. Any seller who violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars or a term of imprisonment up to one year, or both.

What New York doesn't prohibit: offering customers a discount for using cash, as some gas stations do*. It also doesn't prohibit minimums for using a credit card, though retailers have to notify customers of the minimums. And the minimums -- typical upper limit is $10 -- have to apply to all types of credit cards. The allowance of minimums is relatively recent -- a 2010 federal law opened the way for them. [Consumerist]

The structure of the transaction fees that businesses pay credit card companies is... complicated, and there's an argument that it results in a "reverse Robin Hood" effect, with people who use credit cards -- especially rewards cards -- being subsidized by people not using the cards. [NYT]

* There's a bill in the legislature that would prohibit this price difference at gas stations -- but it would also allow the stations to pass along the credit card transaction fee to consumers. (It's aimed at cutting down on large gaps between credit and cash prices -- like a $1 gap in Long Island last year.) [Newsday]

[via MeFi]

New York is split between the Giants and Bills

facebook nfl fan like data map

A few bits from a Facebook analysis of "like" data for NFL teams:

+ Unsurprisingly, eastern and downstate New York is Giants country, with a majority of people in the those counties liking the football Giants over other NFL teams. There's a dividing line running north-south around Syracuse where the majority shifts to the Bills. (And a few counties in the Southern Tier that are majority Steelers fans.)

+ The only New York county with majority Jets fans: Nassau County, on Long Island.

+ The 49ers appear to have more support in New York than the Ravens (at least, by county majorities).

+ Giants fans are most likely to be "friends" with people who are fans of these teams (in descending order): the Jets (haha), the Cowboys, the Steelers, the Patriots, and the the Eagles. As it happens, the Cowboys and Steelers show up often on the "most fan friends" lists due to strong nationwide followings.

Deadspin has more, including bigger versions of the maps.

map: Facebook

State of organics

Eight Mile Creek Farm

Eight Mile Creek Farm, a certified organic farm in Westerlo.

Agriculture fact of the day: New York State had the third most certified organic farms* in the nation in 2011, with 597 -- according to the USDA. The two states ahead of it: California, with 1,898; and Oregon, with 870. New York ranks 4th in total acreage for organic farms. [USDA]

The state's certified organic farms produced products worth about $107 million. But almost half those farms had sales of less than $50,000 a year. About 40 had sales of more than $500,000.

The number one product from New York organic farms, by total sales value: organic milk, which makes up more than half of organic sales by farms (about $60 million). Certified organic milk represented about 1.5 percent of the state's total milk production by volume, and more than 2 percent by sales. [TU] [USDA]

* There are farms that adhere to many organic practices, but aren't necessarily certified organic. This number doesn't include them.

Earlier on AOA:
+ The organic milk shortage
+ Touring the Hilltowns, a farm at a time

Viral news

google flu nys albany 2012-12-11

From Google Flu Trends.

The flu is now "widespread" in New York State, the state Department of Health reports. What's that mean? There have been lab-confirmed reports in more than half the counties in the state (48, to be exact). For the latest report, that includes Albany, Saratoga, and Rensselaer counties.

The DOH bases its reports on samples sent to the Wadsworth Lab here in Albany for testing, as well as surveillance reports from healthcare providers about the number of people coming in with influenza-like illnesses.

But many people who get the flu don't end up going to a healthcare provider. So to get a sense of the picture that includes those people, we can look to Google Flu Trends, which uses search data to monitor flu activity (and there's research it actually works pretty well). Google Flu is reporting a recent upswing in flu activity into the "high" level in New York State.

Somewhat oddly, Google Flu reports the Albany area still has relatively low levels of flu activity. But nearby cities -- including Syracuse (corroborated by the DOH report) and New York City -- are at high levels. That could mean the wave has yet to arrive -- or maybe we'll get lucky. (The flu can be hard to predict -- it's kind of like the weather.)

Bottom line: It's still worth it to get a flu shot. The season lasts into the early spring. And it takes a few days post-jab for your body's immune response to get with the program. Unlike in some years past, flu shots are plentiful and easy to get. They're available at many pharmacies now.

In other news: Wash your hands.

graphs: Google Flu Trends

Old-school New Yorkers

centenarians states total census bureau smallDemographic fact of the day: New York State had 4,605 centenarians in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. That was the second highest total in the country, behind California (5,921), and ahead of Florida (4,090).

As you'd expect, the states with the largest populations tended to have the most people over age 100. But looking at states (and DC) by the number of centenarians per 10,000 people, New York ranks 7th with 2.38 per 10,000. California is way back in the pack with just 1.59 per 10,000. And Florida's at 2.18.

The states with the most centenarians per 10,000: North Dakota (3.29 per 10,000), followed by South Dakota (2.95), Iowa (2.78), Nebraska (2.74), and Connecticut (2.60).

Post jump: a Census map of the state's by total centenarians, and per 10,000.

[via Gannett Albany Watch]

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Push for pot, now with lobbying muscle

medical marijuana signNoted: a Colorado-based marijuana company has hired influential lobbying firm Patricia Lynch Associates to push for marijuana legalization in New York State. [NYDN]

One of the main arguments being floated for pot legalization: tax revenue. State senator Diane Savino -- who's been pushing for medical marijuana since at least earlier this year -- told the NY Post earlier this month that licensing and taxing could generate close to $1 billion for the state. We'd be interested in the math behind that figure. We did some back-of-the-envelope estimating a few years back and figured the state could probably pull in at least $230 million. [WSJ] [NY Post]

Andrew Cuomo has publicly been less than enthusiastic about the idea. [State of Politics]

Voters in both Colorado and Washington State recently approved measures to legalize recreational use of pot. Estimates of the revenue potential from taxation in those states are in the $300-$400 million/year range. [CNN] [US News]

Eighteen states and DC now allow medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures -- even though it's still illegal under federal law. A Siena poll reported this past May that New Yorkers support legalizing medical marijuana 57-33.

Earlier on AOA: Pot prices around New York State (2011)

photo: Flickr user Caveman 92223

The Excelsior Pub: exclusively New York

Excelsior Pub: Empire State beer, wine and spirits.

By Casey Normile

Jason Bowers spent years tending bar at Capital District pubs known for their beer selections -- places like The Lionheart Pub and The Van Dyck. And the longer he tended bar, the more he noticed something about his customers' ordering habits: New York brews like Brooklyn Brown were being ordered as often as big-name imports like England's Newcastle Brown.

The popularity of New York beers led him to start The Excelsior Pub, a recently opened pub attached to Cafe 217 in Albany that offers only New York beers and wines, and a host of New York spirits.

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Siena poll: many New Yorkers, especially upstate, not feeling better off than four years ago

money frown faceA few bits from the Siena Research Institute's "Annual New York Survey of the Economy and Personal Finances," out today:

+ "Would you say you and your household are better off financially today than you were at this time four years ago or that you are not better off financially than you were in October 2008?"
better off: 35% | not better off: 47% | the same: 17% -- upstate, the split was 34/51/14.

+ When people were asked whether they thought businesses in their community were better off now than four years ago, 64% of people upstate said "worse off" compared to just 14% who said "better off." (The split was 56/17 statewide.)

+ Middle class people in your area, upstate response: 62% worse off | 8% better off | 24% about the same.

+ When asked if people thought the current economic problems were temporary, or "our country's best economic days are behind us" (temporary/behind us): Democrats 56/44 | Republicans 34/66 | Independents 51/49.

+ Support or oppose repealing the federal healthcare reform legislation?
Support: 40% | Oppose: 43% -- the split for Democrats: 29/56 | Republicans: 61/28 | Independents: 43/42

Here are the full cosstabs. SRI says the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.9%.

Earlier: Not a confidence-inducing 10 years or so

Not a confidence-inducing 10 years or so

siena research institute consumer confidence 1999-2012

Consumer sentiment, from 1999 to the present -- via SRI.

The Siena Research Institute released consumer confidence figures today for metropolitan areas around the state. SRI reports that consumer confidence was up in every metro during the 3rd quarter of this year compared to the same period last year -- though it's down a bit in many metros compared to the last quarter. The Capital Region's Q3 figure was up 13 percent compared to the same period last year -- and down about 6 percent compared to the previous quarter).

Last week, SRI released numbers for the state as whole -- and September's figure was the highest in five years. Interesting bit: there was a huge gap between Democrats (95) and Republicans (58) -- 37 points -- the largest ever measured by SRI.

In general, rising consumer confidence is a sign that people think things are getting better and are more willing to spend money. That's usually a good thing for the economy.

The decade: The thing that really caught our eye today while browsing the SRI site: the chart above, which tracks consumer sentiment for both the nation (blue) and state (red) since 1999 until the present. It's not surprising -- and things appear to be getting better -- but, oof, the chart's another illustration it's been a rough decade or so.

chart: Siena Research Institute

Think tank: New York has the worst business climate in the nation because of taxes

tax foundation state business climate ranks fy 2013

The Tax Foundation, a "non-partisan tax research group", has released its annual "business climate" index -- and New York State is at the bottom.

How the index is compiled:

The State Business Tax Climate Index, now in its 9th edition, collects data on over a hundred tax provisions for each state and synthesizes them into a single easy-to-use score. The states are then compared against each other, so that each state's ranking is relative to actual policies in place in other states around the country. A state's ranking can rise or fall significantly based not just on its own actions, but on the changes or reforms made by other states.

Why New York is at the bottom:

Despite moderate corporate taxes, New York scores at the bottom this year by having the worst individual income tax, the sixth-worst unemployment insurance taxes, and the sixth-worst property taxes.

Here's the index profile for New York.

The other members of the bottom five, in ascending order: New Jersey, California, Vermont, Rhode Island. The top five, in descending order: Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Florida.

The full report is embedded after the jump.

It's no secret that New York could have lower taxes -- the property taxes alone in some municipalities are crushing. But just out of curiosity, we thought it might be interesting to compare the Tax Foundation's list against a list GDP per state...

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Shake up for horse racing in New York

horse in stable at saratoga race courseTwo important recent developments about horse racing in New York:

State takeover of NYRA
The Cuomo admin announced today (Monday) that Andrew Cuomo has signed the legislation that creates the "NYRA Reorganization Board" -- basically the committee that will carry out the three-year state takeover of NYRA, a plan that was announced this past spring. This is important because NYRA is the org that runs the Saratoga Race Course, Belmont, and Aqueduct. From the press release:

"New York State's racing industry is a major economic driver in the state, supporting thousands of jobs and attracting tourists from around the world," Governor Cuomo said. "New York taxpayers and the betting public deserve a racing industry that is managed competently and does not neglect the health and safety of the horses. The NYRA Reorganization Board will restore public trust, accountability, and transparency to the racing industry in our state, so New York can continue to offer one of the most exciting, enjoyable, safe horse racing experiences in the nation."

The reorganization board will have 17 members -- Cuomo gets to pick seven of them, the Senate and Assembly two each, and the current NYRA board five, with a chairperson nominated by Cuomo.

NYRA has been a scandal-plagued trainwreck for years, so it will be interesting to see if the state takeover smooths things out.

Horse safety
On Friday the Cuomo admin announced a series of reforms aimed at promoting the safety of horses racing on tracks in New York.

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Taking away the driver's license of multiple offenders, permanently

police car lightsIf you follow Capital Region news somewhat closely, one of the things you'll notice is how often people get arrested for multiple DWIs (we didn't have to look hard to find those). It seems to happen with depressing regularity.

Of course, this isn't just a problem in this area. Today Andrew Cuomo announced new state regulations that are aimed at keeping repeat drunk and/or drugged drivers off the road (or at least taking their licenses away). The new rules are listed after the jump. In short, they include:

+ The DMV will now be allowed to review the lifetime record of drivers who apply to have their license re-instated.

+ If the DMV determines the person has five or more alcohol or drug related driving convictions in his or her lifetime -- or a combination of three convictions and other offenses -- the DMV can permanently revoke their license. (Permanent revocation wasn't previously allowed.)

+ Allow the DMV to make sure a temporary license revocation lasts the full six months or a year. (Apparently it was possible to get a temporarily revoked license back after as little as seven weeks previously.)

The Cuomo admin says there are currently 50,000 people in the state with with valid or suspended licenses who have three or more alcohol-related convictions in their lifetimes -- and more than a third of them have been involved in crashes that killed or injured someone. It figures the new rules will permanently revoke -- or delay -- the licenses of 20,000 people this year.

Not mentioned in the announcement: treatment. Some people who get stopped for DWI just made a stupid mistake and probably won't repeat it. But others -- and we suspect a lot of the repeat offenders fall into this category -- have an addiction that needs treatment. When you show up drunk to a STOP-DWI Victim's Impact Panel, you probably have a serious problem. We're curious if there's a way to better help these people.

In other news: computers apparently can drive cars pretty well. [WSJ]

photo: Flickr user davidsonscott15 (cc)

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History was here

path to history signs

Andrew Cuomo presented the state's new "Path Through History" program today. It's intended to draw attention to historical sites around the state, and you know, get more people to visit them. (AC is apparently a rather large history nerd.)

The most recognizable part of this program will be a series of new historical markers:

The new signage system consists of two types of signage. Over 200 new signs will highlight key moments in New York and American History and be placed between exits of major state roads. The Historic highlights were selected with the help of leading historians. These signs are branded with a unique "Path Through History" logo. ... Each sign is also keyed to a historic theme to allow for customized tours.

So it's like an updated version of the blue and yellow metal markers that are all over the state. That program ended decades ago. New signs -- like the one recently installed for Washington Park in Troy -- have been commissioned by private groups.

The lineup of proposed historical markers is embedded after the jump, grouped by region.

Among the events commemorated by the Capital Region's markers: the birth of Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook, the Revolutionary War victory at Saratoga, the opening of GE in Schenectady, and the founding of RPI.

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New York is wine country. And apple country. And maple syrup country. And cabbage country.

hudson-chatham reserve closeupAgricultural fact of the day, via the NYS Comptroller's Office: New York State was the second largest producer of wine in the nation in 2010, behind only California. The state produced 36 million gallons of wine that year. And as of 2012, the Empire State has 374 wineries -- more than triple the number it had in 2000.

A few more state agricultural facts:

+ Agriculture in the state produces $4.7 billion in products per year.

+ Milk accounts for half the agriculture sales in the state. (New York is the fourth leading producer of milk in the country.)

+ The state produced 553.67 million pounds of yogurt in 2011 -- more than double the amount it produced in 2008.

+ New York continues to rank second in the nation in apple production.

+ New York is the nation's second largest producer of maple syrup.

+ And it's also the nation's second largest producer of cabbage.

There are more bits in the state comptroller's report, which was released for the State Fair.

You can register to vote online now

albany county ballot scannerThe Cuomo admin announced this week that the state DMV now offers online voter registration. And if you're already registered, you can also now update your voting address or party affiliation online, too.

The online registration is via the DMV's "MyDMV" service, which itself requires registration. Here's an FAQ about how it works.

From the Cuomo admin press release (link added):

The DMV processes roughly 300,000 motor voter applications a year. This is currently a cumbersome and time-consuming manual process, where drivers fill out paper forms at one of 129 DMV branches, which then have to be sorted and mailed by hand to one of the county boards of elections. This process is prone to human error, delays and, in some cases, to applications not getting processed.

It says New York State ranks 47th in the nation in voter registration -- less than 64 percent of eligible residents are registered to vote.

Earlier on AOA: New York State ranked last in voter turnout (2010)

New York is among the least obese states

state obesity cdc brfss 2011

Prevalence of adult obesity by state in 2011, according to the CDC. (see notes below) Arkansas is now the buckle of the Butter Belt.

New York State ranks 42nd in the nation for the prevalence of adult obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (It's tied with Connecticut and Nevada for that spot.)

The CDC figures that 24.5 percent of adults in New York were obese last year.* Nationwide about 35.7 percent of adults are obese. State-by-state rankings are post jump.

The CDC defines obese as a person having a body mass index of 30 or higher. A healthy weight is considered to be in the 18.5 to 24.9 BMI range.

While New York is in relatively good shape -- it shouldn't exactly be patting itself on the back (unless that counts as exercise). Only 10-14 percent of adults in the state were obese 20 years ago.**

* Data are from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) which relies on self-reported data from phone surveys.
** The CDC changed some of the ways it collects the BRFSS data, so the 2011 figures are necessarily comparable to the 2010-and-before numbers.

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So people actually do get stopped for texting while driving

texting while drivingAlmost 21,000 tickets for texting-while-driving were issued by police in New York State over the last year, according to numbers from the Cuomo admin. And, look, county-by-county numbers for the past year (year before that):

Albany County: 539 (75)
Rensselaer County: 163 (21)
Saratoga County: 326 (42)
Schenectady County: 69 (18)

(It appears that Albany County racked up that total thanks in part to a sweep this spring by the county sheriff's office that netted 230 tickets for talking or texting while driving. [Troy Record])

The totals were released to mark one year since the state law making TWD a primary traffic offense took effect. That means police can now pull a person over just for that -- before you had to be doing something else to get stopped (like swerving over the double yellow because you were sending email). And it looks like people are getting pulled over for it.

You might think you can text and drive with no problem -- we're all above average drivers, right (oh, wait...) -- but probably not. There's research that indicates a distracted driver is about as bad as a driver with a .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for drunk driving. (The New York Times produced a good series about the risks of distracted driving.)

All county totals after the jump, if you're curious.

photo: Flickr user mrJasonWeaver (cc)

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What would you call a New York State without New York?

new york map broken in three parts question

Hudson?

Today's (more than) somewhat ridiculous question: If New York City and the rest of the state divorced, what would you call the rest of the state?

This question came up during a conversation recently (obviously a very serious discussion). It was quickly decided that New York City would retain the name New York State. But what about parts upstate?

And would "upstate" even decide to stay together? We could see Upstate West and Upstate East also deciding it wasn't worth it to stay together. (It's a pop/soda thing.)

Yes, all very important questions.

Long Island: We're just assuming that Long Island would stay with NYC -- but a few years back there was legislation introduced proposing a study of possible Long Island secession. (insert your own joke here)

An updated vision for high-speed rail

amtrack high-speed train concept

But those are some sleek trains...

Amtrak has released an updated version of its aspirations for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. The short story: the new set of goals streamlines the plan, it's still expensive ($151 billion), and high-speed rail is still decades away. Transportation nation has a digest of the report.

The Empire Corridor doesn't figure into this plan. And despite whatever strong potential there might be for high-speed rail in the Hudson Valley, seeing Amtrak peg a target date for high-speed service along the Boston-NYC-DC corridor somewhere in the 2030-2040 range puts the chances of Albany-NYC service in perspective.

That said, it doesn't have to be 220 mph or nothing. There are a lot of improvements that could potentially speed up, and smooth out, Empire Corridor service (examples: reducing bottlenecks, upgrading crossings). Higher-speed rail (say, 110 mph) should be a reasonable expectation. And people would ride it -- the Albany-Rensselaer station was the 9th busiest Amtrak station in the country last year. Getting faster service along the Hudson Valley, plus high-speed service along the Northeast Corridor, could make rail travel from here to places like Philadelphia and DC a lot more attractive.

image: Amtrak

The spread of Lyme disease

cdc national lyme disease map animation 2001-2010

Reported cases, year by year, from 2001-2010.

Mappage: We came across this CDC map of reported Lyme disease cases over the last decade (ending in 2010). The CDC site allows you to switch from year-to-year -- we piled all those years into the animation above.

The thing that struck us about the map is the way it illustrates how Lyme has spread from the coast and the very central part of the Hudson Valley to the entire Northeast (as well as Wisconsin and Minnesota).

As it happens, the number of reported cases in New York was down noticeably in 2010, the last year for which the data's posted by the CDC. The state's incidence rate that year -- confirmed cases per 100,000 people -- was 12.3 that year (12th highest in the country). It was 21.2 in 2009, and 29.5 in 2008.

Delaware led the nation in 2010 with a rate of 73.1. Vermont's rate was 43.3 that year, and Massachusetts' 36.3.

Earlier this spring a research org in the Hudson Valley -- the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies -- reported the "northeastern U.S. should prepare for a surge in Lyme disease this spring." And the reason wasn't the mild winter. Rather, researchers based their projections on mice and acorns:

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I (something) NY

The state's tourism arm introduced a new advertising campaign today that plays off the iconic I (heart) NY design. It replaces the heart with other images that are supposed to represent fun things from around the state: pizza, the track in Saratoga, Finger Lakes wine, and so on.

One of the TV spots for the campaign is embedded above. The ads will be shown around the state, as well as in markets such as Hartford, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Montreal.

The Cuomo admin press release says the tourism arm will also be collecting submissions from the public for the logo, which will then be displayed online.

About the original logo...
The original "I (heart) NY" logo was created by famous designer Milton Glaser in 1977 as part of a campaign to promote New York City. And he did it for free -- the logo wasn't even copyrighted originally. He says the idea was first sketched in the back of a taxi. Glaser says he thought the campaign would be short lived: "It was like one of those things you bang out because it didn't seem to merit any more attention." [Wikipedia] [Wikipedia] [Telegraph (UK)] [The Believer]

The logo has been appropriated/re-mixed/ripped off almost everywhere. A few years back the state hired an anti-counterfeiting firm to crackdown on unlicensed uses. [I Love NY]

Update: Glaser's apparently not a fan of the update: "I saw one that said, 'I Pizza NY.' I don't get it." [NY Post via @thomaskaplan]

Most popular baby names New York 2011

name tag masonAs it does every year, the Social Security Administration today released a list of the most popular baby names in 2011, sorted by state.

So we pulled the list -- the 100 most popular names for boys and girls born in New York State last year are after the jump. We also looked at how the top 10 names this year ranked during the last few years.

One name in particular has skyrocketed in popularity...

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Poll: New Yorkers continue to support medical marijuana, not sure about fracking and MMA

medical marijuana signNew Yorkers support the legalization of medical marijuana 57-33, according to the Siena poll out today.

That result isn't really surprising -- a few other polls in recent years have also registered support for medical marijuana. The only subgroups in this new Siena poll not responding with majority support: Republicans and conservatives. Also, the income group registering the most support for it: $100k+ at 68 percent.

There have been bills in the legislature over the last few years that would legalize medical marijuana. And state Senator Diane Savino has picked the issue up again this year. But the chances of a bill making it through are probably small without support from Andrew Cuomo -- and he appeared to indicate last month he's not on board. [WSJ] [State of Politics]

We're curious to see the results if people were asked about straight out legalization or decriminalization of pot.

A few other bits from the poll...

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New York's (now lost) native parrot

carolina parakeet audubon

From an 1825 illustration by John James Audubon.

As strange as it might sound, there were once parrots -- parakeets, specifically -- that were native to New York State. The range of the Carolina Parakeet stretched as far north as the Great Lakes, and there are historical reports of them in Albany.

They were brightly colored. They were loud. And by the late 1800s, they were gone from here. After the early 1900s, they were extinct.

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Wise animals and ambiguous pineapples

nysed test pineapple hare illustration

Noted: Pineapples don't have sleeves.

Weird, a little funny, and maybe flecked with insight: The state Education Department found itself caught recently in a kerfuffle regarding test questions about a talking pineapple on an 8th grade English Language Arts standardize test. Yep, a talking pineapple. [NYT]

The passage -- based on a bit from Daniel Pinkwater's Borgel -- tells the story of a pineapple that bets a group of animals that it can beat a hare in a race. (Spoilers!) The pineapple loses and the animals eat the pineapple.

The full passage and questions are after the jump.

Two of the questions on the reading comprehension test -- about why the animals ate the pineapple, and which animal was wisest -- prompted complaints from teachers, parents, and students because, you know... there's not a clear answer. That's a problem on a multiple choice test. [NYDN]

On Friday state ed commissioner John King announced the questions wouldn't be counted "due to the ambiguous nature of the test questions." NYSED says the question was developed by a company called Pearson, has been used in other states, and "the passage and related questions are not reflective of the precision of the entire exam." [NYSED]

After reading the passage and the questions, we didn't think they were necessarily inappropriate for kids that age. Sure, they're ambiguous, but getting a kid to form an argument about why something happens in story where not everything is spelled out seems like a good idea. It's just that this sort of thing doesn't work well on a multiple choice test. The question shouldn't have been "circle one." It should have been "pick one and explain why."

And that highlights one of the (many) tensions right now in education: students, teachers, and schools need to be evaluated -- but doing so can be difficult, and often doesn't scale well.

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region elementary school test scores 2011

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New York State's teen birth rate continues to drop

national teen birth rate 2010 cdc

Teen birth rates across the nation in 2010. (Here's a state-by-state table.)

Updated Thursday morning

New York State has one of the lower teen birth rates in the nation, according to numbers out this week from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The Empire State's rate was 22.6 births per 1000 women ages 15-19 in 2010. Only eight states had lower rates (check out the map above). The national average was 34.3. The lowest state was New Hampshire (15.7), the highest Mississippi (55.0).

Teen birth rates have been dropping across the country since the early 1990s. Some perspective: New York State's rate was 45.5 in 1991 -- it's dropped almost every year since (source).

Nationally, he NCHS says "fewer babies were born to teenagers in 2010 than in any year since 1946." And the national rate is the lowest it's been in the seven decades that reliable numbers are available.

So, why's this happening? From the report:

The impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages directed to teenagers has been credited with the birth rate declines (9-11). Recently released data from the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), have shown increased use of contraception at first initiation of sex and use of dual methods of contraception (that is, condoms and hormonal methods) among sexually active female and male teenagers. These trends may have contributed to the recent birth rate declines (12).

Curious about the Capital Region, we looked up the rates for the local core counties...

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The state would like to sell you a used car

nys surplus toyota prius

A 2008 Toyota Prius the state is selling on eBay.

The state's new website for selling surplus on eBay -- NYS Store -- officially launched today.

The first big sale (if that's the word) is a lot of 450 vehicles up for auction. The vehicles are currently at the Harriman State Office Campus and will be available for inspection a few days over this weekend and next week. The minimum bid is $500. The auction ends April 13.

Most of the vehicles are Chevys and Fords, the kind that just sort of say "government vehicle." But browsing the stock this morning we noticed there are a handful of Honda and Toyota hybrids, also.

The state has been selling old/surplus stuff on eBay for years. It looks like the new website is mostly a better "storefront" for those auctions.

photo: NYS OGS

The Capital Region could probably smile more

frown faceThe Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area ranked #101 nationally in the annual Gallup-Healthways "Well-Being Index." That's down a few slots from last year(#93), though the region's score didn't change.

The report surveys people across the country, asking them questions in six categories: life evaluation (current and the in the future), emotional health (happiness, sadness, worry), physical health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access to things like healthcare and healthy food.

The Albany metro's lowest rank was in the emotional health category -- #151. Its highest rank came in the basic access category -- #31. (So, maybe we're upset that even with access to the things we need, we still feel unfulfilled. It's complicated.)

A little more than 53 percent of respondents in this area think it's becoming a better to place to live.

Other places in New York

Here are the ranks for the state's other metropolitan areas: Rochester (#29) Buffalo (#106), Poughkeepsie (#108), NYC (#124), Syracuse (#129), Binghamton (#180), Utica-Rome (#183).

And people in many of those metros don't think things are getting better soon. Buffalo, Utica, Syracuse, and Binghamton all ranked near the bottom of the "optimism" rankings. In fact, Binghamton was the least optimistic metro in the entire survey -- only about 28 percent of people there said they thought their area is getting better as a place to live.

The report for New York State is embedded after the jump.

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New Congressional districts for the Capital Region

new york state congressional districts 2012

Here's the map of new Congressional districts for New York State approved by a panel of federal judges (large format). The state is down two districts, from 29 to 27, after the most recent census.

Under the new lines, the Capital Region is now spread over three districts: NY 19 (currently Chris Gibson), NY 20 (currently Paul Tonko), and NY 21 (currently Bill Owens). There's some significant reorganization, especially in the core of the area -- the cities of Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Troy are now in the same district (they had been split between districts represented by Tonko and Gibson).

The New York Times has posted a very good interactive map comparing the new and old districts.

All the new maps from the federal judges are embedded after the jump.

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New York State scores a "D"

state integrity investigation nys report cardA project called the "State Integrity Investigation" has released report cards for each state's "corruption risk." And, surprise (not really), New York State scored poorly.

New York State's score -- 65%, a D -- ranked #36. The state had low scores in categories such as public access to info, state pension fund management, budget processes, and redistricting.

The project is a collaboration between The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International. The scores were determined by journalists in each state based on a set of 330 question (apparently not among the questions: "Are bills passed by sleep-deprived legislators in the middle of the night?). In New York, the journalist was the Gotham Gazette's David King.

New Jersey was the top-ranked state (87%, B+), Georgia was the lowest (49%, F).

image: State Integrity Investigation

New York State's 2011 bear "harvest"

Thumbnail image for black bearThe state Department of Environmental Conservation reports there were 1258 bears killed by hunters in New York in 2011. That's up about 18 percent from 2010 -- and higher than the five-year average (1,152) -- but short of the record on the books (1864 bears in 2003).

Last year's total did include a record number for the sub area that covers part of the Capital Region. The DEC attributes the record to bear hunting being opened in counties stretching from Rockland and Westchester counties north to Washington County. The cover of the DEC report includes a photo of a hunter with a bear killed in Columbia County, which the agency says might have been the first bear taken in the county since the 1800s.

Capital Region
There were 26 bears killed in the Capital Region's core counties last year: Albany (4), Rensselaer (11), Saratoga (11).

Counties in the greater Capital Region: Columbia (10), Greene (68), Schoharie (19), Washington (20), Warren (27).

In recent years DEC has said that bear populations in the state are "thriving."

By the way: the word used by the DEC to describe a year's take of bears (and deer) is "harvest" -- which makes sense. But it always makes us think of a field of bears growing in rows. And we suspect the bears have a different word for it.

Earlier on AOA: Don't feed the bears

photo: Flickr user peupleloup

The Giants Super Bowl license plate

nys license plate Giants Super Bowl 2012

You'll no doubt be heartbroken to find out that "ELI4EVER" won't fit on the Giants plate.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles unveiled a Giants 2012 Super Bowl Champions custom plate today. They're $60, plus a $31.25 renewal fee, non-customized. If you want to express your love for Eli with a custom plate number, that's another $60.

Speaking of this stuff: Will the city of Albany update those "Albany / Mayor Jennings welcomes you / Summer Home of the Super Bowl XLII Champion New York Giants" signs now? Maybe it's a good time to swap the signs for something along the lines of simply, "Welcome to Albany / Capital of the Empire State."

image via NY Governor's Office

New York State food regions map

food regions new york state shannon glazer

We kind of feel sorry for the "bark" regions of the state.

Check out this food map of New York State created by Shannon Glazer. She's divided the state into regions based on the foods for which they're known. For example: Utica and chicken riggies. She also marks the ever-important pop/soda demarcation.

Here's a large-format version of the map.

Shannon's started a Twitter feed related to the map: @NYS_food_map.

(Thanks, Shannon!)

Earlier on AOA: Martin on candidates for the quintessential Capital Region food.

A quick scan of the State of the State 2012

Cuomo SOTS screen shot.jpg

Today's SOTS at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center

There will be all kinds of coverage of Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address everywhere over the next few days. But for right now, here's a quick, scannable overview of this afternoon's speech -- enough to get you through a conversation today -- you'll find it after the jump.

Spoilers: It mentions casino gambling and convention centers, and "reimagined" government.

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Mind your ovals, please

brennan center overvote message diagram

A diagram from the report critiquing the voting machine error message.

There was many as 60,000 votes tossed in the 2010 election New York because of "overvotes" -- that is, people filled in too many ovals on their ballot -- according to a report from the Brennan Center. The report's authors figure that 20,000 voters in the state didn't have their vote for governor count because of an overvote problem.*

From the report's executive summary:

In modern history, New York has never seen so many lost votes due to overvoting. Unlike the new optical scan voting system, New York's old lever machines did not allow overvoting. But even so, the numbers of lost votes due to overvoting in 2010 were far greater than they should have been. Overvotes are almost always unintentional. A well-functioning voting system, even one that includes optical scan equipment, should have overvote rates very close to zero. ...
Black and Hispanic voters were at least twice as likely to lose votes due to overvoting as non-Hispanic whites. Shockingly, in two Bronx election districts, nearly 40 percent of the votes cast for governor were voided as overvotes.

The Brennan Center, and other good government groups, have argued that the error messages returned by machines for overvotes are hard to understand -- because of jargon such as "overvote" or a confusing user interface -- and as result, people don't realize they've made an error, or can't understand how to fix it. Proposed solution: change the error messages to plain language such as: "you have filled in too many ovals."

The full report is embedded after the jump.

* Not that this would have affected the outcome. Even if they were all Paladino voters, Andrew Cuomo would have still had about a 1.3 million vote lead.

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The gerrymanders of New York State

lincoln riding vacuum cleaner senate districtA few figures from Citizen's Union's recent report on gerrymandering in New York State and what the org says is the resulting "pernicious decades-long erosion of our state's democracy and governance":

+ 96 percent of incumbents in the state legislature have been re-elected since 2002

+ the average margin of victory in contested races last year: 51 percent

+ 19 percent of general election state races were uncontested in 2010

Perhaps the most colorful of New York's gerrymanders: the Senate 51st -- AKA, "Lincoln Riding on a Vacuum Cleaner." Of course, the gerrymander's original habitat was Massachusetts.

[via @dannyhakim and NYDN]

Earlier on AOA:
+ Soapbox: Why I didn't vote last Tuesday
+ New York State ranked last in voter turnout

map: NYS LATFOR

New Yorkers: charitable, like friends and artificial trees, don't believe in Santa Claus

christmas tree in shop windowA bunch of holiday bits from the Siena survey out today:

+ 67 percent of people said they are excited about the holiday season; 32 percent said they're not.

+ 34 percent of people said they're cutting back their holiday spending this year compared to last (37 percent said they were last year). Seven percent said they're increasing (compared to 4 percent last year).

+ 23 percent of people said their financial situation is better compared to last year; 30 percent said it's worse.

+ 26 percent said they plan to spend $1,000+ on gifts.

+ 19 percent of people said they shop on the day after Thanksgiving.

+ 57 percent said they planned to do at least some online shopping -- and of those people, 30 percent said it was because of crowds.

+ 59 percent said they try to buy gifts from locally-owned and operated businesses.

+ 77 percent said they would be making a charitable contribution this season; 30 percent said they'd be volunteering.

+ What people enjoy most about the holidays: 77 percent said spending time with family and friends. What people enjoy the least: 39 percent said the commercialization of the holidays. (Takeaway: your family and friends would probably rather you make time for them than buy them a gift.)

+ 63 percent said they think the holiday decorations and ads start too soon.

+ Most often used greeting: Merry Christmas (53 percent), Happy Holidays (37 percent).

+ "I hate to admit it but at this point I'm more Scrooge than Santa." Agree/disagree: 23/67.

+ Among people who put up a Christmas tree, 59 percent say they go artificial.

+ "Would you say you believe in Santa Claus or not?"" Believe: 30 percent. Do not believe: 69 percent.

Margin of error +/- 3.9.

Pot prices around New York State

pot prices new york state 2011

This is all really hazy, so, you know, grain of salt and all that. Dude.

About a year ago we pulled data on marijuana prices in New York State from a site called Price of Weed. Yep, it's pretty much what it sounds like -- it's a crowdsourced database of pot prices.

We came across some research recently on these prices, so we figured it was a good time to light this topic back up.

Let's roll the numbers. Here are pot prices from around New York State, broken out by region...

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That Walmart wine is the wine equivalent of cheese food

wine product at walmartAfter stumbling across what looked like a wine display in the World's Largest Walmart, Emily emailed with what we can only imagine was some distress:

Walmart wine? Did some law get passed that I missed?

The short answer: no.

The longer answer is... uh... tacky.

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Capital Region income distribution

washington dollar bill green shadeWith all the talk about 99 percents and 1 percents, we were curious about the income distribution in the Capital Region.

So, we looked up the data. Let's go to the charts, graphs, and discussion...

(You know you want to see where you rank.)

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There's Derek Jeter... and everyone else

Thumbnail image for yankees logoIn the Siena poll out today 57 percent of New Yorkers said they would support a constitutional amendment to allow casinos not owned by Native Americans to be built in the state -- 36 percent said they oppose it. Respondents seemed to think that the casinos would bring more jobs (78 percent agree) and government revenue (71 percent) -- but also increase problems such as crime and compulsive gambling (54 percent).

A few other bits, about the state's apparently undying love for Derek Jeter, MMA, and sports betting...

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Bill Clinton's speech at the Empire State Plaza

After the announcement of the $4.4 billion big thing about small things, Bill Clinton spoke at the New York Open for Business conference Tuesday at the ESP. The video is embedded above. Clinton's speech starts at the 50:00 mark (you can just jump to that point).

At the beginning of the speech, Clinton gives a shoutout to Jerry Jennings and remembers... jogging in Albany.

$4.4 billion for chip fab research in the state, and more jobs at Albany NanoTech

albany nanotech construction 2011-09-27

The construction at the Albany NanoTech expansion today.

Andrew Cuomo announced today that a consortium of tech companies will be investing $4.4 billion in chip fab research facilities around the state. The Cuomo admin says the research effort will create and/or retain 6,900 jobs -- 800 of them at UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) complex.

You'll recognize many of the names of the corporations involved: Intel, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, TSMC and Samsung. Said Cuomo this morning at the NY Open for Business conference at the ESP: "These companies could have gone anywhere on the globe ... they're investing right here in New York."

In addition to Albany NanoTech, there will also be investment at IBM in Fishkill, SUNYIT in Utica, and CNSE's facility in Canandaigua.

The state is putting $400 million toward this effort, which the Cuomo admin says will go directly to CNSE at UAlbany -- and all the tools and equipment will belong to the college.

The research will focus on making computer chips from 450 mm wafers. Current technology uses 300 mm wafers, and the larger size offers the potential of cheaper, faster chips. As an Intel exec told the audience today: "[450 mm] allows us to continue Moore's Law in an economic way."

That CSNE building going up at Washington and Fuller in Albany will house the facilities for this effort, and be called NanoFab West or NanoFab X. UAlbany has been coy about the purpose of that building, maybe because it was sitting on this announcement. It's also expected the expansion will house green energy research, including that $400something million solar panel research consortium. [TU CapCon] [TU Places and Spaces] [TU] [CSNE]

It's probably fair to say Cuomo was stoked this morning. As he crowed at one point during his remarks: "We won a very important competition globally. ... Why? Because we are New York. That's why we won it."

Capital Region unemployment down a bit

capital region unemployment 5 year 2011-08

The last five Augusts. (see note below)

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in August, according to data out Tuesday from the state Department of Labor. That's down from 7.2 percent in August 2010, and 7 percent his past July. (August 2010 is the best comparison because the data is not seasonally adjusted.)

Even with the decline in unemployment rate, the Capital Region still had fewer people employed this past August compared to a year ago -- about 4,000 fewer people. There were just under 30,000 people unemployed in the Capital Region last month.

The chart above tracks the Capital Region's unemployment rate by month over the last five years, with each August marked.*

The state's unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, down from 8.3 percent in August 2010. The national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent.

Breakouts for local counties after the jump. Saratoga County had one of the lowest rates in the state.

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Bill Clinton speaking in Albany September 27

bill clinton at world economic forum 2006 davosUpdate: Here's video of the speech.
____

Shh, don't tell anyone: Bill Clinton will be speaking in Albany next week (Tuesday, September 27).

The former president will be the keynote speaker at a conference at the Empire State Plaza for the regional economic councils set up by the Cuomo administration. The event is open to the public, but there's a ticket lottery. You must enter by the end of this Tuesday (September 20) and confirm your intent to attend within 24 hours of being notified.

Oddly, the Cuomo admin seems to be underplaying the event a bit. On the website for the economic councils, it's just billed as "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/ REGIONAL COUNCIL STATEWIDE CONFERENCE/ September 27, 2011- Albany, NY." Stars are always so touchy about whose name goes above the title...

Bill Clinton was last here in March when he spoke at UAlbany.

[via Biz Review]

photo: Flickr user World Economic Forum

New Yorkers: yeah, we've been better

tattered dollar billFrom a Siena poll out this week about New Yorkers and the economy:

+ 42 percent of respondents said they were worse off financially now than they were last year. 16 percent said they were better off.

+ 50 percent said this statement matched their thinking about the economy: "Unfortunately, I think our country's best economic days are behind us. I'm afraid the next generation will have to accept a lower standard of living."

+ But 59 percent of people said they think the economy will be better in 10 years. (19 percent said it would be worse.)

More on jobs, expenses, and the "problem" with government...

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Cough. Wheeze. Call.

We were flipping through the channels the other night when we hit one of the new anti-smoking ads from the state Department of Health. The spot shows a guy gasping for breath as he suffers from smoking-induced emphysema. And... yow.

The commercial is embedded above. There's something so visceral and squirm-inducing about hearing the guy wheeze and gasp -- which is the point.

Doctors and researchers say these kinds of ads do spur people to call smoking quitlines. As Dr. Michael Cummings, who heads up a cancer prevention research division at Roswell Park in Buffalo, said last year while introducing a different set of anti-smoking spots: "People call the quitline when they get motivated, and you gotta get in their heads and get them moving, shake them up a little bit." [YouTube]

The state DOH has three spots currently running -- the one above, plus two others featuring a man talking through an electrolarynx about how throat cancer has kept him from swimming and his dream of being a major league umpire. (It appears that no children were made to cry this time.) The spots are scheduled to run until almost the end of September. [MSNBC] [Buffalo News]

A little more than 15 percent of adults in New York State were currently smokers in 2010, according to the data from the CDC. That's down from more than 21 percent in 2000. In that time, the state reports there has been a large decline in smoking among high school students -- 12.6 percent reported being current smokers in 2010 versus 27.1 percent in 2000. [CDC] [NYSDOH]

New York's smoking quitline is 866-NY-QUITS (866-697-8487).

Earlier on AOA: New York State has the highest cigarette taxes in the nation

Capital Region elementary school test scores 2011

chalk on chalk board ledgeThe state Education Department released results from the English and math proficiency tests for grades 3-8 this week. NYSED reports that, on average, scores are down slightly for English and about the same for math.

The state also makes the test score data available by school district, so we pulled out the results for Capital Region districts. A compact, easy-skim version is after the jump -- along with expanded presentations of the data -- after the jump...

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Leaving New York

empire center ny migration trends

New York State lost a net of 1.6 million residents to other states over the last decade, according to an analysis of Census data by the Empire Center. Among the report's findings:

+ Since 1960, New York has lost 7.3 million residents to the rest of the country. This was partially offset by an influx of 4.8 million foreign immigrants, resulting in a net decline of 2.5 million residents.
+ New York's average annual domestic migration loss - the difference between people moving in from other states and out to other states -- jumped from about 60,000 people in the 1960s to an all-time high of nearly 237,000 in the 1970s. The state's domestic migration outflows have averaged between 130,000 and 160,000 a year since 1980.
+ For a second consecutive decade, New York's net population loss due to domestic migration was the highest of any state as a percentage of population.
+ New York's net migration loss - the sum of domestic and foreign migration - increased over the last decade to its highest level since the 1970s. Thirteen states had negative net migration between 2000 and 2010, and only three (Illinois, Louisiana and Michigan) lost a bigger share of their populations to migration than New York.

The chart above is from the report. The black line tracks net migration -- the loss of people to other states has been ongoing trend for the last 50 years.

The report also breaks out migration numbers for counties. Totals for the Capital Region are after the jump.

So where's everyone going? A Pew study asked that question a few years back. The top three states for New Yorkers migrating elsewhere: Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

chart: Empire Center

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The confidence is crumbling

siena sri consumer confidence chart 2011-08-03

A chart of consumer confidence since 1999. The red line is New York State, the blue line is the nation.

Were you as spooked by the debt ceiling debacle as everyone else seems to have been? A new Consumer Confidence poll released today by the Siena Research Institute shows that people are feeling pretty down about the current state of the economy and even more bleak about the future. Siena polled the state as a whole and also separated out the numbers for upstate as compared to New York City. Across the state, consumer confidence has fallen by 1.9 percent. In the upstate area, it's fallen by 3.1 percent. And that's just the overall number. When confidence in the economic future is measured, the numbers get even worse, with upstate confidence falling by a whopping 8 percent.

This chart on Siena Institute's main page shows how precipitously consumer confidence has fallen in the country and state since 1999.

What are your thoughts on the current economy? Are you, your family and friends better off financially than you were a year ago? What do you expect your financial situation will be a year from now?

graph: Siena Research Institute

Lewis Black on Albany

lewis black closeup

One of our favorite Lewis Black lines, about mad cow disease: "What were these ranchers thinking when they started feeding cows to other cows? Hey, when I eat human, I get a little crazy myself!"

Comedian and playwright Lewis Black is heading for Albany in a few months to do his stand-up act at The Palace. Black is well known for his rants and observations about politics, which is pretty much our local sport.

So we gave him a call to ask what he thinks about some of the things that have been going on lately at the state Capitol.

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The darkness just to the north

new york satellite night small

The circle marks the Adirondacks.

After Katie's question about places to stargaze, Jim commented today (emphasis added):

If you look at the night satellite photo of the North American continent, you see huge amounts of lights all along the East & West coasts. But - there is a big dark area, where there are few electric lights, which is great for stargazing - & that is the Adirondack Park. Head into the park, the more in the middle the better. We see great stars from Lake George on up. I remember a night we were on Little Tupper Lake (used to be in the Whitney estate) floating in canoes, seeing the Milky Way bright enough to be reflected in the water, listening to loons - & being stunned by the Perseids. Super dark sky, great show.

So we pulled the satellite imagery from NASA and annotated it. A small version is above. Much bigger versions -- of New York State and the United States -- are after the jump.

There's also another 2005 NASA map that highlights how low the human population density is in the Adirondacks.

Bonus bit: economists have been using this satellite imagery to study economic development.

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Speed reading the coverage of the first weekend of same sex marriage

This weekend was an historic one for New Yorkers and civil rights as the first same-sex couples took their vows across the state, many of them just after the Marriage Equality Act took effect after midnight Sunday. Families, friends -- media members -- crowded into chambers to witness the historic ceremonies.

Here's a quick scan of the coverage...

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New York Senate passes Marriage Equality Act, Andrew Cuomo signs it shortly after

same sex marriage senate vote composite

A few scenes from the state Capitol Friday night.

The state Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act 33-29 Friday night.

Earlier in the evening, the Assembly passed amendments to the bill that included increased protections for religious organizations that choose not to participate in same-sex marriages.

Andrew Cuomo signed the bill shortly before midnight on Friday. It takes effect 30 days after his signature.

Recaps, quotes and pics from the vote after the jump...

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Is same-sex marriage legal in New York, yet?

Gay marriage rally 9.jpgThat's the question everyone keeps asking. And the legislature seems to be taking forever. Seriously, if the state Senate can vote on whether corn should be the official state vegetable, you'd think they could move this issue along a little faster.

To make it easy to keep track of what's happening, we've created a single-serve site: IsSame-SexMarriageLegalinNY.com.

It gets right to the point.

You can follow it on Twitter: @SSMNewYork.

New York: the least free state?

action figure boot heel

Feeling crushed by the boot heel of the state?

New York is ranked as "by far the least free state" in the country, in a recent report from a "market-oriented" (libertarian) think tank at George Mason University.

From the Mercatus Center's Freedom in the 50 States:

New York is by far the least free state in the Union. It has also experienced the most interstate emigration of any state over the last decade. New York has by far the highest taxes in the country. Property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate-income taxes are particularly high. Spending on public welfare, hospitals, electric power, transit, employee retirement, and "other and unallocable" expenses are well above national norms. Only Alaska has more government debt as a percentage of the economy. On personal freedoms, gun laws are extremely restrictive, but marijuana laws are better than average, while tobacco laws are extremely strict, and cigarette taxes are the highest in the country. Motorists are highly regulated, and homeschool regulations are excessive, but nondrug victimless-crimes arrests are low. New York has the strictest health-insurance community-rating regulations in the country, which have wiped out the individual market. Mandated coverages are worse than average but were actually cut back substantially in 2007-2008. Eminent domain abuse is rampant and unchecked. Perversely (in our view), the state has stricter contribution limits for grassroots PACs than for corporate and union PACs. On the positive side, occupational licensing is somewhat better than average.

The report includes some recommendations on how the Empire State can loosen the bonds of imperial tyranny. Among them: legalize same-sex marriage.

Of course, freedom is a subjective thing to some degree. For example: you can't smoke in restaurants here, which you could say is restricting freedom -- but if you're a non-smoker, that also means you don't have to suffer the consequences of someone else's decision (which smells a bit like freedom). The report's authors describe how they define freedom (Locke is mentioned prominently -- no, not the Lost character).

A different approach might have been to look at another thing economists love to talk about: tradeoffs. What do we get for trading some of these freedoms? Is it enough?

The report's authors talk about how people could use the rankings to make choices about where to move. So, what are the most free states? The top 5: New Hampshire (no surprise), South Dakota, Indiana, Idaho, Missouri. Uh, we're not packing the moving truck just yet.

But, yeah, the taxes in New York -- yow, TOO DAMN high.

Assembly speeches on same-sex marriage

New York Now has edited together a handful of clips from speeches in the Assembly yesterday ahead of the vote on the Marriage Equality Act. Some of the speeches are passionate and thoughtful.

How local Assembly members voted yesterday:
Yes: Canestrari, McEneny, Reilly
No: Amedore, Jordan, Tedisco, McLaughlin

Roy McDonald will vote yes on same-sex marriage

roy mcdonaldThe Capitol media Twitter feeds erupted late this afternoon with news that state Senator Roy McDonald -- who reps Rensselaer County and most of Saratoga County -- will vote yes on the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. That brings that vote count in favor to 31 (one short of a majority).

Said McDonald to the Times Union's Jimmy Vielkind:

"I'm trying to do the right thing. Rather than wait I worked with the governor ... I'm not out to alienate anybody. This is driven by compassion. ... My lifestyle is my lifestyle -- I don't want anyone telling me or my children what to do."

McDonald, as quoted by the NYDN's Ken Lovett:

"You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing.
"You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing.

And McDonald quotes via tweets by NYT's Danny Hakim:

"I think I'm doing the right thing, it's the appropriate thing, and if the public respects that, I'm grateful. If they don't... then I move on. ..."
"I'm tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job & shove it."

McDonald had voted "no" the last time around, and he's said for weeks that he was undecided on the issue. He had been the subject of some intense lobbying lately, including a billboard along I-787 urging him to support same-sex marriage. He becomes the second Republican Senator to say he'll vote "yes."

There's a clip of McDonald talking about his decision, after the jump.

Andrew Cuomo submitted a bill today that would legalize same-sex marriage (the bill is embedded after the jump). From the memo for "The Marriage Equality Act":

Section 3 of this bill would add new Section 10-a to the Domestic Relations Law (DRL) providing that: (1) a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex; (2) no government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being or having been of the same sex rather than a different sex; and, (3) all relevant gender-specific language set forth in or referenced by New York law shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner.

The Cuomo admin says the bill aims to keep civil marriage separate from "the religious institution of marriage." One of the provisions of the bill amends the current law "to make clear that no member of the clergy acting in such capacity may be required to perform any marriage."

The bill would take effect 30 days after it's signed.

A similar bill has passed the Assembly in previous years and is expected to do so again. Dean Skelos has said the Senate could have a vote on the bill this week. [Daily Politics]

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Andrew Cuomo would like you to pay attention to the road

texting while drivingThe Cuomo admin proposed legislation that would make it illegal to use any portable electronic device while driving (exception: phone with a hands-free device). From the release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he will introduce new legislation that will crack down on drivers caught using a portable electronic device including blackberrys, iPhones, i-pads, laptop computers, gaming devices and any other portable device, or talking on a cell phone without a hands free device, while driving. The bill would impose unprecedented penalties drivers caught using such a device by adding three points on a driver's license in order to curb the dramatic rise of this dangerous activity. Governor Cuomo's legislation would also make driving while using any portable electronic device a primary, rather than just a secondary offense, meaning that drivers can now be stopped solely if they are found to be using such a device while driving.

As it is now, you can't be stopped specifically for texting or phoning while driving -- you have to be pulled over for some over offense (say, crossing the double yellow because you weren't watching) and then you can be tagged for using your phone.

You might think you can text and drive with no problem -- we're all above average drivers, right (oh, wait...) -- but you're probably wrong. There's research that indicates a distracted driver is about as bad as a driver with a .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for drunk driving. (The New York Times produced a good series about the risks of distracted driving.)

The Cuomo admin hasn't posted the actual bill, yet, so there are still some questions. Among them: what about dashboard GPS devices (trying to find out where you're going can make you forget about where you're going). And automakers are starting to put dashboard computers into cars.

There's already a bill in the legislature that would make texting while driving a primary offense.

photo: Flickr user mrJasonWeaver

What the frack is going on?

In the event you were holding out on learning about hydrofracking until it was all set to music, your moment has arrived. The video embedded above was produced by NYU students as part of a collaboration with the journalism org Pro Publica.

Hydrofracking is potentially one of the biggest environmental issues facing the state. A rather large deposit of hard-to-reach natural gas runs through the state. And energy companies are reportedly eager to give it a good fracking. That could mean significant economic gain -- and significant environmental problems.

Pro Publica has been all over the issue. Oh, and that part about flammable water -- true, in some cases.

Capital Region age distribution

capital region age distribution 2010 census

Boom. Echo boom.

The Census Bureau reported today that the median age of people in New York State is 38. (That is, half the people here are older than that, half are younger.) That's up from 35.9 in the 2000 Census.

Here are the median ages for the four core counties of the Capital Region (and medians from a decade ago):
Albany: 38.5 (36.8)
Rensselaer: 39.2 (36.7)
Saratoga 40.8 (36.9)
Schenectady: 39.8 (38.6)

The graph above is the age distribution for the Capital Region.

After the jump: the median ages for a handful of Capital Region cities and towns. Also: everyone's favorite game -- can you guess the local municipality by its age distribution?

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Polls: public leaning toward support of same-sex marriage. Probably.

same-sex marriage rally 2011-05-09Efforts to get a bill legalizing same-sex marriage through the state legislature have been ramping up (as has the opposition). Here are how a few recent polls have measured the public's opinion on the issue (all numbers for registered voters):

NY1/YNN-Marist poll conducted April 25-29

Do you believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman?
Yes: 51% | No: 47% | Don't know: 2%

Which of the following comes closest to your view?
Gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to marry: 51%
Gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to legally form civil unions, but not marry: 28%
There should be no legal recognition of the relationship between gay or lesbian couples: 21%

margin of error: +/- 3.5 - poll data

Quinnipiac poll conducted April 5-11

Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?
Support: 56% | Oppose: 38% | Don't know: 5%

margin of error: +/- 2.4 - poll data

Siena poll conducted April 4-6

Do you support or oppose making same sex marriages legal in New York State?
Support: 58% | Oppose: 36% | Don't know: 6%

margin of error: +/- 3.5 - poll data

Nationally: it appears a majority of Americans now support legalizing same-sex marriage. [FiveThirtyEight]
____

Of course, in some ways, the only opinion that matters right now is that of the legislators who represent potential swing votes in the state Senate (the bill will almost certainly pass the Assembly). The last vote on the issue in the chamber -- in December 2009 -- was 38-24 against.

photo: Matt Ryan

Most popular baby names in New York 2010

name tag isabellaAs it does every year, the Social Security Administration today released a list of the most popular baby names in 2010, sorted by state.

So we pulled the list -- the 100 most popular names for boys and girls born in New York last year are after the jump. We also looked at the top 10 names this year ranked during the last few years...

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Rally for same-sex marriage

same-sex_marriage_rally_2011-05-09_ryan.jpg

Today's rally at the Capitol. (Courtesy of New York Now's Matt Ryan.)

More than a thousand people showed up at a rally for same-sex marriage outside the Capitol today. But a lot of the coverage focused on the one person who was not there: Andrew Cuomo. [NYT City Room]

Lieutenant governor Bob Duffy (you remember him: from Rochester, silver hair, tall) was there -- and made sure to emphasize that Cuomo's absence doesn't indicate a lack of support for legalizing same-sex marriage. he said a "horrendous" schedule kept Cuomo from appearing. The disembodied voice of Cuomo will be soon be making an appearance on the issue on your phone, though. And his admin says the "People First" statewide campaign will be highlighting the issue. [Karen DeWitt] [State of Politics] [State of Politics] [Cuomo admin]

So is same-sex marriage going to move ahead, or what?

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New York gobbles up rail money Fla gave back

amtrak engineNew York State is getting more than $354 million from the feds for rail upgrades around the state -- including right here in the Capital Region. [US DOT]

The feds are touting the money as funding for high-speed rail. That may be true in some cases -- a section of the Northeast Corridor is being upgraded so trains can travel 160 mph -- but it's probably more accurate to say the money is going to projects that could lead to high-speed rail. Here's the key local bit from the press release:

New York - Empire Corridor Capacity Improvements: $58 million to construct upgrades to tracks, stations and signals, improving rail operations along the Empire Corridor. This includes replacement of the Schenectady Station and construction of a fourth station track at the Albany - Rensselaer Station, one of the corridor's most significant bottlenecks.

The Empire Corridor is one of Amtrak's busiest routes. The rest of the New York State money is going toward funding a bypass in Manhattan intended to clear up congestion there, and a bit is going toward the study for a new station in Rochester.

Today's $2 billion in federal grants come from a chunk of high-speed rail funding Florida gave back last year. Governors from other states -- including New York -- basically said at the time, "If they're not going that eat that, pass it over to us." [Cuomo admin]

Earlier on AOA:
+ Will high-speed money train make a stop here?
+ Albany-NYC: strong potential for high-speed rail?

On state animals, vegetables and whatnot

karner blue butterfly

If the Karner Blue had a grudge against lady bugs, we'd totally understand.

Following on the very serious debate over what should be the official state vegetable, two downstate legislators are now proposing legislation that would designate an official state dog. Their pick: a rescue dog (you know, like one you'd adopt from a shelter). [NYT]

It's an admirable pick, though we would have lobbied for the collie out of a strong conflict of interest.

This got us think about the other official New York State symbols -- and whether the state should revise its choices (hint: yes).

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Capital Region unemployment rate drops

nys unemployment map March 2011

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 7.2 percent last month, according to numbers out today from the state Department of Labor. That's down from 7.7 percent a year ago and 7.8 percent last month.

New York State's unemployment rate was 8 percent last month. That's down from 9.1 percent a year ago, and 8.7 last month. The national rate was 9.2 percent, down from 10.2 percent a year ago, and 9.5 percent last month.

Compared to the rest of the state, the Capital Region is doing relatively well. The Capital Region's rate was lower than all over metro areas in the state aside from Ithaca (5.4 percent) and the suburban counties around NYC (6.9 percent).

Zooming in a little more, individual Capital Region counties are doing even better compared to the rest of the state. Albany County's 6.8 percent rate was tied for sixth lowest in the state (with New York county). And Saratoga was right behind it at 6.9 percent. In fact, all four core counties of the Capital Region rank in the top 20 for lowest rates statewide. (The metro area's rate would be lower if not for Schoharie County, which the DOL includes in this metro, at 10.6).

There are still about 30,000 people in the Capital Region who are unemployed.

Numbers not seasonally adjusted, so the best comparison is to the same month a year ago.

map: NYS Department of Labor

Chuck who?

chuck schumer official portraitThe Brennan Center recently released a "report card on New York's civil literacy." Newsflash: it's low, in most of the way's you'd expect (nope, the President can't declare war; the founders weren't trying to found a Christian nation; the Constitution's goal wasn't to increase the power of the 13 original states).

But this bit made us take notice/wonder/laugh wryly: 58 percent of New Yorkers in the survey failed to name at least one of the two current New York members of the US Senate. As the report notes (emphasis added):

Respondents were not given any list to choose from, so they had no opportunity to guess or "refresh their recollection." Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's junior Senator, was appointed less than two years ago, after then-Senator Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State. Senator Gillibrand had never previously run for statewide office, and the fact that her name wasn't widely known is not surprising. Chuck Schumer, though, has represented New York State since 1999 and is a major national player on the political stage. It is significant that so few New Yorkers were able to provide his name when asked, especially when we consider that both senators' names were on the ballot in the November 2010 elections and both were campaigning during the time the poll was conducted.

That's right, Chuck Schumer, who hasn't passed up an opportunity for a press conference -- ever* -- still not at the top of a majority of New Yorkers' minds.

It's worth noting that Schumer did get 65.5 percent of the vote in last year's election, so he's doing OK -- whether people remember his name or not.

The full Brennan Center report is embedded after the jump.

* Unconfirmed, but probably true.

photo: schumer.senate.gov

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The cabbage patch

cabbage in groundAs the debate over whether onions or corn should become the official state vegetable plows ahead, the New York Farm Bureau interjects with this important fact: the state's biggest vegetable crop is actually... cabbage, at $110 million per year.

The Empire State's annual cabbage harvest ranks second in the nation, according to the Farm Bureau. The primary cabbage producing counties are in western New York.

The state's number one crop? Apples, at $185 million per year.

By the way: While we're on the topic of an official state vegetable, why can't we pick something cool like Romanesco broccoli (you know the fractal one). Or, give a nod to the growing small organic farm movement here with something like heirloom radishes or pea shoots. Even cabbage shows a certain desire to be different. Anything but corn.

[via @nickconfessore]

photo: Flickr user Nick Saltmarsh

Capital Region 2010 census population totals

The Census Bureau released 2010 populations totals for places in New York State Thursday afternoon.

The population of the Capital Region's four core counties was up more than five percent since the last census in 2000, which made this area an outlier for upstate. Breakouts for the individual local counties are above (breakouts for all the cities and towns in the Capital Region are after the jump).

New York State's population was up about two percent, as was New York City's population. Officials there are already arguing there was an undercount.

Breakouts for Capital Region cities and towns -- as well as a few notes -- after the jump.

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US nuclear plant with greatest risk from earthquake is in... New York

indian point nuclear power plant

Indian Point

One of the nuclear reactors at the Indian Point power plant on the Hudson tops the list of US reactors at greatest risk from an earthquake, according to estimates by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The risk of the one reactor (there are three on site) being damaged is 1 in 10,000 each year, the NRC figures (the odds of the other reactors being damaged are much higher). [msnbc.com]

Andrew Cuomo responded to the report this afternoon. From his remarks:

I've had concerns about Indian Point for a long time... I understand the power and the benefit. I also understand the risk. This plant in this proximity to New York City was never a good risk. But this is new information that we're going to pursue. [State of Politics]

Indian Point is about 30 miles north of New York City (map). It's a little less than 100 miles from Albany.

Earthquakes aren't really all that uncommon in New York State. There was the relatively strong one centered in Ottawa that we felt here last summer (there was one not far from the New York border just today). And there's been a series of tiny quakes in the hill towns of Albany County the last few years.

Here's more about the history of earthquakes in New York State.

[via NY Mag]

image: Flickr user Tony the Misfit

New Yorkers love the Yankees and Derek Jeter

yankees logoA Siena poll out Tuesday reports the Yankees are New York State's favorite sports team. Fifty-six percent of respondents said the Bronx Bombers are their first, second, or third favorite team (30 percent overall said the Yanks are their #1 favorite).

Perhaps not surprising then that Derek Jeter topped the list for "single greatest athlete of all time that played for a New York team or that you associate with sports in New York." Fourteen percent of people named Jeter when asked that question. Babe Ruth was second at 11 percent. No other athlete registered above 5 percent. The two demographic groups with the highest number of people naming Jeter: women and Latinos, both at 17 percent.

A few more bits...

Are you a sports fan? yes: 59 percent (76 percent of men, 43 percent of women) | no: 41 percent

Favorite sport: football (23 percent -- 27 percent upstate), baseball (22 percent), basketball (19 percent). By the way: soccer is more popular in New York than NASCAR.

The Knicks: A similar Siena poll last year reported that the Knicks were basically no one's favorite team. This year? The Knicks ranked #3 among most single most favored teams. All that money for Carmello and Amar'e is paying off.

On MMA: When asked whether they supported or opposed legalizing mixed martial arts in New York State, 41 percent said they were opposed. 39 percent said they supported MMA legalization. And 19 percent said they didn't know enough about it.

Instant replay in baseball: 54 percent support | 31 percent oppose.

NFL labor situation: 58 percent of people said they supported in the players in the ongoing NFL labor negotiations. 21 percent said they side with the owners. And 100 percent said to wake them when/if the season ever starts. (OK, we made up that last bit.)

The last decade: not so good

frown faceOnly 19 percent of New Yorkers in a recent Siena poll said their quality of life and that of the people around them had gotten better during the last 10 years. Thirty-nine percent said it was about the same. And 40 percent said it had gotten worse.

The responses from upstaters were even more grim. Just 11 percent reported quality of life was better. And 49 percent said things had gotten worse.

The groups with the highest percentages reporting quality of life improvements: people in the "other" ethnic category (31 percent), and people in the New York City (27 percent).

The groups with the highest percentages reporting thing had gotten worse: ages 50-64 (53 percent), and Republicans (52 percent).

Responses were more or less the same across income levels. Though only 13 percent of people in the $50k-100k range reported that things had gotten better for them (versus 20 percent in the group below, and 22 percent in the group above).

And what about over the next ten years? Responses were about equally split among better, about the same, and worse.

You can get arrested for being a jerk, even if you're only bothering your newlywed wife

new york state court of appeals buildingA few lessons we took away from today's New York State Court of Appeals decision in the case of The People v. Tony Weaver:

  1. You can get arrested for disorderly conduct if your jerkish behavior is not bothering anyone other than your newlywed wife.
  2. The fact that it's your wedding night does not earn you a free pass from the cops for being a jerk.
  3. Telling an officer to "shut the f--- up" because she's not your mother -- probably not a good idea.
  4. Being clothed in formal wear will not prevent you from being tased.
  5. Do you really want your wedding album to include a mug shot?

All noted. Good to see that the state's highest court has cleared that up.

Earlier on AOA: Broken engagement -- who gets the ring in New York State?

photo: Flickr user wadester16

Speed reading the coverage of Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal

cuomo budget presentation 2011To much fanfare (and powerpoint) Andrew Cuomo presented his proposed state budget yesterday.

During the presentation he described the state as "functionally bankrupt," and remarked that he viewed his dental appointments for root canal as a welcome respite from the budget process. So, that gives you a sense of where the state's at.

We've read a bunch of the details and coverage of the budget so you don't have to. Let's get to it...

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Albany-NYC: strong potential for high-speed rail?

america 2050 high-speed-rail scores

It's a hot route.

New York City to Albany ranks as one of the corridors with the most potential for high-speed rail, according to a report from a planning/policy org called America 2050.

The report assigned scores to almost 8000 rail corridors (of less than 600 miles) across the country based on group of factors including population, employment, and transit ridership. The NYC-Albany corridor ranked in the top one percent of all routes in the nation.

For some comparison, Washington DC-NYC was the top ranked route with a score of 20.15. The NYC-Albany route scored 19.29.

The report includes some really delicious transit nerding. Transportation Nation has a further breakdown of the results, including some thoughts on the effect of national politics (and circumstance) on current high-speed rail projects (or, how Florida could end up with the nation's first high-speed rail corridor [or not]).

As we understand the way these scores were calculated, corridors with already strong ridership tend to score best. So it's not surprising that NYC-Albany scored well -- the Empire Service is the fifth most-traveled route in the entire Amtrak system.

So, what could high-speed rail mean for Albany? Well, it could open the possibility of getting from Albany to Manhattan in about an hour (potentially). That's a commute for some people.

(Thanks, Kizzi!)

Earlier on AOA:
+ The slow line to high-speed rail
+ The best way to get from Albany to NYC?

image adapted from "High Speed Rail in America" by America 2050

Are you enjoying the honeymoon with Andrew Cuomo?

andrew cuomo mediumThe Siena poll out today reports that Andrew Cuomo's favorability is at 70 percent -- it's highest point since June 2009. And when respondents were asked who they trusted to do the right thing -- Cuomo or the legislature -- the governor was picked 68-17.

Also possibly of interest: 50 percent or more of respondents in every ideological group had Cuomo pegged as "moderate."

On race

The poll also asked people about race relations in New York State: "As we look to next week's commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, how would you describe the state of race relations in New York State? Would you say they are excellent, good, fair, or poor?"

Overall, 55 percent respondents said race relations were excellent or good. 43 percent said they were fair or poor.

Among white respondents the split was 60/40. Among African-Americans it was 36/63.

A quick scan of State of the State 2011

cuomo state of state 2011

And did I mention that I brought Power Point slides?

There will be much coverage of Andrew Cuomo's first State of the State speech all over the media. But if you're just looking for a quick overview of what he said, or just enough to not have a blank look when someone says, "hey, how about that State of the State? -- here's a quick scan...

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New York is feeling fluish

google flu trends 2011-01-04

The bright blue line is this year. The light blue lines are previous years.

New York is one the states currently listed as having "widespread" flu activity, according to the CDC's latest report (which is a little old at this point). And Google Flu trends -- which often is a bit ahead of the official reports -- also has NYS pegged as a "high" activity state for the flu.

But get this: most of the flu activity seems to be in New York City. It appears that upstate is just beginning to see the wave (if it ever arrives -- the flu is weird and hard to predict). In fact, Google Flu's experimental city report has the major upstate cities -- including Albany -- listed as "low" (NYC is "high").

There's still time to get a flu shot. The CDC has a helpful flu jab finder.

Of course, these reports don't cover whatever the cough/cold it is that seems be circulating in the Capital Region right now (anecdotally).

So, uh, wash your hands. And cough into your arm.

graph: Google Flu Trends

The Kirsten Gillibrand storyline shifts

gillibrand nyt front page 2010-12-23This was a big week for Kirsten Gillibrand. Two pieces of legislation for which she's gained a high-profile supporter were approved in Congress. First, it was the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. And yesterday, it was the bill funding health care for 9/11 responders.

The legislative successes landed her on the front page of the New York Times today:

Once derided as an accidental senator, lampooned for her verbosity and threatened with many challengers who openly doubted her abilities, a succinct, passionate and effective Senator Gillibrand has made her presence felt in the final days of this Congress.
Her efforts have won grudging admiration from critics, adulation from national liberals and gay rights groups, and accolades from New York politicians across the political spectrum, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who once shopped for potential candidates to oust her.
Even her relentlessness, which once drew mockery, is now earning the highest compliment of all: professional jealousy from her more senior colleagues.

Chuck Schumer said this week that KG's persistence on the 9/11 bill had Senate colleagues asking him to call her off:

You know, some of these senators said: Would you stop her from bothering me? And I said: No! And the result of all that hard work we see today. What a great victory for a new legislator, isn't that fabulous. For any legislator, but for someone this new to do so much so soon is utterly amazing. [State of Politics]

This coverage represents quite a shift in the media's attitude toward KG. Earlier this year as she faced a possible challenge for her Senate seat, stories often focused on issues such as her weight loss and the the tone of her voice. And just this past fall Harry Reid reportedly called KG "the hottest member" of the Senate.

As it happens, this recent arc is roughly similar to one Gillibrand followed here in the Capital Region. She wasn't given much chance of knocking off John Sweeney (though his self-destruction didn't hurt). And there were doubters she could hold onto the seat in the majority Republican district (which she did, easily).

May we suggest a new media frame for KG: not to be underestimated.

Earlier: Don't Ask Don't Tell as Kirsten Gillibrand's signature issue

image: New York Times

Be prepared to duck

golf ball in roughFrom the decision yesterday by New York's Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, in Anand vs. Kapoor -- also known as the "Should a golfer have to yell 'Fore!'?" case:

Here, Kapoor's failure to warn of his intent to strike the ball did not amount to intentional or reckless conduct, and did not unreasonably increase the risks inherent in golf to which Anand consented. Rather, the manner in which Anand was injured -- being hit without warning by a "shanked" shot while one searches for one's own ball -- reflects a commonly appreciated risk of golf (see Rinaldo v McGovern, 78 NY2d 729, 733 [1991]).

So, heads up out there. And, you know, maybe find friends who are better at golf.

photo: Flickr user One Tree Hill Studios

New York is third most populous state again, but it's losing two Congressional seats

There's a bigger version of this interactive display embedded in wide screen after the jump.

New York State had 19,378,102 residents on April 1, 2010, according to data released by the Census Bureau today. That ranks the Empire State third overall among states for population.

New York was the third most-populous state during the 2000 decennial census, too. The state's population has grown by 401,645 people since then. But its slice of the nation's overall population declined in that time. In 2000, New York counted as 7 percent of the US population -- now it's 6 percent.

And, as expected, New York is losing two Congressional seats. After re-apportionment, the state will have 27 members of the US House. (A House seat will represent about 710,767 people this time around.)

The total national population was counted at 308,745,538. That's up 9.7 percent since 2000.

Tables with number candy are after the jump.

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Job market takes a step back

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 7 percent in November, according to the state Department of Labor. That's up from 6.7 percent in November 2009. The region is down about 3,000 jobs compared to a year ago.

There were more than 31,000 unemployed people in the Capital Region in November.

New York State's unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in November -- up from 8.2 percent in October and down from 8.9 percent in November 2009. The total job count in the state was down 300 last month.

The national unemployment rate was 9.8 percent last month -- up from 9.6 in October and 10 in November 2009.

Anecdotal, but... We feel like we got a small view into the job market via the hiring process for the associate editor job with AOA. It's been sobering.

We got a lot of applications. And a lot of those people have skills and experience. There just aren't that many opportunities out there right now.

All data from NYS DOL. Capital Region data are not seasonally adjusted, so it's best to compare the same month from different years. State level data is adjusted, so if you'd like to compare one month to the next, go for it.

La vida Loko, no longer

four loko tasting cansToday is that last day that the caffeinated version of Four Loko can be shipped to stores in New York State. The Biz Review reported this week that DeCrescente, the big beverage distributor here in the Capital Region, is sitting on "towering stacks" of the stuff -- apparently it's headed for a date with the drain. [NYDN] [Biz Review]

And despite tales of a thriving Four Loko gray market on Craigslist, the only local listing we found today was a case for $40, a rather disappointingly-low mark-up.

Earlier on AOA: Trying Four Loko and Joose

What New Yorkers think about the holidays

christmas tree in shop windowA bunch of bits from a recent Siena poll of New Yorkers about the holidays:

+ 57 percent of people said they planned to spend the same amount this year on gifts as last year -- and 37 percent said less.

+ 64 percent of people said their gift budget this year was $600 or less. 23 percent said it was $1000 or more.

+ 26 percent of people said they were worse off this year than during last year's holidays. 17 percent said they were better off.

+ 59 percent said they try to buy holiday gifts at locally-owned and operated businesses.

+ 45 percent said they do no holiday shopping online -- 25 percent said they do half or more of their shopping online.

+ 74 percent said they normally do not shop on the day after Thanksgiving.

+ 77 percent said they'll be making a charitable donation to the needy this holiday season. 33 percent said they'll be volunteering.

+ 76 percent said the thing they enjoy most about the holidays is spending time with family and friends. 38 percent said the thing they enjoy least about the holidays is "the commercialization of the holiday."

+ 13 percent of people said they're "not at all excited" about the holidays

+ 62 percent said they agree the holiday season is "now just too long."

+ 23 percent said they agreed that "at this point I'm more Scrooge than Santa."

+ The split on the typical holiday greeting:
Merry Christmas - 53 percent | Happy Holidays - 38 percent
Merry Christmas was more popular upstate, Happy Holidays downstate

+ 74 percent say they put up a Christmas tree. Of those people, 58 percent say they use an artificial tree.

+ 30 percent of people say they believe in Santa Claus.

Adding jobs one place, losing them another

New York State added more than 40,000 private sector jobs last month -- the biggest such increase since 2005, according to the state Department of Labor. Good news!

Here's the thing, though: the state lost 37,000 public sector jobs compared to the same month a year ago. The large majority of those jobs were at the local level. And with stimulus money drying up, you have to figure governments will keep cutting.

The Capital Region added 2,800 private sector jobs in October, compared to October 2009. But public sector losses put the overall change at -1,900. There are still roughly 30,000 unemployed people in this area.

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Trying Four Loko and Joose

four loko tasting cans

So, what are we missing?

Updated: The FDA issued warning letters today to the makers of these drinks, indicating the caffeine is an "unsafe food additive."
____

For the last week or so, New York has been buzzing about caffeinated alcoholic beverages such Four Loko. Last week, Chuck Schumer urged the state Liquor Authority to ban the drinks. This week, the company that makes Four Loko voluntarily offered to remove the product from New York stores. Yesterday, Schumer announced the FDA would effectively ban the drinks. And then early this morning the company behind Four Loko said it's pulling the caffeine from the drinks.

Yet, with all this buzz, we hadn't talked to anyone who had -- you know -- actually tried the stuff. And while we admit, we'd never had a desire to try it before, the idea that we might not be able to made us wonder if we were missing something.

So -- while the drinks are still legal-- AOA bought a few, assembled a panel of tasters, and checked them out.

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New York State ranked last in voter turnout

albany county ballot scannerNew York State had the lowest voter turnout in nation during this most recent election, according to figures compiled by the United State Election Project at George Mason University. Of people eligible vote (but not necessarily registered), only 32.1 percent showed up on Election Day (methodology).

The top five states -- and bottom five -- are after the jump.

The Empire State has done a bit better in recent years. During the 2008 election, the state ranked 42nd with 58.3 percent. And in the 2006 midterm election, the state again ranked 42nd on 34.9 percent participation.

Among the reasons offered by political scientists for New York's low turnout: uncompetitive races and a slow adoption of convenient voting options such as early voting.

[via NYT City Room]

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Schumer: FDA will effectively ban caffeinated alcohol drinks

Thumbnail image for caffeinated alcoholic beverages four lokoChuck Schumer's office says the FDA "will rule that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic beverages, effectively making products such as Four Loko, Joose, and others like them, prohibited for sale in the United States."

A story in NYT this morning reported that an official FDA ruling could come today -- a spokeswoman for the agency said it was "taking a careful and thorough look at the science and the safety of these products."

The Paterson administration announced this past weekend that the company behind Four Loko had voluntarily decided to stop selling the beverage in New York State.

Schumer has been pushing for a ban. Last week he called for the state liquor authority to ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages in the state. Michigan banned them earlier this month, and Washington did the same last week. And Oklahoma has a ban set to start next month. And they apparently have been banned for some time in Utah.

photo: Flickr user jameskm03

There's still time for a flu shot

google flu ny 2010-11-15

Flu activity in New York State as tracked by Google Flu Trends over the last handful of season. The dark blue line is the current year. That big early spike was 2009.

The feverish state one of the editors was in yesterday had us thinking about the flu. So we checked out Google Flu Trends to see how this season is shaping up so far.

Flu experts will tell you there's no such thing as a "normal" flu season, but we don't appear to be off to anything you might consider a weird start. As you can see from Google's graph above, last year's flu season included a big early season spike.

Google's formula is based on search activity, not actual reported lab or doctors' office data. It appears to do a good job, though. (Both the New York State Department of Health and the federal Centers of Disease Control track the official data.) It would be interesting to see Twitter and Facebook updates folded in somehow.

Google is also now experimenting with data for metro areas -- here's Albany. Last year's data indicated Albany experienced an "intense" flu wave in early November.

All this is to say, if you haven't gotten a flu shot, there's still time to do so. Here's a flu shot finder.

Earlier on AOA: RPI's "beer pong" flu: a highly transmissible story

graph: Google Flu Trends

Siena poll: New Yorkers "optimistic" about Cuomo

andrew cuomo mediumA few bits from the Siena Poll out Monday:

+ Andrew Cuomo's favorable/unfavorable: 64/26

+ Percent of respondents who said they were "optimistic" about Cuomo's chances of creating jobs: 75 percent

+ Percent of respondent show said they were "optimistic" about Cuomo's chances of balancing the state budget: 59 percent

(Respondents were generally optimistic for Cuomo's chances on every policy front.)

+ Percent of respondents who said New York's fiscal condition is "fair" or "poor": 92 percent

+ The top two priorities, by far: developing new jobs and balancing the state budget

+ 53 percent said Democrats and Republicans should "share power" to run the state Senate.

+ "Do you support or oppose the Governor and Legislature passing a law to legalize same sex marriages in New York?": support: 52 | oppose: 39

+ 85 percent said they don't like talk about Cuomo running for president

photo via Andrew Cuomo Facebook

Four Loko voluntarily bans itself from New York

caffeinated alcoholic beverages four lokoUpdated Tuesday morning with additional links and info about research

The Paterson administration announced over the weekend that Phusion Products, the company that makes the caffeinated malt liquor drink Four Loko, had voluntarily agreed to stop shipping the beverage to New York State by this Friday. The administration also announced the state's largest beer distributors had voluntarily agreed to stop selling malt beverages that contain caffeine and other stimulants.

Said David Paterson in the press release:

"New Yorkers deserve to know that the beverages they buy are safe for consumption. The voluntary agreement reached this weekend between beverage distributors and the State Liquor Authority is an important first step toward permanently removing alcoholic energy drinks from the marketplace. I'll continue to work with the beverage industry to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.

Despite some good tabloid-y lines -- "liquid cocaine" and "badness in a can" -- there doesn't actually appear to be any research showing that the caffeine/alcohol mix in these beverages is inherently unsafe, at least not yet (the FDA is currently reviewing the products -- there are suspicions ingesting alcohol and caffeine at the same time is more potent than consuming the substances separately). As devtob and others pointed out in comments here on AOA last week, the tales of drunkenness and other mishaps associated with Four Loko probably come from the fact that the beverage is 12 percent alcohol by volume. Considering a single can is 24 ounces, that's enough alcohol to get most people relatively well smashed. (If you can actually get past the taste.)

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Chuck Schumer, not loco for Four Loko

caffeinated alcoholic beverages four loko

Our senior senator isn't a fan

Chuck Schumer is calling on the New York State Liquor Authority to ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Schumer says the drinks are dangerous -- and cites the case of an 18-year-old Long Island woman who died this past August after allegedly drinking a Four Loko.

The now-infamous Four Loko is a malt liquor drink that comes in 23.5-ounce cans and is 12 percent alcohol by volume, with what the company says is about the same amount of caffeine as a 12 ounce cup of coffee.

Four Loko has apparently become quite popular among the college set. There have been a bunch of reports students being hospitalized or otherwise getting into trouble after binging on the drinks (and many tales). And the coverage has resulted in some tabloid-y lines describing the drink, including "liquid cocaine" and "badness in a can."

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AOA Exit Poll 2010 results

albany county ballot scanner

We did sort of have to resist the urge to tell it how many copies we wanted.

Here are the results from AOA's informal exit poll yesterday. Thanks to everyone who took the time to fill it out -- we got 133 responses.

Charts and a few comments after the jump.

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Election results 2010

2010 ballot closeup

Updated Wednesday at 7:55 am

Here's a quick scan of results from statewide, as well as federal and state-level locally-relevant races. Numbers are unofficial and some don't represent total counts, yet (we'll update).

The boards of election from Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties have results posted online.

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AOA Exit Poll 2010 (and drawing!)

Thumbnail image for ballot scannerUpdate: The drawing's now closed, as is the exit poll. Thanks!
___

We thought it'd be interesting/fun to do a quick (and totally unscientific) exit poll for Election Day.

So, the first-ever AOA Exit Poll is after the jump. It should take all of 30 seconds to fill out. We'll post the aggregate results tomorrow.

Also, as part of the poll, we're giving away a copy of the Daily Show book Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race. We'll draw one winner at random from all the people who take the poll.

Important: You have to take the poll by 11:59 November 2 to qualify for the book drawing. You'll also have to enter an email address (that you check regularly) so we can contact you. We'll notify the winner by noon on November 3. And the winner must respond by 8 pm that day.

On to the poll!

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State IG: public's best interest was of "militant indifference" to state leaders in Aqueduct project

A report out today from the State Inspector General criticizes pretty much all the state leaders involved with the failed AEG bid for the big Aqueduct racino project. The report alleges that leaders ignored vetting, leaked info, took questionable campaign contributions or just didn't try to stop a process they knew to be flawed.

Says state IG Joseph Fish in the press release:

This process was doomed from the start, and at each turn, our state leaders abdicated their public duty, failed to impose ethical restraints and focused on political gain at a cost of millions to New Yorkers ... Unfortunately, and shamefully, consideration of what was in the public's best interest, rather than the political interest of the decision makers, was a matter of militant indifference to them.

The IG's office says it's forwarding the report to federal and local prosecutors, as well as the state Legislative Ethics Commission.

The Aqueduct project has since been won by another investor, Genting New York. Some of the revenue from the deal will be used to prop up horse racing in the state -- including $100 million in improvements at Saratoga Race Course (though it could be 2012 before that happens). [TU CapCon] [Saratogian]

Prices from a market where they're not advertised

pot budWe're always curious about everyday patterns or odd markets that aren't necessarily easy to get a handle on. So we had to exclaim, "Dude!" when we recently came across a new site called Price of Weed.

Yep. It's exactly what it sounds like. The site touts itself as "a global price index for marijuana." It relies on user submitted prices to compile a price index, broken down by state and quality. For example, here's the index for New York State. Here's an article about the anonymous creators.

The site includes reports by town. So, naturally, for journalistic purposes, we were immediately curious about prices in the Capital Region and how they compared to other parts of the state.

So we rolled the numbers.

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The slow line to high-speed rail

northeast corridor high speed rail

The proposed high-speed line along the Northeast Corridor.

Sometimes we have this transit fantasy in which the Capital Region is connected to other cities via high-speed rail. Headed for New York City? One hour. Boston? A one-magazine trip. Buffalo? Why? (We kid. Sort of.) It could have a profound effect on this region.

But the more this issue develops (or, you know, doesn't), we're thinking we might be traveling via jet pack before we get high-speed rail here.

Amtrak released a report on its high-speed rail aspirations for the Northeast Corridor yesterday. A few highlights:

Average speed: 140 mph
Washington to Boston: 3 hours
New York to Washington: a little more than 1.5 hours
Cost: $117 billion ($42 billion if it's all plunked down now)
Funding in place: no
Projected completion date: 2040

Yep, 30 years from now. And high-speed rail makes a lot sense along this corridor -- it's jammed with people and a lot of them already ride trains. Even so, the cost, planning and politics make the project a long shot. [The Transport Politic]

And despite all the talk about New York State hopping on board with high-speed rail, that's not looking likely, either.

Of course, things change. The political situation could shift. The economy could (somehow) get a lot better. The price of oil could way up.

Or not. So... where do we get fitted for a jet pack?

image: Amtrak

Moose country

moose at saratoga track

A moose sighted at the Saratoga Race Course in June 2009.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation reports that the number of moose in New York is "rapidly" increasing. The DEC estimates there are now about 800 moose on the loose in the North Country -- up from 500 three years ago, and as few as 50 in the 1990s.

From the press release:

As their population has grown in New England and Canada, Alces Alces, or the North American Moose, began migrating to New York in the last decade, establishing a base in the North Country. That trend has continued with increases in young and adult moose populations and increased sightings by hunters and the public at large. DEC biologists stress that the population numbers are estimated but that the growth is clear.

Apparently, this time of year is the peak season for moose activity, as amorous moose wander the landscape looking to hook up (common moose pickup line: "nice rack").

All that moose activity means you're more likely to see one this time of year -- and you're also more likely to hit one with your car. Moose are as tall as six feet at the shoulder and weigh as much as 1200 pounds, so they can do quite a bit of damage.

DEC says most of New York's moose (we really want to call them meese) are located in the Adirondacks, but there are some in the Taconics along the border with Vermont and Massachusetts.

Incidentally, the press release didn't include details about whether there's been a coincidental increase in the flying squirrel population.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Earlier this year, the DEC reported the state's bear and bald eagle populations were both growing
+ Foxes and fishers and bears, oh my!
+ Your new neighbors, the fishers

photo: Lynn Drew/NYRA Photo

Paladino wins Republican nomination for governor, and other primary results

Carl Paladino beat Rick Lazio in the Republican primary for governor -- and it wasn't even close. He was ahead by a 2-1 margin when the AP called the race last night. [AP] [NYDN]

Embedded above is a clip from Paladino's post-primary speech, posted by State of Politics (here's part two). Here's transcript clip:

They say I'm too blunt. Well I am, and I don't apologize for it.
They say I'm an angry man. And that's true! We're all angry - not just because we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. We're angry about paying the highest income taxes and property taxes in the nation and getting less and less for it. We're angry about our incompetent, dysfunctional government that pays no attention to the desires of the people. We're angry about the cesspool of corruption and conflicts of interest and self-dealing that's the Albany of today.
But here's what my critics, what they don't quite understand: I know there is a way to bring opportunity and economic growth back to new york state. And you're coming with me and we're going to do it. And I believe we can.
We're New Yorkers and we're Americans - we can do anything we set our minds to. Those who say that New York's brightest days are behind us - those who say our our state is so broken it can't be fixed - those that say nothing can be done to rebuild New York - they're dead wrong!
You see, I believe our brightest days are ahead of us.

A Siena poll from mid-August had Paladino trailing Andrew Cuomo by a wide margin in a hypothetical general election match-up for governor. That poll also reported that Lazio was leading Paladino for the nomination.

Earlier on AOA: Who is Carl Paladino?

Other notable primary results

+ State senator Eric Schneiderman edged out Kathleen Rice in the Democratic primary for attorney general. He'll face Republican Dan Donovan in the general election. [Bloomberg]

+ Former Congressman Joe DioGuardi won the Republican primary for US Senate and will face Kirsten Gillibrand. Jay Townsend won the other Republican primary for US Senate and will face Chuck Schumer. [NYT] [AP]

+ Incumbent Neil Breslin fought off a challenge from Luke Martland in the Democratic primary for the 46th state Senate seat (the district that covers Albany County). He'll face Republican Bob Domenici, and Michael Carey -- who's running on an independent line. [TU] [TU Local Politics]

+ State senate majority leader Pedro Espada was defeated by Gustavo Rivera in the Democratic primary for the 33rd state Senate seat (the Bronx). Rivera is a former Kirsten Gillibrand staffer. Though, as one voter told NYT: "The best thing about him is that his last name isn't Espada." [NYDN] [NYT]

Consumer "non-confidence"

new york state consumer confidence Aug 2010

The higher the number, the more confident.

Check out this table from the Siena Research Institute's monthly New York State consumer confidence index.

Look at the split between Democrats and Republicans for confidence about the future of the economy. There's also a relatively wide split between upstate and NYC.

From SRI director Doug Lonnstrom:

Statewide our numbers are weak and depict worried consumers very reluctant to spend. Under the hood, we see Democrats saying the economic glass is nearly half full, but Republicans, 25 future index points lower, are now more pessimistic about their own prospects as well as the five-year state outlook than they have been since we began measuring consumer confidence in 1999. Over six of every ten Republicans expect poor business conditions in New York this year and widespread unemployment through 2015. Democrats forecast a somewhat rosier picture for the state and are much more likely than Republicans to insist that somehow, someway, they personally will be better off in a year.

As NYT reported earlier this week, New York City has fared relatively well during the recession (relative being the key word) -- and things are looking up there. That might explain some of the split -- both political and geographic.

Earlier on AOA: Optimism for the Capital Region housing market

table: Siena Research Institute

The state always gets its cut

sesame bagels in basketFrom the "Oy, New York!" file: WSJ's Jacob Gershman reports today that the state Department of Taxation and Finance has cracked down on a group of Bruegger's stores for, among other things, not collecting tax on sliced bagels.

In the taxation department's interpretation of the state tax code, sliced bagels are subject to sales tax -- but whole (unsliced) bagels are exempt. But get this: a sliced loaf of bread -- not taxed.

The DTF tells CBS6 that it will be stepping up enforcement of such food-related tax quirks.

The Bruegger's group tagged by the state has more than 30 stores across upstate -- including here in the Albany area. The stores have been posting signs telling people about the change. [Biz Journals] [WNYT]

Another thing about Kenneth Greene, the guy who owns the Bruegger's group -- his company baked the world's largest bagel (more than 800 pounds) at the New York State Fair in 2005. [Bigger Impact] [SuperSized Meals]

New York has the highest closing costs

highest closing costs 2010

The ten most expensive states (counting LA and SF separately). Arkansas had the lowest average costs at a little more than $3,000.

The closing costs for a $200,000 loan in New York State average $5,623, according to a survey by Bankrate. That's highest in the nation. (Yes, shock. This is New York.)

New York's average is way ahead of #2 Texas (yeah, not everything is bigger in Texas). The Lone Star State's average was $4,708 -- 16 percent less than the Empire State. In fact, New York's total was 50 percent higher than the national average. (Arkansas had the lowest at $3,007.)

Here's how Bankrate figures the costs break down in New York.

Of course, closing costs make it more expensive to buy a house -- but they also add to the price of refinancing your mortgage. And right now mortgage interest rates are at record lows. (Here are some tips for saving on refinance closing costs.)

[via Business Buzz]

graph based on figures from Bankrate

Miss New York on her pro-gay rights platform

Claire Buffie, this year's Miss New York, was on MSNBC this weekend talking about being the first Miss America contestant to ever run on a platform supporting GLBT rights.

She should probably earn bonus points for being able to do the interview while balancing that crown on her head.

From a recent interview Buffie did with The Advocate:

What did you think of the controversy surrounding Carrie Prejean at the Miss USA pageant in 2009? The question is a difficult part of the competition. I initially applauded Carrie for having an opinion and voicing it rather than just feeding the public what they wanted to hear. I feel she was forced into a media frenzy over which she did not have complete control. The difference between Carrie Prejean and myself is that this is a platform on which I have personal stories to share and I can support statistically, and I don't think she had that education on the issue to be a spokesperson. I think if anyone's going to speak publicly about a serious issue like this, they need to be completely [knowledgeable]. I feel sorry for someone in that situation.

[video via Buzzfeed]

Earlier on AOA: Miss New York supports same-sex marriage and can fix iPods

New York's least-smoky counties

The Capital Region's four core counties have some of the lowest adult smoking rates in the state, according to data distributed by the state health department today.

The full rankings are after the jump. Among Capital Region counties, Albany County had the lowest smoking rate at 16.5 percent.

We were also curious about how smoking rates might associate with income -- so we whipped the two sets together. The result is also in there.

Eww: The DOH released this data as part of push to get people to stop smoking. Part of the campaign: two new TV spots of which a DOH officials says: "Some viewers may complain the ads are too graphic or emotional..." The one embedded above is pretty gross. Here's the other.

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New Yorkers are cranky tweeters

A study that used data from Twitter to track mood across the nation has been getting a lot of attention online today. New Scientist has a good overview of the study, which was headed up by researchers at Northeastern University.

Of course, we were curious about our area of the country. And we gotta say, from what we can tell, the results are not warm and fuzzy.

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Capital Region June unemployment rate better than last year

the last five Junes

The dots mark the unemployment rate for the last five Junes.

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in June, according to the state Department of Labor. It was 6.5 percent in May and 7.1 percent in June 2009. (June to June is the best comparison because the local unemployment rate is not seasonally adjusted.)

There are more than 30,000 people unemployed in the Capital Region.

New York State's overall unemployment rate in June was 8.2. The state's rate was 8.3 in May and 8.6 in June 2009 (seasonally adjusted, so if you'd like to compare different months against each other, compare away).

The national unemployment rate in June was 9.5 percent.

Breakouts for individual Capital Region counties after the jump. Every county showed a decrease in the unemployment rate compared to June 2009.

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Poll: Upstaters favor medical marijuana

medical marijuana signCornell's Empire State Poll reports that more than 60 percent of New Yorkers support medical marijuana. One possibly surprising finding: the poll found more support for medical pot upstate than downstate -- 67 percent vs 62 percent (margin of error 4.9).

A Quinnipiac Poll released earlier this year reported similar results -- 71 percent of New York voters favored the legalization of medical marijuana and the idea had strong support across pretty much every demographic group.

There's already a bill in the legislature that would legalize medical marijuana. Sixteen states (including DC) currently allow medical marijuana in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

[via @NickReisman and LoHud]

photo: Flickr user Caveman 92223

Miss New York supports same-sex marriage and can fix iPods

claire buffie miss new york 2010The platform for Claire Buffie, who was crowned Miss New York this past weekend at UAlbany, caught our eye. From the pageant's site:

... [she is] an outspoken advocate of human rights, opening the dialogue about equality amoungst youth, teens and adults alike with her platform "Straight for Equality: Let's Talk." The issues of gay rights make up the civil rights movement of our generation and reach far beyond marriage equality. As Miss New York 2010, Claire aims to break the stigma of marginalized youth, eliminating discriminatory vocabulary and changing the climate in New York schools. She celebrates diversity and the things that make us all unique and aims to instill pride, dignity and respect in developing minds and compassionate hearts.

If you remember (or if you've blocked it out), same-sex marriage was the issue that set off the furor around Carrie Prejean, Miss California at last year's Miss USA pageant (Prejean said during the pageant that she thinks marriage "should be between a man and a woman").

Back to Miss New York: According to her bio, she's an executive board member of the NYC chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She was one of the runners up in last year's pageant.

Buffie lives in NYC where she has a photography and design business. According to her bio, she also works at the "genius bar" at the Apple on Fifth Ave in Manhattan. She loves Glee. And here she is wearing a fake duck bill on an Aquaducks tour.

She now gets to compete in the Miss America pageant.

photo: Miss New York Organization

Up in smoke

pack of cigarettesA bill passed by the state legislature last night will increase the state tax on cigarettes from $2.75 to $4.35 per pack. That's the highest in the nation.

We were kind of curious about how much higher New York's tax will be compared to other states -- especially states that are right next door. And yep, you guessed it -- the inevitable chart is after the jump.

With the tax increase, a pack of cigarettes will now go for a little more than $9 -- and almost $11 in NYC (which has its own excise tax). [NYT]

The American Lung Association figures the tax increases will "encourage" about 120,000 adults to quit smoking. About 18 percent of adult New Yorkers were smokers in 2009 (around the median for all states), according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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Act One. Mister Fix It.

ira glass and david paterson

Ira Glass interviewing David Paterson at the Capitol in May.

This week's This American Life featured a long segment about the New York State budget. During the setup for the piece, host Ira Glass says: "For those of you who live far from New York, you need to understand a few things about just how terribly run New York State is." And then he runs through all the scandals and drama (that part runs longer than many regular radio segments).

That all leads to the appointment of Richard Ravitch, whom Glass describes as the "hero of our story." Says Ravitch at one point, when asked if he felt like he was going to into a "madhouse" after being appointed to Lt. Governor (at Peter Luger):

Yes. But I'm also... this sounds terribly pompous, forgive me... but I have a kind of romance with the whole idea of government and public service. So, at the same time I knew I was going into a madhouse, I also, it was a matter of pride that perhaps I could be helpful and there was nothing more useful I could do with my life.

Ravitch later says: "I didn't know how serious the problem was. I didn't realize the state had been faking balanced budgets for so many years."

The piece includes a bunch of people from around the Capitol, including David Paterson, state budget director Bob Megna (and his non-state-funded stress balls), Ruben Diaz, public radio correspondent Karen Dewitt, YNN's Erin Billups, the singing of Jay Gallagher and NYSNYS's Kyle Hughes.

The piece is a good overview of how the state got into so much budget trouble. It's not a hopeful picture.

The show is available as a free download this week. It's also available for streaming.

photo: Paterson admin media images

New York is not the volunteer state

top volunteer activities in Albany

The top four volunteer activities in this metro area.

From a report called Volunteering in America, based on averages from 2006-2009:

The Albany metro area has 200,000 volunteers
27.1% of residents volunteer - ranking them 44th among the 75 Mid-size cities
34.7 hours per resident - ranking them 44th within the 75 Mid-size cities
$532.2 million of service contributed here

Here's the full rundown for this metro area.

The report includes a list of "community factors that may influence Albany's volunteer rate" -- but in Albany's case they would seem to indicate that more people in this area would be volunteering.

New York State did terribly in the rankings -- 51st among all states (and DC) for percentage of people who volunteer. NYC probably accounts for a lot of that -- it's volunteer rate was 50th among 51 large cities.

Here are the national rankings.

The federal government produced the report based on data collected by the Census Bureau.

[via the TU's Chris Churchill]

Earlier on AOA:
+ From 2008: Know of a great place to volunteer?

graph: Volunteering in America

The Capital Region's unemployment rate is a little better. Sort of. Maybe.

capital region unemployment 10 years of May

The dots mark the Capital Region unemployment rate for each May since 2000. It's easier to read big.

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in May, according to the state Department of Labor. It was 6.5 percent in April and 6.7 percent in May 2009. (May to May is the best comparison because the local unemployment rate is not seasonally adjusted.)

The labor department reports the number of non-farm jobs in the Capital Region last month was down 2,500 compared to May 2009. There are still almost 30,000 people unemployed in the Capital Region.

New York State's overall unemployment rate in May was 8.3 -- the lowest rate since April 2009. The state's rate was 8.4 this past April and 8.4 in May 2009 (seasonally adjusted). But the labor department says the number of non-farm jobs in the state last month was down 22,700 compared to May 2009.

So, what's up here? There are fewer jobs compared to this time year -- but the unemployment rate is down (slightly)?

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UAlbany president's pension is head of the class

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for UAlbany walkthrough fountainUAlbany president George Philip has the largest annual pension benefit among retired state and local government employees, according to figures published today by the Empire Center. The annual total: $261,037.

Philip racked up the pension working for the New York State Teachers' Retirement System between 1971 and 2007. He eventually served as chief investment officer and executive director of the fund that was then worth $105 billion, according to his UAlbany bio.

The Empire Center's SeeThroughNY database reports that Philip made $282,906 last year as president of UAlbany. That made him the fourth highest paid employee at the university (Alain Kaloyeros topped the chart at $734,353).

The think tank added pension data to the database this week. The average annual pension benefit for people in the system that includes Philip is $25,947, according to the Empire Center.

[via the ASP]

Earlier on AOA: RPI's Jackson tops compensation chart

Report: New Yorkers are the least knowledgeable drivers

national drivers test results map 2010

That's quite some company for New York in the slow lane.

A nationwide test/survey concluded that drivers in New York State are the least knowledgeable in the nation.

The test, which was sponsored by GMAC Insurance, asked drivers a series of 20 questions that were taken from state DMV exams. The New Yorkers' average score was a 70 -- the worst of any state (including DC) and just good enough to be considered passing (under 70 was considered failing).

Here's an explanation of the methodology.

This is the second year in a row that New York was ranked last in the nation. Other states near the bottom: New Jersey (shock), DC, California and Rhode Island. The Empire and Garden states have ranked near the bottom for the past five years.

Kansas had the top average score (82.3). The national average score was 76.2.

[via CapNews9]

Earlier on AOA: Listomania: a list of lists which list the Capital Region and New York

map: GMAC Insurance

Most popular baby names in New York 2009

name tag isabellaAs it does every year, the Social Security Administration recently released a list of the most popular baby names in 2009. You can break the list out by state, which is exactly what we did.

The list of the most 100 popular names for boys and girls born in New York last year is after the jump.

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Speed reading the coverage of Andrew Cuomo's campaign announcement

andrew cuomo campaign announcement

Gubernatorial candidate.

Andrew Cuomo has publicly declared that he's running for governor (finally).

Here are a bunch of the quick scan highlights from the coverage, including bits about Cuomo's plan, his apparent cold shoulder toward Sheldon Silver, being an insider-outsider-upsidedownsider and Sandra Lee.

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Andrew Cuomo announces for governor

Andrew Cuomo officially announced that he's running for governor Saturday with a video posted on his website:

From the video message:

Our state government in Albany is disreputable and discredited.
New York State is upside down and backwards; high taxes and low performance. The New York State government was at one time a national model. Now, unfortunately, it's a national disgrace. Sometimes, the corruption in Albany could even make Boss Tweed blush.
In my opinion, politicians of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, share the blame. Both are guilty of playing partisan politics and bringing New York State to the brink.
Because I believe so deeply in the mission of government, I am so troubled by its failure. The Declaration of Independence says when government fails, the people have the right to replace it. Well, New York State government has failed and the people have the right, indeed the people have the the people have the obligation, to act.

Later on in the message, he says: "We want to know how the candidates for the State legislature are going to vote on key issues and we want to know now. Let's make this a litmus test for change."

Here's a transcript of the video. The text is also embedded after the jump.

Cuomo's campaign has posted an issues agenda. Among the main points:

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New York continues to add jobs

April's unemployment rate since 2000

The dots mark the unemployment rate for each April since 2000. It's easier to read large.

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in April, according to the state Department of Labor. It was 7.2 percent in March and 6.5 percent in April 2009. (April to April is the best comparison because the local unemployment rate is not seasonally adjusted.)

The labor department reports the Capital Region added more than 4,000 jobs last month. There were almost 30,000 people unemployed in the Capital Region.

New York State's overall unemployment rate was 8.4 -- that's lowest rate since May 2009. The state's rate was 8.6 in March and 8.1 in April 2009 (seasonally adjusted). The labor department says the state added jobs for the fourth straight month.

That unemployment rate for the entire United States was 9.9 percent in April.

Breakouts for individual Capital Region counties are after the jump.

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The end of phone books?

phone_book_in_driveway.jpgVerizon has asked the state Public Services Commission to drop the requirement that it deliver phone books to all its customers. From the company's waiver request:

Technological advances, such as Internet directories and the directories in wireless and wireline devices, have made customers much less reliant on, and interested in, printed residential white page directories. Verizon thus proposes to adopt a more customer-focused and environmentally conscious approach to the distribution of white page directories: if granted this waiver, Verizon will distribute such directories "on-demand" to customers that request one.

Verizon cites a private Gallup survey that reported only 11 percent of household used the white pages in 2008. The company says it could probably save 5,000 tons of paper each year by not printing the books.

A Verizon spokesman told NYT that it hopes to have the requirement waived by the end of the year. A spokesman for the PSC tells the TU that Verizon is the first company in the state to make such a request.

We have to admit that the seemingly never ending stream of phone books has irked us for some time. Apparently we're not the only ones.

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Can cars and bikes coexist in the Capital Region?

capital coexist tom benware

Tom Benware

By Kalyn Belsha

Tom Benware might have passed you in traffic. On his bike. Which was on the side of a bus.

Tom appears on a CDTA bus as a part of a new initiative launched in April encouraging Capital Region motorists and cyclists to share the road.

In real life, the Delmar resident is a transportation guru, public transit advocate and 1,000-mile-a-year cyclist. He worked at the state Department of Transportation for 14 years and now he's the senior legislative analyst for the New York State Senate Transportation Committee. Just last week he helped advance new legislation that would require New York roads be designed with all users in mind - not just drivers.

I took a moment to talk with Tom about biking in the Capital Region, his favorite places to ride and what it's like to see yourself on the side of a bus.

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Sweeter than the soda tax?

can of cokeDespite the impassioned and persistent efforts of the state health commissioner, the soda tax has reportedly gone flat.

But New York apparently still needs the money. And it probably doesn't need the calories.

So here's a potentially sweeter idea: instead of specifically taxing sodas that contain sugar, New York should tax high-fructose corn syrup.

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Our humans are relatively well developed

american human development map

New York's in the top 7.

The American Human Development Project released its annual "Measure of America" report today. The survey ranks states and congressional districts according to a "human development index," which is based on factors such as life-expectancy, education and income.

As it happens, New York scores pretty well in the index -- it ranks #7 overall (Connecticut was #1) and the New York 14th Congressional District (Manhattan and Queens) ranked #1 among all congressional districts.

Here in the Capital Region, the NY 21st (Paul Tonko) ranked #148 nationally, and the NY 20th (Scott Murphy) #162. That's better than a little more than 60 percent of all the congressional districts.

The stat-by-stat breakdown for the two districts is after the jump.

By the way: According to the report, Asian-Americans in New Jersey live better than any other group in the nation.

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Pay gap smaller in New York, but still wide

woman man stickfiguresNew York State ranks #6 in the nation for having the smallest pay gap between male and female workers. But women here still only make 78 percent of what men do, according to AAUW.*

Wyoming has the smallest gap (women make 89 percent as much as men there). Alaska has the biggest (women at 64 percent). Nationally, women make 71 percent as much as men.

A 2007 analysis by two researchers at AAUW reports that even when controlling for factors such as experience (including work hours), training, education, and personal characteristics, men still make five percent more than women.

The Harvard Business Review has a whole section dedicated to pay gap issues this month. This article about "delusions of progress" for women in management was particularly interesting.

*That's for "median earnings for ... male and female full-time, year-round college-educated workers, ages 25 and older." The gap is smaller -- and New York ranks one spot better -- for "median earnings for ... male and female full-time, year-round workers, ages 16 and older, all educational levels." The data are from the Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey.

[via @SenGillibrand and @NMessier]

Earlier on AOA: RPI's Shirley Ann Jackson tops compensation chart

photo: Flickr user sylvar

Andrew Cuomo accuses Pedro Espada of "looting"

pedro espada pointingThe state attorney general's office announced today that it's filed suit against state Senator Pedro Espada for "looting the Bronx based not-for-profit where Espada serves as President and CEO."

Said Andrew Cuomo in a statement: "Taxpayer money was given to this not-for-profit to provide healthcare services to underprivileged patients, but our investigation has found the funds flowed into the pockets of Senator Espada and his supporters."

Among the many allegations: Soundview, Espada's health care not-for-profit, paid for "more than 200 meals totaling more than $20,000 from two sushi restaurants that regularly received orders from Espada's wife and delivered to the Espada home in Mamaroneck."

image: NY Senate

State inspector general: more than $1 million in improper spending at NYSTI

state inspector general logoOh, the drama. A report out from the state Inspector General's office today alleges that Patricia Snyder, the director of the New York State Theater Institute (which is in Troy), "repeatedly violated state laws on nepotism and used the state authority to steer nearly $700,000 in payments and benefits to her husband, her children, and herself, while overseeing an additional $475,000 in questionable expenses."

A sampling of the allegations in the IG's report are after the jump.

The IG's office also alleges that Snyder "took actions to frustrate and mislead the inquiry" and at one point said:

"You know, you are getting into very dicey waters, artistically. I will tell you, the arts community will be up in arms with this line of questioning. We are talking about artists . . . Art is not like running an OGS office."

Snyder is NYSTI's founding director. According to the org's website, "Snyder believed that theatre for family audiences must be of the highest quality, and that theatre can be used to make the world a better place."

The Paterson administration's proposed budget this year planned to cut state funding for NYSTI by half this year and completely next year. A group popped up to oppose the cuts. From a recent post on the wall of the Save NYSTI Facebook page by Snyder: "Everyone, write your Senators and ask them to restore funding to NYSTI during budget negotiations. It's the last chance."

Update: E. Stewart Jones, who's representing Snyder, told NYT: "This report is mean spirited and monumental nonsense."

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The Yankees bandwagon is crowded

siena sports poll

A Siena poll out this week reported that more New Yorkers root for the Yankees than any other team. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said the Yanks were their first or second favorite team.

The chart above shows the results for other teams. It's good to see Syracuse finishing ahead of the Knicks (the Orange do have more wins this season). We're a little surprised to see the Steelers make the chart.

A Marist poll from earlier this month reported that 58 percent of New Yorkers were Yankees fans and 28 percent root for the Mets. As people pointed out then, it'd be interesting to see if the Red Sox polled better in the Capital Region.

A few other interesting bits:

+ Only 21 percent of people say they've entered a NCAA basketball tournament pool at least once (Really? That's it?) -- yet 45 percent said they've placed a sports bet or entered some sort of pool. (Forty-eight percent said they've entered a Super Bowl pool.)

+ Seventy-seven percent said they'd rather watch a game on TV than go in person. Eighty-eight percent said they agree the cost of going to a game "has gotten out of control."

+ Eleven percent say they've played fantasy sports. That jumps to 24 percent for 18-34 year olds.

chart: Siena Research Institute

The new SUNY strategic plan

SUNY released the outline of its new strategic plan today (here's the flip-through brochure). Overall, the plan aims to set up SUNY to "drive New York's economy" and revitalize communities. It includes six "big ideas":

suny strategic plan branding+ A focus on entrepreneurialism, including mentoring and support for startups.

+ A "cradle to career" education pipeline. Initiatives include an effort to reduce new teacher attrition and more co-op jobs.

+ Focus on health care -- research and jobs.

+ Renewable energy technology

+ Increasing presence in local communities. Among the initiatives for this focus: more student volunteer work and "study abroad" opportunities within the state (well, Long Island is sort of like its own country).

Step one for the plan apparently was branding the university system to look like a biotech company (brochure cover on the right).

SUNY has 64 campuses and almost 465,000 students. About 18,000 of those students are at UAlbany.

It's a pin-striped state

yankees logoA Marist Poll out this week reports that of New York State respondents who said they follow baseball, 58 percent were Yankees fans. Just 28 percent said they cheer for the Mets.

The poll reports that 61 percent of respondents said they follow baseball -- though only 28 percent said they followed it a "good" or "great" amount.

The Yankees play the Red Sox Sunday in the first game of the MLB season. The other teams get started on Monday.

Bandit Tracker

bandit tracker photo

This Bandit Tracker photo is from a Buffalo robbery in January.

For whatever reason, we've become slightly obsessed with bank robberies over the last year. (Maybe because it seems like there's one every other week.)

Thankfully, the FBI has put together a site to help feed our interest: Bandit Tracker Northeast. The site tracks open bank robbery cases across the area covered by the FBI's Albany division -- including upstate New York and parts of Vermont and New Jersey. There are robbery profiles, security camera grabs, a map and a feed. You can even subscribe via email (You have a robbery!).

As it happens, the FBI also this week released nationwide stats for 2009 bank robberies. A few interesting bits after the jump.

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Puff, puff, puff

medical marijuana signA bill that would legalize medical marijuana in New York State made it out of another state Senate committee yesterday (Neil Breslin was among the "ayes").

Earlier this week a Siena poll reported that 50 percent of respondents said they "support" legalizing the use of medical marijuana in New York State. In a Q poll of New Yorkers last month, 71 percent of respondents said it was a "good idea" to allow adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it.

Thomas Duane, the sponsor of the state Senate version of the bill, told NYDN that medical marijuana is "the right thing to do" -- and the state could generate about $15 million in licensing fees. Medical marijuana is listed as a revenue item in the budget resolution the Senate passed (on a party line vote) this week.

The bill does not propose outright legalization of pot. We did some hazy math last year that suggested doing so could generate something like $230 million for the state in revenue.

Fifteen states currently allow medical marijuana in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

photo: Flickr user Caveman 92223

Reaction to the legislative assault on salt

salt shaker

All this should probably taken with a grain of... well... you know.

As you might have heard, state assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) has proposed a bill that would ban restaurants from using salt in the preparation of food.

That hasn't exactly gone over well. A quick spin around the table for reaction after the jump.

Also: a scan of Ortiz's other fun-filled legislation.

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Capital Region high school graduation rates 2009

Albany High School

The Albany school district doesn't fare well in these rankings.

The state Department of Education released data about high school graduation rates this week. The statewide graduation rate for the 2005 cohort of students was 74 percent (that counts kids who finished up by August 2009).

We pulled out the stats from Capital Region school districts. As we mentioned last year, some of the results are sort of shocking. Sorted stats (including notes and qualifications) after the jump.

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Take a good look

paula poundstoneNew York State's problems with political corruption came up during this past weekend's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me -- and the panel ended up cracking on Albany (at the 4:10 mark):

Paula Poundstone: It must sort of smart a bit when you realize how hard your worked to get there... Before someone runs for office in New York, they should probably make them go look at Albany...
Peter Sagal: See what they think...
Poundstone: Yeah, exactly...
Sagal: It'd be like a scare-straight program for potential politicians.

Poundstone will be able to get a good look for herself in April. She's playing the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall April 24.

We're guessing it won't hurt that badly.

[via @amymengel]

photo: Paula Poundstone

Embarrassed to be New Yorkers

paterson favorability 2010-3

David Paterson's favorability ratings since becoming governor, as tracked by the Siena poll

The Siena poll out today reports that 54 percent of respondents said they agree that "What's going on in Albany makes me embarrassed to call myself a New Yorker."

SRI also reports that 55 percent of those polled said they think David Paterson should serve out his term. That reverses a recent slide for Paterson across a handful of polls:

March 2: Marist reports 66 percent say Paterson should stay stay
March 3: Quinnipiac reports 61 percent say stay
March 5: Quinnipiac reports 46 percent say stay
March 8: Siena reports 55 percent say stay

Not that people are warming back up to David Paterson. This most recent Siena poll reports that Paterson's unfavorable rating is at its highest point (67 percent).

Here's the full listing of the poll results.

The wrong way

capital region unemployment 2010-1

The Capital Region's unemployment rate since the start of the recession.

The state Department of Labor reported today that Capital Region's unemployment rate was 7.8 percent last month -- that's up from 6.9 percent in December, and 6.8 percent in January 2009.*

The raw numbers of unemployment send it home for us, though: more than 35,000 in the Capital Region were counted as unemployed last month.

The labor department also released its revised numbers for all of 2009. It reports that the average number of the jobs in the Capital Region declined 2.6 percent last year compared to 2008 -- that was one of the smallest drops in the state.

Statewide, the labor department reports that the average unemployment rate was 8.4 percent last year -- the highest mark since 1992. For January 2010, the state's unemployment rate was 8.8 percent -- compared to 8.9 percent in December and 7.1 percent in January 2009.**

The county-by-county breakdown for the Capital Region is after the jump.

* not seasonally adjusted
** seasonally adjusted

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Save the Parks rally

parks rally at capitol

That sign in the back puts it rather plainly.

B has posted a handful of photos from yesterday's Save the Parks rally outside the Capitol. Among them: one of Jack McEneny rocking the bullhorn.

Based on comments in reports from the rally, it sounds like legislators aren't too keen on the idea of closing down parks. Of course, who knows what's going to happen behind closed doors when/if the state budget comes together.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Thacher Park is on official closure list
+ The campaign for Thacher Park

photo: B

Bears and eagles

black bear

Ursus americanus

Updated Wednesday 4:55 pm

The state Department of Environment Conservation reported that the number of bears "harvested" in 2009 was the second-highest total on record. The DEC says hunters killed 1,487 black bears last year -- that's up 15 percent from the year before.

Most of the bears were killed in the Adirondacks, Catskills and Southern Tier -- but there were 21 kills in the four core counties of the Capital Region. Nineteen bears were taken in Saratoga County (including on in the Town of Saratoga) and two in Albany County (in Berne and Westerlo). That's up from 17 in the core Capital Region in 2008.

DEC says bear populations in New York State are growing.

Eagles: The DEC also reported this week that "preliminary results indicate that the bald eagle population in New York State may be at an all-time high since the state began its repopulation efforts more than 30 years ago."

Jackie spotted two bald eagles on the frozen Moreau Lake in January.

[via @woodzepper]

Earlier on AOA: Foxes and fishers and bears, oh my!

photo: Flickr user peupleloup

Toyota recall service in New York

prius stock photo

The 2010 Prius is part of the recall.

The New York attorney general's office announced yesterday that it had reached an agreement with Toyota for "special accommodations" for New Yorkers whose cars are part of the massive recall.

The benefits include:

Pickup and return of the vehicle by a dealership representative or by flatbed truck
Transportation for the customer to the dealership and/or to his or her place of work
Alternate transportation, such as a rental car, a loaner vehicle, or taxi reimbursement, for the reasonable period that the customer is unable or unwilling to use his or her car
Expedited scheduling of repairs

And it's all on Toyota's tab.

A company official told Congress yesterday that it was looking to extend the benefits to all states.

photo: Toyota

Thacher Park is on official closure list

thacher park indian ladder trail lower

No more walks on the Indian Ladder trail?

The state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation just released a "recommended list of closures and service reductions."

As rumored, Thacher Park is on the list -- and it's slated for closure. Eight other parks and sites in the greater Capital Region are also on the list.

The full Capital Region list -- and more info -- after the jump...

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The campaign for Thacher Park

Indian Ladder view

The view from the Indian Ladder Trail in Thacher Park.

Updated at 5:30 pm -- new Facebook pages added

John Boyd Thacher State Park -- and the Victoria Pool at Spa State Park -- might be closed because of state budget cuts. Or they might not.

It's hard to say, because there's been no public declaration by the state that Thacher and other state parks are facing the budget axe. But the signs seem to be pointing in that direction.

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The appliance swap out

energy starNew York State's "Great Appliance Swap Out" starts today. The program offers rebates on purchases of energy-efficient appliances.

It lasts for 10 days -- or until the funding for it runs out. There's a table on the program's web site that details how much money remains for rebates.

The are two levels of rebates, one for single appliance purchases (refrigerators, washers, freezers) and the other for buying a "bundle" -- a refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher. The rebates range from $50 for a single freezer to $555 for the bundle. If you recycle your old appliance, you can get a bigger rebate -- usually $25 more.

It's hard to complain about getting $105 back on the purchase of a new fridge. But we don't think we'd chuck a perfectly good appliance just for the rebate. If you've been thinking about replacing or upgrading, though, now might be the time -- especially since a lot of stores also appear to be offering sales along with the rebate.

If you do end up buying an appliance with the rebate, make sure you read all the rules and fill out the form in time. And ask the appliance store about recycling -- they might be able to help.

Bonus: If you're curious about how much a new energy-efficient fridge could save you on electricity, the Energy Star program has a "Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator" online.

How many gallons per mile?

old gas pumpsThere's a bill in the state Senate that would require all new cars sold or leased in New York to come with a sticker that lists the autos' gallons-per-mile. Yep, that's gallons-per-mile -- not just miles-per-gallon.

So, why GPM?

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Poll: New Yorkers favor medical marijuana

medical marijuana signThe Quinnipiac Poll out today reports that 71 percent of New York voters favor the legalization of medical marijuana. The poll reported strong support across pretty much every demographic group -- Republicans supported it the least, at 55-41.

Also from the Q Poll: New Yorker voters oppose the proposed tax on sugared sodas 57-40 (the poll described this measure as a "fat tax" or "obesity tax"). That makes sense -- after smoking all that pot for, you know, medicinal purposes, you have to wash down the cheesy poofs with something. (We joke -- but there is evidence that compounds in marijuana have therapeutic value.)

The poll did not ask people about outright legalization of pot. We did some hazy math last year that suggested doing so could generate something like $230 million for the state in revenue.

As it happens, there's already a bill in the legislature that would legalize medical marijuana. Fifteen states currently allow medical marijuana in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Earlier on AOA: MMA legalization smacked in poll

photo: Flickr user Caveman 92223

MMA legalization smacked in poll

Thumbnail image for ufc.jpgA Marist poll out late last week reports that 68 percent of the registered voters it surveyed were against legalizing ultimate fighting in New York State. Twenty-nine percent were in favor.

That split held more-or-less true across the political ideology, geographic region and income (Republicans and upstaters favored legalization a little bit more). The split was more even when sorted by age: 50/50 for 18-29 and 54/43 against for 30-44.

David Paterson's proposed budget includes a measure that would legalize ultimate fighting (or mixed martial arts, as it's also known) -- though the plan projects the revenue generated to be modest.

Here's the wording of the Marist poll question, which describes the sport. Kevin Marshall, an MMA fan, says the question was "a wildly misleading choice of words."

By the way: A promoter of the cage fight at Washington Ave Armory Friday night said the event was a step toward ultimate fighting. The fight had originally been scheduled for the SEFCU Arena -- but UAlbany canceled after there were concerns it was an illegal MMA event. [Daily Gazette $] [@albstudentpress]

photo: Flickr user Lee Brimelow

Cold snap, New York rail funds request stops short, low number of home foreclosures, surgical robot unveiled

Today's weather forecast includes a steep temperature drop, the possibility of strong wind gusts and some snow. [NWS]

Chuck Schumer says New York State is in line to get $151 million from the $6 billion the feds have pledged for high speed rail. Part of that money will go toward constructing a second track at the bottleneck between Rensselaer and Schenectady. It will also pay for signal upgrades and engineering studies. New York State had been hoping to get billions, not of this money. [Post-Star] [Daily Gazette $] [CBS6] [TU]

The state Department of Taxation and Finance is looking to step up its tax collection enforcement efforts. [TU]

Friends and family of Joe Bruno have been writing letters urging the judge presiding over his case to go easy on his sentencing. [TU]

Schenectady's sewer maintenance supervisor was the city's highest-paid employee in 2009 -- mostly because of overtime. [TU]

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Capital Region unemployment rate up

capital region unemployment 2009-12

The Capital Region's unemployment rate since the start of the recession.

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 7 percent in December, according to the state Department of Labor. That's up from 6.7 percent in November -- and 5.9 percent in December 2008 (that's the best comparison because the numbers are seasonally adjusted).

The number that strikes us about the unemployment data is the raw total: more than 31,000 people are unemployed in the Capital Region.

The labor department includes Schoharie County in the Capital Region rate, which probably skews things a bit. Schoharie's unemployment rate was pegged at 9.2 percent in December. The county-by-county breakdown is after the jump.

The state's overall unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in December, up from 8.4 percent the month before and 6.8 percent a year ago.

State unemployment rate corrected Friday morning.

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A quick scan of the Paterson budget

paterson budget 2010-2011

David Paterson at today's budget presentation.

Updated at 1:44 pm

The Paterson administration officially released its proposed 2010-2011 state budget today. David Paterson called the state's financial picture "lugubrious" and said his proposal was "a budget of necessity." He also criticized past budgets: "We can no longer afford this spending addiction."

A (relatively) quick scan of the proposed budget is after the jump. It includes items about a soda tax, wine in supermarkets, speed cameras, The Egg and ultimate fighting.

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Potholes ahead

pothole art

Think of them as spontaneous transit art.

The condition of roads in the Albany area costs an average driver $1,145 a year, according to a research group called TRIP. The think tank came to that conclusion as part of an overall survey of New York State's surface transportation system.

Here's how TRIP breaks down the cost of the condition of the Capital Region's roads:

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Paterson enters the octagon

Thumbnail image for ufc.jpg"Sources" tell NYDN that David Paterson will include a measure legalizing ultimate fighting in his proposed budget plan later this month.

Reps from the Ultimate Fighting Championship have been lobbying for legalization in NY the last few years -- and apparently Paterson sees this as a way to generate revenue. A Bronx assemblyman floated the same idea earlier this year.

Colonie assemblyman Bob Reilly has been one of the most outspoken critics of legalizing MMA. That prompted a UK paper to wonder if Reilly was "the most hated man in MMA."

photo: Flickr user Lee Brimelow

State of the State speed read

paterson state of state 2010You could spend half an hour listening to David Paterson's State of the State speech from today... or you could skim through this quick scan version.

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Has the state looked in the couch cushions?

Thumbnail image for tattered dollar billNew York State had to scrape together enough cash to cover all its bills at the end of 2009, according to state comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The comptroller said on December 31 that it was looking like the state's general fund (its short term cash) account would have a negative balance for the first time in "recent history." He blamed last year's state budget and said "New York dropped the ball." (David Paterson sort of echoed DiNapoli's comments.)

Toward the possibility of holding on to the ball in the future, the Empire Center -- a conservative think tank -- released a report today called "Blueprint for a Better Budget". It includes a bunch of interesting facts and details if you're wonkishly inclined. But this line caught our eye:

If New York had budgeted at the national per-capita average in 2008, it would have spent nearly $32 billion less.

That's about $1,641 less per person.

Earlier on AOA: The state budget gets bigger and bigger and...

photo: Flickr user califrayray

Out of the archives for just a day

flushing remonstranceThe New York State Museum will be displaying the Flushing Remonstrance on Sunday, the 352nd anniversary of its signing.

The document was a request from residents of what's now Queens for an exemption to the ban on Quaker practice in the colony of New Amsterdam. It's considered a pre-cursor to the religious