Friday, July 13, 2007

Maggie's Lies Getting Bolder and Bolder

Before this election year, I actually had the foolish notion that Maggie Brooks was doing a decent job as County Executive. There were a series of job announcements, the airport was drawing record passengers, and the relationship with the City was its best in recent memory. What happened? Maybe I'm just a weak-minded liberal who has fallen prey to the evil Democrats' sniping at her record, or maybe I'm a free-thinker who sees through all the bullshit that the GOP shovels at us, but regardless, I am no longer of the mindset that Ms. Brooks is deserving of her powerful position. Among the many issues that the local GOP has bungled, twisted, and lied about over the past year, the latest is the County's precarious financial position.

Monroe County's bond rating has been downgraded once again and is now only two levels above junk status. Beyond the fact that the City of Rochester has maintained a far-superior bond rating, there are third-world nations with better bond ratings than our wonderful County. A poor bond rating leads to higher interest rates on County projects. As logic would have it, the higher the interest rate, the more money County taxpayers must ante up every year. As the Republicans have it, taxpayers have nothing to worry about. As the illustrious John Durso put it on Tuesday, "We are concerned about the interests of property taxpayers on Main Street, and unfortunately that does not sometimes coincide with the interests of Wall Street ... This news is not unexpected, but it will not stop us from continuing to move forward to protect property taxpayers in the future." As if maintaining a positive fiscal outlook is comparatively harmful to taxpayers.

Today however, Maggie Brooks ratcheted up the debate by defending her record against her Democratic assailants with outright lies. Said Ms. Brooks, "We've balanced our budget every year ... We've reduced discretionary funding this year by $400,000. We've cut the cost of government. We have more jobs in our community than when I took office ... I don't think that to me signals a community that is on the verge of bankruptcy." She then added, "The Democratic caucus should be directing their ire at Albany and instead of saying, 'Maggie Brooks, when are you going to solve our budget crisis, (ask) Albany when are going to give us control over more than 20 percent of our budget?." Fair enough. Except that balancing the budget based on one-shot revenues such as tobacco settlement money is a band-aid, not a solution. Likewise, the proposal to take sales tax money from the City, towns, and villages is just shifting the burden, again not a solution. The County has indeed cut the cost of government, but they've done so by cutting services from those most in need. Who cares about them though, they don't vote and they certainly don't vote Republican. I agree with Maggie that we should be directing our ire at Albany and demanding more from them. However, in the absence of improvements at the state level, the County must do what is necessary to ensure its own fiscal stability; and so far, it has not.

But it is the fourth of those claims where Maggie makes herself look absolutely foolish. "We have more jobs in our community than when I took office." Really? I'm not sure where Maggie is getting her numbers, but from the numbers that I've seen, she's way off. Ms. Brooks took office on January 1, 2004. According to the Department of Labor's Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Monroe County was home to 388,027 jobs in December 2003, the month prior to her taking office. By December 2006, the most recent QCEW data available, there were 384,879 jobs in Monroe County. By my math, that's a drop of 3,148 jobs or nearly 1 percent. Fuzzy math indeed. It is true that the Rochester Metropolitan Statistical Area has added jobs since Maggie took office. But I don't think she should be taking credit for the hard work of Livingston and Ontario counties. In fact, she should be ashamed at how many businesses are moving to our neighboring counties to avoid the inept leadership she and her party have provided us since Jack Doyle took office.

The Democrats have put together a solid package of reforms that would cut the County's deficit and lead to long-term benefits. The Republicans claim that "everything is on the table" but scoff at Democratic suggestions like abolishing the Water Authority or Kent Gardner's proposal in the Rochester Business Journal to slice funding from the school districts. This leads to the obvious question, which party has your best interests in mind? The choice is clear which way you should vote come November, if only the Democrats would put a name in their column.