Thursday, January 31, 2008

Primal Politics

It's the last day of January and, in the political world, all eyes are on New York.

And Georgia. And California. And Illinois. And ...

Well, "Monster Tuesday," as MSNBC has dubbed the February 5th presidential primary, is just days away, with dozens of states and more than 1,500 delegates on the line. Senators McCain and Clinton appear to be have New York sewn up. The outcome elsewhere is much less certain.

Schenectady Democrats will be watching the results together, having organized a "Super Tuesday Celebration" at the Hibernian Hall on State Street. The brainchild of the city Dems' new Central Park election district leader Chuck Thorne -- a big-time supporter of City Council President Peggy King who is viewed by many insiders as an up-and-c0mer -- the party is an attempt to cultivate and woo new party activists; new blood for what has proven to be a highly successful organization.

It's no secret that local Democrats are on a roll in the Electric City. And they're getting results; take a walk through downtown this weekend. But they're not about to rest on their laurels. Witness Tuesday's team-building social. They want more -- more volunteers, more leaders, more candidates, more ideas, more success.

Meanwhile, Schenectady Republicans lost their way years ago. They're on the mat and the Dems aren't about to let them up.

The event at the Hibernians -- 1748 State Street -- begins at 9. I'm sure all are welcome. But, be prepared to be courted and then put to work.

And that's a good thing!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Strock -- Again

I look forward to reading the two local newspapers every morning; first The Daily Gazette and then, my former employer, The Times Union. It's the best time of day -- black coffee and newsprint are an enriching breakfast.

But there's one part of that diet that regularly gives me early-morning indigestion; makes me sick more times than not. It slithers down the far left column of the Gazette's local section and goes by the name Carl Strock.

I'm not quite sure what motivates Mr. Strock. He's not clever, not witty and very predictable. He doesn't like police, teachers, municipal workers, politicians, the court system and organized labor. Interesting choices, given the geographic area he covers.

If his editors prohibited him from writing about any of those topics -- hint, hint -- well, the B-1 layout editor would have to get creative with white space because the Strock columns would be few and far between.

In his column on Sunday, Jan. 27, Mr. Strock unleashed his venom on former Schenectady County Legislator Ed Kosiur and the entire State Legislature.


I suppose members of the state Assembly and Senate are easy targets, and Mr. Strock is not one to pass up an easy target. And, when you're talking about political pay raises (and don't I know this!), that target gets even bigger and more tempting. As for Mr. Kosiur, well, Mr. Strock is not adverse to kicking a guy when he perceives him to be down.

That was Sunday's column. Again. And, unfortunately, despite warnings otherwise, there are still some readers who believe anything and everything that appears in print. For those people, and for those who think like Mr. Strock, let me toss in a dose of reality:

There are some politicians -- past and present -- who are jerks. They are the bums for whom the phrase "throw da bums out" was invented. By luck and the good judgement of the voters, they don't last long and are eventually thrown onto the trash heap of politics.

But I've worked with and known political types for 30 years -- as a journalist, campaign volunteer and elected official -- and I can honestly say most of those who put their names on a ballot do so for the right reason. They care about their community and their neighbors. They are willing to make sacrifices to better the society in which they live. Some are better at it than others; some screw it up and move on. But it does them a tremendous disservice to continually question and disparage their commitment and motivation.

As for Ed Kosiur, full disclosure here: Ed is one of my best friends. I've know him and his family socially and I was instrumental in recruiting Ed to the political game. That remains one of the best things I did during my time in politics.

Ed Kosiur doesn't have an insincere bone in his body. He is deeply committed to Schenectady, especially to its youth. He works harder than almost any public servant -- elected or appointed -- I have ever encountered. And he does much of it behind the scenes, without fanfare or congratulations. Schenectady's children will be well served by Ed Kosiur's skills, dedication and, most of all, his heart.

Mr. Strock forgot that part.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's the voters, stupid!

With the presidential campaign pulling out of South Carolina -- amid an impressive showing by Sen. Obama on the Democratic side -- we've completed the first round of this four-year race for the White House. And, as the saying goes, things are clear as mud.

Which is great! I remember -- being the nerdy kid I was -- watching late-summer presidential nominating conventions on a black & white TV at a beachfront motel while the rest of my family had fun in the sun outside the room.Now, that was my kind of vacation!

Back then, conventions meant something. For good or for bad, the professional politicians and the true-believers had all the influence. It was democracy in action, at least democracy as it had been defined up until that point. And it was wild to watch and anticipate as conventioneers traded votes and hopes to be the state delegation to crown the party's next nominee.

That all changed with the proliferation of the state primaries when, we the people -- for the most part, anyway -- got to call the shots. The primaries made the conventions almost meaningless and certainly not a good reason to miss a summer vacation.

But perhaps not this year. Both the Republicans and Democrats have real horse races going and it's possible -- oh, I have my fingers crossed -- that convention delegates will actually select their parties' nominees later this year. Sure, the Feb. 5 Super Duper Tuesday -- with more than 1,600 delegates up for grabs -- may change that scenario but, for now, this political junkie is hoping for the return of convention chaos and smoke-filled ... errrr, smoke-free ... rooms.

Meanwhile, we can count on the cable "news" shows to do their best to keep us on the edge of our political seats for the rest of 2008. They, too, are salivating over the fact there are no real front-runners in either race. So be it; I can appreciate that.

What I don't appreciate, however, is the holier-than-thou, I-know-better-than-you-do attitude they bombard us with 24/7. That's why I got a kick out of the results from New Hampshire a few weeks ago. The Chris Matthews of the TV world got it wrong -- again -- and ended up with a three-egg omelet all of their collective, smug faces. Their reaction to New Hampshire voters' always-dependable independence prompted me to write the following to Time magazine. It is the lead letter in Time's "Letters" column this week (

Government by the people

You got it right with your cover headline, "It's the Voters, Stupid. Forget the experts. Forget the polls. Forget the TV ads" [Jan. 21]. What the primary results from New Hampshire showed, once again, is the arrogance of the national media—especially television news, which continues to believe that it's the story. The press seemed downright insulted that the voters of New Hampshire didn't vote the way the commentators and pollsters said they would. It's long past time that the talking heads acknowledge they don't have any more political insight than do the schoolteacher and garage mechanic pulling the lever in the voting booth.

Frank Maurizio


Monday, January 21, 2008

Paper Mess

It seems I'm not the only one addicted to paper. In "At the Keyword's" initial blog, I wrote about my reluctance to go "e" -- saying that my work had always been something you could literally touch; maybe even make your hands dirty. This new on-line media was ... well ... new and needed some getting use to.

Well, take a look at the "Empire State" page of Monday's Times Union (Jan. 21) and you'll read how some state legislators are trying to amend the state Constitution so that lawmakers won't be required to have reams of paper delivered to their desks every time a bill is introduced in the Assembly and Senate.

According to the TU's Capitol Confidential:

"... some 700 bills were deposited on lawmakers' desk at the start of this year's session. Three days later, they were unceremoniously gathered up and carted off, almost certainly unread. ... The paperwork was enough to fill at least three rolling bins in the Assembly alone. That's an estimated 450 reams, or about 225,000 sheets."

Wasteful? Environmentally unfriendly? Nuts?

Of course. But it seems that's the way state lawmakers like it. They have -- on five occasions since the late 1990s -- refused to support legislation that would change the state Constitution to allow those bills to "age" virtually -- on legislators' computers -- eliminating the paper requirement.

Calling Al Gore! How many more trees must die so that New York state lawmakers can watch unread paper turn yellow and curl on their seld0m-used desks? Our tree-hugger friends need to make their case at the Capitol.

Meanwhile, another attempt to bring the Legislature into the 21st Century is under way. Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, and Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, have reportedly introduced another constitutional amendment to force their colleagues to switch on their PCs to do their jobs. If -- and it's apparently a big if -- that happens, it won't kick in until 2010.

Quick, put a fence around the Adirondacks Forest Preserve!

Meanwhile, the same Times Union included the return of former TV anchor -- and more recent blogger -- Ed Dague. Ed was away for a few months, dealing with some legal and personal issues that made all the papers. They're now resolved and we're better off for it. Mr. Dague is a thoughtful, articulate critic of the media and -- God knows -- the media needs someone with integrity and experience looking over its shoulder.

Welcome back Ed!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Starting over for the first time

Congratulations! You've found the debut of "At the Keyboard," my second attempt at my first blog. Or is it my first attempt at my second blog? I'm not quite sure and I'm not sure it matters all that much. But here I go again.

As a member of the Schenectady City Council, I attempted a city issue-oriented e-discussion -- "Schenectady POV" -- but it never got off the ground. As the kids say these days: "My bad." I eventually pulled the plug, saying I didn't have the time necessary to devote to a lively, current back-and-forth. But, in reality, I wasn't sold on blogs; I'm a professional communicator of three decades who was used to seeing my words (and thoughts) on paper. And -- God forbid! -- my work as a journalist/writer/editor was hardly ever open to commentary from the reader.

Hey, I'm the one with the degree in journalism; the one with the traditional communicator's resume!

Well, I was wrong.

Blogging and the other new media is here to stay. And, more importantly, it's been embraced by all facets of society. Those who refuse to share in that e-group hug are missing the point, and missing the boat.

Those who have a message to get out -- whether it be a tip on grooming your cat or a sophisticated marketing plan for a major corporation -- have to include blogs and the like as part of their media stew. I'm a convert; in fact, an eager, enthusiastic convert.

So, "Schenectady POV" evolves into "At the Keyboard." I am no longer on the City Council -- enjoyed it very much and am very proud of what we did, but happy to be done -- and I still have some things to say about the city I love, the politics that still excite me and the path our society is on during these very interesting times.

I appreciate the interest and I look forward to an ongoing discussion. Because, though I came to blogging kicking and screaming, it's clear that it's not just the card-carrying news reporters and the j-school grads with good insights and provocative ideas to share. I'm excited to read what you have to say, not only about the issues I raise, but about what's on your mind.

Politics, policy, sports, relationships, whatever -- it's all fair game here. Please participate and thank you for bringing blogs to a place where even a paper-loving curmudgeon like me can join in.