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Politics

State senate fate still undecided

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Who will rule the senate chambers is still up in the air as vote counts continue.

The election goes on
Control of New York's state senate is still in question after Tuesday's election.  The Buffalo News reports that two districts on Grand Island, wedged up against the Canadian between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, will be a deciding factor. The Democrat and Chronicle reports that, predictably, the two parties don't agree on who's up and who's down:

Senate Republicans, out of power since 2008, were confident they would hold a minimum two-seat majority, but Democrats said there were signs three too-close-to-call races would break their way with help from absentee and emergency ballots.

Similar doubts remain about the 25th congressional district race, where incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei and Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle are running too close to call.  The Post-Standard reports that unofficial totals are starting to show Buerkle ahead, but that the race will ultimately come down to absentee ballots.

Part of what has dragged out a result in the 25th district race is delays in getting unofficial results from Wayne County, where election workers gave up on tallying votes around 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.  The Innovation Trail's Emma Jacobs reported on a similar catastrophe in Broome County, where computer servers failed as eager results watchers repeated refreshed their the election webpage.

Business interests are taking stock of Tuesday's election and setting up their lobbying plans to hold winners to their promises about jobs and the economy.  The Democrat and Chronicle reports:

The state's business community played a sizable role in this week's elections. This year marked the first time in the Business Council of New York State's 30-year history that it made political endorsements.

At the top of the agenda: cutting spending and a property tax cap.  The man who'll be tasked with enacting that is Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo.  The Times Union has a rundown of the mileposts we should be watching to measure his success, including how he deals with a $9 billion dollar deficit, renegotiating a contract with big state worker unions in March, and how quickly he moves to enact a property tax cap.

Schools going broke
The Buffalo News reports that that city schools are facing a huge deficit, according to an analyst for the Buffalo control board, Bryce Link:

Due to a number of factors -- including changes at the state level regarding employee pensions and increases in payments to charter schools, as well as projected drops in sales tax revenue -- the district is looking at a budget gap for the 2010-11 fiscal year, Link said. "Three months ago, when the budget was adopted, it was balanced," he said. "Now, they're faced with a $26 million shortfall in that three-month period."

The number could get worse too, if state aid is decreased (which seems likely given the state's fiscal condition) rather than increased, as the current budget predicts.

New wind turbines
Union College in Schenectady is testing a new type of wind turbine.  The Times Union reports that they're install three "vertical axis" turbines that claim to be quieter and less visually jarring than windmill-style turbines:

College officials expect that the three turbines will be able to supply roughly 40 percent of the power used by the athletic complex where they are located, including the lights and scoreboard. That should lower Union's electric bill from National Grid by several thousand dollars annually.

Mandate reform – sort of
Tax bills in Onondaga County will continue to remind residents of the mandates that local governments have to fulfill.  There had been a movement in the county legislature to re-label the bills with "county taxes" (since that's who collects them), but the measure was defeated.  The Post-Standard reports that Democratic legislator Mark Stanczyk wanted to strike the language because it gives the impression that the taxes aren't the doing of local politicians:

According to the county, 21 percent, or $224 million, of its $1.1 billion budget for 2011 will pay for state-mandated programs such as Medicaid, welfare, CENTRO bus service, services to the handicapped and other social service programs. But Stanczyk said that leaves a lot of costs that have nothing to do with state mandates, such as sheriff’s department road patrols, the county nursing home and county parks. Republicans said there is nothing wrong with labeling property taxes as “state mandated” because mandated costs exceed the county’s property tax levy, the amount it raises from property taxes, and eat up nearly half of all of the county’s local revenues.

National Grid rate hike
Businesses are backing National Grid's request to increase rates, saying it will help fund needed infrastructure improvements, according to the Buffalo News.  At a hearing held in Buffalo Wednesday only one residential subscriber testifed against the hike.  The utility wants a $361 million rate increase; the state's Public Service Commission has recommended a $40 million increase.  A decision from the commission is expected in January.

Pop-up shopping
The Times Union reports that pop-up shops, often associated with big urban centers and chic designers, are showing up in more mundane places, with more mundane retailers.  A Burlington Coat Factory will be open for a flash at Colonie Center, and Toys R Us is planning a similar strategy for Christmas shopping:

Pop-up stores aren't without risk for landlords. If they allow too many stores to become temporary, malls and shopping centers could look like vacant shells during less profitable times of the year. For that reason, many landlords resist leasing to pop-ups, said Christina Norsig, founder of Pop-Up Insider, an online matchmaker for temporary real estate. Nevertheless, Norsig believes pop-ups are a permanent part of the retail landscape -- even when the economy recovers.

Toy trophies
Playing cards and the Game of Life are being honored today in Rochester, as the next inductees into the Toy Hall of Fame.  According to the Democrat and Chronicle, it was a competitive field of nominees this year, including:

Nominees are Cabbage 
Patch Kids®, chess, the dollhouse, dominoes, Dungeons & Dragons®, The Game of Life®, Hot Wheels®, Lite Brite®, Magic 8 Ball®, playing cards, the pogo stick and Rubik’s Cube®.

Last year's winners were the ball, the Big Wheel and the Game Boy.

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