Sunday, December 15, 2013



            Okay, I’m guilty. My Blogs are few and far between, but I do have an excuse. Between the media and social networks clogging air-space, the sub-liminal battle to have a life of my own is increasingly difficult. I know I’m not alone in this battle. Some may consider this very same Blog an example of social media intrusion. My defense:  sparse presentations.

            The topic, This Time, is befitting the holiday season. Recently, I revisited one of my root sources of adolescence and young adulthood – Harlem USA. For those of you who beat me to it, you’ll understand my surprise. The new 125th Street, which is really an avenue but no one ever called it that, is testament to gentrification and resulting businesses it attracts. The streets I once walked bear little resemblance to what I remember, as well as the faces encountered during my visit. The heart of Harlem has become a veritable United Nations that is composed of tourists and, to my great surprise, white folk who have taken residency. My destination served as perfect example.

            The Red Rooster restaurant is an icon of Harlem The location I remember from my younger days has changed, but the radiance of staff and patrons remains the same. First, I recommend reservations, particularly during the holiday season. Even with pre-planning, be prepared to spend time at the bar where my wife and I were treated to courtesy appetizers. The menu is not over-bearing, but carefully crafted by an executive chef to excel on the palette. Choice of appetizers serves to alert diners what’s in store. Take your choice:  Fried Chicken & Waffle, Oysters Rockefeller, Sweet Potato Soup, Smoke Trout, The Goat, and Caribbean Bacon. My birthday guest, Brandy, chose the Market Green Salad, which she felt compelled to share, while I negotiated the Crab Cocktail (and also shared).

            Entrees followed suit with unique character. My wife, the mermaid, could not resist the Fish & Grits (red grouper, crayfish grits, chorizo aioli, black kale @ $30). I, on the other hand, went for Helga’s Meatballs ($23), a not so simple mixture of lingouberries, braised green cabbage and mashed potatoes. Bottom line: Doggie Bags were not an issue, sorry Aries (my dog). A popular favorite with veteran customers was the Red Line Burger ($19), pimento cheese, bacon, melted onions, parmesan fries on a pretzel bun. As implied at the beginning, nothing at The Red Rooster is ordinary, including the live music that began at 7 pm during our visit. You’ll find Red Rooster at 310 Lennox Ave, NYC (between 125th & 126th). Phone: 212-792-9001.


            Now for the That. Will the real Steve Bellone please stand up? The County Executive of Suffolk came into office on a platform of more efficient government, and somewhere in the rhetoric, a more transparent one. After two years on the job, the jury is still out. Despite the usual Republican critics, many of Bellone’s Democratic colleagues have taken issue with some of his practices. As stated in Newsday, Steve’s (excuse the familiarity) disregard for procedure has followed him from his hometown of Babylon to the county level. Obviously, Steve is a gambler. He managed to get out of town (Babylon) before a negative audit report surfaced indicating budgets were not structurally sound due to overestimated revenues. Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) were ignored, in addition to questionable inter-fund transfers. A career politician may consider this business as usual, and wish to be in a position to do the same. After all, the town audit found no malfeasance or criminal conduct. Makes one wonder – why bother?

            Suffolk County Executive Bellone may have won the roll of the dice for the moment. His Ends Justifies the Means approach to government has been a friend indeed. Decisions made in his home district may have proved beneficial to taxpayers, i.e. a series of 17 transfers from the residential garbage district fund to the town’s general fund to purchase property for the town’s Wyandanch Rising revitalization project equaling $28 million. The process required approval by town board resolution, repayment by the end of the fiscal year with interest. Those conditions were not met at the time, but were subsequently met according to town officials.  The domino effect to taxpayers reflected a savings exceeding $3 million. Fans of Jackie Gleason may recall – A mere bag of shells!

            Perhaps, County Executive Steve Bellone needs to be reminded of the double standard. Note, the jury is still out.  Appointments made during his administration are under continuous scrutiny.  The county executive doesn’t disguise the value of patronage. On this, he may be more transparent than elected colleagues of the same level. Caution looms:  Are the appointments commiserate with qualifications? Case in point: Newly elected Suffolk County Legislator, Monica Martinez.  Monica was not appointed but elected.  This demonstrates a new avenue of patronage. Her road to success was endorsed and significantly financed by “behind the scene” supporters against seasoned incumbent, Rick Montano, a Democrat and critic of several Bellone practices.

            From the beginning of her campaign, Monica Martinez stated her intention to flaunt a newly enacted county law prohibiting “double dipping” by public employees in the event of election to public office. Accordingly, she declared her plan to keep her position as assistant principal in the Brentwood School District at $117,000 per year in addition to $98,260 per year as legislator. By all rules of logic, that admission should have ended Monica’s political future. Not so fast.

            Through support from the county executive’s office and influential family business connections, Monica wins election, but must now face a tough decision before being sworn in January. The law remains on the books, clearly stated with cloudy exemptions. Teachers in public schools or colleges are exempt, but not administrators. Ms. Martinez is an administrator. Case closed, almost. County Executive Steve Bellone further adds his support to the newly elected legislator by his attempt to amend the law regarding exemptions. Before you become completely nauseated by this sequence, help is on the way.

            Within hours of this post, the county Board of Ethics has responded to the petition of Monica Martinez. The original law is upheld and Ms. Martinez is forbidden from maintaining both positions at the expense of students and parents within the district of Brentwood and the taxpayers of Suffolk County. She immediately applies for a leave of absence from her assistant principal position. Simultaneously, Executive Bellone recants on his amendment plans. This predictable decision should send a message to the county executive: Time has come to seek advice beyond the club house. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, July 11, 2013





                Is it me, or is it me? Does anyone remember that just a few years ago the hot debate around town centered on the fate of gambling in New York State: Downstate, represented by Long Island, verses Upstate, with the Catskill region leading as adversary. Native American victories on casino establishments in the northwest of the state served as an enigma to a state legislature anxious to share in uncollected revenues.

                ACT ONE, Scene One:  The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, under Federal recognition, uses its legal authority to establish a gambling operation that attracts foreign entrepreneurs eager for profit ventures.

                ACT ONE, Scene Two: The Mohegan Tribal Nation follows in quick pursuit and within a stone’s throw of their Pequot neighbors, also garnishing large revenues.

                ACT TWO, Scene One:  In historical sequence, Native American Nations that bear the names of several upstate cities in New York State are quietly attempting to duplicate the Connecticut experiment.

                ACT TWO, Scene Two: Millions in untapped potential state revenues.


                Obviously, my historical scenario is abbreviated. As an example, the Foxwoods Casino was founded in 1986 as a bingo hall. The casino was financed by Lim Goh Tong, a Chinese Malaysian who founded the only legal casino in Malaysia. He died in 2007. In 1992, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, the casino’s owner, added table games, followed by slot machines in 1993. But, so much for history.

Fast forward to 2007.  Foxwoods Casino agrees to pay 25 percent of their slot revenue to the state of Connecticut, a sum that amounts to $200 million per year. In the year ending 2008, Foxwoods’ 6300 slots handle more than $9.1 billion. Despite twenty years of petitions by our Catskill neighbors for legal entry into the gaming business, the New York legislature kept a deft ear to their cause. Suddenly, the light bulb goes on! Casinos by the names of Turning Stone, Akwesasne Mohawk, Seneca Gaming and Seneca Niagra are now functioning and looking for expansion. And guess what? They are all under Native American control! Unlike the Pilgrim settlers of our country, this movement occurred under the radar of our elected representatives.

When one considers this two decade evolution, the question becomes: What was the spark that ignited Albany legislators, spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which led to a re-alignment of priorities and the expansion of gambling? The answer is two-fold: a statewide demand for new revenue and the inevitable Shinnecock entry into the gaming world. The not so subtle maneuver of the governor to facilitate an 11th hour bill in the Assembly speaks poorly for transparency. However, the bill does speak directly to the state constitution which will require amendment.

Have you heard this before? “Revenue to our counties means one thing: We won’t have to raise property taxes.” Out of the mouth of Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square). Believe that and I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. His shield for such a statement was based on the promise of 1,000 video slot machines each for Nassau and Suffolk counties. When it comes to the gaming industry, we have no shortage of corruption and mismanagement; one case in point, the debacle to select a company to run video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack.  Let us not forget the original premise for the New York Lottery system – dedicated funds for the state education system. By all accounts, no school district in our state should be facing budget cuts with jackpots in the millions. Bottom line, it’s all about the money. Or is it?

As the dice rolls across the table, a new gamer is about to come to town. The Shinnecock Tribal Nation has called Long Island its home long before the Pilgrims. Their reservation rest on the most valuable real estate in the state. Because of that assessment, neighbors have consistently resisted any Shinnecock advancement toward federal or state recognition. That battle has been won by the Shinnecock, but the war continues. Albany’s new threat: Downstate entry into the gaming business by another Native American presence. The slogan, Follow the Money, now becomes Get There First. Albany’s reaction: the race is on! (Pun intended).

A reality in New York State, like neighboring states throughout the country, is a need for new sources of revenue. How and where these sources are collected require more than a midnight escapade with people of questionable integrity. I like to gamble just like the other guy. The suspense, excitement and occasional win (miss those ringing slots) are irresistible. Just don’t put the casino in my neighborhood.

Friday, May 10, 2013





            Now that the smoke has settled from the mirrors advanced by band wagon politicians, the real victims of our violent culture are left to confront their personal loss in solitude. That doesn’t mean they will be forgotten. They simply will be replaced by more pressing headlines and kept in abatement until the next senseless atrocity. Senseless is the key word. Legislation has yet to be written that would inhibit the mentally unstable.

            That said, we are now confronted with the issue gun control advocates considered a “slam dunk.” Background Checks was considered the point assault that would issue in a new level of gun ownership restriction. On its surface, Background Checks looked like a good compromising platform in an acidic debate that resembled a tug of war. Both sides had their merits and miss-steps. However, it was the gun control camp with media support that became proponents of the “Ninety Percent” endorsement. As holder of an accounting degree and business management graduate degree, I am familiar with the game of statistics. Immediately, the red flag goes up at ninety percent. Why not go for the whole pie and say One Hundred Percent? Both numbers are equally ludicrous.  I challenge any statistician to show me anything of which ninety percent of Americans will find consensus. Even the horror of September 11, 2001 left Americans trapped in a culture of preconception. Who to blame? Assassins from the Soviet Union? A mysterious Al-Queda? A next door neighbor?

            Let’s, for a moment, assume the Ninety Percent is a valid number. Who would compose that percentile? The answer, of course, is ninety percent of law-abiding citizens who would past the test with flying colors. A convicted felon submitting to a background check would obviously be among the mentally unstable. Statistics are no more than numbers left to be messaged. Example: Two opposing attorneys face a pool of potential jurors. Each samples the pool for the candidate that will be favorable to his/her argument. After sorting and dismissal, a jury is selected. The attorney who did his/her homework will probably win. Taking this concept further, it is only fair to inquire the size and location of the “Ninety Percent.” Rural America has a history of accepting the literal interpretation of the Second Amendment and a reluctance to disarm themselves. Unlike their urban cousins, law enforcement is normally miles away in a crisis situation. Ironically, crime rates are “statistically” higher in the urban arena. So much for statistics.

            Moving on, we are now confronted with should have, would have, could have scenarios.  Obama should have persuaded more democrats to vote in favor of the White House. A more denigrating attack on special interest would have the desired effect on the Senate. The posturing of the Second Amendment as obsolete could have resulted in more converts to the cause. Bottom line: the sound bites remind me of the fallow cries of a spoiled child after being denied his candy.

            Back to reality, I find it difficult to believe a senator would knowingly end his/her career by voting against his/her constituency. Special Interest is an extension of that constituency. It’s called “target marketing.”  Gun-control advocates failed to recognize Background Checks was not the sole reason for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s failure. Deeper concerns contributed to the outcome. Growing numbers of Americans perceive the government as dysfunctional. A much larger number of citizens (Ninety Percent?) reject government intrusion into their homes. And freedom of choice is worth dying for. Exploiting the pain of victims and their families by parading them on TV became another example of indiscretion. When will the advocates of gun-control stop shooting themselves in the foot? Pun intended.
A picture worth a thousand words.

Saturday, February 16, 2013




            Guns, guns, guns – it’s all the rage by anti-gun advocates, inner city victims of crime, and of course, the media. Of the most vocal and influential of pro-gun advocates, we have the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization that boasts as its flag a protector of our Second Amendment rights. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, any proclamation should be enclosed in an atmosphere of reason.

            Recently, it was reported by Newsday (Feb 2, 2013) [NRA lists anti-gun groups, celebs]. The fact that the NRA notes the list was posted Sept 17, 2012 raises the question as to why Newsday decided to report it now. Nevertheless, the list is newsworthy. It names a variety of individuals, celebrities, organizations and corporations the NRA has deemed anti-gun, to include a multitude of religious groups. While some of these individuals/celebrities, corporations and religious groups have actively postured as anti-gun; the NRA’s uncompromising litmus test has defaulted by including many avid supporters of pro-gun rights.  

One case in point is the classification of ex-game show host Bob Barker as anti-gun. The fact that the octogenarian sleeps with a .38-caliber pistol next to his bed, shoots skeet and donated to the group’s choice of president, Republican Mitt Romney, evidently didn’t come up on the radar. By its own extension the NRA has positioned itself in opposition to wide segments of American society, to include the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (its first president – Martin Luther King Jr.), the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church, to name a few. Worry not if you are a member of the Democratic Party; you are at the top of the list.

As a member of the NRA for forty years, I can honestly say, “Move over Bob.” The paranoia emanating from the NRA comes from the top, and if you listen carefully, you’ll notice it matches the chorus from the opposition. The atmosphere of reason has vanished. As president of a rifle & pistol club, I am proud to have witnessed a membership with diversified interests, ranging from target shooting, competitive trap & skeet, to hunting. None of our members would ever hunt with a semi-automatic assault weapon. Some of us actually cheat occasionally and go fishing. Some of us vote Democratic. With all its resources, how can the leadership of the NRA fail to recognize its own constituency?
I don’t plan to give up my membership because of misguided leadership. Alienation of a vast segment of American society is not a proper course to secure the Second Amendment. On the contrary, it serves to divide and dilute the true purpose of the amendment. I’ve been good to the great outdoors, and the great outdoors have been good to me. The ghost of Charlton Heston is alive and well.  In these difficult times, I do hope the NRA will be able to recruit what’s left of the Southern Christians, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Democrats. By contrast, neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor his pro-gun control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, made the list. Go Figure!