Obama’s tone at top has invited scandals

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
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Obama’s tone at top has invited scandals

In every organization, be it a small family business, a large corporation, an educational institution, a military unit or a govermental/political entity, the person in charge sets the tone. This translates to the “corporate culture,” to use a business term, or to the “command climate,” to use military terminology. Thus, the goals, objectives and standard operating procedures are established for the organization, by the person in charge.

I personally worked in public accounting and the corporate world. I am currently a college professor, and served 36 years in the National Guard. I retired as the commanding general of the New York Army Guard. Thus, I know how the tone at the top influences the mind set and actions of subordinates.

As the commanding general of the Guard, I would publish my “Command Philosophy” and “Command Guidance” and “Training Guidance.” This would give the subordinate commanders insight as to the areas of my focus to move the organization forward.

As an example: I would state our main emphasis for a particular training year was weapons qualifications and physical fitness — leading to the soldier’s ability to deploy. When I would give speeches and talks to soldiers, I would emphasize these points. By doing this, a clear message was sent [to] all members of the organization — if they wanted to move up in the unit, they would strive to achieve the desired results. That’s how it works in virtually all organizations. Our hope is that the person in charge is one of honor and integrity.

The scandal with the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] targeting conservative and religious groups and supporters of Mitt Romney is a direct result of President Obama’s tone at the top. When he specifically denounces the tea party, and other conservative groups, and develops an “enemy list” on his website, he is also sending a clear message to those who work for him.

When he tells his supporters to “vote out of revenge,” again another clear message — target and punish those who oppose his agenda. It doesn’t take long for his “Command Philosophy/Gudance” to permeate his subordinates at the IRS, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, etc. They know what pleases their boss.

Michael R. Van Patten

Saratoga Springs

Nisky voters shouldn’t reject budget again

I have attended many Niskayuna Board of Education meetings in the past several months. The board and the superintendent have agonized over the school budget the past two years.

They have been preserving the educational programs that Niskayuna is known for as best as they can despite the decrease in state funding. Gov. Cuomo has made it nearly impossible for school districts to sustain their levels of education.

On May 21, Niskayuna’s school budget was voted down and another vote will take place on June 18. Niskayuna voters take notice! The first proposed budget, at 5.76 percent, would have increased the average taxpayers bill by approximately $23 per month.

The second proposed budget will increase your bill by approximately $16 per month. If this budget is defeated, we will go to a contingency budget which would eliminate many programs that make our school district what it is. This is a perfect example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Sure, you would save a small amount each month, but you will lose tens of thousands of dollars on your property’s value! Families move here because of our excellent school system. People will no longer want to move here if our school system has to cut another $2 million-plus after already cutting over $3 million for this coming school year.

Please think carefully about your vote on June 18! Voting “no” will cost you more than just our children’s education.

Renae Semione


Make elections fairer with public financing

As a political scientist who has worked for over 20 years to increase democratic participation in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa, I believe it is essential that we broaden opportunities for democratic participation within state government.

That’s why I strongly support Fair Elections and their campaign to enact a small donor matching system. Such a system will enable ordinary voters to take ownership of our campaign finance system and deny selfish narrow interests the chance to subvert the public will for their own private gain.

Other distinguished political scientists who are experts in elections and New York state politics agree. Professors Michael Malbin of UAlbany and Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz have also advocated for the creation of a small donor matching system.

Yet, Senate Republicans refuse to take up such a reform plan. Instead, they have engaged in phony arguments that inflate the overall cost of a matching system. Professor Malbin’s practical research easily refutes these arguments.

The Senate Republicans should stop playing games with our democracy and fix our election system now. I call on my own senator, Hugh Farley, to stand with the people over big money and support this reform. If he doesn’t, I’ll be sure to find someone else to vote for in 2014.

Mark Baskin


Rotterdam workers did great job after tornado

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the superintendent and staff of the Rotterdam Highway Department for doing such a wonderful job after the recent tornado.

This tornado ripped through my neighborhood with a fierceness that I have never seen before, wreaking havoc throughout.

As soon as the storm subsided on May 29, the Highway Department workers were hard at work trying to clear the streets of fallen trees.

We lost five trees in our yard and our next-door neighbor lost four. The next day, we started what eventually became an 8-foot by 30-foot pile of limbs and brush. On Saturday [June 1], the town came and removed our pile and a few days later did our neighbor’s. All around, you can see soigns where the debris has been removed and as people continue to clear their yards, they are still making pickups.

Hats off to you guys. Too often residents are quick to criticize, but seldom thank these workers for the outstanding job they do all year around, and especially during a crisis.

Linda and David Fuller


Position on gay Scout leaders is understandable

Jennifer Barnes’ June 8 letter letter expressing her unhappiness with the Boy Scouts not allowing openly gay leaders misses two important points: A display of openly gay behavior at troop meetings containing openly gay scouts has as much relevance as voicing your political views — none.

More importantly, our liability laws allow the aggrieved to sue organizations for damages resulting from actions of an individual member.

After seeing the Catholic Church being taken to the cleaners for the actions [of] a few, who on their own broke their vows, it should surprise no one that the Boy Scouts do not want to subject themselves to the potential liability associated with accepting a volunteer who chooses to display his gayness, irrespective of the appropriateness of his behavior.

In short, if I do not know that you are gay, my organization cannot be held accountable for possible bad behavior.

Fred Barney


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June 11, 2013
7:40 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Michael R. Van Patten this is probably the most concise letter I have ever read in this paper and so true. A great business or organization starts from the top down, in my business the owner has always said, "give the customer a dollar for a dollar" and in my business there is also a lot of turnover but where I work almost everyone has been there for at least ten years, we eat lunch together and we are more like a family. There is an old saying that a fish stinks from the head down.....Thank you for you're service sir.

June 11, 2013
8:12 a.m.
ronzo says...

School budget vote: The comments and attitude expressed by this letter writer is a reason why property (school) taxes are out of control. Instead of voicing ways to contain runaway school costs, she encourages throwing more money to a problem that cannot be solved unless the people take control of the reasons why the costs are out of control and do something about it. Outrageous comments that avoiding $16 per month will result in tens of thousands of $$$ in lost property value is symptomatic of the reason why people here in NY not only don’t mind, but encourage the escalation of property taxes.

June 11, 2013
11:33 a.m.
wmarincic says...

The highest taxes in the country and the highest cost per student in the country with a graduation rate around 60%. Personel income tax around 8% plus federal income tax, $4 a gallon gas, high heating and electrical fees plus taxes and fees on everything in NYS. Too many school districts, too many teachers unions and too many people not paying any taxes at all. What did you say about $16?

June 11, 2013
7:53 p.m.
ronzo says...

Renae Semione is THE example of why NY is the highest taxed state because people like Renae are not willing to "give up" their ties to a past that cannot be sustained in the economic world that we now live in. Hanging on to "the way it used to be" might make one feel good, but the reality is that change MUST occur in order for everyone here to get out of the "live in the past" rut that seems to prevail in the minds of people here in upstate NY.

June 12, 2013
7:49 a.m.
gina99 says...

What about the many retirees and those on fixed income Renae? No one can afford just another increase. Just another $276 on top of a 6% Countywide property tax increase? Try consolidating the superintendents down to one per County. It works in Florida and would save millions in Schenectady County alone.

June 12, 2013
4:13 p.m.
ronzo says...

It's not just reducing to one school superintendent. In tiny Schenectady County, that can fit inside many cities, it also means ONE set of administrators, ONE fleet of school buses, ONE of everything else that school districts NEED to operate effectively to educate the children. How many million $$$ in savings is that? Apparently people like Renae are wealthy enough to not care about cost. So why don't those people offer to pay a higher share of the tax, instead of stuffing it to those on fixed incomes or those who have less than that.

June 15, 2013
10:21 a.m.
jjhehir says...

Ronzo, combining school districts is not a solution. Pension costs, which are increasing at about a 7% to 8% annually will still have to be paid by taxpayers. The State, seeing that the combined school system is saving money, will most probably decrease aid further.

June 15, 2013
12:21 p.m.
jjhehir says...

You nailed it, General.

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