- It's August 14. Do you know who your Aqueduct racino operator is? It was July 24 when it was reported that the integrity reviews were complete. A spokesperson for Governor Paterson said at the time: “I wouldn’t put a timetable on it....The three of them [Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Speaker Sheldon Silver] can sit down and meet any time. It’s not that hard to arrange.” [Thoroughbred Times]
However, it hasn't been arranged thus far, and it seems unlikely to take place even next week when the Legislature convenes a special session on Tuesday. Issues considered far more important, such as Paterson's proposed 4% cap on property taxes, will take center stage as legislators try to wade through a political minefield in this election year. The property tax cap was approved by the Senate in a special session of its own last week, largely with the support of Senate Republicans put in the uncomfortable position of balancing an issue with tons of popular support, but staunchly opposed by the powerful teachers unions.
Indeed, the NYSUT (NY State United Teachers) has launched a TV ad campaign, and already, in the name of maintaining the quality of schools but no doubt with an eye on their own paychecks, has unconditionally withdrawn their endorsement, over this single contentious issue, from each of the 38 Senators of either party who voted in favor - even some of those who it endorsed just two years ago. Isn't that special....that's why they call it special interest politics I guess. The Assembly and Speaker Silver have shown no indication that they will consider the matter. Assembly Democrats instead favor a plan under which the state would assume any property tax increase over a certain amount; with a "millionaire's tax" making up the gap. Seems like a reasonable plan (as in, a tax which doesn't effect me.)
Also on the table will be the governor's plea to immediately slash some $1 billion from the budget, including the kind of cuts in
Medicare Medicaid funding that even Governor Steamroller was unable to fully effect in the face of opposition last year. Of course, at the going estimate of $1 million a day in net revenues for the state, a racino at Aqueduct would, over the last year, have paid nearly all of the $375 million in Paterson's proposed cuts in state programs and aid to localities alone. So maybe the three men should try to find some time to arrange that little meeting for once and for all.
- Looking back through the LATG archives, the earliest mention I could find of an imminent start to construction of the racino was from this post in November 2005.
NYRA president Charles Hayward, who over the summer said he expected work to start by Oct. 1, now predicts "hammers to be flying in a couple of weeks" after three more requirements are met. First, an overall construction manager has to be selected; second, NYRA has to hire a project manager.Oh man. At least there was actually a named operator for the place back then! Hasn't quite worked out the way that Hayward envisioned, and the state is still tripping over that shoelace.
"We're in the red zone," he said. "I expect both of those to be resolved by early next week at the latest."
Third, the state lottery commission has to give final approval to MGM Mirage to operate the casino for NYRA.
"We're about ready to tie that bow," said Hayward.
- On Monday evening, the day before the special session, Governor Paterson will headline a fund-raiser for Senator Obama, hosted in part by horse owner Tracy Farmer, at the Saratoga Hilton.
The unsettled weather is scheduled to break over the weekend up there....though now even Saturday's forecast has that omnipresent possibility of scattered and isolated storms....and how sick are you guys up there of that!? In any event, it looks OK for the Head Chef and I, at least for Sunday, and for Monday, on which Just Zip It is one of 18 nominees for the Union Avenue Stakes. My rule of thumb is that a crowd of 20,000 on Wednesday portends good business for the weekend; so with yesterday's attendance of just under that figure, perhaps NYRA will make up for some of the weather-related deficiencies from the first three weeks.