Friday, July 29, 2016

Info On PlattInfo: Cost

"Oh boy!  New toy!"

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


So how much money do you need for one of those fancy outdoor information kiosks?

After my previous article -- What's The Info On PlattInfo?  -- I was curious about the pricing for the kiosks the city installed to promote local attractions.

There was fanfare when the PlattInfo project was revealed to the taxpaying public in 2012.  After that giddy announcement --  "“Plattsburgh is one of the first cities to use technology in this way” said then mayor Donald Kazprzak --  three touchscreen information kiosks were up and running with more planned to augment the system.

Then the project died.  For the last two years the kiosks have been dead, blank, tombstones to a semi-forgotten boondoggle.

I wanted to get a rough estimate on how much money was spent.  I suspect if I ask the city for project costs I would be FOILed in the process.

So to save time I Googled for pricing on outdoor kiosks.  There was a range of prices dependent on what type was ordered and the options included.  This gave a rough idea of what could have been spent.

One hit took me to,

CostOwl: "Basic countertop-style models start at about $2,500. On the other end of the spectrum, a highly customized, full-sized outdoor kiosk could cost you more than $20,000."

Outdoor kiosks cost usually cost more because they have to be built to withstand the elements.  With most models, continued CostOwl, the hardware alone is around $5,000 to $7,000.

CostOwl: "Software is typically sold separately and can add thousands to the total price. The total cost can be $3,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the level of customization you require."

Obviously an outdoor kiosk requires more investment per unit than a 19 inch flatscreen TV on sale at Best Buy.  At least the TV would still be working four years later.  CostOwl notes the average lifespan for an outdoor kiosk is 3 to 10 years.  Did anyone mention that to eager city officials before they jumped and grabbed their new toys?

On the question of durability the metal kiosk shells have been rusting.  A new paint job covers up the defect.  No change with the kiosk viewing feature. The screens: windows into an empty void.

The PlattInfo software was provided by a local programmer.  He wrote it in proprietary code, not open source, meaning that only he can work on the system.  There's mention of repurposing the kiosks but only he can modify and update the original system.  One wonders what he would charge for that work.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What's The Info On PlattInfo?

Way back in the day when the info kiosks worked.

(C) 2015 Luke T. Bush


The poster hung on the large bulletin board, protected by a plexiglass shield.   Brief description of the poster: annoying.

Matt Hall walked by the bulletin board while going to work, day after day, until he decided it was time to say something about the poster.

None of the few words on the poster were offensive, obscene or discriminatory.  The simple words were superimposed over a painting featuring Plattsburgh City landmarks, City Hall and the towering obelisk with the bronze eagle on top.

The poster proclaimed: PlattInfo. Sights.  Shopping.  Dining.

Near the bulletin board stood a metal kiosk, recently repainted to cover up the rust.  It's electronic touchscreen remained black.  At one time -- probably two years ago -- the screen brightly glowed, displaying all sorts of info about downtown.

Matt knew the story behind the poster, the info kiosks, the PlattInfo website.  More than I had realized when I was just covering the kiosk aspect.

November 22, 2012.  An article appeared in the city (news)paper announcing the PlattInfo project. Three touchscreen kiosks would be installed.  It sounded like it was about ready to go, including a website providing info on restaurants and other attractions in the city.  Business subscriptions were $52 a year, an amount even a small business could afford -- or so it was claimed.

In an email interview Matt explained: "As coordinator at ROTA Gallery I was approached by the PlattInfo folks to buy into a subscription at $52 a year. I told them that I wasn't comfortable approving the expense and wanted to wait and see how the kiosks did over time before putting money into the project."

It's a good thing he waited.  The info kiosks have been dead for the last two years.  And  Outside of a basic introduction nothing has been added despite the site's statement: Stay tuned for news.  Matt verified the inactivity with the online resource the Wayback Machine.

Don't believe everything you read.

Matt went online to raise the issue, reaching out with Facebook posts.  He wanted the poster taken down. Many comments have resulted, some critical about the waste of taxpayer money.

Seeing the posts a city councilor looked into the matter and contacted Matt.  The councilor had learned the kiosks were installed before mobile phone apps became popular.  Also due to the terms of the grant the info kiosks had to remain in place until 2017.  The councilor had heard the city IT department was aware of the problem and the city was planning to repurpose the kiosks for a more practical use.  (Stay tuned for news!)

Previously Matt attempted to find out what had happened with the PlattInfo program.  He contacted one source aware of the situation who told him there was a "sordid" story about the project.  Then the source went silent, no more correspondence.

Matt wants the PlattInfo poster taken down because it's just an awful reminder of the project's failure and waste.  The poster's contact info is useless.

Matt: " If any visitors or interested parties actually looked up #plattinfo or any of the links listed on it, they would just find dead websites. Why would we keep that up there? At best its irrelevant, and at worst it makes us look foolish."

Or makes us, as I say, Plattsburgh Smart.

Hey, Binky, ya need a domain name? 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

March 2007


For years the main entrance to the Plattsburgh City Library kept falling apart.  Some patchwork would be applied to the bad spots in the concrete steps.  And those repairs would fail, again and again.

In October 2015 the city kicked off a major renovation project for the front steps, the old ripped out to make way for the new.  The problem was fixed -- or so it seemed.

Today I noticed a jagged continuous crack in the steps from top to bottom. Quality work for top dollar.  This should cement a good relationship between taxpayers and the city.

(Click on images to enlarge.)

By the way Plattsburgh City has been awarded to $10 million grant to renovate downtown.

To Soar

Cancer Center

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Acute Cognitive Dissonance

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made discriminatory statements, stirring up hate and fear.  The TV program Democracy Now! interviewed some black Republicans at the RNC.  Black Republican?  Isn't that akin to a terrorist Quaker?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fresh Paint For Rusty Tombstones

Shiny fresh paint, still dead screen.


As I mentioned previously - Tax Dollars Not At Work - years ago the city installed information kiosks targeted at visitors new to the community.  Each unit displayed maps and points of interest downtown.  For a long time the video screens have been dead while the kiosks slowly oxidized.

Maybe someone read that post and feeling embarrassed had those electronic tombstones repainted.  No more visible rust but the video screens are still black.  Painting the kiosks probably didn't cost that much but what amount will be spent raising the screens back from the dead?  Shouldn't the video units have lasted much longer?

ITEM: Plattsburgh City was just awarded a $10 million grant to renovate downtown. How many more defective information kiosks will that amount buy? 

Obstructive Chains, Passenger Solutions


Good: city frees up sidewalk space with outdoor seating for people using wheelchairs and walkers.

Plattsburgh Smart [TM]: Move outdoor seating up to the curb, hanging chains blocking passenger side doors to parked cars.  Forcing passengers to be creative in exiting and entering vehicles.

Old Herm The Therm

(Click on image to enlarge.) 

Late Evening Blue

(Click on image to enlarge.) 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Remembering S. Booker


This month the Strand Center for the Arts commemorates the life and work of S. Booker, an artist originally from Norfolk, Virginia who made Plattsburgh City his home.  A display of his work is included as part of the Summer Members Show.  SCA is located at 23 Brinkerhoff Street (the old Federal Building.)  Phone: 518-563-1604

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bus Fire Update: Total Destruction


A previous article -- Bus Fire Extinguished But Smoke Remains  -- discussed a story circulating about a Clinton County Public Transit (CCPT) bus that had caught on fire.  Not all the details were clear about the incident.

One detail heard: the fire damaged the front part of the bus.  As you can see from the photos below much more than the front part was damaged.  (Images posted on Facebook by the South Plattsburgh Fire Department.  Click on each image to enlarge.)

In an email James Bosley, Clinton County Planning Technician, explained that he drove out to the scene on Wednesday evening but he had missed most of the incident.  Bus #22 was fully engulfed when he  turned onto South Peru Street.  Firefighters were putting out the blaze.

James continued: "The story you heard is pretty much the same as what I heard. The driver had dash lights and alarms going off, the bus lost power and he tried to pull off to the side of the road as the bus died. He heard a noise, discovered what he described as a ball of fire somewhere in the back of the engine, and it spread too quickly for him to have time to get the fire extinguisher and try to fight it. No passengers were on the bus at the time and the driver was able to move away from the dangerous situation safely."

As for the mileage bus #22 had racked up James said the latest figure recorded on June 30th was 278,870 miles.  He calculated that when the fire destroyed the bus the vehicle had seen about 280,000 total miles.

The Clinton County investigator, said James, indicated the fire originated in the engine compartment on the passenger side of the vehicle.

James: "The investigator from NYSDOT indicated the fire was electrical in origin rather than a fuel-based fire. There was too much damage to determine exactly what the cause was beyond that it was electrical."

He added Bus #22 had been recently serviced and no drivers had reported any problems before the fire.

James: "We are taking extra care to look over the wiring in all the buses to prevent this kind of a thing from happening again."

Friday, July 08, 2016

Bus Fire Extinguished But Smoke Remains

CCCPT buses parked at the main downtown stop.


(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

The bus stalls.  The driver gets out to determine the problem. He opens up the engine compartment and -- Boom! -- fireball.

That's the story.  But are any of the details true?  For years I've heard all sorts of stories about problems with the Clinton County Public Transportation (CCPT) bus system.  Getting to the truth is a real problem especially when a source aware of the details refuses to go on record.

Then again such reluctance is understandable in certain situations.  For example an employee is threatened with job termination if he reveals any company information to outsiders.  And without a union that employee's choices are limited.  So much for free speech.

The trouble with hazy stories is unsubstantiated rumor can be mixed in with fact.

More details heard regarding the recent bus fire story: The incident occurred Wednesday evening (7/6/16) when the driver was returning on a country road to the depot with the South City bus.  Flames extensively damaged  the front part of the vehicle: it is out of service.  No one was injured.  NYSDOT (NY State Dept. of Transportation) will investigate.  Drivers have been instructed to quickly evacuate passengers from a burning bus due to the great danger with the vehicle's design. The policy is get away from the bus, don't try to put out the fire, let it burn.  Call 911 for help.  

Another detail: the bus that burned had racked up 300,000 or more miles.

I emailed the county planning technician who oversees the bus system but so far no reply evaluating the veracity of any of the details.

I did get an email response from Legislator Rob Timmons, Area 7, Chairman of the Clinton County Public Transportation Committee.  He verified there was a fire.

Rob Timmons added:  "I don't know if the number of miles it had on it had anything to with it. Brand new or newer vehicles have burned. We are waiting to see what the investigators find out with it. No injuries were reported at the time of the call in to 911, which is a wonderful thing. The bus is a total loss,  but can be replaced."

There are other details I would like to check out: the fire was due to electrical problems plaguing some of the buses; the fire could have been prevented with proper maintenance; the company that previously operated the same buses didn't keep up with maintenance before the new contractor, Macdonald Transit Associates Inc., took over.

Until the smoke lifts and details are clear I'm going to be wary when riding a CCPT vehicle.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Want Transparency? Try Ohio Or Pennsylvania Or Michigan Or...

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


Notice the gentleman with his wife in the above photo? His name is Dean Feldmeyer, a Methodist Minister, who is running as the Democratic candidate for Clinton County Commissioner -- in Ohio, that is.

Besides reading Dean's story at the Ohio CC Dems website you can easily find the email address for the party.

I've been searching via Google for the email address for the Clinton County NY Democratic Party/Committee.  No go.  But the Clinton County Democratic Parties in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana each list email info.

All for CCDP/C New York all I could find was a Facebook page.  No email so I tried Facebook Messenger, submitting a series of questions pertaining to secret ballots and weighted voting, issues that reared their ugly heads during the party's selection process for an Area 4 candidate.  The questions were sent on June 12th.  No answer.

Contacting a political party shouldn't be so difficult.  The local Dems offer a fill-in-the-form box.  No thanks.  I don't want my email to disappear into the void like FB Messenger.  And I get enough spam, thank you.

Other Dem websites offer both fill-in fields and the email address.  A choice.

Also those other state Dems have homepages.  Easy to find.  Even the super-secretive National Security Agency (NSA) has a website: .  Why the opaqueness, Clinton County NY Dems?

I've spent more than enough time trying to ferret out the CCDP/C email address with search keywords such as "Clinton County NY Democratic Party."  There's something wrong when CC Dems in other states are easier to contact than the local ones. Transparency anyone?

BTW, if you want to contact me: luketbush[at]gmail[dot]com .  That wasn't hard, was it?

Let's Dome Durkee!

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


Governor Andrew Cuomo stopped by 12901 with a big announcement: Plattsburgh City scored a $10 million grant to renovate its Durkee Street parking lot.  This will transform the space  into a vibrant downtown center with a multi-use building for stores, offices and apartments.

Maybe this time the city will avoid building an installation like this one found behind the elevated parking lot in the same area:

You would think someone  would say, "Hey, we shouldn't build this, the guard rail is blocking the top." It's amazing how the city won't spend a dime to make crosswalks compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)  but it wastes money on blunder-wonders like this.  

Well, if we're going crazy with money let's do what Winooski Vermont considered:  Build a giant dome.  Think how that would improve the Durkee Street area.  What could go wrong?

Like they say:  Those who don't learn from history are domed to repeat it.  

Saturday, July 02, 2016

After Unexpected Setback Simon Conroy Campaigns On

Simon Conroy [L] and Clyde Rabideau.  Photo provided.

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


Thursday, June 9th.  American Legion Post 20, Plattsburgh Town.  Simon Conroy, new to politics, walks into the special meeting assuming that it will run like others he has attended.  One person - one vote.

This evening the Clinton County Democratic Committee will choose its candidate to campaign for the county legislature Area 4 seat.  Up for the party's endorsement are Simon, local businessman/community organizer, and George Dyer, retired state trooper.

Around 60 people are present, about twice the usual attendance for a monthly CCDC meeting. The crowd has supporters for each candidate, all mixed in.

Format:  Simon supporters speak, then Simon, then George supporters peak, then George.

The vote will be taken at 8 PM.  Unlike other meetings it will be a secret ballot as opposed to a show of hands.  There is no discussion about the procedure.

Simon recalls: "I was OK with the secret vote as I thought it would be hard for some of my supporters to vote for me in front of George's three prominent family members in the room."

Located in the northeastern corner of New York State Clinton County covers a total of 1,118 squares miles, most of it rural.  And while the population is low in numbers there is a small town aspect: many citizens are related/know each other.

At the meeting are George Dyer's brother, Sam Dyer, who is presently serving as a legislator.  Also there's George's two sisters-in-law, Mary Dyer, the County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner, and Sydney Garrant, at that time Vice Chair of the CCDC, now temporary Chair since the previous one has retired.

Circumstances remain friendly.  Before the vote Simon has a drink with his opponent, chats with him.  They get to know each other.

The results come in.  Simon, assuming the usual democratic procedure of one vote per person, thinks the vote will be close, 30/30.

The final total: 2,350 to 850, George Dyer wins.

There is a gasp from Simon's supporters.  How can this be?

Weighted voting blindsides tyro policitican Simon and his supporters.

Under a weighted voting system some voters have preference over others, their votes counting more than once depending upon a mathematical formula.  It isn't the usual one person - one vote citizens in a democracy expect.  With the Clinton County Democratic Committee each member's voting power is based on the voter turnout by Dems in that member's area in the last gubernatorial electrion.

Simon: "I have since learned the secret ballot - weighted vote is only used in very close or sensitive votes. My experience at meetings had been a show of hands popular vote which does not use the weighted system."

After the vote Simon visits BOE Democratic Commissioner Mary Dyer, asking if there was a list that showed which area representatives had the strongest weight.

It's a different game with weighted voting.  Instead of trying to corner the popular vote the candidate must win over those representatives with the most voting power.

This comes in play with the presidential race.  In 2000 Democrat Al Gore had over half-a-million popular votes over his opponent.  But Republican George Dubya Shrub locked up key states (well, maybe not Florida) for more electoral votes, resulting in the most dubious presidency in US history.

Not how a true democracy should operate.

Simon: "I have since requested a copy of the weight of committee members representing the various areas in the county.  Most people are worth about 150 votes... Many are only worth 50 and some are worth 250."

Simon adds that the voting weight of each party member is customarily not made public due to privacy concerns.  

And why was Simon caught off guard?

He had received a general email with an explanation of the rules for how a candidate would be endorsed.  The main focus was on whether members of the whole county or just Area 4 would vote.  He never saw any mention of weighted voting.  BOE Democratic Commissioner Mary Dyer informs him weighted voting information is publicly available.

No one told Simon.  The info may be public but one has to know it is there.

After the unexpected setback Simon spends the weekend mulling over whether or not to run in the primary against George Dyer.  He considers a number of factors.

Many voters tell him they still want him as a choice in November.  Another factor: he had more personal time after selling his business that required many hours every day of the week.

Simon: "Also our two girls are getting a little more grown up and independent and are interested in how leadership on a local and national level works."

And then there was the phone call from Clyde Rabideau, former Plattsburgh City mayor and present Saranac Lake mayor.  Clyde says Simon was a person with a proven track record with a passion to improve the area.

With such enthusiasm Simon decides there was only one way to go.

Monday, June 13th.  2 PM.  Outside the Old Courthouse in downtown Plattsburgh Simon announces to his supporters and the news media he will run in the primary.

Challenges ahead?

Simon: "I need to inspire hundreds of people who do not usually vote in a primary to come out on Sept 13th... I need people in Area 4 who are fed up with inactive representatives and are not registered to sign up now and get behind this campaign so things can finally change both within the party and within local government."

The way democracy is supposed to work.