Saturday, April 01, 2006

They call this a 'debate'?

In the Plattsburgh Press-Republican :
"04/01/2006

Sweeney weekend debated

Spending on Lake Placid weekend has been criticized

By NED P. RAUCH, Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID -- Area lawmakers are defending Congressman John Sweeney's recent Congressional Winter Challenge in Lake Placid.

State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro), whose districts include Lake Placid, said the annual event helps make federal lawmakers more aware of the Olympic region's needs.

'You do have to involve the federal government,' Little said. 'Having other members (of Congress) and their chiefs of staff seeing these venues is very, very important.'

Sweeney (R-Clifton Park) has organized the weekend events in Lake Placid for years. Lawmakers, their families and staffs and lobbyists are invited to Lake Placid for a weekend of skiing, bobsledding, hockey and other activities at the region's Olympic venues.

The most recent event was held Jan. 6 to 9 and attended by more than 40 people.

It was staged by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and funded largely by the New York Power Authority, which paid ORDA about $25,000.

Reports in the Glens Falls Post Star have questioned the appropriateness of using public money to pay for the event.

According to the paper, the Assembly is looking into whether it's proper for one state authority to funnel so much money to another for a weekend that's packed with fun and, lawmakers insist, discussion of issues.

A spokesman for Gov. George Pataki told the Post Star the Power Authority would be asked to review its policies.

Sweeney, who has been ill, has yet to answer questions about the event personally.

His spokespeople have said the congressman and the event organizers have done nothing wrong.

ORDA, which operates and maintains the area's Olympic venues, has received about $7 million from the federal government since 2001. The feds pitched in about that much for the construction of the new bobsled run before that.

ORDA spokesman Sandy Caligiore referred to the Power Authority as 'our sponsor.'

He said the weekends with Sweeney and his colleagues provide an opportunity for ORDA to explain how important the Olympic venues are to the region.

'Certainly there's a lot of fun involved, but also they're here to fact find and talk to our staff about what the needs for the venues are,' he said.

'These people always are juggling numerous issues in their home areas. ... We want to make our cause stand out.'

He added that a 2002 study pegged ORDA's annual impact on the area's economy at $142 million. He said a soon-to-be-released study would show that figure has grown significantly since then.

Little and Sayward have both attended the events, which usually finish with a fireworks display. Sayward said she'd leave the funding questions to somebody who better understands those issues.

'Having a congressman bring his colleagues into our district, and particularly Lake Placid, can only benefit us,' she said."

Look, Sweeney & crew go off to Lake Placid to take in the local color. When you & I do this, it costs us hundreds of dollars. They meet once a day, call it work, and New York State picks up the tab. There's not much mystery here that it's a boondoggle, plain & simple:

boondoggle
noun

work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.

a public project of questionable merit that typically involves political patronage and graft.

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