February 23, 2008


Arcuri lays out legislative priorities

Congressman has breakfast with Chamber of Commerce members


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Democratic Rep. for the 24th Congressional District Mike Arcuri listens as Mary Beilby of McGraw talks with him about Cortland’s housing issues during a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday at the Community Restaurant.

Staff Reporter

Congressman Michael Arcuri (D-Utica) called for more spending accountability at the federal level, championed his support of recently enacted legislation increasing college aid for low-income Americans and criticized U.S. free-trade agreements at a Cortland County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday.
Those viewpoints were among the more than 10 policy opinions that Arcuri shared at the breakfast, which was attended by about 40 Chamber members, politicians and community residents.
Arcuri said the federal government has been adding too much money to its deficit, largely through almost $1 trillion in spending on the War in Iraq.
“Every dollar we spend we borrow from China,” Arcuri said.
The ever-increasing federal deficit, which currently hovers around $9.2-trillion, must be kept level, he said, through a “pay as you go” system.
Every time Congress wants to spend more money or cut taxes, he said, it must match that with a corresponding revenue increase or spending cut.
That is a philosophy he and a group of “Blue Dog” Democrats have adopted, he said. They tried to put it into practice in December when Congress enacted legislation to keep more than 20 million taxpayers from a $2,000 bill this year as a result of an alternative minimum tax.
Arcuri and other “Blue Dog” Democrats wanted the legislation to contain a section that explained how lawmakers would foot the bill, mainly through closing a loophole on offshore tax havens, but Republicans wouldn’t allow it, he said.
He and other Democrats voted in favor of the legislation without that clause because he doesn’t want middle-class people to be burdened by the alternative minimum tax, he said.
Another issue raised is making college more affordable. He cited legislation he voted in favor of legislation last week, the College Accessibility and Affordability Act, which passed in the House.
The legislation would increase the maximum Pell grant from $4,310 to $9,000 and allow it to be used year-round, boost college financial aid by more than $20 billion over the next 5 years, including $2.2 billion in New York state, and cut interest rates on need-based student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the next four years.
During the question and answer portion of Arcuri’s talk no one asked any questions about higher education, but questions were asked about the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring, for example, wanted to know if the program’s funding could be based partly on a district’s need.
Currently, it treats every school as if it starting from the same place, he said, which hurts high-needs school districts such as Cortland.
“We’re scrambling,” Spring said, noting the school lacks funding to apply a comprehensive strategy to students’ education. “We want to make sure they have an option 13 years after they walk in.”
Arcuri said he is not a member of the federal education committee, but lawmakers are working on reforming the program to some extent.
He said he hopes the committee makes funding more fair for high-needs schools, but it is not a given. Everyone seems to have a different qualm about the program, Arcuri said.
Arcuri said Thursday he doesn’t support free trade agreements, having most recently voted against a free trade agreement with Peru that Congress approved.
While the agreement will likely help American exporters, Arcuri said getting rid of taxes and quotas on certain products, including whey and lactose, will ultimately have a detrimental effect on the United States.
It will force Peruvians producing legitimate products out of business, encouraging them to produce such products as cocaine.
That cocaine will eventually make its way to the United States, he said.
“This is a real concern,” Arcuri said.
YWCA Executive Director Amy Simrell said she’s disappointed the proposed 2009 federal budget would cut child care subsidies. This is not a new problem, she said, with lower subsidies in recent years forcing the center to drop 100 low-income families from day care.
Some low-income families have been on a waiting list for day-care subsidies for the last four years, she added.




Police chase down city man

Suspect struck car parked on Grant St., fled and led city cops on a foot chase.

Staff Reporter

A city man was arrested Thursday morning after intentionally hitting another vehicle, leading police on a foot chase and being found with drugs.
City police said Ardell J. Holmes, 26, of 16 Washington St., purposely hit a parked car with his vehicle in the area of 60 Grant St.
Police said Holmes fled the accident on foot after being confronted by witnesses.
Officers from the city police department and the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department then began searching for Holmes.
Police said he was first located in the backyard of his home but led police on a foot pursuit through residential properties to North Greenbush Street and then caught on North Church Street.
Police found an unspecified quantity of unknown pills, cocaine and several hundred dollars on Holmes when they arrested him.
Police executed a search warrant on Holmes’ vehicle and also searched his apartment after he gave police permission. Police found and confiscated scales and packing material.
Police also discovered that Holmes is on parole for a prior narcotics conviction.
Holmes was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony, second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia, second-degree obstructing governmental administration, and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, all misdemeanors; as well as leaving the scene of an accident and unlicensed operation, violations.



Freeville man arrested after standoff with police

A man who fired a gun through the front door of a Freeville home is in the custody of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department this morning.
Jeffrey A. Bartlett Jr., 25, of 370 George Road in Freeville has been charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree menacing, all felonies.
At about 1 a.m. Friday morning, Tompkins County deputies responded to Sheldon Road for a report of a fight in progress. The sheriff’s department alleges that Bartlett had fired a gun through the glass in the front door of an occupied house and then fled the scene. Although county deputies and the State Police were unable to locate Bartlett at first, they found footprints in the snow behind the house where he fired his weapon — he had apparently entered the residence while the occupants were being interviewed by police.
The footprints led to a small shed behind the house, and it was confirmed that Bartlett was inside.
Deputies unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with Bartlett and the SWAT Team was activated in conjunction with the Crises Intervention Negotiation Team. Negotiations continued through the morning and at approximately 10:05 a.m. the Bartlett surrendered to authorities.
Sheldon Road between the intersections of Bone Plain Road and West Dryden Road was closed for approximately four hours.
Bartlett was arraigned in Dryden Town Court and remanded to the Tompkins County Jail on $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.
— Evan Geibel