Saturday, October 06, 2007

Why we Live in Dryden

Yesterday was a beautiful day to be out with the camera. I started out doing work for the campaign. But it's the camera that kept me going.

As a part of the work I've been doing with the Planning Board to implement the Comprehensive Plan, I've been collecting pictures of things I like about Dryden. The overwhelming sense of the community as the Comprehensive Plan was being developed, was the desire to maintain the rural character of the town. You can see that character as you enter Dryden from all sides:

From the north



and west.

This is Malloryville. "Settled in in 1826 by Samuel Mallory who operated here chair and cloth factories."

This sign in Malloryville says "Duck Crossing." I have to admire those ducks 'cause the unleashed, barking dogs are pretty intimidating.

Fall Creek meanders through Malloryville under a bridge that says: "1915 Manufactured by The Good Roads Machinery Company, Marathon, N. Y."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Green Buildings Open House Saturday

From Thursday's Ithaca Journal:

Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Ithaca Green Building Alliance’s annual Green Buildings Open House will showcase green building practices and renewable energy technologies from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 26 homes and businesses in Tompkins, Tioga and Schuyler Counties.

A directory of the houses involved in the Open House can be downloaded at the Cornell Cooperative Extension site. One of the house listed is in Dryden and some are very nearby.

I'm looking forward to seeing the straw bale home under construction for JoAnne Cipolla and Deborah Dennis at 964 West Dryden Road. It's number 13 in the directory if you're looking for it.

I hope I can also get to James and Susan Spear's home at 2170 Ellis Hollow Road, Ithaca, just over the line into Caroline. They have solar panels, a wind turbine, a geothermal heat pump and more.

There's also Steve & Cindy Nicholson's house at 220 Yaple Road, Berkshire with wind energy, solar panels and more.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Executive Compensation

When I was a grad student at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, I tended to think that management wasn't always the bad guy. And that if management and labor would just recognize that they have the same long-range goals we could all just get along. Chalk it up to youthful idealism.

The Ithaca Journal recently reprinted a Christian Science Monitor commentary column Are CEOs worth that much more? The article focuses on the disparity between corporate, not-for-profit and government executives. Top corporate executives make 38 times more than top non-profit executives and 183 times more than top members of the executive branch of the government (including the President.) The conclusion is that these extreme pay gaps "discourage many individuals with leadership talent from entering less lucrative nonprofit fields where their skills could make an important social contribution." I guess it depends on your long range goals.

Financial Week reports that, "Last year, the 20 highest-paid U.S. corporate CEOs made, on average, $36.4 million." That's roughly $7,280,000 in base pay, $9,100,000 in bonuses and $20,020,000 in "long-term incentives" such as stock options.

Comparing corporate CEO salaries to workers' wages, the picture is much bleaker and rapidly worsening. From a House Financial Services Committee report:
In 1965, U.S. CEOs at major companies made 24 times a worker's pay.
In 2004, CEOs earned 431 times the pay of an average worker and 821 times
the pay of a minimum wage worker.
Say a minimum wage worker is lucky enough to have a 40 hour a week job for 52 weeks (no vacation.) She earns $12,168. Eight hundred twenty one times that is $9,989,000.

The money for these high salaries doesn't come out of thin air, of course. It comes from increasing products' prices, decreasing shareholder dividends and tax savings from deducting salaries from taxable corporate income. I'm trying very hard, in vain, to think how this might benefit anyone except the CEOs themselves. If anyone can help me out here, please comment.

So. In April the House passed legislation allowing shareholders to vote on executive pay and Senator Obama has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Seems fair to me. Financial Week reports that in Europe, where shareholders do vote on executive compensation, top executives earn one third as much as their American counterparts - $12.4 million compared with the $36.4 million American CEOs are paid.

Another legislative initiative in the US comes from Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) promotes capping the amount of executive compensation that corporations are permitted to deduct from their taxable income, at 25 times the pay of a company's lowest-paid worker. For example, if the company has some of those minimum wages workers, they'd be allowed to deduct $268,000 of that executive's $8,794,552 salary. Think that might reduce the incentive for corporations to create those huge compensation packages? Hmm...

Others are suggesting that government contracts be withheld from companies paying their executives more than 25 - or 50 or 100 - times worker pay. I don't see that happening 'cause we'd be pretty much limited to buying a lot of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. And we probably need other stuff.

To learn more or find out how to support pending legislation visit the AFL-CIO's Paywatch page.