Last week, the Unshackle Upstate coalition released our “Judgment Day” initiative statewide, outlining our government advocacy and political action for the remainder of the 2010 election season. It’s no secret to anyone in New York State – and particularly Upstate – that 2010 is a critical year for our future. Escalating budget deficits, post-census redistricting and questionable (if not pervasive) economic development policy have made Election Day, November 2, absolutely pivotal – with implications projected for decades to come.

For far too long, elected representatives have been returned to office again and again under an “I hate federal/state/local government, but I love my representative.” It’s not difficult to understand why Albany continues to turn a deaf ear at Unshackle Upstate’s call to end member item – or “pork” – spending. An elected representative can cover up an awful lot of bad policy votes with “big check” presentations to local community organizations.

But for every community organization that is helped by pork funding, the electeds have shown they are proficient at taking money directly out of OUR pockets. Last year’s tax increases (disguised in a number of ways – “fees,” “assessments,” etc.) cost every household in New York State $1,300. The same people who we’re praising on the front page of the local paper for their “pass-through” gifts to the community are paying for it with our cash. Wouldn’t we all prefer to spend our hard-earned money the way we, ourselves, see fit?

That’s why vigilance is a critical element of making change politically – and that’s where the Unshackle Upstate Judgment Day “report cards” come into play. We like to think of it as a reckoning: (1) this is how the Upstate business community needs our elected officials to behave; (2) here’s HOW they’ve behaved; and then, most importantly, (3) here’s what we should do about it. Translating the actions of our elected officials into Election Day (November 2) political action is what this effort is all about. Plainly and simply, that means getting to the polls to vote against those “representatives” that aren’t adequately representing.

You can expect to see a lot of good “constituent service” from Albany electeds this year – including those political capital-earning pork checks. When the political consultants get hold of the PR effort, it’s going to be hard to ignore. Please don’t be fooled. Last year was a devastating year for business and personal taxpayers in Upstate New York, and it’s important that we remember the damage that was done. We cannot allow ourselves to be “bought” by a check to the local little league, or some help getting a pot hole filled at the end of our street – they’re just not worth the bad decisions that are being made in Albany. I urge voters in Upstate to utilize Unshackle Upstate’s Judgment Day report cards – not just for information, but as a frequently-visited guide for Election Day decision-making.