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GUEST VIEW By Jim Hufnagel

Musical chairs is the name of the game in Albany this month as the new Cuomo administration puts the personnel in place who will carry out the governor's policies for the next several years.

As Gazette columnist Don Glynn informed us last week, this often means bad news for upper-level state bureaucrats whose jobs, as a rule, were conferred in appreciation of a large campaign contribution or other significant favor rendered the outgoing regime. "How soon they forget that the pendulum swings when the party control changes," Glynn expostulates, leaving us scratching our heads as to why exactly they would forget anything, or how party control had changed, given that Cuomo replaced a fellow Democrat, Paterson.

In a textbook example of journalistic conflict of interest, Don Glynn's weekly column in the Niagara Gazette has focused on the local tourism industry for decades, complementing his brother James' Maid of the Mist empire in Niagara Falls State Park, which has dominated the local tourism industry for decades.

Glynn's column frequently features a subsection entitled "In The Park," which contains newsy updates of happenings in the state park, such as activities that no one local participates in, discounts on state park attractions that no one local takes advantage of, minutiae of Parks Commission meetings that no one local attends, and numerous other assorted insights on the state park that locals could not care less about.

Another subsection that frequently appears is "On The Border," which serves to promote attractions on the Canadian side. Now that the Canadian subsidiary of the Glynn family business is going out to bid this spring, thanks to an investigative series in this newspaper detailing numerous irregularities in their dealings with Niagara Parks, one shouldn't be surprised if "On The Border" is soon replaced by "On The Block."

Glynn tied up loose ends months ago with a fawning sendoff to outgoing State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash. The Sept. 28 headline for his column was "Carol Ash credited with improving State Park system," which consisted of a nearly word-for-word paraphrase of a David Paterson pro forma press release praising the outgoing commissioner for supposed accomplishments during her less than four years in office. On reading further, it's clear the only people "crediting" Ash were Paterson, the hapless accidental governor who called off his re-election campaign amid numerous stupid lapses in judgment, and Gazette columnist Glynn.

The fact that Ash threw in the towel as far back as September 2010 bears further examination.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo informed legislators only last week that his budget will call for thousands of state worker layoffs in an attempt to close a $10 billion deficit. While your average state worker may or may not have been able to anticipate such a move, there's every reason to believe Ash got a special heads-up last summer, thanks no doubt to her special status as one of the ruling elite of Albany.

This must have been her thought process, given the implausible scenario that she had not been gently informed in advance of her impending dismissal:

"Here it is August, and it's time to make a decision about my future here as the commissioner of State Parks. I've worked for two governors now, one of whom paid his whores with illegal wire transfers, and the other who personally tried to dissuade an abuse victim from pressing assault charges against one of his staffers. On the other hand, there's just no way I can continue working in this $129,000-a-year-plus-benefits job for this sketchy Cuomo guy. I better get out while the getting's good!"

The bottom line is, if you care for the developmentally disabled or mentally ill, plow the roads, police the prisons or file the records, you're not going to find out you've lost your job until that day when you walk in the door and are handed a pink slip. On the other hand, if you're Albany royalty, you get plenty of advance warning before being allowed to exit on your own terms.

Besides accelerating the continued demise of the Olmsted plan for the park, Ash is richly deserving of our derision for other reasons. Whatever your position on the Robert Moses Parkway may be, she delayed any activity on the scoping process for years, the first meeting being held only recently. Therefore, parkway reconfiguration didn't come close to meeting the "shovel-ready" status required to qualify for the federal stimulus funds the Obama administration was slathering on transportation projects all over the country.

Ash also approved the diversion of Greenway funds to renovate park attractions like Cave of the Winds, so that even more tourist dollars can flow out of Niagara Falls into Albany's bottomless pit.

Given notice that she would not be part of the next administration, Ash opted for the revolving-door strategy and landed on her feet as an "adviser" for a new lobbying outfit called "Alliance for New York State Parks," and as early as November 2010, she was espousing their propaganda lines in a statewide editorial, trying to convince us that State Parks generates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for the economy.

Right here in "Niagara" -- as she refers to Niagara County in her piece -- we see the evidence all the time. Camping fees from Four Mile Creek State Park, boat launching fees from Wilson-Tuscarora, parking fees from Niagara Falls State Park -- well, they just fly straight into our pockets, don't they?

Alliance for New York State Parks is described on its website as a "bold new initiative" by its umbrella organization, something called the "Open Space Institute." The Open Space Institute works exclusively in the Hudson Valley, Catskill and Adirondack regions. Ash's base of operations, prior to becoming commissioner, was something called the Shawangunks of the lower Hudson River Valley.

The overarching goal of the Alliance, as championed by Ash in her new job, is to convince the Cuomo administration to enact a new, dedicated funding stream that will serve to keep state parks open for business. Suggestions include a plastic shopping bag fee, or a surcharge on vehicle registrations. In fact, I reported on an Ash plot to divert beverage container deposits to Parks in the Feb. 10, 2009, issue of the Reporter.

By the way, Cuomo's nominee for commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation? Joseph Martens, president of the Open Space Institute since 1998. Yet another downstater, associated with the shadowy Open Space Institute, this one to be charge of decisions regarding the CWM toxic waste dump in Niagara County.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Feb. 1, 2011