Leading off today:
If you thought the Brett Favre soap opera got tedious rather quickly, you'd better hunker down for the ongoing saga of the Empire State Games.
On Tuesday night, the story broke that the summer and winter ESGs had been canceled. State employees tasked to running the events were either let go or reassigned, and the official website was taken down.
Now, organizers of the winter edition of the Empire State Games say they have the funding in place to stage the event Feb. 25-27 in Lake Placid. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said local leaders are pulling together the required funding. It's believed they'll need to raise $150,000 to patch the hole the state blew in the event budget with Tuesday's surprise announcement.
Regarding the summer ESGs, scheduled for Rochester in July, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said this week she's not giving up on securing private funding to make up for the estimated $1.25 million needed to replace state support. That's a noble effort on her part, but the Empire State Games are dead even if the local organizing committee (LOC) succeeds. And Brooks is smart enough to know it.
Oh, sure, they could manage to pull off the event as previously scheduled next summer. But what happens the year after that? And then the year after that?
The Empire State Games have been in existence for more than three decades, but there's never been nearly enough support from the private sector. It was largely propped up with money from the state budget and quasi-governmental agencies such as the New York Lottery. Corporate sponsorships have always been very small and local/regional.
And now the state is saying it has no money to spare. The truth is that New York long ago ran out of money. Those of us stupid enough to stay will be paying off old state debts (cleverly hidden in a maze of authorities and bond issues) for years to come, and there's no reason to believe that the incoming administration will be any more effective at restoring fiscal sanity than past administrations. New York has been spending roughly $12 billion a year too much for each of the last five years, resulting in jacked-up taxes that are driving businesses away.
In any case, they've officially punted and told organizers they're on their own for securing funding. There are few businesses with a footprint across the state that could benefit by ponying up $1 million a year to keep the ESGs alive. First Niagara Bank stepped up big last summer in Buffalo after the 2009 ESGs had to be canceled due to budget problems, but the return on investment is so abysmal for a four-day amateur event that a one-year commitment was about all anyone could hope for.
Without someone stepping up with a three- or five-year commitment, a revived Empire State Games would live in scramble mode every year, with the LOCs having to