Thursday, May 21, 2015

And the Next Raleigh-Durham is . . . Utica?

Yes, you can feel it in the air. There is a new sense of hope in Utica for a brighter future. It has been a long time coming . . . and it is a good thing!

Per the OD today, a HUD official says that Utica could be the next Raleigh-Durham!  The official, Mr. Forero out of the Albany HUD office, pointed to Utica's population statistics and noted that they were similar to Raleigh-Durham, NC, one of the country's fastest growing cities.

Comparing ourselves to our competitors to see how we measure up is a good thing. It shows us where we are strong, and where we need improvement.  The fact that Utica has a young demographic like Raleigh-Durham gives hope for the future.

But will these young people stay here?

How does Utica compare to Raleigh-Durham by other measures?  Are its taxes as low as Raleigh-Durham? Are its utility costs as low as Raleigh-Durham?  Does a "Right to Work" law prevail like in Raleigh-Durham? Are Utica's demographics the product of people flocking to Utica for employment opportunities like in Raleigh-Durham, or are they due to the importation of people from areas of strife in other parts of the world?

Utica needs to be able to answer these questions honestly, to know some of the changes it needs to make to actually become the next Raleigh-Durham.

In so far as listening to Federal HUD officials, if the Federal Government was not spreading around millions of tax dollars (OUR tax dollars), should anyone actually listen to these people?  The Federal Government is the source of the "20% Affordable Housing" requirement for new housing developments found in the Utica Master Plan . . . a requirement in a city already known for the affordability of its housing stock . . .  and in a city that desperately needs Upscale housing to bring in tax revenue to sustain city services.

Utica is turning around through private efforts . . . and does not need Big Government to mess things up!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hotel Utica: Change the Management!

The Utica OD had been asking its readers for suggestions on what to do with the Hotel Utica now that a $million in back taxes is owed and a potential sale of the facility has recently fallen through.

How about this:  Run it as an hotel!

The hotel was beautifully restored during the last decade.  But the ability to bring about a successful restoration of an hotel does not mean there is an ability to successfully run an hotel.  A different skill set is involved.

The Utica Phoenix has an article this month that makes a strong case that the Hotel Utica's problems are due to poor management -- in particular by a family member of the hotel's owner.

Most people can understand that if you have a business, you want to take care of your kids. . . .

But here, the Taxpayers have been on the hook for this facility.  The City should use its creditor status to either leverage the owner to fire current management and hire someone with expertise and success in running a large hotel . . .

Or foreclose on the facility, hire the expert, and run the facility itself until a buyer can be found.

The fact that new hotels are going up in the vicinity establishes the market for hotel rooms. The City controls the hotel's environs (which could probably use some sprucing up).  The City has the power to fix this.

Taxpayers deserve movement on this issue.

Baby Killer!!

The headline in the Syracuse paper says it all:

House passes bill banning abortions after 20 weeks: Hanna splits with GOP

- - - - - -
Noon Update:

There is more than just the woman here -- there is another person. There is virtually no difference in that person before and after passing through the birth canal or being removed via C-section. The person is viable. Courts have long recognized wrongful death claims for babies in utero. Because abortion at early stages in pregnancy has been found legal, someone has to draw the line as to when personhood rights under the US Constitution attach. Like the abolition of slavery, that job properly belongs to Congress. And contrary to Mr. Hanna's assertion on his Facebook page, exceptions are provided for the mother's health and in other circumstances. See Section 1532 (b)(2)(B) at .

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Politics Over People . . .

That's the thought that replayed over and over in my mind as I listened to two painful interviews with State Sen. James Seward this morning, the first on WIBX and the second on WUTQ.

What was painful was listening to the Senator's excuses for voting for Sen. Flanagan of  Long Island as the new Senate Majority leader over Sen. DeFrancisco from Syracuse. Per WIBX sources . . .
Seward’s vote was instrumental in keeping the leadership of the Republican run senate on Long Island. . .
Seward seemed to gloss over the vote when speaking with Keeler saying, “by the time the vote got to (him) it was already decided.” Keeler challenged that point and asked about inside sources who say 2 Long Island senators threatened to retire if Flanagan wasn’t elected, which would most likely lead to the Republicans losing their majority in the Senate
Mr. Seward was not the only one.  Six Upstate Republicans threw in for the Downstater over the guy from Syracuse.    Per the Syracuse paper
Some Upstate conservatives felt Monday's vote was a blow to the gut.

Seward responded, "I would say, I'm more concerned with the agenda that's pursued rather than with where a leader is from."   
Well what agenda is that, Mr. Seward?

In both interviews Seward in sickening fashion rattled on and on about his "agenda" dealing with some of the intricacies of the SAFE Act and the Common Core rollout. . . . things that would be of interest to Republicans in Westchester and Long Island.

But these problems are symptoms of a much bigger issue for everyone North and West of Poughkeepsie: Upstate's borderline Third World economy caused by The Tyranny of the Downstate Majority.

Simply put, for our region the difference between Republican and Democrat is not as significant as the difference between Upstate and Downstate.  Here was the opportunity, via the Majority Leader position, for Upstate to strongly influence the "agenda" -- to advance an Upstate Agenda -- but the 6 Upstate Republicans including Mr. Seward who voted for Mr. Flanagan blew it. 

They were more concerned about their party than their constituents. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Indian Point: Our Problem, Too . . .

Local residents need to keep an eye on the aftermath of the recent explosion at the Indian Point nuclear plant near Poughkeepsie, NY.  No, there was no meltdown.  Systems properly shut down when the explosion occurred.  However, there was an oil spill. . . . You can be sure that there will be more calls for the plant to be shut down, even though it supplies 25% of the power for New York City and Westchester County. People have been calling for shutdown of this plant for years.

In addition, coal fired plants in the Downstate region are in the process of being shut down.  Protection of the environment is cited as the reason.

While to some Indian Point and the closure of coal plants may be a Downstate problem, and to others it may be an Environmental problem, for us locally it represents an Economic Problem. Because from where will the power to replace that of the shut down plants come from?

Indian Point needs to be kept open. If it is closed...which is Cuomo's goal...history will repeat itself. Cuomo's father shut down the Shoreham LI nuke plant due to popular pressure ...and Upstaters -- inspite of having an abundance of cheap hydro power -- now pay some of the highest electrical rates in the nation because our power was sent Downstate. The high rates contributed to Upstate's loss of jobs. Solar and wind have not proven economical compared to fossil fuels...

Sure a meltdown is a scary possibility, and coal-fired plants may be obnoxious. But we Upstaters are living in almost a third world economic reality now to keep the City and environs lit. 

If we have to give up more to help Downstate, what would we get in return?

For past Fault Lines commentary concerning Indian Point check out these posts.
2006: Environmental Justice
2008: NYRI/Marcy-South;  Indian Point Progress ; Not Fighting NYRI on All Fronts
2011: Cuomo, Jr.'s Shoreham

Friday, May 08, 2015

Buffalo Billion: The Secrecy Continues . . .

The Buffalo Billion Solar City project, its Utica connection, and the secrecy from NYS was discussed here in January, largely based upon a December article in the Investigative Post.

Today, several months later, the "main stream media" has picked up on the secrecy problem on the Buffalo News' editorial page: Transparency needed at Solar City construction site.
For those unfamiliar with the project, the construction of this facility is being financed entirely through the state of New York. New York will own the facility and all equipment within it, with SolarCity promising to provide 3,000 employees to utilize it. . . .

As frequently happens when dealing with projects involving the government, the devil is in the details. As Associated Builders and Contractors and our members began inquiring as to how to get work on this massive $750 million dollar-plus project, we ran into a brick wall.

The more research we did on this issue for our members, the more frustrated we became. In fact, it came to a point where our staff was actually submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to find out more information on the bidding, who was getting the work that was being done, etc. These requests for information have gone unanswered.
Back in December, the State was stonewalling an investigative reporter on how taxpayers' money was being spent. Now the State is stonewalling a construction trade association on who is performing all the site work...

 We The People are taxed to the yazoo in NYS but are not entitled to see how money is spent or who is benefiting. Seems like nothing ever changes in New York State.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Refugee Lawsuit: A Helping Hand, Biting the Hand, or Something Else?

Utica has had a stellar record of being a welcoming haven for immigrants and refugees for at least a century -- so much so that the United Nations has called Utica the "Town that Loves Refugees." School doors have been open to such a variety of peoples that forty-two languages are spoken in Utica's schools! Utica can be proud of the stories of refugees who found success locally. These inspiring stories remind us of our own immigrant forebears to whom we owe so much.

So it came as quite a shock to learn from WKTV that the Utica School district is being sued for (allegedly) illegally denying refugee youth an education.  The OD also had an article. How is this possible in a school district renowned for its diversity?

A "helping hand?"

The complaint, brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and its Central New York affiliate on behalf of six students and "others similarly situated,"
"challenges the Defendants’ policy and practice of excluding limited English proficient (“LEP”) immigrants aged 17-20 from Thomas R. Proctor High School (“Proctor High School”) in Utica, N.Y. . . . [1]
It alleges that
. . . For the last 8 years, Defendants have been excluding LEP immigrants (primarily refugees) over 16 years of age from Proctor High School, the only high school in Utica, and diverting them to alternative education programs.  . . . [3]
And it seeks
. . . an order requiring Defendants to enroll LEP immigrants aged 17-20 in Proctor High School if the immigrants want to go to high school, are residents of the Utica City School District, and have not yet turned 21 years old [among other "Relief" requested].
The suit claims, with specific reference to NY Ed Law 3202 (1), that individuals have the right "to attend the high school within their district" until they turn 21 or earn a high school diploma, that it must be the student's choice to attend an alternative program, and that  
For the last eight years, however, the Defendants have been robbing immigrant students of that choice." [4, emphasis supplied]
Wow!  The Utica school district "robs" immigrant students of "choice" -- and the "civil liberties" attorneys are lending a helping hand make sure that the students have this "choice?"

The complaint gives details of the students' ages, the countries they came from, the hardships they sustained, their native languages, the fact that they are "LEP," and their hopes and dreams (of being a doctor, nurse, teacher, engineer).  Every single one of them has spent 17 years in an overseas refugee camp, i.e., virtually their entire life in a world vastly different from Utica. Other than to mention that one student had been taught unspecified subjects at the camp, the complaint is totally silent on the students' educational achievement. The complaint's silence on this point makes it safe to assume they are uneducated.   But these students -- or rather, their lawyers -- insist they be able to attend high school which is grades 9-12.

Let's assume that all the allegations in the complaint are true. What happens if the plaintiffs get their wish? Assuming no language barrier, how well would students who are probably 8 to 10 years behind their peers in content learning and with little exposure to our culture do in a high school classroom?

For any student to be successful in a high school course, the student needs to have mastered the prerequisites. Without the prerequisites, the time spent in class is wasted.  Worse, frustration may set in that leads to behavior problems. It is not unusual for alternative settings to be created for such students -- and such are the best placement for them.

Now add (1) a language barrier and (2) lack of cultural context on top of (3) a lack of formal education. Allowing such students to attend regular high school classes rather than the district's alternative programs designed to teach English and cultural awareness would cause more harm than good. Some might call it educational malpractice! Should lawyers be aiding vulnerable, illiterate students to make bad choices?

Biting the hand?

While we can be proud of Utica's cultural diversity, the volume and variety of immigrant students taken into Utica schools has placed  financial burdens on local taxpayers -- taxpayers who are already burdened with some of the highest taxes in the nation. Now they will be burdened with the cost of a lawsuit, spending money on lawyers rather than education.

Regardless of the requirements of "the law," considering all that Utica has done to make refugees feel welcome, some Uticans will view this lawsuit as a "slap in the face" or as "biting the hand that feeds you" - a demonstration of ungratefulness, dissatisfaction, and sense of "entitlement" by newcomers. Over time, this could lead to a change in attitude and lead to Utica becoming a less-welcoming place. It would be a tragedy if that happens because that would represent a change in Utica's character.

While there are always those among us (immigrants and non-immigrants alike) who have that "sense of entitlement" and will institute lawsuits to assert "rights" on the flimsiest of pretexts to make a point (especially when someone else pays the bill), from what is known about these plaintiffs this does not seem to be the case.  Simply put, they are too new to America,  too unfamiliar with our customs, and too involved in learning how to survive to worry about an alleged "right" to attend Proctor High School. No, this lawsuit is not their "biting the hand." Rather, they are being prodded to do this by others with an agenda.

Something else?

The fact that a press release was issued and media contacted before the school district was even served with the complaint reveals a calculated effort to create a media buzz before the District could intelligently respond.  That does not demonstrate a sincere desire to solve a problem, but, rather a desire to play to public opinion.

The claim that the district was "robbing" the students of choice is unnecessarily inflammatory language that similarly evinces a desire to play to public opinion rather than solve a problem.

The complaint misstates NY Ed Law 3202 (1).  That provision does NOT state that individuals have the right "to attend the high school within their district" until they turn 21. Rather it states that  that such students are "entitled to attend the public schools maintained in the district in which such person resides without the payment of tuition.

How schooling of LEP students is to be accomplished is prescribed by NY Ed Law 3204 and regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Education there under.  The complaint implies that Utica is not in compliance with NY law, mentions only one regulation pertaining to bilingual education, but then fails to demonstrate that the regulation even applies (see pleading #57).  [The NYCLU attorneys should read section 3204 thoroughly. Subdivision 3(a)(3) regarding courses of study will probably send some of them into orbit!]

If the Utica district does not comply with NY Law, why is not NYCLU working through the NYS Department of Education instead of proceeding directly to federal court and wasting that court's valuable time?  Did they not hear of the concept of "exhaustion of administrative remedies?" NYCLU Staff attorney Desgranges is quoted by WKTV as saying “Across the state, school districts are refusing to enroll young people who are immigrants or limited English proficient, instead placing them in inappropriate or inadequate programs.” If this is a state-wide problem, it would seem that the appropriate course of action would be to go after the state, not Utica.

Mr. Desgranges then goes on to state that Utica has an obligation to educate "all young people, including undocumented immigrants and refugees." The complaint also references an obligation to the undocumented.  While that may be true, what does that have to do with this lawsuit?

Or is the NYCLU trying to pressure Utica to accept an expected wave of undocumented immigrants? Such has been reported to  be on the president's agenda.

Lastly, is it just coincidence that one of Utica's student immigrant success stories, who's bio reveals an amount of activism and political connection, also happens to be on the board of the suing NYCLU Central New York  chapter?  Nah . . . must be coincidence.

The lawsuit is neither a helping hand, nor biting the hand.  It's something else: a political agenda.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Are More OC Taxpayer Dollars Taking Flight???

According to a Rome Sentinel Article, the O. C. Legislature is about to consider a 10 year lease to Freeman Holdings, a/k/a Million Air, of 5,500 square feet of terminal building at Griffiss "International" Airport for roughly $100,000 a year.
Utilities like heat, electricity and water are paid by the county.
Interesting.  Are other tenants of Oneida County also given taxpayer-paid utilities?

The car rental desk and flight school paid rent at their old locations and will continue doing so in their new locations on the second floor of the terminal building.
But ...
Under the management contract, Freeman did not have to pay rent for its old space because it was in what was considered a transitional location, awaiting a permanent one, explained Candido.
So, the County clearly gave preferential treatment to Freeman in that other tenants paid rent for their old space but Freeman did not.

Interesting thing, that management agreement, regarding the "transitional location," in Section 4 (A) . . .
". . . it is anticipated that said relocation of the FBO Offices will occur in the spring of 2009 . . . " 

So what the OC Board of Leg. is doing now was something they were told was anticipated to be done in 2009? It is now 2015, SIX YEARS LATER!  That means that Freeman has been using County Facilities, rent free, for six years longer than the OC Legislature was led to believe when it originally approved the agreement with Freeman back in 2008! 

It is unknown why it took so long to get to this point, or who was ultimately responsible to get us to this point.  There are probably plenty of excuses which may or may not be good ones.  What is not excusable is that an unforeseen delay was something that could have been provided for in the original contract, but was not, and that as a result, the taxpayers have have not received rent for the use of county facilities for six years.

According to the Sentinel, the county executive's chief of staff Mr. Candido . . .
said the lease amount was based on a study of new construction rentals and market rates in the surrounding area.

Given the sloppiness of the manner in which the Management Agreement has been carried out thus far, the Board of Legislators may want to see the evidence supporting Mr. Candido's assertion before approving of this lease.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cuban-NY Trade? Babalooooo-ney!

Gov. Cuomo is Cuba-bound today to encourage trade with that nation. Per the Post Standard. . .
Kevin Ellis, of Cayuga Milk Ingredients, and Hamdi Ulukaya, of Chobani, are going with the Democratic governor on a two-day trip . . . .
Why is Chobani going? Greek yogurt is expensive.  Do they really think that people from Cuba, a country that can barely feed its people, can afford NY yogurt? Or cheese?

Interestingly, also in dairy news today, CNY Central is reporting that the Heluva Good Cheese packaging plant -- a plant that has been open in Sodus since 1925 -- is closing. But . . .
HP Hood says customers will not see a change in the availability in the product. . . .
Since the product will still be available, it is going to be packed someplace other than Sodus, NY, but CNY Central fails to report where.

If current market conditions make it difficult to package dairy products in New York, and current market conditions make it difficult to purchase dairy products in Cuba, market conditions suggest that products will be produced in Cuba and sold in New York rather than the other way around. This will allow New York corporations to take advantage of the almost "slave wages" paid to Cuban workers and high prices paid by NYS consumers.

Look who else is lining up at the gate for Havana per the Post Standard:
Others include leaders from JetBlue, MasterCard, the Plattsburgh International Airport, Pfizer, Regeneron, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and and Infor. State representatives include Empire State Development Corp. CEO Howard Zemsky, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein.
Travel, technology, developers and politicians.

Now how could New York State possibly benefit from trading with impoverished Cuba?

Looking at the who's who going, it looks like certain elite New Yorkers hope to cash-in developing Cuba's potential as a travel destination and place to manufacture pharmaceuticals -- just like people did years ago with Puerto Rico.  At least with Puerto Rico, the money wasn't propping up a dictatorship and in theory is still in our country.

These people are looking out for themselves, not the average New Yorker.

Whether we have Republicans or Democrats in office, we seem to repeat our mistakes: Allowing our corporations to send jobs overseas to places that oppress their people like China, Vietnam, and Venezuela -- allowing those countries to build their economies or militaries on our dime -- while also allowing the corporations to take advantage of our market's prices.  And the politicians making this happen get enriched by the corporations.

New York State is practically Cuba already, with a well heeled urban elite running things to their benefit while everyone else become serfs. Trading with Cuba will only seal the deal.

There is a pre-revolucion Cuban export that we all can enjoy.  But trade with Cuba now is Babalooooo-ney!

For another take on this story, check out CNYTruth.

Pardon Our Dust . . .

Will be experimenting with some new formatting options which may result in the blog looking unusual for a short time.  Pardon our dust.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Welcome "cnytruth" . . .

Blogs dealing with local issues seem to be falling by the wayside.  (I am going to have to do some serious spring cleaning of my Blogroll because many on the list are no longer active).

Anyway, it is nice to see a new blogger picking up the effort:  "cnytruth" which promises to expose "the millstone of waste, corruption and lies in the Upstate NY liberal wasteland."

 Welcome, cnytruth!

There is more than enough material to keep us all busy . . .

Friday, April 17, 2015

Accoutrements of Success. . .

Today's OD presents another example of the "build it and they will come" fairy tale: Expansion of high speed Internet can help region stay competitive.
“Access to high-speed Internet is critical to ensuring that all New Yorkers can reach their full potential in today’s technology-driven world,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. . . . 
Internet providers are being offered matching funds if they opt to expand into areas with no service, or improve service in places that already have it. Providers often are reluctant to extend service into sparsely populated areas because there might not be enough customers to recoup costs.
The problem with the OD's headline is that it assumes that we are already competitive. With among the highest sales tax rates in the nation, highest property tax rates in the nation as a percentage of property value, highest utility rates, highway tolls, and onerous regulations that have driven literally tens of thousands of people and countless businesses from our region in the last 40 years, can anyone seriously argue that we are competitive?  

Economically competitive areas DO have high speed internet  . . . they also have bustling airports with regularly scheduled airline service . . .  symphony orchestras . . . museums, libraries, theaters, zoos,  etc., etc.  -- because they are economically successful -- not because the taxpayers paid for them.

We once had all these things, and still have some of these things, because we were once economically successful.  But that is the past.  And slowly but surely, as the "old money" gets spent, we are losing these accoutrements of success -- and not obtaining new ones -- because we are no longer successful.

Repeat: "Providers often are reluctant to extend service into sparsely populated areas because there might not be enough customers to recoup costs."

The OD speaks of internet providers, but it is the same for water lines, sewers, roads, airports, and virtually any other service that you can think of.  If the costs cannot be recouped, why should the taxpayer (or water/sewer/utility user) be forced pick up the costs for those it is uneconomical (or "unsustainable") to serve?   That would require higher taxes and fees . . .

And That would make us LESS competitive.