Thursday, August 21, 2014

"2020": A Myopic Vision . . .

The "Vision 2020" Full Report for Oneida County, which calls itself "A Path to Prosperity" and "an action plan to address the needs of a community preparing for a new economy" has been released by the County Executive. Its three parts (representing separate drafting committees) focus on "Education and Training," "Access and Opportunity," and "Housing."  The Observer-Dispatch has called it "a solid success plan."

Is it "a solid success plan?"  . . . or is it something else?

The Education and Training section contains goals that all Oneida County K-12 students "are competitively prepared to enter the workforce," that everyone be aware of employment opportunities, that colleges prepare men and women to take leadership roles, that we create a "culture of optimism," "economic sustainability," and "unique training" to meet business and industry demands.  Strategies include form a committee, "develop a unified plan," "develop a strategic plan," "establish a communication network,"   create "partnerships," and collaboration.  If you are numbed by all this you might miss the "cradle to career framework to ensure that program revision, development and articulation meet the emerging needs of business, industry and overall community." You might also miss the implementation of "Alignment USA" whose "focus is on a cradle-to-career approach which is holistic and serves the whole child."

  • Why does the plan assume that "leaders" must be college educated?
  • Why should the goal of K-12 be training for specific business types?  
  • Does this plan serve the child, or business . . .  or government?

If you think Soviet-style central planning was a good idea, then this is your cup of tea.  One gets a sense that K-12 students are going to be sorted into Huxleyesque "career" groups based on the needs of local business "clusters" (with a special emphasis on "Nano") with the "cream" (as judged by government standards) being trained at university to be society's "leaders." Individual interests and aspirations take a back seat in the education process with the students becoming merely another resource to be used by the local economy. With student populations being specially trained rather than broadly educated, they will be ill equipped to adapt to changing circumstances.


The Access and Opportunity section focuses on the County's "diverse" demographics, with "diversity" defined to mean "underrepresented" populations who "are not afforded access to tangibles and intangibles, the net effect of which is an unequal opportunity to avail themselves of the existing resources intended to enhance their overall success and/or quality of life." The report contends that "systemic inequities" have resulted in "marginalization" that can be addressed by shifting focus from a national to a local or regional one.  Goals include promoting and supporting entrepreneurship, business, and job creation in the "immigrant, refugee, and the underrepresented populations" in Oneida County, with an emphasis on "nano;" having a "showcase" for all the County's ethnic, social and faith groups; increasing English as a Second Language (ESL) opportunities; and increasing access to translation services.

  • Why does the plan focus on certain groups that are, allegedly, being denied access to resources?
  • Why are the alleged  "systemic inequities" never expressly identified?  Should not they be identified to ensure that they are going to be addressed?
  • Instead of promoting the region's "diversity," why not promote the region's "melting pot?" 

Although our region's diversity gives all its citizens access to cultural experiences not commonly available in other communities  -- experiences that could be "showcased" as a resource to outside business interests -- the report totally ignores our region's long-standing tradition as a welcoming "melting pot" for blending foreign cultures into our own American culture. Belying the "access and opportunity" label, the 2020 plan treats the "underrepresented" populations more as commodities to be marketed and customers for specialized services as part of a regional economic plan --  rather than provide a plan to integrate these groups into society so they may achieve for themselves their piece of the American dream.  The only proposal this section makes that is consistent with our "melting pot" tradition is the provision of ESL opportunities (which, presumably, includes an indoctrination into American core values, as embodied by our laws and system of government, and culture).  

The Greater Utica area's diversity is not nearly as important as the area's proven ability to accept and integrate persons of diverse cultures into the whole -- to make "underrepresented populations" American.  It is the latter that should be emphasized.


The Housing section sets goals to create a housing inventory in the County that would be attractive to nanotechnology employees, and to "identify existing and develop new opportunities for introducing alternative housing types" that meet the needs of the nanotech workforce.  Strategies include revising policies for PILOTS and tax exemptions, creating new financing vehicles for private developers of housing for the nanotech workforce, and an "informational campaign" that educates about alternative housing types.

  • Are nanotech workers demonstrably different from other people that their housing needs are different?
  • Why does the plan seem to presume that developers are not astute enough to determine the types of housing (including alternatives) and the locations desired by the market?
  • Why does the County see a need to second guess the market?

One gets a sense that this plan is more a pretext for continuing the cozy relationships certain developers have with government -- and the ongoing flow of taxpayer financed breaks and benefits -- than about assuring the existence of a good housing stock.

* * *
It is unclear why the three sections critiqued above were chosen for inclusion in Vision 2020 as opposed to a universe of other topics.  The only thing Vision 2020 seems to focus on is Nanotech, but if that is presumed to be our "path to prosperity," then Vision 2020 is myopic.

Based on published projections, if Quad C and the proposed 3 Fabs are fully developed (big "ifs" considering that the Albany area is 10 years ahead of us and only has 1 fab in operation with another under consideration)  that will create 5,000 jobs. These jobs will be essentially in one business sector, making the region vulnerable to the ups and downs of that sector.

While 5,000 jobs may sound like a lot, it pales in comparison with the number of good-paying jobs the region has lost over the last 40 years -- jobs in diversified businesses.  The departure of Univac during the 1970s alone took almost 5,000 jobs.  Now add to that thousands more with the departures of GE, Bendix, C-P, etc., etc. over the years.  Most of these jobs were lost to other parts of the country rather than overseas. Now add to that the probable loss of 2,000 Remington jobs over the next few years.

The biggest fault with Vision 2020 is that it fails to identify and address the causes of these 40 years of job loss. 

Looking through rose-colored glasses to plan for a Nano future while failing to learn lessons from past experiences dooms us to the same forces that created job loss.

Vision 2020 misses more than it sees.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Airport Politics . . .

Excellent Editorial in the OD Today by former Airport Commissioner Vernon Gray refuting with specific examples the County Executive's claim that "No one is stifled in terms of their ideas and their ability to manage."  Especially troubling . . .

"I was directed to refer all airport business inquiries to Mohawk Valley EDGE for its exclusive consideration and action, despite its lack of aeronautical expertise and conflicts of interest."
While we might not be privy to the details of airport actions, EDGE's seeming involvement in everything "airport" and the public machinations of county-level politicians over many years make clear that all decisions are being made by a clique of local insiders. . . . the 21st century Oneida County re-incarnation of the early 20th century clique of Utica mill owners.

This blogger critiqued Mr. Gray's remarks back in 2008 when he first came aboard: "New Commissioner, Old Vision" . . . and, to his credit, he responded (see the comments to the post). This was someone who took his status as a public servant seriously!  Unfortunately, Oneida County does not want public servants in management, only "yes men" who do as they are told.

And unfortunately Oneida County taxpayers have been deprived the benefits of the expertise that they hired.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Griffiss "International's" Why, What, How . . . and Who?

According to the Rome Sentinel, flight traffic is down 12% at Griffiss "International" Airport so far this year.

This raises a lot of Questions (from a reliable source):

  1. Why have itinerant commercial Air Taxi aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 36% from 806 in 2011 to 516 in 2013?
  2. Why have itinerant General Aviation aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 52% from 18,905 in 2011 to 9,081 in 2013?
  3. Why have local General Aviation aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 51% from 35,426 in 2011 to 17,499 in 2013?
  4. Why has the total of itinerant and local aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 44% from 60,265 in 2011 to 33,503 in 2013?
  5. Why has the number of passengers reported departing from Griffiss decreased from 1,146 in 2011 to 744 in 2013?
  6. How many additional itinerant aircraft operations, both military and civil, are expected to be generated by the presence of a Customs Office?
  7. Why are annual aircraft operations expected to increase to only 54,000 over the next 20 years, not even equaling or exceeding previous levels at Griffiss or at the Old Oneida Co. Airport in Whitestown?
  8. What marketing of the airport is being conducted by Million Air to attract itinerant non-military aircraft?
  9. What marketing of the airport is being conducted by EDGE to attract new commercial enterprises?
  10. How do Million Air’s aviation fuel prices compare to other General Aviation airports within a 50 mile radius?
Considering that we continue to pour millions of Taxpayer dollars into the Griffiss "International" Albatross with decreasing airport use . . .

Who benefits from all the taxpayers' largess?

We, the Taxpayers, certainly aren't getting anything!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Easy as PI . . . Or Is IT?

SUNY PI  (for Polytechnic Institute)!

Thank goodness they picked out a cool name for the merged SUNY IT and SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE).  The Times Union's Buzz has a rather humorous take on the name change called "Tom Selleck's 3.14 degrees of separation."  But between the humorous lines about Alain Kaloyeros growing a mustache was a kernel of concern over institutional identity.

"SPI is awfully close to RPI and some people may wonder which institute is being talked about when the names come up."
The article makes obvious the Albany institution's strong association with Dr. Kaloyeros.  Rightly so! He made it what it is.  The institution's mission is associated with nanotechnology.  Again, rightly so. That has been CNSE's focus... And in the Capital District's sea of institutions of higher learning, the niche focus of CNSE works to distinguish the institution from others.

In Utica there are different concerns over institutional identity and mission.

Time seems to have cured the association of SUNYIT with Utica (see the 2008 post What's (Not) In a Name) as people became familiar with its location.  But now we are not only back to square one, but behind it,  with "SUNY PI" being located in two different metro areas!  The institution may be unified, but the campuses are separated by 90 miles.

More important is that SUNYIT has had its own genesis . . . not associated with one person and not associated with a niche field. In the rush to create "SUNY PI" it seems that the tradition and mission of Utica's institution are being forgotten and traded for those of the more glamorous CNSE. . . . particularly by our own local officials.

Let's embrace the changes . . . but, at the same time, work to maintain the local identity and preserve the original mission.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Monday, August 04, 2014

Another Dirty Campaign on the Horizon?

I received a political survey call this evening. At first the questions were about general Republican issues . . . but then the questions zeroed in on the 101st Assembly District primary between incumbent Claudia Tenney and her Herkimer County challenger.

Many of the questions were almost verbatim from the negative campaign ads used against Ms. Tenney during her congressional primary . . . misconstruing Ms. Tenney's record by taking her votes out of context . . . which suggests that the same people behind the negative congressional campaign against her are at it again.

Happy to set her record straight, Ms. Tenney, in a switch for an incumbent, has offered her challenger four debates -- which not only exposes her record to criticism where warranted, but also gives valuable name-exposure to her challenger -- something he needs outside of Herkimer County.

Whether you agree on the issues with Ms. Tenney or not, isn't this what a candidate does who is really interested in being a public servant?

After more than two weeks, the debate-offer has yet to be accepted.

Rather than getting an issues-oriented race, voters need to get ready for another round of negative mudslinging by our local republican elite . . .  the best that money can buy!

American Culture . . .

There was a "letter to the editor" in the OD recently, "United States was designed to be a diverse nation,"  that argued that Hobby Lobby was doing a "disservice" to various religious groups by claiming that the United States was a Christian country. This letter bothered me.

Although the writer correctly points out that the Constitution prevents our government from establishing an official religion or prohibiting people from practicing their religion, the writer ignores the facts (1) that the nation's founders were primarily Christian, (2) that their religious beliefs shaped their view of human rights, and (3) that our founding documents must be viewed from the perspective of those beliefs to be properly understood.

In that sense, while carrying no official religion, America IS a Christian nation because Judeo-Christian values are woven throughout our system of laws. 

Contrary to the title of the letter-to-the-editor, the United States was not "designed to be a diverse nation" as the Constitution is neutral on the subject.  To accept such a premise opens us up to accepting things (such as Sharia Law) under the guise of "religious freedom" that go against our laws and our culture as an American people.  Great Britain and France have already gone down that road by embracing "diversity" to the extreme,  and now are not only in danger of losing their own cultures, but the safety and tranquility of their citizenry.

Hobby Lobby is trying to remind us of the Christian underpinnings of our system of government, which are the underpinnings of our culture.   That is a great service to the American public.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moreland Commission . . .

The New York Times has a lengthy -- but well worth reading -- article about the life and death of Governor Cuomo's "Moreland Commission."

After you read it, you may come to the conclusion that the Commission was created to be nothing more than a "tool" to be used, not to root out governmental corruption as advertised, but, rather, to intimidate opponents of the administration in power.

Gee . . . Where have we heard that before?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's a . . . . Permit!

Finally, after more than 10 years the Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit for the Marcy Chip-Fab . . . or should I say Marcy Nanocenter . . . site. Per the OD . . .

Cuomo said the news is an important step forward in his plans to make the Utica area a hub for nanoscale science research and manufacturing. 
“This new hub will recreate in Utica the success we have seen in Albany, with international investors taking note of innovation and development in Upstate New York,” he said in a release, referring to the successful nanotechnology sector that has developed in the Capitol Region. 

Let's hope so!

While we should be skeptical whether NY's venture into "state capitalism" a/k/a "public-private partnership" a/k/a "crony capitalism" will pan out into sustainable economic recovery, we can at least celebrate the end of a ridiculously convoluted process (thanks to the Federal Government) and, hopefully, the beginning of some accomplishment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not the Immigration of Old . . .

Mayor Stephanie Miner has opened Syracuse's doors to accept immigrant children from Central America who have illegally entered the country.  The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse is standing by, ready to help. While they may be commended for wanting to help children, is their compassion -- indeed, is America's compassion for helping the downtrodden -- being used against US?

In the decade following the 9/11/01 attacks -- during the alleged "War on Terror" -- it made no sense that our southern border was never sealed. It made no sense that Mexico, the US' supposed ally and trading partner, would facilitate illegal immigration by publishing a pamphlet in comic book style on "how to" best do it. It made no sense that the US tolerated actions by the Mexican government and Mexican government officials that would undermine US interests and sovereignty.

The nonsense has only gotten worse.

We are told that "coyotes" are paid $8,000 to $12,000 a head to smuggle people in. A person with a good job in Mexico, such as an auto worker, makes $20 A DAY. $10,000 would represent about 2 years' work.  It would be more difficult for people in the poorer countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to amass this sum.

Where is the money coming from?

Why should it be so expensive to go, perhaps, 1,500 miles, when airline tickets (not to mention bus tickets) are cheap?

Why are parents willing to let their children go on such a journey?  Or are they?

Why has Mexico entered into an agreement with Guatemala giving Guatemalans 72 hours in Mexico to facilitate travel to the US?                                                                                                                          
Utilizing a law designed to oppose human trafficking, the taxpayer now, somehow, is required to afford these children a hearing.  A hearing on what?

Somehow the taxpayer is now expected to pay to "reunite" these children with loved ones.  With who? The family that placed them in harm's way?

US citizens have to show all sorts of ID to be allowed on a plane, but these illegals merely have to show a copy of their letter to appear in court?

There is so much here that makes no sense . . . unless you open yourself to the possibility that this has all been planned.

Allen West has posted a disturbing interview with a former Border Patrol agent Zack Taylor who says that the immigrant surge bears the hallmarks of "asymetrical warfare" -- which seeks to destroy the infrastructure of a nation from within. It is well worth the 15 minutes watch time.

Whether you agree with Mr. Taylor or not, one thing is clear . . .

The immigration we see now across our southern border is not the immigration of old.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Now It Makes Sense!

OD: State: Extended school day mandatory.  Now the 90% participation rate grant requirement for the schools proposed for extended hours makes sense. Attendance will be compulsory. A 90% participation rate could never be achieved on a voluntary basis.

Students need unstructured time to explore their own interests, and non-school time for various activities like sports or scouts, a part-time job (eg. delivering papers or in the family business), or volunteer activities.  Parents need time to develop their own relationships with their children and inculcate their values.

More time in compulsory education means less time for families and individuals.

This is a step toward longer school days for everyone. . . more government dependency (school breakfast, lunch and now dinner?  School health clinics.  School babysitting.)  In short: more government control over the population.  

Enough already! 

EFC & Tappan Zee Update

Following up on Sunday's post, the Public Authorities Board has decided to give the Thruway Authority half a loaf (a $255M loan) -- this year -- and Thruway will be allowed to apply for the remainder in 2016.

This sets the unfortunate precedent that a funding source intended to aid communities in dealing with wastewater issues can be used to construct a new bridge .

. . . Just more of the same old same old in the "new" New York.