Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Don't Forget to Vote

Today is primary day and in this area there are primaries for both major parties.

For the Republicans in the 101st Assembly District, the choice is clear:  Vote for the person willing to engage in a public debate. 

For the Democrats in the Governor's race, the choice is clear:  Vote for the person willing to engage in a public debate.   

For both parties for Family Court Judge:  The voters are lucky! Each candidate has something a bit different to offer . . .  but I don't remember the last time I saw such a well qualified bunch at once!

No matter who you vote for, the important thing is to vote.  

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Empire Building in Herkimer County?

Herkimer County has been looking into building a new jail since 2006 when the State's Commission of Corrections placed a limit on the existing jail's capacity.  A site was picked but the Village of Herkimer did not like it and denied a sewer connection.  Rather than look for an alternative site or consider an alternative arrangement, the County fought back with a lawsuit that has been going on for years.

Per TWC News: Lawsuit Continues to Stall New Herkimer County Jail

 "The Commission of Corrections in 2006 told us we were going to have to cut our maximum facility capacity to four inmates, per day,” said Herkimer County Sheriff, Christopher Farber. 
Today, most inmates are boarded elsewhere including Oneida, Otsego, Montgomery, Fulton and Rensselaer Counties. . . . 
Sheriff Farber says it is their duty to run a correctional facility in the county and says they won't know the real costs until it opens. [emphasis added]
Duty? A county legislator, Mr. Korce, apparently does not think so and wants to look into a cooperative effort with Oneida County.

 . . . And why not? Herkimer County has roughly the same population as the City of Utica.  It has been generations since Utica got rid of its jail on Bleecker Street in favor of sending inmates to the Oneida County Correctional Facility.  Cooperating with Oneida County would seem to give Herkimer County taxpayers not only the cost effectiveness of a larger facility, but the expertise of the O. C. managing staff.  
In the meantime, the expenses are adding up. Korce says the price of architects and lawyers has already totaled more than a million dollars.
The lawsuit, which is still churning along, does not put bricks on the ground, house inmates, avoid the costs and hassles of locating and boarding inmates elsewhere, or bring Herkimer County into compliance with the State's directives.

It seems that some Herkimer County officials appear more interested in empire building than in doing what is best for the taxpayers.  

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bad Ideas in Washington . . .

Instinct is part of the self-preservation process of being human. Instinctively people view others different from themselves with suspicion. But over time with interactions they learn behaviors to get along. The behaviors can be "good" or "bad" from society's perspective depending upon how the interactions turned out for the participants.

Political Correctness (PC) is taught (either directly in school or the rhetoric of social and political leaders) rather than learned by personal interaction.  Under PC, one is taught to suppress one's instincts and embrace certain groups and ideas deemed worthy of special deference by social and political leaders . . . and shun those groups and ideas deemed unworthy.

PC's suppression of the self-preservation instinct inherently makes us more vulnerable to those among the "worthy" groups who would do us harm . . . and less likely to affiliate with the "unworthy" groups with whom we may have common interests.

Simply, PC is a method of "divide and conquer"  . . . . and we are being divided today by the politicians in Washington like never before.

Race, gender, sexual-orientation, affluency, political affiliation have all become the subject of strident rhetoric to divide us into squabbling groups . . . while the distraction allows groups who would do us harm escape notice while attending to their nefarious tasks.

The entertaining Brigitte Gabriel hits the nail on the head when she explains the harm of PC in the clip below: In a nutshell, evil can exist and take root in ANY group. . . . The Germans, Japanese, Russians, Chinese are all called out as having spawned evil at one time or another. (I would add the Italians as well -- I'm sure you can think of others). PC was not an issue before, and evil among these groups was recognized, confronted and dealt with.

Evil needs to be confronted wherever it is.  Today it is the Muslims where evil is taking root. Brigitte reminds us that treating this group differently due to PC from the way we dealt with the others in the past threatens our existence.

Great Idea in Rome . . .

They are breaking ground for 128 luxury apartments in Rome.  Fantastic!  For too long high-end construction has been left to suburban areas.

It's good to see that some of this is going on in Utica, too, with the Pezzolanella's project at the re-christened Landmarc building.  It certainly is exciting to see those steel beams flying through the air! And the County seems to be on the right track, too, by creating incentives for in-city projects.

We all benefit from in-city projects because they more-intensely use the valuable infrastructure already in place: the roads, sewers, and water lines which were originally designed for intense use.  This avoids taxpayers having to build and maintain new infrastructure.  But more needs to be done.

One of the biggest flaws in the Utica Master Plan is its emphasis on "affordable housing" (a/k/a public or publicly subsidized housing) with total ignorance of high-end development. One gets the impression that the Plan was consciously designed to concentrate the region's poor in Utica.  The Plan defers to the Federal HUD ideas of social engineering rather than what Utica really needs:  a shot of taxpayers who can pay to keep the city running.

Utica leaders . . . wake up!  By fixing the Plan to encourage people with money to come to town, other problems will solve themselves.

 

Great Ideas in Syracuse . . .

Regarding the I-81 remake, Mayor Miner in Syracuse says that neighborhoods and economic vitality are more important than commute times.

A group of architects there are proposing a revitalized street grid as the means of moving heavy traffic through Syracuse.

It's too bad that we did not have such leadership and creative thinking in Utica a few years ago when the North-South Arterial remake was planned.  The West Utica Wall is now rising . . . leaving it to the 22nd Century and a future generation to correct the mistake.

But all is not gloom in Utica. . . . The State is catching on that maybe a better street grid is the way to go and has implemented some notable projects.

  • The Oneida Square Roundabout has increased connectivity among the feeding streets, shortened commute time through the intersection, and made Park Ave.-Oneida St. an alternate to Genesee.
  • The new Lincoln Ave. - Burrstone Rd. intersection allows Lincoln Ave to function as an alternate to Genesee St. or the Arterial and has eased access to the south end of Lincoln Ave.
  • The new Champlin Ave. - Oriskany Blvd. intersection allows Champlin Ave. to function as an alternate to the Arterial.
  • And from the construction it looks like we are getting a new Cornelia St. - Oriskany Blvd. intersection at the Aud which will increase access to all that developable land  behind the Aud!

Parallel through streets can substitute for add lanes to an expressway when heavy traffic needs to be moved. . . . but offer the advantages of (1) increasing access to developable parcels of land  and (2) provide alternate routes when the unforseen traffic jam happens.

City leaders now need to catch on to the advantages of improving the street grid and look for opportunities to do so.

Making Utica easier to navigate will not only make it more pleasant to be here, but will lead to increased economic vitality in the city.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Utica Harbor: Haven for the Regional Elite?

According to the O-D, Harbor Point's future might lie in the past.  We are reminded that during Utica's halcyon days the Harbor Point area housed McConnell baseball field, where pro ball was played.  The suggestion is that the plan to move our baseball field from Murnane on Burrstone Road to the harbor in North Utica might bring the good old days back.

Of course, EDGE somehow is involved.

“Its part of the master plan,” said Steven DiMeo, a member of the committee and president of Mohawk Valley EDGE economic development group. “There’s a recreation component built into it (the plan). We’re just trying to line up all the prerequisite options that have to be looked at before that’s something to be considered.”
You are reminded that movement of Donovan Stadium - as well as the Greenman Estates ball fields - to the Harbor somehow magically appeared in the Utica Master Plan even thought the topic never came up before the committee considering plans for the Harbor . . . apparently dictated to be part of the plan by those with connections rather than an idea coming from the people who allegedly were given the task of designing the plan.

. . . and the people with connections work through EDGE.

EDGE is the same group tasked with marketing Griffiss "International" Airport even though they have no expertise in the field.

Those connected elites made a lot of money moving the Old Oneida County Airport to Griffiss . . . and now the old airport is in ruins.

EDGE proposes the same MO.  More money will be made moving ball fields from their current locations which are central to the region's population to the Harbor.

The region merely moves its assets around instead of  moving forward.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More NY "Business Friendly" Arm Twisting?

Times-Union: Lam Research does 180 on Nano Utica comments

Opportunity in an Outage . . .

I was annoyed yesterday when the internet went down for a bit yesterday morning . . . but it is something that one comes to expect from Time Warner.

What I didn't expect was how it soon became national news . . . and seized upon as a political opportunity by the Governor!

No expert here, but with cable remaining on it seemed like TW's Domain Name Servers might have gone out.  There are public DNSs that can be used in place of Time-Warners. For example, OpenDNS, and Google have servers available. I just switched my router to query a different DNS server.  Check out the links for instructions on how to set it up.

Is a No-Debate Trend Starting?

First was Richard Hanna's refusal to debate Claudia Tenney.  Then there was the Herkimer County Sheriff's refusal to debate Claudia Tenney.

Now Andrew Cuomo refuses to debate Zephyr Teachout . . . From the Politics on the Hudson Blog Teachout: Cuomo has an “ethical obligation” to debate.

“This really isn’t about me. It’s about voters having the right to hear the governor explain his record, answer questions over what he’s done over the last four years,” Teachout said. “I mean there’s no law requiring a debate, but every voter expects it.”
Indeed!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nano Clouds on the Horizon . . .

First there was the Times-Union blog entry "Is Global Foundries becoming part of Nano Utica chip lab?

"Word in Tech Valley is that GlobalFoundries has been asked to play a part in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1 billion Nano Utica initiative after one of the main players back out. . . .
The Times Union has learned that GlobalFoundries has been asked by the state to move into Quad-C and help with the project."
This was quickly poo-poohed in an O-D Article Suny PI denies report that it lost a partner.

Then this article followed a few days later in the T-U: "One of Cuomo's Nano Utica companies says it was never involved."
Cuomo visited SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica in October 2013 to announce that six technology companies would partner with the state to create the Nano Utica consortium.

The group included an Austin, Tex.-based company called Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions; Berlin-based Atotech; IBM; Tokyo Electron; Albany-based Sematech, and Lam Research of Fremont, Calif. . . .

Lam Research — told the Times Union this week that it is not part of the Nano Utica consortium.

"Lam has never had any involvement in the Nano Utica project," said Bob Climo, director of media relations for Lam Research, which makes computer chip equipment.
Not sure what to make of these revelations . . . but they suggest that no company ever backed out . . . but rather a company that was thought to be a participant never was . . . and now Global Foundries is being asked to step into the void.

While we should be glad that politics seems to be strong-arming a company (which received tons of NY taxpayer assistance) into coming to Utica . . . that this seem to be happening confirms New York's "last place" among the states for business friendliness.

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.