Monday, May 16, 2016

The Federal Transgender Bathroom Mandate. . . .

The Federal government has issued "guidance" (backed by threats of lawsuits and loss of Federal education aid) to local school districts that requires them to allow students to use whichever bathroom (locker room, showers, etc.) matches the gender with which they "identify."  Liberals view this as another "civil rights" frontier in their war against "discrimination." They mock anyone who objects, dismissing objections as homophobic, bigoted, and provincial.

Objections have primarily focused on the sexual predator risk: that predators will use the Federal directive (or similar local laws) as "cover" to commit crimes in restrooms. But parents know their objections run deeper in ways they may not be able to articulate.

The American College of Pediatricians recently placed into words what most parents intuitively know: "Gender Ideology Harms Children."  In a nutshell, policies that support "gender confusion" behavior in children inhibit the mental development process that normally leads to acceptance of one's own biological sex, and leads to a host of mental problems as adults, including a significantly greater risk of suicide.  

Far from advancing "civil rights," those running the Federal government (most Democrats and a significant number of Republicans) are advancing a political agenda to further divide the nation against itself, to break down all institutions that could potentially challenge Federal authority: families, churches, bodies of religious beliefs, school systems, lower levels of government, and social groups and customs. Even persons who are self-sufficient can pose a threat (thus the need to "tax the rich").

This is only the latest of a multi-generational effort to condition the population to accept Federal control of all aspects of life without question . . . and without resistance. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Utica Will Be A-Maze-ing!

What might a combo sports facility/apartment complex on Whitesboro St. look like? The Catalyst's Facebook page contained the rendering below.  It looks great! The rendering serves its purpose to demonstrate that a sports and apartment complex can co-exist on the same site. BUT there are some troubling aspects to the rendering that, if not fixed, could spell more trouble for the future City of Utica.

The rendering shows more street closures that will make getting in and out of the proposed sports/apartment complex and Baggs Square West difficult. 

The project site can currently be accessed from the heart of Downtown via both Cornelia St. and Broadway. These streets run south all the way to Court St., which is part of a major East-West thoroughfare across town.  Cornelia and Broadway also provide an important visual connection between the project site and Downtown, helpful to both drivers and walkers making their way.  The site can also be reached via Washington and Seneca Sts; however, these streets, which formerly ran to Genesee, have been blocked by the Radisson and Ellen Hanna Park, and now only provide limited connectivity.

The rendering shows that the segment of Cornelia north of Oriskany Blvd will be eliminated, cutting off access to the west end of Whitesboro Street  and the west end of the project site. (Cornelia may also be cut off by the proposed hospital according to renderings of that project).  The north ends of Broadway and Seneca Sts. are being cut off by medians or a park from those streets to the south making access to these areas from the southern direction more difficult. This will reduce access to both the project site and Baggs Square West (which is already difficult to reach because of the N. Genny bridge).

It looks as though planners are depending on Washington St for site access to the south, but it's connectivity only runs to Lafayette -- and the value of that connection gets threatened if the proposed Hospital blocks Lafayette!

Whether the street closures are proposed by the developers, the city, the State DOT, or all of them, they spell trouble. It is as if they are deliberately creating a maze for people to navigate through! 

Utica should be re-connecting its streets, not cutting them off into small isolated segments, if it wants them to be accessible for economic activity.

Will the new Utica be Amazing . . . . or just a maze?

P.S.  Some afterthoughts . . . The connectivity problems on this rendering appear to be easily solvable by closing one block of Charles St., which has limited connectivity, switching buildings "a" with "e" and "f," re-configuring the existing connection between Cornelia and Whitesboro Sts. to give access to the proposed parking garage, and maintaining the existing connections of Broadway and Seneca.

The connectivity problem with the proposed hospital can be similarly improved by designing  the buildings to maintain the current street grid. (This is NOT an endorsement of that project, but it will at least reduce some of its off-site impacts.)

The city should be applauded for trying to make this work -- but wouldn't it have been better to simply lay down some general principles in the Master Plan (like: "maintain the street grid
") and let the developers use THEIR creativity, instead of the government involving itself with the intricacies of a design? The less government needs to be involved, the more developers will be encouraged to come to town. "Freedom" (within an ordered structure) sells!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Is It Time to Abolish the Board of Regents Yet?

The headline in The Journal News today:  NY to let undocumented workers become teachers.
Undocumented immigrants in New York will be able to apply for teacher certifications and professional licenses, the state Board of Regents said.

The board that oversee education policies in New York voted Wednesday to allow people who can't get legal residency because of their parents' immigration status to seek teacher certifications. They will also be able to apply for a license from among the 53 professions overseen by the state Education Department, including a variety of medical professions.
Today those who cannot get legal residence because of their parents' illegal immigration status will be allowed to teach (or become pharmacists, or any other profession licensed by State Ed Dept.) . . . Tomorrow it will be anyone who is illegally present because the rationale presented can be applied to them as well (see the legal memorandum linked in the article that justifies the Board's action).

The will of the people has been codified in our laws that have been duly enacted by Congress and the State Legislature. Both State and Federal laws prohibit this . . . but "caselaw is evolving" that seems to justify whatever those in power want to do.

Only legislative bodies can enact laws. Courts may strike down laws for one reason or another, but the act of striking down a law does not automatically make the opposite action an authorized one. The Board of Regents cannot, on its own, override existing law because its powers are limited by the state laws AS WRITTEN.

"We the People" are suffering another assault at the hands of the Board of Regents. 

No wonder there is so much anger at government and disrespect for law these days. 

The very institutions we have created to administer our laws are, themselves, lawless.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Apple Controversy: Involuntary Servitude?

It is amazing that in all the discussions over the government forcing Apple to create software to unlock a terrorist's cell phone, no one raises the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Amendment XIII Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Per Wikipedia:
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes involuntary servitude illegal under any U.S. jurisdiction whether at the hands of the U.S. government or in the private sphere, except as punishment for a crime: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

While usually thought of in terms of slavery, per the "" website . . .
Involuntary servitude refers to being forced through coercion to work for another.
Is this not what is happening to Apple? Apple is being forced through coercion (a court order) to work for another (the US Government).

Yes there are certain duties that have been held to be not included within the prohibition of the 13th Amendment, but they do not seem to apply here.

If Apple can be directed to aid the US Government, where is the limit to what the government can force anyone to do? 

I would be interested if any of my attorney friends could shed light on why the 13th Amendment seems to be left out of the discussion.  What am I missing?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Settling the Refugee Lawsuit: Politics of the Worst Kind. . .

Both the OD and the Syracuse newspapers have reported that The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees' Newcomer Program and the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Alignment of Pathways and Programs for Learners of English will be shut down at the end of this school year. As discussed previously on this blog, these programs were the subject of federal lawsuits filed against the Utica City School District by the NY Civil Liberties Union, and by the NY State Attorney General because certain 17-20 year old refugee students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) complained that they were placed in the programs instead of being allowed to attend Proctor High School.  [Note that the UCSD Superintendent's response to the latter suit echos my question of why the AG was bringing suit against an entity regulated by the State Education Dept.]

The complaining students came to Utica in their late teens, spoke little English, and appear to have been virtually uneducated having spent most of their lives in refugee camps.  Yet, somehow, they knew enough to contact an NYCLU lawyer, demand to attend the local high school as a matter of right, and complain that UCSD was denying them the opportunity to become doctors, nurses, engineers, etc.

Obviously a bit of "mentoring" was going on.

With the closure of the programs and sending the students to Proctor, the AG and NYCLU lawyers are getting their wish, the students are getting what they were told is best for them, and the UCSD will hopefully get these costly bogus lawsuits dismissed.  Everyone will be happy...BUT...

Are the refugee students really better off? 

If, like the complainants, you were 8, 10, or 12 years behind your peers in education achievement and did not speak the language of your fellow students, you would likely waste your time attending regular school because you would be unprepared for it. Without preparation, encouraging you to attend regular school would be educational malpractice!

It was my understanding that the courses complained of concentrated on teaching as much English and American customs and culture as possible to these students in their limited time left in the school system.  Because of the actions of the AG and the NYCLU, the students will lose access to programs designed to position them to assimilate into American society.

A political connection was mentioned in my NYCLU post and political motivation suggested in my AG post. Now the political objective comes into focus:

Preventing assimilation would create a permanent underclass that will always be dependent upon its political mentors. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

An "Award-Winning" Racket!

According to today's OD,
Companies throughout the Mohawk Valley are being rewarded for their positive impact on the local economy.  
(Don't 'cha love the positive spin the OD puts on things? You would think that the "MoVa" was positively booming!)
ReCharge NY, a program through the state Power Authority, awards low-cost power to state businesses and nonprofit organizations.
(In other words, this program "awards" special deals for special businesses . . . needed because NY State policies have required that cheap-to-produce Upstate-created hydropower must subsidize NYC-metro area electric rates . . . an area that insisted on closing one power facility just before it was turned on (the Shoreham, LI nuke plant), is insisting on closing another (the Indian Point nuke plant) and is closing down a myriad of fossil-fuel based plants.)
Some of this year’s big recipients include Revere Copper Products in Rome (6,600 kilowatts), Special Metals Corp. in New Hartford (4,900 kilowatts) and GUSC Energy in Rome (6,730 kilowatts).
GUSC should catch your eye.  GUSC Energy "is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Griffiss Utility Services Corporation (GUSC)." "Griffiss Utility Services Corporation (GUSC) distributes steam heat and electricity to the tenants of Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, New York."

So GUSC Energy and GUSC (the parent corp.) are really "middlemen" in getting electricity from the producer to the end users, the captive tenants of the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, that the other recipients of ReCharge NY's largess do not have to go through.  GUSC Energy and GUSC are part of the "alphabet soup" of Mohawk Valley EDGE-related corporations operating with 'complete transparency' (an attempt at humor here) up at the "International" airport . . . and people running these 'middleman' organizations are obviously being paid.  

Have you heard people raving about the good deal they get on utilities at Griffiss Park?  I didn't think so.

Only in the Mohawk Valley would forcing people to go through a middleman to purchase their electricity be considered a "positive impact on the local economy."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Regional Hospital (or "Transformational Opportunity District"): Lacking an Environmental Review?

Yesterday it was noted here that the MVREDC, in its application for funding of various economic development projects, proposed the creation of a 34-acre "Downtown Utica Transformational Opportunity District." The application showed a large sprawling building covering portions of Lafayette, Cornelia, Carton, and Pine Streets and Sayer Alley; two parking garages; and other buildings. The site depicted is the same as that picked for the proposed Regional Hospital.

Environmental Conservation Law 8-0109(2) states:
2. All agencies (or applicant as hereinafter provided) shall prepare, or cause to be prepared by contract or otherwise an environmental impact statement on any action they propose or approve which may have a significant effect on the environment. . . . 

6 NYCRR 617.3 (a) states:
No agency involved in an action may undertake, fund or approve the action until it has complied with the provisions of SEQR. . . [Note: SEQR means State Environmental Quality Review]
6 NYCRR 617.4 "Type I actions" lists those actions that are more likely to require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement if they are to be directly undertaken, funded or approved by an agency. Among those are:
a project or action that involves the physical alteration of 10 acres
6 NYCRR 617.7 "Determining significance" lists illustrative criteria for determining whether an action may have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Among those are:
(iv) the creation of a material conflict with a community's current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted;

Here we have MVREDC applying for funding of a project (a) that will involve the physical alteration of more than 10 acres and (b), as previously noted here, that will be in material conflict with the Utica Master Plan -- " a community's current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted."

There is nothing in MVREDC's submission to indicate that an environmental review of the proposed "Downtown Utica Transformational Opportunity District" was ever performed. Since the State would be prohibited from funding such a project without the requisite environmental review, is that the reason why the funds for the hospital no longer seem to be available?

It would not be the first time that our region lost out because it ignored its environmental compliance obligations.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

People With Vision!

A couple stories this past week reveal that our area has people with vision, able to take ideas and turn them into plans and renderings instantaneously!

Per the OD "Talk of a new town hall came up again at a recent Town Board meeting" in New Hartford.  But it was more than just talk.  The talk came complete with conceptual drawings of what the new town hall would look like and a description that it would be "about 28,000 square feet and located partially on town-owned land behind the New Hartford Public Library on Oxford Road."  New Hartford Online Blog has a video of the meeting where the plans were presented.  With the plans seeming to have come out of nowhere, one might wonder WHO authorized them?

Per the "No Hospital Downtown" website we find out that last fall's Mohawk Valley REDC submission to Gov. Cuomo's "Hunger Games" economic development contest (the one we just lost) on page 137 contained a graphic and description of a 34-acre "Downtown Utica Transformational Opportunity District" which showed a large sprawling building covering portions of Lafayette, Cornelia, Carton, and Pine Streets and Sayer Alley; two parking garages; and other buildings -- all located in an area with existing businesses and uses. The submission claims that
"... the City of Utica in concert with other government, business and community partners is looking to transform approximately 34 acres of a largely vacant, underutilized and functionally obsolete area in downtown Utica and transform this area into a technology oriented development that is linked with nano-bio opportunities emerging at SUNY Poly and Masonic Medical Research Laboratory, healthcare, offices, medical education, recreation and entertainment opportunities at the nearby auditorium, gateway site and nearby Harbor Point."
WHO on behalf of the "City of Utica" determined that these 34 acres were a "functionally obsolete area" and WHO on behalf of the "City of Utica" authorized a "transform"ation of it? WHO said it was OK to broach a proposal that requires closing streets? Utica's only official planning document, the Utica Master Plan, says nothing about these things.

Just WHO's vision do the New Hartford and Utica plans implement?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Auditorium Authority "Competition" for the Whitesboro St. Property ...

Per the OD: The Aud authority offers $500,000 for Whitesboro St. property.  The article reports that Utica now has two bidders vying for the same property with bids separated by a mere $10,000. While this competition for a piece of property in Downtown Utica suggests that Utica has turned a corner, the picture is not that simple.  Something about that dollar amount rang a bell . . .

$500,000 . . . Wasn't that the amount that the Aud Authority received every year from the Mohawk Valley Water Authority -- an amount which came out of our water billsCould the Aud Authority be using some of the money that we pay for water to bid on this piece of property?  

Such is the crazy world of New York State Public Authorities and Utica/Oneida County politics. When the City of Utica spun off its water system to the "regional" MVWA (actually TWO entities: a finance authority and a water board), as part of the same deal the ownership and control of the Aud was also spun off to a public authority, the Upper Mohawk Valley Memorial Auditorium Authority. Because the City of Utica had previously been using revenue from the water system to offset losses at the Aud, the practice was institutionalized as part of the law that created the water authority.  What was once $500,000/year paid to the Aud out of water revenue is now $665,500/year. See MVWA Report at page 107.  If you look at the Aud Authority's most recent Budget Report filed with the Public Authorities Reporting Information System, you will note that after state subsidies and grants and proceeds from the issuance of debt are excluded, the revenue from the water system is the Aud Authority's primary source of income, such revenue being substantially more than three times what the Aud Authority actually earns from its operations. (A more in-depth look at the Aud Authority's budget is available on their website).

At this point, the loss of control by the people actually footing the bills -- the captive customers of the MVWA -- should be noted.  Unlike the City Council which once ran both the water system and the Aud, members of these authorities are not subject to voter approval but, rather, are chosen through political connections.  Of the 7-member Auditorium Authority board, three are appointed by the Oneida County Executive (CE) and four are appointed by the Oneida County Board of Legislators -- of which most rubber stamp the recommendations of the CE and almost half "have no skin in the game" because they represent areas that have no MVWA customers. Is it any wonder that the OD quotes the CE stating that "we would look at that entire area as a possible sports and entertainment district . . .”  Why is the CE looking at this? When was planning for the City of Utica turned over to Oneida County? Just like the proposed Downtown hospital that came out of a politically-inspired and funded nowhere, the city's Master Plan saw no need to designate this area as a possible sports and entertainment district.  But I digress . . . Back to the "competition" for that piece of property on Whitesboro St.

The Aud Authority is unfair competition for potential private developers of the Whitesboro St. property.  
  •  Private developers will not be subsidized out of people's water bills.
  •  Private developers cannot issue tax-exempt bonds to raise money like the Aud Authority can.
  •  Private developers would have to pay property taxes or PILOTs.
  •  Private developers are unlikely to have the "inside track" with local decision-makers that the politically connected Aud board has.
For the same reasons, the Aud Authority and the entities associated with it are also unfair competition for nearby private businesses.

When Utica was in its heyday there were few publicly-owned entertainment venues.  Theaters, opera houses, etc., were privately owned. Large gatherings took place at the Armory on Culver Avenue -- a structure built for a military purpose. It was not until the late 1950s, when the Utica population was at its peak and industry was booming, that we thought we could afford to build the Aud for large events. . . And we did. But then the region went into decline.  Both Utica and Oneida County have each lost about 40,000 people from their peak populations.  We have also lost an air force base, most of our large industry, and the money that came from those operations.  While there is now hope for recovery, re-attainment of the population, wealth, and disposable income that we once had is many years off.   The public also now has the newly renovated and financially struggling Stanley to support.  Also, there is now competition for disposable income from Turning Stone (which operates free from many of the constraints applicable to private businesses). So while "hats are off" to the Aud management for making the beautiful new and nationally acclaimed changes to that venue, expansion of those facilities beyond the current footprint will likely come at the cost of private businesses that currently subsist on the region's limited disposable income. 

Lastly, an expansion of the Aud Authority's footprint is competition with City of Utica taxpayers.

Utica was gutted of hundreds of parcels of taxable property in the last half of the 20th Century by highway, government building, and urban renewal projects, supposedly to meet public needs.  That trend has continued into this century with 70+ parcels taken for the Arterial remake, parcels for the public bus terminal, and parcels for new county parking lots.  Waiting in the wings is another taking of up to 34 acres for the proposed Downtown hospital.  And now this sports/entertainment proposal?

How much tax exempt property should Utica taxpayers have to bear? 

Utica is already overburdened with almost a third of its properties tax-exempt, which leaves a tax rate for the remainder that discourages private investment in the city. Utica needs to "get to work" and put property back on the tax rolls to lower tax rates for everyone.  Exempting the Whitesboro St. property for more "bread and circuses" only makes it harder for Utica to do this, and undermines, rather than contributes to, Utica's long-term fiscal sustainability.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Politics Before Education . . .

Per the OD today the State Attorney General has claimed that students were denied entry to Proctor High School in violation of federal law.  It is interesting that the AG is bringing a suit against an entity that is both a creature of State law and under the control of the State Education Department. 

The question not asked is whether Utica City School District is in compliance with all of the rules and regulations of the State Education Department? 

If not, then the students are not getting the education to which they are entitled by law and an administrative proceeding should be brought before the SED to correct the problem. 

If UCSD has complied with all of SED's rules, then it must be presumed that the students are receiving the education to which they are entitled. 

If some federal standard indicates that the students are not receiving the education to which they are entitled, then the non-compliance with federal law is one that is permitted by SED's own rules. Since the AG and SED are both part of the State's executive branch, they are obliged to change the rules to ensure that all the state's school districts comply with federal law. 

Neither the AG nor the federal court have any expertise in education – which risks that any decision coming out of the federal court in this case may be educationally harmful to the students involved. 

The fact that the AG is willing to risk the educational well-being of these students by forgoing the State's own experts and proceeding directly to federal court strongly suggests that the law suit is motivated by politics rather than any interest in these immigrant students' education.