Monday, October 17, 2016

Who is Exploiting the "Digital Divide?"

Per the ADK Daily Enterprise, U. S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is touting a new program to bring high speed internet access to rural areas. Bi-partisan support is expected. Congressional Candidate Martin Babinec also promotes the idea.

Using Democrat/RINO Republican-style identity politics that divides us into groups, Mr. Babinec cites a "digital-divide" between urban and rural areas where 74% of urban households have access to high-speed internet as compared with 64% in rural areas, raising fears of stunted educational and business development outcomes. (Somehow 74% to 64% does not sound like much of a divide, but if it makes some people jealous or envious and gets their vote, it works politically).

Obviously someone has to pay for these schemes.

Left on its own, the market will extend broadband to rural areas when there are sufficient customers willing to pay the necessary costs to put it there.

Gillibrand and Babinec propose to give a few people something for nothing. These proposals encourage waste, requiring the subsidy of service where it is not self-sustaining. (This is no different than "regionalizing" the water system in Utica, a topic exhaustively covered by this blog over many years).

To the extent the rural broadband proposals are intended to "promote economic growth," they contravene "smart growth" principles by encouraging "growth" (or urban sprawl) on locations where where additional services (such as water, sewer, roads, police and fire protection) will be demanded. Most likely the taxpayers will contribute to construct the system,  and existing broadband customers will have their monthly bills increased to maintain it.

The proposals of Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Babinec are socialist, redistributionist solutions that will increase all our costs to benefit a few users, but, important for the politicians, benefit politically-connected contractors.  If you want to know who these contractors might be, read the two links above and read in between the lines.  Several technology companies have signed onto Ms. Gillibrand's proposal. Mr. Babinec is pushing a "digital curriculum" that would seem to appeal to the same technology and education companies who are behind Common Core.

If high speed internet is important to your family or your business, then look for a city that has it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lackluster Performance . . . and Expectations.

Per the headline in the Sentinel: County’s household income trails state, national averages, Census Bureau figures show.
The household median income in the county — with a population of 232,500 — was $48,023, according to the 2015 American Community Survey. The statewide average was $60,850 while it the national figure was $55,775.
Clearly OC's income is lackluster compared with the rest of the state and country. But won't the State and County's "chip" related "investments" completely transform the regional economy?

The article tells us that Saratoga County's median income is over $75K, that Saratoga County is the center of Capital Region chip manufacturing, that local officials look forward to the impact of our chip fab, and that the average pay of all fab employees will be about $60K. The article suggests the chips will turn things around, but . . .


Assuming for the sake of argument that chip manufacturing will bring in 5,000 new jobs (instead of the 750-1000 seen in various prior press reports) that pay the $60,000 noted above, add same to the current labor force of about 132,000 for Utica-Rome (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) with the current average  pay for OC households of $48,023, the average pay for the region will ZOOM from $48,023 to . . . . $48,460! OR ABOUT a 0.8% increase.

In other words, 5,000 new $60K chip-fab jobs will hardly be a ripple in the local labor pond.  And that is assuming there will be takers for those jobs.


Based on the article, OC incomes are 14% below the national averages. But the cost of living in Utica-Rome is about 21% higher than the national average, with childcare, taxes and healthcare being the main culprits.  With these extra costs, why would people come here? Government subsidized childcare and healthcare (a temptation of politicians) would be no answer because they would only make the level of taxation all the more onerous.

Simply put, our local economy has passed the point of being able to sustain itself while people and businesses are free to go elsewhere.  Expensive "economic development" projects paid for by taxpayers only exacerbate the situation.

It is time to shrink the role of government in our regional economy.  Only then may we free up enough private capital to make it worthwhile for individuals to invest in the local economy.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why So Fast?

The ink was barely dry on the charges against Alain Kaloyeros when, within 24 hours, Senator Griffo and Assemblyman Brindisi called upon SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to fire him as president and CEO of SUNY Poly.
“It is extremely important that the primary mission of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute—the education of students—continue unimpeded."
Thank goodness they care about the institution's mission! What a change from two years ago when they precipitously ignored any concern over the Utica campus' identity, tradition, and mission to cheer the merger of SUNYIT with the glamorous (but niche oriented) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Control of a Utica-centered institution was transferred to one more focused on Albany. Mr. Griffo and Mr. Brindisi need to own that... and perhaps they do, since they are now calling for the new president to be stationed at the Utica campus.

However, calling for Kaloyeros' ouster seems equally precipitous now.

It is understandable to want to remove the cloud that now hangs over the Utica campus. However, CNSE and SUNY Poly would not have existed but for Kaloyeros. There had not been this much excitement in the SUNY system since the 1960s when tons of money were spent on buildings and talent to make Stony Brook the "Cal Tech of the East." Kaloyeros brought that same kind of excitement to Albany, and made a piece of U. Albany so distinctive and important that it could stand on its own.

Let's not be too quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Courses and personnel are already in place at SUNY Poly, so the inertia is there to carry the institution forward on its current trajectory for awhile.  Kaloyeros is innocent until proven guilty, and he is fighting the charges. The fact that AG Schneiderman is also going after him suggests that the State charges may be politics.  Kaloyeros is neither a politician, developer, nor a "hanger-on" like the rest of the defendants seem to be, but he undoubtedly knows where all the bodies are buried. My suspicion is that he got sucked into whatever the ones with the political power were doing, and they are now throwing him under the bus to take the fall.

The record of Ms. Zimpher and the rest of the SUNY system has been rather lackluster, with a focus that seems geared to "economic development" rather than academic achievement.  If Kaloyeros is permanently replaced, it will likely be just another college administrator like we've had over the years, only now it will be one responsible for two campuses.  Kaloyeros, however, is more than an administrator.  He is a brilliant scientist in his own right, as well as a visionary.  He will be hard to replace.

Let the justice system's processes play out for awhile before throwing Dr. Kaloyeros overboard.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Running Out of Shoes to Drop . . .

Well it has happened. Per the headline in the Times Union this morning: Kaloyeros to be arraigned Friday morning in Albany. Mr. Kaloyeros, head of SUNY Poly here in Utica, and others are accused of bid-rigging on various high profile state-sponsored economic development projects across upstate New York -- projects that are the centerpiece of the governor's economic development efforts.

Local officials have been quick to point out neither of the two large projects in the Utica area, the AMS chip fab and Quad-C, have been implicated in the wrong-doing, and that progress on same is still expected.

Don't bet on it.

First, there has been no visible progress at Quad-C for months.  As noted in this blog on July 28 (a) the six-member "consortium" that was expected to occupy the building seemed to have vanished, replaced by GE without explanation; and (b) work had stopped on the GE facility in Albany that was to make the chips designated for packaging at Quad-C.  Although covered in Albany media, local media has been largely silent.  Until officials "come clean" on what has happened with Quad-C, we can speculate that there was never a commitment from the "consortium's" members, and that the governor strong-armed GE to step into the breech, using the state's supervision of a very expensive GE clean-up project in the Hudson River as leverage. If that is indeed what happened, GE would be a reluctant player in Quad-C, and will pull out at the first opportunity.

Second, control over the AMS project is now being transferred from SUNY Poly to Empire State Development.  While some local officials claim that ESD is where the project should have been all along, they are ignoring the fact that it was SUNY-Poly -- and probably Kaloyeros' expertise -- that got the project out of federal wetland limbo by obtaining the permit that allowed construction to go forward.  It is unknown whether this savvy will be required again to keep construction on track, but if so, it was SUNY Poly and Kaloyeros that had it, not ESD.    

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pay Raises for Everyone!

It must be the change of seasons. First there was a proposal to give raises to State legislators. Then to Utica officials. And Now to the County Executive and County Legislators!

And the pay raises are in the double digit percentages... About 60% for county legislators!

The money we pay them now certainly has not bought good government. We have some of the highest taxes in the country. Our area continues to bleed population and jobs. What reason is there to believe that better pay will produce better results?

In Saratoga County, which is increasing in population and doing well economically, they do not pay legislators ... Because they have no "legislators." Rather they have a Board of Supervisors who are paid by Town taxpayers ... Supervisors: people with direct responsibilities for day to day town operations, rather than people who merely vote and can point to their collective actions and executive recommendations as cover for poor results. A Board of Supervisors is the kind of government Oneida County had when it was booming.

Enough is enough.

Perhaps the solution to our poor local government, which seems to operate on behalf of a local elite rather than the average citizen and taxpayer, is to CUT LEGISLATOR PAY TO ZERO!

Simply put, paying legislators is a way to control their votes.

Maybe if legislator pay is cut to zero we will at least see government acting on behalf of the average citizen and taxpayer instead of special interests.

P.S. Our State legislators could use a "haircut" too! Texas, which is larger than NY geographically and in population, only pays its legislators about $33,000, and most of that is for expenses. New York pays 3-4 times as much. In Texas the legislators apparently see their job in the nature of doing the public good, rather than a career for themselves. The result: State policies that for years have made Texas a haven for people and businesses. Cut the pay of New York legislators and you cut the people acting in their own self interests.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New MVWA Transmission Line: 3 Things to Know . . .

Once the Mohawk Valley Water Authority received its state permit to expand throughout several towns surrounding Utica, you knew that the headline posted yesterday on the WKTV website would follow: New, larger water transmission line to help feed development, Nano Utica.  The story is spun as positive -- that the line would protect us from drought and provide water for "development."

Here are 3 things to know that you are not being told:

1) Current MVWA customers and the planned Quad-C and AMS projects do not need a larger transmission line, as there is already enough capacity to serve them.

Both the population and number of industries served by MVWA have declined from their peak several decades ago, resulting in a decrease in water demand from about 23 MGD to just under 19 MGD.   The current system is capable of producing up to 32 MGD with about 8 MGD lost to leaks.

2) Current MVWA customers are being forced to pay for someone else's water infrastructure needs. 

Since we customers do not need the larger transmission line for our own needs, and since MVWA's primary source of income is our water bills, we are being forced to pay for the infrastructure needs of the local elite who run the MVWA and their friends, including the speculative "build it and they will come" dreams of our local politicians.

3)  People in Herkimer County will pay in lost recreation and associated business income, lost power generation, and infringement of common law water rights.

Hinckley Reservoir was built to serve Canal purposes, not be MVWA's reservoir. Of all the non-Canal uses, only MVWA removes water from the Hinckley Reservoir - West Canada Creek system. Formerly MVWA was required to replace what it removed from Hinckley during dry weather with water from its own reservoir-- a reservoir that was required to be expanded to almost 1/4 the size of Hinckley itself as MVWA increased its water withdrawals. Since the State has eliminated this requirement, as MVWA ramps up its water withdrawals, water levels on Hinckley Reservoir will be low more frequently than they are now interfering with recreation, water uses and related business income on the West Canada Creek likely will be curtailed, hydropower generation will be reduced, and landowners along the creek will not have the amount of water flowing by their properties to which they are entitled by common law.

In sum, the politicians and elites who control the MVWA are using it to prey upon individuals and businesses to benefit themselves and their friends.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Shoe-Drop at Quad-C?

Back in 2012 we were concerned over the lack of action on the 2009-announced Quad-C project but were assured the delay was for a good reason: the scope of the project had grown.

In 2013 we were told that a consortium of 6 companies would spend $1.5 Billion on chip R&D at the Utica SUNY campus in a new facility then under construction (Quad-C).

In 2014 rumors that a key player in the 6 member consortium at Quad-C had backed out were quickly pooh-poohed by our local media.

In 2015 when we got the news that the Marcy chip-fab site had finally landed AMS as a tenant, we were also told that GE would now be the "anchor tenant" at Quad-C. There was no mention -- much less an inquiry -- in the local media of what happened to the 6 member consortium.

We have waited seven years and, yes, a gleaming new building was constructed ... but that building is still unoccupied.

In 2016? The word out of Albany today is not good.  Headline on the Albany Business Review website this afternoon: Work stopped at SUNY Poly, GE project.
The construction company building a manufacturing pilot facility at SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Albany campus has halted work after not being paid by the state since January...

Pike is building a $25 million pilot manufacturing line for new technology from General Electric (NYSE: GE) to make silicon carbide wafers. Tehan said the company started work in the fall and was paid for four months of work, until January...

The manufacturing pilot in Albany is part of the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, a $500 million public-private partnership. GE anchors the group...

The second phase of the partnership between GE and SUNY Poly is a packaging center in Utica. Chips made at the Albany manufacturing site would then be placed into modules and power blocks for use in electronics there.
Soooo ... if the Albany facility that will make the chips intended to be used in Utica at Quad-C is on hold, what does that mean for Quad-C?

Seven years and an empty building: Is there a word that combines  the meanings of "slow-motion train-wreck" with "white elephant?"  

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

FBI & HRC: An Indictment of Systemic Corruption

It was painful to watch FBI Director James Comey deliver his decision yesterday to not prosecute Hillary Clinton for federal law violations related to her mis-handling of e-mail -- especially after detailing all the evidence against her. Of all the federal agencies, the FBI seemed to be one that the public could count upon to be above political influence. That reputation is now a thing of the past.

But to not prosecute was the only reasonable decision that could have been made under the circumstances. 

Comey would have had to work within a corrupted Dept. of Justice and administration as evidenced by AG Lynch's unprecedented meeting with Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama having endorsed HRC. Comey could not count upon a DOJ staff under Ms. Lynch's supervision. He could not count upon government witnesses ultimately answerable to Mr. Obama.  Furthermore, the administration's reputation for destroying those speaking out against it is well known. Comey's agents could become administration targets. And then could he depend upon impartial treatment in a DC Circuit populated by Obama-appointed judges? 

The deck is stacked against a successful prosecution by systemic corruption.

Comey would know that only the voters could fix this. That is why he presented his case against HRC to the court of public opinion yesterday instead of a court of law, even though it made him look foolish. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The "Fourth Term" of Richard Hanna?

An invitation crossed my desk today … an invitation to a fundraising cocktail reception at the Yahnundasis for Steve Wells. Nothing usual about that. Fundraisers are held for candidates all the time.

But a $150 minimum? Isn’t this a bit exclusive? Exclusive of the rank-and-file Republicans who have been financially harmed by Local, State, and National economic policies?

More telling, however, is the list of sponsors for this event, a Who’s Who of our local Republican Elite.

You know "Our Elite:”
  • the ones who have no problem with a Sales Tax that is head and shoulders above surrounding counties …
  • the ones who have no problem with some of the highest property taxes in the nation …
  • the ones who had no problem closing down a perfectly-sized and well-maintained airport in return for a boatload of Federal funds, an oversized behemoth, and multiple opportunities for well-connected contractors to profit …
  • the ones constantly dumping County taxpayer money into an “International” airport with no scheduled flights …
  • the ones who used County tax money to build a passenger terminal that can only be used by those fortunate enough to fly private planes …
  • the ones who have no problem taking water from Herkimer County and the residents of Greater Utica and sending it, at the people’s expense, to the Oneida Indian Nation and western Oneida County …
  • the ones who support removing hundreds of acres from the local tax rolls and placing it into Federal Trust for the benefit of the Oneida Indian Nation …
  • the ones who favor taking properties permanently off Utica’s taxrolls and closing city streets to grab $300 million in state funds for a new hospital, which can be built on sites nearby without the negative impacts …
  • the ones who have presided over a drop in regional population of Biblical proportion …
  • the ones who stood silent while the Republican County Executive appeared in television and radio advertisements against the Republican Gubernatorial candidate and actually endorsed Democrat Governor Cuomo …
  • the ones who stood by while the voters of several Oneida and Herkimer County towns had their representation diluted by Suburban New York City voters in a Gerrymandered, string-bean shaped Assembly District in a blatant, but unsuccessful, attempt to depose the local Assemblywoman who had become a thorn in their side and a threat to "business as usual" …
  • the ones who must have had a bad case of agita when that same Assemblywoman almost beat the incumbent Congressman in the last primary for the position.
Ahh, Our Elite . . . the ones who supported Congressman Hanna through two re-elections even though he:
  • told Republicans to donate to Democrats to advance women’s issues …
  • campaigned as a “fiscal conservative” yet opened the door to more spending by voting to increase the Federal debt ceiling every time it came up …
  • campaigned as a “fiscal conservative” yet proposed new big-spending programs of his own …
  • pushed for a larger role of the Federal government in education …
  • voted tens of times in “show votes” to “repeal Obamacare,” yet shrank from using the power of the purse to neutralize Obamacare by voting to fund it …
  • encouraged illegal immigration by voting against cutting off Section 8 housing subsidies for illegals …
  • advocated for more visas for foreign workers with technical degrees at a time when the number of American technical graduates far exceeded the job supply and when companies have used foreign workers to displace Americans …
  • approved of several "free trade" agreements that caused the loss of local jobs to foreign countries …
  • aided the potential infiltration of our government by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers when he attacked Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s call for an investigation of how Huma Abedin (a top aide of Hillary Clinton) was able to get a security clearance …
  • routinely mocked conservatives who disagreed with him, including a 4th grader!
Ahh, Our Elite . . . the ones desperately conducting a smear campaign against Claudia Tenney, mischaracterizing her record.

No one can seriously question Ms. Tenney’s bona fides as a Conservative, although in the dysfunction that is Albany, votes can be misconstrued any way you want. The trumpeted “missed votes” is a distortion: She DID vote – on paper – as was her right while attending to personal family matters. When that should have been the end of the story, those intent on making a smear discussed that she may have been campaigning while she was away from Albany to care for her mother . . . So What? Her constituents were already served by her written votes. Simply, she did not have to be present.

Ms. Tenney is well known, even in the national media, as a person guided by conservative, Constitutional, small-government principles that is not beholden to special interests -- especially Our Elite.

Mr. Wells claims to have supported the Republican candidate in the last gubernatorial election, yet admits that his company, which has contracts with the state, made a large donation to Andrew Cuomo. Isn't that duplicitous? Isn't that more of what we currently have representing us in Washington?

Since Mr. Wells has no record in the public eye, he can only be judged by the company he keeps – which is the same company kept by Mr. Hanna: Our Elite.

If you like the job Our Elite have done, and if you like the job done by Richard Hanna, then by all means vote for Mr. Wells. They, and he, give us no reason to believe they will do anything different.

Even though Mr. Phillips comes across as a knowledgeable candidate above the frey, he has not been under constant attack and lacks the legislative experience of Ms. Tenney.

If you are tired of “business as usual” politics and tired of Republicans promising to do one thing and then doing the opposite, then consider CLAUDIA TENNEY as your choice this Congressional primary on Tuesday, June 28th.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Summit is Nice . . . a New Reservoir is Better!

Per today's OD Editorial:  Our View: Summit is needed to discuss Hinckley's future 

Absolutely!  A "summit" is needed! 

Among "players" seemingly left out of discussions thus far and who should be invited to the "summit" are the many with actual legal rights to the water. 

At common law landowners along the West Canada Creek below the Hinckley dam, such as Brookfield Power, are entitled to the Full Natural Flow of that Creek subject only to the State's superior right to divert water for navigation purposes. Diversions for other purposes, such as MVWA's use as a drinking water supply, are NOT protected at common law and potentially expose the State to liabilities for damages unless the water removed is replaced with "excess" water taken out of storage. 

To that end, prior to 2012, the MVWA was required to hold approximately 120 days of its water use in a storage reservoir upstream of Hinckley, and to use that water during drier weather to replace the water MVWA removed from Hinckley. In 2012 the State excused MVWA from this requirement. 

To maintain uses of the West Canada Creek below the dam, Hinckley must now perform the function of MVWA's storage reservoir in addition to its usual function of feeding the Canal. This "double duty" increases the likelihood that water levels on Hinckley Lake will be lower during drier weather than if Hinckley were just used to feel the canal. 

The situation for lake recreation will worsen as MVWA draws increasing amounts of water to serve the nanotech industry, and to serve western portions of Oneida County. 

If current uses of West Canada Creek water are to be maintained and new ones added, the only solution appears to be an engineering one: a new storage reservoir upstream of Hinckley capable of holding 120 days of MVWA's water useage. 

Given the terms of its 2012 agreement with MVWA, the State would seem to be responsible for this