Friday, June 29, 2018

Followup to Dazzling and Disgusting . . .

Here's a followup to the Downtown: Dazzling and Disgusting post earlier this year . . .

The rain forest . . . I mean rain garden in front of my barber's shop is still disgusting.  It contains junk, and is overgrown with weeds, one over five feet tall.

Maybe it will get cleaned up for the Boilermaker. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Term to Learn: Project Labor Agreement

"Project Labor Agreement (PLA)."  I had never heard the term before until a friend called yesterday to relate that the term had been used by some of the Union demonstrators in favor of the Downtown Hospital Project the other night.  No sooner did I hang up the phone when I heard the term used again during an interview with Tommy Carcone, President of the Utica Fire Union on WUTQ.

WikiPedia defines a PLA as
"a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project. Before any workers are hired on the project, construction unions have bargaining rights to determine the wage rates and benefits of all employees working on the particular project and to agree to the provisions of the agreement. The terms of the agreement apply to all contractors and subcontractors who successfully bid on the project, and supersedes any existing collective bargaining agreements. . . " (superscripts omitted)
PLAs can be good things, ensuring that workers on taxpayer-funded projects have protections against being taken advantage of (pay, working conditions, hours, safety, etc.,etc.).  However, the website The Truth About Project Labor Agreements calls them
"special interest schemes that end open, fair and competitive bidding on taxpayer-funded construction projects."
So like anything well intended, abuses can occur.

How does this relate to the Downtown Hospital proposal? It can be presumed that since taxpayer dollars are involved and since NYS favors the use of PLAs (24 states apparently take the opposite view), there would be a PLA no matter where the hospital is built. So why was the term was used by demonstrators?  Is there a PLA in existence for the proposal? If so, who signed it and when, and what are its terms? Is there a PLA that requires the hospital to be built Downtown -- or one that is conditioned upon the hospital being built Downtown?

At this point it is unclear why the Union demonstrators have chosen sides in the hospital location debate, or whether it is related to a PLA or not, but maybe someone out there can clarify with a comment.

Mr. Carcone's interview, however, is another story -- a troubling one.
Beginning at around 13:00 he talks about the Utica Ambulance service being a revenue source for the city of Utica and having a Certificate of Need to serve Utica (exclusively?). He argues that this somehow will make up for the loss of tax revenue that will come into the city due to the hospital being tax exempt.  [Of course, that loss of tax revenue to Utica would be totally avoided if the hospital were built at St. Luke's].

The Utica Ambulance Service has already gone into competition against private ambulance companies. If my memory serves me correctly, that was done supposedly to increase revenues into the City of Utica (by tapping deep-pocket insurers). But if the costs to customers are going into balancing the city budget in addition to the supply of the actual service, CUSTOMERS ARE PAYING MORE FOR THE AMBULANCE SERVICE THAN IT IS WORTH IN THE OPEN MARKET. In addition, the service will be subject to the same abuses that we see often in local government as compared to private businesses, further increasing costs. See "Ambulance Chasing" from March 2011. I do not think that the Utica taxpayers have ever been given a breakdown of the actual cost of their ambulance service.

Mr. Carcone talked about an agreement with Utica College and proposed that the hospital should buy an ambulance for the UFD. (Why should our regional hospital buy an ambulance for Utica?) Maybe I am wrong but it sounded like putting the hospital in Utica would somehow be used to get suburban residents to contribute to Utica. Could patients some day be faced with a Utica law that says "All persons travelling to hospitals in Utica by ambulance must be transported by the Utica Fire Dept?" That seemed to be what this guy was implying but maybe I misunderstood him. Yet we've seen how the rules and laws can be manipulated both in regard to the ambulance service and other things.   This would increase benefits to the Utica Firefighter's Union, put the squeeze on private businesses, increase local insurance rates, and do nothing to improve healthcare.

Mr. Carcone also discussed negotiating "Project Labor Agreements" after the project is built.  My understanding is that hospital workers already have their bargaining representatives.  What is his interest in this?  Is he thinking that Utica's municipal workers' unions will somehow get involved?

It sounds like putting the hospital in Utica is going to subject its operations to Utica special-interest politics.

This is probably the best reason for KEEPING THE NEW HOSPITAL OUT OF UTICA. Who thinks that forcing the Hospital to deal with Utica politics will benefit their healthcare?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Balloon has Burst . . .

A few days ago area officials were whining about this area losing out as a drone testing site.  Tonight we are hit with this bombshell: Premier Aviation in Rome to close, 150 jobs lost.

No Drones . . . No Aircraft Maintenance . . . So what do we have to show for the Taxpayer $$$$$ invested at Griffiss "International" Airport? 

Meanwhile we gave up our old County Airport in Whitestown for a "Homeland Security" Training Center that has created how many jobs? ...  that is used how often?

We destroyed what we had that met our needs to build something "better"  -- and more expensive to maintain -- 5 miles away. Did that make sense for a region of shrinking population?

We are doing the same thing now in Utica where two existing hospitals will be closed and consolidated into something "better" at an entirely new site -- yet the old hospital sites will remain and the existing tax-paying businesses at the new site will be destroyed. Does this not waste the prior investments made at both hospitals and businesses?  Aren't we increasing future expenses for the taxpayer?

We seem to be building for the sake of building - - like pumping air into a balloon.

What will we have when the balloon bursts?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Downtown Utica: Dazzling & Disgusting . . .

 Old intricate brickwork contrasting with New marble, steel and glass = Dazzling!

Meanwhile, only One block away . . .  a taxpayer-financed  so-called "green" "rain garden" is Disgusting with garbage!

With the taxes Uticans pay, one would think that city leaders could at least keep our "5-Star Main Street" clean.

If we cannot trust them with small things, how can we trust them to make the right decisions about Downtown's future?

Sunday, April 08, 2018

What's Next On the Agenda?

Today's Observer Dispatch editorial, "OUR VIEW: ‘Base’ has come a long way since BRACC," repeats an old "feel good" story of MV EDGE bringing economic "growth" to Rome.

Why repeat this now?

Is it to make us feel better that EDGE marketed the land from underneath some 40 businesses, Not-for-Profits, and even Utica's new police garage to a tax-exempt hospital because EDGE's leader deemed Utica's Columbia-Lafayette a "do over" neighborhood?

Maybe it is to make us feel better when one of EDGE's alphabet-soup of "partner" agencies takes these properties by eminent domain -- and EDGE and its partners can again justify their existence by offering to find their victims new homes? 

EDGE has been unaccountable to anyone, yet has such power that it can override local zoning and plans, rearrange streets, and even change a neighborhood's character -- all without public input. The County Legislature and City Council have been mere rubber-stamps to EDGE's machinations.

While contemplating EDGE's "growth" in Rome let's remember that some of it came at Utica's expense. EDGE's stock in trade, after all,  has been to move the economic deck chairs around this region's sinking ship. 

Utica seemed to do better at attracting jobs before EDGE was put there to eliminate the "politics and infighting."

Maybe it is time to get rid of EDGE!

Friday, April 06, 2018

Three Beds? Three Beds!

Three Beds!

That would be the net increase in hospital beds located at the St. Luke's Campus IF the new hospital proposed for Downtown were, instead, constructed on the St. Luke's Campus.  This conclusion is based upon MVHS's existing and proposed beds summary tabulated in the DOH's Needs Analysis, below.

As already explained in "Don't be Misled," there is NO legal requirement that the hospital be built in the City of Utica -- in spite of repeated statements by Mr. Perra and others. [I guess they are following the adage "if you repeat a lie often enough . . ."]

As already made clear in "Downtown Hospital: Locally Hatched and Conceived" the idea of putting the hospital downtown comes from local people: Mr. Brindisi, Mr. Picente, Mr. Dimeo and others -- not Albany.

With a negligible increase of only 3 beds, there is no question that if the new hospital were built at St. Lukes, the finished project would have NO impacts (environmental or otherwise) distinguishable from the hospital already there. No need to change public infrastructure. No need to add water pipes. No need to add sewer pipes. No need to change traffic patterns off campus. NO NEED FOR MORE PARKING!

The more we learn about this project, the more foolish it appears to build it Downtown!


Friday, March 23, 2018

More Population Loss for Utica-Rome Metro . . .

Latest Census Dept. estimates confirm what we've suspected: Utica-Rome Metro continues to lose population . . . Now at only 293,572 . . .  down from 293,752 last year, down from 299,397 in 2010, and down from 344,300 in 1972.

THIS is the accurate report card on how well state and local policies are working!

New buildings, new highways, new shopping areas, new college campuses, new "international" airport and "nano" sites, a new hockey team -- and a new hospital -- all give an appearance of success that cannot mask the fact that this region continues to fail.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that repeating the failed policies of the past will produce different results.

We deserve better than appearances.

"Ain't Nothing like the Real Thing, Baby!- Marvin Gaye and Tammi Tyrell, 1967

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A KISS for Our New Hospital!

Issues can get complicated at times, and the discussion swirling around the new hospital is no exception.  Let's Keep It Simple . . .

A KISS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT - The State Environmental Quality Review Act requires government to consider and choose the alternative that minimizes adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable.  You don't need to know environmental science to know that putting the hospital on the St. Luke's Campus is less impactful to the environment than putting it Downtown because less will be disturbed!

A KISS FOR REGIONAL HEALTH CARE - The applicable state law provides for funding projects that "consolidate multiple licensed health care facilities into an integrated system of care..." You don't need to know health care policy to know that going from three health care campuses to four by adding a new one Downtown is the exact opposite of consolidation.

A KISS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT - Regional leaders want the hospital Downtown to spur economic development. You don't need to know economic development theory to know that there is already significant economic activity going on within the Downtown hospital footprint (and if you don't know that, just ask the business people there) and that condemning businesses is the exact opposite of developing them. With the Arterial Project finally behind us, the existing infrastructure and buildings that a hospital would bulldoze are now assets that can be recycled, making the neighborhood prime for business expansion and new investment! 

Keep It at St luke'S

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Downtown Hospital: Local Leaders Seriously Out of Touch With Reality . . .

There are a couple stories in the "out of touch with reality" category and they both relate to the proposed Downtown Hospital:

I. Rome Sentinel a couple days ago:
  Environmental review process begins on Utica hospital project

While the headline focuses on environmental review, the significance is what was actually done. MVHS applied to the Oneida County Local Development Corporation for financial assistance in the form of $175M of tax exempt bonding and mortgage recording tax abatement in the proposed Downtown Hospital Project.  OCLDC unanimously accepted this application.  BUT here is the OCLDC's mission statement from its website:
The mission of the Oneida County Local Development Corporation (OCLDC) is to assist in the enhancement and diversity of the economy of Oneida County by acting in support of projects in Oneida County that create and/or retain jobs and promote private sector investment utilizing the statutory powers of the Local Development Corporation as set forth under the provisions of the of the laws of the State of New York.
Isn't the OCLDC Board aware that the hospital consolidation will result in a reduction of hospital jobs? Isn't the OCLDC Board aware that putting the hospital Downtown will destroy private sector jobs and destroy the value of private sector investments in the businesses that will be taken?

How could OCLDC have accepted MVHS' application given its mission statement? Ignorance? Corruption? Speculative information?

 II. WKTV Yesterday:
   MVHS Offers relocation assistance to downtown property owners

  One Million Dollars sounds like a lot of money until you consider that it will be spread out over many entities.  Using the article's number of businesses it will be about $40K each.  If spread over all the entities that would be forced to move (although most will simply close) it would be closer to $25K per business.  Does that still sound like a lot?  How does the total amount MVHS proposes to assist these businesses compare with Mr. Perra's salary for only one year? Does $1M sound so generous now?

 We see a lot of leaders in the group who fancy themselves as "economic development" experts -- much like we have elected state officials (including the governor) and various bureaucrats who profess that "economic development" is a priority.  But do they really understand what is required to take a concept from an idea to a profit-making business that creates market value and can provide jobs for people?

Like private investors in the stock market, the State is learning the "hard way" (well hopefully it is learning) that merely spending money on what may seem like good ideas rarely produces the anticipated benefits -- as a little "cocktail-napkin" math will illustrate:

  • The state has spent about $250 million on Utica Nano. Originally it was expected to produce around 750 jobs -- or around $333,000 per job.
  • With the site finally in use by Danfoss, it is expected to produce around 350 jobs -- if that company's efforts prove successful -- or around $700,000 per job.
  • The actual result so far, however, years after Utica Nano was announced, is about 13 jobs -- or about $19 MILLION PER JOB!

So far State expenditures on the Buffalo Billion project have produced a humongous solar panel plant tended to by a skeleton crew -- failure perhaps due to Chinese competition in the industry, but with the potential to turn around not due to NYS policies but with TRUMP's proposal to tax panel imports. $90M was spent on a lighting plant in Syracuse - zero jobs, and a $15M film industry "hub" also in the Syracuse area - zero jobs.

Simply put, there are too many variables to make valid predictions on what particular public "investments" will produce in jobs and economic benefits -- so, should the government even be involved in this?

The bigger question is should the government be involved in destroying "this" - i.e., destroying what we already have?

There is a community of businesses and not-for-profits in the footprint of the Downtown Hospital that will be destroyed  (and we know they will be destroyed from all prior government projects that required businesses to "move" -- whether they be arterial projects, urban renewal projects, government office buildings, or Ft. Stanwix National Monument).  When you take a business, you take not only all the personal investment and sweat put into the business by the business owners, but also that of all the trial-and-error efforts that came before at that location. 

When you take the jobs associated with these businesses, what amount of NEW investment will be required to get EACH of them back?  $333,000?  $700,000? $19 MILLION?  That kind of investing will be needed just to stay even. 

What are the chances we will come out ahead?  

Friday, February 02, 2018

Downtown Hospital: What Were the Siting Criteria?

The public has been told several times that the proposed Downtown Location for the new MVHS Hospital was based on criteria supplied by the hospital to ensure that the hospital's needs were met.

Given the large expenditure of Public funds to be spent to implement this project, WHAT, IF ANY, criteria were used to ensure that the PUBLIC'S INTEREST was being protected in the choice of a site?

Under what circumstances would placing this hospital downtown be acceptable?  In other words, what criteria should our de facto regional planning agency, MV EDGE, have used (but did not) during site selection to protect the PUBLIC's Interest?  Here is my personal list (and you may have more):
  1. ZERO impact to the local taxpayers -- i.e., no money for parking garage, replacement of police garage, environmental remediation, site assembly and preparation, and no net removal of properties from the tax rolls (e.g, if $2M of properties come off the tax rolls in the CoLa neighborhood, then an equal amount of properties must be placed ON the tax rolls (perhaps at the St. E. Site.))
  2. ZERO impact to existing businesses - no business losses, no job losses, no loss to personal wealth -- and that the businesses' existing/reasonable potential plans for expansion be accommodated.
  3. ZERO impact to the street grid. -- i.e., NO closures that would negatively change street circulation and make Utica's street grid less navigable or would make anyone's property more difficult to access.
  4. TOTAL consistency with not only the letter but the VISION for Utica's downtown as OFFICIALLY ENACTED in the Zoning Ordinance, the Existing Pattern of Development, Gateway District Regulations, and the Utica Master Plan.
  5. A demonstration that the Downtown Site better meets the specific criteria of Public Health Law Sec. 2825-B (the criteria for the grant) than the MVHS "back-up" site on the St. Luke's Campus.
  6. Being outside the now infamous "RED" evacuation zone extending 1/2 mile from active railroad tracks - to ensure that if the unthinkable unlikely event of a hazardous rail accident were to occur, it would not require evacuation of the region's ONLY hospital.

The Site Study, referred to as a "funnel map" in FOILed e-mails (to "funnel" MVHS' choice to the Downtown Site preferred by our local decision makers?) has never been voluntarily disclosed to the Public, and was not made available to the Public via the FOIL process, meaning that it is still a PRIVATE Study. Who does MV EDGE work for?  While it claims to be an "independent" "public benefit" corporation, which "public" is it benefiting?  Would there even BE an EDGE but for the Oneida County taxpayers and its relationship with County government? Could MV EDGE have gone as far as it has in advancing the hospital project WITHOUT THE AGREEMENT OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT?

Since the Site Study has not been made public, and there has been no articulation in any of the FOILed E-Mails between County Government, other officials, and EDGE that anyone insisted on any particular criteria to protect the Public Interest, IT CAN BE PRESUMED THAT NO CRITERIA TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC'S INTEREST WERE APPLIED TO THE SITE SELECTION PROCESS.

The FOILed e-mails make perfectly clear that the Governor was already committed to a new hospital in the Utica area, that MVHS was "guided" to the Downtown Site by EDGE, and that Mr. Brindisi, Mr. Picente, Mr. Palmieri, and others who were intimately involved with this choice, made no attempt to even ascertain how an improper siting could adversely affect the Public, much less than insist on criteria to protect the Public Interest. Instead . . .  

  • They applied their personal notions of what would be "best" for Utica, rather that accept the guidance of Utica's officially enacted planning documents.  
  • They applied their personal notions of what would be "best" for Utica: that it would be OK to burden local taxpayers with this project, that it would be OK to cause losses to business owners and their employees, and that it would be OK to disrupt traffic patterns.  
  • They applied their personal notion that it would be "best" for the hospital to be Downtown without EVER considering the STATE's GOALS and criteria.  
  • They even went so far as to determine that it would be OK to place what will be Greater Utica's ONLY hospital within an evacuation zone should an unlikely and unthinkable event happen.