Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Right Problem - Wrong solution

Under a Republican proposal Thursday in the State Senate, property owners would get a tax rebate check every September from Albany, and municipalities would see new incentives to consolidate services with neighboring governments. Essentially, this expands the "popular" STAR program which rebates to residential property owners some of their school taxes.

While the leadership correctly identifies New York's excessive property taxes, particularly school taxes, as one of the state's major problems, their solution is the same old "New York response" to any problem: throw money at it.

While some people have received relief under the STAR program, it did nothing to curb the cause of high school taxes: out-of-control spending by local school districts. In fact, STAR made it easier for local districts to spend more by BUYING OFF the votes of those most likely to oppose spending increases: the elderly and others on fixed incomes living in depreciated homes. Now, in typical NY fashion, a whole class of people will become further dependant on the government to give them a handout check every September.

While details of the plans for encouraging municipal "consolidation" are not described, it sounds like it will be more of the same: more handouts rather than attacking the structural impediments to consolidation.

Of course, all this only takes money from one taxpayer's pocket to put in another -- with the appropriate administration fee (employing how many more government bureaucrats) deducted along the way.

New York has to stop producing schemes like STAR that only enourage more bad behavior. Instead of giving taxpayers rebates, NY needs to stop taking so much from us to begin with.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Let's look at regionalizing recreation

"Let's look at regionalizing recreation" suggests the OD editorial board in yesterday's paper. Yes, lets do that. But instead of looking forward to regionalizing ice rinks in Clinton, New Hartford and Whitestown, lets look back at other recreational facilities or programs that have already been regionalized: the Utica Aud and the Youth Bureau.

I don't believe anyone can say that things have improved at the Aud since a regional authority took it over. And the County dropped the ball with the Youth Bureau to the point that Utica is taking back those functions.

If memory serves me correctly, the Aud and the Youth Bureau deals were part of the deal to regionalize the Water system. Utica gave up its water asset to be relieved of the burden of the Aud and youth programs. Now that the suburban areas have taken the water and "grown" using Utica water, they've turned their backs on the other two responsibilities they took on.

What's the lesson for today's proposal for a "regional sports authority?" Uticans had better hold onto their wallets. The proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled plan to get Uticans to pay the expenses for suburban ice facilities -- facilities they will not use because they are too poor to pay for the ride out to them.

Regionalization in Oneida County has never been and will never be anything more than taking from Utica (the poor) and giving to the suburbs (the rich).

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Fairness to Utica

Mayor Julian's editorial in the Sunday OD, and Mr. Schiavi's editorial in this week's Life and Times raise a number of interesting points. Both are "must reads" by anyone serious about moving the region forward.

Mr. Julian focuses on how the region has harmed/done nothing for Utica's taxbase. He can legitimately complain about jobs being moved from Utica to Rome when Uticans are hit in the pocketbook. He can also legitimately complain when Uticans pay for "regional" job development, but none of Utica's areas are promoted. Try to find Utica on the EDGE Website. It corroborates Mr. Julian's claim that Utica has been "relegated to its present status as a regional afterthought."

Mr. Schiavi focuses on the things that make the region uncompetitive, specifically high sales and property taxes, and high utility rates. He rightly complains that nothing has been done about them. Almost echoing Julian, he states,"Utica has been relegated to its back seat position by those who want it to remain there, by those who do not want to live next to the poor, the illiterate, the unemployed, the socially negligent, and the rest who cannot 'make it on their own.'" Of course, Mr. Schiavi is correct in his assessment. For years, those who could afford to do so left Utica for lower taxed suburbs, continued to use Utica amenities, and escaped their responsibilities to take care of its poor. Unlike most other counties in New York, only recently did Oneida County take over its cities' welfare burdens.

There almost seems to be an intent of the regionalists to wipe "Utica" from everyone's consciousness, inaccurately substituting "Mohawk Valley" (which runs from Rome to Albany) in its place. If this is what is necessary to move the region forward, then, in fairness to Utica lets REALLY do it and fold the City of Utica into one county wide municipality along with Rome, New Hartford and all the other towns and villages. Such an action would certainly eliminate a lot of Mr. Julian's and Mr. Schiavi's concerns.

But somehow I don't think our elite really want this kind of regionalism to happen.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Musings on a former Mayor

I really don't want to defend Mr. Hanna -- like any of us he was right on some things, terribly wrong on others, BUT ...
->He was elected because he dared to say what people were thinking.
->He was not beholden to party bosses -- or the local elite -- or anyone for that matter (except the voters on election day).
->I think he really believed his sign "This Government belongs to the People" -- which is the truth..
->He knew the value of aesthetics: Utica never looked better. The gardens were at their peak. He knew the value of art in the streetscape. A walk through the well manicured parks with beautiful floral displays, a drive down the parkway with its newly lighted monuments -- you knew: "This is a CITY" in the best sense of the word -- the cultural center --- and you wanted to be part of it.

As far as the watering can -- that was art. Whether its good art or bad art is a matter of perspective. BUT IT GAVE PEOPLE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT other than a tax increase or some other municipal complaint. It could be the subject of debate among people -- something to even make fun of perhaps -- without serious consequences. And getting people talking to each other BUILDS COMMUNITY. And that, my friend, can only be GOOD.

If Paris can have its Lips in a fountain, Chicago have its plastic cows, Utica can have its watering can.

[For CONTEXT and FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Planned "Sprawl"?

For a second this morning I thought the O-D Editors may have finally seen the light:

"We want real growth, not just sprawl. When suburbs spread outward without really growing, municipal services are stretched over a larger area but there's no corresponding growth in the tax base to support the increased costs. And we've all seen retailers simply move from an older shopping complex to a new one leaving empty eyesores behind."

Of course, this is exactly what's occurred in Oneida County over the last 40 years: A shrinking population (encouraged by state and local policies) spread itself over so much acreage that it's become difficult to afford municipal services. New development sprung up in New Hartford, leaving decaying areas behind in Utica. But given the jurisdictional boundaries, Utica took the tax hit and New Hartford got the benefit.

Now older parts of NH will be hit as development spreads up the new "840" into undeveloped parts of NH and ... Whitestown. Is NH afraid of suffering the same fate as Utica? Will it eventually lose tax revenue to Whitestown? Now that it may hit the pocketbooks of the editors, does this underlie their sudden concern for regional planning?

Regardless of the motivation, it's a good recommendation -- better late than never.

But wait! There's more to read ...

... about the 840: "it makes way for development of thousands of acres in rural areas of Whitestown, Westmoreland and Kirkland. . . These communities will need to work in concert if they hope to maximize the growth potential that exists along this new corridor."

I guess they did't get it after all. They will try to "maximize the growth potential" in the hinterland ... while the population continues to decline! ... I guess it does not matter to them that their OWN "Next Step" ZOGBY POLL showed: that the PEOPLE want UTICA to be the region's hub. Any regional planning needs to have that as its focus ... but everyone knows that it will never happen. A regional hub in Utica is obviously not the O-D editors' concern.

See the complete OD editorial at Area needs regional growth plan

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mayor wants to move Murnane Field to Psych Center

Just what Utica needs -- another ball field -- NOT! Given all the fences and concrete dugouts that have gone up all over Utica parks, this guy's brain must be stuck at first base.

I'm sick and tired of all these "plans" coming out of left field with no warning: first the politicians deciding to move the county airport to Griffiss, then turning the county airport terminal (of all things) into a classroom, and now this.


For one, I'd like to see the county at least attempt to market the airport for sale AS AN AIRPORT before converting it to a new mission, because as an airport it would be most likely to yield the greatest value to the taxpayers for all their years of investments in the facility.

As for moving Murnane -- lets look at the entire picture: how are all the properties and neighborhoods to be effected? Where is the PLAN? If there is a plan, why was the public not invited to participate in it's making?

The mayor, county executive, and governor are there to lead -- not unilaterally make all the decisions themselves. Election to office does not confer intelligence or wisdom. Maybe when they learn to SEEK OUT and LISTEN to the opinions of those they serve (WHICH SHOULD BE US) things will
start changing for the better . . .

I only see more wasted money and public assets with such a plan.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Security Center - More Smoke & Mirrors

Looks like the governor, our county executive and other elected officials are giving the Utica area the "shaft" again.

Airport lands security training center

Given all the TAX EXEMPT state institutional land that is being underutilized in the Mohawk Valley, we will now have another chunk of property being dedicated to public use which could have been privatized and taxed. Given the proximity of former Utica State next to Utica College (which is getting into the cybersecurity area) West Utica would seem to have been a natural fit for this facility -- no additional state lands would have been needed!

Choosing the Airport for this facility does three things that benefit Mr. Griffo, the County Legislature and our local state-level elected officials (but not the people):

1) It provides an instant solution to the problem of what to do with the Old County Airport -- a problem that they created by choosing to move the airport to Griffiss without first determining a plan for the old one.

2) It ENSURES that Utica-New Hartford-Whitesboro, or the Oneida Nation, or some enterprising entrepreneur (like the one who created a housing development where people had their private planes in their garages), will NOT continue airport operations there -- avoiding potential competition for the new Griffiss facility.

3) Our Albany reps can claim to have "brought home the bacon."

I predict that very little benefit will come of this. Sorry, but one million dollars is practically NOTHING and does NOT represent a "committment" to this project or this region [compare with the $700+ MILLION of state money going to Albany Nanotech]. A million can be blown on some minor renovations and some conferences. Meanwhile, a tremendous public asset -- the old County Airport -- will be wasted -- I guess we should be used to this style of government by now.

This is nothing more than what happened with the "Center for Brownfields Studies" that we were promised back in 2001 with much fanfare. It produced some conferences but little else.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005


With all the hype about "consolidation," I've been thinking about this lately and concluded that government has actually DISCOURAGED consolidation with poor policy decisions.

Back in colonial days, villages and cities were formed by people gathering together for mutual protection and services. By virtue of their population density and compactness, villages and cities were economically able to provide policing, water, sewer, garbage, road maintenance and other services. People who wanted to live in the country had to be prepared with shotguns to protect themselves, to dig wells and latrines, had to burn their garbage (or live with it), and had to either put up with transportation via horseback or dogsled, or had to clear paths if they wanted to transport goods via carts. Of course, the villages and cities grew because it was EASIER and CHEAPER (either in time or money) for people to take care of their basic necessities.

On top of this "natural" structure of villages and cities, politicians drew the ARTIFICIAL lines of towns and counties. The lines had little to do with actual settlements, and potentially encompassed settlements who might have been competitors. They were needed, however, to ensure that some governing authority existed in all areas.

We went wrong when we permitted counties and towns to duplicate city/village services in the country and charge not only the people in the country, BUT ALSO THE CITIES AND VILLAGES, for the services to the outlying areas. This increased costs to people in the cities and villages (with no increase in benefits) while creating artificially low costs for those who chose to live in the country. Instead of cities and villages consolidating with their surrounding territories through natural patterns of growth, we subsidized urban sprawl governed by multiple levels of government. It is no wonder why tax levels have risen so much: we have spread ourselves too thinly across the landscape to be efficient.

Now the "powers that want-to-be" expect people to accept consolidation along artificial Town and County lines. Don't expect this to go down without a fight. One community will always fear being shortchanged to benefit another one (be the other more populous or more politically connected). The fear is based on experience. An easy example at a larger scale is how the metropolitan areas in the state have been treated differently in terms of state level job development efforts: Albany gets almost a billion taxpayer dollars to develop a nanotechnology center while Utica did not even receive its promised downtown center for Brownfields Studies. Communities want to know that they can control their own destinies.

If "consolidation" is the way to go, then we need to go back to the natural way of doing it: give back to the cities and villages their natural economic advangages, let people living in the outlying areas pay the true costs of their services, and let them VOLUNTARILY join a city or village when clearly an advantage to do so.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Textbooks run short at Proctor

Did anyone catch this story? Textbooks run short at Proctor Principal says one thing, Lowengard seems to say another .. but a student says he had to take algebra over because he had difficulty taking the textbook home because they weren't available.

Funny, I heard a similar story 5 years ago from a Bosnian gentleman regarding his elementary pupil when I attended a public meeting with NYS education commissioner Mills in Utica.

There really is NO excuse for this situation. Clearly someone isn't doing their job ... and clearly someone had given a priority to something else (an extra principal? an extra administrator?aides? ) over BOOKS!
It should be pretty obvious that these people place more importance on themselves than our children's education.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Taxpayers players in any sports plan

Taxpayers players in any sports plan

OK -- Does anyone know what motivated the O-D to bring this issue up again, today? Is someone showing an interest in bringing a pro-team to Utica?

As I remember, after the Prowlers left a group came in wanting major changes to the aud -- and this was rightly rejected. But the owner of a Binghamton team -- one that was successful but displaced by a higher league -- wanted to move his team to UTica -- and I don't remember any demands by him -- but there was a similar editorial moaning that this market doesn't have the ability to support a team - - and the owner was essentially shown the door by the local sports authority infavor of a sweetheart deal with Utica College which was supposed to build a new locker room (in additiion to the one mentioned in today's editorial????). My memory of these facts may not be clear, but I remember the clear impression at the time that a deal had been made to turn our public Aud into a Utica College facility, and professional outsiders were expected to be kept out.

Anyone else got a spin on this . .. . Why bring this up again now???

Some links on this topic:

2004-0118 UOD: The Aud
2001-0521 BPSB: BC Icemen add muscle to United Hockey League"
2002 Pulse Discussion thread: Changes Needed for Hockey to Return?

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Utica mayor wants county airport gift

Interesting that this got coverage in the Rome Sentinel and not the O-D. Utica mayor wants county airport gift. I first heard this on WIBX yesterday when Mr. Julian was a guest on First Look.

While its understandable that the County cannot afford to maintain Two airports, to me it made no sense for the county to have chosen to keep the one that is clearly outsized for our needs, jeopardizing the Federal Reserve jobs and others.

The Griffiss airstrip needs to either be made self-sustaining, or shut down, i.e., market it as a regional cargo-port for ALL of Upstate NY where the ability to land huge planes would be a necessity. Start using it for Hurricane relief cargo flights NOW as a demo of what can be done.

That the move was decided upon without a plan for the Whitestown facility firmly in place beforehand is a testament to the lack of foresight on the part of our county leaders.

What I found really interesting in the article was EDGE's Mr. Duchow's admission that he was not familiar with buffer requirements for open land near an airport. Since EDGE is so involved with developing Griffiss, one would think they should be familiar with such requirements. Does EDGE really know what it is doing? (Of course they just put a $50 mil Rome HS at Griffiss and UCP's educational facility as well -- so this perhaps is not surprising).

I think Julian's proposal is worth a serious look.

[For FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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Monday, August 22, 2005

"Sprawl" or "Growth" ?

There was an interesting article in today's OD about Whitestown's Growing pains.
There seems to be a tacit assumption that "growth" is "good" among our politicians.


"Growth" is good depending on where and who you are. Growth in cities or villages is usually good because those areas already have the infrastructure in place to support it. If more people move in to pay fixed costs, costs per person will go down -- making such areas attractive to even more growth. Growth is also good for developers and the landowners in the path of growth. These people will make money through construction and land sales. For other people in other areas, however, "growth" will produce more harm than good.

While it is true that "growth" from the new Judd Road will likely bring in more tax revenue to Whitestown, it also will create a demand for additional infrastructure and services -- which come with significant costs. Will there be a need to build more water and sewer lines? Will police and fire services be adequate? Can the school system handle an increased student load?

While some of these costs will be paid for by Whitestown residents, perhaps to be picked up by an "expanded tax base" others will be paid for by persons getting no benefit from the "growth." People who live further away from the population centers should be paying more for water and sewer services because of the greater distances water and sewage need to be transported. However our local service providers have not implemented this concept in their rate schedules -- meaning that the population centers (Utica and the Villages) are actually subsidizing this "growth." Additionally, greater burdens will be placed on the Sheriff's department -- and taxed to the villages and cities which get little to no service from the Sheriff. What about the cost to plow the new roads that will be needed? The list can go on and on ...

There are also environmental and "quality of life" issues to consider. Growth in the rural sections of Whitestown can be expected to downgrade wildlife habitat. Agricultural land will be lost and the productivity of what remains will be impaired. Undoubtedly, the community's character will change.

One only has to look at the congestion that has accompanied the massive growth along New Hartford's commercial corridor to know that significant changes can be attached to 'growth.' I can't say these have been positive. According to my tax bills, I can't say that the "expanded tax base" has had a significant impact on my taxes. Sitting in traffic waiting to exit Consumer Square, I can't say that my shopping experience has been enhanced. Even though it is several miles farther, I actually prefer the Wal-Mart in N Utica to the one in NH because I don't like getting stuck in traffic exiting the parking lot. While the additional shopping choices are nice, these would eventually have been located in Utica had the region not adopted policies that actually subsidize development of pristine land.

While our politicians bandy the word "growth" around easily, what is "growth" from a small local perspective is really "sprawl" from a regional perspective. For all the talk about this being a "region," the politicians who should be thinking of the "region" are taking the small local approach. In this regard, I was glad to see that Rolf Pendall's work Sprawl Without Growth: The Upstate Paradox got a mention. This is an interesting piece that should be required reading for our politicians who think they have all the answers. Pendall documents that urbanized acreage in the Central New York (Utica-Rome-Syracuse) region increased an astounding 45% between 1982 and 1997 while the population decreased .

You need no degree in urban planning to know that our "sprawl without growth" partially explains why our taxes have reached outrageous, non-competitive, job-killing levels: we simply have spread ourselves too thin to be economically efficient.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

S.O.S. (Save Our Schools)

Before you start hitting up your friends and neighbors for money for a PUBLIC school, you need to ask yourself: What would more money accomplish?

If you are unhappy with the quality of education your daughter is getting, I suggest to you that the problem is NOT a lack of money. Teachers, even in Utica, are already well paid for their work - paid almost as well, if not BETTER, than attorneys and engineers in Public Service - professions that require more rigorous training - when hours actually worked are taken into consideration. This is even more true for administrators. Class sizes also are significantly smaller than 40 years ago (when students actually were able to leave 8th grade with life skills, and when there was no such thing as a teaching assistant/teacher aide). There is also no shortage of money for constructing schools since 90+% of the cost is reimbursed by the state. How would you spend the money you want to raise?

Quality in education results from HOW money is spent, not How Much. Unfortunately, much of what passes for "education" these days is more akin to group therapy, social engineering and "attitude adjustment" than education. Ineffective methods result in too many students graduating who are functionally illiterate and computationally inept.

Go to your school and see how things are done. Are the students sitting in rows facing the front or are they in groups? (Which arrangement do you think lends itself to discipline problems?) Does the teacher relate his/her knowledge directly to the children, or do students work in groups to "construct" their own knowledge with the teacher "facilitating"? (Which approach do you think leads to confusion and numbers of children falling behind their peers?) Are the classroom walls and ceiling covered with colorful posters and hanging things, or are displays low key and simple? (Which do you think is distracting?) Are students repeatedly drilled on their math facts and required to do math in their heads, or are they handed a calculator? (Which approach do you think leads to students graduating who are unable to make change, balance a check book, or unable to comparison shop?) Do students spend time learning the intricacies of Microsoft Word or learning the rules of grammar? (After 5 years when the software has completely changed, which students do you think will be better able to write a gramatically correct paragraph?)

Teaching reading and math is NOT rocket science, but the educrats will have you believing otherwise because they are justifying their jobs. Unfortunately, such people populate our administrative staffs, state education departments, and teaching colleges. The education business is constantly beset by "fads" that come and go -- usually making someone rich -- but do damage along the way. In the 70's it was the "open classroom" where entire schools were built without interior walls. You don't need a teaching degree to know that this created distractions for students and did nothing for achievement. In the 80s it was "racial balance," "magnet schools," and doing away with neighborhood schools. This not only failed to accomplish the well-intended social goals, it led to students spending time on buses rather than studying or playing, greater discipline problems, reduction in parental involvement, all of which led to reduction in education achievement -- harming EVERYONE. Now it's "higher" standards -- but if you look beyond the noble sounding standards and try to discern exactly WHAT students are expected to KNOW, you will be totally confused. Take a look at the threads posted on the Millenium Project and on Safe Schools to see how the latest "fads" are wasting our tax money and your childrens' time.

Rather than wasting time raising good money to throw after bad, ask questions on how your children are being taught, know exactly what they are being taught, don't accept the answers you get without doing some independent research of your own, and, most important, DEMAND SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIABLE RESULTS.

Good Luck!


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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Metro government vs regionalization

Metro government vs regionalization - These words could be used to mean the same thing, but in Oneida County they are different. Here regionalization has meant taking certain City of Utica assets (water supply system, Auditorium, transit system) and purportedly making them available to suburban areas by placing them in the hands of Authorities whose boards are made up of appointees from the various jurisdictions, with "representation" defined by the laws creating them ("one man-one vote" style of representation based on population does NOT apply). Metro government, as I understand it, would mean consolidating smaller municipalities into a larger one. The difference is that Metro government is ultimately answerable to voters through an elected governing body while Authorities, practically speaking, are not answerable to anyone. Eg, the anticipated water rate hike is whatever the Water Authorty wants. Had the Water Board remained a city department, the rate hike would have to receive the approval of the elected common council -- and the rates to suburban areas would have been subject to DEC rate hearings in the event the suburbs disagreed. Had the water board remained a private company, the PSC would have had jurisdiction over rates. If the WB were part of a Metro Government, the elected legislative body would have the control over rates. Its the loss of control (or responsiveness to needs) that has given regionalization a bad name here.

Metro Government Is Interesting, and could represent a savings to the taxpayer due to elimination of duplicative efforts or "economies of scale." However, there is a downside as well. Think of Which is better: BIG government or SMALL? Which do you think would be more responsive to people's needs: a LARGE government serving a large and diverse area with many specialized departments or a SMALL government serving a limited area and few specialized departments? Its like the difference between Cities and Villages. I'm willing to bet that the level of satisfaction and the sense of getting value for every dollar of taxes paid is much higher in villages than in cities. Which is more efficient? Decisionmaking in Large Organizations becomes a collaborative effort between many specialized people. In small organizations one person may make all the decisions. The Smaller form of government in some respects may be more efficient. Where do you think you will be more likely to find waste, a Large or a Small organization? You see where I'm going . . . . Metro is a nice idea, and was trendy 30 years ago ... but I'm not sold. Duplicative efforts could be eliminated by assigning particular services to a particular level of government and allow for NO overlap.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Who controls EDGE?

The article in today's Observer-Dispatch about EDGE's recent "no-bid" contract on paint raises more questions than it answers.

One paragraph in the article was particularly provocative:

". . . But although about one-third of EDGE's $1.1 million annual budget comes from Oneida County, most of its budget is not made up of public funds. Much of EDGE's money comes from real estate revenue at Griffiss Business and Technology Park, privately raised funds and membership dues . . . "

This raises three questions:

1) Why are real estate revenues from Griffiss Business and
Technology Park not "public funds?" Wasn't the Technology Park formerly federal property given to the public, or was it given to a private group?

2) From whom is EDGE accepting "privately raised" funds and why?

3) Why are there "membership dues" and who are "members?"

It's reasonable to expect that whoever controls EDGE's money can exercise influence over EDGE's actions.

The article also reveals that EDGE is a private "not-for-profit" corporation," that EDGE has Griffiss Local Development Corp. as its main subsidiary, that EDGE also has a "for-profit" subsidiary called 394 Hangar Road Corp., and that these entities have differing procurement policies. More questions are raised: Who are the shareholders of EDGE? Who are the shareholders of the subsidiaries? Who elected their various boards of directors? Who is on the boards? Why do the subsidiaries have differing status regarding profits? Who is entitled to the profits? Is anybody getting a dividend?

There is much more at stake than EDGE's procurement practices. The real issue is whether Oneida County's industrial development policymaking authority has been usurped by a group of private individuals who are, essentially, acting in their own interests.

If anyone has answers to these questions, please post them here.

[For FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Creating taxpayer-supported jobs to funnel money into private investors' pockets

Articles in the Albany Times Union and the NY Times trumpet a new initiative in "job creation" involving heavy state investment in the U Albany NanoTech complex.

According to the Albany Times Union article: Nanotech initiative called boost for state:

The unveiling of the International Venture for Nanolithography, or Invent, promises to bring another 200 people to Albany NanoTech. . . The seven-year, $600 million project includes about $180 million from the state, including $105 million already earmarked by the Assembly. IBM is expected to provide $80 million, while the three other chipmakers will contribute $40 million each. The rest, $220 million, will come from other companies involved in the effort.

According to the New York Times article: A New Microchip Project Is Begun at Albany Center:

The growth of the technology sector here got a big boost in 2002, when Governor Pataki helped lure Sematech . . .
Since the Sematech deal, the state has given $535 million to start projects at Albany NanoTech . . .There are currently 645 people working at NanoTech, officials said, which is shy of the 1,000 it was hoped would be working there by now.

These dollar numbers are large making it somewhat difficult to grasp their significance. Doing a little math puts things in perspective.

The state has already spent $535 million over the last 3 years to provide employment to 645 people (shy of the goal of 1000). That works out to $276,000 per person per year.

The new deal being announced this week will throw in another $180 million of state money over 7 years to bring in 200 more people. That works out to almost $129,000/person per year.

By 2012, the state would have contributed $715,000,000 over 10 years to this project to, hopefully, employ 845 workers: that's almost $85,000 per worker per year (assuming that 845 people would have actually worked for the 10 years which will not be the case)!

While the newspapers talk of the "state" making these contributions, it is really the state's taxpayers who are paying the bill. Since the taxpayers are subsidizing the Research and Development budgets which are the responsibility of the likes of IBM, such companies are being allowed to pocket the amounts as profits.

This is not economic development. It's creating taxpayer-supported jobs to funnel money into private investors' pockets.

[For FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Griffo and Merging MVCC and SUNYIT

Another troubling series of articles appeared in the Utica OD this week and also on the WKTV Website (links below) which somehow gives the feeling that the region (and probably Utica in particular) is about to get shafted - again - by our political elites who are only looking out for themselves. According to the articles, County Executive Griffo is pushing for merging MVCC and SUNY-IT. Reading the articles gives the impression that students and faculty and certain academic leaders think this is a good thing. One has to ask "WHY?"

What is the County Executive's motivation in involving himself with college academics at a State Level? Deleting MVCC's lines from the county budget, and thereby enabling a tax break (and favor from voters) could be a reason. Currying favor from State Level officials, who apparently bungled when they decided to make SUNYIT a 4 year institution (given its declining enrollment) could be another.

The head of SUNY-IT may be trying to save his hide because he and his predecessor have been unable to grow that college as planned. Or, because he only holds his position temporarily, he may be protecting someone higher up the line. Regardless, lumping MVCC's numbers with SUNY-IT's would make the latter's statistics look better.

Faculty and MVCC adminstrators probably are expecting better pay, benefits, and opportunities for advancement from a merger, so those who are "connected" with no worry of losing their jobs could be expected to support a merger.

Students are mainly concerned about their own personal academic futures, and a merger would ensure the transferability of credits because there would be no transfer of institutions. The students interviewed have already benefitted by the current system being there for them. Will there be a system in place to benefit those students who come later? It is at the student level where the "answers" to whatever "problems" a merger would allegedly solve will play out.

In contrast to talks of "merger" in the OD articles, the official pronouncement from both institutions is quite different. (See MVCC, SUNY IT Explore Closer Collaboration). No where is "merger"mentioned.

The series of OD articles jumbles (intentionally? for what purpose?) the concepts of collaboration and merger together. SUNYIT was originally the Upper Division College -- a place intended for community college graduates to continue their educations. Given the fact that Utica-Rome had been the only metropolitan area in the state without a place for students to complete a 4 year degree at a state institution, the need for such a college was clear. It was obtained only after years of long and intensive lobbying. The articles, including the official one from the institutions, imply that SUNYIT has not fulfilled its original intent -- that both institutions still need to collaborate to fulfill the promise of an opportunity for local students to complete a 4 year degree.

Collaboration is different from merger. Collaboration, not only with MVCC but HCCC as well, should give local students all the security they need in planning their studies.

Merger, however, would potentially harm not only students but the region as well because the region would lose control over the institution to the State University. Just like our unelected Water Authority, we cannot assume that those running SUNY-IT will always act in the region's best interests or act competently. As easily led as it seems to be by the local political elite, the County Legislature, at least in theory, has sufficient control over the community college to ensure that local educational needs are met . . . and if the public does not think so, they can make themselves heard at the voting booth.
Collaboration: YES, of course! Merger: NO! The public needs to resist any further loss of control over its institutions to an unelected elite.

SUNY-IT And MVCC Merger In The Works - Griffo Asks Schools To Think It Over

MVCC, SUNYIT to discuss futures Colleges study merger

Students, faculty optimistic

SUNYIT hopes merger would boost enrollment

[For FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Rhinos now asking state for $15 million

Check out this article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on how the Rochester Rhinos are getting $$$ from us taxpayers to build a stadium which THEY will own. I don't understand how public funds can be simply GIVEN AWAY like this and believe it to be unconstitutional under Article 8 of the State Constitution. (but then, again, what's constitutional is only what the powers that be want it to be -- like when the courts say that gambling in the form of video lotteries is OK.) While I question the wisdom of spending State $$$ on a local sports facility, the State could at least own the shares representign the value of what it contributed.

Hey - why not a Soccer Team for Utica? With our large immigrant population for whom soccer is the major sport, a soccer team in Utica could be a resounding success.

[For CONTEXT and FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Infighting bad for locals

I don't think the politicians are really interested in hearing what people think unless it is agreement with their viewpoint on things. The "infighting" that is going on over the sales tax makes great theater, but it is going nowhere. Utica and Whitestown's fight with the county may make their leaders "heroes"to their local constituencies, but they are not solving the real problems of the area: The area is uncompetitive with other parts of country. Government at all levels in NYS charges far to much in taxes and fees -- and life is made too complicated -- for companies to want to locate jobs here. The only answer government comes up with is more government in the form of special incentives and programs -- which creates more taxes and complications and drives more away!

I actually like seeing some of the fighting -- unfortunately there is not nearly enough to thoroughly air the issues. We are controlled by an elite that thinks it has all the answers -- and is too arrogant to listen to dissenting voices (or does things too quickly, or in secret, before dissent can develop) and consider that it might be on the wrong track.

The airport move I believe is one example of an issue that has not been thououghly aired. Is it really worth spending millions of taxpayer money to abandon a perfectly good and appropriately sized county airport -- placing at risk the jobs and investment in infrastructure there -- and move it to Rome to support Empire Aero (who has received millions in taxpayer subsidies already). If EA does not succeed, what have we accomplished? Simply spending millions to duplicate something we already have -- and -- maybe saddling ourselves with something that is too big to be practical -- doesn't seem smart. I would rather they take the millions of federal funds and try to turn Griffiss into something completely different from what we now have -- a cargo port to serve the Northeast. A Gamble to be sure. But if the money turns out to have been wasted there, at least we would not have destroyed the nice airport we now have.

As far as Genesis goes, I was inspired to join them when I read that they had sponsored a speaker who proposed turning griffiss into a cargo port.. I thought -- Wow, finally a group of people with new fresh ideas ... and willing to seek out experts in the field to get sound advice ... Well, it really hasn't gone very far since. Genesis has sponsored some nice events, and they are nice "cheer leaders" for this community which needs and deserves an accent on the positive -- but after having attended 2 years worth of meetings I'm frustrated that there is no reaching out to the intelligence in the room to get them to work on identifying and solving the region's problems. There is far too much fear of "stepping on toes" of elected officials or various groups or organizations. Our region will not move forward by merely putting on rose-colored glasses and chatting up the positive.

[For CONTEXT and FOLLOWUP of this post, see The Pulse]

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

County Airport Move

Perhaps I'm the only one who feels this way, but I really have to question the wisdom of spending millions to move the county airport to Griffiss.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with the county airport as it is now. It is truly a beautiful, well kept facility. If market conditions were right, it is capable of supporting scheduled passenger service. It is appropriately sized for this market since Utica-Rome doesn't generate enough traffic to fill 747's. It has spawned an adjoining industrial/commercial area that supplies 100s of jobs.

So, if the current airport isn't "broke" -- why "fix" it?

Sounds like the county doesn't want the "albatross" of having to maintain two airports, so it does away with the smaller one. But the larger one is clearly OUTSIZED for this area -- far too big for passenger, charter, or cargo service.

The county needs to recognize the value of its existing airport, and treat Griffiss as a completely separate issue.
It is wasteful to spend millions to duplicate what we already have. It also is extremely risky because there are a lot of businesses dependant on the airport which might not tolerate the disruption of having to move. It will saddle the county with an abandoned facility to dispose of. It will depress the values of surrounding properties until disposition is resolved.

Griffiss has to be recognized for what it is -- a facility sized to provide international service. Utica-Rome does not have the population to make this go -- but all of Upstate does. While passenger service is already taken care of, cargo service may not be. There was talk several years ago about expanding Hancock in Syracuse for this, but there is no room there.

The county is taking risks anyway -- I'd rather take a risk on losing money in trying to establish a cargoport at Griffiss (hopefully to create an economic engine that will spawn 100s of jobs), than on losing the nice airport we have now just to avoid taking care of two airports.


[For FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Elite taking care of their own

Saw the article in this AM's paper about Ryan Nobles being appointed to head the Youth Bureau at $55K. While I liked Mr. Nobles as an Assembly Candidate ... this really smacks of the " Elite" taking care of their own. Of course this follows on the heels of the last director landing a job with the Utica School System ... Certain people with connections always seem to be taken care of.

And what do the taxpayers get? More taxes!

I was interested in reading that the chairman of the OC Legislature pockets at cool $21K for a part time job. Assuming that he puts in 10 hrs /wk, his pay rate would be the same as someone making over $80 k!.

COME ON -- These people are not worth their pay.

In fact, WHY DO WE PAY LEGISLATORS AT ALL? At one time local legislative positions were unpaid. I'm sure there would be plenty of volunteers willing to do it for nothing. .. willing to do it for the satisfaction of helping their home towns. PAYING LEGISLATORS ONLY MAKES THEM BEHOLDEN TO THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP rather than to their constituents.

And we wonder why this area and this state an economic wasteland!

[For FOLLOWUP COMMENTS see Utica Area Discussions]

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