Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How BOCES' Expansion Will Hurt Students and Taxpayers

An editorial in yesterday's OD praising the proposed BOCES expansion plan was long on rhetoric and short on logic. While the shortage of skilled tradespeople in the area is used to justify the project, no attempt whatsoever is made to determine the CAUSES of the shortage, much less than determine whether the project addresses them. If the project does not address the causes of the shortage, the project should not be expected to relieve the shortage, and the shortage should not be used to justify the project.

While there are likely many causes for the shortage of skilled tradespeople in our area, school leaders should at least acknowledge and rectify how they may have contributed to the situation.

Possible cause #1: "The stigma":

People are often judged by those they associate with. Some students avoid going to BOCES (and are deterred from the trades) because the local BOCES has a stigma of being the place where "dummies" are sent. While this is an unfair characterization of many BOCES students, the perception nevertheless exists and must be dealt with. Although the OD editorial acknowledges the stigma's existence, merely calling the stigma "unfounded" does not make it go away, does not make it less a deterrent, and does not address its cause. BOCES may have earned its reputation by encouraging itself to be used as a repository for problem students . If this is recognized, then it becomes easy to see that the plan to ship special education and alternative education programs to BOCES will only contribute to and reinforce "the stigma," further deterring some students from entering the trades.

Possible cause #2: Wasted Time:

While unavoidable for some students, riding a school bus to and from BOCES is still a waste of time, perhaps a lost class period in each direction. Undoubtedly, the cross-town bus ride to BOCES discourages many from entering its programs. The proposed project does nothing to reduce or eliminate the need for cross-town busing.

Possible cause #3: Scheduling Difficulties and the "Sieve" Effect:

A product of cause #2, to reduce some of the going back-and-forth travel students often must spend half their day in regular school, and half at the BOCES campus . Since most academic subjects would have to be squeezed into half a day, students might be forced to choose between those subjects that will help them get into college and those that would prepare them for a trade. Unintentionally, the situation acts as a "sieve" with the better prepared students taking the college track while the poorer performers going to BOCES -- contributing to the "stigma" of cause #1 above. Again, the proposed project does nothing to address the difficulty of integrating academic with vocational courses.

Deterring students from trades is not the only harm.

We explained a couple days ago how the "alternative education" program represents a failure of the local school system that should not be rewarded with institutionalization at BOCES. Schools need to address the root causes of their need for "alternative education" instead of being allowed by BOCES to escape their responsibilities.

Similarly, isolating special education students at BOCES will encourage more laziness among the local school districts in addressing these students' needs, and possibly may violate federal regulations which require that special education students be educated in the "least restrictive environment." Forty years ago special education was reserved for those who were truly disabled (the blind, the deaf, the crippled). There was no such thing as being "educationally disabled" or "learning disabilities" -- because they would have been seen for what they are: the products of laziness on the part of the school system. Those students used to learn in the regular classroom. It not only is wasteful to pay for more of the same, it is unfair to students who are, quite literally, being systematically deprived of an education. Few students in the special ed system ever graduate with a regular diploma. Isolating them in a BOCES "gulag" not only sweeps the problem with our local schools under the rug (out of sight -- out of mind), it is cruel and inhuman.

Students, taxpayers, and society will be harmed by this proposal.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Consolidation Not . . .

We are a bit late in commenting about the story of New Hartford and Whitestown sharing a financial officer, but New Hartford Online did a nice job of analyzing the situation.

While it's nice to see two municipalities cooperating with each other, no one should get the idea that this represents the government "consolidation" that many are seeking. No one is proposing that the two towns rid themselves of their current financial employees and replace them with this new officer -- much less than contracting with the county to perform the services. Rather, this is proposed in addition to what each town already has and, therefore, represents an expansion of local government - - while the population holds steady or declines. It's more government and more taxes being spent -- more "same old same old."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Visitors from Utica are the Toast of the Town

The arrival of four visitors from Utica has been heralded as "something of an event" in the New York City press. The four visitors are the four paintings by Thomas Cole, "The Voyage of Life," which normally reside right here at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute but are currently being displayed at the Hirschl & Adler Gallery in Manhattan. If you have not seen this series before, the Sun's article gives a good description . . . but be sure to see them in person when they return.

Sometimes we take what we have in Utica for granted. It's nice to be reminded just how lucky we are.

[P.S. Here is a link to the exhibition's website.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

BOCES Bigtime Spending (Here We Go Again) . . .

Following close on the heels of New Hartford and Utica Schools, it's now BOCES' turn to pitch for more construction spending.

BOCES Empire Building is more like it.

Chipped steps, water damage and peeling paint in the middle school gymnasium is justification for spending almost $39 million? (Some new paint, concrete and sheet rock are cheaper.) And the "growing enrollment" also cited as justification actually decreased last year in spite of BOCES' moves to expand into lower and lower grades.

Put this in perspective folks, $39 million is more than what the Millenium Project at Proctor cost -- and that was at a facility serving well over 2,000 students. $39 million is enough to construct almost a $170,000 home for each of the students they want to move out of town.

The answer to No Child Left Behind is to Send the Child Away?

That seems to be the approach the local school district and BOCES are taking. Because the local school district failed to educate these students, BOCES uses that as an excuse to spend more of your money.

Instead let's get to the root of the problem.

School staff were accommodating and understanding when students had problems, said Derfuss, 20, who now works as a cook."

By implication, staff in regular school were not accommodating and did not understand when students had problems. Maybe it's time for a little "attitude adjustment" or training for the staff in the regular school.

We've heard this song before to justify an alternative school in another school district. We found out that students had been permitted by the regular schools to fall years behind their peers -- making it unlikely that they would be getting anything out of class in the higher grades. To be years behind is clearly a system failure. What do you think it does for that student's behavior? When the students become mature enough to understand that they have been ignored for years, they become disruptive. To make matters worse, we also found out that these same students were ridiculed in the classroom by teachers and other students for their poor performance. Naturally, such students would want to get out of the regular school. But warehousing these students out of the mainstream at such a great cost does both the student and the tax payer a disservice.

There are other things wrong with this spending plan -- and better things that could be done with the money if it really needs to be spent. These will be the subjects of future blog entries.

Fix what is wrong with regular school and you eliminate the need for alternative school.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

NYRI News . . . and Lack Thereof . . .

On November 28 NYRI requested that the Administrative Law Judges of the Department of Public Service appoint a mediator to seek consensus on various issues (involving the scope and methodology that would be used to analyze visual, threatened /endangered species, routing alternatives and cumulative impacts) and that all parties submit written proposals on these issues no later than 12/20.

On December 4 the DPS Staff requested that NYRI submit its proposals first before the other parties would have to respond.

On December 6 the Department of Environmental Conservation objected to the appointment of a mediator, that "invoking the mediation process now would place an undue burden on State agencies to essentially formulate an application on NYRI's behalf."

On December 7 the City of Utica objected to the appointment of a mediator, calling mediation "most premature when the parties do not have a complete application before them and when they have not had an opportunity for discovery . . . Mediation only makes sense when there are well defined issues that are susceptible to compromise. Here we do not have any single issue that is well defined because of the paucity of information supplied so far by NYRI."

On December 13 Communities Against Regional Interconnect objected to the appointment of a mediator, noting that the topics of NYRI's mediation request overlap the deficiencies in its application and arguing that the parties do not have the legal authority to negotiate away the requirements of the Public Service Law or PSC regulations.

On December 14 NYRI responded to "clarify" its request and propose an extended timetable for response. With regard to the PSC's order that NYRI supply additional information: "Although NYRI cannot, at this time, provide a definitive timetable for providing the supplemental information, NYRI’s current estimate is that it will be able to file the supplemental information in approximately 6 months."

On December 15, the mediator announced her appointment.

This is another troubling sign that state government is abdicating its responsibility to protect the public.
(The first sign was the government's apparent lack of interest in who NYRI is). While DEC may be correct that the mediation would burden others to formulate NYRI's application, what really seems to be happening looks worse. NYRI, DPS/PSC and the Administrative Law Judges appear to be looking to mediation as the way to set the standards by which this project will be judged. This presents a big problem for the many who believe that there is nothing to mediate because the project is unacceptable under all present circumstances. These people will avoid mediation.

An example of the limitation of this approach is that the alternative routes to being considered are only those already developed by NYRI or mentioned by other parties. State Government has taken no lead. If State Government had at least required NYRI to research an alternative route that "avoids populated areas to the maximum extent practicable," perhaps the parties might have something to discuss in mediation.

DPS/PSC (and by implication, the State Legislature) have effectively relinquished their role in setting appropriate standards and state policy to private companies and monied interests. Is there any question what the outcome of such a process will be?

In the "lack of news" department, we still are awaiting the outcome of the OD's court action to compel OCIDA to disclose the NYRI-Railroad lease under the Freedon of Information Law. We had expected an answer on this long before now. FOIL is not rocket science.

= = =
12/20/06 Update: It looks like we will hear from Judge Tormey next year. (At least next year is only a few days away!) :-)

Christmas in Utica . . .

A great time to come home !
Christmas in Utica Train Station/Children's MuseumGenesee @ LafayetteBaggs SquareBank Place during Christmas

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is the Tide Turning in New Hartford?

The voters have spoken, defeating a multi-million dollar building plan in the New Hartford School District. Although only about 40 votes decided the issue, this was quite an upset considering how many residents are employed by the school district and/or would have a vested interest in the project. While media has painted the proposed purchase of land (with no definite plans for it) on Tibbits Road as the main point of controversy, this blogger thinks it is more.

The bulk of the proposal (almost $16 million) would have been for a "Community Performing Arts Center" to replace the auditorium. Why? There are already plenty of venues in the area easily accessible to New Hartfordites including brand new ones (at MVCC) and ones under construction (Players). To put this part of the proposal in perspective, it almost equals the amount being spent (via grants and private donations) on the Stanley "World Stage" Project , a facility that seats 3,000 and serves a regional population of 200,000+. To spend such a sum on a high school auditorium in a town of 20,000 seems ridiculous. One almost gets the impression that New Hartford's leaders are using the Town Residents' wallets to compete with Utica and the rest of the area instead of making the Town part of the regional "whole." (This is a recurring theme that will be discussed in future blogs).

While at first blush the Math Science and Technology Wing might seem like a worthy investment, one has to consider that it is a NEW WING -- meaning new classrooms -- meaning old classrooms will be left behind. The New Hartford School District 's enrollment has actually been declining, so there is no need for new classrooms. They will only increase maintenance costs. And the "it will serve as a community resource" argument, again, does not hold water because this area is blessed with an abundance of venues for adult education. Residents have already been burdened with supporting a Town Library on Oxford Road -- a library that is actually LESS accessible to parts of New Hartford than the Utica Public Library located only about 2 miles from NH Village. Perhaps they now see there is no need to pay for duplication.

We will not even get into the "astroturf" proposal.

If the School District wants to renovate class space and its auditorium, that's fine an dandy. Do just that. Such a proposal would probably pass in an instant. Expansion, however, would be a NO.

Perhaps the tide has turned, and the public is now starting to realize that continued expansion of facilities in a region of declining population is unsustainable.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just Give Us the Money Now and We'll Figure Out What to Do With It Later.

There were no specifics given when the Utica City School District announced this past week its $100 million capital plan. It now appears this was because THERE ARE NO SPECIFICS. "What should city schools tackle next?" the OD asks today, and from the article it appears that everyone has their own ideas on how to spend the money and the School Board has yet to decide.

UCSD's approach to spending money is like New Hartford's: "Just give us the money now and we'll figure out what to do with it later." This is a serious flaw in the characters running our school systems that ultimately will lead to higher operating costs and school taxes. Salivating contractors will dream up all kinds of things to sell to the schools, most of which will not result in any improvement in the quality of student graduates. Learning does not require fancy buildings with sophisticated gadgets. However, poorly designed or located buildings, and gadgets, can waste time and distract from learning.

As long as everyone is putting in their 2 cents on how to spend money, here is
Strikeslip's plan:

  1. Re-establish neighborhood schools, particularly at the elementary level.
  2. Re-establish on-site vocational education in high school.

In short, roll back
the decisions that destroyed the structural advantages that the Utica City School District traditionally enjoyed over its suburban rivals.

Get off the bus. While unavoidable in the suburbs, Utica is populated densely enough that most busing could be eliminated. Buses are a bane. Students waste time riding them, don't get enough exercise because of them, and are discouraged from seeking after-school help by having to stick to their schedule. Each neighborhood would again have its own school, allowing students, parents and community to know each other. Eliminating busing and re-establishing neighborhood schools will make students healthier, smarter, and better behaved.

Make vocational education part of regular education. Unlike the suburbs, Utica has enough students by itself to support voc-ed programs right in the high school rather than busing the students to BOCES in New Hartford. Immediately the students would gain at least a class period of time by eliminating the cross-town trip. Scheduling voc-ed subjects with regular academic subjects would be easier because all coursework would be on-site. The BOCES "stigma" (that it is for "dummies") will be eliminated. Easier access and elimination of the stigma will encourage more students to take voc-ed. The result will be more (and more knowledgeable) voc-ed graduates and trades people.

Hopefully UCSD will make the right choices.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One Hundred Million . . . .

Wowie ... $100 million in school construction spending is announced in Utica. Add that to another $26 million proposed in New Hartford. Add that to another $36 million proposed for BOCES. Add that to another $37 million just spent in Utica on Millenium. Add that to $50 million just spent in Rome on their high school at an airport ... Lots of new facilities . . . lots of new maintenance costs being taken on.

All this spending in a region of declining population.

No wonder about where the high taxes in the region come from. No wonder about our "well educated" children having to leave the region to find jobs.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Unmandated Funding in New Hartford . . .

Last month it was the Town Board deciding to borrow and spend money with few details given on many of the projects. Now the New Hartford School District is doing the same thing. The OD has an article this morning about it. Cathy at NH Online has gathered a lot of information and been doing some thinking. Well worth a read if you are in the NHSD and are wondering about the upcoming vote. Our only comment is that with a declining enrollment and a declining economy, why is there a need to expand facilities and purchase luxuries such as artificial turf?

BTW, if you are in the New York Mills section of New Hartford, NH Online has a special message about your upcoming Town taxrate.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Public Impacts, Private Profits, and Piloting Nuisances

What would be your reaction if someone told you that a company was going to build a facility to produce a product that you already had enough of, that the facility would be in your backyard, that the facility would forever mar your neighborhood's appearance, that it might affect your health, and that it definitely would make your property less desirable on the market and reduce its value? Chances are if you could stop it by just saying no, you would. What if the facility would produce a handful of jobs, would that change your mind? What if the facility would produce a reliable source of income for your neighbor down the road, would that change your mind? What if the facility would reduce your local property taxes by one-third, would that change your mind? What if the facility would result in a reduction of emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere, would that change your mind?

No, this isn't about NYRI (though it is related). This is about windmill farms to produce electricity, discussed yesterday in three articles in the Observer Dispatch here, here and here. The above questions are probably swirling about in the minds of Herkimer County leaders in deciding whether or not PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) agreements should be given to the companies involved.

It was the PILOT aspect that got this blogger's attention. A PILOT agreement means that these facilities would pay less to local government than they would have had they been taxed like everyone else. PILOTS are usually used to entice a facility to come to a community where they otherwise would not locate.

Does Herkimer County need to entice windmills?

Herkimer County has no shortage of electricity, and wind power is more expensive than what is currently available. So, from a power aspect, Herkimer County has no need for the windmills. The need resides elsewhere.

After a temporary jump in jobs during construction, few jobs would be created for the long term. Thus, the windmills are not needed for job creation.

Maybe it is about money. While these facilities will not be paying their full share of local taxes, they still would bring in a lot of new revenue. Certainly, local government people would like the windmills because they will make it easier to spend money without a tax increase and to even enable a tax cut. This might ensure re-election of local officials. But is this a reason to give a PILOT? Will the future live up to the promise? In this regard a windmill is similar to an animal feedlot: both are nuisances to their neighbors. While the landowners participating in the project will benefit financially, their neighbors will get an eyesore and a reduction in their property values. More importantly, development on surrounding properties will be discouraged into the future. Additionally, windmill farms create a need for more long-distance power lines (like NYRI) to deliver the product to market. That only increases the negative environmental and financial impacts and the number of people affected. Financially, the long term net result of the windmill projects is not clear .

The articles indicate that if PILOTs are not given, the projects will not be built, implying that the projects are not financially viable without local government help. If true, then what is happening is that the public in Herkimer County (with incomes far below the national average) is being asked to subsidize the projects both financially and by accepting negative impacts to their environment, in order to produce benefits for people elsewhere. But if people in the benefited regions need the power bad enough, should they not be willing to pay off all the people negatively impacted? Herkimer County's true value as a site for wind farms should become more evident as time goes on -- and that value is probably a lot more than what it is being offered now.

Viewed from that perspective, the answer to whether or not PILOTs should be given for windmills should be obvious.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

BIA Bias . . .

Over the weekend the OD had a series of articles about the Oneida Indian Nation's Land into Trust application that is now pending before the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The articles centered around the recently released Bureau of Indian Affairs' analysis and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS, written by a downstate New York-based consulting firm) of seven alternatives ranging from placing 35,000 acres into trust (i.e., the federal government would hold title to the acreage on behalf of the OIN who would exercise sovereignty over it) to placing none into trust.

The analysis' executive summary reveals that the alternatives center around three Nation-devised groupings of its currently-owned parcels: Group 1 for the Turning Stone Resort facilities, Group 2 for the Nation's governmental/cultural facilities and non-resort business enterprises, and Group 3 being agricultural or undeveloped parcels. The three groups total over 17,000 acres.

  • Alternative A places all 3 groups of currently own parcels in trust (17,000+ A).
  • Alternative B places all 3 groups of currently own parcels in trust plus an additional 17,000+ acres yet to be acquired (about 35,000 A).
  • Alternative C places only Groups 1 and 2 lands (Resort, and Governmental/cultural/business properties) in trust (almost 10,000 A).
  • Alternative D places only Group 1 (Resort) lands in trust (almost 3,500 A).
  • Alternative E places only a small part of Group 1 in trust: the Turning Stone Casino Gaming Floor Tax Lot (2 parcels - 225 acres).
  • Alternative F takes all of Group 1 and some parcels from Groups 2 and 3 to supposedly form a more compact grouping, but which essentially preserves all of OIN's businesses except for the Black Angus cattle ranch (almost 12,000 A).
  • Alternative G places no land in trust (0 A).
In discussing the environmental impacts of the alternatives the "analysis" is essentially a conclusory "no adverse impacts." NYS had previously made known its environmental concerns, but these have been given only cursory acknowledgement. New York State's concerns over not being able to adequately regulate the environment over a patchwork of interspersed Nation and non-Nation holdings are dismissed as the State's "assertions," followed up by a mention that the Nation has its own regulations. There is no assessment of whether or not the State's concerns are legitimate. This is unacceptable from a purely regulatory point of view. If the BIA were really concerned over environmental issues such as leaking storage tanks (pollution plumes know no boundaries other than geological), BIA should object to having NYS controlled lands interspersed with its own holdings under trust because OIN would be unable to enforce its rules on NYS lands. Of course, the parties tacitly recognize that NYS is really the only entity that has both regulations and an intent to enforce them. In fact, in today's online OD we find a letter from NYSDEC to BIA not only critiquing a preliminary draft of the DEIS but giving examples of how the OIN has not been a good steward of the environment. BIA apparently ignored this letter, too, since the current draft still does not address the state's concerns.

Either BIA bias, or extreme laziness on the part of its consultant, is evident.

While the grouping of OIN holdings according to OIN's perception of importance is useful to understanding OIN's position, no groupings are presented to reflect the importance to State/local government of keeping certain parcels OUT of the trust. For example, parcels in cities or villages (which were historical settlements of non-Indians that developed around some common purpose) could have been grouped to reflect their important values for non-Indians. Parcels in townships outside the cities and villages would be of lesser importance to non-Indian values, with undeveloped land being the least important. Looking at how OIN's groupings might intersect State/local-government groupings could have aided in identifying parcels over which an agreement might be possible. But this was not done.

The alternatives presented seem to have been chosen to reach an "all or nothing at all" result. Interestingly, it seems that BIA is more interested in placing ALL of OIN's business holdings in trust than it is in placing croplands, hunting grounds, and other properties important to preserving a "traditional" Oneida lifestyle in trust. It's really all about the money, isn't it?

The scattered nature of the OIN's holdings presents a challenge for both sides of the issue. There is no easy answer. We who live here recognize the good that OIN has done, and want to preserve it -- But we also want to preserve our own way of life, too. There will always be those who will never agree to anything, but there are others who want to resolve the issue for the good of everyone, but need a better analysis of the facts before they would be able to agree to anything. Lack of agreement will only land the matter back in Court. There is a pretty good indication from the Sherrill case that the Court recognizes that OIN can't turn the clock's hands back 200 years, but the Court could turn them back 40 years. That would be bad both for the OIN and for us non-Oneidas. Agreement is the only answer, and the BIA needs to show leadership in that regard.

BIA's DEIS only examines the trust issue from OIN's perspective. BIA is there to resolve conflicts, not take sides. It needs to do more.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

PSC: Disinterested or Uninterested?

Yesterday this article in the OD revealed that requests by Utica and other parties for additional information on the NYRI project had been "rebuffed for now" by the Public Service Commission.

On November 10, the PSC issued its Order. It is very lengthy and goes into excruciating mind-numbing detail.

The Commission can't see the forest for the trees.

The public is still asking, "Who is NYRI?" To its credit, the Department of Public Service Staff (i.e., the career civil servants) requested a description of the Applicant's organizational structure ". . .that clearly identifies its lines of ownership and responsibility . . ." The Staff also wants assurances that NYRI has the financial resources to start and sustain the project.

The response from the Commission, however, seems duplicitous:

"While our regulations do not specifically require the
submission of this information, we agree with Staff that the
Applicant's financial and organizational abilities are matters
that may bear directly on the interests of the public. The
information Staff identifies, however, seems preliminary and, in
our view, could benefit from some initial discovery. Should the
parties thereafter desire additional information that cannot be
obtained through discovery, a further motion to supplement the
record can be entertained." [see p 50-51 out of 53].

Basically, the Commission is telling its own Staff, the City of Utica, and the public to go pound sand . . . that IT is not interested in the information, and that if the Staff and others think the information is important, they will have to dig for it themselves. Knowing how important this information is to the public, and knowing the possibility of Federal intervention if proceedings drag on, the Commission appears to be setting the stage to create a delay it can use to wash its hands of the situation.

This is the Commission that we have come to know as not serving the Public . . . a Commission that has managed New York into having among the highest utility rates in the country in spite of its abundance of cheap hydropower . . . a Commission whose standards for determining "environmental compatibility" of a project are vague and ripe to be interpreted to the likes of insiders . . . a Commission we have come to distrust.

As we have previously explained, the public has a right to know "Who is NYRI?" The fitness of an applicant for a State license is an issue this is always on the table. The State has an obligation to protect the public from those who may be unfit to hold the license. The Department of Environmental Conservation gets this information from applicants who don't have track records. The State Liquor Authority gets this information. Even the State Racing and Wagering Board gets this information [consider the delays this region experienced in getting Vernon Downs reopened by a "fit" license holder]. But PSC doesn't get it. Apparently, PSC thinks the public needs less protection from a power line company than from the people running liquor stores or race tracks.

The Commission's behavior is baffling. It gives an appearance of serving private interests.

We hope the new administration will put consideration of the Public back into the Public Service Commission.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Little Light Reading . . .

With the post election lull, we were able to spend some time surfing the web for interesting regional reading. We came across "Medieval Madness" [pdf] by Charles Carino and Frank Giotto, a story about this area -- our story -- how we grew as a region and where we might go. While we might disagree here and there on certain points, the ultimate conclusion, consolidation of all Greater Utica municipalities, is one we see as a possible solution to many of our regional problems.

It's worth the read. It is informative, gets you thinking, and is written in a style that is entertaining. For example, on how Utica got its name:

I'm glad the tag said "Utica"
When they pulled it from the hat.
It could have said "Size Seven."
What kind of name is that?

Friday, November 10, 2006

The 24th . . .

Bob at News Copy New York lamented the Republicans' loss of the 24th Congressional District. We had a bit to say about that, and reprint it here:

The Republicans should have won this, but they lost the confidence of their rank and file -- at least this one in Oneida County.

They abandoned their base. Tax cuts were replaced with a myriad of fees and mandates to local government levels. Instead of attacking the root cause of New York's economic decline (the high cost of doing business) they threw money at particular industry clusters such as nanotech -- essentially rewarding those industries at the expense of all others -- exacerbating the burden that drives people and jobs away. The initial crop of professional grade agency appointees of the mid 90s were eventually sent packing to be replaced by know-nothing hacks who could be dictated to. Promises of state development in the Utica area (Center for Brownfields Studies, Homeland Security Center, etc.) either did not occur at all or were only hollow shells of what the public had been told. Now we have to face the prospect of a powerline running through our midst that will blot our landscape, decrease our property values, harm our health (or at least our peace of mind) and RAISE our already non-competitive electric rates which consume a greater share of our incomes than the rates of the down staters it will serve. The line is the direct result of the current administration's failure to implement an energy policy that would require (or at least encourage) generation nearest the point of consumption.

Mr. Meier and many other Republicans did not get elected or reelected because the Party became more oriented to the personal advancement of its top honchos and their buddies than the good of the People in general. Proof in point: NO succession plan by the current governor.

It's enough to make one Republican turn Democrat!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chip . . . Not So Fab?

In all the post-election euphoria (or depression as the case may be) this little story about about the Chip Fab plant that we "lost" to Saratoga County should not be overlooked. Susan Lawrence of the Hudson Mohawk Group of the Sierra Club has come out against putting the Chip Fab there.

""We just think it's an unwise use of the public's money when you have to build infrastructure and encourage sprawl," Lawrence said. . . .
"Lawrence and other activists argued upstate communities such as Utica, Marcy, Schenectady and Troy need development, and sites in those cities would have a less impact on the environment, she said."

Obviously we agree ... and we already know that the taxpayer would save $300 million in infrastructure costs by putting the Chip Fab here in Marcy.

"The company said it plans to create 1,205 jobs by 2014."

2014? Did we hear that right? 2014 is 7 years from now. Seven years is an eternity when computers are concerned. It will be anyone's guess if the plant will even be viable by then.

Some math helps put things in perspective. Divide the hoped-for jobs by 7 and it works out to adding an average of about 172 jobs per year. 172 ? We seem to lose that that number of jobs locally several times a year.

We love math. Here's the real interesting calculation: Divide the $1.2 Billion in taxpayer funded assistance by the number of jobs we will wait 7 years for and we come up with almost a Million Dollars per job. . . .again, that's Taxpayer Dollars mind you.

Yep. If our elected officials are going to throw that kind of money around, we want it thrown our way . . . and if they cared about the taxpayers, they should want it thrown our way, too, since they will get more "bang for the buck" here.

However, the whole idea of lavishing such huge sums to benefit one company is disturbing (if not illegal under Article VIII of the State Constitution -- but who's watching? Apparently not the Attorney General or the Comptroller). Wouldn't this money be better spent by leaving it in the taxpayer's pockets? Given the common knowledge that NY Taxes are what drives businesses out of state, wouldn't leaving the money with the taxpayers achieve better economic results? Why should other business segments be forced to subsidize nanotech? Like Rockefeller a generation ago, perhaps our elected leaders have an "edifice complex" and need to leave buildings behind as a sign of their achievements. Such psychotherapy is too costly.

We know that Mr. Spitzer has mentioned spending initiatives that sound similar to Mr. Pataki's, only favoring stem cell research instead of nanotech. We hope that Mr. Spitzer's administration will rethink this approach to business development.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Noise in New Hartford . . .

Congratulations to the organizers and volunteers who used their time to circulate several petitions concerning New Hartford's recent Borrowing Binge. You have forced the issues to be put up for a public vote.

This was no small feat. The Town Board's decision to borrow in eleven separate resolutions (even for things as piddling as a leaf machine) forced the organizers to circulate (and members of the public to sign) eleven separate petitions. One might infer that this was a deliberate move by the Town Supervisor and Town Board Members to discourage the public from getting involved. But New Hartfordites are no dummies ... they understood this, and it got them angry.

"Town Supervisor Earle Reed . . . said town leaders will have to work to educate residents about the borrowing plans. . . . "We've got to do more education for the taxpayers because this is needed for the town," Reed said Friday. "

That statement will certainly win points! The taxpayers need to be educated? Mr. Reed's got it backwards. It is the Town Board and Town Supervisor who need to be educated. The taxpayers see borrowing for things that normally are paid for out of current taxes and wonder why they should pay for finance charges that will not pave one pothole.

While some people confuse urban sprawl with growth,
it is starting to sink in that we are expanding infrastructure and increasing future expenses WHILE THE TOWN'S POPULATION IS DROPPING. This is not growth. It is a recipe for higher taxation in the future. While there may be some short term tax relief from the businesses moving in (though the degree is questionable because they may have been given taxbreaks), it is in exchange for the quality-of-life values for which many moved to New Hartford.

Mr. Reed and the Town Board, in their penchant for secrecy, seem to be working for the development interests rather than the population as a whole. That needs to change. The petitioners are saying:

If it doesn't. We the People will make the necessary changes ourselves.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

B.O.C.E.S. Blather

They're after our wallets again! BOCES plans $38 million expansion and renovation. The BOCES Behemoth will expand even further, moving alternative-ed programs from Utica to New Hartford along with the special-ed program. There are several problems with this.

1) The taxpayers are going to pay BOCES to do the job that they have already paid the local districts to do. Many in our local school districts are salivating at the chance of ridding themselves of their "alt-ed" and "special-ed" (a/k/a "problem") students, and BOCES is only too willing to grow itself at more taxpayer expense to meet the demand. The problem is that the demand for "alt-ed" and "special-ed" services is largely self-created. The local districts long-ago abandoned instructional methods that were proven to be effective at educating large numbers of students efficiently.

2) Students will be discouraged from pursuing vocational education because the perception that BOCES is the place for "dummies" will be strengthened. That characterization is one we heard from a student 30 years ago. It is unclear why the perception developed, but it is suspected that subtle elitism by college-educated teachers might have been involved: that students who were not "college material" (like the teacher) were mistakenly presumed to be more amenable to learning a trade. The perception is still there today. It is one that educators are well aware of and claim that they want to change. However, what they say and what they do seem to be the opposite when looking at this consolidation plan that turns BOCES into a concentration camp.

3) The plan will do little to meet the regional demand for capable tradespeople . The whole point in having a system of public education is to ensure that society is capable of maintaining itself. Skilled tradespeople are needed locally, and their earnings can be as much as their college-educated peers.
While it is hoped that the special-ed and alternative-ed students who will participate will be successful, it does not seem realistic to think that the BOCES' plan will make any material dent in satisfying the demand. Given the demand, given the earnings, and given the general paucity of other good paying jobs, it does not make sense that more students are not taking up trades -- unless they are being discouraged from doing so. We think that is what is happening.

The consolidation plan appears to be driven more by educators' and bureaucrats' interests than the students' and society's needs.

Society needs knowledgeable tradespeople. Learning a trade should not be at the expense of learning academics. Putting students on a bus and transporting them across town in the middle of the school day is time away from academics. If BOCES were focused on meeting students' and society's needs, it would be consolidating in Utica adjacent to or in Proctor High School because that is where the greatest demand for Voc-Ed services exists. Relocating to Proctor will enable more students to integrate Vocational and Academic learning without giving up one for the other.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Blogger Brigade Thins ...

It's been awhile since we've heard from Roman Hokie and Rome NY Sucks ... and Mrs. Mecomber at Mohawk Valley View has decided to take a break. That's understandable. Life happens . . . . and Blogging should take a back seat. Their blogs are still here, however, available to be read and enjoyed, each with its own unique perspective. We just hope they don't stay away too long.

But it is sad to discover that CNY Underground is no more; the blog is entirely gone. From the last few posts we learned that Biggus Dickus was 3 people and that job opportunities beckoned from out of the area. CNY Political Insider did a nice "obit" of sorts, and we reiterate Joe Politics' sentiment.

We always looked forward to Biggus Dickus' blend of humor and prose, with even a dash of science at times! One post on immigration and the silence of our local congressional candidates was particularly memorable . . . a cashed copy from Google is available (for awhile) here. Biggus Dickus, you will be missed. Good luck where ever you are.

Meanwhile, Blogger Dan Weaver at Upstream celebrates his first anniversary, keeping us informed of what's going on deep in the Mohawk Valley. Congratulations!

UPDATE 11/4: and the Blogger Brigade Grows . . . A new Utica area blog comes on the scene: "Utica, New York: From the Cheap Seats" with a twist: multimedia commentary! A big Welcome to Scott Moon.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Odd Timing by OCIDA . . .

We explained last Sunday and Tuesday why the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency is entitled to have a copy of the lease between the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway Corp. and NYRI, why the public would be entitled to see what the OCIDA has, and why the arguments offered by NYRI to keep the lease secret are lame. We also suggested "no disclosure = no tax break."

According to the "Tax break for railroad rejected" article in today's O-D, the
OCIDA rejected the tax relief deal at yesterday's meeting.

The board cited an incomplete application as the cause, but the railway is blaming the decision on controversy over a proposed power line project."

We wonder if there is another reason.

The court proceeding that NYRI brought to block OCIDA from disclosing the lease is scheduled for only a few days from now, November 1. Why did OCIDA rush to decide the application now? For the reasons previously discussed, there was a potential that on that date NYRI's request would be denied. The railroad would then have to decide if it wanted to continue its application for a tax break (and have the lease disclosed to the public) or withdraw its application and take its papers back (preventing disclosure). OCIDA seems to have relieved the Railway of this possibility by simply denying the application now before the court has an opportunity to rule. Now that it has made its decision, OCIDA has no justification to hold onto the application papers. If the lease is not properly in the possession of OCIDA, the O-D may not have a basis under FOIL to see the lease. It's possible that we may be wrong on this, not being privy to the various court papers that have been filed . . . Regardless . . .

The timing of OCIDA's action is odd.

New Hartford Nonsense 2 . . .

Earle Reed is on a spending spree in New Hartford, this time wanting to hire a comptroller at $50K per year.

"I am not a financial expert," Reed said. "I've heard a big outpouring in the community that we need this. I think a (chief financial officer) is a natural evolution for the town."

"Outpouring?" From whom? Until Mr. Reed and the Town Board decided to put the Town into debt, New Hartford 's finances were hardly on anyone's mind.

"Evolution?" From what? In spite of the urban sprawl along Commercial Drive, statistics show that the population of the Town of New Hartford is decreasing. 1990 census: 21,640; 2000 census: 21,172, a decrease of 468 or 2.2%. With fewer people to serve, government should be contracting (in the "getting smaller" sense) -- not expanding.

"I feel this position will pay for itself through investments of the town's money," Reed said. "With a $13 million-plus budget, we really need a (chief financial officer)."

"The town's money?" How about the taxpayers' money?

If the town has so much money to invest that it needs a CFO, then why all the borrowing three weeks ago? If the town has so much money to invest that it needs a CFO, then perhaps it has taken too much from the taxpayers.

It's starting to sound like all the borrowing from a few weeks ago is being used to justify the need for this position. So this issue can be resolved easily:

No borrowing = no investing = no need for a comptroller -- AND the taxpayers save $50K/year plus $2+ million in financing charges.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

NYRI Nervousness 3 ...

A couple more articles (here and here) appeared in today's OD about the NYRI-Railroad lease and NYRI's efforts to keep the details hush-hush.

"the documents contain personal information of officials that could lead to picketing and calls from the public over the controversial power-line project, said Jeremy M. Smith, an attorney with Albany-based Couch White who is representing the power company."

So What? Why should these individuals be any different from anyone else that does something controversial? It is NOT a private matter when the PUBLIC is affected.

[Judge] Tormey told the power-line company's attorney he wanted more detail on what harm it might face if the records were made public. ... "You've got to give me more meat to that," Tormey said, citing details such as where negotiations stand with other landowners and in which counties such talks might be occurring."

The only harm would be to even the playing field between affected members of the public and the big players. What could be wrong with that? Why should nearby landowners
not learn what the railroad is being paid? What is the difference between knowing that and knowing what your neighbor's house sold for down the street? Both would tell the property owner the value of his or her parcel. Disclosure of what the railroad is being paid is NECESSARY to ensure that members of the Public are not taken advantage of WHEN NYRI EXERCISES ITS PUBLIC LICENSE from either the state or federal government.

The Industrial Development Agency will not find out the value of the contract between New York Susquehanna & Western Railway Corp. and New York Regional Interconnect unless it can guarantee the information won't be made public, a power company lawyer said Monday."

Oneida County IDA needs to know the value of the lease in order to properly ascertain the value of the railroad property and the value of the tax breaks OCIDA is expected to give. If OCIDA is giving a tax break, then the public is entitled to know the value of what OCIDA is giving away.

The simple solution for everyone:


Weird Politics . . .

We previously noted some strange goings-on regarding the local State Senate race over in the Democrats' camp. Things have gotten even stranger. CNY Political Insider does a good job covering this; so rather than reinvent the wheel, we'll just refer you there.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NYRI Nervousness 2...

Another bit of information came out yesterday about NYRI's resistance to public disclosure of its lease with the railroad. Now NYRI argues that disclosure would

"constitute an invasion of privacy of power-line company officials named in the contract."

Just what kinds of private information are they afraid of disclosing? Social security numbers?
Personal bank accounts? Personal Income? Arrest records? Medical treatments? Job performance evaluations? Communicable diseases? Drug treatments? It is hard to imagine what kind of private information would be contained in a lease.

The FOIL allows agencies (but does not require agencies) to deny public access to records which

"if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal

privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine
of this article . . " (Public Officers Law §87(2)(b))."

Public Officers Law §89 provides that

"(b) An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy includes,
but shall not be limited to:
i. disclosure of employment, medical or credit histories
or personal references of applicants for employment;
ii. disclosure of items involving the medical or personal
records of a client or patient in a medical facility;
iii. sale or release of lists of names and addresses
if such lists would be used for commercial or fund-raising
iv. disclosure of information of a personal nature when
disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to
the subject party and such information is not relevant to the
work of the agency requesting or maintaining it. . ."

Again ... the public has the right to know who the NYRI players are.

Why we stay here . . .

October Walk along the Switchbacks

Valley View Autumn on the Hill Autumn Leaves

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Hartford Nonsense . . .

We could not let the day close without commenting about this latest bit of nonsense from New Hartford. Worried about some residents circulating petitions to place some of the $5 million in bonding resolutions up for a public referendum, Supervisor Reed and hiscohorts are doing damage control at the OD, offering up "specifics."

Unfortunately "specifics" are still in short supply . . . and even if specifics do get identified, the specifics did not find their way into the Board's actual resolutions. Among the resolutions are these: $150,000 for sidewalks "throughout and in and for the Town of New Hartford"; $500,000 for streets "throughout and in and for the Town of New Hartford"; $92,000 for lighting improvements "throughout and in and for the Town of New Hartford"; $2,000,000 for stormwater management improvements "in and for the Town of New Hartford"; $375,000 for a Generic Environmental Impact Statement Analysis "in and for the Town of New Hartford" with no mention of what is being analyzed. What are they trying to hide?

The lack of specifics gives one the impression that a lot of little slush funds are being created through taxpayer borrowing so the Supervisor and his friends can confer special benefits on their friends.

Lack of specifics aside, why not "pay as you go?" New Hartford is not exactly poor. After all, it has encouraged all sorts of development along Commercial Drive and elsewhere to bring in more tax dollars. All of Utica shops in New Hartford. Tons of money are being made. Why force the taxpayers to pay for financing on top of the various projects proposed? The banks do not need taxpayer support.

Lastly, Village residents have a special beef. They already pay taxes for things such as lighting and sidewalks and government buildings within their jurisdictions . . . and now a portion of their Town taxes will go toward providing these services for someone else. It's Taxation Without Representation among the projects which are located outside the Villages. Ask any New York Mills resident what they get from the Town, and they will tell you nothing, because the Village already provides ALL services. Ask a Town Councilman and basically what Villagers get is: Town Government. . . . But a Town Government that provides no services within a Village is of no benefit to the Village.

Inspite of the explosive commercial development on Commercial Drive, New Hartford's population is dwindling. Government should be contracting rather than expanding. The greater tax income from the commercial areas gives NH government the opportunity to contract gracefully. Instead, it wants to expand, benefitting the individuals involved.

The taxpayers have the unique right to decide things for themselves on a lot of these resolutions. Information has been posted on (the unofficial) Town of New Hartford Online. Download petitions, circulate petitions, sign petitions and demand referenda.

Show the Town Board who they work for!

NYRI Nervousness ...

NYRI is going to court to block the OD from obtaining a copy of its contract with the railway. They claim it would harm their competitive position. ... Huh? Competitive with whom?

Why would the railroad need information from NYRI (the release of which could cause NYRI harm) in order to simply lease space to NYRI? If the contract had to be filed with the OCIDA as part of the railway's tax abatement package, then that becomes public information.

Unless NYRI and the railroad are one and the same, NYRI cannot logically claim that the lease contains proprietary business information when that information has already been released to another party -- i.e., the railroad. And the railroad cannot claim it is proprietary when it already released it to another party, the OCIDA.

"Furthermore, releasing the contract would disclose personal contact information for some of the personnel involved in the transaction, and that information is irrelevant . . ."

Ah HA! If the contact information was so irrelevant, then why go to court? The public certainly has every right to know which individuals will be benefitted when the public gets hosed. Somebody is being protected. The question is WHO.

Go get-em OD!

Education spending...

Yesterday local educators got to hear what they wanted to hear from our politicians -- or our politicians told them what they thought they wanted to hear.

No one says that schools already have all the money they need to educate our students. No one says that maybe the problem is that the money is not being spent wisely.

With all our businesses leaving, that big-ol-pot of school money is the only game in town. People have all kinds of ideas on how to get their hands in it, creating little jobs for themselves. They do ... the curriculum/school mission gets diluted ... and the main job of educating gets lost in the shuffle.

Maybe the problem is our schools have TOO MUCH money.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

School District Shenanigans ... Westmoreland Edition

According to today's OD, the Westmoreland School District donated 50 acres to a local soccer group, the Rising Stars Soccer Club of Central New York, to build a multi-sport facility.

One teenie weenie problem with this:

NYS Constitution Article VIII (Local Finances) Section 1:

No county, city, town, village or school district shall give or loan any money or property to or in aid of any individual, or private corporation or association . . ."

Westmoreland must have forgotten to supply their Board Members with copies of "School Law" jointly put out by the NYS Bar Association and NYS School Boards Association. Attention is drawn to sections 16:10 and 19:7 (based on the 26th edition).

It's not clear that the soccer organization's maintaining a nature and fitness trail would qualify as fair consideration for the property. "Donation" however, implies that less than fair consideration was given to the school district for the property.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Causing Upstate's Demise . . .

We were perusing various blogs and came across this post from the New York Young Republican Record. It was troubling. It's title sums its content: "The problem with upstate New York is not because of who’s in office, it’s because it’s upstate New York:" The piece seems to imply that something is "wrong" with Upstate and that Upstate is somehow responsible for its own economic problems. We offer another perspective.

Perhaps the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith no longer finds opportunity Upstate because New York State policies since the mid '60s tend to reflect a Downstate perspective.

Prior to the mid-60s the State Senate was apportioned according to counties, meaning Upstate always controlled the Senate and Downstate always controlled the Assembly. The was the case regardless of which party controlled which house or the Governorship. For anything to get done, Upstate and Downstate were forced to work together, to accomodate each other, and to look out for each other's interests. They did -- and a symbiotic relationship developed that worked incredibly well for over 150 years, and turned New York State into the Empire State.

Upstate's demise can be traced to the reapportionment of the Senate to a house based on population (like the Assembly). This was caused by the NYS Court of Appeals effectively voiding provisions of the NYS Constitution to conform with a US Supreme Court ruling involving another state.

From that point on, the Upstate perspective on problem solving got lost in the shuffle. Upstate and its people are not so different from competing regions in Ohio or Wisconsin or Minnesota except for the fact that comparatively we are taxed to death, fee'd to death, regulated to death, and have much higher utility costs (inspite of the fact that we are rich in hydropower and other resources). The higher costs of doing business are a direct result of NYS Policies -- policies forged by the representatives of the Downstate population center.

NYS policies represent a trade-off of financial impacts for perceived social or environmental good from a Downstate perspective. With a business mix more like Ohio or Wisconsin than NY Metro, Upstate would not have made the same choices.

The problem with Upstate is not Upstate. The problem with Upstate is that it is part of New York State which makes policies detrimental to the Upstate way of life.

NY's Founding Fathers 200+ years ago knew what they were doing, which was not unlike what the country's Founding Fathers were doing. We need to renew an appreciation for their wisdom in designing a Senate based on geography and an Assembly based on population.

Perhaps with the "new evidence" represented by Upstate's 40 year decline following reapportionment, it may be time to revisit the Court of Appeals' and US Supreme Court's decisions.

If those decisions cannot be reversed, then perhaps we should start thinking about some sort of "Home Rule" for Upstate, if not an amicable "divorce" from the metropolitan area.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

School District Whining . . . and a Big Ditto to BD . . .

The big and not so big city school districts are having an Albany "pep-rally" of sorts to support more state-aid for city school districts, including Utica's.

A spokesman from a pressure group claimed that "Children all over the state attend underfunded schools . . . " Utica Supt. Skermont, as usual, chimes in "The formula has to change; we can't wait any longer."

What brought about the current controversy is the 2003 Court of Appeals ruling "that schoolchildren in New York City weren't being given the chance to get a "sound, basic education," as required by the state Constitution," and order that the state figure out how much that would cost. More money would have to be funneled from the State to NYC Schools. Upstate cities, seeing that the same arguments in the NYC case easily apply to them, understandably are now jumping at the chance to get on the same gravy train.

Of course, the Court of Appeals' error was to assume a fact not in evidence: that insufficient funds was the cause of children in NYC not getting a "sound, basic education." What about the possibility that
a "sound, basic education" is no longer of paramount interest to the people running our schools? Or the possibility that the people running our schools are simply incompetent?

While Ms. Skermont whines, she still allows precious student time to be wasted on such trivialities as Yoga and special assemblies with "community leaders." Down in Ilion the kids are kept busy climbing on special walls or making 1000 paper cranes (while being indoctrinated into certain forms of Politically Correct thinking). One mother (who also happens to be a special-ed teacher) who is campaigning for the extra funding was quoted as wanting more after-school programs like drama and music. Obviously, if the money is going to be used for
after-school programs, then it will not be used to improve student learning during the regular school day. The unmistakable impression is that school systems only want more money to waste because that is what they've done with what they've already received. Is the Court of Appeals in the position to supervise how the additional monies will be spent -- to ensure that they go toward a "sound, basic education?" Of course, not.

As recently reported, the connection between school spending and success is uncertain. Spending in NYC doubled over the past decade with no improvement in performance.


On another front . . .

A frustrated Ditto to the sentiments posted this evening [and since removed] on CNY Underground over the sorry state of affairs, both locally and in New York State, that drives people and jobs out of state. It's unfortunate when people have to leave the area to either better themselves or just to survive. While emotional posts don't solve problems, sometimes it is necessary for the powers-that-be to know just how strongly some feel about their actions or lack thereof. Maybe the piece can be reposted with a different choice of words -- but the depth of frustration needs to be conveyed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

This Weekend's Brilliance . . .

Autumn along the Canalway Trail

Autumn along the Canalway Trail Autumn along the Canalway Trail Autumn along the Canalway Trail
Yesterday along the Canalway Trail.

Environmental Justice ...

The O-D had an interesting editorial today about the new state law not being the end to NYRI.

"And until the state creates an effective energy plan to guide our future, we cannot be assured that other companies won't come along with proposals that are just as threatening to our communities' quality of life."


BUT ....

The editorial misses the mark when it focuses on "incentives" for locating transmission lines where they will minimize the impact on communities, and proposes that the Thruway be considered as a corridor.

The Thruway idea is a knee jerk reaction . . . It may be worse than NYRI's proposal. The Thruway cuts right through Utica near downtown and through all the Mohawk Valley villages and towns. Today is a georgeous day for a drive on the Thruway to Amsterdam. The "Noses" area near Fonda is particularly scenic. Now imagine the "Noses" with powerlines . . . NO WAY. A Thruway route would just shift negative impacts from from one group of people to another.


If there was more generation capacity Downstate, there would be no "bottleneck" requiring powerlines
Upstate. Remember, Downstate shut down the completed Shoreham Long Island nuke plant before it went on line . . . and if some Downstate legislators have their way, the Indian Point nuke plant in the Lower Hudson Valley will be shut down as well. These moves create the need for powerlines.

State policy makers made a grave error when they encouraged the break up of "vertically integrated" power companies (companies that both generate and deliver power). The idea was that the breakup would allow people to purchase their power from the generator of their choice -- and that the competition would encourage efficiency and lower electric prices. However, it not only did not produce efficiency (requiring administrative functions to be duplicated among generators and delivery companies), it made it more difficult for the state to require companies to consider generation vs transmission as alternatives when dealing with reducing environmental impacts.

"Environmental Justice" (EJ) is the issue.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." (emphasis supplied).

EJ is the issue because facilities with negative environmental impacts are being kept out of the more affluent areas that need them (i.e., Downstate) and are being placed in the relatively poorer and less politically powerful areas that don't need them (i.e., Upstate).

Upstate will become the dumping ground for all kinds of negative impacts from Downstate-needed facilities until the Legislature recognizes the EJ dimension of what is happening.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

School Board Worries . . .

The Rome School Board worries about potential traffic problems a new hotel could cause at Rome Free Academy. The Rome School Board complains about unusual tax breaks given by EDGE at Griffiss to East Coast Olive Oil.


It was love at first sight. Only a couple three years ago the Rome School Board welcomed the opportunity to construct its new $50 million (and now extremely troubled) school at the Griffiss site. Only a couple three years ago EDGE was desperate to fill vacant land and be able to claim new job creation at Griffiss. The EDGE-Rome School District match seemed to be made in heaven -- at least to the participants.

What were they thinking when they decided to plunk a High School down in the middle of an Airport Industrial Park????

The parties to this affair seem to be having problems getting along. Will counseling help?

Can complaints about jet-aircraft noise disrupting classes be far behind?

Obviously the individuals involved in making the decisions weren't thinking of the students. Were they perhaps thinking of how a quick buck could be made off of all that easy NY State School Construction Aid Money. Who knows?

Why should the Rome School District complain about a tax break being given to a company that hasn't even located there yet? It's not like they are losing revenue due to the company pulling out, which will happen in Utica, the community being left behind by ECOO. Maybe the Utica School District should have the opportunity to participate in the decisionmaking, too, because it will lose tax dollars from this deal.

We've created a cast of characters with our government set-up.

Sit back and try to enjoy the show . . . just don't think about what you paid for your ticket.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More Murky Moves in New Hartford . . .

CNY Underground beat us to the punch on this story about more mysterious moves by the New Hartford Town Board. According to the Unofficial (but Very Informative) Town of New Hartford Website, twelve resolutions were passed at this weeks Town Board meeting that will place Town Taxpayers on the hook for more than $5 million. . . . for things like sidewalks, lighting, and a generic environmental impact statement.

There is no specificity re where the sidewalks and lighting will be. Sidewalks and lighting are an accoutrement of villages and/or special districts, and Town Taxpayers that reside in villages and special districts have already paid for them in village taxes and special assessments. If there is a need for these amenities elsewhere in the Town, then let the people who will be benefitted pay for them by forming a special district. It is unfair to stick all Town residents with these costs.

The generic environmental impact statement is really interesting . . . A $375,000 Environmental Impact Statement to study WHAT???

Tabled was $155,000 for the Town to pay for a water system in the Higby road water district. Again, why should everyone have to pay to provide a system to one neighborhood. It's sounding like a gift of public money/facilities to some developer.

A lot of money is being thrown around . . . with very little information on why the spending is needed.

[Update 8:30PM: Mrs. Mecomber speaks from the heart on this. The message should be clear:
The people in charge better start listening. The "common folk" are getting awfully tired of footing the bills for the well-connected.]

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pontius Pilate . . .

No, we don't think the governor's signing the bill that would block NYRI's use of eminent domain was a political stunt, and, yes, some credit is due to our local representatives. Nevertheless, let's not get carried away. As has been the case with a number of announcements from our current administration/representatives which have been accompanied with great fanfare in the region, the rhetoric is long but the substance lacking. (Eg., the practically non-existant "Center for Brownfield Studies" announced in 2001, the "Homeland Security Training Center" announced a few months ago, and just announced, but soon-to-be quashed State Data Center.)

The bill's passage and its signing represent a fortunate (for us) confluence of both Downstate and Upstate interests. . . . A significant number of Downstaters also don't want this powerline ... And in our Post-Kelo-Decision environment, a significant number of New Yorkers don't like the use of eminent domain by private companies, either. 'Juice' by our local reps it ain't!

The governor's performance was reminiscent of Pontius Pilate washing his hands . . . The impression is that New York State has now done all that it can do to stop the powerline. Of course, this is untrue. While the governor mouths the widely held (upstate) opinion than more electrical generation facilities should be built closer to the place of electrical consumption, the fact is this has yet to be made state policy. The State has NOT done its homework, and is sorely in need of more generators Downstate ... The governor and our Albany representatives well know that the lack Downstate generation capacity will cause the FEDERAL government to ultimately make the decision ... AND give NYRI the power of eminent domain to do what it wants. But they'll say they've "done all they could do" and wash their hands . . . . and Upstate will continue to go down the drain.

[Update 9:30PM: Biggus Dickus over at CNY Underground has a perspective on this story ... and a HAIKU, too, just for you!]

Sunday, October 01, 2006

October in Utica . . .

She dressed in finery for the evening of the year . . . .

Autumn Proctor Park, Utica

. . . her memory lingers long after the ball is through . . .

Utica from R Conkling Park Switchbacks, Utica Valley View Autumn Canalway Trail near Utica Valley View 1st Snow

. . . and you long to return to her . . .