Friday, March 30, 2007

No Plans in New Hartford

The voters have spoken and have apparently rejected all 8 bond proposals in the Town of New Hartford. The reaction of Earle Reed:

"When I was elected, I hoped I could better the condition of the town," he said. "But voters have spoken. We have no plan B."

This sums up Town Government's problem with these issues: no plans. Few people like to vote for a "pig in a poke." They like to know what they are getting for their money. But the propositions dealing with storm water management, the proposed police building, and sidewalks all suffered from a lack of plans. One would not expect a bank to loan money without plans and specifications. Why should the town government expect its taxpayers to accept less?

Mr. Reed's implication is that in order to better the condition of the town, he has to borrow money. That's just nonsense. Maybe what is needed is smarter regulation of what goes on in the Town . . . and consolidation with neighboring communities for certain services.

For example, how many developments have been permitted without storm sewers and retention basins. The more developed acreage, the greater the runoff. It's calculable, and manageable . . . but only if you require it. Stop developers from creating problems and then expecting all town residents to pay to fix what they created.

Police services ... how about an inter-municipal agreement with Utica? It makes no sense to constantly expand Town government when the population is declining.

The Town has problems because its leaders do not think carefully about what they are doing and are unwilling to encourage a dialog with residents to determine what is best.

There is no true leadership ... just 'know-it-all' arrogance.

Post Script: What's the story with the absentee ballots? Why could they not be counted along with the rest of the votes? To have to wait until the next day to count 110 votes is simply ridiculous ... and it also raises suspicions. Where have the ballots been for the last 24 hours? (Sorry, but this town government has not earned the public's trust).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tilting at Windmills

According to today's news, Oneida County's Board of Legislators has given tax breaks to the benignly-named Citizens Airtricity Energy for the Munnsville windmill electric power project.

"Brewer said the county did not become part of the project for the money, but rather to show it would like to be involved in other energy conservation and revenue sharing projects in the future."

Thank you, very much, Legislator Brewer. You've just provided more justification for NYRI to construct its power line project.

This subject was blogged about back in December '06 when Herkimer County was considering PILOTing windmills, so I won't repeat all my points here. See Public Impacts, Private Profits, and Piloting Nuisances. Suffice it to say that ...

Our Board of Legislators cannot see the forest for the trees.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Special Districts and Sprawl

Special districts are in the news today in Utica, Rochester, Ithaca, and elsewhere. CNY Eco-Blog has a nice summary. The articles explain that special districts were created as a means to bring what are essentially city services into outlying areas. They also indicate that special districts are part of what is driving the high cost of government in New York State.

Our new governor has taken an interest in this issue and plans are being made to consolidate and eliminate special districts. However, with all the special interests that will vie for a piece of any proposed legislation, it will be necessary for the public to keep a watchful eye. Here, the special interests to watch out for are the developers, large landowners and realtors who benefit directly from urban sprawl. It is this blogger's fear that special districts will be eliminated, and that Towns will be given the powers to directly do those things that now often depend upon creation of special districts: sidewalks, stormwater drainage, streetlighting, etc.; essentially turning them into Villages and Cities without the name. Villages and Cities have the powers to deliver urban services because they have the population density to support those services efficiently. Towns, in general, do not.

Why is this bad? Take a look at New Hartford.

In response to developers, the Town has supported policies to extend urban services -- sewer and water -- to support new developments. New Hartford now supports the bulk of retail activity in the region. While this benefits developers and realtors, and has enabled a short term reduction in taxes, the costs of these developments are starting to kick in.

Although the Town's population is decreasing, police activity is up. Why? The retail activity becomes a site for criminal activity such as shop-lifting, and there is more traffic. The police force needed to expand and is now looking for new space . . . and the Town is seeking to borrow money to construct a new facility for them. This raises taxes in the long term for the Town residents. Meanwhile, Utica, which was the former site of the region's economic activity, already has the police facilities to take care of such problems -- facilities which Utica's taxpayers will still have to maintain -- and have to pay more for because of the loss of sales tax revenue. Why should the shift of retail activity 2 miles from Utica to New Hartford cause increased expenses for both? It's because of the jurisdictional line between them, preventing them from consolidating.

Hopefully, any changes in the laws to eliminate special districts will restrict rather than expand the powers of Towns, but, conversely, expand the powers of Cities and Villages to annex adjoining areas when increases in population density makes it practical to provide city/village services in those areas.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Other Peoples' Blogs

Some interesting reading is to be had in other regional blogs.

Dan at Upstream is looking at the very Profitable (for some CEOs etc) world of Non-Profits.
There is a comparison between Planned Parenthood and Crisis Pregnancy Center, as well as a listing of salaries for two down valley not-for profit public radio stations.

Justice Denied 13501 is looking at multiple source documents and coming to some interesting conclusions regarding who is pulling all the strings in the Greater Utica Puppet Show. His/Her opinion:

"There seems to be a continuum of players, all in strategic places, who hold the ability to make decisions that make possible transactions, which suffice in reaching to some degree, satisfaction in reaching their goals....gluttonous monetary gain."


New Hartford Online is going to great lengths to examine each and every Bond Proposal that will be before the New Hartford voters on Thursday (12 noon-8PM). Anything you ever wanted to know (and more) about these proposals is right there.

Citizen Journalism Lives.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Nonsense in New Hartford

More stories and opinion pieces about New Hartford's proposed bonding appeared in the local press this week -- sure to reach a crescendo in the next couple days before Thursday's vote. People rely on the press when making up their minds what to vote for. However, it becomes a real problem when the reporting is inaccurate.

In today's OD:

"Proposition No. 5 on Thursday's ballot suggests the purchase of 1 Oxford Crossing for $1 million and $500,000 to fund improvements and renovations at the new building and at the current court facility."

The problem is, Proposition No. 5 "suggests" nothing of the sort. It reads:

"Shall the bond resolution dated January 17, 2007, authorizing the issuance of $1,500,000 serial bonds to pay the cost of the acquisition of building located at 1 Oxford Crossing and renovation thereof for use as a police station and to house Codes Enforcement and Zoning, Planner - Planning Board, Assessors and Engineering and authorizing renovations thereof, including site improvement, original furnishings, equipment, machinery, apparatus, appurtenances, and other improvements and expenses incidental thereto and authorizing such specific object or purpose . . . . ."

There is nothing whatsoever about a Court, nor about renovating space at any facility other than at 1 Oxford Crossing. Bait-and-Switch???

More inaccuracy:

"With the population in New Hartford increasing over the years, the police department and court have suffered a space crunch."

The fact is, New Hartford's population has dropped. Some people, and some newspapers apparently, will say anything to get what they want.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The North-South Depressway (updated). . .

To update my post of yesterday, it is now clear that different and contradictory versions of the various "alternatives" to the N-S Arterial redesign have been presented to the public.

The Depressed Highway Alternative is shown here:
with the Arterial passing UNDER Court St.

The Multiway Boulevard Alternative is shown here:
with the Arterial intersecting Court St. AT GRADE LEVEL (a conventional intersection or roundabout).

Somehow, by the time they got to the iteration labeled "Thursday, December 7, 2006 7:00 PM," BOTH the Depressed Highway and Multiway Boulevard Alternatives have the arterial passing OVER Court Street!
(See see pages 24 and 32)

So two people could be talking about the "Depressed Highway Alternative" but mean entirely different things BECAUSE THE DEFINITIONS OF THEM HAVE CHANGED.

"Bait and Switch?" "Doublespeak" a la George Orwell's '1984?'

Maybe. . . maybe not. It might just represent evolution of the two plans due to various considerations mentioned in the power point presentation -- and a failure to label the latest iterations as "v. 2" or "revised" to alert a public that does not have time to pour through all the presentation pages that proposals have changed. One thing that is apparent -- and warrants reopening public discussion on this -- is that the changes in the plans for Court Street were NOT widely known. I for one preferred the Boulevard proposal, but felt the Depressed Highway was OK -- based on the plans as presented in September. When I heard that things were narrowed to these two, I thought "OK, no need to get involved." There was no notice that fundamental changes had been made. I was unaware of the changes until a reader called them to my attention. I usually follow the news pretty closely, and don't go to meetings unnecessarily. If I was unaware of the changes, many others also probably were.

To be Nice, Let's call what has happened an "Unintended Bait-and-Switch."

Nevertheless, the Court Street Overpass is a significant change to both the "depressed" and "boulevard" proposals, and for many might make them unacceptable. Certainly we know (from the first two versions of these alternatives) that Grade Level and Depressed Arterial crossings of Court Street are feasible and sound.

Here are pictures of Court Street taken today, and how it might look with an overpass added.

court st now court st 2012

This will, for sure, reduce the redevelopment potential of this part of West Utica, if not eliminate it altogether.

The Depressed Highway, or Multiway Boulevard proposals AS ORIGINALLY PRESENTED IN SEPTEMBER were much better with regard to Court Street.


Indoctrination . . .

Herkimer students plan to 'Change a Light, Change the World' according to today's OD. Students are joining a national movement to encourage others to switch from incandescent to 'greener' forms of lighting to prevent global warming, and will be holding "multiple fund raisers" to buy every kid in school an energy efficient light bulb.

So, how much time will be burned up with the "multiple fund raisers" and the numerous assemblies and awards-giving ceremonies that surely will follow? How much basic science could they have been taught during the time spent on this nonsense?

As part of their ecology unit, the students watched the Oscar-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth" starring former Vice President Al Gore.

Well that's another hour and a half out of class . . . Lazy teacher! But, you can be sure that "The Great Global Warming Swindle" won't see the light of day.

This isn't teaching the kids science, it's indoctrination ... and you are paying for it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Population Down ... So Things are Looking Up ...

Break out the rose-colored glasses ... An estimate by the census bureau that Oneida County lost only 15 people this past year is a reason to be optimistic ...

"I think our numbers are starting to moderate the loss of people in our community," said state Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome. "I think we're beginning to attract good jobs and people are staying in the area."

Of course, the story lacks the real explanation why Oneida County's population loss seemed to moderate last year: Sex Offenders. As of July '06, 39 sex offenders had become new residents in CNY Psych Center, with 100s more expected to come in the following months. We have no idea how many regular prisoners may have also been added to the local state prisons.

When the new sex-offender bill passes we'll probably break out the champagne and proclaim we've turned a corner!

Like the story on job growth that we blogged about 2 days ago, our elected and non-elected leaders are giving us a snow job, leaving out important details -- Like the fact that Oneida County's population has dropped 26+% since 1970 and all projections are for same to continue to 2030. Meanwhile, our public infrastructure with its associated public employees: roads, waterlines, sewer lines, schools and various other publicly-supported institutions -- continues to expand -- meaning fewer people paying increasing bills. It can't go on.

No -- We are in and for the last 30 years have been in a downward death spiral. Our quality of life will continue to decline until we elect leaders who (1) don't need the job and can't be bought off, (2) are honest, (3) have some intelligence, (4) have some humility, (5) are willing to listen, (6) can work with others, (7) place the welfare of the community above their own party and political career and (8) have the gumption to say no to special interests.

The North-South Depressway . . .

Consultants have decided that lowering the next-generation North-South Arterial to pass beneath some local streets is the best option to lessen congestion and improve safety in Utica.

A reader wrote in and called this an example of "bait-and switch" pointing out that the arterial will be elevated at Court Street (which will pass underneath much like Columbia Street already does). "Call it what it is---- an ELEVATED, WALLED, alternative." The reader also noted that the view of the Boilermaker Finish Line Arch looking down Court Street will be cut off, and fears that it would harm growth in the Varick Street area. I have to agree.

Funny, in the pretty pictures presented of what the neighborhoods might look like with the "depressed" highway option, the consultants did not publish a picture of what Court Street would look like. Maybe THAT would be too "depressing." Frankly, looking at where they want to put the bike way, I could not imagine biking along the edge of and looking down at a depressed highway to be a pleasant ride. Can't you just see all the trash and litter that will blow in there?

My reader suggests that this might be "bait-and-switch" in another sense: that the elevated highway over Court Street was always NYSDOT's plan from the very beginning (i.e., the 60s) which West Uticans thwarted, and that they will now build this portion and conveniently run out of money and never do the rest. . . . With the way government runs around here, it sure sounds plausible, doesn't it?

Another option that was considered is the multi-way boulevard which would have a traffic circle at Court Street that would break the speed of vehicles coming from the north into a stretch of grade-level crossings.

I like this option as depicted on the website with "option 2" for the Court St. intersection (though the "option 1" conventional intersection with wide park-like median is nice too). First, it gives Utica the opportunity of turning Court Street back into a first class boulevard. Second, with the landscaping proposed, it could spur the beautification and eventual restoration of West Utica -- at least this blighted part of it. Third, it would be consistent with what other cities are now doing: abandoning elevated highways in favor of boulevards. (San Francisco got rid of its Embarcadero Fwy., NYC got rid of the West Side Hwy, Washington DC abandoned plans for a thru city highway and routed I-95 around the city, Buffalo is planning on eliminating its Skyway . . . Even Syracuse is contemplating eliminating the Rt 81 wall through downtown. We don't have to be 50 years behind the times.) Fourth, it is a less costly alternative and might even be easier to maintain. And Fifth, Utica would stop being treated as a conduit to New Hartford.

If the planners want to avoid Utica traffic, let them build a beltway through the suburbs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Local Economy Growing?

Cog of Zanzibar nailed this story right. EDGE/NYS Development claim the economy is growing by comparing the number of jobs in 2006 with the number in 1990 (up by 3600) -- carefully glossing over the fact that the number of jobs dropped by 4200 since 2000. What a crock! Let's not even think of comparing the region's inflation-adjusted income over the years ... and how about the population? No mention that it has dropped 26+% since 1970 -- and still dropping. How can you have a growing economy when you have a shrinking population?

"Economic development agencies and educational institutions coordinating and supporting workforce development programs is key to changing the perception that the Mohawk Valley lacks high-quality job opportunities, DiMeo said."

Changing the perception"???? Well, we're sure that if you look hard enough you will find some "high-quality" opportunities, but they are hardly plentiful -- and what Mr. DiMeo calls "high quality" might be different from what most people consider "high quality." Maybe that is what "changing the perception" is all about ... Let's convince ourselves that slinging hash at the local greasy spoon is a "high quality" opportunity.

And let's not forget that this is the same bunch that told everyone that we had a "shovel-ready" Chip-Fab site in Marcy -- all the while knowing that it lacked an important wetlands permit. But its all a matter of perception, isn't it?

And perception can be controlled by leaving out key facts.

Designer Curricula . . .

Whitesboro schools are considering how to meet what has been called "a growing demand" for American Sign Language within the district. According to this morning's OD, a parent of two deaf children in the district has requested the offerings.

This is how it often begins - - - out-of-control school spending that is. A parent, or a child, or a teacher, has some particular need or interest, and they expect everyone else to accommodate it. When someone is in need, and that someone is a child, it is sometimes difficult to say no -- so a new course, service or way of doing things is implemented, and the taxpayer pays for it.

While this parent's request is understandable, it is also ... and I may be pilloried for saying it ... selfish. It really is little different than the parents who expected (and got) approval of a $16 million high school auditorium for the musically/dramatically inclined in New Hartford or the playing fields with astroturf for those athletically inclined. Parents want "the best" for their children, and get it most of the time.

But what about the community? When taxation is so high that it drives jobs and people away, isn't it time to say "NO?"

Assuming that this was a wealthy area and we could afford anything, is adding sign-language instruction a good thing? Take a look at what is being offered in high schools these days. The choices will throw you into a spin: criminal justice, forensic science, oceanography, cyber security, etc. etc. The prevailing attitude seems to be, the more choices the better . . . But is it?

One thing we as a society seem to have lost sight of is the role of public education in creating a society that can communicate with itself. If students are encouraged to specialize at an early age, there is no time for them to acquire a broad-based knowledge, in common with others, that will enable them to communicate higher level ideas to each other later in life. So some students may be able to talk with some deaf people, others with fellow computer geeks, but will they know enough to communicate and solve the problems that people will have in common in the future? Given our local crop of political leaders, we may have already passed this point. An unfocused curriculum is also a problem at the collegiate level as explained in J. Crew U. by Kay Hymowitz. Since educational ideas often start in colleges and work their way down into the lower grades, this article will give you a good picture of what is next for our public schools.

There is such a thing as having too much.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Utica Rising . . .

uticlok Signs of Utica Rising near Oneida Square!

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Utica was truly one of America's important cities. That era produced a lot of imposing structures: the Savings Bank (with the Gold Dome), Union Station, and Rutger Park homes to name a few.

When the weather warms up in a few days (hopefully), take a walk between Downtown and the Oneida County Historical Society on Genesee Street. You will see many examples of this great architecture -- some in good repair, some not, but now, thankfully, some being brought back to life.

In the block south of Oneida Square, there are two old sandstone buildings that show a lot of craftsmanship in the stonework. [Hopefully we'll get some pics up when the weather clears.] Always interesting to view when walking by on a sunny day, they are now being renovated for apartments by a husband and wife team, Gary and Jennifer Wereszynski, along with Jennifer’s mother, Nolita Johnson. According to their website,, one of the buildings is already fully rented, but there is still space in the second. There will be a grand opening on March 30.

The Oneida Square neighborhood has a lot of potential. (Check out the "Comstock Block" just to the west, across from Plymouth-Bethesda Church -- talk about charm -- you would think you were in England.) This new development is much better for Utica than any townhouses at Valley View discussed last week. It does not expand the city's infrastructure, nor does it destroy valuable parkland. Rather, it makes more intensive use of the infrastructure already in place.

We would like to see more of this. Rather than giveaway programs, developments like this can be nurtured by the city taking better care of and maybe upgrading its own facilities ... How about getting rid of the spaghetti around Oneida Sq. and putting the utilities underground ? .. maybe new period lighting? ... cobblestones? If the city can't afford these, how about more plantings? Just keeping things clean and neat, and well policed, can do so much.

Regardless, we applaud the vision of the Wereszynski-Johnson team, and wish them the best of luck.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The More the Merrier!

Wow, another new regional blog: "CNY Snakepit: A great, squirming mass of reptilian rage."
Yikes! Sounds scary. Definitely not for the squeamish . . . but Definitely entertaining.

Welcome to "
Cog Of Zanzibar" (how's that for a handle?) and CNY Snakepit!

Bigger Than NYRI

"Bait-and-Switch" might have come to the minds of some people when reading Friday's news that the PSC will require NYRI to analyze use of the Marcy South power line route as an alternative to its own proposed route. The thought of 14-story towers and lines passing through quiet neighborhoods and heavily populated areas in the City of Utica, Village of NY Mills, and Town of New Hartford is so repugnant to so many that a routing through Herkimer County might bring a sense of relief -- and melt some of the opposition to the project. One wonders if this was the "real" plan because NYRI in its original application offered to consider the most northern part of the Marcy South route as an alternative to going through the heavily populated areas of Oneida County.

"The Straw Man" is the proposal to run the power line down the Thruway. We're not sure exactly where this idea originated, but it was discussed by a lot of candidates during the last election both locally and at the other end of the proposed line, as well as US Sen. Schumer. (If only politicians would not shoot from the hip like this.) With so many politicians talking about a Thruway alternative, it took on the appearance of being an "acceptable" alternative. Instead of promulgating criteria (such as "avoiding populated areas to the maximum extent practicable") and having NYRI develop the alternative route to meet the criteria, PSC went with the politicians' choice of the Thruway: a "convenient" alternative that can be "studied," but which has no real chance of being selected because it would pass by and affect even more people than the proposed route. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of NYS geography (hardly taught in school anymore) knows this. Unfortunately, PSC Staff and NYRI 3/15/07 stipulated that PSC will not require study of any other alternatives except those specifically listed in their stipulation (i.e., PSC will not require NYRI to consider a route "avoiding populated areas to the maximum extent practicable"). After PSC's "Dog and Pony" show, the Thruway will be discarded because next to it, NYRI's routes will actually look "good."

Crumbling the Coalition? A lot seems to be happening that potentially could crumble the coalition against NYRI. The desire of some Herkimer County and other Upstate landowners and municipalities to develop wind power that would benefit from NYRI could eliminate opposition from that segment. Choosing the Marcy South alternative locally could blunt opposition in Oneida County. Putting the lines underground in certain locations could make other opposition go away. Studying a "Thruway" alternative could financially exhaust those remaining. If NYRI satisfies enough "special interests," then the "special interests" represented by NYRI will win the day. I'm sure that to our politicians, this would be Standard Operating Procedure. Letting special interests play off against each other until a victor emerges is the way our government operates every day. It is also lazy government and is what has turned Upstate NY into an economic wasteland. There are no leaders with foresight anymore (except, possibly, Mr. Spitzer, but it is too early to tell). Our career politicians are only interested in what will get them reelected, not the long term consequences of their actions.

Bigger than NYRI.
If the coalition against NYRI focuses on what is really at stake, it won't allow itself to be played off against each other . . . and what is at stake is much bigger than preventing a particular power line from passing through particular communities. Upstate's very survival is threatened not by NYRI, but by governments (State and National) allowing market forces to place the interests of populated geographic areas over those that are less populated. The country's Founding Fathers understood how market forces would not respect the less powerful regions, and sought to ensure that each State's perspective would have to be dealt with. They did this by giving each state the same number of Senators. We previously blogged about the root cause of Upstate's demise: reapportionment of the State Senate. The Upstate perspective was thereafter lost. Now Upstate is further threatened by a Federal Government that has forgotten that its powers are limited under the Constitution, and that its States are sovereign over their own territories. "National interests" now trump local. So while a Federal Government sees the national interest in keeping its financial capital growing with cheap electricity, it overlooks the fact that the regions expected to supply the electricity have much lower incomes and will not be able to afford the increased costs to them that will result. Westchester's mean family income is $142,233 compared to Oneida County's $59,982. Thus, it is only natural that Westchester would pay more for power -- the law of supply and demand -- too many dollars chasing too few kilowatts. When things become too expensive for Downstate, growth will stop and go elsewhere -- perhaps Upstate. What is wrong with that? The Federal government, however, wants to tinker with the natural progression, and artificially stick Upstate into the same energy market as Downstate via the power line. Given the current differences in income, Upstate will lose.

Now it is electricity. Next it will be water. Something else later.

Everyone has a right to survive. Both State and Federal governments need to ensure that their policies do not sacrifice one region for another.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A New Blogger on the Block ...

The regional conversation widened again this week with the arrival of Justice Denied 13501 on the scene. The first post was only 4 days ago but already 29 items are up and counting! (Does this guy or gal sleep?? or eat??). PLENTY of interesting/controversial reading here . . .

Anyway, a big WELCOME to Justice Denied 13501.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Views on the News . . .

Hanging Around: Looks like Oneida County is going $6.4 million in debt to construct another hangar at the new County Airport in the "hope that revenue from renting out the offices and hangar space will help pay for the new borrowing." Hope? Help? Didn't they do a market study to show it would be self-sustaining? This is just what the county needs: more debt while its population continues to dwindle ... and the hope that things turn out right. Sounds like "a dollar and a dream" doesn't it? Don't expect taxes to go down any time soon.

Herkimer County Corrections: Herkimer County will be constructing a new jail on Route 28 at a cost of $30 million and raise it's sales tax 1/4% to pay for it. This seems rather burdensome for a county that only has 64,000 people (and declining) -- almost $470 per person. Meanwhile, Oneida County has LOST considerably more than the entire population of Herkimer County (i. e., it lost 85,000 people) since 1970 (even more if you exclude the state prisoners from the population count). Why is no one talking "consolidation" here? Oneida County has a nice jail -- Why not let Herkimer County buy into it? More debt and an increased sales tax do nothing to make Herkimer County more attractive to people and jobs. And Oneida County could certainly use some help in the form of more people to share its costs.. . . . Or are county leaders on both sides insistent on "having their own?" When is the taxpayer going to be thought of? When will our leaders get serious about making this region more hospitable?

Newsless in New Hartford: Can't comment very well on the New Hartford News because the paper didn't publish anything today about the Town's "informational" and Town Board meetings last night -- which we understand were quite informative -- but not in the way that Town leaders had planned. Seems that the Town Highway Superintendent may have placed the Town in a bind by leasing certain equipment a few months back without Board approval . . . but then again, with this Town Board's penchant for making decisions in casual conversations rather than open debate at an official meeting, perhaps none was thought necessary? Anyway, New Hartford Online blog has all the details. We can only speculate why this story did not warrant coverage by the O-D, since a reporter was present.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

You Can See the Strings!

Politicians in Oneida County, particularly among the Republicans, are a bunch of puppets. We had heard that Mr. Picente would be the County Executive pick a month before prospective candidates were screened. This past week, Mello Testa, who had been quite obvious that he wanted to be Utica's next mayor, announced that he will be running for Common Council President instead -- because "his good friend Anthony Picente asked him to reconsider."

Now we have the New Hartford Republican Chairman telling a prospective councilman candidate that he could screen for the position if he wanted to, but that the candidate had already been picked. More of the same old same old -- but more blatant and out in the open than ever. Listen to the voicemail message on New Hartford Online Blog.

So far the local Democrats haven't proven to be any different, at times seemingly working hand-in-glove with the local Republicans (e.g., no one ran against Ralph Eannace for City Court Judge). Our "leaders" work for the well connected few -- and the result is that jobs and a quarter of our population have departed.

Only the voters can put an end to this nonsense. Cut the strings by saying "no" to these people at every opportunity.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle . . .Is the Consensus Crumbling?

"The Great Global Warming Swindle" is a British Channel 4 production available on Google Video. It is well worth your staring at your computer screen and listening for its full 76 minute length (broadband connection recommended). In great detail it attempts to debunk what you've been hearing in the main-stream media -- and from the UN's IPCC -- about alleged human-induced global warming. It presents some of the scientists who are listed as contributors to the IPCC's publications as now being against what the IPCC has been saying. It even has a little surprise (half way through the program) about who was one of the people who got the GW-theory ball rolling and why. Very, very interesting, its delivery via Google demonstrates the potential of the internet as an alternative to television. The Washington Times had an article about the program this past week.

It is refreshing to see that there IS ANOTHER SIDE to the debate -- rather than hear "the debate is over."

In the next few days the GW proponents will come out on the attack -- and they should if anything was misstated or misrepresented in the program. But the debate should be about facts and logic -- not about Who is doing the talking.

A Great Day for the Irish . . . and To Be in Utica . . .

2007-0310-759P2007-0310-735P 2007-0310-741-1P
The 2007 Utica St. Patrick's Day Parade!

2007-0310-762P 2007-0310-797P2007-0310-800P

Gauging Griffo

As a follow up to the "protractor" post of 3/6, we note that Sen. Griffo has flown into action. His complaint to State Education Commissioner Mills about the faulty devices garnered two stories in local media: here in the OD and here at WIBX.

According to the OD:
"Griffo asked Mills to come up with a solution to the problem, calling the distribution of faulty protractors a "needless" and "unconscionable" mistake."

The WIBX report, however, revealed Griffo's solution to the problem:
"Griffo says he would like correct protractors to be sent out in their place, and to re-imburse taxpayers the 325-thousand dollars it took to produce the defective instruments."

Hmmm . . . . I wonder where he thought the money to reimburse the taxpayers would come from?

Friday, March 09, 2007

In a Townhome Tizzy . . .

In his state of the City address Wednesday, Mayor Julian designated construction of townhouses at Valley View Golf Course as a priority.

Cheers to Mayor Julian for recognizing a need for high-end housing in Utica . . . .
Jeers to Mayor Julian for his choice of location.

Obviously, townhouses at Valley View will be snapped up quickly. Who wouldn't want to wake up to views like these everyday ? . . .

Winter Ski Trails in UticaSpring in UticaSpring on the Links in UticaValley View, UticaFirst Snow

To be sure, Julian is right to try to expand the tax base, and this will do it. But what is the long term cost? Is it really worth compromising the one thing that Utica has that is the envy of all the urban areas of this state: its park system? I think not.

Ten years ago, another mayor had another "bright idea" to bring money into city coffers: sell the water system. The Common Council went along with it. Like Tums, it provided short term relief, but solved none of the underlying problems.

Utica once housed 100,000+, but now only about 50,000 remain. It makes no sense to be developing pristine land when the developed land is so underutilized.

Lets recognize the Mayor's proposal for what it is: Urban Sprawl. Just like what is happening in New Hartford, the realtors and developers are licking their chops, ready to make a killing ... and the politicians may be able to give short term tax relief ... but the long term quality of life of the general public will suffer ... and there will be one less reason to stay here.

The mayor needs to rethink what has to be done. Parkland has value as parkland. Our neighborhoods, however, are pockmarked with rotting hulks. The mayor and the Common Council need to make it desirable for people to invest in the City again.

Clean up the streets. Fix the sidewalks. Pave the potholes. Eliminate crime. Plant flowers.

Mayor Hanna's late 90s beautification efforts were starting to attract attention. People were becoming interested in Utica again. We need to get back to that.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Bloggers on the Block

Sometimes things in CNY seem like a circus . . . and that is the premise behind Paul Ennis' CNY Circus Blog. A Big Welcome to Paul as he jumps through hoops to comment on life and trends in our region... An entertaining read that has been added to Fault Lines' Blog List., is an animal of a different sort. It's not really a blog, but a website that is still developing ... so we're not quite sure what will become of it. We'd offer a Welcome, but no one has stepped forward to take responsibility (hehehe). But what is there is a very active forum that is "no holds barred" and offers promise of fumigating all the political BS that permeates Utica. We only hope that UticaSux gets regionalized -- because there is plenty of BS in the region to go around. Anyway, a link is being added on Fault Lines' Forums List for this "must visit" site.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Coming Up Short at State Ed

It seems that the rulers on the protractors ordered for the state's standardized math tests are a little short, their first inch missing part of same. But this is no big deal, at least not to Commissioner Mills.

"I think you should look at the protractor and you would see that the issue is literally very small."

While it may be about 1/16 inch small, it's also $325,000.00 paid for defective merchandise that some teachers will rightfully refuse to use. Does Mr. Mills think this is a waste?

"No, I don't think there was money wasted," Mills said.

Spoken like a true NYS 21st Century Educator!

There is no such thing as Quality Control where education is concerned.

Never Enough . . .

The state is increasing the funding of pre-K programs according to todays O-D. But, as the headline says, "Schools want more ..."

It's always this way isn't it? There is never enough, because schools can always dream up something to do - - like making movies and dreaming of celebrity families in language class. While new technology in the classroom can be a help, it can also be a distraction. It's better to spend time learning to conjugate avoir in French than learning "Power Point" which might be obsolete in 5 years (and can be learned on one's own anyway -- presuming that one is able to read, of course).

Before extending more money, extending the school day or school year, or extending the years of schooling that we must finance, how about ensuring that we get some value for what we already pay?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Big Win for the Public! . . . but a Miss in New Hartford . .

Finally, something has gone right! Judge Tormey has ruled that the details of the lease between New York Regional Interconnect and the New York Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp. must be made public by the OCIDA. The Observer-Dispatch and its attorney Michael Grygiel should be congratulated.

The Public has the right to know Who NYRI is.

Hopefully the details of the lease will tell us.

Meanwhile in New Hartford, it was business as usual with the Town Board. What was supposed to be a meeting where the public could have its questions about the Town's proposed bonding answered turned into a lengthy "should-have-missed-it" occasion. Nothing new was learned. They could not even tell us the maturities of the bonds they want the people to approve. What was perhaps the most upsetting was to receive a handout that was virtually identical to the one from January's meeting: the one criticized back then for lacking the dollar amounts of each bond, their maturities, and anticipated overall costs including all financing charges.
These items are nothing unusual. They are the things that the average homeowner is told when taking out a loan. It's called "Truth In Lending." Apparently the Town Board is uninterested in revealing the Truth. It also is painfully clear that the Board does not listen to its citizens because the information was requested at the January meeting. Never a loss for words, Cathy at New Hartford Online has a lot to say about last night's meeting. This Town Board just doesn't "get it."