Monday, August 13, 2007

More Backroom Dealing - Homeland Insecurity

Not unexpected, today we read Homeland Security center short of its goals. Instead of 60 jobs and 600 people a week at classes, only 9 jobs have been created and class attendance has been about 600 for an entire year.

Six months ago, the lack of a lease was a concern. Now, after a year, the State and the County are still negotiating. According to Assembly Member Destito, the lack of a lease is what is holding things up.

"I think that's what's been holding back any expansion or further discussion," she said. "From the state's perspective, I don't think that they are going to make any further investment until they have a lease."

To me, it is something else. I don't think the state was ever really committed to this project. As I commented over a year ago, the financial resources set aside for this project were practically non-existent compared with other initiatives the state was making elsewhere. Additionally, there was an odor of politics and maybe even some Utica - Rome rivalry. This deal, which came out of no where, seemed (1) ready made to give incumbent candidates something to crow about and (2) calculated to ensure that the old airport could never be used for airport purposes again (and potentially compete with the new airport in Rome). The swiftness of the destruction of the interior of the terminal building, which was an uncomfortable reminder that we recently lost all scheduled passenger service (something even smaller places like Binghamton and Elmira have managed to retain) did not have to wait for a lease.

Now we read that we will not find out about the lease until after it is a done deal. While this may be permissible under the letter of the Freedom of Information Law, it violates the spirit of Open Government because BOTH SIDES ARE TAXPAYER FUNDED. We the people have every reason to expect to be apprised of every step of the negotiations because we will be paying the price for it in the end. While the state may not want to make the disclosure, there is no good reason why our county should not. There is nothing under the FOIL that requires the negotiations to be kept secret.

Oneida County should pull the plug on Homeland Security, and market the old airport to companies who are in aircraft-related businesses.

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