Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Bad Neighbor, and a Government In Default . . .

The Ross family of Yorkville is frustrated. After 25 years on their quiet suburban street, and after the neighboring Holy Trinity Cemetery expanded in 2001, their property has been periodically flooded, causing a basement wall to collapse and thousands of dollars in damages. The Rosses are not looking for money, but just want the flooding to stop. Pleas for help from local officials were rebuffed at every turn. Their experiences and continuing story have been chronicled at "The Ross Cause". . . . But it was nice to see the story finally get press in the Observer-Dispatch.

Will public attention spur those involved to "do the right thing," or don't they care?

No evidence has been offered to show that flooding was an issue before the cemetery expansion; or that weather patterns have significantly changed after 2000; or that significant changes to land use, other than the cemetery expansion, have occurred since 2000. That pretty much eliminates all explanations for the flooding other than the expansion or, perhaps, a failure of the village's storm sewer system.

The expansion project does not comply with the Village's design requirement that runoff flows not exceed .5 cubic foot per second. Although the Village says that its system can handle the greater flow, it is not enforcing its own requirement. Until the Village enforces its rule and the Cemetery complies, both the Village and the Cemetery come into the situation with unclean hands.

If water backs up into the cemetery and flows across neighboring properties to the Rosses, then the cemetery is not providing sufficient storm water retention to mitigate its impact regardless of whether or not it the Village approved its plans. A nuisance is a nuisance, and the Village has an obligation to its citizens to abate them.

Clearly the Rosses have done nothing to bring this destruction onto themselves. . . . and it is not an "act of God." . . . The situation is caused by the cemetery expansion and the village's failure to address it in a satisfactory manner.

The Diocese of Syracuse (for the Cemetery) and the Village need to fix the problem instead of shifting blame.

Friday, September 26, 2008

RGGI: An Absence of Authority

Here are the new DEC regulations that implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative:
Part 242: CO2 Budget Trading Program
Now, compare these with, eg., the long standing regulations that control Nitrous Oxide emissions:
Part 204: NOx Budget Trading Program
You don't have to read further than the headers of each section to see the difference.

The NOx regulations all have in their heading: "(Statutory authority: Environmental Conservation Law . . . ." . . .. But no such statement exists for the RGGI regulations. . . . and for good reason: The regulations were not authorized by the legislature.

Simply put, your electric bills are going to increase based on a program that the government currently has no legal authority to implement.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Not Making the Local News . . .

Not making the local news, but should be of interest, are these headlines --- and some thoughts:

Elmira-area airport lands jet service -
Elmira-Corning Regional Airport's runway was a top reason the airport beat Greater Binghamton Airport and others in the state for nonstop direct jet service to Orlando by Allegiant Air, officials said Tuesday.
And how long is our runway at Griffiss International Airport? And how many more people live in Utica-Rome than Elmira-Corning?

Region's cities striving to attract developers -
"It's a lot more fun working in the cities than the suburbs," Pfeil said. "The infrastructure is already there. It's a lot easier to get approvals and go through all the boards. Taking an existing building, you don't have to deal with the impacts like when you're filling the cornfields where you have environmental impacts."
The story out of the capital district should be read and contrasted with the approach (or lack thereof) taken locally.

Monroe, Onondaga and Erie county leaders seek state mandate reforms -
State mandates have been the biggest complaint of county leaders because in some counties more than 80 percent of their local revenue simply pays for costs passed on by the state.
Is Oneida County participating?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wrong consolidation for Whitestown . . .

The OD is pushing consolidation in Whitestown . . .
A recent study on fire service in the town of Whitestown concluded what some people had suspected all along: The town is paying too much for fire services provided by its four villages.
The OD implies that all fire and police services should be consolidated at the Town level. . . .

While consolidation among adjoining villages (or even with Utica) would make sense, consolidation with large unincorporated areas does not. That type of consolidation causes more harm than good because it costs more to provide services to people who choose to locate a distance from the population center.

Consolidation at the Town level will mean that Village residents would be subsidizing services to the outlying areas in the Town ... That would encourage more urban sprawl, and up everyone's cost in the long run.

Consolidation at the wrong level will result in less, rather than more, efficient government.

What's Missing ? . . .

Our new State Senate majority leader, Dean Skelos, had an editorial in the NY Post a couple days ago, "To rebuild NY's economy." He proposes "a new economic-development plan to make better use of the funds now dedicated to Empire Zones," which program is set to expire in 2011. He indicated a problem with the current program is that businesses outside the zones do not feel they are treated fairly. Good point. Mr. Skelos would use the funds from the Empire Zone program all over the state.

The broad-based tax reduction under this plan should boost small businesses - the engine driving New York's economy. We'd cut the corporate-franchise tax in half the first year for small businesses - and completely eliminate it for small manufacturers in the second year.. . .

The plan also provides tax incentives to manufacturers that are directly tied to the number of jobs they create and the personal income taxes that those jobs generate. . . .

On top of this, the plan includes measures to help small businesses access capital loans, to expand the underused Healthy New York program so more businesses can buy low-cost health insurance for employees, and to encourage private investment in community-revitalization projects. . . .

We'd also help students afford higher education through a low-cost student loan program and offer tax credits to offset the cost of those loans for people who stay and work in New York for 10 years after graduation.

WOW: Eliminate the corp. franchise tax, give incentives for jobs, more business loans, more student loans, more health insurance, more community revitalization . . . Mr. Skelos makes it sound like NYS will be able to do something for almost everyone by eliminating the current program.

Sorry . . . I don't buy this . . . especially without seeing the numbers.

While cutting taxes sounds good, the various "incentives" and more of this and that sounds like a lot of bureaucracy will be perpetuated to administer the new program.

If eliminating the Empire Zone program can really pay for elimination of the corporate franchise tax plus a lot of new/expanded programs, why not, instead, ditch the new/expanded programs and their administrative bureaucracy and give everyone a tax break?

Leaving money in people's pockets rather than taking and redistributing it per another state government program would be the best boost that NYS could give to its economy.

The words I would like to hear from Mr. Skelos, but do not, is that NYS will "SPEND LESS."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ridiculous RGGI

10 states take aim at global warming: "Northeastern coalition plan to auction carbon credits may be model for programs throughout the world"

This is baloney. They are already doing it in Europe . . . with ruinous results.
Check out this article from the UK's Daily Telegraph: Financial crisis: Lehman misses out on carbon credit scam
" ... in four years' time our electricity bills will jump another 25 per cent (on top of the rises likely from soaring coal and gas prices) ..."
The First U.S. greenhouse gas auction is set for Sept. 25

We are being led like lemmings into a financial abyss . . .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Supporting School Selfishness . . .

Interesting article this morning about outgoing New Hartford School Superintendent Daniel Gilligan.

If there ever was a need to fold governance of school districts into their local municipalities (like it already is in Syracuse, Buffalo and other large school districts), Mr. Gilligan's activities demonstrate it.

Mr. Gilligan only looks at things from the perspective of how much money can he get for his school district . . . while being blind to the broader ramifications of what he is promoting. Presumably the New Hartford School Board suffers from the same myopia since they seem to have bought into the rhetoric.

Expansion of the tax base to bring in more revenue is a double-edged sword: It also increases costs. Perhaps the school district will not see increased costs, but the town and region will. Mr. Gilligan promotes development on greenfields -- previously undeveloped land. Extension of water and sewer lines and roads costs money. Snowplowing and maintenance cost money. Then with the new commercial activity comes crime . . . requiring more police ... writing more tickets . . . to justify a new courthouse. More structures require more fire protection . . . etc. etc.

Of course, there is the environmental degradation that accompanies more development. People may be victimized by storm water runoff. Traffic, noise and congestion will increase. Landscapes will be destroyed.

I won't even try to discuss what all this "development" in New Hartford does to adjoining communities in our region of declining population. Let's just say that "neighborliness" -- concern for how the region is affected -- isn't even on Mr. Gilligan's radar screen -- and the deck-chairs are being rearranged on a sinking ship.

Many of the reasons why people chose to move to New Hartford are going to be destroyed . . . and the region will face higher costs and negative economic pressures . . . all so that Mr. Gilligan and his followers can have more money to play with.

Schools are only one part of the community . . . School leaders should focus on their part, the task of educating, and refrain from asking for things that affect the other parts.

If school leaders want to make decisions that have broader regional implications, then maybe the time has come for consolidation of school districts and municipal governments into one regional government . . . Then activist school superintendents like Mr. Gilligan will be unable to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Insider Trading . . . UCSD Style

It's bad enough when the tax-paying public is given no details of the proposed Utica teachers' contract before the School Board votes on it . . . it is quite another when the School Board itself has no details . . .
Utica schools Superintendent Marilyn Skermont Friday morning said she would not include a copy of the union-approved contract in her report to the board saying the item still was under negotiation. Portions of her report also are usually given to the Observer-Dispatch on Fridays.

She said there would instead be a presentation of the contract to the board Tuesday night.
Administrators can say whatever they want during a "presentation" . . . leaving out "details" that they consider "unimportant" (wink wink). The interests of the public are not always served by the administrators, and are not always served by the teachers' union. One can imagine scenarios where the union and administrators work in collusion with each other, accruing benefits unto themselves that are unacceptable to the people paying the bill.

Forcing a board to rely on administrators' interpretations of a contract (particularly those of a lame-duck superintendent) rather than allowing the board to read for itself, with time for digestion, the details of the contract is disrespectful to the Board, disrespectful to the public who elected the board, and is an attempt to turn the Board into a rubber stamp for the Teachers' Union and administration.

Approval of the proposed teachers' contract should be tabled until the next regular board meeting, so the details of the contract may be scrutinized.

This is Manipulation Technique 6: Keep the details secret. Just add it to the list of manipulation techniques I posted two years ago.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Politically Correct Pinwheel Pinhead Pacifists 2 . . .

I blogged about this a year ago ... but here we go again . . . this time the nonsense has spread to New York Mills: NYM students plant Pinwheels for Peace.

Anything but education goes on school, as long as it promotes a particular agenda . . .

Kids should be learning art in art class . . . not political correctness.

(See last year's post with comments for more discussion of this topic, including links to the project's lesson plan.)

A Fake Candidate? A Sacrificial Lamb?

Where oh where is Kevin McDonald, alleged Republican candidate for the 116th Assembly District against RoAnn Destito?

Directed by a mutual acquaintance, about six weeks ago an up-and-coming young leader in the local Republican establishment contacted me by e-mail for information . . . . .
> I am hoping that you would be willing to share some literature and
> knowledge with us, sort of a crash-course, on MVWA issues, both past and
> present, so that we can develop positions and so Kevin can speak
> articulately on this very important issue.
I was happy to spend several hours writing a response, not because I support this candidate, but because someone actually sought my opinion (!) and I would like to see more candidates discussing the issues in depth.

I sent my piece . . . but got no response. . . . I contacted the mutual acquaintance who made sure that my information was received . . . but still no "thank you," no response of any kind ever came.

What gives?

This is one puzzle piece. Another was this candidate's failure to appear on WIBX a few weeks ago when he was supposed to. Another is the total lack of any meaningful information on this candidate's website.

Is Kevin McDonald for real, or is he a "fake" candidate? Or does he think he is a candidate, but his party has made him a "sacrificial lamb?" Has a "deal" been cooked where the local Republican leadership pretends to "do their duty" by fielding a candidate, but really have no intention of supporting him?

We've seen this tactic before . . . like last fall when Mr. Longeretta was the alleged Republican DA candidate ... but you never saw his signs paired with Picente signs. The Democrats play this game too . . . like when they nominated Mr. Koziol for County Exec., and then one of their own leadership gave him a primary.

It seems that we have just one big happy party in Oneida County . . . composed of both Republican and Democrat elites who share the spoils for themselves . . . while leaving the electorate with no real choices.

Maybe that explains why this area looks more and more like the old Soviet Union . . . everything "centrally planned" . . . and deteriorating.

Pointing a Finger . . .

"Schumer to offer banks a deal"
Sen. Charles Schumer plans to offer a broad economic proposal for the government to offer a financial lifeline to those banks that are willing to renegotiate mortgages for those on the brink of losing their homes. . . .

Under Schumer's model, the government would give capital infusions or loans to banks . . .

In return, the banks would lift objections to legislation allowing loan modification for homeowners in bankruptcy . . .
Isn't this more of trying to rewrite the rules of economics to buy votes?
Schumer's plan is an alternative to another proposal in Congress to create a federal agency to buy up bank debt, shifting potential losses onto U.S. taxpayers.
Instead of shifting losses onto US taxpayers, Mr. Schumer would shift losses onto anyone owning dollars . . . by printing more money and making the dollar worthless. Of course, no one even thinks of NOT shifting losses from those banks and borrowers who caused the mess.

Debtors get rewarded . . . Savers get punished.

Isn't this more of what got us into the economic mess that we are in?

Thank you, Mr. Schumer for being so "out in the open" on this. . . Now we know who to blame when everything collapses.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wondering About Whitestown Emergency Services

It was reported yesterday that the Town of Whitestown is paying too much for emergency services.
The study found town residents who live outside the villages are paying more per capita for fire services than any village residents, but do not appear to be paying more than their share on a “per-incident” basis.
What is the problem with this? Why should town residents expect to pay the same for fire services as village residents? Doesn't that illustrate why we have "villages?" . . . People collect together in villages so they can provide services to themselves more efficiently, resulting in lower costs.

Maybe the question should be: Why aren't town residents outside villages paying MORE for services "per incident" than village residents? Aren't they farther from the fire stations than village residents? Aren't they avoiding the potential liability that village residents would have to shoulder if the village FD somehow screws up?

The study is worth reading, however. The concentration of equipment in tiny villages that are within spitting distance of each other is truly amazing when compared with distribution of equipment in cities. The ultimate conclusion:

Regardless of whether you live in or outside a village when you are in a town: You are paying too much.

Wondering About Aiding AIG

Watching Wall Street has not been pleasant for anyone the last few days ... but if you run the State of New York, you have a real case of agida. The chickens of your policies for the last 30 years have finally come home to roost: You've driven so much business off Main Street that you now depend on Wall Street to finance your operations.

A fiscal crisis comes along and what do you do? You "bend the rules." At least that's what this story sounds like. "State to aid AIG"
American International Group, the world's largest insurance group, is getting help from New York state by letting the troubled firm use $20 billion of its subsidiary assets to stay in business. . . .

Paterson stressed that the state is not bailing out AIG and "not exposing taxpayer money" for the transaction. He said the state Insurance Department is agreeing to let AIG access some of it assets so it can get a loan to keep operating.
You have to wonder, if the Insurance Department is making some kind of "exception" to help AIG, what is going to be unprotected by the rule that is being bent? You also have to wonder if "exposure of taxpayer money" can be far behind.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bossert Brownfield Bonanza . . .

Finally . . . some good news to wake up to: Former Bossert site removed from Superfund list (WKTV); Bossert site attracting developers (OD); Bossert site can now be redeveloped (News 10 Now).

Redevelopment of the Bossert brownfield site will not only be good for Utica, but good for the entire region. . . . especially when you think about what people are going through to develop a greenfield in New Hartford.

  1. The taxpayers benefit. They will not have to pay to extend services and infrastructure to support development because such are already present.
  2. The environment benefits. No destruction of animal habitat, wetlands, etc. will occur. The street grid is already present to handle traffic.
  3. The neighborhood benefits. The neighborhood originally grew up around the former tenant of the site, and, to some extent, depended upon it. After the tenant left, the neighborhood went into decline. Redevelopment of the right type could give a reason for the neighborhood to revive. . . . Meanwhile, greenfield development in a suburb will drive some people out.
  4. Businesses benefit. They will be more conveniently located, being closer to the center of the region's population.
  5. Both city and suburb benefit. Cities are intended and designed to be the centers of economic activity. Suburbs are where people go to live and get away from the commotion. Brownfield development reinforces this arrangement. Greenfield development simultaneously saps cities of their vitality while destroying the peace and quiet and the landscapes of the suburbs.
Now, city, state, county, EDGE and industrial development officials need to get their heads together to make this happen.

The city needs to develop -- with its citizens -- and with expert advice -- a vision for the area and stick to it, to enable potential investors to determine consistency with their business plans.

The state needs to ensure that redevelopment of the Arterial does not disrupt the street grid any more than it already has -- and to consider re-establishing more of the grid. Land-locking parcels or making them difficult to get to is contrary to what a city is supposed to be.

The county needs to revise its policies to encourage more development in Utica, Rome, and the villages instead of cheer-leading sprawl. Incentives should be confined to developments where infrastructure and services are already in place and are under-utilized.

EDGE and industrial development officials need to spend more time crafting 'deals' that address the practical concerns of developing on a brownfield (eg. who will be liable for cleanup if contamination is discovered) and less on 'deals' that transfer wealth from taxpayers to developers.

If the Bossert site is redeveloped, it can be a win for everyone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Utica Needs . . .

We were treated (again) yesterday to the Observer-Dispatch's preaching to Utica about what it needs. This time OD wants the mayor to waive a magic wand and create drug stores and places where people can buy "staples" such as a loaf of bread or a quart of milk.
A drugstore, for instance. While pharmacies are proliferating in the suburbs and even in other parts of the city, there’s nothing to be found downtown since Rite-Aid moved out this past January. Pity the poor traveler nursing a migraine who needs some relief. . . . .
No, pity the poor pharmacist who tries to make a living selling aspirin to travelers. Reputable hotels have some sundries for sale in-house, anyway, so the "traveler" should not suffer. Also, there is a drug store on Bleecker (Garro's -- with its multilingual sign) -- but the OD is obviously unaware of what is within walking distance of its Oriskany Plaza address. OD preaches about what it wants done, but offers no suggestion how it could be done.

Basic economics are at work here. No doubt, the removal of the Washington Courts complex and its residents took away the market for the drug store on Genesee . . . . so it closed. And until those acres are replaced with more potential customers, there probably won't be another one.
But without the basics necessary for a solid foundation, the vibrancy we all want to restore to downtown Utica will remain out of reach.
Why don't I believe the OD when it talks about "we" wanting to restore vibrancy to downtown Utica?

Maybe Today's FRONT PAGE headline says it all:
What possible relevance do 25 + year old crime stories have to today's issues? . . . Unless it is to perpetuate the stigma of the past . . . or distract from corruption in Utica's largest suburb -- corruption which never seems to get reported upon .

When the OD editors talks about Utica, there is an unmistakable tone of condescension. And they seem to take every opportunity to preach -- without in depth study that might do some good -- or dredge up old news to make Utica look bad.

Utica does not need a new drug store, it needs a new newspaper.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Did "The Hartford" Fall Thru a Crack?

It looks like some things got overlooked in the rush for so-called "economic development" (a/k/a "sprawl") in the Town of New Hartford... overlooked by the Town, the NH School District, the County, and the State.

The picture on the left comes from the November, 1999, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the New Hartford Business Park. The plan on the right was drawn last fall for "The Hartford" development.

Notice anything different between the two?

"The Hartford," the proposed hotel, and two nearby buildings appear to be located outside the "area of study" of the 1999 FEIS... located in what is identified as an "orchard." Since review of Planning Board minutes (as well as other correspondence) makes clear that the Town is relying on the 1999 FEIS to satisfy its obligations under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), it certainly appears that "The Hartford," which is virtually complete, has been constructed without the proper environmental review.

Failure to comply with SEQRA renders void any permits that may have been given. Such failures have resulted in closure orders elsewhere. (use your library card to view)

New Hartford seems to have a serious problem on its hands.

Update: The story gets even more convoluted: Hartford Insurance Job Guaranty Questionable...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pension Abuse 2

The Times Union in May published a list of top NYS Pensioners -- all being paid more than $100K/year. Perusing the list, at number 240, collecting $119,874.00/year was one from the City of Utica, James W. Roemer, Jr. ... In fact, the only one listed as collecting a $100K+ pension from the City of Utica.

Did anyone ever hear of this guy? Is he a former Chief of Police? Nope . . .Fire Chief? Nope . . . Mayor? Nope . . .

He doesn't even live in Utica!

Who is he? He's a Labor Relations Counsel out of the Albany area . . . . and believes he is entitled to his "employee" pension. (One wonders how he got around the "Live in Utica" requirement, but lots of people got around that.) It will be interesting to see what becomes of the litigation over this, since the State Comptroller and Atty. General are going after some of these so-called "employees" who are probably "independent contractors."

But just think of how many Utica pensions $119K+/year could fund.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Putting Us All On The Dole . . .

I blogged 3 weeks ago about about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and how it would undo upstate.

Well . . . here is RGGI's spawn: a proposal to take proceeds from the cap-and-trade scheme and give it to families earning up to $85,000 per year to help them pay for rising heating costs.
The $285 million program is aimed at providing relief to low- and middle-income families who will be hit hard by rising home heating costs. It would be funded by the proceeds from the carbon permits New York corporations are required to purchase under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Smith said.
Isn't this the "New York" way? A NY government program increases the costs of doing business, causing increases in costs to families, creating an excuse to create another government program to help those that the first program hurt.

Of course, what happens to all the people who lose their jobs when companies, fed up with the constant nickle and dime-ing by NYS, close their doors and move away?

Now they propose public assistance for families earning $85K -- which is pretty comfortable by Mohawk Valley standards ... Before you know it, we'll all be on the dole!

Friday, September 05, 2008

840 Intersection -- the People and the Process . . .

This story just seems to get better and better ... The Hartford (not to be confused with New Hartford) issued different statements:
First, company spokesman Tom Hambrick said the company was committed to New Hartford and had no plans to leave the town – whether it gets the intersection or not — and that the company was more interested in getting a traffic light at the intersection of Seneca Turnpike and Woods Highway.

“The only intersection that was in the discussion for us was Route 5 and Woods Highway,” he said. “That was an issue for the safety of our employees.”

Hours later, however, Hambrick called to revise the statement, saying that after discussion with other company employees who are involved with the plan, the Route 840 intersection was more important than he initially stated.
This is interesting because the Environmental Impact Statement for the New Hartford Business Park was finalized in 1999, long before Route 840 was built. On a map it only suggests a "possible interchange" with the planned new state highway that is now 840. The traffic analysis, however, focused on the Seneca Tpk - Woods Hwy intersection. This seems to confirm Mr. Hambrick's initial statement.
Adler forwarded a copy of the contract between his group and the builder, the Ryan Cos., which was acting as an agent for The Hartford. The contract stipulates the extension of Woods Highway and a light at an intersection of Woods Highway and Judd Road (Route 840).
The contents of a contract between Mr. Adler and the Ryan Cos. is irrelevant where the State and Town are concerned. Mr. Adler cannot bind the State or the Town. And Mr. Adler, Mr. Nordland, Mr. Shamma, and Mr. Reed are or should be sophisticated enough to know that mere statements from public officials are insufficient to bind the State and/or local municipalities to any particular course of action. There are processes and procedures in place that must be followed in order to take valid actions . . . not the least of which are those of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which require that the environmental impacts of a project be studied before a binding committment can be made. Any decision without compliance with SEQR is "void ab initio." So the idea that the State and Locality have somehow committed to this intersection is just nonsense.
The DOT currently is finishing design plans for the intersection – which would be built with an exit ramp to the right for cars traveling west on Route 840 as opposed to a left turning lane. The exit ramp then would lead back into the intersection and toward the Woods Highway extension.

For those plans to be completed, the town must finish a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and deliver it to the DOT.

When design plans are finished, they will be considered for final state approval later this month in Albany, Shamma said. That approval is likely.
Mr. Shamma cannot validly say that approval is likely. He is putting the cart before the horse. The EIS must come first.

DOT knows full well that SEQRA requires that alternatives be considered, and that adverse environmental impacts must be mitigated to the maximum extent practicable... DOT knows that a full interchange is practicable for this location because it has stated as such. The fact that the Town does not want to pay for such . . . or is unwilling to demand Fees In Lieu of Mitigation from the developer to pay for such is irrelevant.

And a public meeting?
Reed agreed and said there would be one such meeting, probably after the project is bonded later this month.

We live in Dogpatch County folks . . . Where process, procedure, and the people be damned. Where private deals by supposedly educated people who behave like yokels reign.

PSC: What's Wrong With This Picture? 2

The saga from Tuesday's post continues. Per the Rochester D&C, the PSC OKs the sale of RG&E's parent, Energy East, to Iberdrola.
Rochester-area business leaders, who lobbied ardently for approval, expressed relief.
Same old story: Well-connected "business leaders" use their positions to line their pockets. The lobbying Rochester-area business leaders are most likely former stockholders in RG&E (Rochester Gas & Electric) . . . stock holders who will cash in big when the NYSEG-Iberdrola deal gets finalized.

What do the citizens of New York get? While some may see "green renewable power," I see acres and acres of hillsides covered with windmills . . . and more acres consumed by power lines to get the power to market.

I also see another utility, vital for day to day life for many New Yorkers, run by decision makers in some far off foreign city. . . . unconnected to the reality of every day life in upstate New York -- except where profit is concerned. Is it any wonder why Upstate is in decline?

We stockholders are willing to throw our fellow citizens under the bus just to make a few bucks. And our state agencies are oblivious to the practical ramifications of what they are approving because the ramifications fall outside their area of purview.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dept. of Transportation - A Study in Contrasts

Representatives of the NYS Department of Transportation held a public information meeting yesterday to discuss the replacement of a culvert on Route 291 in Marcy. Per the story in last week's Sentinel:
The engineers will discuss the project objectives and provide an opportunity for residents, business owners and interested persons to voice their concerns. Input received at the meeting will be used during the design of the project to address the needs of the community.
Meanwhile today there was an "emergency meeting" at the Department of Transportation between DOT, Town of New Hartford officials, and a developer, over a new intersection -- an intersection in what was supposed to be a limited access road and a major commuter route to Syracuse -- that the DOT has already designed to accommodate a developer . . .

DOT bends over backward to bring the public into the design process for a culvert in a minor state highway . . . but designed the intersection of a major commuter route with no public input whatsoever.

DOT: Serving the people . . . or private interests?

Another 840 Intersection? 2

The insiders, self-dealers, and media-enablers are circling the wagons!
The deal that will move The Hartford insurance company to a newly built office park off Woods Highway could fall apart if an intersection near the site is not built.

That was the message Wednesday from Daniel Gilligan, the New Hartford Central School District superintendent, and Earle Reed, the town’s supervisor.
Now we citizens and taxpayers are told that the proposed 840 intersection is "key" to the plan. WE are threatened -- by a School Superintendent, no less -- that The Hartford is going to move if WE do not support a new intersection on Route 840.

I'm ready to call these officials' bluff . . . and if such, indeed, induces "The Hartford" to move elsewhere, then The Hartford would be telling us that they don't really care about the sensibilities or preferences of the residents of the Town of New Hartford or the people of the region. Frankly, I cannot imagine The Hartford feeling that way, but if they do, then, really, what is lost? Another corporate citizen that takes advantage of the taxpayer? We could do with fewer of those.

Sen. Griffo arranges an "emergency meeting" today between New Hartford and DOT officials. Why the exclusive guest list? Perhaps to enable more "horse trading"? Arm twisting? Perhaps to hide veiled threats of political or legal repercussions to the state officials who have reasons for disapproving the plan?

I'm not going to repeat what is wrong with this plan because I've already stated my piece. But today's article disgusts me and drives home all that is wrong with government in Oneida County.

It makes clear that local officials promise more than they have the authority to deliver, make deals behind closed doors, use government and the taxpayers' purse to benefit private interests, have no use for the public being part of the process, and that we have a State Senator who has no problem with this.

To her credit, Mrs. Destito is correct on this issue, particularly her view that the public has been improperly excluded.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Spend. Spend. Spend.

And this is just a short list of capital projects . . . It does not include the day to day amounts that we taxpayers pump into various government entities to maintain some of these things. . . such as the $2 million/year for losses at Griffiss.

To repeat ad nauseum: This is a region of declining population . . . These levels of spending do not represent "real" community needs. Rather, they represent the "wants" of those who are "connected" and will benefit.

For a similar "taking advantage" theme, read Gear's post about Hotel Utica.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

PSC: What's Wrong With This Picture?

What's wrong with this picture?
The fate of the potential sale of two Upstate utilities to a company that wants to invest as much as $2 billion in wind energy in New York was thrown into doubt Wednesday by the illness of one state regulator and the marriage plans of another. . .

Supporters of the deal have emphasized Iberdrola's position as one of the world's largest generators of wind energy and its plan to invest as much as $2 billion in new wind-power facilities in the state. Opponents have voiced concerns about the company having too much power to influence prices since it would own both generating and distribution facilities - something the commission generally prohibits.

  1. Why should two commissioners being out of commission hold up an important decision?
  2. Why is PSC even considering allowing Iberdrola to own both generation and transmission facilities when it has (wrongfully in my view) prohibited that opportunity to others?

The first question suggests that there is a fundamental problem with the way PSC has been organized.

The second question suggests that the legislature has ducked making fundamental policy decisions and passed on too much of its responsibility to an unelected group of political suck-ups without clear standards for decision making.

Maybe that's why New York's utility bills are so high compared to those of other states. The important decisions are not made by elected representatives, but by an elite circle of industry insiders working through political operatives.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Not Fighting NYRI On All Fronts . . .

The Public Service Commission declared the NYRI power line application complete this past week, so the battle is about to begin . . .

The Indian Point Nuke Plant is of strategic importance in this battle because it produces a huge amount of power for New York City. If it is closed, guess where NYC will look for its power?

Bowing to fears, some NY State officials have already decided that the plant should be shut down.

A month ago a faulty siren system at Indian Point was criticized. A week ago DEC decided that Indian Point "should consider" spending $1.5 BILLION on new cooling towers to prevent fish kills . . . After about 40 years of operation now this suddenly becomes an issue? What "problem" will they "discover" next?

These are not real issues . . . They are excuses to make closing the plant happen.

Where are our Albany representatives on this? Where are Mrs. Destito, Mr. Griffo, Mr. Townsend, Mr. Valesky, etc., on the Indian Point issue? Where are EDGE, our county executives and mayors? Just because it is New York City's power supply does not mean that we are unaffected. WE have an interest to see that Indian Point keeps operating -- an interest that is shared by at least some people Downstate.

Unfortunately our regional leaders (and the local media) have failed to look beyond their own backyards and involve themselves in (or report on) things like Indian Point that are going to seal the NYRI deal against us.

If NYRI is to be beaten, the battle must be fought on all fronts.

[8:30 PM update: Read Greens and Beans comment... He gives a couple more "excuses" that will create a need for NYRI. Here are his links . . .
New power plant in queens faces opposition; Entergy to honor revenue sharing pact in spin off]

Hiding the Conflicts?

Is that what went on over in Stark?
At least one Stark Town Board member and three town Zoning Board of Appeals members have signed leases with the developer behind the Jordanville Wind Project, according to Herkimer County property records.
Stark, if you remember, was the Town found to be in violation of the State's Open Meetings Law regarding this very project.

Sometimes things come out in discussions that the "powers that be" just don't want heard in public.

Wasteful Spending 2

As a followup to Friday's Wasteful Spending re the New Hartford Town Court, head over to NH Online and read "All rise ... the court is now in session" and click on the links.

Does Joe Taxpayer feel like he is being manipulated?