Thursday, October 29, 2009

1600% Tax Increase!

Now its a 1600% tax increase in the NH Town Tax in NY Mills! This is a perfect example of how absolutely nuts our system of local government is.

There was a movement afoot a few years ago among certain residents for NYM to secede from the Towns and form its own town. Meetings were held between the village council and officials of the towns where the towns explained what villagers got for their tax dollars. The opportunity to occasionally borrow equipment was the best they could come up with. After that the NH tax was dropped . . . and so was the movement . . .

Now the taxes are back, and NYM residents have to ask themselves what value do they get from being part of the Towns of New Hartford and Whitestown.

Like NH and Utica subsidize County 911 services elsewhere in the County, but get nothing in return because they meet their own needs, the same thing is happening between the village and the towns. VILLAGE RESIDENTS SUBSIDIZE TOWN GOVERNMENT, getting nothing of substance in return because the village provides all the services.

In theory, total taxes for local services should be LOWER in the villages than in the Towns, because villages are compact and can provides the services to themselves more efficiently. Instead, New York State turns the system inside out by allowing Towns to duplicate village services and to bill village residents for them . . . making the tax burden on village residents higher than in the towns. The natural consequence of that is population loss from villages and gain by the surrounding towns.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Picente Pushes Poison Pill to Preserve Provincial Perks !

"Is consolidating the 911 call centers the right idea? " asks the OD re New Hartford's facility.
Four years ago, a citizens committee called the continued funding and operation of the town’s 911 dispatch center “senseless and irresponsible” due to the fact that its services mirrored those provided by Oneida County.
We have far too much government around here, so I could not agree more that consolidation would be a good thing. Personally, I'm not sold that a consolidation with Oneida County 911 would be preferable to a consolidation of all Greater Utica Police, Fire and Emergency Services into one agency. . . but the public is not ready for that yet. The talk in today's column was Utica and New Hartford joining OC 911, which would raise OC911 operating costs by $1 million . . . . and here's where it got interesting . . . .
All residents in Oneida County pay a 35-cent surcharge to support the county dispatch center as part of their monthly phone bill. County officials have said that if a merger took place, they would charge a new fee to Utica and New Hartford, but not to the municipalities that already use the county center.

Charging the other municipalities wouldn’t be fair because they haven’t had to pay in the past, and Utica and New Hartford previously made decisions to keep operating separate centers, Picente said.
Whoa! "Charging the other municipalities wouldn’t be fair because they haven’t had to pay in the past" ??? What about charging Utica and New Hartford residents the last 14 years for a service that they did not receive? What about charging Utica and New Hartford residents to subsidize cheap services to Rome and the rest of the county? This is OC "fairness!"   This is the OC "Regionalization" Double Standard that Uticans have come to know and "love." It's kind of nice to see New Hartford in the same boat as Utica for a change.

Now Mr. Picente proposes a "new fee" for Utica and New Hartford that other municipalities won't have ... Doesn't that make you feel great???? Makes me feel really special.

Frankly, I do not see how the County could legally discriminate against Utica and New Hartford. But maybe raising more money for OC911 isn't the object of the "new fee." 

We all know how much the County LOVES its "economic engine" New Hartford even to the point of giving it a six-figure "gift" a few months back. . . . or is it really love for certain politically connected individuals?  Could the "poison pill" new fee be calculated to discourage consolidation to preserve patronage jobs? Or to keep the cheap Utica-NH subsidized OC911 services going for the folks in Rome.  Who knows? The good part of this story:

Hopefully the PEOPLE of New Hartford and Utica now realize that they will have no future in Oneida County unless they start sticking together.

NH Online has more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some Words From Lord Monckton . . .

"At [the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in] Copenhagen this December, weeks away, a treaty will be signed," Lord Christopher Monckton told a Minnesota Free Market Institute audience on Thursday at Bethel University in St. Paul.

"Your president will sign it. Most of the Third World countries will sign it, because they think they're going to get money out of it. Most of the left-wing regimes from the European Union will rubber stamp it. Virtually nobody won't sign it," he told the audience of some 700 attendees.

"I read that treaty and what it says is this: that a world government is going to be created. The word 'government' actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity.

"The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to Third World countries, in satisfaction of what is called, coyly, 'climate debt' – because we've been burning CO2 and they haven't. We've been screwing up the climate and they haven't. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government is enforcement." . . .

Monckton argued that President Obama will sign the Copenhagen treaty at the December meeting, without seeking a two-thirds ratification of the treaty by the Senate, or any other type of Congressional approval.

"So, thank you, America. You were the beacon of freedom to the world. It is a privilege to stand on this soil of freedom while it is still free," he continued. "But, in the next few weeks, unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy, and your humanity away forever.

"But I think it is here, here in your great nation, which I so love and I so admire – it is here that perhaps, at this eleventh hour, at the fifty-ninth minute and fifty-ninth second, you will rise up and you will stop your president from signing that dreadful treaty, that purposeless treaty. For there is no problem with the climate and, even if there were, an economic treaty does nothing to [help] it."
View the complete video along with Monckton's slide presentation which present the data that refute Mr. Gore and the UN on climate change.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Should Incompetence Be Rewarded?

OD's View: Leaders must find help to fix sewer system
. . . The total tab officials say is necessary to prevent pollution of the Mohawk River: $158 million. Government leaders searching for funding so far have come up empty, and that would mean adding an additional $600 a year to every user’s sewer tax bill.

That’s not acceptable. While taxpayers will have to shoulder some of the cost to upgrade this necessary service, leaders at the state and federal level will need to do what we elect them to do — find grants and/or other revenue sources to help.

The problem is the sewer district’s aging infrastructure. During heavy rain and snow melts, storm water floods into the sanitary system and forces raw sewage into the river. In 2007, the sewer district was slapped with a consent order by the state Department of Environmental Conservation requiring that problems along the Sauquoit Creek line be fixed by Oct. 31, 2014. . . .

This editorial is so far off the mark that it is not funny. While the area's aging infrastructure is an expensive problem that every community will eventually have to deal with, it is not 'the problem' here. 'The problem' here that will cost $158 million to fix was a VIOLATION OF LAW.

When the Federal Government set up the Clean Water Act, it recognized that older communities (such as Utica and our Villages) that had combined stormwater-sanitary sewers could never afford to retrofit their systems to the modern standard of separate lines for sanitary waste and storm water. Looking at the cost-benefit ratio, lawmakers allowed for Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) to exist that would spill very dilute waste from these older systems into the river during severe rain events as opposed to backing it up into people's homes. Over time, these older systems would gradually be brought under more stringent standards, hopefully at a pace that the communities could afford. The law made an exception to preserve the finances of older communities.

However, that exception was lost when the County allowed new separated waste lines to connect to the older systems. While these actions permitted Oneida County and certain suburban jurisdictions to greatly expand their tax bases with new 'growth' on the cheap, they also resulted in the Yorkville CSO being reclassified as an illegal Sanitary Sewer Overflow. Now because they no longer qualify for special treatment under the Clean Water Act, suburban jurisdictions must now bear the cost that the law had hoped they would avoid. The Villages, unfortunately, which saw relatively little 'growth' will now bear the brunt of these costs.

Those running our County sewer system, and suburban planners, should have seen this coming. Either they were blind to it, or they were more interested in fostering 'growth' than environmental protection. Regardless . . .

Is it appropriate to expect grants to pay for local incompetence? That is what The Observer-Dispatch seems to be asking for. . . .

And is it appropriate that we the public who will pay for this keep the same people in charge? That is something we need to decide between now and November.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Hartford Tax Hike in NYM . . .

N.Y. Mills residents in New Hartford face 700% tax hike will be the story in Tomorrow AM's OD . . .

New York Mills residents don’t pay for New Hartford police service, and for years, town savings have been used to offset other town costs that the village residents do pay for. . . .

In 2004, the New York Mills Police Department added a fourth full-time officer, and the village requested that its residents become exempt from paying for New Hartford town police, Mowat said.

That was about the same time the town began using massive infusions from its main rainy day fund to balance its budget.

But the main general fund couldn’t be used to pay for the town’s $2.5 million police budget, because not all town residents used the service.

It could, however, be used for services such as clerk’s office activities, town legal fees and parks. That’s also the portion New York Mills residents’ taxes went toward.

Year after year, the majority of the portion of the budget that New York Mills residents contributed to was paid for out of town savings.

Now that the town has burned through almost all its savings, New York Mills residents are no longer shielded from the costs.

New York Mills Mayor Robert Maciol called the increase “very unfortunate.”

The OD makes it sound like the Town is carrying what should be the Village's burden. That is simply not true. In fact, with the addition of the 4th police officer in NYM, it was no longer legal for NH to continue to bill NYM residents for the Town's high-flying police department. [See Town Law §150]. The fourth officer was a good move on the part of the Village.

In so far as the impression is given that NYM residents have gotten away with something the last few years, it really is the other way around. Why should NYM residents, e.g., be paying for storm water management in the Woodberry Road area of NH? But they do.

What services do NYM residents in NH get from New Hartford that they do not already get from the Mills? Nada, niente, nicht, rien -- no matter how you say it: NOTHING. Anything available from NH is a duplication. All NYM residents get from NH is another governmental mouth to feed.

A few years ago some concerned residents wanted the Village to explore secession from both Towns and to form its own Town (if only to get away from paying for duplicate services). After a couple meetings with Town officials where about all the Towns could offer as justification for their taxes was to let the Village borrow pieces of equipment on occasion, the idea went away . . . perhaps after the Town's in-Village tax rate dropped.

Now that the Town plans to sock it to NYM, it may be the time to resurrect the idea of NYM becoming its own Town . . . Why should NYM pay NH for services NYM already provides to itself?

Monday, October 12, 2009

As Clear As Mud . . .

That is the feeling one gets from reading the public-relations-firm concocted press release of Oneida County's "citizen-based" steering committee's recommendations on how the county should pay for the projected $158 million sewer project needed to comply with the DEC Consent Order.
"According to Steve Devan, Oneida County Commissioner of Water Quality and Water Pollution Control, the recommendations include additions to the 2010 Sewer District budget, as follows:

1. The addition of $630,000 in the operating budget to fund district-wide project costs.

2. A consumption-based fee assessed on sewer district users residing in the nine communities tributary to the Sauquoit Creek Pump Station. The fee is expected to raise $1.2 million to fund a capital project debt service account to begin repairs mandated by the Consent Order.

The Committee has recommended that the $1.2 million amount be raised from a consumption-based charge of $1.05 per thousand gallons of water used, per account. This component affects the Villages of: Clayville, New Hartford, New York Mills, Oriskany, Whitesboro, Yorkville; and the Towns of New Hartford, Paris, and Whitestown. The repairs for those nine communities are expected to total approximately $79.2 million, the preliminary engineering data shows.

A second phase of the project, if needed to further reduce the overflows that go into the Mohawk River from the sewer system, would invest approximately $79 million more in district-wide repairs and improvements to the system. The additional amount would be required if the initial work at the community-specific repairs does not yield enough improvement to fully satisfy the Consent Order’s requirements for overflow reduction. Preliminary engineering estimates have placed the total costs of needed system repairs at $158 million at today’s costs."
This professionally produced press piece tells the truth (presumably) ... but not the whole truth.

It distracts us by first recommending that $630,000 (about 0.4% of the $158M total price tag) be added to the operating budget without telling us who will pay for it or identifying what "district-wide" project costs there will be.

It distracts us again by recommending that $1.2 million (about 0.8% of the $158M total price tag) be raised from a suburban sewer user fee without disclosing How was this figure arrived at or what portion of the debt service it will pay for.

After you've gotten through the above trivialities, it then tells us that $79.2 million (about 50% of the $158M total price tag) will be needed for "community-specific" repairs -- Without telling us who will pay for it. Will this come out of Town taxes and Village taxes, or some other mechanism to be determined by whom? Will Village residents be forced to pick up Both a Town share and a Village share? Who will determine that?

Lastly, it tells us that $79 million (50% of the $158M total price tag) will go for "district-wide" work "if needed" without identifying who would pay for it, what "district-wide" work would be appropriate to remedy a violation that occurred only on the Sauquoit line/overflow, or how likely this work would NOT be needed; or recommending a funding mechanism for it.

Here we have a very artfully done press release that does a great job of hiding the facts.

"District-Wide" is a synonym for "Utica pays." Utica residents, again, will wind up paying for a huge chunk of this suburb-county law violation -- carrying the water (literally!) for the suburbs. When will elected Utica representatives wake up and start looking out for the best interests of their constituents?

And in this case, representatives of the Villages better look out for their residents, too.
The Yorkville Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) was allowed to exist for many years under an exception to the Clean Water Act that recognized it would be financially impossible for older municipalities (here, our Villages) to retrofit their old systems to bring them up to current day standards. That CSO now has to be shut down becaue of County and primarily Town of New Hartford law breaking. The County and Town of NH increased their tax bases by allowing improper sewer connections-- causing the Villages to now have to spend $millions because they lost their right to use a CSO.

The recommendations of the sewer committee are merely a whitewash and continuation of the current administration's favoritism for suburban Towns at the expense of Utica and the Villages.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pity the Village Residents . . . and Maybe Utica, Too.

Residents of the Oneida County Sewer District woke up this morning to Sticker Shock on the cost of compliance with the DEC Consent Order.

While the Observer-Dispatch notes that the Town of New Hartford tops the list in terms of absolute costs, less obvious is the potentially ruinous impact to the residents of Villages when their smaller populations are taken into consideration. This becomes apparent when per capita costs are calculated. The Village-Town split is quite striking, even in the New Hartfords where the per capita cost in the Town is less than one-half of the cost in the Village.

The per capita calculations for Village Residents, however, could turn out to be conservative when you consider that Village Residents are also Town Residents and could be made to pick up the per capita costs of their Towns as well -- like they already do for things like highway maintenance and storm water management. Conceivably, the per capita cost in the Village of New Hartford could wind up being $4255 (the sum of the per capita Village and Town costs)!

Let's add insult to injury by considering how these costs were incurred: the violations of the law which led to a Consent Order. The law was violated when separated sanitary waste lines -- PRIMARILY IN THE TOWNS -- were connected to a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) which made the CSO illegal. The CSO was previously permitted to exist to accomodate the Villages' combined sewer systems. Now that it is illegal, it is the Villages who are forced to pay. But who benefitted from the illegal sewer connections? Mainly the Towns which greatly expanded their tax bases.

The OC Sewer District Advisory Committee will be making recommendations in a few days on how to pay for this mess, so it will be interesting to see how much cost shifting there will be from the "guilty" to "innocent" parties. If the past is any indication, Uticans could get stuck with paying for some of this.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Knowledge Is (Still) Power. . .

The lack of “basic skills” is a recurring topic of conversation among employers and the general public. Almost daily we encounter people who cannot make change, follow a recipe, fill out forms, or write in an understandable way – even among some college graduates! Eighth grade graduates used to have the knowledge and skills to cope with everyday life: balance a checkbook, use measurements in household projects, fill out a tax return or employment questionnaire, read the newspaper, write letters, know how our government works, and vote in an informed manner. High school graduates used to be prepared to enter the workforce, or to continue with specialized studies in college. Two generations ago, graduation from 8th grade or a high school diploma could be depended upon to guarantee these levels of competency -- but no more. Today classes are smaller, use of technology is greater, teachers are better paid (the equivalent of engineers and lawyers in government service), and a greater percentage of local tax dollars go to education. It is counter intuitive that, with all of today's advantages, we often find graduates lacking 8th grade competencies. How did we get to this point? What are the implications for the future?

Although parents bear the primary responsibility for their own children's education, as a society we have entrusted education of the next generation to a “system” composed of teachers, administrators, and bureaucrats at the local, state, and national levels, and academics in the teacher colleges and universities. They determine what is taught, when it is taught, how it is taught, and the environment in which it is taught. We assume that the knowledge goals of 40 years ago are at least the minimum of what is still expected today, but the assumption would be wrong. I submit that changes to the education system over a period of decades have caused the results that we now find so unsatisfactory.

How the “system” has changed was brought into focus for me by an incident several years ago while serving as a school board member. Parents asked me why their seventh graders had spent four weeks in science class studying the soles of sneakers. Being a former science teacher, their question made me curious, too. I suspected the project somehow tied into the syllabus and requested a copy of the lesson plan, expecting a listing of the specific concepts the students would learn. What I received, however, contained no such list. Essentially, the plan said that the students would learn to design sneakers for fashion, form, fit, and function. The students' work looked like it came from a class in advertising and marketing rather than 7th grade science. Not sure where this fit into 7th grade science and thinking about the many concepts which could have been taught in those 4 weeks using traditional methods, I questioned the value of the project at a board meeting. The Director of Instruction informed me that this was an "award winning" (Science Teachers Assn. of NYS) project, and produced a checklist to show that the project met the state's new "higher" standards because the students were (paraphrasing from one of the standards) "using science to solve real-world problems.” This led to my discovery that the state no longer promulgated formal syllabi, which were very detailed descriptions, similar to a textbook, of exactly what concepts should be taught. Instead, the state encouraged teachers to use its new standards as guides in lesson preparation.

Review of the new standards made clear that they were performance standards rather than knowledge standards. Students would be assessed on their ability to do things in a certain way rather than on what they knew. “Knowledge” had been devalued in favor of “performance.”

The devaluation of knowledge and emphasis on performance can be traced to the wide-spread acceptance of the educational philosophies of psychologists John Dewey and Jean Piaget. These emphasize “learning by doing” and “child-centered” approaches (essentially, children pursuing their own interests) rather than the traditional approach of instructors directly delivering the knowledge that society expects the next generation to have. While the works of Dewey and Piaget provided important information on how the human mind acquires knowledge and develops intelligence, the practices that followed failed to address the function of the education system to transmit core knowledge within society. Over time, acceptance of these philosophies resulted in rejection of the authority of the teacher as the source of knowledge, rejection of rote learning, and rejection of standardized curricula. In their place, the system has substituted group activities, projects, students teaching each other, and community work, which reduce the teacher's role to a mere facilitator. It also introduced a plethora of specialized studies at increasingly earlier ages.

While “learning by doing” has its place, it is an inefficient method for transferring knowledge. Should an entire class period be devoted to experimentation with the hope that the students will re-invent the wheel, understand why it works, and avoid erroneous conclusions along the way, or should the correct concepts be presented and reinforced directly? Are the lessons "child-centered," or are they focused on those things society expects them to know? Which approaches are more likely to result in the greatest number of students learning what is intended or necessary? The constantly evolving and experimental teaching approaches are labor intensive and expensive, necessitating small classes and teacher assistants or aides to ensure that students stay on task and behave. With several thousand years of civilization behind us, if society has to depend on the next generation constructing for itself necessary knowledge through projects, group activities, and pursuing their own interests, the job simply will not get done.

Many students have difficulty attending to learning through activities. As each grade passes, the gap between the best and worst students widens, making a class increasingly difficult to teach. Some of these students get placed into Special Education, labeled as "disabled." Worse, they may be put on drugs such as Ritalin to make them attend. Others wind up in an “Alternative School,” labeled as “troublemakers” because they have become disruptive. Alternative school students are often three or four years behind their peers academically by the time they reach middle school. How could they be expected to attend to lessons that, to them, are being taught in a language that has become foreign? Two generations ago, Special Education was reserved for the truly handicapped: those who were hearing or visually impaired, or who had missing limbs. Structured and direct teaching prevented attention deficit disorder from becoming an issue. Alternative schools were unheard of. There was certainly no need to isolate such students and banish them to the BOCES “gulag” on Middle Settlement Road and have taxpayers pay through the nose to do it. Today the Special Ed population has virtually exploded and alternative education is commonplace.

Performance is often a function of maturity, natural ability, and cultural upbringing. Standards based on performance are somewhat subjective. When the grades are handed out, are the students being rated on what they have learned -- or sorted by who they are? How much heartache, frustration, life-impacting labels, and spending could be avoided by school systems taking the more traditional approach of direct instruction and assessment of knowledge?

Since internalizing core knowledge has been devalued, students have been trained to depend on others, on "experts," on the Internet, etc. for the knowledge that they may need. It has been many years since children from third grade up have been given calculators to do math, and now the Board of Regents wants to introduce them to kindergartners. Since math skills require years of practice to become second nature, is it any wonder why students have lost their abilities? Students who take the earth science Regents now are given an 8-page set of "standard reference tables" -- much of which used to be memorized by students 40 years ago. Since students cannot "look up" an unfamiliar word or concept in the middle of a lecture or conversation, they will miss the point of the discussion. While students may now be practiced in working together in groups, what can they contribute if they bring no knowledge to the table? While the Internet and "experts" can be helpful, how can one be sure if the information is "good" or applicable unless one has an adequate store of background knowledge to weigh the new information against? One cannot have “critical thinking” without core knowledge. By depriving students of core knowledge and fostering dependency on "things" that can be changed as easily as "find-and-replace" in Microsoft Word, we are setting them up to be manipulated by whomever is in charge of and controls the information flow. This threatens our way of life.

Children's education has become burdened with specialized (if not irrelevant) material at earlier and earlier ages that distracts and takes time away from the traditional material they are expected to know. It makes sense for students to take specialized courses in college and graduate school (because they are assumed to already have a solid foundation), and a handful of electives in high school (because they are assumed to have mastered the basics). However, having "magnet" schools at the elementary level or requiring high school students to pick the equivalent of a major on entering 9th grade (as in Utica's Millennium Project), dilutes the curriculum. When students at the "multicultural" magnet school study each other's customs, it is time away from drilling times tables, phonics, or spelling. People are well intentioned when they advocate providing students with laptops, robotics study, or requiring students to participate in community service or "school to work" programs, but what will be sacrificed for these specialized experiences? Is learning Microsoft Word more important than mastering the rules of grammar? Does it make sense to require students to learn the intricacies of a computer that will be obsolete in ten years?

Specialized studies at too early an age threaten creation of a modern Babel. Society's loss of a body of knowledge held in common is our loss of the lingua franca needed to communicate higher level ideas between generations, professions, and disciplines. What kind of future can we expect when our society has lost the ability to communicate with itself?

Students were once told that “Knowledge is Power” to encourage them to stay in school. Now we need to tell our educators to put knowledge back into schools, to make it worthwhile for students to stay there.

[This article was originally published in the September, 2009 "Utica Phoenix." Be sure to pick up the October Phoenix to read "The Ominous 4th Branch of Government," now available.]

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Global Warming: The Truth Will Set You Free . . .

We have been asked to accept higher electricity prices (and will probably have to take more powerlines) in Upstate NY from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, supposedly to combat Global Warming. Now we will have to accept more economic impacts on a national level from "Cap-and-Trade" (though they are changing the name of this scheme to be distracting) again to combat Global Warming.

Every time you turn on the TV it seems, another "sign" is presented that Global Warming is upon us.  

But what you don't hear are stories like this one from World Climate Report:  Antarctic Ice Melt at Lowest Levels in Satellite Era.

It apparently is "too inconvenient" for the media to report that Antarctic Ice is melting (during the southern summer) at its lowest rate in almost 30 years.  If you mentally draw a line on the chart, you can see a downward trend over the time period.

Folks, you will find more skeptics among geologists because they have studied the "rock record" that spans eons of time. When present day data is placed in context, climate permutations seen over the last century are not that alarming.  

But the public has been alarmed . . . because the public has been given only the information that favors the POLITICAL views of those who would control the world's economy for their own self interest.    

The Truth will Set You Free.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

This Region Is Done For . . .

New Hartford officials can't (or won't) figure out how to cut their budget without cutting services.

We've heard this same old song over and over again. Meanwhile, we can find money to keep a superfluous call center going, find money to extend water and sewer lines for particular developers, move to a bigger (but not better) airport that has no scheduled passenger service, pay millions for "job creation" while the total number of jobs dwindle. . . . . On and on and on . . .
The taxpayers get hit up for more . . . but have less to show for it.

This region is done for unless Drastic changes are made in the way we govern ourselves. NH is run only for the benefit of Developers and other "takers." Utica, meanwhile, has turned into a freak show. And the same stories are repeated multiple times with varying degrees of incompetence in all the other area towns and villages and at the county level.

We have far to much government -- far too many people sucking off the public teat -- and far too may people to have to keep an eye on. There needs to be (1) massive reorganization with consolidation and (2) removal of all financial incentives to those making the rules (ie all legislators, town, village and city councilmen etc).

If there were no pay and benefits for legislative types, many of the scum we have occupying office won't bother to run. Most of those left would be volunteering their time in the interest of their communities -- and will not likely be controlled by the "powers that be" because there will be no loss of pay/benefits to be threatened with.

Consolidation would reduce the number of slots that we would have to find volunteers to occupy, and reduce the number of legislative bodies for us (and the media) to watch. Consolidation should be aligned with our population centers -- Greater Utica, Greater Rome, and, perhaps Boonville. These centers would provide all the typically municipal services that are centered on those communities -- including water and sewer -- which require a dense population to maintain. County involvement in any of those services would devolve back to the enlarged municipalities. Towns would be eliminated and the county would take over with bare bones government to ensure public order.

Elected officials won't do this because their existence will be threatened. This has to be something that the people have to start talking about and demanding.

Without massive reductions in governmental costs, this region has not a prayer of "enticing" jobs to come in --- and not a prayer of surviving, much less growing.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

800% Tax Increase in NYM!!??

You read that right:  

New Hartford Town Taxes in New York Mills are going up not the 54% reported by the O-D, but 800%.  

To those poor souls (and you WILL be poor after this is over) who live in the NH section of NYM, your town tax rate for next year, unless there are more cuts, will be $1.22 per thousand vs. the $0.15 per thousand you paid this year.

It's my understanding that Ms. Krupa will be holding public meetings on this soon.  

Frankly, this is one affected person who WILL NOT attend.  I've done my share of circulating petitions,  going to Town Board meetings, participating in advisory groups . . . and it has been a waste of time because when it comes time to vote, NYM residents vote for their friend or neighbor or party or the person whose ethnic ancestry matches theirs rather than on where the candidate stands on ISSUES.

Perhaps this is because NYM residents -- and residents of this entire area -- don't really understand the issues. This could be because they are too busy working trying to make ends meet -- or because they mistakenly rely on the Observer-Dispatch's framing of the issues. Whatever the reason, they need to wake up, make it their business to understand what is happening, and make themselves heard . . . en masse.  And for that to happen . . .

Things need to really hurt.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What the - - - -???!!!

Just when it started to look like New Hartford would take over Utica's place as regional laughingstock, we get this scene out of city hall . . .
Was that really a knife that the councilwoman grabbed?

Want to know why the WHOLE REGION has gone to the dogs? Look no further than its elected officials.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost . . .

"As costs went up, the town had not made gradual increases in taxes to offset them, and had used savings instead."
What an outrageous thing for the Observer-Dispatch to suggest that "gradual increases" in taxes would have been appropriate.

With all the new construction taxable properties in New Hartford have increased. New Hartford now is believed to have the greatest amount of assessed valuation of any municipality in the region . . . believed to be even bigger than the City of Utica (but with 1/3 of Utica's population).

With assessed valuation significantly increasing while the population holds steady TAX RATES SHOULD BE GOING DOWN, NOT UP.

The New Hartford Police Department would buy one less new car, a savings of $23,000.
Big deal. But . . .
Police Chief Raymond Philo said he would fight to bring the police car back into the budget.

“You don’t want to diminish public safety in any community,” Philo said. “It’s the basis for quality of life and economic development. You don’t want to diminish it.”
While public safety is a primary function of government, Chief Philo is one of the biggest reasons why spending in New Hartford is out of control. When he appeared at a Town Board meeting a few months back to push for a new Town Courthouse, he commented that New Hartford should have a courthouse that "reflects the Town's affluence."

The entire Town Board and several employees and other officials reflect Chief Philo's arrogance ... not only on spending, but on other issues as well. Town government has been operated to benefit those who are "connected" and not the public at large. The "proof is in the pudding."

The public will welcome an Audit by the State Comptroller's office. . . Hopefully it will lead to an Investigation by the State Attorney General's office.