Monday, December 27, 2010

Paladino on Empire State Development

Carl Paladino this morning posted on his Facebook site a letter to Empire State Development Chairman Dennis Mullen on Downtown Buffalo's future. The story of the failed government-dreamed-up projects to the west is remarkably similar to all the "economic development" nonsense we see here in Greater Utica (especially New Hartford) and Oneida County.  Here are some excerpts:

It was during the UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant) era that it became very apparent that government interference in the private marketplace subsidizing specific projects for parasitic developers was a road to failure. No one could compete with government subsidized projects and the creation of an unlevel playing field destroyed many good and in some cases historic properties in downtown Buffalo.
Everyone just waited in line for a UDAG. There was no incentive for the private sector to develop. Since that time, the ridiculous use of selective subsidies in the office market has continued the blight of our urban centers. For decades IDA's and Empire State Development have subsidized projects for tenants not otherwise disposed to leave the State of New York, to relocate from the urban centers out to affluent suburbs. . . . 
I submit to you that it is illegal under the State Constitution for the State of New York to loan or advance monies in any form to private firms. Article VII, Section 8, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution states: "the money of the State shall not be given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking; nor shall the credit of the State be given or loan to or in aid of any individual, or public or private corporation or association, or private undertaking, but the foregoing provision shall not apply to any fund or property now held or which may hereafter be held by the State for educational, mental health or mental retardation purposed." The Section goes on to provide exceptions to the general rule of banning gifts of State funds to private organizations, but none of the exceptions authorizes the gift of State fund for "economic development" whose gifts are made directly by the State or through intermediaries.
That is the law of the land.
Our politically corrupt State government and its "challenged" elected officials through its various agencies and authorities has violated the Constitution repeatedly over the years. . . .  
Allowing one developer to have an advantage over other developers because of political connections is a violation of the law. [emphasis mine]

I could not say it better!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Taking and Giving in New Hartford . . .

Town to use eminent domain to gain access to business park
The town plans to use eminent domain to take land owned by Twin Orchards Farm in order to connect Clinton Street to the New Hartford Business Park
Big Government in New Hartford! Who would have thought of it? In a move reminiscent of that awful situation in Kelo v New London, Government is using Government Power to take Private Property to make other Private Property more valuable and to enrich a Private Individual.

Sprawl marches on.  Taxes go up in New Hartford to pay for construction and maintenance of more municipal facilities and services, so the taxpayers of New Hartford lose money and the residents of New Hartford experience a decline in the quality of their environment.  Taxes go up in neighboring Utica because more economic activity is attracted to the edge of Greater Utica rather than to the core, leaving the infrastructure at the core to be maintained by fewer people.  This is LOSE LOSE for the average person.  But its a win for a developer . . . and a win for Town Government officialdom which can justify growing more government.

This is bad public policy.  The Town Board needs to nix this idea.

For more see NH Online.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To the FCC: It's Time to Pull WKTV's License . . .

Television stations must obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission because the useful radio frequency spectrum is limited and can only carry so much traffic. Once licensed, a broadcaster is permitted to sell advertising to earn its income.  However, an important criterion in obtaining and keeping a license to use the limited public bandwidth is that the broadcasting station serve the PUBLIC INTEREST.

Almost 40 years ago a Boston-based station, WHDH, learned this lesson when the FCC pulled its license to use Channel 5 and gave it to a competing group of broadcasters who promised more local programming operating under the call sign WCVB (Citizens Voice of Boston). 

A new question of "operation in the public interest" arises in Utica with the demands by WKTV that Time Warner Cable pay WKTV for the use of WKTV's content -- content that the FCC has authorized to be placed for free on the public airwaves in the Utica area -- and content that is of no interest to anyone living outside the Utica area.

Back when cable TV was in its infancy locally, it was called a COMMUNITY ANTENNA Television System, i.e., people using cable were using it as their antenna.  For local TV stations, that is still the case today.

WKTV knows that any money it charges to Time Warner for "use" of its signal will ultimately be charged back to the cable subscriber.

So why should people choosing cable as their antenna have to pay WKTV a charge, while those using a regular antenna do not?  It would appear that WKTV is not operating in the public interest when it blocks its signal from 70,000 or so local viewers . . . especially after going days without over-the-air broadcasts a few months back.

WKTV appears to be changing the model for local television from free over-the-air to pay-cable TV.  If that is the model it wishes to operate under, then, perhaps, its air spectrum could be better used for some other purpose.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Barnes Ave. Bungling 3 . . .

OD: Barnes Ave. businesses have 2 weeks to vacate 
The bridge, closed to the public because of safety concerns since Nov. 28, will be shut off completely from a collection of auto salvage yards and a waste hauler at the end of this year.
And though there will be some reimbursements, the eminent domain process does not make up for lost income, state officials said this week.
“We compensate for the property value and moving expenses,” said state Department of Transportation Spokesman Anthony Ilacqua.
Most small businesses fail.  It is trial and error until it is gotten right.  But when it is gotten right, they are self sustaining, reliably employ people, and become nuclei around which other entrepreneurs cluster to begin the same trial-and-error process until there are survivors among themselves.  Over time, a web of relationships develop with customers and businesses that becomes self-reinforcing.  The value of a business is more than property and inventory.  Its most important part is what used to be called "good will" -- the web of relationships.  The web is often irreparably disrupted when government takes a property, changes a traffic pattern, or changes a rule. 
For a state that professes to be soooo concerned about "economic development" and preserving jobs, and is willing to spend a Million Dollars a job to attract new jobs in some places, how easily it is for them to simply sweep away the years' long efforts of some people.

When government says it cares about jobs -- don't believe it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When is “Just” not Just Just?

Today's press release from “Rust to Green” announcing the formation of New York's first “Local Food Policy Council” really made me sit up and take notice!
“What if every resident of Oneida County had access to fresh, safe, locally produced food that is distributed in a just and sustainable manner?”
“What if farming, food processing/distribution and culinary tourism were engines for the economic rebirth of Upstate New York? What if we could do all of this while contributing to a healthy environment, fighting diet related illnesses and creating “green collar” jobs that can’t be outsourced?
“Today, Rust To Green Utica announced the creation and kick off meeting of New York State’s first local Food Policy Council to work toward these goals.”
Don't you love seeing “Utica Greens” on the menu in Albany, Syracuse, or Rochester? Or hearing “Utica” mentioned on TV as Rachel Ray whips up her version of Chicken Riggies? Utica has long had a reputation for great food and restaurants that has drawn people from out of the area . . . a reputation that has steadily grown over the years, as Utica's diverse ethnic groups mature in their new home and open their own businesses. We have no count of how many boxes of mouth-watering Florentine, Caruso, or Cafe Canole pastries or cookies get sent all across the country – as do Manny's Cheesecakes -- but you know this happens often. O'Scugnizzo Pizzas get airlifted! People come to Utica with coolers to stock up on meats at Joe's and Hapanowicz.  Although declining in numbers over the years (perhaps NY could reduce its taxes and regulations to keep them here?), we still have a lot of local farms for apples, corn, squash, strawberries, potatoes, etc. There are also tours of the Utica Brewery, Omegang Brewery, maple syrup making . . .There is the MV Garlic Festival every summer in Little Falls, and Riggie and Greens Fests in Utica.  Do I have to go on?

Just . . . where has R2G been, anyway? Some ivory tower at Cornell? The Utica area already has these things . . . produced by the efforts of PRIVATE ENTERPRISE. Is that the problem?  Does R2G really think that it can do better -- without getting grants of taxpayer dollars?  
“Food is a basic human need along with adequate shelter, a safe environment and clean water. Yet, our local governments in New York have no comprehensive planning process to ensure access to healthy foods for all residents. No local government has a ‘Department of Food’ and the programs that address hunger, nutrition, agriculture and food sector labor conditions are spread across many agencies and jurisdictions.”
I don't know of anyone who does not have access to “healthy” food . . . or is the stuff at Chanatry's, Hannaford's, Price Chopper, Aldi's, Save-a-Lot, etc., somehow not healthy? If so, why have we not read about it? Is the unhealthiness of our food being kept from us by a secretive media on the take? We have a local Department of Health, State and National Depts. of Agriculture, and the FDA to keep food safe. . . . or is there something planned in the recent Food Safety and Modernization Act that will take our food away? Perhaps the R2G/Food Policy Council feels that some of our Utica specialties mentioned above are "unhealthy" and need to be replaced with their food selections? . . . produced and/or promoted by their "partners?"

Just . . . where is the need for a “comprehensive planning process” and a “Department of Food” ?

Just - ification for this program seems to be some recent USDA statistics, but this is clearly related to the 10% unemployment situation and not anything wrong with our food production and distribution network. We have a Dept. of Social Services and all sorts of Federal Welfare programs to ensure that people don't go hungry. We also have a network of food pantries, charitable organizations, school breakfast/lunch programs, and churches that feed the hungry.  People are given food stamps by the government. Is there suddenly a shortage of food stamps? Can't the Feds simply print more (since they seem to be printing more dollars)? If people are hungry, how are the Feds distributing food stamps? Dare I say it? How are people spending their food stamps, if hunger has taken a jump? The "Food Policy Council" seems to be merely more "piling on" . . .

I'm interested in hearing R2G's proposals for protecting the environment and “sustainability” (a mis-used word in my estimation). We can all learn from others who “think out of the box.”

But I get suspicious when environmental protection, food, health care, education, etc. seem to become excuses for political movements and agendas.

This isn't JUST about food . . .  is it?

Reuse, Recycle, ReUtica . .

"ReUtica" is a short film well worth watching about reusing old resources -- Genuine people, genuine efforts, genuine results: Private Enterprise!

reUtica from Matthew Ossowski on Vimeo.
 People like these who think out of the box will renew Utica!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Monk In the Cellar . . .

Ever wonder what it is like to be a monk living in a monastery?

Brother Jesse sneaks off to the computer in the basement to recount the day-to-day "action" (if you will) on his blog, Monk In the Cellar.

Drop in and visit . . . He needs some company!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Utika Steps Backward . . . Again!

[The following was originally posted on the internet May 13, 2002 on the now defunct "Pulse" web forum:]

Utica (Utika?) took a giant step backward this week with its major newspaper, the Observer-Dispatch, eliminating anonymous postings on its internet forum. While the O-D is certainly within its rights to do this, it has a chilling effect on free-speech.

There are various reasons why posters choose not to reveal their identity. While some may have evil intentions, the majority do not. Some may be public employees who would like to "blow the whistle" on wrong doing without jeopardizing their job. Others may want to debate issues with their friends without destroying good friendships. Still others may want their ideas judged by their content rather than by the reputation of the poster. It has been said that anonymity may be the greatest form of altruism.

Although there are anonymous posters who abuse the priviledge, most do not. And of the few who have made inappropriate postings .. many get retracted when others point out the error of their ways.

Given that the Syracuse newspapers and the New York Times -- with much larger readerships than the O-D -- allow anonymous postings on their websites, there clearly is no good journalistic reason for the O-D to forbid them.

The O-D has long been perceived as the organ of the Utica area "elite" -- the "movers and shakers" who act behind the scenes to ensure that their "vision" is implemented (assuring themselves of power and their cronies of high standards of living). Of course, we have seen where the "vision" has gotten us.

The entity who should be screaming the loudest for open government -- who should be going to court when government boards go into illegal executive sessions or fail to disclose information under FOIL -- is strangely silent ... except, of course, when it is necessary to serve its "vision." The entity knows that knowledge is power, and that the easiest way to control people is to control what they know. The entity now moves to ensure further control over the populace by eliminating anonymous postings.

It is only through (1) comprehensive knowledge by the people, (2) the free flow of ideas, and (3) political leadership with consensus building skills that this area will progress. The newspaper should provide #1 -- anonymous forums will encourage #2 -- and maybe, if more people become involved through ##s 1 & 2, the leaders for #3 will emerge.

The O-D's action demonstrates what's been suspected all along ... they are more interested in playing politics than reporting it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

HSR: What's It Gonna Cost Us?

New York state gains $7.3 million in high-speed rail funding
It's nice that NYS gets some support from people paying federal taxes in other states.

But what's it gonna cost US . . . the potential customers?  . . . the NYS taxpayers?

Numbers please. . . 

NYSED: Penny Wise Pound Foolish . .

NYS Dept. Education might drop one of three Regents exams, saving $1.5 million . . . and yet they can spend about $300 million renovating Utica schools alone.  Shave a half percent off Utica's construction bill and students in the entire state can get their Regents.

Just whom is NYSED serving? It's obviously not the students.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wasting Wetlands in New Hartford?

Back in November, we were told about two large scale projects which had re-zoning variances rejected by the New Hartford Zoning Board of Appeals.  The OD Article is here, and the New Hartford Online Article is here. Although both were rejected, it was expected that both would be re-proposed again.  It is this blogger's understanding that the proposal for the J-K Lumber property is coming up again.  Per the OD Article the following is proposed:
A 15,400-square-foot Aldi discount grocery store that was to be built on 1.5 acres owned by building material retailer Jay-K Independent Lumber. The Germany-based company would have needed a use variance to operate the store at 8448 Seneca Turnpike between Jay-K and Zebb’s Deluxe Grill & Bar because existing manufacturing zoning does not allow mercantile uses.
More than a use variance may be required. The map that is posted above comes from the DEC website and depicts the vicinity of J-K Lumber.  Prominently displayed are two regulated natural features: a DEC Freshwater Wetland and the Classified Stream Mud Creek.  Under DEC regulations activities within a DEC Freshwater Wetland and a 100' "adjacent area" are regulated. Additional requirements may apply if activities affect the classified stream or its banks.

The vicinity of this particular area is already somewhat developed, with a lot of pavement which causes runoff into the creek.  People living along Mud Creek downstream in New York Mills are already contending, anecdotally, with increased flooding due to the large shopping areas that have been constructed along Commercial Drive.   The particular proposal here likely will require a large parking lot threatening more runoff into the creek.  Exacerbating the problem, however, is that this area also contains a wetland.

Wetlands offer many environmental benefits, not the least of which is flood control.  Wetlands are natural "sponges" that soak up runoff.  We lose them at our peril.

New Hartford's problems with poor storm water management are notorious.  They also have proven expensive for the taxpayers to remedy. Encroaching on this wetland threatens to create more problems, exposing the public purse to more liability.

New Hartford needs to protect its wetlands in order to protect its residents.  Any decision allowing development in this area must evaluate the impacts to the wetlands and to people down stream.

See New Hartford Online for more.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"No Statistically Significant Warming" . . .

Global Warming has been the subject of debate again in the OD, first with an editorial by Mr. Domenico, "We need a discussion on global warming," followed by a rebuttal by Mr. Schuster, "Throwing cold water on global warming."

Now come's this article from David Rose in the UK Mail Online: What happened to the 'warmest year on record': The truth is global warming has halted.
There is no dispute that the world got a little warmer over some of the 20th Century. (Between 1940 and the early Seventies, temperatures actually fell.)

But little by little, the supposedly settled scientific ' consensus' that the temperature rise is unprecedented, that it is set to continue to disastrous levels, and that it is all the fault of human beings, is starting to fray.
Earlier this year, a paper by Michael Mann - for years a leading light in the IPCC, and the author of the infamous 'hockey stick graph' showing flat temperatures for 2,000 years until the recent dizzying increase - made an extraordinary admission: that, as his critics had always claimed, there had indeed been a ' medieval warm period' around 1000 AD, when the world may well have been hotter than it is now.

Other research is beginning to show that cyclical changes in water vapour - a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide - may account for much of the 20th Century warming.

Even Phil Jones, the CRU director at the centre of last year's 'Climategate' leaked email scandal, was forced to admit in a littlenoticed BBC online interview that there has been 'no statistically significant warming' since 1995.
The idea that humans have a significant impact on climate is based on computer modeling that has produced erroneous results . . . The models did not account for the Medieval Warm Period before, and cannot account for the pause in global warming now, even as CO2 levels continue to climb. The "warmists" tend to dismiss incongruous data as a "local" effect or come up with other excuses why we should ignore such data such as the progression in temperature is "non-linear." The public does not want excuses -- the public wants correct results.  Ignoring data, rather than modifying one's thesis to account for it,  is a very un-scientific approach.

The fact is, if the models cannot account for well-known past conditions, and cannot account for present conditions, then they are not substantive evidence upon which policy-making may be legally based.

Per David Rose:
The question now emerging for climate scientists and policymakers alike is very simple. Just how long does a pause have to be before the thesis that the world is getting hotter because of human activity starts to collapse?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Tyksinski: Enabling More Sprawl and Downgrading the Environment At Your Expense!

Per the OD, New Hartford awaits state input regarding road projects
The town’s synchronized plan to fund a pair of road projects that would provide access to the New Hartford Business Park will need to fall precisely in place for taxpayers not to feel the cost of those projects.

The town is proposing a two-pronged project to extend thoroughfares to the business park . . .

 "With the 840 access, it's not just a project that would benefit the developer," town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said. "It would open that whole area for development. There's more up there than the business park in terms of tracts of land that can be developed." . . .  
Mr. Tyksinski, why do taxpayers need to open any new area for development when the region has plenty of areas where the infrastructure is already in place that are waiting to be REdeveloped? Boserts . . . Bendix . . . Washington Courts . . . Harbor Point . . . Utica Psych Center Grounds . . .

Is it because all those areas awaiting redevelopment are next door in Utica? Why can't you look beyond the borders of your suburb to see the damage this does not only to New Hartford, but the entire region?

Tyksinski said he would like the town to enter into a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the developer to help fund the roads’ construction.
Once the access projects are given the go-ahead, the town would bond for the cost of the roadway projects. PILOT payments made by Adler then would be used to pay off the debt service on the bond, the supervisor said.
So while this developer creates a situation which requires the Town to extend police services, fire protection services, snow plowing and road maintenance services, etc., the money that should go to pay for these services will be diverted to construct roads. . . i.e., New Hartford Taxpayers will pay more.

But to add insult to injury . . .
Mitigation fees collected from developers to offset the cost of upgrading infrastructure because of their projects also could be used, Tyksinski said.  
These are fees that other developers paid to New Hartford to mitigate the adverse impacts of their projects. Their projects do not need the proposed new roads, but they created needs for mitigation elsewhere that now may go unaddressed.  Either the taxpayers will have to accept the environmental decline associated with the other projects, or cough up more money for corrective measures (such as a traffic light, road widening, or storm-water retention.)

Developers and certain landowners benefit from this proposal. The general public does not benefit from this at all because it represents Sprawl. Mr. Tyksinski proposes to add more publicly-maintained infrastructure onto all the other infrastructure we already have while the regional population DECLINES!

This is New Hartford government simply justifying more New Hartford government -- fulfilling the ambitions of politically-connected individuals on the backs of the residents of New Hartford and the entire region! Practices such as this have contributed to Oneida County being the 19th highest taxed county in the nation when taxes are calculated as a percentage of home value (per the Tax Foundation, 2009). 

While New Hartford government is the focus of this story, New York State Department of Transportation (because it controls the roads) and Oneida County (through its IDA, Sewer District, and Planning Department) also bear significant responsibility for creating our costly sprawl. We already have far too much public infrastructure to maintain than our declining regional population can afford.  We should not be enabling more.

In the short term: It's time to pull the plug on government forcing the public to subsidize private developers' dreams.

In the long term: People need to start thinking of making Greater Utica a political entity to effectively deal with sprawl. 

More on this subject is posted on New Hartford On Line: "What a revoltin' development this is!" Revoltin' Indeed!