Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Departure of a Class Act . . .

There is an interesting article in the Utica Daily News about the departure of Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Soggs.
Former Utica Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Randy Soggs said that his decision to resign last week came down to the simple issue of time and balancing his private business with public service. . . .  
". . . And, I told myself when I took the position, I never wanted to be in a position where I was working for the city and couldn't give a 100 percent to the people city."
Mr. Soggs was on the receiving end of much criticism (including from this quarter) for his positions on the HSBC Building and housing next to the Arterial.
. . . but Soggs said that good people can disagree and he didn't take it personal.

"Listen, I'm not the kind of guy that doesn't get his way and then takes his ball and goes home," he said. "It's really as simple as I had one way of thinking and some other people had another. I think my way will prove to be the best way in the end, but right now that's just my opinion."
Now THAT is a class act! Don't you wish we could see more of his kind of attitude in City Hall instead of the confrontational shouting and name-calling that seems to happen all too often?
He said he sees his old job as going regional, possibly partnering with Mohawk Valley EDGE so that resources can be shared and the city can shape itself with a regional vision.
This might be where we could have had a little debate had he stayed in office.  Utica residents have "shared" their "resources" by paying into EDGE via County taxes for many years, but have seen precious little in return. EDGE should have put together a Brownfield redevelopment and marketing strategy by now, but it isn't even on their radar with most of EDGE's efforts being directed to Rome.  Utica residents have also "shared" their water supply and sewage treatment systems with the suburbs.  True, those are now in "regional" forms of ownership, but, as the population center, UTICA RESIDENTS still pay the bulk of the purchase and maintenance costs for these systems, making development in suburban areas less costly, and making suburban growth possible. In effect, the suburban parts of the region are able to finance their growth on the backs of Utica water and sewer users. Even with the 911 service, which finally will be consolidated County-Wide, Utica residents have been paying into the County system for years but receiving nothing in return.

Here I think Mr. Soggs has it backward.  Utica should not shape itself with a regional vision.  Rather, the Region needs to shape itself with a Utica vision.  Regional progress will not occur until this happens.

That said . . .
Soggs said that he would still volunteer if the mayor or other city officials asked for his advice or help in the future.

 . . . and I hope that city officials take him up on this offer. Even though I think he was wrong on several issues, Mr. Soggs has a lot of experience in the development world and a track record of success.  His insights should be brought into the decision making mix.   
In the more immediate future, however, Soggs said fiscal issues will dominate city politics and operations.

"We have to get our financial house in order," he said. "There are some very unpleasant decisions to make, but somebody's going to have to make them soon. Otherwise, the numbers are going to force them to be made."
On that last statement we can agree. Utica's finances are precarious . . . and options are now more limited with the 2% tax cap.  Expenses need to be cut, or revenue needs to be grown by expanding the tax base.  The latter cannot be done unilaterally by the City.  Rather, Utica needs to cultivate confidence in its day-to-day operations before private businesses see Utica as the obvious place to set up shop. When the latter happens, Utica will be on a more secure financial footing.  But there will be no confidence until Utica officials clean up their behavior.   

Here is where we can all learn a lesson from Mr. Soggs: Have disagreements, but don't take things personally.

Yes . . . a Class Act, indeed. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are several ways Utica can raise revenue without taxing its own citizens. It is esential that the new Mayoral candidates raise and discuss them.