Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Devastation Downstream . . .

With some notable exceptions (more) (more) (more),  Greater Utica was spared the worst of Hurricane Irene.

Not so our friends to the east . . . YNN has some incredible footage of flooding down the Mohawk River and Schoharie Creek.  I-90 is still closed. Traffic is still snarled in Johnstown. The Elwood Museum in Amsterdam is devastated and Guy Park Manor damaged. A death in Glen has been confirmed. Canal locks are swamped in Rotterdam and the canal's reopening is uncertain. The historic Stockade District of Schenectady had major damage.

The extent of the devastation is just starting to sink in.

Here's a place where Neighbors can help Neighbors. Thanks B95.5

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rainy Day Reading . . .

If you wanted to get away from all the Hurricane Irene TV coverage, today was the perfect day to curl up on the couch with your I-pad or tablet and check out some of the area's newest blogs.

LunarTicks has just launched and promises "A few News items to discuss. From everywhere, with music thrown in for no good reason." It's Dave Griffin's (of Windswept Press) latest foray and joins the popular "Monk in the Cellar" to entertain you. Brother Jesse is working overtime!

Ray Jadwick's Utica has been around for only a couple months but has already stirred the pot, garnering an article in the Utica Daily News, discussion on Mark Piersma's Show,  and threats of a lawsuit from the Observer Dispatch! Mr. Jadwick is a master of Photoshop and paints our local luminaries into ... shall we say "interesting" ... situations.  It's provocative reading and viewing ... and entertaining unless, I suppose, you find yourself painted into one of the pictures.  Caution to parents and sensitive individuals, this is strictly adult stuff that many may find shocking and offensive with some posts crossing the line.  Mr. Jadwick has something to say, and a talent for saying it, but runs the risk of turning off an audience with certain recurring themes.

If curling up with technology is not your cup of tea and you prefer a good old fashioned magazine to share your lounger, Dan Weaver's Upstream & Downtown Blog (formerly just Upstream) has spawned a full fledged magazine: "Upstream - A Mohawk Valley Journal ." It bills itself as "A Cultural and Counter-Cultural Journal from New York State's Mohawk Valley," has a host of talented writers, and is available through Amazon and AbeBooks. Check the link for availability and other information.

Upstate NY -- You've got talent!

Monday, August 22, 2011

All For Naught?

Users of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority have faced increased water bills to pay tens of millions of dollars to construct new water tanks to hold the treated water from formerly open reservoirs. Per a 2009 independent auditor's report for MVWA, EPA regulations are to blame.
Essentially, all open reservoirs must be treated as a raw water source and either re-treated or eliminate the reservoir from daily use by means of covering the reservoir or constructing alternative tanks. 
Now that our water bills have been raised and the construction project to comply with the new rules is about complete comes this article from the Portland Mercury newspaper's blog ... about something happening in New York that might obviate the need to comply with these rules:  New York might just have saved Portland $500 million.
For seven years, the Portland Water Bureau and several activist groups have been fighting a national Environmental Protection Agency requirement stating that the city must cover its iconic reservoirs to protect against cryptosporidium . . .
In March, it looked like the city had lost and would have to spend $500 million to cover the city's five reservoirs...
But from the East comes a sign of hope! New York state is fighting the same rule, not wanting to spend $1.6 billion to put a concrete cap on an upstate reservoir. New York Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to the EPA asking them to scrap the plan and, miracle of miracles, the EPA wrote back this weekend saying they would reconsider. If the EPA is willing to reconsider for New York, they could be willing to reconsider for Oregon, too!
In the early 1990's area residents were forced to pay for a multimillion dollar filtration plant ... a requirement that New York City managed to escape.  Now the same thing seems to be happening with the covered reservoir requirement.

Since there is no memory of MVWA or the earlier Utica Board of Water Supply ever having had a problem with water-borne diseases, these costly federal mandates appear to be unnecessary expenses, placing significant burdens on local residents and businesses and making the region uncompetitive. Perhaps we should have been more like Portland or New York City ... or allied ourselves with them in challenging the need for such rules.  

Anyway, it looks like NYC is getting another break ... too late to save Greater Utica's money . . . but perhaps in time for Portland.

Pataki for Prez? They're Kidding, Right?

From the NY Daily News: Former Gov. George Pataki close to entering Republican presidential race
"Pataki the first two years was great, then we went on a spending binge," said Assemblyman Thomas Kirwan, an upstate Republican first elected in 1994, the same year as Pataki. "The federal debt runup was rivaled only by what we did in New York under George Pataki."
I could not have summed up Mr. Pataki's problem better.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Numbering the Corporate Welfare Days . . .

One can only hope that the days of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare are coming to a close. James Ostrowski's lawsuit against numerous state officials, agencies, and corporate-welfare recipients to end the freebies has been percolating through the courts and will be heard by the New York State Court of Appeals on October 12, 2011.  A big rally is planned for Albany that day.

Government funds going to the politically connected (i.e., state capitalism) has poisoned the marketplace, rewarded defective business models, discouraged competition, and cost the taxpayers dearly.  It must be ended if New York State, and now the nation, are ever to return to robust economic health.

New Hartford Online has all the details on the lawsuit

Thank you Mr. Ostrowski for taking this on! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Government in a Small City . . .

Per today's OD, popular events are leaving downtown Utica.
The Indie Garage Sale, Fireworks Over Utica and Taste of Utica are in the process of being moved out of the city or dissolved completely.
 And organizers say oppressive fees – either enacted or enforced for the first time this summer – are to blame. . . .
But it hasn’t prompted any hindsight change of mind from Common Councilman Jerry Kraus, D-at large, who captained the legislation that included a 15 percent surcharge on the sale of alcoholic beverages and a $1 fee per ticket sold at events on city property.
The money gained from the events would have been “nominal” when compared with the level of public safety and public works services from the city, he said. 
How about the level of public safety and public works services from the city for Saranac Thursdays, Utica Monday Nights, and the Boilermaker?  Following that logic, the city should be slapping a participation fee on everyone attending these events, too . . . And what would be the result if the city did this?

As the region's population center, it is advantageous for events to be located within Utica's city limits. However, this advantage quickly disappears if "Big Government" imposes special fees and requirements. Utica is geographically small.  It is easy for organizers to move events across the city line.

Big Government in a Small City simply does not work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Little New Here . . .

The Final Draft of the Utica Master Plan (UMP) has been issued. The biggest change is the cover which adds the following words, "A NEIGHBORHOOD-BASED PROCESS TO ESTABLISH THE VISION AND GUIDE FOR UTICA'S FUTURE"

That sort of sums up the whole problem with the UMP. 

It's an admission that the master plan is not really a master plan, but rather a plan to make a plan in the future.

Appendices have been added to the Final Draft to explain some of the document's jargon (e.g. "dark sky principles" and "context sensitive solutions").  Some new maps have been added to show current zoning and land uses. 

But overall, the UMP remains a fundamentally flawed document because it, itself, does not present a vision of the city's future, but, rather, substitutes a cumbersome, special-interest charged process in place of the vision to guide Utica's future planning decisions.

I detailed UMP's flaws here so I won't repeat them.   Suffice it to say that the flaws remain.

The UMP in its current form will create more harm than good.  It should not be enacted into law by the Common Council.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Shake Up at MV Chamber of Commerce...

Per tonight's OD: Elias ousted as Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce president
Frank Elias III was removed Tuesday as the president of the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Of course there is much more that is not reported in the OD. This past Friday, Mr. Elias e-mailed fellow C of C Board members and Ex-Officio members to protest the manner in which a nomination was placed before the Board -- apparently in a surprise move engineered by insiders in the organization and sprung without notice upon other members.

Attached to the e-mail was a document "Fellow Board Members.doc" which is reproduced in the PDF document at left.

The Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce has long been perceived as a non-transparent regional "good old boys" network that caters to the area elite and is uncooperative with peer organizations.  Mr. Elias' missive confirms it as such.

This blog has long been critical of the MV C of C . . . especially with its use of the "Mohawk Valley" moniker when "Greater Utica" is the accurate -- and more precise -- description of the market it serves. . . 

The "regional" trappings adopted by the C of C appear to be nothing more than a subterfuge to serve the interests of particular powerful members.

Too bad . . .

Monday, August 08, 2011

Shooting the Messenger . . .

From the Right: George Will: We’ve Learned Nothing From Standard & Poor’s

And from the Left: ‘Stunning Lack of Knowledge’: Geithner Slams S & P for Showing ‘Terrible Judgment’

Guess that means S & P must be on to something.

Spilling Beans, Mr. Greenspan?

"The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default" said Greenspan on NBC's Meet the Press

Since that is the case, why would ANYBODY want to invest in US Government Bonds? The bonds get repaid in money that is worth less (if not worthless).

Scary thinking.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Does Anyone Buy This?

John Kerry: ‘This Is the Tea Party Downgrade’
“I believe this is without question the Tea Party downgrade,” Kerry said. “This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal, to do $4.7 trillion or $4 trillion, have a mix of reductions and reforms in social security, Medicare, Medicaid, but also recognize that we needed to do some revenue.” 
I. The Tea Party was not the party that demonized every attempt to fix projected shortfalls in the Social Security System.

II. The Tea Party was not the party that enacted a vast new prescription drug program costing billions without ensuring that money would be available to pay for it.

III. The Tea Party was not the party that voted for Obamacare and Economic Stimulus packages requiring trillions of new spending without ensuring that "increased revenues" would be available to pay for it.

IV. The Tea Party was not the party which failed to produce a budget for over 800 days even though the one party that now complains the most controlled all three branches of government during most of this time.

The Downgrade was caused by a government which spends beyond its means.

The Tea Party has been the ONLY party to insist on fiscal sanity. . . . yet Sen Kerry not only blames the Tea Party for the results that he helped to create, he would even deny air time to the Tea Party to conceal the truth of the situation from the public.

I guess the truth is simply something Sen. Kerry -- and most Republican and Democrat leaders -- cannot deal with.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Spending Business As Usual . . .

I'm really not too sure what was accomplished yesterday in Congress. $2.4 Trillion Would Be Largest Debt-Limit Increase in U.S. History.
Up until now, the largest increase in the debt limit was the $1.9 trillion increase passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on Feb. 12, 2010. That law increased the debt limit from $12.394 trillion to $14.294 trillion.
The bill hasn't even passed the Senate yet, but that doesn't stop the Federal Government from more give-aways. $1.3 million in border development funds available. 

Joseph Farah of World Net Daily isn't too happy:
We're back to business as usual in Washington. . . . .
They could have forced deep cuts and possibly even the elimination of worthless and unconstitutional agencies and departments like Education, Agriculture, Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency and Homeland Security. They could have forced defunding of Planned Parenthood, NPR, PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts and countless foreign wealth transfers. They could have postponed any implementation of Obamacare until it could be dealt with in finality in 2013.
Republican control of one House could have made all that possible with one no vote on raising the debt limit. 

Instead, House Republicans chose to trade away that one political nuclear weapon it wielded for a "compromise" plan that calls for massive new unsustainable debt and massive new unsustainable spending. . . .
Yes, but none of these words even comes close to adequately characterizing the betrayal perpetrated by the Republican establishment in Washington over the last few days.
The era of big government is back with a vengeance – and apparently here to stay.
There are no limits. There are no restraints. There is no accountability. There is no end to red ink as far as the eye can see.
 At least one local Republican voted against this. Kudos to her for standing up for what is right. Whatever . . .

I agree with Joe: "red ink as far as the eye can see."

Monday, August 01, 2011

It Pays to Have Friends in Government . . .

Access still a major issue at N. Hartford business park reads the headline but . . .
The New Hartford Town Board took steps at its last meeting for the two major projects aimed at easing traffic into the business park.
 The board voted to go out to bid for construction of the Route 840 ramp and to establish a public hearing for the eminent domain proceedings that would allow for the Clinton Street extension. 
The New Hartford Business Park is a PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT. Not only is the Town taking residents' monies by applying payments in lieu of taxes to construct roads that are only good for Park access, Town Government is using its power to take private property from another person to complete the project.

County residents should have a beef too because payments in lieu of County Taxes are also being used.

In addition, the type of development duplicates other developments that already exist in the area. It will not create jobs, but, rather, will move jobs and economic activity further away from the older urban core and out toward the fringes.  This sprawl costs us all money because our stagnant population is forced to maintain an ever expanding infrastructure.

If private businesses want to compete with each other, that's called free enterprise.  If some are getting government help to do it, its called state capitalism . . . and state capitalism is unfair. 

Read more on this issue on New Hartford Online: A dollar and a dream