Monday, September 05, 2011

Clipping Wings . . .

The race for State Assembly 116th District seems rather quiet.

The Brindisi website offers the usual rhetoric on "creating jobs," working for "tax relief,"  "ensuring strong public schools" and "fixing Albany"  -- all phrases calculated to appeal to the disgusted voter -- but with absolutely no specifics offered to indicate that real changes will be made.

The Johnson website promises "job creation,"  but sounds suspiciously like Oneida County's focus on Rome, Rome, Rome ... and the Marcy "Nanocenter" ... but offers nothing to improve job creation in Utica ... which is the 116th District's largest municipality in population. (How Johnson expects to win with a Rome-centric platform is a head-scratcher.)

The one place where Mr. Johnson seems to part ways  with the County is to push for a passenger terminal for commercial aviation.
 There is a shovel ready plan for a 6.3 million dollar terminal at Griffiss. This facility has not been built due to a lack of political courage to move forward with this plan. There is a need for this facility and it can and will be a catalyst for developing new jobs and protecting the jobs we currently have.
Although it's not clear how a county terminal ties into a state assembly campaign, Mr. Johnson is at least refreshingly specific in pointing out a need. And he makes sense. 

As we have painfully learned over the years (and no one in County government admits) anyone looking to locate a major manufacturing facility will not seriously consider coming to an area without commercial air service.

However, the dream of a commercial air terminal (which Oneida County had in Whitestown but willingly gave up) may now be beyond reach. Per today's OD Federal money for Griffiss airport may be grounded because another airport in Maine wants a turn at the funds. Congressman Hanna is trying to get a reauthorization, but with the tight federal budget situation more money does not appear likely.

Assuming that the funds will be available, would they be well spent? (This blogger has questioned airport spending for years.) Finally, at least one political candidate who, if elected, would be in a position to do something about the situation, is publicly asking what the taxpayers are getting for their dollars.
Rodger Potocki, who is running on the Conservative line [for County Executive] . . .  said he has been skeptical of the planning process for the airport at Griffiss from the beginning, and if elected would do a cost-benefit analysis of its budget.

“I am dead set against continued taxpayer commitments, be they federal, state or local, without full, responsible justification,” he wrote in an email. “The fact that federal funds may be available or not should not drive local decisions. We, in my opinion, got sucked into airport decisions that have cost us serious tax dollars simply because of the original availability of federal dollars.”
This is the right approach on the airport... and on a lot of other issues, too.  To repeat Mr. Potocki:
“The fact that federal funds may be available or not should not drive local decisions." 
Simply put, federal funds' availability has distorted local decisions ... whether it is Oneida County abandoning an appropriately-sized and well-cared-for airport in Whitestown for a behemoth in Rome, the Utica Master Plan's proposal to require 20% "affordable housing" in all new housing developments in a city already flush with affordable housing, or building a roundabout at Oneida Square that was not on anyone's list of needs.

Clipping the wings of those looking for grants will be the first step toward restoring sound decision-making to government. 

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