Monday, February 27, 2012

Control Board Nonsense . . . and The Solution: Leadership

With the huge Utica city deficit some people are actually flirting with the idea of asking the State to come in and take over Utica's fiscal mess with a control board.

DON'T DO IT.

The State of New York has problems taking care of its own affairs so why should anyone think State control will improve things? Look at the NY budget.  How about Buffalo and Erie County? They are still in decline in spite of being under control boards.  How about the 700 school districts taken over by the State?  No headlines about student achievement there.  Some point to New York City and its Municipal Assistance Corp.  as a turnaround example... but NYC's turnaround was not engineered by the MAC. Rather, NYC's turnaround can be attributed to one man: Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his strong leadership. And therein lies the answer for Utica . . .

Leadership.

Utica is not going to be bailed out by the Tooth Fairy (even the Tooth Fairy is broke these days).  Utica will have to GROW itself out of this mess.  Knowing what will result in economic growth has been the question of the ages and seems to be a matter of guessing by those pretending to be experts in the area.  We know, however, what kills growth.

High taxes kill growth.
 
An 18.2% city tax increase on top of already high city, school, and county taxes and water and sewer fees and high utility costs will cause more people to leave town ... some may even abandon their properties.  What good does that do?

Utica needs to REDUCE taxes permanently; reduce unnecessary regulations; create accessible places where small businesses can set up shop without causing problems for neighbors; stop petty bickering over individual projects that drive up developer costs; and stop sucking on the Federal tit for grant money to construct more housing for poor people who wind up being from NYC. Anything less will continue the city’s loss of the very people and businesses it needs to pay the bills to sustain city services.

The People are the answer.

Since there is no $$$, Utica must marshal and coordinate the talents of volunteers — treat them and their ideas with respect — and value their work . . . because they will be the ones doing the things that the city will no longer be able to do adequately itself.

An example of what NOT to do: Pixley Park. One woman with a lot of help from her neighbors beautified a little corner of west Utica. But someone at City Hall, because they apparently did not like the woman, took umbrage and had the DPW destroy the volunteers’ work. Such must NEVER happen again.

Something else that must not be done:  giving raises to employees while relying on volunteers.

People LOVE Utica.  They WILL volunteer their time if they feel appreciated, feel that they are accomplishing something tangible, and feel that they are not being taken advantage of.


The key to making this all work: Leadership.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The unions control the city. They do not like volunteers doing their jobs.

The key to making this work: Destroy the unions.

Anonymous said...

No offense, but you never gave a specific way to REDUCE those taxes. Not one. At this point, the budget needed to be proposed by March 20th. The longterm rhetorical stuff sounds great, but they aren't realistic overnight.

So, with that said, what EXACTLY would you cut from the budget? Police and fire are 60%. Tell me how you permanently lower taxes without making huge cuts there? You could close city hall and fire them all and it wouldn't amount to the savings you could get from PS. But my point is that you never mention HOW, instead doing what everyone does - "lower taxes". Then when it's police or fire, they say "no, not that."

Strikeslip said...

Before talking about HOW to cut the budget, FIRST DECIDE THAT WE MUST NOT RAISE TAXES.

The Mayor and the Council are fooling themselves if they think raising tax rates will permit Utica to grow itself out of this mess. We have LONG PASSED the point of sustainability.

It's not my job to tell you where I would cut. A mayor and counsel are being paid good money and benefits to do that.

Stymied said...

I think Strike has made an immensely important point: volunteerism and community engagement is the only chance to save this city.

But I think the openness to that depends on the administration.

I'm a political independent, unassociated with any of the factions that battle for control of the public teat around here. I've always been a joiner though. I believe in engagement, in public service. Two administrations ago I volunteered my expertise free of charge to the city on a project. I was welcomed in, and there was a spirit of frankness and openness.

During this past administration, I again volunteered my expertise, free of charge. The difference was night and day. There seemed to be suspicion and skepticism. I never heard back conclusively on my offer. After some time and some prodding, I was ultimately informed that, because I did not live in the city, I could not be put to use. So much for "we're all in this together."

I think that when you shut the door on interested people in a spirit of cynicism, it breeds cynicism. And parochialism leads nowhere. I would love to go to City Hall and use my time and talent to help the city where I grew up, the lynchpin of the area where I live. But, frankly, I'm very reluctant. That's a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Strike,

Is it true that the Utica Fire Department personnel work 2 days on and 5 days off?

This is an area that badly needs to be reviewed and cut back. There is absolutely no way a Utica fire person should be credited working 2 days, 24 hours per day?

If true, we have a serious situation that warrants cut backs and I do mean big cutbacks...

Anonymous said...

Next you people will want volunteer fire people. What is this world coming to?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is very easy to say, " do not raise taxes"; it is difficult to specify how to accomplish the dictum. A little story says alot about the Utica mentality. My wife and I were stopped at a gas station the day after the election. Two men were filling up at different pumps and yelling back and forth about who would be getting what jobs under Palmieri. The Utica mentality is that of public service being "the spoils" of politics complete with all of the perks. Palmieri has been in out out of city hall for years and years. Yet, he did not articulate a finance plan as a candidate( none really did) nor has he hit the ground running. He has not presented one radical change in his budget. He will probably form a committee to recommend future steps. The point is that the city does not produce true leadership. What makes anyone think it will? And, there is no way the Utica mentality will allow volunteers to take over from patronage.

Anonymous said...

Utica is finished. There are too many special interests that depend on government funding. Most significantly, there are NOT enough property taxpayers left in Utica to achieve a critical mass of outrage to make a change.
Its done... throw in the towel, really.

Anonymous said...

The solution may be to change from a system that taxes us based on what we own to one that taxes us by what we use. Charge a fee per service so those that use it pay for it.

Greens and Beans said...

Sorry Strikeslip but you are incorrect when stating that “the Tooth Fairy is broke these days.” I happen to know he is financially doing very well. I just purchased a $2,000.00 crown from my Genesee Street “Tooth Fairy” Dentist! He is not broke, I am!

Rena said...

Good post. However, most of the people in control don't want to listen to wisdom or things that just might work. No, no, that will bruise their egos because it wasn't THEIR ideas.

Utica is made up of a lot of control happy people who don't seem to care that the city crumbled and demolition dust has already settled. They refuse to give up the reins even if the reins will only be controlling the one person left who couldn't figure out how to get out of Utica.

On FB, I have a page called The Positive Side of the Mohawk Valley. Even though I hate living in Utica nowadays, the area is still beautiful despite the ugly behaviors of some.

I hope to get the word out about the positive aspects of our area. Each day we have to trudge through the bad sides of the area but its refreshing to know that there are good sides of it left.

I have a hate/love relationship with Utica. I hate living here but I love being nostalgic and I love the sparks of hope that I have for this area even if they never come to fruition.