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 . . .
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.