Thursday, February 23, 2012

Surprised? Really?

Officials, residents surprised by people exiting South Utica 
... population fell by roughly 7 percent in the decade, from 10,105 to 9,353. Surprised?
So were a number of city officials and residents.
This blogger was not surprised! And I bet my readers are not surprised.

Utica officials and various institutions, particularly not-for-profits, are singularly focused on getting as much grant money as they can. Most grant money is geared to programs for the poor. Ergo, Utica's focus has been on its poor.

The recently passed Utica Master Plan and its drafts put this in sharp focus.  Why in the world would Utica need more "affordable housing" as called for in the Plan when it already has the most affordable housing in the nation according to recent surveys?  Why try to require that all developers set aside 20% of their units for "affordable housing?"  The answer to both questions is that federal programs have a lot of money for "affordable housing" and the "20%" criterion is a requirement.  But the Federal programs are geared to large metropolitan areas where housing is very expensive -- which is not the case here.  So the result here creates more harm than good.

Utica's citizens who are a bit higher up on the economic scale have been paying the bulk of the taxes that keep the city going.  But their needs have been ignored because there is no pot of grant money for officials to dip into for them.

They are "getting out while the getting is good."


Anonymous said...

This is a very wise and astute post. Smart politicians urged by the business community and media should heve drawn lines around the best, most stable residential areas and place priority on maintaining and growing them. Instead, valuable resources have been spent on a dead downtown and on dubious fixes to rescue declining neighborhoods. And, Strike is correct, the federal and state carrots do the exact opposite of what should be done. The question obviuosly is, is it too late for Utica?

Anonymous said...

Incredible, backwards logic.

First of all, of course not for profits are singularly focused on money for programs for the poor. That is, after all, their reason for existing – to help the poor who cannot help themselves like those with their own resources can. And, since they have to spend money to do this, they have to look for it. The sad part is that they also have to offer services based on grant specifications, not on local needs, if they want grant money. Too often that means the services they offer don’t fit the needs well and aren’t as effective as we’d like.

The grant programs weren’t set up and then the not for profit sprang up to take advantage of them. The not for profits were already there taking care of the poor without the resources to do the job right. The rich, for their own convenience, set up the grant programs to fund the not for profits and take care of the poor so the rich wouldn’t have to be directly involved but could feel good about themselves for providing money to help the poor. That explains why the programs don’t fit the problem very well. They are designed by people who aren’t really interested for people who don’t really care but want to be seen as caring for the “less fortunate”. It’s just a bonus that they get to complain that the services aren’t effective.

Next, of course those higher up the economic scale have been paying the bulk of the taxes. Nothing new about that. They have the money. Their needs haven’t been ignored by those pesky not for profits – they don’t need the services the not for profits provide, except to make sure they don’t have to pay for the poor’s needs directly.

And, officials dip into pots of money to support them all the time. Transportation grants to build or repair roads benefit those who have a car more than those who don’t, for example. The pot is different but they’re dipped into as much as possible anyway. Sadly, again, many of the programs don’t benefit anyone as much as they should because the rich, disinterested people designing them write the specs. Our soon to be constructed arterial “upgrade” is evidence of that.

Come on, Strike. The well to do aren’t leaving South Utica because the poor are getting all the grant money. They’re leaving for the same reasons the not so well to do leave. No good jobs, ineffective government, and no interest in being part of the solution.

D Naegele said...

It is not just in Utica, or in NY. Here in Tennessee, I am meeting more and more "yankees" like myself every day. Prices for everything from gasoline to real estate are so much cheaper here, and when you couple that with the lower taxes and a somewhat higher availability of employment, the Southeast becomes a more and more desirable destination to which people are moving daily.

Make no mistake. We are not exactly thriving either, but the cost of living here, is much cheaper than in the Northeast. We have unemployment, but we also have jobs for those that really want to work. No union wages, but living wages prevail that are commensurate with the cost of living.

Strikeslip said...

To Anon#2 above, I do not expect the not-for-profits to do things for the well-to-do. I do, however, expect them NOT to be driving city policy-making, but they DID drive policy-making regarding the Master Plan as demonstrated by the Plan's "affordable housing" requirements. The plan was geared around creating grant-application opportunities for the NFPs rather than creating a city structure that would promote sustainable economic growth.

Utica desperately needs to EXPAND the population of those with higher incomes and attract developments that will bring money into the city. Someone has to pay the bills after all! But what efforts have been made to attract those who will help the city pay its bills?

Adding subsidized housing to areas showing signs of attracting higher-end private investment (such as Oneida Sq.) DISCOURAGES future high-end private investment. Allowing streets to be cut off for arterial highways makes certain blocks within the city harder to access and less amenable for re-development (such as Whitesboro Street behind the Aud which is now cut off from itself, State Street and Varick Street).

Until Utica starts attracting more people/developments that can bring $$$ into town, taxes will continue to rise driving out people who want to preserve whatever $$$ they have left.

Anonymous said...

Non profits to a large extent rely on government grants and fees not on gestures of the "rich". It is the rules and regulations of government the wag the tail. Insofar as Utica's situation. How do you attract development and wealth when the city lacks development sites, is high cost in terms of taxes and has a terrible infrastructure. Just drive the streets. When you then add on the high concentrations of the poor, the problems and the crime you sure do not have an attractive mix. Instead of dealing realistically with these deficiencies over the decades, the city and area have actaully grown the problems. Finally, the waste of resources is astounding. Can someone truly explain the "roundabout" for example? The only explanation that comes to mind is contract awarding. Or, how about the Hotel Utica financing? What about the mayors tv show? One can spend hours listing waste and neglect including the so called master plan document and process. And, one wonders why people leave? The mix of high cost and low value equals exodus. It always has and always will.

Anonymous said...

Our area oozes with non profit agencies. Many are not dedicated to serving the poor. And, those who do serve the poor get generous government support both direct and indirect. All no profits, including those of religious affiliations should be required to pay service fees since they and their constituencies use our public infrastures and services.

Rena said...

Great post, I have been saying this all along!

I grew up in Utica and have lived here for most of my 39 yrs minus a few years and have been planning to move. I bought a house here in 2008 and it was the worst decision that I have ever made. I tried to help better my neighborhood but its a lost cause. Too many people would rather sell drugs than work. Too many politicians who would rather do shady deals than stand up for what is right.

I had hope for this city, I really did. I used to do things that would plant seeds. The seeds never sprouted though because the politicians, druggies and bums never watered them.